Chittorgarh Fort

Rajput sources corroborate with the Mughal sources so far. After having received the news of an impending Mughal attack led by Akbar himself from Prince Shakti Singh, all the Rajput chiefs gathered at Chittor and a unanimous decision was taken that the Rana would retreat into the forests with his family and some chiefs while some 8000 Rajputs under the leadership of Rathod Jaimal and Sisodia Patta (Udaipur ka Itihas by Ojha)

This decision of retreat was not taken lightly. It had a lot of strategic depth to it. For one, making the King vulnerable in a hostile situation was never a wise move. Second, the house of Mewar was fighting a two-front war. One was with Mughals and the other was with the Sultan of Gujrat. This constant war had weakened them to some extent. Facing Akbar meant more losses to life and property. Despite almost the entire Rajputana accepting Mughal superiority, the House of Mewar continued to defy the Mughal power. The wise men of Mewar knew that Akbar came intending to try and break them completely.

Preserving the king was imperative. It was with this thought in mind that the Rana retired to the dense forests leaving the fort in the capable hands of Jaimal and Patta.

Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh records past achievements of Jaimal.

“And Rana Udai Sing, committing the keeping of the fortress of Chitor to one Jaimal by name (a brave and chivalrous commander, who had been besieged by Mirza Sharfuddin Husain in the fortress of Mirt’hah and had cut his way out), himself took refuge in the high mountain ground and impassable jungles in the neighbourhood of Udaipur…”

Yet another proof of Akbar’s sinister motives is given in Abdul Qadir Badayuni in his Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh. He writes,

“And in this year the intention was formed of reducing the fortress of Chitor…”

Abdul Qadir Badayuni was a part of Akbar’s court. Although not the official historian like Abul Fazal, he was a contemporary to these events. He is quite frank in his accounts and has even criticized Akbar multiple times for his religious policies. So much that there is a popular belief that his works were kept hidden until Akbar’s death and were published during Jahangir’s reign.

So Akbar arrived at Chittorgarh with the sinister motive of capturing the fort. His ploy to lure Rana into a false sense of security by showing a small number of army failed. With Rana Udaisingh safely in the forests and the fort stocked up to withstand several months if not years of siege, Akbar had little choice but to lay the siege.

Abul Fazal records the following,

“… supplied it with provisions sufficient for several years. He also left in it five thousand gallant Rajputs and devastated the surrounding country so that there did not even remain grass in the fields, and himself retired to the defiles of the hill-country…”

Akbar ascertained that the fort was impregnable and the only way to reduce it was to besiege it. He laid the siege to the fort in one month as per Akbarnama. While the fort was being besieged, usual tactics of devastating the surrounding areas were employed.

Asaf Khan was sent to Rampur which was in words of Nizamu-d-din Ahmad “a prosperous town of the province”. He attacked and captured the fort there and ravaged the neighbouring area.

Hussain Kuli Khan went to Udaipur and ravaged the city and its surrounding areas. Abul Fazal records that he slaughtered many ‘rebels’ in Udaipur and also obtained a lot of booties.

Akbarnama gives us the details of what transpired in the initial days of the siege. Mughal army tried to storm the fort by force multiple times but was met with stiff resistance from inside the fort. Many were injured by the Rajputs defending the fort while many others were also killed.

The outer structure of the fort is remarkable and the fort is impossible to storm and take. It is well-known for its height and strength. Anyone defending the fort from its ramparts has the advantage of height while any attack mounted from outside bounced off its strong walls with little or no damage to the walls. This is exactly what happened when the Mughal army tried to mount an attack on the fort walls.

“… for the arrows and bullets which those rank-breakers discharged passed off after grazing the surface of the walls and battlements, while those which the ill-fated garrison (defenders of the fort) discharged reached men and horses.”

Finally, Akbar forbade these futile attempts that were damaging Mughal prospects and ordered that proper spots be selected and mined so that those could be filled with gunpowder and blown and the fort could be breached. Once the walls were breached, they could storm the fort from those breaches.

Akbar sat himself down right across Lakhota Darwaja ordered a trench to be dug from there. That side of the fort was defended by Rathode Jaimal himself.

There are a couple of rare but beautiful poems that imagine what Rathod Jaimal must have replied to Akbar. I will attempt to translate both here.

है गढ़ म्हारो म्है धणी,असुर फ़िर किम आण |

कुंच्यां जे चित्रकोट री दिधी मोहिं दीवाण ||

जयमल लिखे जबाब यूँ सुनिए अकबर शाह |

आण फिरै गढ़ उपरा पडियो धड पातशाह ||

This fort is mine, I am the owner (of this fort). How can then Asur (demon) enter this fort?

The keys of Chitrakut (Chittorhgarh fort) were given to (me) by the Deewan.

(This) answer written (by) Jaimal, (when) Akbar heard,

He (Akbar) fell off the fort!

Next one is in Haryanvi and is very rustic in its language.

हम क्षत्री जात के ठाकुर, समझे न इंसाण तनै”

“रे तै हिजड़ा के गीत सुणे सै,देखे न बलवान तैने”।।

We are Thakurs of Kshtri caste (Kshatriya, the warrior class),

(We) don’t consider you (Akbar) as a human.

You (Akbar) have (only) heard songs of the eunuchs (so far),

(You) haven’t seen what bravery is yet.

Both these poems show what deep impact Jaimal and his men’s bravery at Chittor has left on the minds of common people even centuries later. We do not know if there was any correspondence exchanged between Jaimal Rathode and Akbar, but these two poems aptly tells us about the haughty pride of the young Hindu chief and his disdain for the foreign self-proclaimed “king” who dared to threaten his land.

Continuing with the sequence of events,

Akbar also ordered for sabats (a covered way) to be built.

Tarikh-i-Alfi explains the purpose of Sabats.

“Sabdts are contrivances peculiar to Hindustan; for the strong forts of that country are replete with guns, muskets, and warlike apparatus, and can only be taken by means of sabats, A Sabat is a broad (covered) way, under the shelter of which the assailants approach a fortress secure from the fire of guns and muskets. Two sabats were accordingly begun.”

Tabakat-i-Akbari describes one of the sabats that was made.

“The sabat which was conducted from the royal battery {morchal-i badashahi) was so extensive that ten horsemen abreast could ride along it, and it was so high that an elephant rider with his spear in his hand could pass under it.”

While the construction was in progress the defenders of the fort were not silent either. Multiple records note that daily 100-150 from the Mughal ranks were killed due to the consistent attack from the fort.

“While the sabat was in course of construction, the garrison kept up such a fire of guns and muskets, that more than 100 of the workmen and labourers employed in it were killed daily, although they covered themselves with shields of bull-hide. Corpses were used in the walls like bricks. In a short time, the sabat was completed, and carried close to the fort” writes Tabakat-i-Akbari.

Akbarnama says that attempts were made at a peace treaty by the commanders of the fort but Akbar refused to accept it. It also places the total number of men killed daily at 200.

While the Sabats were being made, trenches were being dug. Once they were ready, they were filled with gunpowder and about 300-400 of the Imperial army were ready to attack once the walls were breached.

A tragedy struck when the gunpowder was actually set on fire. One of the fuses was shorter than the other and it led to one mine exploding earlier than the second one. Thinking that an explosion has happened simultaneously, the Mughal army rushed inside the breach that was made and the Rajputs similarly rushed forward to defend the breach. While the fight was going on in full swing, the second mine blasted. What followed was truly gruesome.

“Friends and foes, who were contending in the breach, were hurled into the air together, and those also on whom the stones fell perished. It is notorious that stones of 200 mans were carried to a distance of three or four kos from the walls, and bodies of men who had been burnt were found. Saiyid Jamalu-d din and a great number of the Emperor’s attendants were slain, and nearly 600 picked soldiers were killed by blows from the stones. A large number also of the infidels perished.”

After this tragedy, the Mughal garrison was ready to give up, so severe was the blow to them. But Akbar became, even more, intent on capturing the fort and hence no one dared to suggest surrender records Tarikh-i-Alfi.

The next part will deal with the final leg of this prolonged war.

Submitted by : Tanvangi