Rana and his Men

The tableau, unveiled in 2007 by the Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterji and conceptualised by Jaswant Singh, the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, captured the spirit of those turbulent times and presented to our world this team of extraordinary men, each of whom was a leader unto himself, icons that have remained alive in public memory, literature, and history like few others

Rana and his Men

Representation image (Photo:SNS)

On 21 August 2007 was the ceremonial unveiling of a tableau in honour of Maharana Pratap of Mewar at Parliament House, New Delhi. The sculptor-artist, Faqir Charan Parida from Odisha, created a spectacular tableau of not just Maharana Pratap on Chetak, his saviour-horse made iconic, but on the pedestal were life-like figures of the key warrior commanders who made themselves immortal in history: Jhala Maan, Rana Punja, Hakim Khan Sur and Bhamashah.

If a leader is said to be as good as his team, it follows that a powerful inspirational leader like Rana Pratap drew upon the positive energy, determination of his commanders, who in turn were empowered by the Rana to do beyond their best in times of war and peace.

The tableau, unveiled by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterji and conceptualised by Jaswant Singh, the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, captured the spirit of those turbulent times and presented to our world this team of extraordinary men, each of whom was a leader unto himself, icons that have remained alive in public memory, literature, and history like few others.


It would be gross injustice to focus our attention on singular personalities, however great their aura or accomplishments may be; their greatness lay in their abilities to build and sustain teams, their immortality rests on their sacrificial acts.

That is what made them unique, supreme and ideal role-models for all times. “The age of Rana Pratap begins when history was at a unique cusp,” wrote Pandit Narendra Mishra, one of India’s greatest ‘veer-ras’ poets, who lives in Chittaurgarh, writing and reciting Mewar’s history, past and present. In the booklet commemorating the unveiling of the tableau, his poetic words ring out seamlessly, unafraid to call a spade a spade. “It was a time when the country or des was searching for ways and means to re-establish, reaffirm its selfpride and identity. It was the age of political dissensions; victorious powers were indulging in divisive politics to expand their territorial sway and supremacy.

Even those who were subjugated were proclaiming themselves to be self-righteous and fortunate,” he wrote without fear or favour. The poet in Pt Mishra was not only feeling strongly for a subjugated country, he could empathise with the sadness of Mother India, witness as she was to “the convenience-seeking, shameless surrender of Kshatriya pride”.

Through his poetry can be experienced the strong of emotions of despair and pain, humiliation and hurt. “It was in a dark age scarred by hopelessness and despair wherein an enlightened man like Pratap emerges. His emergence marks a challenge to slavery and despair; the darkness is dispelled by the light of his invincible spirit. Pratap’s sacrifice at every stage has infused inspiration and positive energy in modern India’s freedom struggle,” he said, pointing out that contemporary leaders and ordinary people had much to learn from Rana Pratap’s life and his commitment to being independent, self-reliant and working for all humanity.

The self-pride and self-respect which he embodied for these universal values are the lessons to be learnt from those pre-modern times. Rana Pratap was never alone. He was a man of the people, who as a young adult, spent formative years working and allying with Bhil tribals and Meenas in the Mewar region. There are fables and songs referring to Rana Kika, as he was endearingly addressed by them.

Here was a son of the soil devoting years to motivating and mobilising people around him: tribals, peasants, soldiers, landed gentry and mercantile classes alike. No wonder the Bhil leader Rana Punja remained a close aide of Rana Pratap, spearheading guerilla campaigns and leading contingents of tribal warriors on to the battlefield of Haldighati.

On the tableau he is the only figure without heavy armour, helmet or ornamentation; he is bare-bodied, armed with bow and arrows while the others are in battle-gear with heavy spears, swords and helmets. “The ease with which he dealt with people, his simplicity and ethical leadership made him popular with different segments of society,” wrote Dr Devilal Paliwal in a 1998-Hindi monograph simply titled, Maharana Pratap Mahan. “Added to these qualities were his prowess on the battlefield, his bravery and determination to fill his people with new hopes and renew their self-confidence,” he said.

At the head of the tableau is Jhala Maan (or Man Singh Jhala), a heavily armoured figure, the confident stance and sword he carries is portrayal of his noble stature. He hailed from the family of Jhalas who were part of the extended Mewar clans. In the Battle of Haldighati, he took charge at a critical moment, giving Rana Pratap the opportunity to move away from the thick of the battle while Jhala Maan, with the Mewar Royal insignia, assumed charge.

He sacrificed his life on the battlefield, just as his forefathers had done. The Jhalas have earned the respect and honours bestowed on them, and the tributes continue till date in Badi Sadri. Bhamashah is another towering personality, the only one on the tableau who is unarmed.

Hailing from a Jain Oswal family which had served the Maharanas of Mewar for generations, he was not only the Diwan of Chittorgarh but became the chief financier for Rana Pratap’s battles against the Mughal Empire. Along with his brother Tarachand, Bhamashah took to the battlefield, proving themselves to be complete warriors who could rise above the tenets of their Jain religion in their quest to fight for Mewar’s independence.

Their loyalty to the Rana is matched by their multidimensional management skills, especially in handling treasury affairs and ensuring the Mewar army was never without funds for arms and armaments, or horses and elephants. In 2008 as a tribute to Bhamashah’s memory, the government of Rajasthan launched the Bhamashah Yojana, a direct benefit transfer scheme for women’s empowerment; while the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, Udaipur instituted Bhamashah annual awards for meritorious students of Rajasthan. It is Hakim Khan Sur who brings up the rear on the tableau.

Depicted by the sculptor-artist as a stocky figure, heavily armed, the Afghan warrior hailed from the Sur family which wanted to settle old scores with the Mughal forces. In the Battle of Haldighati, Hakim Khan Sur led the vanguard along with his Afghan contingent; at one level, Rana Pratap’s professionalism is acknowledged for having chosen the best-in-class commander, at another, his secular, non-religious outlook is hailed for bestowing the critical command to an Afghan and not one of the Mewar clansmen.

Hakim Khan fought to the finish, laying down his life for Mewar; bards and poets have written paeans in honour of this battle-scarred warrior who was buried with his sword clasped firmly in his hand. Historians like GN Sharma in Mewar and the Mughal Emperors detailed these battle formations wherein valorous roles of Kishan Das Chundawat of Salumber, Bhim Singh of Sardargarh, Rawat Sanga of Deogarh and Rawat Ram Das of Badnor have been presented.

The battle comes alive and, through the centuries, has become a source of inspiration and pride for generations of Indians. The bards, folk poets and the Charans have also earned immortality through their works.

Though they do not figure on the Parliament House tableaus, Rama Sandhu and Mala Sandhu are Charans, the poetwarriors who sang and fought for the Mewar armies. Their soulful poetry recounted glories and traumas on and off the battlefields.

Sadhu Hemratan Suri is another poet-warrior whose ballads on ‘Gora Badal’ are still heard across the Aravallis. “Self-respect and dignity,” said Dr Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar in Udaipur, “this glorious chapter of our history teaches us about the choices we make, the paths that we chose.”

Being a direct descendant of Rana Pratap, he is engaged in keeping alive these glorious legacies in this age of globalization. “In Mewar, we have never believed in making compromises nor adjustments. It is about not selling your soul,” he said, summing up the interview conducted by Basudha Banerji for the AIR Central English Features unit.

The feature was aptly titled ‘Beyond Haldighati’. To these values of self-reliance, self-respect, respect for mankind which the age of Rana Pratap and his leaders exemplified, Pandit Narendra Mishra’s poetry paints colours of powerful emotions: “If independence is a mantra for the land of Bharat, then Rana Pratap is its singer or gayak / In the fight for Freedom, he remains unconquered, continuing to rule over Time.” He is the ‘kaal vidhayak’, one who has transcended time.

The writer is a researcherauthor on history and heritage issues and a former deputy curator of Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya