The protagonist of this post is not a human being, but an animal, which epitomized loyalty and attained immortality through the songs of several poets – Chetak. When the word Chetak is heard, the only objects that come to many minds are the Bajaj Chetak scooter, or for more well read people, the Chetak Helicopter built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. But the name Chetak was given to the above because it stood for the epitome of loyalty: the unforgettable horse Chetak.
Chetak was Maharana Pratap Singh’s horse which lost its life protecting the Rana in the gruesome Battle of Haldighati that was fought on June 21, 1576, between the Mughal ruler Jalal-ud-din Mohammed Akbar and Maharana Pratap Singh. Rana Pratap was mounted on Chetak in this battle.
Akbar was repeatedly trying to annex territory and expand the Mughal Empire into Rajasthan. But Rana Pratap, who succeeded his father Maharana Udai Singh as king of Mewar, would not accept a foreign ruler’s supremacy. Despite several attempts by Akbar to win Rana Pratap’s submission using diplomacy, he never entirely succeeded in gaining control of Mewar. Unfortunately, other neighboring kings were not brave enough to defend themselves. Not only did they slowly start bowing down before Akbar in servitude, but also disgracefully gave their sisters and daughters away in marriage to Akbar (Akbar had more than 5000 women in his harem, including the Rajputani Jodha Bai). But Rana Pratap, being a true and brave Rajput, vowed to protect the honor of his people for as long as he lived. Hence war was declared.
The strength of Rana Pratap’s army was miniscule compared to the large number of other Rajput kings (and their armies) that Akbar had bought over to his side. Akbar’s army was led by Raja Man Singh, who was Akbar’s nephew by marriage, while Rana Pratap himself led his army, mounted on Chetak. During the fierce battle that lasted several hours, it was clear that Rana’s army was being overpowered due to mere numerical superiority.
At this crucial juncture, Rana Pratap hoped to create chaos in the opponent army by killing Man Singh. He led Chetak closer to Man Singh’s elephant. Chetak bravely jumped on to the elephant’s trunk, facilitating Rana Pratap to throw his lance aiming at Man Singh’s face. Unfortunately Man Singh ducked and the lance only killed the mahout of the elephant and Chetak’s left thigh was fatally wounded in this endeavor. Now, as Rana Pratap was quickly being surrounded by enemy warriors, some of his loyal supporters urged him to escape, so that he can come back and fight again some other day. One of his lieutenants even donned Rana’s garments to distract the army, allowing Rana to escape. As we would expect, the lieutenant was killed.
When Rana Pratap decided to let go of the fighting and escape, Chetak faithfully cooperated. Despite his bleeding wounds, Chetak ran for 2 miles non-stop and collapsed while trying to jump over a creek. Rana Pratap was deeply touched by the loyalty of the brave war horse. Not only are the Rajputs brave, but even their horses are valorous! He escaped, and later constructed a small monument out of respect for Chetak’s loyalty. Rana Pratap, owed his life to Chetak on the battle ground on that bloody day.
Rana Pratap retreated into the Aravalli hills and continued to attack Mughal army camps in guerilla fashion and prevented them from capturing Mewar entirely. At the age of 56, when he died, he handed over his responsibilities to his son Amar Singh. But it was never the same. Despite Amar Singh fighting 17 wars defending his territory from the Mughals, they eventually overpowered him. Soon after Rana Pratap’s death, other Rajputs became disillusioned, lost interest and migrated to parts of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and present-day Pakistan. The Rajput-Mughal conflict also subsided in the later years, as Akbar – a fanatic in his earlier years – significantly reformed in the latter period of his reign and grew into someone who respected all religious faiths.
The brave war horse Chetak was of Marwari breed, and had a blue tinge to his coat. That is why sometimes Rana Pratap is also referred to as the rider of the blue horse (Neele Ghode re Aswar). The monument erected in memory and worship of Chetak can still be seen near the village of Jharol in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan. Chetak still lives in the hearts of all poets, epitomizing loyalty, and it seems, also in the hearts of our automakers. 🙂