Historians have immortalised the brave horse, Chetak of Maharana Pratap in the pages of history books through poems, folktales and local stories. Let’s read about his antics on the battle field and his dedication to his master whom he did not leave till his last breath.
Here’s a story of a legendary king and his battles. But it’s also a story about a horse…beautiful, spirited, intelligent and loyal. History claims that Maharana Pratap Singh was one of the 10 strongest warriors ever born in India. The Battle of Haldi Ghati in June 1576 saw his forces decisively outnumbered by the Mughal army led by Man Singh. Mounted on his favourite horse Chetak, Maharana Pratap charged towards the commander of the Mughal army and made a frontal attack on Man Singh’s elephant. Once near, Chetak reared high in the air and planted his hooves on the forehead of the elephant. This was a turning point in the battle. In the general chaos that followed, Chetak received a fatal wound on one of his legs. An elephant’s tusk tore through his rear legs and crippled it. But he would not give up. With his wounded king on the saddle, Chetak made his way back to safety on his three good legs. People do not remember the defeat of Maharana Pratap, but the courage and valour of his men and his horse. Chetak was exhausted but laboured on, carrying his master, about 2 miles from the site of the battle near a small stream. It was here, while trying to leap across the stream that Chetak collapsed.
The Maharana erected a small monument for his loyal companion at the place where he fell and till date we pay a tribute to this brave warrior and his brave horse, Chetak.
According to historians, Chetak a small horse had a certain blue tinge and hence in the local folklores, Maharana Pratap is often referred as the ‘Rider of the Blue Horse’. In fact, many claim that the horse had a well defined personality, almost like his master himself. When it came to traits and behavior, Chetak was no less than his proud owner and thus a unique emotional bond existed between the two. Till date ballads, songs, poems are dedicated to honour this brave and valiant horse and immortalize him in the pages of history.
Here is folklore on Chetak – a paean …
Three Legged Dark Blue Horse
About brave battles and true grit
When all that history is writ
There will sit saddled, one great name
Within the heroes’ hall of fame
The horse Chetak’s, a Marwari
A breed that would the least tarry.
Three things are known of Marwari
A battle horse of victory.
That, its speed forges a path free,
In danger helps the rider flee.
That, man wounded, is not alone,
And dead, astride he would reach home.
One such, with such a human heart
Would not from his rider be part
Was, Chetak bred of faculty
To serve with love and loyalty
The horse friend of Rana Pratap
When battle turned hazard of hap.
So unlike, the rest of his breed
He was the rarest of a steed
Not black, not grey, not bald of pie
Still strange dark blue of darkened sky
The brave king, renowned was of course
Called ‘Rider of the Dark Blue Horse’.
Chetak’s amble and limbs were fine
His hooves of dynamics divine
When times the Rana rode a course
Folks vied to catch a glimpse perforce
Yet, they caught sight of, just blue tinge
When Chetak raced, his sight would sing
One Imperial Majesty
Stoked battle at Haldigati
Mughal Man Singh, war exponent
Strode atop an elephant
Fitted with wheels of sword-long-blades
No charge could break his armoured glade.
Thus, Haldigathi battlefield
Where Rana’s men fought not to yield
Saw them go down like pins unkempt
So Rana made his last attempt
A path through Mughal soldiers traced
With Chetak towards Man Singh raced.
Reared up the horse and brave man
Above those blades, a daring plan
Leapt and struck the elephant’s head
Missed Singh, but mahout died instead
The plan totally misfired
Horse and king men-locked and mired.
One foreleg of Chetak got cut
Three legged he managed to butt
Three legged he ran just as fast
Two miles from that battlefield past
His croup read Rana’s horsemanship
Snaking, wobbling, frothing at lip.
Chetak galloped, flew off a cliff
Three legged flight, a challenge stiff
Safe banks of the stream he touched
Then shuddered hard and sideways lurched
The stunned Rana giving God thanks
Saw Chetak drop on the stream-banks.