Sunday, 22 February 2009

11. War with Shasta Khan – A Daring Feat

While Shivaji was in siege, Shasta Khan took possession of his territory & of his Lalmahal. With plains securely held by Mughals, forts were strongly held by Shivaji. Now he turned towards a fort of Chakan., north of Poona, which was important strong hold of Shivaji. It was not a hill fort. Even as ground fort it was comparatively small. & yet the Marathas held out for more than two & half months, thanks to their valiant leader Firangoji Narsale. It was only after the Mughals had suffered the loss of 268 men, 640 wounded, & the tower in the north- eastern corner blown up by a mine explosion, that the garrison offered to surrender on 15th aug 1660. They were honourably treated & allowed to go away. The expariance of such a heavy loose in one siege must have unnerved Shasta khan. Wisely he decided to return to Poona without any more efforts.

Now Mughals tried to push Shivaji further into south after capturing Kalyan – Bhiwandi. Kartalab khan, at the end of 1660, equipped with a considerable force, descended the Ghats near Lonavala. Shivaji allowed him to enter the thick forest of 9 km in length. There is a village called 'Umber' in this area & pass known as 'Umberkhind'. The Marathas led by Shivaji ambushed Mughals. Finding himself unable either to advance or retreat, Kartalab khan begged for mercy. Shivaji took possession of entire equipment of Kartalab khan & allowed him to depart.

Now Shivaji divided his forces into two. One force led by Netaji Palkar was to engage the Mughals. Other led by Shivaji marched south to the Konkan territory of Adilshah. Shivaji’s advance was spectacular. Dabhol, Pali, Sangameshwar, Chiplun, Rajapur fell into his hands & yielded considerable wealth. Shirngarpur fell on 29th apl 1661. Shivaji spent summer of 1661 on Wardhangad in Konkan.

British, who foolishly supplied ammunition to Siddhi in siege of Panhala came under unfavorable notice of Shivaji. Henry Revington, Richard Taylor, Randolph Taylor, Phillip Gyfford were arrested & thrown into prison first at Vasota & later in Songad. They were released only in feb.1663.

By 1662, Mughals were in effective occupation of the plain lands. Shivaji held the forts strongly. It was a stalemate. Without touching forts Mughals indulged in fruitless raids. Namdarkhan & others attacked villages between Lohagad, Visapur, and Tung & Tikona. They set fire to 70-80 road side villages, destroyed grain & other material. Shivaji kept a relentless fight with Mughals.

Shivaji’s letter dated 23th oct.1662 to Sarjerao Jedhe - Deshmukh of Rohidkhore : “News has been brought that raids of the Mughals are likely in your region. Immediately on receipt of this letter issue warning to all the villages in tapa. Send all the rayat (people) to a strong place below the Ghats. Send them to places where enemy will not harm them. Do not delay matters. Act immediately according to the letter. If you fell in your duty & Mughals arrest people & take them away, all the blame will fall on you. Be visiting your villages night & day & send people to suitable places down the Ghats. Do not delay by even one hour in carrying out these measures. Be alert. There will be some people left who will be guarding their fields. Ask them to be at the safe places in the hills. If they see the Mughals from a distance, they should run away from the route of the raid. Be alert.”

By the time Shasta khan failed to seize the Maratha forts within this territory was a great blunder. The loyal Marathas right from Peshwa Moropant Pingle down to the humble soldier continued to serve Shivaji whole- heartedly. Shasta khan had absolutely no idea of Shivaji’s intelligence, shrewdness & plans. He remained negligent. Although Shivaji had limited resources. Yet he had kept up a fight with the Mughals. His attacks were more daring than what his resources were suggest. Shivaji obtained every possible information about Shasta khan’s camp, the camp bazaars & the roads & by roads.

Shivaji made a daring raid into Shaista khan’s camp on the night of 5th apl.1663. The raid was successful. Shaista khan barely escaped with loss of his fingers. His son Abdul Fatah was killed. His head was cut off & carried away. 50 more were dead & wounded. This daring feat created a profound impression throughout the country. Bhimsen Saxena notes in his autobiography, “Uptil now, no rajah had fought against Mughal generals in this manner, nor had shown such daring.”

Shasta khan withdrew to Aurangabad immediately. But Mughal forces remained in Poona under the command of Jaswant Singh. By the time Shivaji again descended into Konkon to push Adilshahi to further south. By jun he was back to Rajgad. After rains in 1663, Mughals under command of Jaswant Singh made an attack on Sinhagad. They had to withdraw with disgrace. Many lives also lost as a result of the explosion of ammunition. It became impossible to conquer the fort. He raised siege to Sinhagad on 28th may 1664 after 5 months & returned to Aurangabad wih forces.

By end of 1664 Alamgirnama of Aurangjeb notes, “not even a single fort could be captured. The campaign against Shivaji ran into difficulties & languished.”

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