Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, The City palace, Udaipur celebrated 538th birth anniversary of Maharana Sangram Singh I on May 04, 2021. Born on Vaishak Krishna Navmi Vikram Samvat 1539, Maharana Sangram Singh was the 50th custodian of House of Mewar.
Maharana Sangram Singh I, one of the most iconic Maharanas of Mewar, is known as Rana Sanga in folklore and history books. His very name ‘Sangram’ means battle or struggles in Hindi; ‘Singh’ means the lion. Maharana Sangram Singh, in more ways than one, was truly a ‘Lion of Battles’ or ‘the Lion of the Battlefield’.
Early Years of Struggle and Conflict
Born on 12th April 1482, Kunwar Sangram Singh was one among the 13 sons of Maharana Raimal and Rani Ratan Kanwar, daughter of Jhala Rajdhar. Brave and ambitious from an early age, Kunwar Sangram Singh saw a bitter struggle for his father’s gaddi or throne break out between the Princes. When the Royal Priest indicated that Kunwar Sangram Singh would be the next Maharana of Mewar, all hell broke loose. Kunwar Prithviraj heard the prophecy and got furious for he was the eldest son of Maharana Raimal. He physically attacked Kunwar Sangram Singh, injuring him in his eye, which eventually lost its vision.
To stem the conflict between the Princes, Maharana Raimal’s uncle Sarangdev advised the Princes to seek advice from the Priestess at Charni Devi Temple. The Priestess also indicated and affirmed the same prophecy indicating Kunwar Sangram Singh as the Maharana. Kunwar Prithviraj anger knew no bounds and, with the support of another brother Kunwar Jaimal, he tried to kill Kunwar Sangram Singh. In the family-fights that followed, Kunwar Sangram Singh was forced into exile, reaching Ajmer through Gondwana. In Ajmer, the Prince of Mewar was helped by Karmachand Panwar who helped him recover from the wounds and humiliation he had faced. These early years were traumatic for the young Prince of Mewar who knew he had a tough fight, a ‘sangram’, on his hands at every step of his life.
Mewar at the time of Sanga (1527 CE)
After the death of Maharana Raimal’s elder sons, Kunwar Prithviraj and Kunwar Jaimal, Kunwar Sangram Singh was recalled from Ajmer and anointed as the heir to the throne of Mewar.
On 24 May 1509, the prophecy made by the Royal Priest came true and Maharana Sangram Singh I assumed charge of the Kingdom of Mewar. It was the start of yet another chapter in the glorious history of Mewar. When he was crowned as the Maharana of Mewar, Delhi was being ruled by Sultan Sikander Lodhi, Gujarat by Mahmud Shah Begada and Malwa by Nassurudin Khilji. Their network and alliance was obviously dangerous for Mewar. It adversely affected the north-eastern, southern and western boundaries of Mewar.
Demonstrating his leadership at this early juncture, Maharana Sangram Singh appointed powerful nobles along these borders of Mewar. In the north-east, Karmachand Panwar was appointed ‘Rawat’ and given the responsibility of Ajmer, Parbatsar, Mandal, Phulia, Banera as Jagirs with revenue of Rs 15 lakhs. The Maharana then allied with the rulers of Sirohi in the south and Vagad in the west. He also helped Raimal for his claim on the throne of Idar and won his support. These qualities of leadership, and investing in other leaders who became his support, makes Maharana Sangram Singh an admirable leader of leaders.
Economic Situation of Mewar
Over the millennia, the region of Mewar has benefitted immensely from its geography. One could say, its geography has decisively shaped its historical growth. The Kingdom of Mewar was strategically located at the crossroads of trade and commerce, with the constant movement of people and the caravan of ideas. Through the centuries, trade and commerce routes along the Aravalli range strengthened the connection of Mewar with the northern and eastern parts of the sub-continent. Mewar was thus at a confluence of history: it was connected to Delhi in the north and Ujjain in the heart of the Indian sub-continent. Ajmer, Chittorgarh and Kumbhalgarh have been witnessing the flow of trade for all these centuries. These fort-cities contributed immensely to the growth of the economy of Mewar.
Mount Abu and Idar were also important cities as they linked Mewar to the port-cities along the coast of Gujarat. The stronger the economy, the greater was the independence and strength of the Rulers of Mewar. There was prosperity and peace during the reign of Maharana Sangram Singh. He was generous in the grants of land and jagirs to his people. Inscription at Nilkanth (Mahadev) temple at Kumbhalgarh and Dovani copper plate, describe the Maharana’s benevolence and sense of welfare towards his people. The Maharana issued copper coins which are popularly known as Sangram Shahi coins. Six types of these coins have been discovered. On one side is inscribed ‘Shri Rana Sangram Sah’ in Nagari script with the date, and, on the reverse side, ‘Sultan Bin Sultan’ is engraved in Persian.
Struggle with the Sultanates
Mewar and the Rulers of Gujarat were always neighbours at war. When Maharana Sangram Singh attempted to strengthen the boundaries of Mewar by allying with other Rulers, it invariably resulted in conflict with Gujarat. The Maharana was instrumental in influencing the coronation in Idar. The Gujarat-Mewar feud, which had been dormant since the times of Maharana Kumbha, resumed and put enormous economic and political pressure on Mewar. In 1514 CE, Maharana Sangram Singh fought a pitched battle with Sultan Muzaffar Shah. In 1520 CE, the Maharana defeated him and captured Ahmednagar. Maharana Sangram Singh soon became involved with the politics of the Malwa region.
Medani Rai, a Rajput General, made strong military and political manoeuvres and forced the Sultan of Malwa to leave Mandu. He then sought the support of Maharana Sangram Singh with a plan to attack Malwa. The plan was later shelved and Medani Rai was bestowed with the jagirs of Gagron and Chanderi. In 1515 CE, the Maharana seized the strategic fort and forest areas of Ranthambhore from the Sultan of Malwa. Maharana Sangram Singh believed in bravery and generosity with his enemies. He never forgot his ethical values on the battlefield or off it. These values have become the bedrock of Mewar. In 1519 CE, Maharana defeated Sultan Mahmud near Gagron and imprisoned him. Later the Sultan was set free and was given back half of his lands. In 1521 CE, Sultan Mahmud tried to recapture Mandsaur but he left empty-handed when the armies of Maharana Sangram Singh marched towards him. Over these years, Maharana Sangram Singh demonstrated his military leadership and political acumen, becoming an iconic figure respected across the sub-continent.
Struggle with Delhi Sultanate
In the reign of Maharana Sangram Singh, the boundaries of Mewar were further strengthened and extended because of the military strategies and farsightedness of its ruler. Sultan Sikander Lodhi could not tolerate this expansion strategy of the Maharana as Delhi and Mewar shared long borders. In 1517 CE, Sultan’s son Ibrahim Lodhi became the new Sultan and new tensions erupted between the two Kingdoms. In 1517 CE, the Maharana’s forces defeated Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi at Khatoli. In 1518 CE, the Sultan sent Miya Hussian and Miya Khan to attack Chittorgarh, however they too were defeated and repulsed by the forces of Mewar.
By defeating the Sultans of Delhi, Malwa and Gujarat, Maharana Sangram Singh’s valour and bravery reached its zenith. It reached epic proportions and the name of Maharana Sangram Singh became synonymous with valour and bravery in his own lifetime. Undoubtedly in this cusp of history, Maharana Sangram Singh was acknowledged as the ‘bravest among the braves’ and the ‘leader of leaders’ to whom all the Kings and Sultans of north India looked up to.
Mewar – Mughal struggle : Battle of Bayana
Babur now emerged on the stage of history as he crossed the Khyber Pass once again. When the young Mughal defeated Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi, he annexed Delhi. It marked the beginning of the end of the Lodhi era. There was only one Ruler in the entire north who could challenge Babur and that was Maharana Sangram Singh. The growing military might and influence of the Mughals brought together all the Hindu Rulers under the banner of Mewar. Maharana Sangram Singh became their undisputed leader who had won their respect over the years. When the Maharana analysed the situation, he began enhancing military strategies. He captured the fort at Kandar (near Ranthambore) from Hasan who allied with him. Bayana (or the Bharatpur state) was under the Maharana’s rule. Militarily and politically, this was a very strategic location. It was a jagir given to Niyam Khan. Babur now set about capturing this jagir of Bayana. He sent Jaradi Beg and Kuch Beg, two of his nobles, to occupy it. With the help of Niyam Khan’s brother Alam Khan, Babur was able to annex Bayana. In retaliation, Maharana Sangram Singh again attacked and captured Kandar. Then the forces of Mewar captured Bayana. When Babur came to know that the Maharana had reached Basavar (10 miles away from Bayana), he sent his commander Abdul Aziz to Khanwa. The Maharana’s forces attacked him as well. Babur sent more of his military troops under the charge of Muhib Ali Khalifa and Mulla Hussian to help Abdul Aziz. But they were no match for the brave army of Mewar. The Rajput soldiers and commanders fought bravely and captured Babur’s flag, Ran Kankan, musical instruments (like vankiya, a long brass wind instrument, kettle drum, cymbals and ‘dhapli’ a small drum like instruments), and even his ‘red command’ tent. The Mughal forces had been routed and humiliated like never before. In the Battle of Bayana, Mulla Nyamat, Mulla Dawood and other Mughal generals were either killed or imprisoned. The Rajputs defeated the Mughal army and chased them for miles, adding more insult to the defeated forces of Babur.
Battle of Khanwa
After the humiliating defeat of the Mughal army in the Battle of Bayana, Babur had to work very hard to keep up the spirit of his soldiers. He led by example; swearing not to consume liquor and adopting an austere lifestyle. He donated for the poor the entire gold and silver cutlery in his palatial abode. He cut short his beard and evoked his soldiers through religious sentiments and preaching’s. On 13 March 1527 CE, Babur himself led the Mughal army to Khanwa. He supervised the battlefield and began planning for the battle. Maharana Sangram Singh’s confederacies of armies were also prepared for battle. They moved ahead under the flag and insignia of Mewar. On 17 March 1527 CE, the battle commenced at Panipat.
In the heat of the battle, the Maharana was struck by an arrow and he fell unconscious. The Mewar commanders and Sardars lowered the injured Maharana into a palanquin and were forced to leave the battlefield. It was the valiant commander Jhala Ajja who assumed charge of the Maharana’s elephant with the emblems and insignia of Mewar and continued the battle. His bravery and valour urged the soldiers to keep on fighting the enemy. It was Babur’s cannons and artillery which made the difference. The Rajput armies found themselves circled and defeated. To commemorate his victory, Babur erected a victory tower with the heads of the Rajput soldiers. He called it the ‘Fateh-Minar’. He knew he had been victorious against the bravest of the braves. Many Rajput and Hindu Kings and nobles fought under the banner of Maharana Sangram Singh against the Mughals. It was truly a confederacy of the bravest of the braves.
From the battlefield of Khanwa, the Rajput commanders and Sardars carried the injured Maharana Sangram Singh to safety in nearby Baswa. When he regained consciousness, the Maharana was informed about his serious injury and the victory of the Mughal Army led by Babur. Even in the state of pain and semi-consciousness, the Maharana was angry and exhorted his commanders to once again prepare for war. Maharana Sangram Singh was not ready to give up the battle even though everything seemed to have been lost and he was badly injured. Maharana Sangram Singh, as it is recounted in innumerable stories and fables, vowed that he would never return to Chittorgarh till he had avenged this defeat at the hands of Babur and his army. He then left Baswa and moved camp towards Chanderi, finally camping at Kalpi at a village called Irchi. The Maharana succumbed here to his wounds.
His demise was due to poisoning; whether it was from his innumerable wounds he had suffered or those commanders who were against him, it can never be truly known. On 30th January 1528, ‘The Light of Hindus’ as the great Maharana Sangram Singh was known as, passed into history. It was truly an end of an era not just in Mewar but in the entire sub-continent. The Battle of Khanwa had decided the course of history of the sub-continent. The name of Maharana Sangram Singh I will always be written in letters of gold as long as history books are written and these facts of history are recalled in Mewar, Rajasthan and across India.