Indian History Part 81 Akbar Section IV The Conquering Emperor 2. Rajputana – Triumph and Tragedy

Canberra, 12 July 2020

Akbar was now reasonably comfortable, the north-west was secure and the eastern borders were without any serious disturbances, although Bihar and Bengal remained outside his ambit. He now turned his attention to Rajputana, also referred to as Rajasthan, the largest part of Western India. (Although the exact geographical boundary of Rajputana and Rajasthan varies in minor detail, with the region which constitutes Rajputana being larger than the modern state of Rajasthan, in this narrative the terms have been used inter-changeably.) Within Rajputana, the Kingdom of Mewar, ruled by Rana Udai Singh, was by far the largest and most important. Mewar was strategically important—it straddled the important trade route between Agra and the ports of Gujarat and lay astride the route from North India to the Deccan Plateau.

Akbar realised the special place that Rajputana, ‘the land of the Rajputs’, had in the politico-religious circumstances of the sub-continent. For a number of centuries before and after the 1500s—as it does to a great extent even today, in modern times—Rajasthan represented the core spirit of ancient Hindu India; glorified in legend, song, literature and architecture. In the 16th century, Rajputana was the only fully composite Hindu region other than the Deep South, even after more than five centuries of Islamic onslaught and occupation of large parts of the Indian sub-continent. Akbar, with no formal education and partially illiterate, but far more ‘educated’ than most of his supposedly erudite courtiers, had come to the conclusion that in order to make Mughal rule permanent in the sub-continent, the single most critical aspect to achieve was to weld the two major religious communities of Hindustan—the Hindus and the Muslims—into one, with some semblance of homogeneity. The success of this scheme hinged on extending his control and influence over the Rajputana region.

The Rajputs—literally ‘sons of Rajas’—who inhabited the region were each individually respected warriors. The Rajput concept of valour, gallantry, honour and personal bravery were interwoven with extreme acts of self-sacrifice to the cause of independence, creating a legendary warrior-spirit that was imbibed by both the men and women of Rajputana. This inborne spirit, in combination with the harsh and inhospitable desert terrain, made any meaningful invasion of the region a fool-hardy mission. So far, this stark reality had discouraged successive Muslim Sultans from attempting to overrun Rajputana. For centuries, they had been content with token incursions into the region followed by strategic withdrawals. The status quo was about to change.

As a prelude to taking on the more powerful Ranas of Rajputana, Akbar had made some steady and stealthy inroads into the region. He had married into several ruling houses, some of them fairly powerful ones, and had also surreptitiously captured various smaller forts in the eastern fringes of the core region. However, to the west stood the intransigent Rana of Mewar, proud and obstinate, refusing to have anything to do with the Mughals.

The Ranas of Mewar

The Ranas of Mewar were the senior ruling house of Rajputana. The family had held the capital Chitor, almost uninterruptedly for over eight centuries, after its initial capture by their ancestor Bappa in the year 728.

A more remote ancestor Guhila, who lived in early 7th century (around 600 A.D.), gave the title of ‘Guhilot’—the sons of Guhila—to the ruling clan of Mewar. Modern genealogical research indicates that Guhila was of foreign lineage, originating in one of the Central Asian tribes who had entered the Indian sub-continent in the 6th century. The clan was closely related to the Mers of Gujarat and the Rajas of Vallabhi. Similarly the title Sisodia, which was applied to the royal section of the broader clan, was derived from a village in Mewar.

Legend projects the line of the Mewar Ranas further back, linking them to Lord Ram of epic Ramayana, and through him to the Sun God himself. The Ranas of Mewar had been the real figureheads for the Hindus of North India for centuries and the bulwark against the capricious spread of Islam in the region.

Chitor: Chitor was Mewar’s capital and the main fortress of the kingdom. It stands on a high oblong hill above the River Banas, the outer walls of the fortress following the shape of the hill. The hill itself is an isolated mass of rock, three and one quarter mile long and about 1200 yards wide at the centre. The circumference at the base is about eight miles and the average height is 450 feet. The city, palaces and residential housing were inside the fort walls.

There is one story that Akbar had earlier made an unsuccessful attempt to capture Chitor. This report cannot be verified and is in all probabilities incorrect. Considering the chronology of his activities, it is difficult to see an attempt on Chitor having been mounted by Akbar earlier. It could be that a hunting expedition that Akbar mounted may have been also used as a probing raid of reconnaissance into Mewar to ascertain the Rana’s defences and reaction.

Akbar was hostile towards Rana Udai Singh for a number of reasons. Udai Singh had given shelter to Baz Bahadur after his defeat and also to an insubordinate chief of Narwar who had been removed from his fiefdom. Perhaps more irritating to Akbar was the fact that the Rana had also accused and belittled the Raja of Amber for having ‘demeaned’ himself by giving his daughter in marriage to Akbar, which Udai Singh called the ‘growing harem’. Udai Singh was proud that no Rana of Mewar had ever given a daughter of the house to Muslim kings, which as a practice was gradually gaining traction after so many centuries of Hindu-Muslim confrontation and intermingling.

A Jest Turns Earnest

Mewar had accepted Sher Shah Sur’s sovereignty and similarly was also willing to submit to Akbar. This is evidenced by the presence of Sakat Singh, son of Udai Singh in attendance at Akbar’s court. In return Mewar wanted preferential treatment for accepting Akbar’s sovereignty and was not really clamouring for complete independence in the real meaning of being a stand-alone kingdom. The House of Mewar put forward two fundamental caveats for their amicable, but subservient, co-existence with the Mughal kingdom—the Rana would not attend the Mughal court in person; and no Mewar princess would be married into the Mughal family. Akbar, on his part humoured these demands, especially the embargo on marriage alliances. For Akbar, these marriages were more political in nature than marriages in the actual meaning of the term.

It seems that one day, Akbar said in jest to Sakat that since his father had not paid his respects personally, he [Akbar] proposed to march against him. The young prince, obviously not familiar with the emperor and his behaviour took this seriously and immediately left to warn his father in Chitor. Akbar was annoyed that Sakat Singh had not taken his permission to leave the court, and ‘the jest became earnest.’

It would seem that Akbar was waiting to find an excuse to invade Mewar, since the reason mentioned above is trivial in nature, especially considering that a prince of Mewar was in attendance on the Mughal king. Akbar, it would seem, had set his mind to humble the proudest Chief in Rajputana—the acknowledged head of Rajput bravery, honour and chivalry. Light-hearted banter had rapidly degenerated into deadly serious and anger-filled recriminations; a confrontation became unavoidable.

The Siege and Capture of Chitor

Despite the anecdote that has been narrated above, analysis prove that there was no real reason for the attack on Chitor, other than Akbar’s overriding ambition and determination to become the undisputed master of all North India. Akbar’s ego could not countenance an independent Chief who did not accept Mughal sovereignty. Chitor and Ranthambhor were the two citadels that were the symbols of free Rajputs and needed to be conquered for any king to claim paramountcy over North India.

Udai Singh, the current Rana was a posthumous son of the great Rana Sangha, who had died in 1530, the same year of Babur’s demise. As an infant he had been saved by the fidelity of a nurse, who sacrificed her own son to save the royal prince by switching them in the cradle when soldiers had come to execute the infant prince. Udai Singh had been raised to the throne years later by the nobles of the land after they had dethroned and exiled a bastard son of Rana Sangha because of his incompetence. Unfortunately, the nobles were not well-served by Udai Singh. All contemporary record note that he was an unworthy Rana, without even a modicum of the greatness of his illustrious father and devoid of all qualities of a king.

On 20 October 1567, Akbar brought his army into Rajputana and camped to the north-east of Chitor, establishing a siege of the fort. Udai Singh handed over command of the fort to his general Jaimall and took refuge in the Aravalli Ranges, where he commenced the building of a new capital, Udaipur. The site of Akbar’s camp was marked by a pyramidal column of limestone, lit on the top by an enormous lamp to indicate the headquarters of the imperial forces and also to act as a beacon for his troops to return to the camp, after foraging outside. The column came to be called ‘Akbar’s Lamp’.

Was There a Religious Bias?

The on-coming confrontation was massive in scale, befitting a clash between the leading kingdoms of North India—it just so happened that one was Hindu and the other a Muslim power. Muslim chroniclers, mostly the ones who came much later, have given the conflict a religious flavour by exaggerating the narrative, reporting the battle as a ‘jihad’, going to the extent of bestowing the title of ‘gazi’ or holy warrior on all Muslim soldiers who took part. The reality was somewhat different—the war was fought for much simpler ideals. It was purely a power struggle in North India between the two most powerful kingdoms of the region.

The Mughal army had prominent Hindu Rajput chiefs in their command structure as generals, the likes of Bhagwan Das and Todar Mall. This was not surprising for the time, since it was not unusual for Hindu-Muslim alliances to fight against Hindu or Muslim kingdoms, depending on the circumstances. These alliances were purely political in nature, the underlying principle being to ensure the protection of self-interest. Religion had not place in the calculations. Further, the Mughals and Akbar in particular, were adept at leveraging local rivalries for their own benefit—a leaf that the British would take from history and adapt to make it their own strategy of conquest, two centuries later. If religious bias is mentioned as a cause in any of the narratives regarding the Mughal invasion of Mewar, it is certain to have been inserted at a later time by someone serving vested interests.

A Battle is Won and a Fortress Lost

Akbar brought up his principal artillery batteries and pounded the fort walls of Chitor, in addition making numerous direct assaults to breach the walls. Every assault was repulsed by the defending force. The siege dragged on. The Mughal forces started to create a covered way, called the sabat, which would permit miners to place charges under the fort walls without being targeted. This covered walkway finally reached the fort walls sometime in February 1568.

The ‘Sabat’

Sabat was a structure that grew steadily as a sort of fortification, which provided the besieging force with defensive cover, all the while moving closer to the fort walls and its defences. It was essentially a covered walkway, with sidewalls of rubble and mud that could absorb cannon balls. It had a wooden roof held together by hide, which also was used on the sidewalls. It also had chambers with loop holes to house and employ cannons and musketeers to take opportunistic shot at the defenders. Even today in the Mediterranean and the Middle-East, a sabat denotes an arched and roofed pathway, usually attached to buildings.

The sabat built by the Mughals for the assault on Chitor was wide enough for ten horsemen to ride abreast through it, and high enough for a warrior on an elephant to pass through. Since a sabat would start to be built at the base camp of the besieging army, its progression was normally a sinuous route, presumably the easiest way up the incline of the hill, on top of which the fort sat. The added advantage of a snaky progress was that all parts of the fort walls could be targeted during the build. As Bamber Gascoigne so succinctly states in The Great Mughals, (p. 81) ‘Akbar’s sabat was a treacherous armoured snake writhing with infinite slowness towards the point where it would latch its jaws on the Chitor’s walls and nibble.’

Chitor Seeks Peace. As the sabat continued to creep forward, the Chitor defenders realised that it was only a matter of time before the Mughal cannons would be able to devastate their fort walls. Pragmatically, Jaimall Rathore, the commander of the fort decided to parley with the Mughals. Two different commanders were send, one after the other to seek a dialogue with Akbar, offering to accept Mughal suzerainty and also to pay an annual tribute. While the Mughal officials felt the terms to be agreeable, Akbar refused to accept them, demanding that the Rana personally surrender to him. This demand was not acceptable, as it would not have been for any self-respecting king. Akbar had made the fight personal and was determined to dishonour the Mewar king and kingdom. In Akbar’s mind, Mewar had to be annihilated. Jaimall and his soldiers were left with no option but to fight. The Mewar generals were practical people and not brash and bloodthirsty soldiers only wanting ‘save their honour’, as has been made out in later years by arm-chair historians with an agenda to pursue.

Fate now played a hand. On 23 February 1568, Akbar, who was in the habit of being in the sabat chambers, noticed a distinguished person wearing a chief’s cuirass directing the defences in an area of the fort wall that had suffered some damage. Akbar, a practised marksman, shot him dead. Almost immediately the defending forces seemed to withdraw into the fort and a few hours later, fires and smoke was seen to be rising from within the fort. The Rajput generals in Akbar’s army informed him that the Hindu rite of jauhar (explained earlier in this book) was being carried out.

The chief who had been shot dead by Akbar was none other than Jaimall Rathore of Bednor, who had been the commander of the fort ever since Rana Udai Singh had fled at the arrival of the Mughal forces. It was normal for medieval battles to be decided on the fate of the commander, the side whose commander got killed either fleeing the field or promptly surrendering. On Jaimall’s unfortunate death, Patta of Kalaiwa was anointed the commander and the Chitor Rajputs prepared for their final battle. Legend and some chronicles state that Patta was only 16 years old at that time. This seems erroneous since it has been established that he left behind two sons and had also earlier taken part in the defence of Mirtha. Therefore, he would have been older. However, he would have been relatively young when command of Chitor devolved to him by default.

The morning after the rite of Jauhar had been performed, the Rajput army sallied out and were clinically cut down and defeated by the Mughal army, but at great cost to themselves. Further, when Akbar made his entry into the fort proper, another 8,000 Rajputs attacked the Mughal forces and were defeated only after a tenacious and long-drawn fight. Finally Chitor had fallen.

The Aftermath

It had taken the mighty Mughal army more than six months to capture Chitor, and that too as a result of a twist of fate when Jaimall was killed. Akbar was exasperated by the obstinate resistance, including the attack of the 8,000 in the closing part of the battle—he treated Chitor with extraordinarily ruthless severity. As the tenacity of the Rajput resistance had become more stubborn, Akbar’s pride and resolution had also soared. On the fall of Chitor, Akbar resorted to the classic Mughal policy of ‘greater the resistance, greater the retribution’, a policy crafted to strike terror into the hearts of potential and future adversaries.

Akbar ordered a general massacre—at least 30,000 people were killed and an equal number taken as slaves. Although almost all warriors had perished in the last battle and only poor peasants remained alive, Akbar’s orders were carried out with gusto. This massacre and subsequent actions that were initiated in Chitor sullied Akbar’s much touted reputation as an emperor who was magnanimous in victory. In Chitor, there was no sign of the chivalry in victory that is always mentioned as part of Akbar’s ‘greatness’. Here he was a petty, vengeful tyrant, who had won a great and bloody victory while having suffered heavy casualties himself, bent of extracting maximum revenge.

Akbar went on to destroy all the ‘regal symbols’ in Chitor. The huge gates of the fort were removed and transported to Agra; the great kettledrums, 10-feet in diameter, which were beaten to announce the arrival and departure of members of the core royal family from the fort were carried away. More importantly, the accoutrements from the family shrine of the Rana’s, housing the ‘Great Mother’ established by Bappa Rawal the founder of the dynasty, were taken down and carted away. The actual building housing the temple was not structurally damaged as such, but the temple per se was definitely desecrated. Some other buildings and monuments of sentimental value to the royal house were brought down or damaged beyond repair.

The fall of Chitor and its ransacking, not only shocked the entire Rajputana but deeply wounded the Rajput soul—the ‘sin of the laughter of Chitor’ passed into legend and has been kept alive for centuries through folklore, song and poetry.

Rana Udai Singh, who should have led the defence of the fort of his forefathers, never again ventured out of his mountain retreat and died four years later at a place called Gogunda. Though his valiant son, Rana Pratap Singh, gradually regained most of Mewar by waging a long-drawn war with the Mughals, Chitor remained desolate and was never rebuilt. Akbar’s ruthless actions in Chitor immediately after its fall have been explained by both contemporary and later-day historians as having been necessary to contain the situation. Nothing can be further from the truth. Chitor was not a vassal state that had rebelled and had also sued for peace. Further, there were no soldiers left in Chitor to fight back and the slaughter was pure bloodletting done to satisfy the furious anger of the victor. These same apologist historians also go on to heap much praise on Akbar for having succeeded in healing the wounds inflicted at Chitor at a later stage in his rule. This is undeserved praise.

The fact remains that Akbar was demonstrating the ruthlessness of Mughal power as a dire warning to all potential adversaries. He had not yet reached the maturity as a general or an administrator necessary to appease the defeated, as a number of later-day historians claim as being normal for Akbar. The conquest of Chitor was accomplished by a blood-thirsty, ambitious and arrogant Muslim Emperor—Akbar had not yet reached emancipation from his early religious beliefs or the self-actualisation of his later years.

In gratitude for this enormous victory and also to fulfil a vow that he had made before starting the siege of Chitor, Akbar made a pilgrimage on foot to the tomb of the first Muslim saint of India—that of Moin ud-Din Chisti in Ajmer. On 9 March 1568, Akbar issued proclamation of his victory from Ajmer—the fatehnama-i-Chittor.

Rana Pratap Singh

Udai Singh’s son, Pratap Singh, ascended the throne in 1572. His initial inclination was to be submissive to the Mughal Emperor, indicated by the presence of his son Amar Singh in Akbar’s court. However, Rana Pratap refused to personally attend the Mughal court. Therefore, amicable relationship with the Mughal was impossible—this time around Akbar insisted on the Rana personally coming to his court, after all he was the victor of Chitor; and Pratap was equally adamant that a Mewar Rana would not present himself in a Mughal court. Obviously the Mughal call for the Rajput to present himself went unheeded. Other minor irritants also combined to make the situation untenable. Akbar coveted an elephant in the Rana’s possession and expressed his desire to own it. It was customary in these circumstances for subservient kings to present the object of his desire to the emperor. However, the Rana refused to do so, an act that loudly proclaimed his independent status. Akbar was also irritated by the fact that Raja Man Singh was not treated as an equal and the Rana did not receive him personally when Man Singh visited Rana Pratap in Udaipur as the Mughal emissary.

Akbar had tried many times to bring Pratap under his control and the Rana had been ready to pick up the gauntlet every time that it was flung at him by the Mughal. The Mughal forces came back to Mewar, although Akbar did not deem it necessary to lead the army personally, instead deputing few generals to bring the recalcitrant Rana under control. A number of engagements took place, almost all of them won by the Mughals. The Mewar forces at time suffered great slaughter but also drew their share of blood from the Mughals. Udaipur was captured and Rana Pratap withdrew further into the safety of the Aravalli jungles. Despite repeated victories in battle, the Rajputs were not crushed and continued to fight. On being defeated in one battle they would swiftly scatter into the forest, regroup and strike again at an opportune moment and at their convenience. The Rana waged a copy book style guerrilla war and was never subjugated, even though his kingdom at times was almost fully under Mughal control.

In Akbar’s eyes Rana Pratap’s fault lay in his refusal to accept Mughal suzerainty and rejection of the concept of co-habiting with the Mughal kingdom. This was especially galling since Akbar had already won over most of the Rajput chieftains through the application of a string of strategies varying from coercion to invasion and punishment. Akbar could not countenance Mewar alone standing outside the ambit of his empire.

Battle of Haldighat – June 1576. The stand-off resulted in Mughal forces under Raja Man Singh marching into Mewar in June 1576, towards the fortress of Gogunda in the southern part of the Aravalli Ranges. Rana Pratap marshalled his cavalry at the Haldighat Pass en route to Gogunda and intercepted the Mughal forces—battle was joined at the Pass. It started in the early morning and resulted in fierce hand-to-hand combat that lasted till late afternoon. There was no clear victor at the end and the casualties were almost the same on both sides. The Rana retired to a remote area called Chaond, while some of his forts in the vicinity of Haldighat were captured by the Mughals.

The Report of an Aberration

Abd al-Qadir Badayuni (1540-1605) was an orthodox Muslim, prominent historian and translator of Hindu works, who lived during Akbar’s reign. He had taken permission from Akbar and accompanied the forces of Asaf Khan, the second-in-command of Man Singh in the Haldighat expedition. He left behind a detailed account of the battle as it happened, having been an eye-witness to it. In his narrative, a disturbing event has been described, which is being highlighted here.

It is well-known that the Mughal forces had a number of Rajputs fighting for them, especially in this instance since they were commanded by Raja Man Singh. According to Badayuni, at the height of the battle he asked Asaf Khan how he could distinguish between friendly and enemy Rajputs. The reply given was that he could shoot anyone since, ‘… on whichever side they may be killed, it will be a gain for Islam.’

This incident gives pause to the narrative that the fight in North India was a power struggle with no religious bias to it. On one level it exposes the duplicity practised at the highest level of the Mughal army. It also makes one wonder whether the Hindu soldiers were used as mere cannon fodder by the Islamic command structure. Further questions that remain unanswered are: one, whether or not Akbar himself was aware of the attitude of his senior commanders towards the Hindu soldiers; and two, whether his Rajput generals were aware of the disdain of the Muslim commanders for Hindu soldiers and their lives. In any case, it raises questions regarding the much touted ‘secularism’ that is supposed to have been practised by Akbar.

Rana Pratap was later able to recover almost all the territories of Mewar other than Chitor, Ajmer and Mandalgarh. However, the control of the territories of Mewar changed hands many times. The Rajput resistance continued intermittently till 1615 when Rana Amar Singh, Pratap’s son and heir, finally accepted Akbar’s son Jahangir’s suzerainty—half a century after Akbar had first invaded Mewar.

Analysing the Resistance

Rana Pratap was uncompromising in his defiance of Mughal power and his determination to safeguard his independence and sovereignty. Even though resources under his command were meagre in comparison to those available to the Mughal Emperor, the intensity of his opposition was unmatched. Here it is well worth remembering that in the last quarter of the 16th century, Akbar’s empire was the most powerful in the world—and he was undoubtedly the richest monarch on the face of the earth. Only the bravest of the brave would dare to even attempt to take on the Mughals and the Rana took on the task with only the meagre resources of Mewar under his command.

Akbar could not defeat Rana Pratap conclusively nor annex the kingdom of Mewar. After the indecisive Battle of Haldighat Akbar did not make any further attempts to campaign in Rajputana. There is a very visible dichotomy in the narrative regarding Rana Pratap and his historic resistance. While Rajput lore lionises the actions of Rana Pratap, Muslim chroniclers do not mention Akbar’s inability to defeat the Rana of Mewar. Even though he had unlimited resources at his command, Akbar’s desire to kill Rana Pratap and annex his kingdom remained unfulfilled. It is obvious that the Muslim chroniclers did not want to point out this failure, or even allude to it, lest the Emperor’s wrath descended on them.

Rana Pratap remains a stalwart and celebrated ‘Hindu’ champion, for the entire Indian sub-continent, as the king who never permitted his honour, independence or sovereignty to be questioned or impinged upon. It would seem that occasionally, the lesser but tenacious power is more powerful than the more powerful and grand imperial forces. In later times, much after his death, Rana Pratap was honoured by the common people of sub-continent and is always mentioned as Maharana Pratap.

An Anomaly

Rana Pratap’s successful defiance of Akbar and the Mughal might has been built up in later years by successive chroniclers as a heroic and long-drawn campaign to defend Rajput honour. Later, in modern times, it has been converted to a fight for Hindu honour against Islamic oppression and Rana Pratap celebrated as a great ‘Hindu king’ around whose exploits a legend has been consciously built through folklore, poem and song. There is no doubt that the Rana was a great king, an indomitable military genius and commander, and a leader steadfast in his pursuit of independence—worthy of celebration in all contexts. However, the narrative that has grown around the religious aspect of the Rana’s war is somewhat self-serving.

The fact remains that at the fundamental level, the struggle between Pratap and Akbar was essentially political in nature. It so happened that they belonged to different religious persuasions. The Rana’s army was not a composite ‘all-Rajput’ entity, nor even purely ‘Hindu’ in its composition. A number of Afghan chiefs served under Pratap, the most famous being Hakim Sur who distinguished himself in the greatest battle of the long-war—at the Battle of Haldighat in June 1576. Similarly, the Mughal army was actually led and commanded by what could only be termed as the ‘flower of Rajput royalty’ and their entourages—princes from Amber, Bikaner and Bundi led the assault against Mewar. In fact, Rana Pratap’s own brother, Sagaraj fought alongside the Mughal forces.

The Mughal-Mewar conflict was, at the basic level, about power. It was struggle for supremacy between two strong and ambitious kings, whose kingdoms happened to share a common border. Honour and prestige was definitely involved, there is no doubt about it. However, it was the personal honour and status of the two kings that was involved, not Rajput or Hindu and Mughal or Muslim honour. However, this fact does not detract in any way the significance and importance of the heroic fight that the Rana carried on, without ever being subjugated. In the long chronicle of the socio-political history of the sub-continent, Maharana Pratap and his heroic resistance against foreign invaders remain a point of indelible reference—a point from which the history of Hindustan could be calculated as before and after Rana Pratap.

The Rest of Rajputana


After staying in Agra and supervising the construction projects that he had initiated for a few months, on 21 December 1568, Akbar set out to conquer Ranthambhor. After Chitor, this fort was considered the most important Rajput citadel in Rajputana. Although nominally subservient to the Ranas of Mewar and considered a fiefdom, Ranthambhor the stronghold of the Hara section of the Chauhan clan of Rajasthan was fiercely independent. The fort was considered impregnable and a source of pride to the Rajput nobility.

The sad fate of Chitor perhaps influenced the defenders, who offered only token resistance before surrendering on 22 March 1569. On the other hand, Akbar was now conscious and also wary of the death-defying Rajput valour and concept of honour, and offered very liberal and honourable terms for the surrender. It is certain that back channel diplomatic negotiations took place between the two sides to arrive at a mutually agreeable end-state. Akbar used extreme harshness and great magnanimity as the two ends of the spectrum of diplomacy that he employed to enforce his policy of conquest and annexation. The two were complimentary and played an important role in the integration of the Rajput kingdoms into the broader Mughal Empire. Ranthambhor was annexed as part of the imperial territories. Rana Surjan Singh was provided large districts near Benares as his fiefdom and given the status of an independent but protected sanctuary.


In August 1569, the fortress of Kalanjar in Bundelkhand—where Sher Shah Sur had met his end—was besieged and surrendered tamely with hardly any resistance. The ruler Raja Ramchand of Riwa, who had send Tansen to Akbar earlier, under whose control Kalanjar fell was compensated by granting him a jagir near Allahabad. With the fall and annexation of Kalanjar, the last of the great Rajput forts, the entire Rajputana came under Mughal control. Akbar’s military position in the North and West India was firm and secure. He was now relatively free to pursue his ambitious projects in other regions of the sub-continent. An emperor was being created.

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About Sanu Kainikara

Sainik School Kazhakuttam (Kerala), National Defence Academy 39/A, 108 Pilot's Course IAF, fighter pilot, QFI, FCL, psc, HACC, Voluntary Retirement as Wing Commander. Canberra-based Political and Defence Analyst specialising in military strategy, national security, and international politics. PhD in International Politics from University of Adelaide Executive Masters in Public Adminsitration (ANZSOG) Adjunct Professor, University of New South Wales, Distinguished Fellow Institute For Regional Security (IFRS) Distinguished Fellow Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)

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