Details of The Carnage At Chittorgarh
About 110 kilometres from the city of Udaipur, lies the stronghold of Chittorgarh. This majestic fort of Chitrakut (its ancient name) has been an important seat of power since the 7th century to the 16th century CE. As per the ASI, it has been ruled by several prominent dynasties like Mori or Mauryas (7-8th century AD), Pratiharas (9-10th century AD), Parmaras (10-11th century AD), Solankis (12th century AD) and lastly by Guhilots or Sisodias.
During this time, it was sacked thrice, first in 1303 CE by Allaundin Khilji, then in 1535 CE by the Muhammad Shah of Gujrat and finally by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1567-68 CE. Each time the fort put up a terrific fight. Each time Jauhar was committed and while the men fought to their deaths, the women of the fort chose honour over the humiliation of being captured by barbarians and burnt to death in huge fires.
The final battle that Chittorgarh saw started over a “joke” that Sakta Singh, Rana Udai Singh’s son didn’t understand and lasted for months. It ended with the death of nearly 8000 plus Rajputs and innumerable women and children.
Chittorgarh has been described by Abul Fazal in his Akbarnama as thus,
“A fort on the face of that mountain
Reared its head up to the fourth heaven
The bird of the imagination could not reach it
No one knew its nature and condition.”
Maulana Ahmed in his work Tarikh-i-Alfi describes Chittorgarh as an “exceedingly strong fort.” He further adds,
“The fortress is situated in the midst of a level plain, which has no other eminences. The circuit of this mountain at its base is six kos, and the ground upon which the walls of the fort stand is nearly three kos. Upon the top of the hill, there is a fountain, but not content with that the constructors of the fort formed large reservoirs of stone and mortar, which get filled in the rainy season. So with these supplies, the garrison are never short of water. The eastern side of the fort, and towards the north, is faced with hard stone, and the garrison felt quite secure as to that portion…
…Travellers do not speak of any fortress like this in the whole habitable world.”
Nizamuddin-Ahmed in Tabaquat-i-Akbari concurs with this view about the fort.
“The fort of Chitor is seated on a hill, which is about one kos in height and has no connexion with any other hill. The length of the fortress is three kos and the width is half a kos. It contains plenty of running water.”
From these descriptions, it is clear that Chittorgarh was of strategic importance for both, Rana Udaisingh and Akbar. Reducing this fort would have dented the Rana’s resistance to Mughal sovereignty considerably.
One point to be noted here is that almost entire Rajputana had accepted the Mughal suzerainty save for the House of Mewar and its allies. Rana Udaisingh’s continued defiance of the Mughal rule must have nagged Akbar considerably. Hence it was with the intention of dealing with the last standing House, Akbar set out in direction of Chittor.
One interesting point here is that while Tabkat-i-Akbari simply mentions that Akbar turned his attention towards Chittor after having put to rest the rebellions like that of Ali Kuli Khan, Tarikh-i-Alfi merely mentions Akbar’s march to Chittor. Here as well the intention of capturing/reducing the fort is clear.
Akbar Nama on the other hand gives a long winding “explanation” as to why Akbar suddenly felt the need to attack Chittor. It says that,
“When Dholpur had been made the camping ground, Sakat Singh, son of Udai Singh, was in attendance on the victorious stirrup. H.M., either from pleasantry or in order that the presumptuous rebels of Malwa might be led by the circumstance into the slumber of negligence, said to him that though most of the landholders and great men of India had paid their respects, yet the Rana had not as yet done so, and that therefore he proposed to march against him and punish him. H.M. also asked what service the prince would render in this case. On one occasion he spoke at large about these matters with the prince, and the latter made hypocritical proffers.
At last, that crooked-minded one, from want of understanding and from taking a jest seriously, ran away. In his folly, he ran away from apparent dishonour and fell into real disgrace. For the ignorant fellow imagined that H.M. was meditating the punishment of Ranat under the pretence of hunting and that he himself would get a bad name to the effect that he had gone and brought H.M. against his father. He did not know that it was all a joke and that there was no reason why this powerful and God- restrained one should personally proceed against such a class of landholders.”
Abul Fazal pins the entire blame of the attack on Sakat (Shakti) Singh, the Rana’s son. He blames him for misunderstanding a mere joke as a serious threat and thus running away to warn his father and thus inviting Akbar’s wrath. Fazal’s contempt for Hindus and Rana Udaisingh, in particular, is clearly reflected here. He reduced Rana, the head of the House of Mewar and the commander of a considerable chunk of Rajputana, to the position of a mere landholder, making it seem like Abkar personally marching against Rana was beneath Akbar’s dignity.
This entire explanation of Akbar joking about the attack and Sakat Singh’s escape to warn his father triggering him to actually attack seems like an attempt to whitewash Akbar’s intention of capturing Chittor and eliminating the Rana altogether.
“And in truth, this was proper, for, from the time of the accession, most of the leading men of India who had cocked the hat of pride and had not lowered the head of obedience before any of the Sultans had bowed down and kissed the ground, except Rana Udai Sigh, than whom there was in this country no one more foolish and arrogant. This audacious and immoderate one, in whom the turbulence of ancestors was added to his own haughtiness, was proud of his steep mountains and strong castles and turned away the head of obedience from the sublime court. His brain was heated by the consciousness of his possessing abundant land and wealth, and numbers of devoted Rajputs, and so he left the path of auspiciousness.”
He betrays the true intentions and the humiliation that Akbar felt at being constantly defied in the next few lines.
Tarikh-i-Alfi makes a special mention of the fact that Akbar approached with a small force in order to induce the Rana to come and engage in a battle himself, thereby presenting Akbar with an opportunity to kill him.
Rana, being aware of the danger of facing Mughals heads on, retired to the deep forests along with his family and dependents and left the fort in the capable hands of Jaimal, a valiant and loyal chief and 8000 Rajput veterans. He did not expect that Akbar would engage the fort with such a small force. But nevertheless ensured that the garrisons on the fort were well stocked and the fort had supplies that would last for months.
The prolonged battle that followed will be covered in the next part.