Pratap Singh became the Maharana of Mewar in 1572 after the death of his father Maharana Udai Singh. Pratap never accepted Emperor Jalal ud-Din Muhammad Akbar as ruler of India, and fought Emperor Akbar all his life. Emperor Jalal ud-Din Muhammad Akbar first tried diplomacy to win over Pratap Singh but nothing worked. Pratap Singh maintained that he had no intention to fight with Emperor Akbar but he could not bow down to Emperor Akbar and accept him as the ruler. Chittor fort, Pratap’s ancestral home, was under Mughal occupation. Living a life on the run, the dream of reconquering Chittor was greatly cherished by Pratap, and his future efforts were bent towards this goal. Nearly all of Pratap’s fellow Rajput chiefs had meanwhile entered into the vassalage of the Mughals. Even Pratap’s own brothers, Shakti Singh and Sagar Singh, were serving Emperor Akbar. Indeed, many Rajput chiefs, such as Raja Man Singh of Amber (Jaipur) were serving as army commanders in Akbar’s armies and members of his council. Akbar sent a total of six diplomatic missions to Pratap, seeking to negotiate the same sort of peaceful alliance that he had concluded with the other Rajput chiefs. Pratap roundly rebuffed every such attempt.
Raja Man Singh marched with his Mughal forces from Ajmer on April 3, 1576. On June 21, 1576 (June 18 in other texts), the two armies met at Haldighati, near the town of Gogunda in present-day Rajasthan. While accounts vary as to the exact strength of the two armies, all sources concur that the Mughal forces greatly outnumbered Pratap’s men. The battle of Haldighati, lasted only four hours. Both sides fought bravely on the field. Folklore has it that Pratap personally attacked Man Singh: his horse Chetak placed its front feet on the trunk of Man Singh’s elephant and Pratap threw his lance; Man Singh ducked, and the mahout (Elephant rider) was killed.The Rajputs inflicted heavy casualties on the Mughals despite having a considerably smaller force, Rajputs proved that none equaled them as warriors even when heavily outnumbered on the battlefield. It is estimated that a mere 20,000 Rajputs slaughtered 1,50,000 Mughals.
However, the numerical superiority of the Mughal army and their artillery began to tell. Seeing that the battle was not in their favor, and to make matters worse Pratap suffered a grave injury and fainted on his horse Chetak which then rushed to take Pratap to safety, one of his lieutenants, a member of the Jhala clan, donned Pratap’s distinctive garments and took his place in the battlefield. He was soon killed. Meanwhile, riding his trusty steed Chetak, Pratap made good his escape to the hills.
Pratap retreated into the hilly wilderness of the Aravalli hills and continued his struggle. His one attempt at open confrontation having thus failed, Pratap resumed the tactics of guerrilla warfare. Using the hills as his base, Pratap harassed the large Mughal forces in their encampments. He ensured that the Mughal occupying force in Mewar never knew peace: Akbar dispatched three more expeditions to ferret Pratap out of his mountainous hideouts, but they all failed. During this era, Pratap received much financial assistance from Bhamashah, a well-wisher. The Bhil tribals of the Aravalli hills provided Pratap with their support during times of war and their expertise in living off the forests during times of peace. Thus the years passed. Pratap died of injuries sustained in a hunting accident. He died at Chavand, on January 29, 1597, aged 56. It is said that as he lay dying, Pratap made his son and successor, Amar Singh, swear to maintain eternal conflict against the Mughals.
Maharana Pratap’s son, Amar Singh, fought 17 wars with the Mughals but he conditionally accepted them as rulers.