Roses of Haldighati
From being the site of a
heroic battle to a field of roses, Haldighati in Rajasthan has
undergone a sea change, reports Tribune correspondent Jupinderjit
Even 33 years after a huge statue of Maharana Pratap, riding his famous steed, was built, it is yet to be unveiled
the mere mention of the word throws up images of valour, heroism
and honour. The battle of Haldighati was fought between the
forces of Maharana Pratap and Emperor Akbar for the honour of
the motherland and Rajputs. Over 20,000 soldiers were slain in
the bitter clash. According to a story so much blood had been
shed that it had formed a large pool. That place is called Rakt
Talai in memory of those who died there.
While these tales
have become legends, the dusty valley lies forgotten barring a
few signs reminding of its existence.
A large cut-out of
Rana Pratap in battle outfit, holding a spear and riding his
famous steed Chetak, invites passers-by to the valley, which
lies on the Udaipur-Nathdwara road, 16 km off the highway and 40
km short of Udaipur.
As one turns
towards the link road off the highway to the place that was an
inseparable part of the Indian folklore since centuries,`A0a
hostile and depressing topography meets the eye, conjuring up
images and sounds of war cries, clanking of swords, hoof-steps
and the wails and moans of the injured.
The colour of the
land and the hills changes rapidly as one gets closer to the
actual`A0valley. From a depressing brown it becomes a bright
turmeric. The valley, hence, got its name from the deep yellow
colur of its sand.`A0
As one drives
further into the valley, a surprise awaits. The valley, which
was once filled with blood, still retains this crimson, albeit
in a different form. Roses bloom where once death ruled.
advertising several rose products dot the landscape. They claim
to have the world’s finest perfumes as well as gulkand,
gulab jal, and several other products, including a special
medicine for diabetes.
There are rows of
boards tempting visitors to buy roses and rose products. In this
valley of valour, roses of one of the finest varieties — the chaitri
— bloom in plenty, though only for a month in a year.
The place is the
biggest exporter of rose products. Savita, who sells these
products, says anyone who comes here is amazed on seeing the
roses. "It is like an oasis. It’s a pity that these
crimson red and milky pink flowers bloom for just one month.
Otherwise, many big industries would have rushed here,
manufacturing tonnes of rose products," she says.
But doesn’t the
single crop make it more special? "Yes," agrees Mohan
Shrimali, an expert in rose products and owner of Maharana
Pratap Memorial Museum. "Doctors and beauticians all over
the world prefer products made from chaitri rose, for its proven
therapeutic benefits. It tightens the skin, making it look
younger, and is also a natural moisturiser. According to
ayurveda, rose is associated with romance because it balances sadhaka
pitta, the subdosha of pitta that governs the
emotions and their effect on the heart," says Shrimali.
fact is that the seed of this bloom was sown in the battle of
Haldighati. Folklore has it that soldiers of Akbar had brought
along saplings of this rare variety of rose. Rose plants have
been growing here for the past four centuries, but it was only
in the last two decades or so that the cultivation became
It seems a marvel
of nature that amidst this lifeless blood-soaked land, nicely
cultivated rose beds greet the visitors. There are rocky,
barren, parched hills, dotted with thorny bushes. There is
hardly any vegetation in the Aravali Hills. Yet rose plants are
being cultivated in the valley.
seems to be the Nature’s way of paying tributes to the brave
sons of the soil, who died here defending their motherland.`A0
connects the present day Rajsamand and Pali districts, was a
symbol of Rajputana pride as it was the gateway to Udaipur, and
Kumbalgarh, the Kashmir of the desert. More than winning the
forts, Akbar wanted to crush the esteem of the Rajputs.
The battle took
place between Rana Pratap Singh of Mewar and Raja Man Singh of
Amber, general of the Mughal emperor Akbar.
magnificent park has come up at the place, courtesy the
Archaeology and the National Conservation Department. Sadly,
there is no befitting memorial.
An impressive and modern museum has been built by a local teacher
Mohan Shrimali after state and Central authorites failed to do so
All governments in
the state and at the Centre have treated Maharana Pratap with
equal apathy. None has erected a memorial despite making tall
But where the
governments failed, one son of the soil came forward to do the
Way back in 1976,
Indira Gandhi launched a project of erecting a memorial to Rana
Pratap. Even after 33 years the memorial is yet to be built.
But the government
apathy has not prevented a local son of the soil from doing his
bit in remembering the great warrior. Born and brought up in the
Haldighati area, Mohan Shrimali became a teacher and went to
teach in a school in Udaipur. But his heart was always in his
birthplace. And there was pain, too, that how Rana Pratap’s
own land has forgotten him.
For years he
implored the government and private agencies to build a
memorial. But when no one obliged, Shrimali ventured on his own.
impressive and modern museum has been built in the valley.
Shrimali has spent every penny in his pocket to achieve that.
"I have already invested Rs 2 crore in the project. For
years, I made rounds of government offices, met politicians and
bureaucrats but no one bothered. So I took it upon myself. That
was the only way I could sleep peacefully."
The museum has a
gallery of paintings and models depicting the life and times of
Maharana Pratap. The best feature of the museum is a
light-and-sound show in a cave-like structure. Visitors can also
buy good-quality rose products at nominal rates here.
Speaking about his
dream project Shrimali says, "I was born in Haldighati. I
started building the museum on my own land. In these 20 years, I
have sold all my ancestral property, except a house in Udaipur.
All my savings, family jewellery etc. were put in the
He faced more
downs than ups. No bank agreed to finance him. "We don’t
fund non-profitable ventures, especially a museum. Who will come
to these cruel ravines?" Shrimali was told. But undeterred,
the man went on.
after the museum took shape, the government tried to take
control of it. "Even now, one or the other government
agency harasses me on different pretexts," he says.
In sharp contrast
to this individual effort, stands the memorial by the
government, announced in 1976 by Mrs Indira Gandhi when she
The full memorial
is yet to come up. Only a terrace garden overlooking the valley
and a huge statue of Maharana Pratap, riding his famous steed,
has been installed there. Ironically, even after 33 years the
statue is covered with`A0a plastic sheet waiting for some VIP to
of Haldighati was not just one of the many fierce clashes
between the Mughal and Rajput forces to annexe land or
retrieve it`A0(in case of Rajputs). It was the battle for
the Rajputana honour. Many powerful kings of Rajasthan,
including those of Jaipur, Bikaner and Boondi, were with
Akbar. Rana Pratap had already alienated them by taunting
how they had given their daughters and sisters to Akbar to
in his highly acclaimed book Annals and Antiquities
of Rajasthan, recorded that the great Rana took on
Akbar despite all odds. After all efforts by Akbar to win
over Rana Pratap failed, the Mughal king sent his son
Salim to lead the battle.
Aided by the
advisers of Maharaja Maan Singh of Jaipur, whose sister
Jodha was the mother of Prince Salim, the Mughals amassed
their force in the valley. The great Rana, too, had been
looking for such an oppurtunity.
provided him the best opportunity. He observed that the
Mughal forces had camped on a large ground in the valley,
which later came to be known as Badshah Bagh. Rana enticed
the forces to march towards the treacherous valley, where
he had strategically placed the gallant Bhil tribals.
Mughal forces marched through the narrow gorge called the
Neck of Haldighati, the tribals attacked and butchered
them mercilessly. Several attempts of passing the narrow
and deep ravine failed as thousands lay slain.
demoralised Mughal forces were pushed to the wall. The
brave and clever Rana then attacked the Mughal camp. The
Rana’s horse, whose tale of valour and duty is as
immortal as his rider, looked different that day. Pratap
had put an elephant’s mask, including the trunk and the
teeth, on the face of the horse. This was done to confuse
the elephant of Raja Maan Singh.
succeeded as Chetak successfully brought the Rana within
striking distance of Maan Singh. Providence saved him as
he managed to flee, hiding under the seat on the elephant.
and his soldiers followed the fleeing Mughal forces. In
its enthusiasm and over-confidence, the Rana’s army
forgot that the combined forces of the Mughals and Rajputs
still outnumbered it. Both armies came face to face in a
large ground where, according to historians, thousands
died in a battle that lasted for four hours.
suffered huge losses. Chetak succumbed to injuries but
only after it had taken his master to safety, jumping a
wide river only on three legs. And as Rana wept at the
loss, skies too cried in form of rain, forming the Rakt
Talai (pond of blood). Folklore has it that red sand came
out while digging centuries after the famous battle.