Love in the Battleground: Zealous persuasion

Zealous family – who knows who is your own

Like the shade of a tree,

Like a reflection in water, everything is an illusion –

World is in a fantasising spree.

Janardandev dreamt of fulfilling his duty of a father towards his foster daughter. Getting her married to Raghupati brought him the most desired satisfaction in life. Raghupati became Saryu’s dream of life since she met him five years back. She is happy that her long wait has been fruitful. She found bliss in life in company of her man. She lost herself in the tide of love.

For Raghupati, dreams became reality. Recovering his lost reputation and establishing himself as an aristocrat was not an easy task. The goddess of fortune helped him. Moreover he has won the loyalty and trust of his desired women. Life could be blissful for him too if he did not meet Balwantrao someday in distant past. Was her sister destined to marry the man who didn’t have any love for her? Since he came back from the riverside, his mind went restless. Raghupati was not being able to justify the fate he and his sister met. He started mourning – still not able to tell the delicate Saryu anything about it. An uneasy thought overwhelmed him that sharing own stories might shatter her innocent faith in him. Saryu worships her as a hero – how would she accept the fallen hero in her life? –  Worries became his companion day and night.

Couple of days passed. Saryu guessed her husband is in trouble – none expects a newly married young man lost in own world. Till two days back, she was enjoying every aspect of her married life – new home, the much awaited attention of a loving husband, role of the mistress of a home. Sudden change in Raghupati’s temper now made her feel uncomfortable. There is no elderly woman at home who could support her. She stated her anxiety to her maids – they suggested her to be more polite and nice to her husband. They suspected some fault in her behaviour might have angered her man. She tried to behave as submissive as possible. Her husband didn’t pay an attention. Yesterday her maids suggested her to present herself to her husband in more attractive attire assuming that a wife’s not looking voluptuous could be another reason for a young man’s ignoring her. But that trick too failed. Raghupati remains absent minded even today. Her large compassionate eyes gaze at him trying to understand what could have been the reason her husband loses himself time to time. Saryu knows her man is a trusted person of the leader – there is less chance of his facing exhausting trouble in the royal court. While serving dinner she asks, “Did I do commit some mistake that makes you angry?”

Raghupati’s string of thought tears; he replies, “But who told you I am angry? What makes you worried?”

Saryu was grown up as a single child of her father; doesn’t know how to express the anxious emotions deep rooted in her heart. She says, “You look different these days – your face always serious – as if you are always lost somewhere else. You are not even telling me if you liked food today.”

Raghupati feels irritated – why do women try to intrude so much in personal matters of their men? He realises he is being constantly watched. He doesn’t like that. But he doesn’t express his irritation; smiles instead, “I like every item prepared in your kitchen. Do you remember the day you first served me food at your father’s place in the fort of Toran? I fell in love with your culinary skill since then. But you don’t need to take too much trouble here – take help of maids.” He stops as he couldn’t find any more word to comfort her. Saryu looks at his face helplessly; knowing neither her words, nor her helplessness is able to create a ripple in the stone-hard heart of this man. Was it the same man she was attracted to? Unnoticed she slips in her bed-chamber – pillows in a bed is softer than a man’s heart. They listen to her pains – she drenches them with tears rolling down aimlessly.

After long. Seeing her still awake he says, “I should have visited Jyoti after the accidental demise of her husband. I will go to her place tomorrow.”

Saryu didn’t know anything about Balwantrao’s death. Even rumours didn’t penetrate the protective walls of her husband’s home. The dread of the news shocked her – now she realises what might have made her husband absent minded since last few days; says, “He – passed away? But how? I too want to meet her. Can’t we go today?”

She doesn’t receive a reply. She knows the futility of repeating. Her husband must be in deep pain. A soothing wave of sympathy appeases her anxiety. She does not want to annoy her dutiful husband – feels little embarrassed remembering her own suspicion about her husband’s behaviour – falls asleep after some time.

Raghupati knows kind Shivaji Maharaj would not let him down; none would know who killed Balwantrao in the serene riverside camp. Everyone knows by now that the hot-tempered Jumladar Balwantrao had committed suicide. Shivaji didn’t attach his property; directed Raghupati to manage the property as well as take care of his sister. He looks at his wife’s face again and again, ponders whether he should tell her every single story of his past, but cannot gather the courage to wake her up and tell.

He spends another sleepless night, wondering whether he should disclose everything to Jyotibai. His sister is not revengeful, but how would he explain the reason behind the fatal altercation? Burden of his past becomes heavier every passing minute – he doesn’t know how to get rid of that.

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Next morning, Raghupati enters the premises of late Balwantrao to meet his sister. He came here before; knows almost all servants and guards of the home. The guards at the house open the door seeing him. Their silent welcome reveals the graveness of the atmosphere of the home. He enters the courtyard, gets down from his horse. One servant takes the horse to one side of the large courtyard. The deserted look of the home hurts him. He imagines how Jyoti could have rolled beside the lifeless body of her husband dishevelled. Did she faint seeing his badly injured body? Did she wail inconsolably? Raghupati knows how a Hindu woman’s life sinks into unfathomable darkness with the demise of her husband.  The light of his eyes extinguished – he steps inside like a puppet pulled by a string.

Daylight doesn’t reach inside the mansion. The interior is unusually silent as if none has ever stayed there. At the end of the long corridor that goes to the ladies apartments, he sees couple of maids standing. He tells them to inform his sister about his arrival. They look at him afraid, tell, “She is not there, Sir.”

Raghupati, “Where is she then?”

Maids, “Mistress told everyone to leave the ladies apartments and let her leave alone.  We came back afternoons – she is not inside.”

Simultaneous pain, sorrow and frustration made him scream terribly: “Where is she? You stupid! – She cannot evaporate!” Madly he rushes into the ladies zone without waiting for their reply or where he was heading to. But no – all rooms in this part were empty like a deserted island. He reached the end of the quarter. One narrow path from here goes straight to a well. A row of large trees a little away from there blocks the vision from reaching far. He stands there for few seconds perplexed – If Jyotibai found her way to piece through this plush green of nature, does he have any right to stop her?

He comes back – sends people to look for Jyotibai in every possible location, they tried to trace if she has performed self-immolation following the tradition of  young Rajput widows; but no, none found a trace of her.

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Raghupati will work under Shivaji keeping integrity and reputation intact thirteen years after this. Shivaji’s death in 1680 will break his heart inconsolably. In their old age, he and Saryu will go back to Rajasthan and spend the rest of life there.

Love in the Battleground: Weaving aspirations

Courage and vigour placed me high above

My love is not the one I’m supposed to love–

Fuelled by desire I become a mourning dove!

This is our first meeting with Balwantrao Jumladar. He is unquestionably brilliant, valiant and strong-willed. He is few years older than Raghupati, tall and handsome, strong and stout bodied. Women of his village compared him to the Sakya king Buddha, who even though favoured by women a lot, never liked their company. His wide forehead is marked with few deep wrinkles of thought. His small eyes are very bright. He is self made man.  Born as a small farmer’s son, he took the occupation of a warrior at an early age of fifteen.  His deep envision, sheer grit and determination as effective as his vigour and courage helped him become one of Shivaji’s trusted commanders. These two critical faculties are very much apparent in his face. His soldiers, who are aware of his unconstrained vigour, cunning wrath, sheer intelligence and strong determination, do not engage themselves in argument with this Jumladar of few words. Apart from all, Balwantrao  has another virtue or vice – of which few are aware. He is driven by outrageous ambition. He discovers his own path to fulfil own aspirations, follows that with absolute determination and clears that with the sharpness of his sword.

Balwantrao does not want to talk about his past. None knows about his origin. His mentor was Ganga Singh, a trusted commander of Jai Singh. The commander once camped near the village what he stayed. The strong young boy serving the soldiers caught the commander’s attention. He called him in his tent and within a few days, pleased with his loyalty and diligence, offered him a foot-soldier’s role. The new joiner performed well in the next few battles which obviously secured him permanent role as a Havildar in Ganga Singh’s battalion.

He saved Ganga Singh’s life once. After the battle was over, the master called him to express own gratitude for his support. He was promoted to a commander.

One year after this incident, a fierce battle between Jai Singh and some rebels took place near Ujjain. Ganga Singh was killed. Balwantrao gained trust of his late superior. As per his master’s last wish he took charge of his home after his death. He left only two children along with his property. The orphaned children of Ganga Singh – twelve year old Raghupati and nine year old Jyoti found new shelter. He married the girl but Raghupati caught his attention. The boy had the spirit of a warrior even at that tender age. Taking them along he came to his Shivaji’s domain. He built own small troupe of armed men. As the strong and influential Balwantrao applied for a role in Shivaji’s army, he was immediately given the position of a Jumladar.

During the battle of Pratapgarh, Balwantrao fought like a demon, before whom many of the Afjal Khan’s soldiers couldn’t stand. He earned trust.

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sinhagad_view
Photo: Wikimedia commons

The young Raghupati becomes his companion throughout his journey. He teaches him how arms are taken up, how a sword is held, how a simple stick fatally hits an enemy, how a small knife pierces the heart of a strong man, how one arrow can strike both a rider and his horse, how empty hands can defeat five enemies altogether. Balwant know his young companion needs to learn how to climb steep hillocks without support of a rope, how to ride horse without stirrup. He takes him to battlefields, whenever the platoon has a chance to camp – where the boy would find scope to watch and learn. The boy becomes his only company in his ten. The spirited boy fascinates him. He still has a tender body, his skin as soft as flower petals, his face as innocent as a child; yet he is showing the sign of his developing as a man of bravery and strong determination. His hands are growing tough yet gentle, his feet muscular yet adorable, thin lips rigid yet loving – thin line of his moustache announcing his approaching manliness. Balwantrao cannot stop looking at him at times, admire his divine physique, showering kisses on that divine body, caressing its tenderness in the lonely starry nights. Raghupati is the one he lives for. He doesn’t want to go back to the fort, enjoy the life of luxury any longer, look at anyone else – only if he could stay with Raghupati in this remote tent in any of these bushy fields!

Young Raghupati is not only loyal; he understands his master’s love for him. He loves being centre of his superior’s caring attention.

*************************************************************

He is growing fast – respects his superior for his bravery, his magnificent control on the horses, excellence in handling weapons. He knows he won’t be able to return his favour. Raghupati venerates him, but at the same time, he does not want to stay with his superior any longer. He wants to immerse himself in his own dreams, dream of becoming a war-hero, dream of owning own palace, dream of owning own woman. Perhaps a beautiful girl would adore him much more than Balwantrao does? He sees himself in the position of a leader, not a follower. Superior’s continuous surveillance irritates him – he knows he cannot protest.

In one of the silent winter nights, he frees himself from sleeping Balwantrao’s warm embrace, runs away from his tent, leaving love-struck Balwantrao alone.

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The orphan boy seemed to be floating on everlasting circumstances. He crossed mile walking – he wanted to be far away from Balwantrao and his troupe. He travelled across the region – sometimes took up begging, at times worked as servant at wealthy people’s homes. The strong and stout young man earned respect wherever he stayed. He was working as a guard of a trader’s home when he heard about Shivaji’s camping with his troup somewhere nearby. His heart danced with cheer, He didn’t want to spoil the opportunity. He met the leader he worshiped since ages.

Did he find himself unfortunate when after coming back from Toran he came to know that he actually replaced a deceased havildar under Balwantrao jumladar, who passed away just before he met Shivaji? Both the former superior and junior recognised each other – as the once-companions met in Shivaji’s court. Balwantrao looked at his new havildar – he felt sad, as if he had lost the most precious stone from his ornament. The havildar looked at him, straight and strong, powerful and confident. Jumladar understood he would have to build his relationship anew with his new soldier. The new soldier lost the tenderness he adored once. Energetic youth made Raghupati even more attractive – suppressing his desire for the young man was difficult for him, yet his common sense became a bridle to his temptation. He knew Raghupati would not reciprocate. Honest Raghupati would not turn a revenge-seeker, but he would have to remain his sister’s husband forever. Balwant welcomed the new havildar in his troupe formally. Raghupati did not carry grudge against him either. He happily engaged in a long conversation with him. Continue reading “Love in the Battleground: Weaving aspirations”

Love in the Battleground: Sickness and recovery

 

Silence prevailed while separation long

He stated again touching his feet.

“Lotus eyed hero! Forgive me –

The ignorant humiliated thee”.

Entire Delhi came to know that Shivaji was suffering from prolonged illness. His doors and windows were closed. The physicians were taking care of him day and night. None of them could assure if he had any chance of recovery. Some could not even guarantee his survival till the next day. Some were convinced that Shivaji was already dead. People crossing the road used to take a glance at his closed window while some of them enquired after his health from the sentries those were posted their to guard the mansion. All city dwellers were busy discussing rumours about Shivaji – how he was, whether he would be free again, whether he would be alive till next day – made the core of  conversations one could hear in Delhi streets those days. Aurangzeb was also worried and kept on asking for his information through his agents, but never relaxed the tight security he placed around Shivaji’s mansion.

In one of such evenings, an old aristocrat Hakim arrived to meet Shivaji. As the guard asked him the reason of his meeting Shivaji, he informed them that he came to treat him with an order from the Emperor. He showed authorisation letter too. With due honour, the guards showed him the way inside.

Shivaji was lying in his bed. One servant brought the news of one Hakim’s arrival with an order of the Emperor. The very sharp King thought that the Emperor sent someone to poison him. He told, “Tell him with due respect that I am being treated by a Hindu physician. Being a Hindu, I do not want to be treated by any other medicinal practice. I would thank the Emperor a thousand times for his benevolence.”

Even before the servant left the room, the Hakim entered without an invitation. His entry annoyed Shivaji, but keeping his annoyance with himself, he welcomed him in a very low voice. The Hakim sat beside Shivaji on his bed as he told him so.

The Hakim’s appearance was beyond suspicion. He was very old. His long gray beard covered till the chest. He was wearing a big turban. He was talking in a solemn voice. He told, “My King! I have heard what you were telling your servant. You do not want to be treated by me. Still, saving human life is our duty. I will be truthful to my duty.”

Shivaji knew the voice, Mughal turban, gaudy cloths and long beard worked well to camouflage but not so well that the sharp king couldn’t identify his childhood friend.  He sat on his bed and looked straight at the guest. Tanaji smiled at him; said, “What makes you wonder? I’ve worked with you so long – obvious that I have adopted some of your qualities. I always admired you for entering enemies’ place in disguise to get minute information about them. Today it didn’t seem that difficult!”

Shivaji was laughing, “My friend! One may get injured at times while playing with a tiger. Anyway, I cannot express how delighted I am seeing you here. I was expecting you here since several days. Now tell me the news!”

Tanaji: “Everything is arranged properly to ensure your safe escape. Let me state one by one – with the permission we received from the Emperor, all your companions could safely leave Delhi. All are staying in Mathura and Vrindaban dressed as hermits. Many of the priests in the temples of Mathura are also waiting for you. I have taken charge of the route from Delhi to Mathura; also collected people in the places on route you wanted to.”

Shivaji: “I have no doubt my friend – we will safely reach homeland having an efficient supporter like you.”

Tanaji: “I also arranged a swift horse outside the wall of the city as you ordered. Everything will be in place whichever day you decide.”

Shivaji: “Well done!”

Tanaji: “I met Ram Singh, the son of King Jai Singh. I made him remember the word his father had given to you. He is truthful and broad minded as his father. I have heard that he appealed to the Emperor for you. Emperor said he would do whatever his duty is. ”

Shivaji: “Betrayer! See how deceitful a person can be! Shivaji will take revenge some day!”

 

Tanaji said before leaving: “When my kind of a wise Hakim took charge of your treatment, then you have to get well soon.”

As he was about to cross the gate, the guard at the gate asked him how the condition of his patient was. The Hakim answered, “His illness is severe, but my medicine worked well. I anticipate, he will get well soon.”

 

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Few days after the incident, the news of Shivaji’s recovery was declared. The capital came to a festive mode. Hindus found this good news. Open-minded Mohammedans did not have different opinion. Even Aurangzeb had to express his happiness.

Shivaji started sending honorarium in form of loads of gold and silver coins, donations to temples, goodies to all the physicians who were looking after him. Sending baskets of sweets to all influential’s homes in Delhi took shape of a ritual. Baskets were being sent to mosques for the service of fakirs as well. Aurangzeb’s intension was crooked, but common people were praising Shivaji a lot. In a word, everyone in Delhi applauded his friendly gesture.

Sending sweets directly from sweetmaker’s shop did not please Shivaji. Sweets were first brought to his mansion. Those were assorted in large baskets at his place and then sent to destination. In case those baskets were prepared for large mosques or temples, those used to be several feet high. Carrying them to the destination was arduous task even for of eight or ten people.

One evening, as two of those kinds of large baskets were being taken out of his Delhi home, the guards asked the carriers a routine question, “Whom are you sending the sweets today?” The carriers replied, “To the King Jai Singh.” Guards asked, “How long your master will send sweets like this?” The carriers replied, “Probably today is the last day.”

The carriers left the mansion along with their baskets. But instead of Jai Singh’s palace, they arrived a shadowy place in a lonely corner of Delhi. They looked around. No other human being was visible; silence reigned in the area, evening breeze was flowing silently keeping harmony with that complete stillness. They kept the baskets down on the ground. The carriers knocked on the baskets; The Warrior-king Shivaji came out from one of the baskets; from another, Sambhaji. Both thanked the almighty God for the safe escape.

Both men in disguise proceeded towards the boundary wall of Delhi without wasting time. The roads were almost empty in the late evening. The sight of one or two pedestrians on their way frightened Sambhaji. Shivaji and Sambhaji walked faster to cross the locality as soon as possible. In a short while, they found a horse standing under a tree. They came closer with caution and found it resembled the description Tanaji had given. He asked its keeper, “What is your name?” The horse-keeper replied, “Janakinath.”

Shivaji: “Where are you heading to?”

Horse-keeper: “Mathura.”

He jumped on the horse. Sambhaji sat behind him. The horse keeper was walking behind as they started galloping towards Mathura.

That way, Shivaji was running away from Delhi silently crossing the villages and fields in that darkness. The stars in the sky were blinking at them. The voluptuous river Yamuna in the rainy season was flowing keeping pace with the rider’s movement through the road.

Suddenly, they saw three soldiers coming hastily towards Delhi. All of them had swords tied on their waist. They hurried their horses towards Shivaji’s as they spotted them on the way. Their movement scared him. Blocking the road in front, one of them asked, “Who is that?”

Shivaji: “Hermits.”

Soldier: “Where are you coming from?”

Shivaji: “Delhi.”

Soldier: “Destination?”

Shivaji: “Mathura.”

But all three soldiers, seeing his confusion were convinced that they have found a fugitive or dacoit on horse. They pounced on him. Shivaji alone could kill them all if he had a weapon in hand. Even empty-handed, his quick punch was strong enough to throw one from his horse, but the other two attacked him with swords. Shivaji fell down. He lost hope of his life. Little Sambhaji’s innocent face made him emotional. At that very moment, he heard an unexpected sound – he saw all three soldiers lying on the ground with arrows stuck to their bodies. All three were dead.

Shivaji got up thanking God. He realised that his horse-keeper, who was walking behind him, was the archer! He called him closer to thank him and only then he saw that the person who introduced himself as Janakinath was Sadanand Swami in disguise!

He didn’t know how to express his gratitude, “Sadanand Swami! It seems there is no other sincere friend of Shivaji like you at the time of distress. I ignored you considering you a simple horse-keeper. Forgive me! What can I do for you in return of this?”

Sadanand kneeled down before Shivaji folding his hands with humility, “Forgive me, My King! I am neither a horse-keeper, nor Sadanand. I am your old servant Raghupati Havildar. I have dreamed to serve since I was a child. You gave me the opportunity to serve you for sometime. I do not want any other honorarium. If I am guilty of committing any wrong to the Master, I would beg pardon of master.  You, my Master are the shelter for the orphan!”

Amazed Shivaji gazed at the young man. He could not hide his emotion. He embraced the soldier and erupted, “Raghupati, I doubted and humiliated you – that memory is killing me from inside. I will never forget your graciousness till the end of my life.”

Both the master and servant were embraced each other in high spirits. The reunion ended Raghupati’s self-abasement and freed Shivaji from remorse.

Continue reading “Love in the Battleground: Sickness and recovery”

Love in the Battleground: Obscure destination

O my Lord! Without rage or scorn

Since so long – you live in this dark mansion

Devoid of grandeur and spirit divine –

Marking your forehead with slavery’s stain?

 

A few days after Saryu met Sadanand Swami, a council was called at midnight in Raigad, capital of Shivaji’s kingdom. All his generals, ministers, priests and erudite Brahmins along with reputed warriors, sharp courtiers, and grey-haired pundits adorned the council. Devoted to the well-being of the country, they had always supported Shivaji. But that day, all were quiet – they were supposed to bid farewell to the dream of freedom.

Shivaji at Raigad
Shivaji at Raigad fort : Wikimedia commons

Shivaji asked opinions of his courtiers regarding accepting subordination of Emperor of Delhi – and remain as Jagirdar under him. All of Peshwa Mureswar, Awaji Swarnadev and Annaji Datto suggested him not to retreat from his previous decision of surrendering. The king should concentrate on his next actions in Delhi. The leader anyway was not being able to forget the objective he had set long back – the hope which he planted in heart in his childhood while climbing rows of mountains or roaming in the valleys below. He lamented, “But how could I forget the dream to liberate Maharashtra again. Why did Goddess Bhabani show this dream to me if this is never to be fulfilled?”

Everyone went speechless as the King took a pause repenting of his surrender for long. In that eerie silence, one deep voice from a relatively dark corner of the hall announced, “Goddess does not deceive. She does not stop supporting a fearless person with perseverance.”

Shivaji was surprised at the young saint’s words. Sadanand Swami joined his court only a few days back.

The saint had to tell more, “Following a righteous path brings great success. If we give up on the way being distracted, is it because of Dadoji’s or Goddesses’ misguidance or our cowardice? Pardon my blabbering. Pardon if I have told anything wrong. But ask your brave heart whether I am right or wrong. Can the man who acquired the title of a King instead of the title of Jagirdar, cleared the road to freedom with sword in hand, marked the mountains, valleys, villages and forest with the sign of bravery, forget the route of gallantry forever? The beam of Hindu empire is seen in the morning sky of this land – shall we let it die down so soon? I am religious preacher only – do not have right to suggest. Please consider my words yourself.”

Everyone remained silent. Shivaji took time to reply, “Saint! I came to know you very recently; do not even know whether you are a human or a god. But your words sound meaningful. I would like to ask you only one thing – the Hindu general of the Emperor is immensely powerful. Not only he plans sharp war strategy, also owns numerous skilled soldiers. Where shall I find force to fight against them?”

Sadanand: “Rajputs are great warriors. But Maharashtrians are no weak fighters. Jai Singh is brilliant at war strategy, but Shivaji is also born in a warrior clan. Defeat comes only when one fears the defeat. Do proceed ignoring all difficulties and taking support from divine power. All gods from heaven will support you.”

Shivaji: “I understand. But if Hindus fight against each other giving the country a bloodbath, how that fight will help the country? Is that righteous?”

Sadanand: “Who is at fault for this?  – The person who fights for own people and own country or he who turns hostile to own people being bribed by Mughals?”

Shivaji understood. Waves of thoughts were flowing in his mind. After a long pause, he slowly lifted his head to respond, “Sadanand! Now I know Maharashtra is not devoid of heroes till date – the country is not going to lose independence. A battle will be fought again! I do not need any other wise adviser or gallant soldier than myself to guide me. But the time of battle has not yet arrived. I do not apprehend defeat, do not even apprehend extinction of my religion, but do not want to engage in war now. Listen to me – I conspired a lot, played many tricks to accomplish the great vow I have taken. Foreigners went against treaties and I too breached those. Now that I have signed a treaty with Jai Singh –the icon of Hindu prowess, I am unable to breach that treaty. I cannot disregard an agreement with the noble Rajput in his lifetime. I will go there to meet the Mughal! If the clever Aurangzeb disrespects the agreement between us, then I will accept your suggestion; then Shivaji will not hesitate to hold his sword. But showing disrespect to the treaty signed with the truthful Jai Singh is not possible.”

None in the assembly found anything else to say. Some of the courtiers still expressed doubt against being loyal to a treaty with cunning Aurangzeb, whether to believe him without bothering about his actual intension. Shivaji was sure that Jai Singh himself would protect him in Delhi. In case of betrayal by Aurangzeb, the fire of rage lit in Maharashtra would set the entire Mughal Empire ablaze. Blunder is always paid. Aurangzeb too is susceptible to universal rules. Mureshwar, Swarnadev and Annaji accepted the responsibility of running administration in his absence. Malashri was to accompany him to Delhi.

After all vital decisions were taken, Sadanand expressed his desire to go for pilgrimage during Shivaji’s stay in Delhi. The leader agreed.

Everything had to be planned accordingly.

Continue reading “Love in the Battleground: Obscure destination”

Love in the Battleground: Nowheresville

None but the Goddess consoles the helpless –

When melancholy casts gloom over life.    

There is an old temple of Bhabani, the powerful goddess, on the top of a hillock few miles away from the valorous jagirdar Balwantrao’s place. The hill behind the temple is covered with age-old trees casting shadow across the area even in the scorching daylight. The priests and Brahmins of the temple live in their huts under this shadow. The ancient trees are grown up listening to chanting of Puranic verses and Vedic mantras. The serene melody spread the message of devotion in every corner of this hilly area. Maharashtra was disturbed by wars and revolutions, but neither Hindus nor Mohammedans tried to spoil the spiritual tranquility of this place with their war cry.

In the middle of the night, a pedestrian is wandering alone in that calm forest. He is anxious; his wide forehead wrinkled, face angry, eyes burning with wild rage and heart fuming with anger, vengeance and misery. Fatigue forces him to sit on the ground near the temple, yet his fury doesn’t show a sign of dying down.

Some of the Brahmins are reciting Purana sitting close to that row of trees. The tune of sacred tales is showering nectar in that calm forest under the starry sky of the calm night. The stories and songs seem falling like raindrops on Raghupati’s burning forehead; drizzling peace on his fuming heart. Gradually his anger cools down – own misery and pain seem insignificant to himself. Own achievements, bravery in the battlefield and ambitions seem to be too small an affair! In course of time, the angst removing goddess of sleep takes him in her shelter. Exhausted Raghupati falls asleep under one of the trees.

In his dreams his youthful endeavours start disappearing; the lights of hope extinguishing. The memories of good old days come back like memories of last birth to the lonely warrior. He remembers his affectionate mother, his warrior father, his gentle sister Jyotibai, his childhood companions. He wants to meet his sister, who often visits the temple. Wasn’t that the reason he came to the temple?

A soft hand wipes Raghupati’s tears. Opening his eyes he sees his sister sitting beside him under the tree. Raghupati’s heart melts. He takes his sister’s hands in his.

Jyoti wipes own tears; asks him so many affectionate questions! Raghupati goes on answering. He narrates all about his journey after leaving Shivaji’s court. God knows it all that he did not do anything wrong. But his master humiliated him suspecting him to be disloyal. Homeless, he started travelling again. He does not want to live anymore with his reputation destroyed, but wants to die taking part in a battle like his father.

Tears roll down Jyotibai’s cheeks on hearing the tales of his misery. Being the wife of the feudal ruler Balwantrao Jumladar, she bears own misery, but is deeply hurt learning about his brother’s. Nevertheless being a woman, she knows how to comfort a person in distress. Only a woman removes other’s pain forgetting her own. She talks to him for long. “Our life is like that – not every day is same. God gives us good time, that we enjoy; why cannot we accept the bad time given by the same God then? We are born as human being to suffer. If we cannot tolerate, who will? God kept us happy at our father’s place, now he gives desolation, it will be removed again. Don’t be depressed, my brother! You will feel sick otherwise. You need proper food and rest to keep yourself healthy.”

Raghupati: “Why do I need to keep healthy? On the day a soldier’s name is tainted as traitor, he should have died!”

Jyoti: “Why do you want to leave your sister in distress forever? Who else do I have in this world? We lost our parents. I have only you as my own. You too are unkind to your sister!

Raghupati: “I know how much I mean to you. God should punish me if I hurt you someday. But I do not know what I will do with this life. I am a soldier. To a soldier, reputation is worthier than life; disrepute is worse than death. Raghupati has fallen into disrepute today!”

Jyoti: “Why don’t you try to recover yourself from that disrepute then? Why don’t you meet the Great Shivaji again? Once he comes out of anger, he will surely listen to you, understand your innocence.”

Raghupati doesn’t reply, only his face reddens; his eyes started burning. Intuitive Jyoti understands her brother inherited pride and ego from his father. He would never appeal like that. She again tells: “Well, pardon me, I am woman – do not understand everything. If you are not ready to meet Shivaji, why don’t you try to reclaim your reputation by your good deed? Father used to tell – the courage and loyalty of a soldier is expressed by his actions. If anyone has distrust of your faithfulness, you should clear that distrust with your sword.”

Sister’s words influence her brother. His eyes sparkle. He asks, “How to do that?”

Jyoti told, “I have heard Shivaji is travelling to Delhi. Thousands of incidents may occur there. A determined soldier may find numerous options to prove himself there. Being a housewife, I cannot tell you much. But none of your purposes is unachievable if you follow father’s way of gallantry and determination.”

If Raghupati had cared to ponder, he could easily realize that his younger sister was not inexperienced in understanding human heart. The medication she has given him healed his gloominess within moments – the mind of a soldier enlivened.

Now he is besieged in deep thought. Taking a long pause, he tells, “Jyoti, true you are a woman. But your words made me think in a new light. I am not discouraged any longer. God should support me. Soon everyone will know that I am neither a rebel, nor a timid soldier. But you are still so young – why am I telling these to you – how would you know my heart?”

Jyoti smiles. She knows how to encourage her brother without hurting his pride, “True you are – how do my kind of a housewife know about the purpose of a warrior’s life? But whatever happens, till your younger sister is alive, will pray to God for fulfilling your purpose.” Taking a pause she says, “I wanted to ask you something, but I am scared.”

Raghupati: “Jyoti! I am your brother- you are scared of me!”

Jyoti: “Probably a jumladar named Balwantraodid harm you?”

Raghupati’s looks serious. He restrains himself from bursting, “What Balwantrao told the king was not incorrect. And I cannot tell whether he had done any harm to me.”

Jyoti: “Whatever he had done, please promise you will not harm him!”

Raghupati keeps quiet. Jyoti requests again, “Being a sister, I did not beg anything from you before. Please keep my words.”

The brother softens. says: “Jyoti, once in a while I doubt it was Balwantraowho who tried to harm me. But I promised you standing in this Goddesse’s temple that I will not do anything that may hurt him. I did forgive him. May God forgive him as well.”

Jyoti repeats from her heart: “May God forgive him.”

“May God keep you happy!” – replies her brother before leaving the temple.

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By now, we can imagine the reason of Raghupati’s being late on the day of attacking the Bajragad fort.  He was not sure of coming back alive at the end of that fierce battle. Hence Raghupati wanted to meet Saryu once before starting, Saryu bade farewell with teary eyes.  After that day But Saryu received no news of Raghupati. She was hoping Raghupati would be honoured in the royal court ensuring victory in the battle, and then come back cheerfully to tell the tales of war. But Raghupati never came back.

One day a maid brought news – Raghupati had been expelled from Shivaji’s army for being a traitor. Saryu could not understand the significance of this for few moments. Then her face blackened; anger engulfs her. She cried: “What are you telling! Raghupati is a traitor! He joined Mohammedans! You are dumb – get out of my sight!”  But in course of time, when other soldiers started returning from battlefield chanting the same: “Raghupati became a traitor!”, also all her friends repeated the same, she couldn’t respond any longer. Even her old father was worried, “Who knew even an innocent looking boy like him planned such a wicked thing!” Even though entire world was calling Raghupati a traitor, her intuition told that the world was wrong.

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These days Saryu goes to the lake inside the fort every evening. She sees a tall saint wearing matted hair sitting there. Outsiders are not common in the fort. Curiosity leads her to meet the divine angel.

The saint looks at Saryu; asks in a deep voice, “My child! Are you looking for any help from this saint? Did you come here for any specific reason? Why are you looking sad?”

Saryu is unable to reply. She is doubtful whether to reveal her mind before an unknown person, even though a saint. Finally decides to state, “You are a saint, you know it all – please oblige me telling something about him. I think he is in danger – I wanted to ask how he is.”

Saint: “Everyone knows him to be a traitor now.”

Saryu: “The Lord knows it all!”

Saint: “The leader expelled him calling him a traitor.”

Saryu blushes. Her eyes fill with tears. She tries to make a move, “He might have been betrayed, but I wouldn’t believe he can be a traitor. Let me leave now.”

The saint’s voice sounds emotional as he slowly tells, “I have something more to tell you.”

Saryu: “Please tell.”

Saint: “Reading human mind in difficult. There is only one way to guess how honest Raghupati is. A lover’s heart mirrors the heart of a lover. Only the person who loves Raghupati by heart would know how mind is framed.”

Saryu mutters thanking the almighty, “God knows it all. If I hope to be the beloved of him, then I trust him as well. But don’t know what he intends to do now.”

Saint: “I guess he will try to do away with the disgrace showing own gallantry, by own action. He does not mind sacrificing his life to do so.”

Saryu: “He has a great perseverance. If you happen to meet him someday, tell him that the Rajput’s daughter Saryu prays to God for his success.”

Saint: “May God help him. But truth does not always win. Especially the purpose Raghupati wants to fulfil may be reason for his death.”

Saryu: “Fighting is religion to Rajput.”

Both sat silent for some time. After a long pause Saryu speaks again: “I have no regret in life now. May I know his name?”

Saint: “Sadananda Swami.”

The night is becoming darker. In that deep darkness, a saint is walking alone towards the fort of Raigarh.

Raigad-Darwaja_(The_Gate)
Gate of Raigad fort: Wikimedia commons

Love in the Battlefield: Morality in question

Mortal’s dream disappears like flaking ice as thunderous storms set life in turmoil.

Tattered remnants of desires remain like ragged flags on the ruins of a fort.”

 

Next evening, an assembly was organised in the fort. Four silver pillarsbedecked with red canopy above were placed on the floor ; under that sat King Jai Singh and Shivaji on the throne wrapped in red. Hundreds of people from nearby villages crying victory to the kings and the Emperor of Delhi assembled there.

Jai Singh could not help praising Shivaji, “Admire you for becoming the right hand person of the Emperor so soon. All your efforts will be rewarded by the Emperor sooner or later.”

Shivaji: “We have won, but the loss we have suffered also huge. I could not do it as effortlessly as I expected. I found all enemies guarding the fort awake and armed even in the middle of night. I never lost so many of my soldiers during fort.” He looked depressed.

One thousand soldiers used to protect that almost inaccessible fort under the leadership of Rahmat Khan. Only few survived the attack. They were brought to the assembly in a row. Shivaji ordered to release them as he mostly did after acquiring forts from enemies. He gave them the option of joining the Mughal army. Otherwise they could safely go back to Bijapur. Many of the Afghans agreed to work under the Mughal army being convinced by his courteousness.

Rahamat Khan – the previous fort-keeper was brought to the court. Also this badly injured prisoner’s hands were tied up behind. The brave man stood like a hero looking straight at Shivaji.  Shivaji got up from his seat, opened his sword and untied the enemy’s hands with that. Solemnly he said, “Brave man! Your hands were tied only because the rules of war directed us so. We had to take you as prisoner for a night – I beg your pardon for that. You are free now. Luck determines our victory or defeat in war. But I have been honoured to fight against your kind of a great warrior.”

Rahamat Khan was waiting for death sentence. The respectful behaviour of the winner made him emotional.

Jai Singh asked him, “You have proved your ability suitable to your position. The Emperor will be stronger if your kind of a great leader joins him. Shall I send a message to him that a hero like you is ready to lead his armed force?”

Loyalty prohibited Rahamat Khan to accept the proposal. He said: “My Lord! I am honoured with your proposition. But I will not leave my master for whom I worked so long. I will use my sword only for the Sultan of Bijapur till the end of my life.”

Shivaji: “So be it! Take rest tonight. Tomorrow mornings, one platoon of my army will escort you till Bijapur, so that you reach safely.

Rahamat Khan: “You have been courteous to me. I wouldn’t deceive you. I would suggest you to investigate – not all of your soldiers are loyal. I have received the information about your plan before you attacked the fort yesterday. That was reason my force stayed alert last night. One of your army spied for us. I cannot tell you more; I don’t want to breach trust as well.”

Shivaji’s face blackened and eyes red in rage. His trembling lips told his colleagues that providing even a good suggestion would be futile at that moment. Judging the situation, Jai Singh tried to pacify him by taking the responsibility of asking the soldiers, “When did you come to know of the schedule of attack yesterday?”

The soldiers replied, “At nine at night.”

Jai Singh: “None of you knew this beforehand?”

Soldiers: “We knew we were going to attack a fort; but did not know which one.”

Jai Singh: “Good, what time did you reach the fort?”

Enquiry like this went on for some time, till he asked the name of the person who might had been absent from camp previous night. The soldiers tried to remember events that  happened previous night. They started talking to each other. Shivaji’s anger calmed down a little. A jumladar named Balwantrao stood up, “My Lord! We did not see one of the havildars under me last evening. He joined us after we reached at the foot of this fort.”

The assembly went silent. Everyone was waiting to hear the name of the disloyal one. Only the sound of Shivaji’s fast breathing was being heard. In the midst of that absolute silence, Balwantrao calmly told, “Raghupati Havildar.”

Everyone was awestruck. Shivaji’s face blackened again. Biting his lip hard he roared, “You deceitful one! You are only lying when you blame him like this. Your condemning him would not yield any fruit; I have seen Raghupati’s action myself. But the soldiers should see the punishment delivered to a crafty jumladar.”

As Shivaji was pulling his iron spear, Raghupati came forward all on a sudden. He stood before his master and told, “My Lord, don’t kill my superior. He is not lying. I was really late in reaching the fort.”

Again an absolute silence covered the assembly. Fear kept all of them motionless. Shivaji sat as still as a sculpture for some time. Wiping sweat from his forehead he said, “Am I in deep sleep now? You Raghupati – did this treachery?”

Raghupati told in a deep voice, “I am not at fault for that.”

Shivaji was furious. He pointed his finger at him and roared, “Why did you disappear in the middle of the night disobeying my order then?”

Raghupati’s lips quivered. But he did not answer – looked at the floor instead.

His calmness before threat fuelled Shivaji’s anger. He yelled in a thundering voice, “Life sentence for treason!”

The king was not being able to control his anger any more. His hand was trembling along with the spear. Betrayal by person who we trust as friend becomes more shocking an experience than facing an enemy – hence intolerable. Jai Singh pursued, “You are the King of Kshtriyas. You will never be able to change your decision made today. If you deliver death sentence to this person today, you may regret that decision the rest of your life. My long experience in battlefields says this warrior is not a traitor. But this is not the time to investigate everything. I am your friend – begging for life of this Rajput soldier being a friend. Please oblige me.”

Shivaji was probably influenced seeing the politeness of the Rajput. He responded, “Forgive my rudeness. I won’t ignore your words. But pardoning a traitor is also not possible. Havildar! Your king saved your life today. But now get lost! Never ever try to show your face to me!”

Raghupati controlled himself with lot of effort, looked at Shivaji once and bowed before leaving the fort silently.

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The shadow of the evening is slowing swallowing the earth. A lone traveller is walking towards the fields coming down from the mountain. He crosses the field, enters a village – crosses that village too and proceeds to the next field. He disappears in the growing darkness of the night.

Sadhu_1
From Wikimedia commons

Continue reading “Love in the Battlefield: Morality in question”

Love in the Battleground: Key-partnership enlightens

Knowledge makes you best of the men.

Unparalleled in the universe are your Intellect and strength.

Even the pair of Aurangzeb’s son Moajjim and Jaswant Singh could not bring Deccan under control successfully. The famous Amber king Jai Singh was selected to take over the land as resident with support of a valiant Afghan army chief named Dilwar Khan. Jai Singh arrived at Puna by the end of March 1665. He didn’t sit effortless like Shaista Khan. He ordered Dilwar Khan to attack Purandar fort and himself proceeded to Rajgarh crossing Sinhagarh leading own force.

Jai_Singh_and_Shivaji
Raja Jai Singh of Amber receiving Shivaji a day before concluding the Treaty of Purandar. – via Wikimedia commons

Shivaji was reluctant to fight against a Hindu king. He was dejected since the beginning of this battle and kept on sending proposal for a treaty to Jai Singh again and again, but the pragmatic Jai Singh did not rely on any of these. Finally Shivaji’s trusted minister Raghunathpanth Nyaysastri met him as an emissary and could successfully convince him that Shivaji was not playing a trick.

One day Jai Singh was in his court in the morning. One sentry entered with the news of Maharaj Shivaji’s arrival.  The abruptness of the information shocked everyone in the court. Jai Singh hurriedly got up from seat to welcome the honourable guest. After formal greetings Shivaji clarified his intention without delay, “Your Majesty, Raghunathpanth Nyaysastri told me about some propositions of yours. That is why I came to meet you – I too feel honoured having a chance to meet you.”

Jai Singh, “Yes, I remember what I promised Nyaysastri. The Emperor of Delhi will pardon you if you surrender, he will protect and reward you properly.”

Shivaji looked grim. Still he had to discuss the embarrassing proposition – only because it came from the prominent leader of a Hindu kingdom who he respected.

Jai Singh understood his discontent. He assured, “You do not need to surrender if my proposition upsets you. You came here while you trust me. I won’t spoil your trust. You may leave taking any horse from my stable. You will go back as safely as you came. Consider your safety as my responsibility. Later, we may face each other in a battle.  Even if I can’t win the battle, I won’t mind. To me, following the principle of a Kshatriya is purpose of life.” Himself a chivalrous warrior, he understood the mind of an independent leader.

Shivaji: “I consider myself already defeated by your kind of a great warrior; I am not sorry for that. I am sorry because my fight to protect Hindu honour, which I took up in my childhood, is going to end with my surrender today. Anyway I had to take a hard decision before coming, so I am not worried any longer.”

Jai Singh: “Then what are you sceptical?”

Shivaji: “I used to sing ballads describing your glory in my childhood. I thought truth, principle and brilliance truly symbolise Rajput life. I know how much Rajput yarns for independence. Then how is it possible that a Rajput started working as a commander under foreigner Aurangzeb. How come a Rajput leader requests a Hindu ally to surrender before a foreigner?”

Jai Singh: “You are right – it’s unfortunate. But Rajput did not surrender without resisting. They fought against the invaders from Delhi – finally lost their independence losing in the battle.”

Shivaji: “That is what makes me curious. What makes you so keen to execute the plan of those outsiders irrespective of the long grown hostility between them and your kinsmen?”

Jai Singh: “As long as I accepted the role of a commander under the Delhi ruler, I am obliged to fulfil my responsibility at any cost.”

Shivaji: “Does the obligation to remain truthful supersede everything else in the world? Why shall we be truthful to people who are against our country and who fight against our principles?”

Jai Singh: “Then study the history of Rajputana – we are fighting against Mohammedans since hundreds of years. We have won at times, and at times defeated, but never renounced the path of commitment. True we have lost our independence, but we are still recognised as follower of truth. To a Rajput, the word given is equal to a contract. Promises are breached in politics, but a Rajput never violates commitment.”

Shivaji: “On the other hand King Jaswant Singh became a faithful guardian of Hindu rule in this land. He denied fighting against Hindus.”

Jai Singh: “True Jaswant Singh is a great warrior. He comes from the land surrounded by desert called Marwar. He is a leader of a strong and valiant army there. I could praise him if he tried to protect that land deploying that army in that desert. Being in the role of a commander under the Emperor of Delhi, he is obligated to remain loyal to him. He violated own integrity being a Kshatriya – his disrepute supervene upon his reputation. Perhaps losing the battle against Aurangzeb on the bank of Shipra sent him into the depth of despair…”

Intelligent Shivaji realised the difference between Jai Singh and Jaswant Singh. He took a long pause before throwing the next question, “Do you mean his supporting another Hindu considering the highest spirit of brotherhood was unfair?”

Jai Singh responded, “I did not mean that. But Jaswant Singh could join you taking an oath in the name of God openly leaving Aurangzeb’s service.”

Shivaji: “The Emperor of Delhi could have sent a larger army against us if he joined me in open. Both of us could be defeated and killed!”

Jai Singh: “A Kshatriya’s life is graceful if he dies in battleground. Treachery is his disgrace.

His words left Shivaji red-faced. Still he continued stating his sincere desire to achieve freedom even at the cost of his own life in battlefield.”

Jai Singh was listening to him attentively; noticed the teary eyes of the emotional leader. His answer emerged from his inner calm, “If the Hindu glory is not saved by truth, it cannot be saved by deception. If the blood of a hero fails to sprout the seed of freedom, it cannot be sprouted using a filthy trick.”

Shivaji felt overpowered; found no other word to argue against that. Still he expressed his doubt once again, “But if I submit myself to Aurangzeb as you expect me to do today, how shall I teach my nation the value of independence?”

Jai Singh: “Victory and defeat are not static in war. Today I have victory over you; tomorrow you may win. Today you became subsidiary of Aurangzeb; tomorrow you may become independent.”

Shivaji: “May Your Majesty live long! Today I am not going to surrender, but soon I will. Probably we will work together to capture some forts from the hand of Bijapur rulers. As you said, nothing is static in politics.”

The leader of Maharashtra departed knowing that he had won a great friend who had been fighting on behalf of his enemies since long.

Continue reading “Love in the Battleground: Key-partnership enlightens”

Love in the Battleground: Journey begins

Just as I woke up with my eyes wide open,

You stood in front of my eyes!

11journey begins kangra_paintinChaitra g4

No, imagination is not always deceptive, Saryu’s dream didn’t lie, and her hope didn’t swindle!

Even this summer evening Saryu is seen plucking flowers in the same garden, lost in thought as usual. She looks quiet and pleasant as before, her face calm and composed. Yet little change in her appearance is noticeable. Dream makes her eyes sparkle. Her movement shows pretty well how the transformation inside prepared her to live with her new fantasy as she stepped into her youth.

Suddenly, the silhouette of a young Rajput warrior getting down from his horse at the gate makes the girl quiver in excitement. Also the Rajput warrior spots her – the exquisite beauty and the blushed face keeps Raghupati mystified for few moments.

When the first love enchants human heart with all its charms, the torrents of elation overflow the mind like moonlight, and when the first love of the youth surges splashing its colour on entire earth and the sky alike, a heavenly abode is created in this world. This couple’s fanciful abode is already created. Within moments Saryu bows her head in embarrassment – hurriedly enters home to inform her father about the arrival of the guest.

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This time Raghupati reveals lot about himself – his homeland, origin of his family and parents while talking to the priest in the evening. The impressed priest embraces the soldier. He is happy to learn about the young man. He has heard about the reputed warrior clan of the young man, knows stories of courage and generosity of his forefathers. Glad seeing the descendant of that family had taken up forefather’s profession, he declares, “I adopted Saryu as my daughter; I am accepting you as my son today. With the Grace of God, if I can get Saryu married to your kind of a suitable groom, I will be able to die in peace. May God bless you both.”  Saryu hears all from the next room. Her tender body shivers with nervousness as if a leaf struck by wind.

Raghupati came to escort Janardandev and his daughter from Toran to Rajgad by Shivaji’s order. Making arrangement for the long travel takes almost a week. His stay in the priest’s home in the meantime brings him the delight of watching Saryu plucking flowers every day. His heart beats faster whenever he sees her. He feels too nervous to talk to her these days. Even during the journey, the emotion from the bottom of his heart does not remain hidden from her eyes. Raghupati the cavalier accompanies her palanquin. Be in the rocky mountain path, or in the forest, in the barren fields or by the rivers, the sleepless warrior guards her. Every woman understands a man’s care, his eagerness. The presence of the man makes her eyes glitter. Unhidden passion in his eyes bewitches her.

After a few days, they reach a village in the evening. The fort of Rajgad is built on the hilltop adjacent to this village. Janardandev sends message of their arrival to the Maratha king asking for permission to enter the fort next day. After dinner, the warrior tries to talk to her hesitantly, “Allow me to leave, my lady!” The words fall in her ears like much awaited raindrops in the desert. Her drenched heart starts dancing. He repeats, “I shall depart now. Tomorrow you will enter the palace. I will have to join my duty.”

Finally the lady finds the strength to talk. “You have taken good care of us. You always kept a strict vigil so that I and my father arrive here safe. God should help you win the battle and fulfil your dreams. How else but praying to God can we express our gratitude?”

Raghupati remains as polite as ever, “I am fortunate  – I could ensure your safe journey to the fort as ordered by the king. I cannot claim credit for this. Still, if you are satisfied with the service of this soldier, please don’t forget me.”

Saryu understands the meaning hidden in these words. She bows her head. The soldier gathers courage to tell, “Pardon my desire. Your father is affectionate to me. Hope you too aren’t disappointed with me. If God supports me, if I am able to fulfil my ambition in life, I will come back to tell you the words of my heart. Please remember me till then.”

He leaves. Saryu keeps on looking at the road through which he rode. In the middle of the night, the sleepless lady prays to God with a deep sigh, “God, please be the witness. Help my warrior. Let him reside in the heart of this poor girl forever.”

Continue reading “Love in the Battleground: Journey begins”

Love in the Battleground: Illusion

I sit under the mango tree closing my dejected eyes,

Intoxicated by delusion, dream of holding her lotus feet.

My heart trembles the moment I hear sound of footsteps.

Since Raghupati came to the fort of Toran, not only his heart engrossed with obsession, the heart of a young girl also swamped with the blissful wave of first love. As he placed the neck-piece around her neck, her body shivered; her mind danced in euphoric anxiety. The warrior left taking his horse biding adieu; she stood motionless watching him at her window. 10 Lady-Observing-Lighting-in-the-Sky---Rajput-Ragamala-Painting-from-a-Manuscript,-Circa-1800

The young lady waits there for long. The horse with its rider left long back. She still looks at that direction like a frozen silhouette. A merry landscape lies before her eyes – the mountain range, the waving rows of trees on the top of the mountains, waterfalls taking forms of steams falling on the ground, the village huts down in the valleys, the stunning green fields draping those from all sides, a river flowing through the fields like the daughter of the mountain under the bright sun in the clear sky. Saryu doesn’t notice any of those; her mind roams somewhere else.

She remains lost throughout the day. In the evening, she serves dinner to her father, prepares bed for him and then retires to her bedroom. She stays awake mesmerized by the moonlight sitting quietly beside her window. Raghupati left a new emotion to fill her heart. Why did Raghupati look at her with such intensity? Was it a gaze of special affection? Was it true that a soft spot was evolved for her in the young warrior’s heart?

Impulsive emotion in a girl’s heart is usually not everlasting. The passion weakens soon. But sometimes the emotion called love in a girl of her age does not completely die. Once in a while, the thought of that young warrior crops up in her mind. Saryu, raised as single child, doesn’t have anyone but her father close to her heart. Her solitary life made her calm and thoughtful since her childhood. These days, during her daily chores, the thought of the handsome man who made her heart beat faster once, engrosses her once in a while.

Imagination is magical!  So many thoughts appear as she sits beside her window alone or takes a solitary walk in the flower-garden in the evening! The young warrior might have engaged himself in battles somewhere; he might have captured forts too. Does the dutiful man devoted to different thoughts, joys and worries ever remember her? Life is always full of hope – always flows as guided by hope be that fulfilled or not. Saryu’s magical imagination keeps of whispering in her ears – the warrior appear in her mind pretty often – she is intrigued by her hope.

Next moment she starts thinking differently – “It’s not possible that the young man still remembers this fort of Toran. A young man’s heart can’t stay single-minded. A wave in a river plays with a flower on the riverbank to fulfil its momentary pleasure. The flower dances with joy. Then the wave moves following own course leaving the flower to dry off. The wave once passed does not come back.”  She tries to console herself. Still, the mysterious hope doesn’t stop murmuring – what if the young warrior comes back to the fort of Toran once again?

In the middle of the night, the fort on the hilltop sleeps under moonlight; the girl’s mind gets crowded with illusions as she keeps on looking at the sky and the fair moon – how shall we trace those! She imagines a young cavalier on a white horse galloping towards the fort through the mountain route – few tufts of hair partially covering his forehead and eyes. She imagines as if the cavalier wearing a gold embossed headgear stopped his horse at the gate of the fort; his charming strong arms adorned with golden armlets knocks on the gate.

Months pass like that, and then a year, but Saryu’s waves of dreams don’t stop rolling. The warrior from homeland, whom Saryu once served food with lot of care in this distant territory, never goes into oblivion. Every now on then she recalls the charming look and divine physique of the man, who placed a chain around her neck. How deceptive imagination is!

Continue reading “Love in the Battleground: Illusion”

Love in the Battleground: Hullabaloo in Puna

Hovering through the decades and age,

May the fire across the sky blaze.

May the valour of gods across heaven spread –

Day and night, incessant and elevated.

May the demons be burnt by the god’s rage;

And their offspring – by the fire of grief ceaseless.

Next day, afternoons, A few revered warriors were waiting for Shivaji on the highest turret of the fort on the bank of river Nira. The Sun-god was leaving for the day. The river valley dressed in new greenery of spring extended far wide towards the north was sparkling under the golden twilight.  The warriors were gazing at the beautiful city of Puna miles away while planning the night’s grand event. Rows of mountains covered the southern and western side of the fort – their peaks beaming in the dying sunlight as far as visible. A small armed force in the fort of Sinhagad dressed up maintaining such a silence that none outside the fort could anticipate the commotion inside.

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Terrace of Sinhagad fort near Puna in 2010 – photo Wikimedia Commons

The sun went down the horizon. The shadow of the dusk started appearing in layer after layer, the warriors were still standing on the top of the fort as quiet as ever. Shivaji entered with a serious face, determined and prepared for the night’s adventure.

“Thank you for the support you have provided.  Please allow me to make a move now.”

The commanders looked unhappy. Peshwa Mureshwar broke the silence, “So you have decided to allow none of Swarnadev, Annaji and me to escort you?

Shivaji: “Peshwaji, pardon me. I am well aware of you bravery, vigour and experience, but it is my mission today. I know your wishes will help me succeed. But if luck betrays, if I die during today’s mission, you three will be there to protect Maharashtra. Your far-sighted vision and might will safeguard freedom of this land even in my absence. Your ruining with me will not serve the purpose of serving the land. Please don’t make such request at this time of departure.” Peshwa didn’t pursue understanding the futility of repeating the request. The strong leader agreed to take Tanaji-Malashri, his childhood-companions anyway.

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The sun went down the western sky when the leader was seen guiding a small group of armed men outside the fort. At that very moment; a young armed person appeared from nowhere. The leader recognised the man bowing before him; asked. “Raghupati Havildar! What are you looking for at this moment?”

Raghupati: “Master! You promised me an award on the day I brought some information from the fort of Toran.”

Shivaji: “What award do you expect right now?”

Raghupati: “Please allow me to accompany you.”

Shivaji: “My boy! Why are you trying to leap into a dangerous mission at this age?”

Raghupati: “This is risk I am taking by choice. I have none to mourn for me in this world if I die. On the other hand, if I can satisfy Master with my performance and come back alive and successful, that will help building my career.”

Raghupati’s large dark eyes showed the strong will of a warrior in the simpleton’s young face. His clear intension compelled Shivaji allow the young man to march with him.

The noise of the Puna city gradually reduced; the lights went off – only the guards carried on their surveillance raising a high pitch warning in the quiet city once in a while. At times the evening breeze was carrying the sound of jackals howling far in the forest. Suddenly a ding dong was heard – Shivaji’s heart started pounding hard.  He looked at the direction of the city following the noise – only to find that it was coming from inside a lane invisible from outside.

The ding dong repeated. He looked again – it was a procession with lights and music on the wide street – seemingly a bridegroom’s party. The procession came closer – clearly visible now. Some people carrying musical instruments were on the horses – some walking. The warriors looked at each other’ eyes; all had one thing in mind reflecting in their eyes, not in words – “This could be our last communication.” All of them quietly dissolved in that crowd.

The crowd crossed the road near Shaista Khan’s palace. The ladies in the palace gathered at the windows to watch the grand procession. The procession passed slowly. Only thing nobody noticed was that about thirty people from the procession had slipped and hid themselves near the palace. After some time, the hullabaloo of the bridegroom’s procession faded away.

In the middle of the calm night, maids in the kitchen heard a faint sound under a small window of the kitchen in Shaista Khan’s palace.Thye rushed to check – to find Marathi soldiers entering the palace through a large hole on the wall– one after another like a line of ants. The ladies ran for help screaming towards Shaista Khan’s room.

The palace guards seemed baffled with the sudden attack; many of them already killed or badly injured. Still, rest of them hurried to protect their master and finally managed to encircle those Maoli invaders. Soon a terrifying uproar filled the entire palace. The lamps of the palace went off. The Maolis continued fighting and shouting in the dark. Sound of doors banging, triumphant attackers roaring and wounded soldiers wailing flooded the entire space. In the midst of the big chaos, Shivaji joined the crowd of Maolis with his spear in hand – shouted “Hara Hara Mahadeo”. The gesture charged up his troupe. Most of the Mughal guards fled away, while many of them lied lifeless on the floor.  Shivaji entered Shaista Khan’s bedroom breaking the door with his spear.

A small group of Mughal soldiers rushed inside to protect their commander. Shivaji found Shamser Khan, the valorous son of the deceased Chand Khan standing in front of him. Shivaji stopped for a moment, “Young man, your father’s blood still taints my hand. I do not want to take your life – go away”.

He didn’t receive an answer from Shamser Khan; only saw his eyes burning. Even before he could take precaution, he noticed Shamser’s shining sword above his head. The next instant, he saw a spear hitting Shamser from behind. The enemy fell on the ground with his sword in hand. The Maratha warrior discovered Raghupati Havildar standing behind.

He pronounced: “Havildar! I will remember your support.” before quickly leaving the place. None of Khan’s bodyguards left alive.

With an intension to flee, Shaista Khan jumped out of his window – still holding the window pane. One of the chasing Marathi soldier’s swords chopped one of his fingers. Anyway he succeeded to escape. On the other side, his son Abdul Fateh Khan and many sentries lied in the pile of dead bodies killed in ambush. All the rooms, courtyard and corridor were blood-soaked; bodies of the sentries scattered everywhere, Sound of women wailing and ailing warriors moaning became unbearable. The purpose of the violent Maolis was probably to ensure complete destruction of Mughals on that very night. The place look ghastly with dead bodies, severed heads and flowing blood in the dim light of the torches. It was time for Shivaji to take control. He called his soldiers to announce the success of the operation. Unnecessary killing, even during war situation annoyed him. He ordered the soldiers to move back to Sinhagarh fort as fast as possible.

The angry Mughals will try to attack the fort next morning, but will be severed by the cannons fired from that fort. Kartaji Gujjar and his force will drive them far away.

************************************************************************************

A valiant warrior feels encouraged to fight under threatening situation. But Shaista Khan was not of that sort. He wrote a letter to Aurangzeb blaming his soldiers for treason and Jaswant Singh for bribing them. Aurangzeb called them back considering both of them irresponsible. He first sent own son Moajjim to Deccan and later sent Jaswant to support him.

No further war took place within a year after this. Shivaji’s father Shahaji passed away in the beginning of 1664. He performed his father’s last rites in Sinhagarh, adopted the title ‘King’ arranging a ceremony in Raigarh and started minting coins in own name.

But what happened to the girl in love in the fort of Toran?

 

 

 

 

 

Love in the Battleground: Guest at midnight

Gone are the days of staying loyal to master.

Mere ethics not enough to relinquish –

Blood, brotherhood and nation.

Even if stranger virtuous and kinfolk inept,

Worthless kin, as Scriptures mention-

Stays closer than the stranger competent.

Jaswant_Singh_of_Marwar
Jaswant Singh of Marwar

In the middle of that very night, the Rajput King Jaswant Singh was sitting alone in the tent resting his face on his palm. What was the thought he was consumed with? The shadow in the tent created by the dim light of a single lamp portrayed his shadowy mind.

Mahadeoji Nyayshastri entered the tent. Jaswant started conversation, “Tell me what proposal you brought from your master.”

Mahadeo: “My master did not send me with a proposal. He wanted me to meet you.”

Jaswant Singh: “Is he disappointed only because we have captured the forts of Puna and Chakan?”

Mahadeo: “My master is disappointed seeing the gem of the Hindu kings, who he considers a treasure of the Kshatriya clans and the custodian of Hindu ethics serving foreigners.”

Jaswant’s face showed sign of embarrassment. Mahadeoji noticed that but ignored. He continued, “The person who married a kinswoman of Udaypur Rana, whose throne is established under the royal umbrella of Marwar, whose fame is spread throughout Rajasthan and whose prowess by the river Sipra frightened Aurangzeb, is fighting against own kith and kin taking the side of foreigners! My master is depressed seeing the person whom the entire Bharatbarsha considers a strong pillar of ancient chivalry fighting for outsiders. My king! I am a minor messenger – I might have lost my sense how I should talk to you – please forgive my audacity – but why is this display of warfare? Against whom did you assemble so many armed soldiers? To celebrate which event are these flags of victory raised? Is it going to liberate us? Is it going to ensure freedom for us? Is it going to accomplish the reputation of a Kshatriya? You are the guardian of the warrior clans. Please give this a thought.”

Jaswant Singh looked at him, “You are brilliant messenger.  Your words are touching my heart. But I am a subsidiary under the Emperor of Delhi. I came to fight against Maharashtra and will do my duty.”

Mahadeo: “And you vouched to slaughter hundreds of folks of own brotherhood. You ensure that one Hindu beheads another Hindu, one Brahmin stabs another Brahmin, and Kshatriya doesn’t protect anyone!”

His comments left Jaswant red-faced. His voice sounded harsh, “How shall I make friendship with your master, when everyone knows that he is a rebel – cunning Shivaji breaks his promise given one day readily on the next day?”

The emissary couldn’t stop himself from behaving outrageous, “Your Majesty! Please don’t criticize him like this! When did Shivaji break a promise made to own countrymen? Did he ever forget protecting countrymen? Hundreds of villages and thousands of temples in the country know him as protector. Please find out if he is not ready to provide shelter to Brahmins, support Hindus, or worship Gods. What ethics one should follow when engaged in war against foreigners? Where in this world the winner and the loser make friends? When an eagle catches a snake, the snake pretends to be dead; the moment eagle leaves it considering it dead, the snake bites it – is this treachery or only pretention for survival? Almighty taught all animals the way to self-defence. Didn’t he teach the same to human being? How do we build sincere bond of friendship with those who have stolen our freedom, destroyed our strength, honour, pride and morals? You mean pursuing an option to regain that treasured freedom and protect own faith a trickery? This is path of liberation. Can we define a stag’s fleeing for self-defence as revolt? The bird tries to distract attention of the attacker to save the chicks – is that blameworthy?”

The messenger’s emotion moved Jaswant. He sounded softer, “You are only an emissary; I didn’t mean to hurt you. I intended to ask why Maharashtra can’t guard own liberty showing courage in the battlefield as we do.

Mahadeo: “Rajput fights for freedom since ages. They are wealthy; reside in beautiful capital cities in the land surrounded by mountains and desert. You fight against enemies following your proven strategy when you are attacked; you show your bravery and skill developed since ages; the Mughal army retreats if they have to confront the vigorous Rajput force. We Maharashtrians have neither legacy, nor enough number of soldiers.What shall we do if the Mughals attack our land?  When the Emperor deploys his skilful armed force from Kabul, Punjab, Oudh, Bihar, Malav or even Rajasthan- the land of heroes, sends hundreds of unbeatable horses and elephants, brings together thousands of carriages carrying cannons, guns, loads of gunpowder, gold and silver coins, what option Maharastrians are left with? What else but following war-strategies suitable for the hilly areas would help us? The poor nation does not have any other go in the beginning of their journey. But yes, by the grace of God, once they earn wealth and expertise, they will also follow the path shown by Rajput.”

The power of the speech convinced Jaswant. His gesture of contemplating holding his forehead with palms assured Mahadeo that his words didn’t go in vain. He continued unhurriedly, “You belong to the best of the warriors; why are you doubtful about joining Shivaji? Both of you and Shivaji have same intension of upholding the reputation of the land. If you don’t find him suitable to support, please take up the responsibility on your own. Be the ruler of this land. Give an order- the gate of the forts will be opened instantly; the subjects will pay you the tax. You are thousand times stronger than Shivaji, thousand times more prudent than Shivaji, a thousand times preferable to him as ruler.  Shivaji will be happy to destroy foreign invaders being a commander under you. He doesn’t want anything else.”

The ambitious Jaswant was pleased with this proposal; but took time before answering, “The distance between Maharashtra and Rajputana is too wide to be ruled by a single ruler.”

Mahadeo: “Assign the responsibility to a worthy son of yours or engage one of your kinsmen in this task. Shivaji will work under a ruler from the Kshatriya clan, but will never fight against a Kshatriya.”

Jaswant: “I don’t have any relative who can protect this land confronting Aurangzeb.”

Mahadeo: “Deploy a Kshatriya commander then.”

Jaswant: “I don’t know any commander like that.”

Mahadeo: “Then please support the one who can take up the task. With your help, Shivaji will be able to take the reputation of own land to a new height. Everyone of this land, every deity from the sky will praise you for this.”

Jaswant found no other reason to disagree. He sounded serious. “You are right. I should fight same way Shivaji does for the land. When do you think I can meet your noble warrior?”

This was time for the person playing the role of a Brahmin to reveal his identity. He removed the Brahmin’s turban’ – a soldier’s helmet was seen under that; also the armour under his cotton vest. The Maharashtrian told, “My king, pardon me that I came here in disguise. I am not Brahmin, but a Maharashtrian Kshatriya. I am not Mahadeoji. I am Shivaji.”

The king Jaswant Singh looked at the legendary warrior astounded. It took moments for him to digest the reality of seeing the leader before him. He cheerfully embraced his apparent enemy who embraced him with respectful affection. There discussion continued rest of the night. A detailed war-plan was settled before Shivaji bid adieu. He requested bidding farewell before daybreak, “My king, it will be better if you keep yourself away from Puna tomorrow.”

Jaswant asked, “Why so? Are you going to capture Puna tomorrow?”

The warrior smiled, “No, we are going to celebrate a wedding. The presence of the King may hamper that.”

Jaswant: “Well, I will be far away then. but please remember what we have discussed.”

Shivaji: “I will tell my master Shivaji to act accordingly.”

Jaswant: “Oh yes, I forgot! Please tell your master to act accordingly.” He returned to his tent with a smile.

Shivaji said his goodbye and set off – satisfied that his power of speech had helped him gain a strong ally.

Continue reading “Love in the Battleground: Guest at midnight”

Love in the Battleground: Fire and fury

Flame of rage engulfed rebels at the dead of night.

Against the ruler they vowed to unite.

The emissary had to travel across a long route alone. City-dwellers fell asleep draped in the dense anonymity of the night. In that reign of silence, all on a sudden, he sensed something wrong – as if there was a sound of footsteps behind him. He stood motionless for some time, but couldn’t hear anything any longer.

Again he started walking; again he felt he was being followed by someone. The unseen follower annoyed him. Who could be the follower – a friend or foe? Did he identify him? Stopping for a moment to judge the situation, he pulled a sharp knife from under the sleeve of his cotton-padded shirt quietly. He kept on waiting at roadside gazing backwards, but could see none except the thick darkness; could hear nothing beyond the absolute silence.

He returned to the well-lit marketplace. That area was crammed with many shops. People from different business communities were trying to sell and purchase different varieties of goods. He sought to hide himself in that crowd. Again he entered into another narrow lane. Cutting through many lanes and by-lanes at a swift pace, he reached the end of the city – stood there rock-still for long holding his breath. All the roads and lanes and houses and palaces seemed dipped into stillness. The entire area was hidden under the dark attire of the night. He knocked a door nearby. A Maharashtrian soldier of Shaista Khan’s army came out. Together they walked towards a remote place within the city to discuss something in secret.

Mahadeoji: “Tell me about the preparation.”

Soldier: “Everything is ready.”

Mahadeoji: “What about permission letter?”

Soldier: “I collected one for ten musicians and thirty guards with weapon. They are not ready to allow more.”

Once again a faint sound of footsteps was heard. Mahadeoji’s eyes flashed. He jumped forward with his knife in hand; but returned after some time being unable to trace anyone. “Hope you didn’t come empty handed?” – he asked.

The soldier pulled a knife from under his chaste-shield to show him. Mahadeoji continued: “Well done, forty is more than enough. The procession with the groom will start from this side. Invite as many friends and relatives as possible. When is the wedding going to take place?”

Soldier: “One at night.”

The emissary smiled, “Good, I will be priest performing the rituals. The Grand wedding will be remembered as an historical event forever.”

An arrow shot from somewhere struck his chest before he finished. It could end his life if he didn’t wear an iron-shield under his cotton shirt. The arrow displaced. But within a moment, a spear hit him. Though it couldn’t pierce his strong armour, he fell down on the ground as an effect. He got up – only to find a tall Mughal warrior with an open sword in hand standing before him – it was Chand Khan.

The Commander Shaista Khan humiliated Chand Khan. Khan, who had spent long in the warrior’s profession, had been deeply hurt by the criticism. He decided not to express his anguish to anyone, instead take revenge doing something heroic. The emissary’s behaviour in the court made him suspicious. He could not believe a vigorous leader like Shivaji whose devotion to Hindu identity and desire for establishing a Hindu empire became a myth, had requested for a treaty surrendering before the Mughal in the beginning of the war. Who could be the Brahmin emissary whom the great leader had issued an authorization letter?

Also the messenger’s conducts were not beyond suspicion. His eyes flamed in anger when Shaista Khan criticized Maharastrians. With an intension to capture the deceiving messenger instead of inviting rebuke in the court again, he kept on following him keeping a distance through the roads and lanes and by lanes – not missing the target even for a moment. The dialogue between the emissary and the soldier helped astute lieutenant figure out the entire story. He planned to show own competence by taking the life of the emissary and presenting the captured soldier before his commander.

6th photo part

The time when Chand Khan sacrificed own life to fulfil the duty of a warrior, his superior Shaista Khan was probably dreaming of defeating Shivaji through a peace-treaty!

Continue reading “Love in the Battleground: Fire and fury”

Love in the Battleground: Emissary brings peace-proposal

Empire and its welfare kept the Nawab occupied –

Lost in thought even in the middle of the night.

Nawab_Sháyista_Khán

The Emperor didn’t take an attempt to bring Shivaji under control before 1662 though the rebel leader continued expanding his territory. Number of captured forts under this Maharashtrian leader’s prowess was growing. Finally Shaista Khan, a commander who was awarded the title Amir Ul-Umra along with the regional rulers’ position of southern India, received the order to overpower Shivaji from Mughal Emperor. He conquered Puna, Chakan and some other forts that year. Next year, by the time this story evolved, he was planning to uproot Shivaji from Western India. Jaswant Singh, the eminent king of Marwar, joined Shaista Khan in 1663 leading a large force. This brought a grave threat to Shivaji.  The joint force of Mughal and Rajput army assembled near Puna. Shaista Khan was staying in the same mansion of Dadoji Konddeo where Shivaji spent his childhood with his mother. Khan, aware of Shivaji’s strategies, issued an order that no Maharashtrian could enter Puna without valid permission. Shivaji with his armed force was staying in a nearby fort named Sinhagad. Maharastrians could not adapt themselves well to warfare till then; confronting the well-trained Mughal army was not quite possible for them. Shivaji found no other option to defend freedom and expand the Hindu empire but using some clever tactic.

It was an evening at the end of Chaitra month. The mighty commander called his deputies and ministers to discuss strategies to ensure victory over Shivaji. Bright lamps illuminated entire space inside the mansion. Fresh evening breeze was carrying the fragrance of flowers from the garden outside.

Anwari, an outspoken flatterer in the Durbar claimed, “The Maharashtrian force will fly away like dry leaves before strong wind if they are to face our armed force – or horrified, they will hide inside the earth”.

Chand Khan, an old army commander who was observing the Maharashtrian dexterity since many years responded, “I think, they have both the skills.”

Shaista Khan: “Why are you telling that?”

Chand Khan: “My Lord may remember how it took long two months to capture the fort of Chakan removing a few of their hill-tribes using our large force. So many of us lost their lives on the way to conquer only one fort! Again this year, irrespective of our deploying armed force everywhere, Nitaiji dispersed Ahmednagar and Aurangabad – without our knowledge!”

Shaista Khan: “Chand Khan is getting old. Seems he is scared of the mountain-rats. He was not like this before!”

The humiliation reddened Chand Khan’s face. He didn’t want to respond.

Anwari: “The Master said it! Maharastrians are like rats. Who would deny that they have the skill to enter the holes underground like mountain-rats?”

Chand Khan: “Hope the mountain-rats wouldn’t come out digging up holes underneath Puna.

Shaista Khan: “Here we have thousands of sharp-nailed cats from Delhi; rats won’t be able to harm us all on a sudden.”

The Commander’s wit amazed all courtiers. They found the ritual of ridiculing Maharashtrians more amusing than discussing warfare. Shaista Khan considered conquering other forts quiet impossible before capturing Chakan. He threw an idea of capturing all forts one by one and driving Shivaji’s army away. He complained, “Why can’t we first defeat them in battle and then chase those fleeing rats? Don’t we have an efficient cavalry? Can’t we destroy their entire army chasing them?”

Chand Khan could not resist intervening, “My lord! We will certainly clinch victory in war, and will destroy their army if able to catch them. But no other cavalier in Hindustan can catch a Maharashtrian cavalier chasing him in this hilly district. Our horses are large; the rider carrying heavy weapons is excellent in the plain – in fact vigorous and unstoppable there, but their movements are obstructed in these mountainous tracts.  Small local horses with riders jump on hilltops like mountain-goats and flee through the valleys and narrow mountain tracks like stags. My Lord, please let me suggest something. Shivaji is in Sinhagad; let us besiege the fort abruptly. We will be able to seize it within one or two months. Shivaji’s arrest will define our victory without difficulty! Stalling ourselves here does not make sense. What shall we get by tracking fleeing Maharastrians? See how effortlessly Netaiji ravaged Ahmednagar and Aurangabad crossing the route close by – Rustam Zaman couldn’t catch him!”

Furious Shaista Khan yelled at him, “Rustam Zaman committed treachery. He intentionally let Netaiji flee; I will punish him accordingly. Chand Khan! You dare going against war – do you mean the Emperor doesn’t have any gallant soldier in his army?”

Blasted terribly, the emotional old lieutenant did not have any other option but stopping. Shaista Khan wanted to continue but an attendant brought a message of an emissary’s arrival from Sinhagarh – a Brahmin named Mahadeoji Nyasastri from enemy camp came to meet the commander.

Mahadeoji entered the court in a slow pace. He was not yet forty. Dark and short like common Maharashtrian, he had a sharp face and wide chest. His forehead was marked with sandal pest, body covered with short cotton shirt. His turban was so large that half of his face was not properly visible under its shadow. Shaista Khan greeted him cordially before showing him his seat. He asked, “What’s news from Sinhagarh?”

Mahadeoji replied reciting a Sanskrit verse: “Santi nadyo danḍakeshu tathᾱ paῆchavatibane I \ Saryu-bichhedaṡokam rᾱghavastu katham mahet II – There are hundreds of streams in Dandakaranya and Panchavati forest, but does that help Raghav (Ram) forget the distress of staying away from the banks of river Saryu? Shivaji still controls Sinhagarh and many other hundreds of forts, but Puna is in your hand; how is it possible for him to forget that?”

Shaista Khan wanted to be sure of the identity of the Brahmin; demanded, “If you have come down to discuss a treaty, then please show me an evidence of your representing Shivaji.”

The Brahmin took out an authorisation letter from under his jacket showing a sincere gesture. The Commander, satisfied with the letter after minute checking, expressed his willingness to know his proposition. The emissary continued: “Our Master intends to tell you that waging war from our part is insensible since you have already won the first phase.”

Pleased Khan answered: “Yes your master can still save his life surrendering before the Emperor of Delhi.”

The Brahmin smiled slightly before uttering another verse: na ṡakto hi swᾱbhilᾱsam jῆᾱtayitunchᾱtakah I \ jῆᾱtvᾱ tu tat bᾱridharastoshayati yᾱchakam II – A swallow cannot speak its mind to the cloud, but cloud fulfils its desire by pouring showers showing own kindness. This is way superior expresses his greatness. The embarrassment of losing Puna and Chakan prevents Shivaji even from praying for a treaty. But whatever your kind of a great person would grant considering his prayer, will be accepted.”

Delighted Khan replied, “Your Sanskrit language is undeniably sweet and meaningful. Do you mean Shivaji is looking for a treaty?”

The Brahmin uttered: “Kesharinah pratᾱpena bhayabidagdhachetasah I \ Trᾱhi deva trᾱhi rᾱjan-iti brubanti bhucharᾱh II – Our only intention is to save our lives. We are terrorised by the brandishing threat posed by the invincible army of the mighty Emperor. My master is keen to propose a treaty and requests for letting us know the conditions the Emperor of Delhi intends to impose for the treaty. He will take care of those.”

Shaista Khan: “Good. First he will have to surrender before the Emperor of Delhi. Secondly, the forts captured by the Emperor of will remain under his control. Thirdly, you will have to hand us Sinhagarh and some other forts. Is your master ready to accept that?”

Mahadeoji: “I do not have the right to take a decision for my master and disclose. I will only carry the message to him. But please tell me which other forts you want.”

Shaista Khan: “We will let you know that in couple of days. Fourthly, the forts and provinces Shivaji will retain must be taken care of as a subsidiary under the Emperor of Delhi. He will have to pay tax for those. Communicate you master all these conditions. We expect an answer within a few days, whether he agrees or disagrees.”

Mahadeoji: “I will do as My Lord orders. Let me place another request, Sir! We would be obliged if battle is suspended for the time being while an agreement of treaty is being prepared.”

Shaista Khan: “Not at all! I do not trust tricky rogues. There’s no act of trick in the world they cannot play. Battle is to continue till the treaty is signed. We will cause damage to your establishments as much as we can; you do the same as extensively as you can.”

The Brahmin bid adieu uttering “Ebamstu” (So be it). Did anyone notice the sudden flash of rage in his eyes?

He hastily disappeared in the crowd of thickly populated city of Puna.

Continue reading “Love in the Battleground: Emissary brings peace-proposal”

Love in the Battleground: Cupid takes aim

Could you comfort me my friend! I couldn’t see her well,

Like thunderbolt passing through cloud, wrapped in veil.

Half her body covered by loose end of her clothing;

Half her face was smiling; her eyes half-sparkling.

Her presence made cupid love struck

The fair lady moves like a golden vibe of luck.

O God, her beauty trapped me obsessed –

Her pearl-teeth those sensuous lips braced.

Vidyapati laments over his pain in despair,

While eyes cannot satisfy his heart’s desire.

Utka_Nayika._A_lady_awaits_her_lover_in_the_forest._1775-1780._Kangra,_British_Museum,_London

Raghupati decides to visit the temple of Goddess Bhavani built by Shivaji after conquering the fort. A devout Brahmin from Amber was invited to carry out the services of the priest. Asking for the Goddess’s blessing before taking all vital decisions regarding military operations is a ritual for the leader. He walks towards the temple in youthful ecstasy.

The sun is about to set. The white marble temple in the backdrop of a small garden looks elegant in the faint radiance of the twilight. Raghupati decides to wait for the priest sitting on a flat stone in the flower garden outside.

Within minutes he finds something surprising – a young girl plucking flowers at a distance! The cloths of the girl reveal her native to be Rajputana – not Maharashtra. His heart elates seeing a girl from own land that he had left long ago. His characteristic introversion stops him from talking to her, but cannot disallow his eyes gazing at the girl sitting on the same stone. More he watches, more he gets intrigued by her youthful charm.

Her thick black silky hair falls on her back. A pair of large eyes made her vivid face even more vibrant. The perfect pair of her eye-brows looks as if drawn by a painter’s brush, beautifying her forehead. Her lips are thin and red; roundish arms adorned with golden bangles. The purple sky above enhances the golden glow of her skin. A long chain adorns her young neck and chaste. And the young warrior cannot stop observing the beautiful Rajput girl in this gorgeous twilight.

As she finishes plucking flowers, she looks up – only to discover a tall young Rajput sitting little far giving her a steadfast gaze. She blushes – she bows her head in obeisance. She looks at him again, sees the warrior holding a spear in hand and a sword hanging from the waist still waiting – his wide forehead and bright eyes partially covered by few tufts of hair. The bashful girl – surprised seeing a handsome person looking at her, hurries towards home with her flower-basket in hand, as if trying to run away from the desirable man.

Raghupati wakes up all on a sudden. Mystified, he enters the temple before meeting the priest.

The priest Janardandev is a descendant of a reputed priestly clan from Rajasthan. He came to the fort long back with his wife. The childless couple had adopted an orphaned girl child of a Kshatriya (warrior community) friend. On Shivaji’s invitation, the family shifted to the fort of Toran, the first fort the king had captured. After his wife passed away, the priest was left with no other object of affection but his adopted daughter. As Saryu grew into an exquisitely beautiful girl, other Brahmin residents of the fort started affectionately calling the father-daughter the incarnation of the hermit Kanva and Sakuntala*.

The middle-aged priest returns after some time. His tall built with wide chest and long well-formed pair of arms still looks strong. His shoulder is adorned with Upvit (sacred thread wore by Hindu Brahmin as mark of identity) and face with a pair of amicable eyes which is probably a mirror-image of his sacred heart and simple mind.

The priest enquires about Shivaji’s well-being. The soldier informs him about the forthcoming war. Handing the priest few gold coins he says, “The Master requested you to offer a Puja to Goddess Bhavani. He is determined to wage a war against Mughals. You know, no human can win without Goddess’ blessings.”

Janardan replies maintaining his usual calm: “The duty of our class of people is to protect our ancient belief – I will pray to the Goddess so that she favours Shivaji.”

Raghupati: “The Master has another request. He understands the outcome of the battle could be foretold. Only an astrologer with a good foresight like you can help him.”

Janardandev closes his eyes – opens after few moments and assures, “I will let the Goddess know this desire of Shivaji’s at night – you will get the answer in the morning.”

As the soldier prepares to leave thanking him, the priest asks: “I haven’t seen you in this fort before. Are you coming here for the first time today?”

Raghupati: “This is my first visit.”

Janardan: “Do you know anyone in this fort? Where are you going to stay?”

Raghupati: “I know no one; will spend the night somewhere inside the fort and go back in the morning.”

Janardan: “Why do you need to go through such a hardship?”

Raghupati: “With the grace of the Lord, that is not hardship for us – we often need to spend nights like this.”

Janardan: “Hardship is indeed inevitable during war, but today you need not undergo any. Take rest in this temple tonight; my adopted daughter will take care of your food. Carry the Goddesses’ message to Shivaji tomorrow morning.”

Raghupati’s heart suddenly starts beating faster. Is it a suffering, or a pain of pleasure? Who is the adopted daughter of Janardan? Is that the same beautiful Rajput girl he met in the garden?

 

*Mahabharata story

Continue reading “Love in the Battleground: Cupid takes aim”

Love in the Battleground: Belief leads to bravery

Body of his is covered with impenetrable amulet;

He carries quivers on shoulders and a bow on his left

His skin glowing like gold; the lotus-eyed has ears divine –

Where earrings like the master of the day, shine. 

750px-Mahratta_Light_Horseman 2nd chapter

Nature sometimes turns violent during rains in Konkan area. It is about to rain aggressively today evening. Long before sunset, dark impenetrable cloud overcast the sky. Shadows engulfed the entire hill-range and forests around. The mountains, valleys, forests and fields between the sky and earth are sinking into silence along – as if the whole world is dumbfounded, as if the hailstorm threatens all. The pathways on the nearby hills are still partially visible, but the hills with larger trees little far went dark. The shadow covers the valley below as well. The streams flowing down the hills are looking like silver strings in some places; elsewhere they too are hidden under the veil of darkness – only proving their presence by their jingling sound.

A lone cavalier is galloping fast through the mountain course. The cavalier’s mud-stained torso on the horse covered with froth and sweat gives an impression of his having crossed a long distance. He holds a spear in right hand, a sword tied with the waist, a shield on the left arm and the end of the bridle clutched by left hand. The tall and fair cavalier looks about eighteen. But hard labour under the scorching sun did burn his fair face already in this tender age. The well-built warrior’s face with wide forehead and bright pair of eyes shows his generous nature.

The sky is looking terrible. He glances at the sky couple of times and starts galloping faster. The tabdak-tabdak of horse-hooves continues echoing in the quiet hilly region. He is trying to run faster than the dreadful thunderstorm that is likely to hit the mountain range soon. As the wind starts blowing slowly filling the space between the trees and the hills with an intense hum, a few passionate claps of thunders are being heard. A few raindrops touch the dry lips of the young man. The weather is not at all suitable to trot. He should have waited somewhere on the way. But the young man seems not having much time to brood over. He is in a hurry to fulfil his duty. Probably he is working under a master unwilling to hear an excuse; or being a young enthusiast, he doesn’t have a habit of showing excuses.

A terrible storm breaks in the hill district. Crashing thunderbolts pierce the sky from one end to the other. The turmoil in nature till far is seen under frequent lightning. Loud thunder-strokes shatter the solemn silence of the endless hills hundred times. The roaring high wind creates commotion in the hills like a thousand giants on the run while the deafening sound of cracking trees fills the entire region. Water from the streams and water-falls began splashing out. Incessant rain widens water-falls and streams flooding the valley.

The cavalier doesn’t have any intention to stop; continues galloping with caution. The high wind almost throws him along with his horse downhill couple of times. Constantly beaten by the moving branches of the trees, his turban tore. A few drops of blood appear on his forehead, but the man with a goal keeps on riding forward.

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The sky comes out clear after a few hours of heavy rainfall. The freshly drenched trees at the hilltop under evening sunlight invite the cavalier like intriguing fairies.

The young man stops his horse as he arrives near the entrance of the fort. He looks at the foothills, pushing back his drenched hair from his wide forehead. The newly bathed dense greenery with endless number of trees between the hills is dazzling under clear golden sunlight.  The waterfalls, grown ten times their width, surge dancing from one peak to another showing utmost pride – how playful they look in the golden light! On the other side, the same sunlight breaks into various colours on the hilltops forming long rainbows. The clouds are still melting into rains over the distant hills.

The young man looks at the fascinating beauty of the nature for a moment; then hastily starts riding the road towards the fort. As soon as he enters the fort, the gate behind him bangs shut.

The gatekeeper tells amusingly, “You did not reach early anyway! You were to spend the night outside the fort wall if you were a little late.”

The young man replies, “No, I couldn’t be late. By Goddess Bhavani’s grace, I will keep my promise of delivering my master’s message to the fort-keeper tonight only.”

The fort-keeper, a trusted commander of Shivaji, was waiting for him. The leader sent him a letter explaining his plan of the forthcoming war against Delhi Emperor – the war strategies, the support the fort-keeper should provide Shivaji as well as other instructions. The depth in the face of the eighteen year old surprises him as he looks at the messenger. He starts shooting questions at him: “I guess you are Rajput – you are Raghupati, right? You look very young; hope you will not turn your back in adverse situations? How did you cross the distance between Sinhagarh to this Toran-fort so fast?”

The young man replies to all his questions politely.

Satisfied fort-keeper smiles at the end, “I shouldn’t have asked you; your built shows very well how much you can take to accomplish your task. Well, meet me again tomorrow morning. I will draft my letters in the meantime. Tell Shivaji that the Havildar he selected for the job is reliable!” Raghupati accepts those compliments nodding politely. His cloths are still wet and the wound on the forehead is still visible.

The fort-keeper heaves a sigh of relief after Raghupati left. Maintaining secrecy is essential to send confidential information to Shivaji. Anyway he doesn’t want to write a letter to avoid giving enemies a chance to snatch it from the carrier on his way back. Testing the reliability of messenger is important in such cases – whether it would be safe to communicate messages verbally through him; whether bribe would encourage him to reveal secret information to the enemy. Needless to say – the messenger passed the test.

Continue reading “Love in the Battleground: Belief leads to bravery”

Love in the Battleground: A Maharashtrian Saga

Ascending sun in the sky smiles –

Greeting you at the day-break.

Clap your hands in applause,

Offer him flowers standing by the lake.

Our story evolved in past, that too distant past. Who knows how was the life of common man in Maharashtra a few centuries back? We can only imagine. The abundance of historical monuments across the state carrying the sign of political turmoil triggers our imagination. We see in our mind’s eye – how people of a land facing threats from outside retained their identity.

Mohammed Ghuri conquered Northern part of India around the end of twelfth century AD. This group of Mohammedans were contented almost a century after acquiring that large tract of fertile land; did not take an attempt to conquer Southern part of India crossing the high barrier of mount Vindhyachal and the deep trench in form of Narmada river separating south from north. Finally, by the end of thirteenth century, Allauddin Khilji, another ambitious invader who wanted to spread his empire beyond northern India, overpowered the river leading an army of eight thousand soldiers. He besieged Devgarh, the capital of a Hindu State without warning them. The prince of Devgarh reciprocated leading his big armed force, but the Hindu battalion was defeated in the fierce battle. The king was forced to make a peace treaty paying large sum and a district called Ellichpur. Later, after Allauddin ascended Sultanate of Delhi, his commandant Malik Kafur attacked South India thrice, unsettled and to some extent devastated the area between Narmada to Kanyakumari.  Devgarh and other Hindu states were pushed to surrender to Mohammedans, then ruling power from Delhi.

In fourteenth century, Mohammed bin Tughlaq took an attempt to transfer his Capital from Delhi to Devgarh, and modified its name to Daulatabad. But his wild behaviour infuriated both Hindus as well as Islamics in south enough to revolt against the Emperor. Hindus established a large empire with Vijayanagaram as Capital while Islamics established a separate Islamic state in Daulatabad. In course of time, Vijayanagaram and Daulatabad became two major power-centres of South India. The Delhi Sultanate didn’t take up an effort to acquire that part of the country for another three hundred years.

Even though safe from Delhi’s aggression, having the Islamic Daulatabad as neighbour, southern Hindu states were not completely free from threat. Hindu cultural spirit was already seeing decay at that time. On the other hand, the Islamics were not only growing powerful but also started flourishing culturally. Following the rule of history of civilization, the mightier started wiping out the weak. Eventually, Daulatabad increased in size and then separated into three Islamic states – namely Bijapur, Golkonda and Ahmednagar. All three joined hands in a fight against Vijayanagaram and crushed that kingdom in the war of Talikota in 1564. The Hindu rule was thus extinguished in South. Being extensively dominant, Bijapur, Golkonda and Ahmednagar defeated all Hindu states in Karnat (Karnataka) and Dravida region over the course of time.

Again in 1590, Emperor Akbar took an effort to bring South India under Mughals. Khandesh and Ahmednagar were overpowered in his lifetime. His grandson Shahjahan got hold of entire Ahmednagar before 1636. Hence, by the time this story evolved, only Bijapur and Golkonda remained two independent dominant Islamic states in South.  All the others became part of Mughal Empire.

We need to understand the role of Maharastrians during these political turbulences. Hindus enjoyed a fair status even in the Islamic states of Bijapur, Golkonda and Ahmednagar. The administrative decisions of the Islamic states used to be determined following ancient Hindu law-books. Every state was divided into Sarkars and Sarkars into Parganas. True, mostly Islam followers ruled those Sarkars and Parganas, but tax was collected and sent to treasury principally by Hindus. Maharashtra is located in hilly region; numerous forts were built on the hilltops across the land. Islamic Sultans did not mind entrusting Hindus with the task of controlling those forts.  As a result, many Maharashtrian Killadars (fort-keepers) maintained their respective forts with the revenue earned from Jagir (estates) granted by the Islamic rulers. Apart from these fort-owners and Deshmukhs, Hindu Mansabdaars used to be recruited by Sultan. They led hundred, two-hundred, five hundred, one thousand or more number of soldiers. They were duty-bound to join hands in wars leading those soldiers whenever ordered by Sultan. Sultan granted them rent-free land to meet the expense of those soldiers.

Under Bijapur Sultanate, Chandrarao More was a commander of twelve thousand foot-soldiers. Directed by the Sultan, he conquered all kingdoms between rivers Neera and Barna; and the pleased master awarded him that tract of land as Jagir for a reduced tax rate. Chandrarao’s descendants, gaining the title “Raja”, ruled that territory till seventh generation after him. Similarly, Rao Naik Nimbalkar family ruled the Phaltan region for generations as Deshmukh. Influential Maharashtrian families ruled Mallari, Muswar, Kapusi, Mushola, Jatta and Wari regions as subsidiary under Bijapur Sultan. Engaging in fights against each other was not uncommon. Concept of welfare states didn’t develop widely in pre-colonial era. Every ruler had to establish power over own territory by militarising. Growth of many aspiring rulers within a family led to violent family-conflicts as well. That is reason most of the prominent royals in the hilly regions of Konkan and Maharashtra frequently kept themselves busy in combat against family members. Probably hostility appeared to be good omen to those feudal lords. Like exercise makes our body healthier and farmer, hard work, disturbance and disaster helped building the Maharashtrian stronger. That way the dawn in the life of Maharashtrian state brightened the Indian sky long before the arrival of Shivaji.

Jadhavrao and Bhosla were two prominent states under Ahmednagar Sultans. Jadhavraos of Sindh khed were principal politically dominant family in Maharashtra. Many consider them to be scions of the old royal family of Devgarh. Bhoslas did not stand exactly at the same level with Jadhavraos, but was no doubt another powerful clan. Shivaji’s mother came from the Jadhavraos and father from the Bhoslas.

Shivaji_by_Raja_Ravi_Varma 1st chapter

Let us go for a time travel across this region – Let us watch how history reveals its secrets before our eyes.

Continue reading “Love in the Battleground: A Maharashtrian Saga”