Continued from The Mighty Fort of Sinhagad. For the previous part click here.
The legend is that Shivaji Maharaj’s mother Jijabai was not at all happy that the fort of Kondana was in the hands of Mughals. She knew that fort was located at a strategic point. She knew that the person who ruled the fort would rule the hills and valleys that surrounded the fort.
The view from Fort Sinhagad
She insisted that the fort must be recaptured at any cost. Kondana fort was considered impregnable as it was well protected by nature by steep cliffs. The fort has only two entrances: Pune Darwaza and Kalyan Darwaza. With the Mughal army constantly on the alert within the walls of the fort, the task of recapturing the fort seemed like an impossible one.
Shivaji Maharaj decided to entrust this seemingly impossible task to Tanaji Malusare, his prized companion from early youth. Tanaji Malusare was at that time busy preparing for his son’s wedding. He immediately left the festivities and rushed to meet his king. When he heard what the task was he is said to have uttered the following words, ” Aadhi lagin Kondaanyacha, mag Raibacha”. Translation: First I will conquer the fort of Kondana only then will Raiba, (his son) get married. He was accompanied on this mission by his brother Suryaji Malusare and his maternal uncle, Shelar mama.
With only a handful of men, he marched towards the fort and reached it unnoticed on a cold, clear and moonless night, somewhere in the month of February 1670. This feat is another one of the classic examples of lack of organization in the Mughal army. There was no proper hierarchy in the Mughal army. Each officer was directly answerable to the Emperor but within themselves they had formed their own camps. The Rajput officers generally did not get along with their Mughal counterparts. And the Mughals officers considered the Rajput officers inferior to themselves. And rank wise the Rajputs were inferior to their Mughal counter parts as Emperor Auranzeb was a religious bigot. Under the rule of Emperor Akbar, the great grand father of Emperor Auranzeb, there were several Rajput nobles who held very important positions in the Mughal administration system. But Emperor Auranzeb was not at all liberal.
Tanaji Malusare scaled the cliff with the help of a monitor lizard named Yashwanti (Literally translated as The One Who Brings Success). The part where he scaled the fort had the least number of guards as that was the most difficult and steep cliff. A sheer drop of about two hundred feet, the climb is almost vertical. One wrong step and death is assured. And to think that Tanaji and his men accomplished this at night and that too on a moonless night is really commendable. This clearly spells the sheer will power and the dedication that these men had for their king. It also speaks a lot about the King himself. To motivate his army in such a way, to light the fire of patriotism in his men such that they would willingly lay down their lives for their King, their nation…
No one from the Mughal army even in their wildest dreams could have anticipated an attack from that side of the fort. A local resident told me that the buruj (bastion) from where Tanaji Malusare stormed the fort is called Kalawantinicha Buruj. But I can’t seem to find any such reference on the net.
Once inside the fort, the guards were quickly slain. According to the local folklore, some sort of jashn or party was going on at the fort. This was another classic example of the Mughal grandeur. Each important officer had his troupe of dancing and singing girls. These troupes even accompanied these officers on their campaigns! The Mugahl army ws caught unawares!
Handful of Maratha men faced the Mughal army of about a thousand and five hundred. The battle raged on for hours. The fort keeper Udaybhan Singh Rathod managed to knock off Tanaji Malusare’s shield from his hand, but Tanaji fought on by tying a cloth over one of his hands and using it to ward off Uday Bhan’s sword attacks. As the battle raged on, Tanaji Malusare fell.
History has witnessed over and again that an army without a commander is easy to slaughter. No matter how brave and mighty the army is, without its commander even an army counting up to thousands is like a flock of sheep confronted by a tiger. They are confused and hence easy to slaughter. The commander of the army is the driving force behind the army, the sole strategist and their sole motivator.
But Shivaji Maharaj was a true visionary. Whenever his army went for a war, a proper chain of reporting was always in place. There was always a second in command to take over in case the commander was captured or killed.
When the Maratha soldiers realized that their leader had fallen they began to flee the battlefield. Tanaji’s Brother Suryaji Malusare took over from his brother and continued to encourage his men to fight. Their maternal uncle Shelar mama cut off the rope ladders that brought them up to the fort. The soldiers were left with two options: Either jump to their deaths from the cliff or fight their way to safety. Thus Shelar mama motivated the disheartened soldiers to fight even though their leader had fallen.
Finally Uday Bhan fell and the fort was conquered. When Shivaji Maharaj heard this news, he rushed to the fort to congratulate his brave companion. Upon learning of his death Shivaji Maharaj is said to have uttered the following words:” Gad aala pan sinha gela”. Translation: We won the fort but lost a lion.