The conqueror of Sinhagad
350 years back, there was an impregnable fort named Kondana located near the city of Pune in Bharat. At that time, Shivaji and his mother Jijabai used to live in Pune. Fort Kondana was clearly visible from where they lived. In fact, Jijabai used to look at the fort through her bedroom window all the time. Every time she looked at the fort, she used to get gloomy because that fort was ruled by Mughal invaders. Udai-Bhan, a brave Mughal warrior, was guarding it along with his 5000 stanch Mughal soldiers. Jijabai desperately wanted to capture the fort. Capturing fort was essential to establish the de facto control over the region. So, Jijabai advised Shivaji to look into it.
Shivaji called in a meeting of all his commanders. He put forward the idea of capturing the fort and asked them, “Who will take the challenge? Who will go and capture the fort?” However, nobody came forward because it was an extremely difficult task and nobody wanted to risk their lives. Worried Shivaji decided to go by himself. At the same time, another commander, Tanaji Malusare, who was away and busy with his son’s wedding, came there to invite Shivaji for the wedding.
Tanaji was Shivaji’s fast friend since childhood. He was also a brave warrior. When he learnt about the idea of capturing the fort, he instantaneously volunteered. He said, “O King! You don’t have to risk your life. I will do it.” Shivaji said, “Tanaji! You came here to invite me for your son’s wedding. How can I let you go on the mission?” Tanaji replied, “My son’s wedding is not as important as the mission. Furthermore, wedding can wait, but the mission cannot. Give me this opportunity and I will not let you down.” Moved by Tanaji’s firmness, Shivaji gave him the permission. Tanaji vowed to capture the fort. He took his uncle Shelar-mama, his brother Suryaji and 300 brave soldiers on the mission.
Dangerous plan of entering the fort
Tanaji carried out a careful surveillance of the fort. The fort was surrounded by hills and dense forest. There was only one easy way to go up to the fort, but that path was heavily guarded. The other sides of the fort were nothing but steep cliffs. There was no vigilance on those sides because it was virtually impossible to climb those cliffs. Tanaji and Shelar-mama came up with a strategy. In one dark midnight, they all dressed up like ‘Gondhali’ (devotee of Goddess) and hid in the bushes near the gates of the fort in the midnight. The plan was that Tanaji and few soldiers would somehow enter the fort from the back side, kill the guards and open the gates so that Shelar-mama, Suryaji and other soldiers can come in and all together can make a surprise attack.
Tanaji, along with few soldiers, approached to the fort from the back side. Since, there was no vigilance, they were easily able to reach to the bottom of the cliff. However, they had a big problem that how they were going to climb it and go up to the fort. Tanaji got an idea. He had a giant lizard, called Yashwanti. He tied a rope to lizard’s tail. Because of lizard’s ability to cling onto the surface of the cliff, it easily climbed up and stuck firmly to the rock. Silently, Tanaji and his soldiers slunk up to the top of the cliff with the help of the rope that was tied to the Yashwanti’s tail.
Encounter with the enemies
Udai-bhan and his army were sleeping fast after a big cocktail party. Even the guards at the gates had drunk lot of alcohol and thus were partially unconscious. Tanaji carefully reached at the gates. He killed all the guards in no time and opened the gates from inside. Shelar-mama, Suryaji and their soldiers were already waiting for the right moment. As soon as the gates were opened, they all entered the fort without making a noise. Then, they made a surprise attack on the Mughal enemies.
Soon, Udai-bhan got alerted. However, by the time Udai-bhan got alerted, Tanaji and his soldiers had already killed hundreds of Mughal soldiers. Udaibhan alerted his army. Then, there was a fierce battle between the two forces – 300 of Tanaji’s soldiers and 5000 of Udai-bhan’s soldiers! Obviously, Udai-bhan’s side was a lot stronger than Tanaji’s.
Tanaji directly attacked Udai-bhan. They fought each other for hours. They looked terrifying because of all the blood coming out of their wounds. At one point, Tanaji lost his left arm that was holding a shield. But, undaunted Tanaji used his turban to cover his arm and continued the fight with just one hand. At last, they both got exhausted and fell down. Tanaji died instantly. Udai-bhan was alive but soon he was throttled by Shelar-mama and thus lost his life.
Tanaji’s soldiers started running back
As soon as Tanaji fell down, his soldiers got scared and started running away. They reached to the ropes to climb down. Shelar-mama saw them. He was little disappointed, but never gave up. He immediately cut all the ropes and told the soldiers, “I have cut the rope. You cannot go down now. If you don’t fight, they will come and kill you. However, if you fight, then we have a chance of winning. So you better fight back with me.” Everybody got thrilled with Shelar-mama’s speech. They shouted, “Jay Shivaji, Jay Bhavani, Jay Tanaji.” Everybody then fought back bravely. Mughal enemies were also already weakned after their commander Udai-bhan died. Soon, they got either killed or captured. Shelar-mama put a saffron-flag on top of the fort and declared the victory. Everybody shouted, “Hurray!!”
I won the fort, but I lost my lion!
Here in Pune, Shivaji was anxiously waiting to hear from Tanaji and Shelarmama. As soon as he got the news of the victory, he was extremely delighted. He was eager to meet and congratulate them. He rode on the horse and rushed to the fort. However, after reaching there, he saw a completely different scene. He saw everyone dejected. Shelar-mama welcomed him and gave him the bad news of Tanaji’s demise. Shivaji was shocked, but recovered soon. Sadly he murmured, “I won the fort, but I lost my lion (Tanaji).” He then renamed the fort’s name from “Kondana” to “Sinha-gad” (fort of the lion). Everybody then regarded Tanaji as “NarVir” (brave amongst men). He will forever be remembered for his bravery, willingness and trustworthiness.
After few days, Shivaji met Tanaji’s family and he personally managed and navigated his son’s wedding. That reflects how Shivaji cared about his army and people.