Part II: 477th Maharana Pratap Jayanti – Strategy

Strategy: The Defining Characteristic of Great Leaders

Part II: 477th Maharana Pratap Jayanti – Strategy

It doesn’t matter how good your strategy is, if you suck at what you do, that strategy won’t take you very far.

Vulnerability of Chittor Fort (Image: Pushpendra Singh Ranawat)
Girva Udaipur (Image: Pushpendra Singh Ranawat)

Hence, Maharana Udai Singh of Mewar came to conclusion that Chittor, in plains, was not a safe place to be as a capital. Thus, he decided to make a new capital at a place in Girva region, an area surrounded by Aravali hills. It was founded in 1559 AD and came to be called Udaipur. This protected the Kingdom and its citizens from the attacks.

When you’re confident about what you do and clear about where you’re going, the right strategy will make itself known. Hence, when your “why” is strong, you’ll figure out “how”. The how comes from the why. Not the other way around.

In September 1567, Akbar set out to conquer Chittor and on the way seized Mewar’s strong fort of Mandalgarh. After a fierce battle for over six months, Mughal army seized the fort of Chittor. The innocent 30,000 citizens, who took shelter in the fort, were slaughtered in the most inhuman act of the history. However, Udai Singh who ruled from Udaipur in Girva was safe and continued to fight against Akbar lifelong from Udaipur, his new capital.

Though many historians have criticized this action of Udai Singh and called him a coward, but seeing the situation at that time, it cannot be called inappropriate.

If you’re looking for how to be successful, you’re going about it all wrong. You’re doing it for the wrong reasons. And you’ll continuously be left searching for the next patch of land to find gold.

Initial Difficulties faced by Maharana Pratap

At the time Pratap sat on the throne of Mewar, the condition of the state had become very bad. Due to the long battles, Mewar had become poor and resource less, economy and trade were disorganized. All the fertile land of Mewar, the eastern border areas had gone under the control of the Mughals. The influence of Mughal Emperor was growing day by day.

After his crowning, Pratap made the Fort of Kumbhalgarh his new temporary capital. He began establishing friendly relations with the neighbouring states, including Marwar. All these news were reaching Akbar and was natural for him to get worried. He considered this as the reunification of the Sisodias and the Rathores. So Mughals strengthened the military bases in Marwar and Gujarat.

Pratap did not get disappointed by this. Due to the long standing battle against the Mughals, a feeling of disappointment had come over the people of Mewar. The first task of the Pratap was to remove this negative feeling from the minds of his people. Therefore, after making Kumbalgarh his new capital, he tried to infuse a new feeling of encouragement and patriotism in the people. All of them got ready to protect their self-respect and honour. The tribals living in the forests of Mewar were also encouraged to protect their country’s independence. The foundations of a new era in Mewar were being laid.

Battle Strategy of Mughals vs Mewar

On 3 April 1576, Man Singh started with his army to conquer Mewar. A few days later he reached Mandalgarh, the south-eastern border of Mewar and stayed for two months in the plains. He thought this would irritate Maharana and they would attack Mughal army first. If this happened, there was a possibility of him getting victory quickly, since he would have the terrain advantage. Man Singh also consolidated logistics – food, fodder and shelter for his men and animals.

Route of Mughal army from Agra to Udaipur via Mandalgarh and Chittorgarh (Image: Pushpendra Singh Ranawat)

Why wasn’t the Mughal army stopped at Mandalgarh or Chittor by Maharana? Both Mandalgarh and Chittor Forts are vulnerable hill-forts, which do not provide safety to the defender. The attacker has access to vast stretch of flat land, water and food resources for his army. The defender is virtually ‘imprisoned’ in his own Fort with restricted space, water and food. The two Jauhars of 1303 (Allaudin Khilji) and that of 1535 (Bahadur Shah of Gujarat) in which hundreds of women perished to save their honour and thousands of countrymen died due to starvation.

Akbar attacked Mewar with the intent to kill and or capture the king in 1567. He managed to capture both Mandalgarh and Chittor Forts. The two experienced Generals of Udai Singh, Jaimal and Patta, both in their late fifties were martyred by Akbar, who was in his mid-twenties. Akbar was pleased with the psychological victory of capturing the Forts in 1567 and sent his trusted General Kuli Khan to capture or kill Maharana Udai Singh. But Udai Singh under his Krishn-Neeti moved deep into forest cover (van-durg), where he died in 1572.

Whereas in 1576, the Maharana Pratap was getting the timely information of Man Singh’s activities, and waited for him at Gogunda, near Haldighati. This was a hilly terrain with streams and a narrow passage for entry. Beyond Haldighati on eastern side were Mewar plains, which were destroyed under Maharana’s directive, so as to deny food, grass and shelter to the enemy. At the battle ground he made arrangements for Mewar soldiers to carry out clandestine night attacks.

Though Maharana’s 22,000 soldiers were outnumbered by the strength of the Mughal army of 200,000 soldiers, they fought fiercely till the end and caused causalities to the enemy.

In fact Maharana Pratap continues the policy of his father Udai Singh and forces Man Singh to come to the battlefield of his choice at Haldighati and retreats when his horse Chetak is wounded. He was reminded of his father’s saying, “Neither Perish nor Surrender”, and adopted Krish-Neeti – abandon the battle field, to win a war.

If you know what you want and why you’re doing it, you’re not worried about the “gold.” Your security is internal. You aren’t worried about the outcomes because you already know they are coming.

For you it’s never actually been about the rewards. It’s only and always been about seeing how far you can go… about achieving the impossible…. about never stopping.

Over the past two decades, I have researched more than 50 rulers and the Prime Ministers of major kingdoms in Rajputana as part of my journey to write my first published coffee table book Rajputana Chronicles: Guns and Glories. I’ve found the defining characteristic of the best ones is bold strategy that transformed their kingdoms.

Leaders with clear strategy take risks that go against the grain of their kingdoms. They make decisions with the potential for revolutionary change in the governance. Their boldness inspires their teams, energizes subject, and positions their kingdom as leaders in societal change.

The strategy according to dictionary is the art and science of planning and marshalling resources for their most efficient use. Strategy is important because the resources available to achieve these goals are usually limited. Strategy generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. A strategy describes how the ends (goals) will be achieved by the means (resources).

My approach works not by making valid predictions but by allowing me to correct false ones.” – George Soros is a Hungarian-American investor, business magnate, philanthropist, and author.

Strategy is an intellectual quality, and it can be taught in the classroom. However, it can only be gained through multiple experiences involving personal risk-taking.

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