Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tanaji Malusare


Perhaps no episode in Maratha history has stirred the hearts of people as deeply as the death of Tanaji Malusare, the conqueror of Sinhagad (the Lion’s Fort), the tale of which is most popularly told by the Ballad of Sinhagad. The Treaty of Purandar (June 1665) had forced Shivaji to surrender 23 forts to the Moghuls, including Sinhagad. The treaty hurt the pride of the Marathas. None felt the sting more deeply than Jijabai, the mother of Shivaji, who was in a way the mother of the kingdom. Shivaji, however deeply he loved his mother, could not fulfill her wish, because the conquest was considered virtually impossible, with the fortifications and select Rajput, Arab and Pathan troops guarding it. Shivaji’s lieutenants shared this view.

But, Jijabai refused to share their hesitation. It is said that once determined, a woman’s strength of will and thirst of sacrifice are the most potent forces, and the example Shivaji’s mother Jijabai definately supported this view. One morning, says the ballad of Sinhagad, while she was looking out of the window of Pratapgad, she saw in the distance the Lion Fort. The thought that the fort was now under the control of Moghuls enraged her. She summoned a rider and ordered him to go in all haste to Shivaji, then resident at Rajgad, and tell him that she desired his immediate presence.

Shivaji promptly responded to his mother’s summons, without knowing the reasons for its urgency. His heart sank when he discovered what it was that Jijabai wanted of him. He tried to plead earnestly that the conquest would be likely to be in vain, despite even mammoth efforts. The lines of the ballad have Shivaji saying:

“To win it went forth many, but there came back never any: Oft planted was the mango seed, but nowhere grows the tree.”

However, eventually dreading his mother’s displeasure most of all, he thought of a suitable man to whom could be entrusted the perilous task. There was nobody else capable thought Shivaji other than Tanaji Malusare, his prized companion from early youth, and a man of iron will, who had accompanied Shivaji on all historic associations.

Tanaji was in the village of Umbrat, engaged in celebrating his son’s wedding, when the call came for him to meet with Shivaji at Rajgadh. He hastened to meet Shivaji, accompanied by his brother Suryaji and his uncle Shelarmama. Shivaji did not have the heart to tell his dear comrade that he had been summoned to such a mission, and directed Tanaji to Jijabai to hear from her the nature of his mission.

Undaunted by the terrifying nature of his mission, the lion-hearted Tanaji vowed either to accomplish it or die in the process. He set out at night and from the Konkan marched towards the fortress with his men, reaching it unnoticed on a cold, clear and moonless night - in February 1670. He had taken with him Shivaji’s favourite ghorpad or lizard to assist in scaling the fort wall (the lizard was regularly used to map a suitable route for climbing forts). The creature, to whose waist a cord was tied, refused to climb the fort, as if to warn Tanaji of the impending disaster. Tanaji expressed his rage, and the lizard got the message and terrified, scaled the hill top, which helped the Marathas to clamber the cliff.

Scarcely before 300 men had reached the top, their arrival was detected by the guards. The sentries were swiftly slain by the Marathas, but the clash of arms thoroughly roused the garrison. Tanaji was faced with a grave problem. With 700 of his troops still at the bottom of the fort, he had to challenge an enemy that greatly outnumbered his troops. His mind was already made up, and he ordered his troops to charge. The fight proceeded. Tanaji lost many men, but they inflicted heavy casualties on the Moghul forces. Tanaji repeatedly sang to keep the spirits of his soldoers high. After some hours, the Moghul commander Uday Bhan engaged in a fight with Tanaji. The odds were against the Maratha. The long night march, the anxiety of the mission, scaling the fort and the vigorous combat Tanaji had already been engaged in before Uday attacked him had drained him thoroughly, hence after a lengthy fight, Tanaji fell.

The death of their leader unnerved the Marathas, but Tanaji had kept the battle going just long enough so that the 700 troops who had been left at the bottom of the fort when the battle began had managed to breach the defence and force entry. They were led by Suryaji, Tanaji's brither. The timely arrival of Suryaji, Tanaji’s brother, who had entered the fort, and his exhortation to the Marathas to fight till the end saved the situation. In the fierce battle that continued, the Moghul commander was slain, and the entire garrison routed. Several hundred Moghuls in order to try and save themselves ventured over the rock and were slain in the attempt.

It was a great victory for the Marathas, but there was no elation in their camp. The news of the victory was conveyed to Shivaji, who rushed to the fort eager to congratulate Tanaji, but to his dismay he saw the brave man’s slain body. The Ballad of Sinhagad describes the grief as such:

Twelve days the king wept over him for the great love that he bore him.

The sorrow of Jijabai was also described:

The scarf removed, she saw his face, No worthier chief of the race, Twas thus she wailed and drew a sword, before the armies of his Lord:“Shivaji son and king today, Thy best limb has been chopped away” Nor less the monarch to his chief, The tribute paid of royal grief.

When Shivaji learned of his friend's death, he remarked "Gad ala pan Sinha gela", meaning "We have gained the fort, but lost a lion."

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is sad commentry on our apathy towards our glorious history that i am posting the first comment. My salutes to the great warrior and to the author who has taken efforts to pen this episode.

ajit said...

i feel ashamed that we forget deeds of shivaji and his men, their total sacrifice so easily.

Anonymous said...

my grandmother told me the story of Tanaji by singing a povada and I tell this story of valor to my kids who are born in the U.S. to remind them of their Maratha roots!

Who says they will be forgotten? Shivaji and his stories of bravery have been immortalized in povada's and even hindi movie songs (thanks to Manoj Kumar -- listen to rang de basanti chola from bhagat singh movie or even the dulhan chalo song from purab or paschim and you will realize no one can forget veer Shivaji Maharaj!!!!

harish said...

kudos Tanaji!!

Santosh said...

We need to encourage writers and producers to make films using these episodes.
This way the heroics and sacrifices of the Maratha's would be known and respected.
We have many a real Brave Heart stories available. I dont know what are the film makers waiting for.....

Santosh said...

We need to encourage writers and producers to make films using these episodes.
This way the heroics and sacrifices of the Maratha's would be known and respected.
We have many a real Brave Heart stories available. I dont know what are the film makers waiting for.....

Abhijit said...

Concise and informative post - really felt proud after reading...

Anonymous said...

he hardship and valour of Shivaji and his commanders still has us in awe. Where are all these men today?? All we have is a bunch of irresponsible guys managing our great country. I do not understand but very systematically these great stories are being erased from school books. Nowadays students are rarely aware that the great empire founded by Shivaji Maharaj went as far as Afganistan, Calcutta and Mysore. Why is this happening?? deliberately !!!!!

Prashant Koli said...

I have always wept while listening to this tale...Great sacrifice !
Duty first and duty towards nation,without personal gains, are fast disappering qualities nowadays.

Rupesh Prabhu said...

Great people are never forgettable.we need to change the concepts of our education.we should include the more historical happenings in our school syllabus for getting ourself brave.

Nitin T Vaje said...

simply great shree tanaji malusare....

Anonymous said...

Was it shelarmama who killed Udaibhan Rathore or it was Tanaji who killed him?

Anonymous said...

A storm of pride runs through a body on reading the story of our real life heroes. Proud to be born in Indian Soil.

Wg Cdr(retd) P N Paralkar said...

I have heard the story of how Veer Tanaji won Kondona fort which was later renamed Sighagarh fort after his heroic battle and recapture of the fort for Shivaji Maharaj, ever since I was a little boy. When the question of renaming Victoria Terminus Station (VT) came up I thought that it should have been renamed---- Veer Tanaji Terminus in the memory of the valiant warrior !!!!!

Dr K Prabhakar Rao said...

I have read and learnt from Childhood that veer Tanaji cut head of Uday Bhan the fort commander into two during the duel although he lost his arm earlier in the duel. Uday bhan fell dead and Tanaji succumbed to loss of blood soon. I think it was correct. Tanaji could not have fell before killing Uday Bhan. My salute to the great warrior. Sadly we are being governed by selfish thieves, cheats and crooks at all places in India that is evident from the numerous scams and criminal acts by the leaders. Shame to them. Their deeds will be written in dark pages of history. Tanaji and other heroes and the great Chatrapathi Maharaj shivaji are the eternal heroes.

Dr K Prabhakar Rao said...

In our country we find statue of many unwanted guys whom we claim as leaders.In fact they did more damage to the society than good. They played dirty politics and worried more about self elevation and glory.Many present so called leaders who are the progeny of such men and women are ruining the nation. It is high time we replace all such statues with that of heroes like Tanaji Malsure and others who were brave and fought selflessly for welfare of state irrespective of region and language. This will go a long way in inspiring people. Lives of such men should be surely taught to young children.At present history books are only Gandhi and Nehru as if country did not exist earlier.Statue of Shivaji Maharaj, Rana Pratap and subhas must be erected in every capital of our states.

Anonymous said...

The hero of indians hearts is TANAJI MALSURE

Renavikar D.R. said...

The total commitment to the cause of "SWARAJYA" by way of supreme sacrifice by Tanaji Malusare is unparalleled and I salute him. Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji.
Renavikar D.R.
26/05/2013