The name evokes strong dislike and disdain for this most accomplished General of the Mughals in general and Akbar in particular. His service spanning more than six decades for the Mughal Empire has made him one of the most hated Man of the medieval Indian history. Most of the dislike, hate and criticism has its genesis in the Battle of Haldighati between the Mughals and Rana Pratap, where Rana at the zenith of spiritual power imbibing love for his motherland takes on the mightiest empire in the World. The battle in itself was a stalemate but stories connected to this sanguinary battle have presented Raja Man in a poor light. Most of the stories have their sources much later than the actual time period, especially, Rana challenging Man Singh to bring along his Uncle Akbar when he visits Mewar next time. Rana did refuse to share meal but rest is historical concoction. Often, Raja Man is compared to yet another historical farce, calling Maharaja Jaichand, “a Traitor”!
Raja Man Singh I was son of Raja Bhagwant Das, who was already in service of Mughals as a Panch Hazari mansabdar long before Raja Man came in the service under Akbar. In fact, Biharimal of Amber had accepted suzerainty of the Mughals, Raja Bhagwant Das served in the Siege of Chittorgarh in 1567-68 with his Kachawahas. Raja Man enered Mughal service as a young man at the age of twelve years. His service of six decades in itself is a subject of intense historical debate. He proved to be one of most able generals of his times, brave and tactically sound. In fact, historians have stated that “ reign of Akbar can’t chronicled without the contribution of Kunwar Man, later Raja Man Singh not just in expansion of Mughal Empire but also in the field of art & architecture.(Ref; JN Sarkar, History of Jaipur)
History has not been fair to Raja Man, with modern day historians and narrative makers trying hard to paint a picture all BLACK. Newer studies have tried to bring out not just his contribution to expansion of Mughal Empire and his military conquests but his other side which presents him as a devout and traditional Hindu, proud of his ancestors, his Gods, his beliefs and his defiance of Akbar. It will be prudent to present a holistic perspective on Raja Man from his journey as Kunwar Man to Mirza Raja. Medieval history has been pictured into rigid frames, the obdurate binaries have deprived us of the liberty to objectively analyse a character in entirety, leading to demonising of a historical figure negating his good deeds to suit our narratives. This is not an attempt to wash the sins of Raja Man neither an assay to portray him as an Apostle. But, definitely an endeavour to put history in perspective, to allow readership to asses the character of one the Navratnas of Akbar.(Rajiv Nain Prasad, Raja Man Singh I of Amber)
His military career began with the imperialists attacking the Afghans in Gujarat, his father accompanied Akbar in his Gujarat campaign, so did Kunwar Man. He was in the Van of the force which was sent to Surat in 1572. But the notoriety he earned was after his battle with the Doyen of Rajputs, Rana Pratap who was called Rana Kika by contemporary historians. Kika was a name given to young princes of Mewar. On his return from Gujarat and subjugation of Rana’s vassal of Dungarpur, Man Singh made a visit to Udaipur, where the famous incident involving Rana Pratap and Kunwar Man supposedly took place as claimed by Col Todd, which seems out of place, because the code of honour among Rajputs will never allow for the deprecating language employed by Rana Pratap for Kunwar Man Singh. However, Rana did make an excuse for not sitting at food with Kunwar which bears historical evidence. Even today there’s a saying in Rajasthani which goes like this “कुत्ता भेलि खीर” signifying the sweet dish prepared for the lunch was thrown to Dogs as Kunwar and other Rajputs felt offended by refusal of Rana to share food with Kunwar. All know that Raja Man attacked Rana earning for himself eternal infamy but how many know that Kunwar Man forbid the Mughal Army to loot, plunder or destroy anything during his march to Haldighati, in fact, even Akbar did not fully trust Kunwar and sent formidable Muslim commanders with him to Mewar. His act of not allowing the Mughal armies to indulge in loot and plunder got him a censure from the Emperor, Akbar banished Kunwar Man for sometime from his presence and the Mughal Court !( Ref; Rajiv Nain Prasad, Raja Man Singh…)
Rana represents the spiritual zenith of Dharma and love of his motherland, only one to stand against perhaps the greatest living Monarch of his times. The vilification of Kunwar and later Raja Man begins with this incident and reaches its apogee in the Battle of Haldighati. House of Kachawaha has the eternal blemish of capitulating without resistance which has put an ignominious mark on Amber besides giving their daughter to a Turk, a mleccha. Man Singh cannot be faulted for the actions of his fathers nor his service of Mughal was singular example of servility, every single one of the so called rulers submitted to Akbar except the Hindua Suraj, Pratap.
His military exploits are so numerous that would require a book in itself to mention them. He was governor of Kabul in 1585, where De Laet calls his tenure as period of peace after years of chaos and turmoil. Does the readership have any idea why the Raja was removed as Governor of Kabul?Because, Muslims and Mullas at the Mughal Court complained that the Raja was cruel to the Afghans, fellow Muslims. The subjugation of supposedly brave and ferocious Afghans by the Kachawaha Raja was intolerable for fundamentalist elements of Mughal Court.(Ref; Abul Fazl, Akbarnama)
Man Singh led the Mughal armies to complete subjugation of Bihar, Bengal and Odisha. Despite his services to the Mughal Empire and Akbar, Raja Man remained a man truest to his faith, his beliefs and his Gods.
Reign of Akbar was an age of experimentation, where he believed himself to be the man chosen to lead the faithful, not just the Muslims and experimented with a cult calling it Din i Ilahi or Divine Faith and make it the universal religion in his rule. Akbar wanted his most trusted and able general to adopt Din i Ilahi, to this endeavour he offered Raja Man the title of Khan i Khanan, not realising that Raja was made of a different matter, he declined the lure and stayed true to his faith unlike the other Navratnas, Birbal and Tansen. Raja was a patron of Dharma his temple in Benaras, the Bindu Madhav finds mention in Memoirs of Jahangir, “ Raja built a temple at Banaras costing 8-10 lakh rupees… of which Raja spent ₹1 lakh of his own…”, in fact Jahangir complained to the Emperor who did not take any offence at building of temple by Raja or notice of complaint of Jahangir!
His most famous gift was the temple of Govind Dev at Brindaban dedicated to the presiding deity of Braj, Bhagwan Shri Krishna. This most beautiful piece of architecture has been considered as “the most impressive religious edifice that Hindu art has ever produced at least in Upper India” Growe in his book, Mathura. Fergusson, “one of the most interesting and eloquent temples built in India and the only one perhaps from whom an European architect may borrow some hints” smacks of racism but still provides an insight on the temple. It probably took thirteen years to complete the construction owing to Kunwar, later Raja Man’s preoccupation with governorship of Kabul, Bihar, Bengal. It was started in 1577 and completed in 1590 when Man had a preponderant influence in the Mughal Court.
British gazetteers have credited Raja Man with repair of many temples in Bengal. Mr Beglar, an assistant of Archeological Survey Department of India in his report has credited Raja Man with building and repairs of temples at Baidyanath Dham, an important pilgrimage centre of those times. Mr Coupland, gazetteer of Manbhum District Gazette accepts the report of Mr Beglar and confirms that the temples were built by Raja Man. He founded the town of Manpur, presently in Gaya, Bihar where he inflicted a crushing defeat on the Muslims who objected to his building of Mahadev Temple and digging of seven tanks, of which one is extant. He built temple dedicated to Shiv at Baikatpur, Barh, called Bhawani Shankar, then a subdivision of Patna district. He made ample provision for upkeep and maintenance of the temple and the Priest. He brought Shila Devi from Jessore in East Bengal and installed it as Protecting Deity of Amber. There’s a famous couplet in Jaipur,
“ सांगानेर को सांगो बाबों, चाँदपोल का हनुमान, आमेर की शिला देवी, लाया राजा मान “
His munificence to learned people was exemplary, in an incident, poet Gaang wrote to him to give ₹1000 as alms to a beggar who accosted Gaang, Raja replied, “you have ashamed me with the pitiable amount”.
His campaign in Odisha is perhaps a shining example of his trust in his Faith. He rescued the Temple of Jagannath from evil and tyrannical occupation of the Afghans, not once but twice. First in 1590 and again in 1592 and made Raja of Khurda Raja Ramchandra Deva, later Puri, as the custodian, the tradition continues to the present day. His campaign in Bihar, Bengal and Odisha finished the threat of Afghans to local Hindu rulers and Zamindars. His campaign led to killing of some 80,000 Afghans as Governor of Bihar, Bengal and Odisha.(Ref; Jaipur Vamsavali)
A narrative was built by the leading lights amongst Left historians in creating Demons amongst Rajput community by fake alignment of evidence taking bits and pieces to paint a picture wholly incongruous with the facts. One is Jaichand of Kannauj, another is Raja Man Singh I of Amber. It is left to the better judgement of the readership to glean facts from fiction and assign a place to Raja Man. The blasphemy committed by his fathers or the continued service to Mughals do not discount his achievements as a soldier, a builder, patron of arts and architecture, above all his unflinching faith in the religion of his Forefathers. He refused his employer and the Emperor to become his disciple, follow Din i Ilahi.