At the time when the Mughals captured Delhi, the Rajputs were still ruling some parts of North West India. By the beginning of 16th century, their strength reached its height under the rule of Rana Sanga (Rana Sangram Singh), who was the king of Mewar in Southern Rajasthan and who was also able to unite many other neighboring Rajput kings to fight against foreign rulers.
However, Rana Sanga was defeated in a fierce battle by the Mughal invader Babur, and the splendour of a united Rajput polity waned rapidly. It is largely from that period of Rajasthan's history that the view of the Rajputs as valiant warriors is derived. Rana Sanga fought three battles with Babur.
Maharana Sangram Singh (12 April 1484 - 17 March 1527) known as Rana Sanga, was the Rajput ruler of Mewar, which is now located within the geographic
boundaries of present-day Rajasthan. He ruled from 1509 and 1527.
Rana Sanga succeeded his father, Rana Raimal, as king of Mewar, in 1508, following a fierce power struggle with his brothers. Upon assuming the throne he set about consolidating his power. One of Sanga's first acts as the ruler was to attack Malwa, which was suffering from internal dissension between its Sultan Mahmud Khilji and its Rajput Wazir, Medini Rao.
Rana Sanga emerged as a powerful ruler after conquering Malwa. He then turned his attention towards north-eastern Rajasthan, which was then under the control of Khilji's ally, Lodi. He invaded the region and was successful in capturing several major areas, including the fort of Ranthambore.
Lodi retaliated and invaded Mewar. Sanga's forces proved to be too strong for Lodi's Afghans. The Battle of Khatoli which Rana Sanga fought against Ibrahim Lodi was a big success for the Rajputs. In the battle, the Maharana lost an arm and became lame for life but this did not deter his spirit. Later, in another battle at Dholpur against Ibrahim Lodi, the Rana Sanga once again defeated Lodi and captured most of present day Rajasthan.
With his growing stature as a powerful ruler in India, he gained much recognition. Owing to his repeated success in the northern territories of India, he set his ambitions high and planned to capture Delhi and bring the whole of India under his control.
Initially, Rana Sanga believed that Babur had plans to leave India. But intelligence gathered suggested that Babur was getting ready to consolidate his newly gained successes. Therefore, Rana Sanga, decided to wage war against the Mughal invader.
At first, he forced Afghan fugitive princes like Mehmud Lodi and Hasan Khan Mewati to join him. Then he ordered Babur to leave India. As Rana's and Babur's troops faced each other in Khanwa, near Fatehpur-Sikri, in 1527, a bloody battle followed, resulting in death and destruction. Although, the Rajputs had surrounded Babur, but his technically superior army won the battle.
The reason for Babur's success was that even before the battle took place Babur had carefully inspected the battle site. Like in the Battle of Panipat, he strengthened his front by procuring carts which were fastened by iron chains. These were used for providing shelter to horses and for storing artillery. Gaps between the carts were used for horsemen to charge at the opponent at the right time.
To lengthen the line, ropes built of raw hide were placed over wheeled wooden tripods. Behind the tripods, matchlock-men were placed who could fire and, if required, advance. The flanks were given protection by digging ditches. In addition to the regular force, small contingents were kept on the left flank and in front for the tulghuma (flanking) tactic. Thus, a strong offensive-defensive formation had been prepared by Babur.
Rana Sanga, fighting in a traditional way, attacked the Mughal army's flanks. He was prevented from breaking through by reinforcements dispatched by Babur. The carts and matchlockmen were ordered to advance, pressing on the Rajputs and their allies. The battle which lasted for not more than 10 hours, was bitterly contested and became an exceedingly brutal affair.
At a critical moment of battle, the defection of Silhadi and his contingent caused a split in the Rajput forces. Rana Sanga while trying to rebuild his front was wounded and fell unconscious from his horse. The Rajput army thought their leader was dead which resulted in disorder, thus allowing the Mughals to win the day. Despite putting up a gallant fight, Rana Sanga and his allies suffered defeat.
With his numerically huge army as compared to that of Babur, Sanga perceived that he would win the battle against Babur. However, Babur's tactics and the efficient use of artillery and cannons was no match for Rana Sanga. The Rajputs had no answer to the wheeling tactics of the Mughal cavalry. Babur's artillery had won the day for him; it had finally established the Mughal rule over India and eventually sealed the fate of the Rajput revival.