Battle of Sinhagad [UPSC History Notes]

The Battle of Sinhagad has been in the news recently, as its 350th anniversary was celebrated last year. Further, the valour and courage of the great Maratha Commander Tanaji Malusare has inspired a host of creative work, documentaries in the form of cinematic expressions, albeit with twists. 

The epic war was fought sometime in 1670 and is known as the Battle of Sinhagad. It was fought between Tanaji Malusare, a Maratha commander, and Udaybhan Rathore, a fort keeper under Jai Singh I.

The stories of military conquest, expeditions, the valour and courage of the commander standing in face of adversity as significant as the insurmountable cliff of the fort, has been a topic of interest for citizens.

In this article, we shall be discussing aspects of the battle of Sinhagad, its importance and further implications. Further, this article covers other important dimensions,  keeping in mind the demands of the preliminary as well as the main examination of the IAS Exam.

Interested candidates can read about some other prominent battles of Modern Indian History from the links provided below: 

What is the Background of the Battle of Sinhagad?

  • The Mughals in their continued pursuit to expand the territories wanted to win Bijapur and Golconda, at the same time recognizing the Maratha to be a force to take notice of.
  • In 1665, as Mughal forces led by the Rajput commander Jai Sinh I besieged Shivaji at the Purandar fort in Deccan, the latter was forced to sign the Treaty of Purandar.
  • This treaty was not a surrender of Shivaji to Mughal imperial might, but the result of extended negotiation which reflected the power realities of Maharashtra and Jai Singh’s overall strategy for the conquest of Bijapur and Golconda.
  • Under the agreement, Shivaji had to hand over important forts to the Mughals, including Purandar, Lohagad, Tung, Tikona, and the strategically important  Sinhagad (then called Kondana), except 12 of his forts.
  • Of all the forts surrendered to Jay Singh, the most important was doubtless Sinhagad, for it was looked upon as the capital of the western regions and a key in the hands of those who had to govern them. Purandar ranked next to it. 
  • That is why Jay Singh had insisted that Sinhagad should be the first to be handed over by Shivaji personally. It is believed that the one who possessed Sinhagad was the master of Poona.
  • As part of the treaty, Shivaji had agreed to visit Agra to meet the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, which he did in 1666. 
  • Shivaji was placed under house arrest but was able to make a daring escape back to Maharashtra. 
  • Upon his return, Shivaji began to recapture the forts ceded to the Mughals under the treaty.
  • Back in the Deccan, Shivaji did not immediately attack the moguls. Quite to the contrary, the following three years were of peace with moguls.
  • He recognized that a Mughal army raised in the line of Jay Singh would once again overwhelm the forces available to him.
  • The peace broke down in the fall of 1669. The immediate provocation was Mughal demand for recovery of the costs of the Sivaji trip to Agra.
  • Shivaji launched rapid attacks to recover the lost forts in his claimed territories. The first and foremost spectacular success was the capture of Sinhagad.

Where is the Sinhagad fort located?

  • Sinhagad Fort is located  25 km away from Pune on a hill 1290 m high. 
  • It was built more than 2000 years ago 
  • It was once known as Kondana and occupied a strategic location on the Sahyadri Mountains

 What were the Challenges of the Battle?

  • It was well known to the Maratha that the fort could not be taken by any other means than by his brave soldiers scaling the walls.
  • It was taken by scaling very difficult walls by means of roof ladders at night which culminated in hand-to-hand combat inside the Fort, stealthily walking in, opening the main gate.
  • Once the Main Gate was opened, units of the Maratha storming party could rush in. 
  • Sinhagad is the only fort invulnerable to artillery: there is no room where guns could be brought into position for a bombardment of it. 
  • All the sides are steep, upon one of which a narrow path now leads to the main gate for communication with the outside world.

What happened on that fateful night?

  • To retake Kondana (Sinhagad), the Marathas deputed Tanaji Malusare, a trusted general of Shivaji, and his brother Suryaji. 
  • A large number headed by Suryaji remained concealed near the main gate, and Tanaji himself with his selected followers scaled the walls riding an iguana and opened the gates by putting to the sword the few sentries that came out to oppose him.
  • In the early hours of February 4, 1670, Tanaji with around 300 soldiers successfully captured the fort but lost his own life. 
  • A sanguinary action ensued in which both sides lost heavily, including their leaders Tanaji and Uday Bhan.
  • The fort was captured, and a huge bonfire announced the result to Shivaji at Rajgad.

What were its future implications?

  • Halted the victory and thereby the interest of the Mughal as they tried to exert control over Bijapur and Golconda.
  • Within six months of the capture of the fort Sinhagad, Maratha forces had taken four more forts- Purandar, Rohida, Lohagad, and Mahuli of immense strategic importance.
  • Helped in further expansion of the Maratha interests of the state and geopolitics.

Conclusion

The Sinhagad battle is a prominent battle not only in Maratha rule but also in Indian history, vis-à-vis the consolidation of Mughal rule. The bravery and valour of the greats who laid their lives in defence of their motherland shall always discover themselves as inspiration in popular belief and among citizens.

Not only did the king recognize the contribution, but he also changed the name of the fort to ‘Sinhagad’ in honour of the general. A bard named Tulsidas was commissioned to write a ‘powada’ (ballad) for Tanaji, and this literary work continues to be popular in Maharashtra.

This article is relevant for the Modern India sections of the UPSC syllabus prescribed for the Preliminary and Main Examination of Civil Services Examination. 

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