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Chetak (horse)

Cetak, or Chetak, was the horse of Rana Pratap, whom Pratap rode during the gruesome Battle of Haldighati, June 21, 1576. Chetak died in this battle and since then has been immortalized in the ballads of Rajasthan. This famous warhorse was of Kathiawari or Marwari breed.[1] Folklore has it that Chetak's coat had a blue tinge. That is why Rana Pratap is sometime referred as the "Rider of the Blue Horse" in ballads.

Pratap's forces were decisively outnumbered. While mounted on Chetak, Pratap made a daring attempt on the life of Imperial Mughal Commander Man Singh. When Pratap saw that the battle's tide was turning against him, he decided to settle the issue one way or the other in a spectacular and quintessentially Rajput manner. Imperial commander Man Singh was directing the battle seated on an elephant. Pratap charged frontally at the Imperial army, hacked his way through the massed ranks of enemy combatants and reached in front of Man Singh's elephant. Once there, Chetak reared high in the air and planted his hooves on the forehead of Man Singh's elephant. Pratap threw his lance at Man Singh, who had the necessary quick reflexes to duck in time. The blow fell on the mahout (elephant driver) instead, who was killed instantly. In the general melee that followed, Chetak received a fatal wound on one of his legs. This was the turning point of the battle. Mewar's bold gamble to siege the battle in its favor had failed. As Man Singh was whisked away to safety, Pratap found himself surrounded by enemy soldiers.

This was the moment of decision for Pratap, whether to seek personal glory by embracing martyrdom on the battlefield, or to live and keep the flame of resistance burning. If he lived, Mewar stood another chance. In fact every rebel anywhere in India against the Mughal empire would have a rallying figure. But with him gone, the sun would set on Indian aspirations forever. Mewar's own fate would be sealed.

Maharana was loath to leave a battle in between, but was prevailed upon by his faithful followers. By some accounts one of the Jhala sardar literally snatched the Royal Insignia from Maharana's person and wore them himself, thus making him a target for the Mughal Army.

As the Mughal army fell upon the Jhala sardar mistaking him for Maharana, Maharana left the battlefield with some of his loyal followers. Chetak was exhausted and seriously wounded, but laboured on carrying his master. About 2 miles from the site of the battle he came across a small stream. It was here, while trying to leap across the stream that Chetak collapsed.

Maharana erected a small and beautiful monument for his beloved companion at the place where Chetak fell. This cenotaph still exists near the village of Jharol in in Rajsamand District. Chetak lives on in poetic traditions as the epitome of loyalty.

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  1. Cetak's breed was Kathiawari or Marwari, based on traditional accounts: Elizabeth Thelen, "Riding through Change: History, Horses and the Reconstruction of Tradition in Rajasthan", p, 60. D Space, University of Washington.


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