The battle of Haldighati was another historic battle fought during the rule of Akbar in June 1576. It was fought between the ruler of Mewar in Rajasthan, Rana Pratap Singh and Raja Man Singh of Amber who was a great military general of Akbar. Soon after the second battle of Panipat, one by one, all the Rajput kings acknowledged Akbar's supremacy except Rana Udai Singh of Mewar who refused to accept Akbar's supremacy and decided to defend Chittor, his main fortress and capital.
Akbar attacked Chittor with a huge army of 40,000 which had guns and muskets while Chittor was defended by 8,000 Rajputs who were ill equipped. There were large numbers of civilians also in the fort. The fortress fell after a heroic battle in which the Rajputs fought to the last man while their women folk performed collective self-immolation.
With the loss of Chittor, Mewar had lost the fertile part of its kingdom to the Mughals. Besides, the unsuccessful battle at Chittor led to loss of the treasury crippling its resource and also demoralizing the fighting ranks. But the next ruler of Mewar, Rana Pratap Singh fought again with Akbar at Haldighati.
Rana Pratap Singh was born in 1540 and was given military training and became an excellent rider and expert swordsman. He ascended the throne of Mewar in 1572. Rana Pratap stood alone and was in no position to challenge the might of Mughal Empire under a capable king like Akbar. Akbar tried to win over Rana Pratap by offering him a position in his court provided he became his vassal. But Rana Pratap rejected this offer.
Akbar therefore decided to defeat Rana Pratap when all other diplomatic efforts failed to subdue him. Some important points about Rana Pratap's preparation to fight Akbar were:
Rana Pratap took necessary measures to prepare for the coming Mughal invasion. To start with, he established himself in the western hills and forests of his kingdom. He selected the rock fortress of Kumbalgarh as his new capital. He strengthened his fort of Gogunda, north-west of Udaipur and made it his forward base. He remodeled his government and organised it to conduct a long-lasting campaign against the superior Mughal army.
Pratap toured every village of his state and impressed upon his people the necessity of unity and sacrifice to face the impending danger. Pratap did not believe that only one caste should fight. He felt this was an obsolete concept. He therefore registered the support of not only the martial Kshatriya caste but of all-other castes including the aboriginals, known as Bhils of Rajasthan.
On his part, Akbar wanted to subdue RanaPratap before his ideas could influence other Rajput kings. Akbar selected Raja Man Singh to lead the Mughal army against Rana Pratap.
Pratap wanted to select the ground of his own choice where his small army could fight the Mughal army with some tactical advantage. He selected the area of Haldi Ghati pass, which was not only a hilly terrain but had a lot of thorny bushes and trees to provide necessary cover. The area of Haldi Ghati also provided an easy exit for Pratap's small army in case of defeat. The troop strength and organisation for battle were:
According to Mughal court historian Abdul Qadir Badayuni, Pratap's army had approximately 3,000 cavalry. Pratap had perhaps 3000 to 4000 cavalry, some elephants and about 3,000 Bhil infantry men who were also good in use of bow. Pratap's army had neither guns nor muskets.
The Mughals had approximately 16,000 cavalry, 8,000 infantry, elephant corps and guns, with overall strength of about 28,000 troops. It was organised on the same lines as that of Babur's force.
The Mughal army deployed with skirmishers holding the front line, behind which was deployed the vanguard. Then came the powerful centre while the flanks were protected by strong contingents deployed on the left as well as the right wings. In the rear were the mobile enveloping contingents who were used to attack the flanks and rear of the enemy army.
Pratap's small army had a vanguard while the remainder army was divided into left, centre and right wings. He had deployed Bhils, his infantry, to guard the pass from both the flanks. The battle was fought on 18th January, 1576. Pratap took the initiative and started the attack. Before long, Pratap's army was decimated and this unequal contest ended.
Rana Pratap's army had suffered crippling losses and most of its gallant chiefs had been killed. The blood of Mewar had irrigated the soil of Haldi Ghati. The strategic route to Gujrat from Delhi was secured.
Akbar expected that either Pratap would be captured or killed during the battle. But Pratap had managed to escape after offering a firm resistance where his personal valour had won the hearts of all his followers.
So, from Akbar's point of view, battle of Haldighati was a barren victory, as Pratap continued the struggle to the bitter end, and Akbar had to mount further expeditions to crush Rana Pratap, but without success.