Maratha Forts - Part II

Exact Match

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The Purandar fort By the time he was 19, Shivaji was well of an age to avenge the injustice, as he saw it, done to his father and grandfather by the Mughals in depriving them of their swarajya or homeland, and he began with the capture by bribery of the fort at Torna. With the treasure he won there, Shivaji set about building the fort that would become the capital of Maharashtra, Raigad; before its completion he had also by devious means retaken Sinhgad and Purandar. Shivaji built over 100 forts. 

This work, the wars he waged and the armies he maintained were costly affairs, and in order to finance and achieve supremacy over the Mughals, Shivaji initiated a system of revenues and administration that in his day bore hard on the Marathas' enemies and later, when the Marathas were split into rival groups, also proved a bitter burden on their own people. These 'land Vikings' exacted a payment, the famous Maratha chauth, of one quarter of the revenue assessment of any land they could dominate.

Where they could not dominate they plundered in fierce combined attacks of cavalry and infantry. In 1657 Shivaji made a night attack on Junna during its Mughal occupation and successfully made off with considerable booty, including 200 horses. That year he also attempted to win back his birth place, Shivneri, but was beaten off: its rough, steep path is guided by seven gates with bastions, and battlemented walls. Seven years later Shivaji made two attacks which brought down on him and his people the protracted vengeance of Aurangzeb, who had by now emerged victorious from the imperial wars of successions, and was the Emperor. 

His determination to win Deccan would in any case have entailed conflict with the Marathas, but this was precipitated in 1664 when Shivaji sacked the Mughal port of Surat, with its rich factories and trading centers belonging to the European merchants. The population suffered cruelly: those who were captured and refused to submit the whereabouts of their treasures had the information extracted by hideous mutilation before death. Several months earlier, Shivaji had raided Pune, snaring Shayasta Khan, the Mughal viceroy, in his harem, and inflicting many casualities. The viceroy escaped. 

Aurangzeb intended to punish Shivaji's effrontery and the following year sent his Rajput general, Jai Singh of Amber, to besiege the Maratha chieftain at Purandar, about 20 miles from Poona. In fact, it was the very presence of the defensive Vajragad that proved Purandar's undoing, commanding as it did one of the outer fortifications of the upper fort. The Mughal army captured Vajragad, then, building siege towers to mount their heavy guns, they raked the principal defences. Even though his artillery hammered back strike for strike and the outcome of the battle looked by no means a certain Mughal victory, Shivaji decided to come to terms. He ceded 23 forts, including Sinhgad, retaining only 12 forts as the Maratha homeland. In 1667, Aurangzeb conferred the title Raja on his erstwhile enemy.


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