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.

Sinhagad_Fort_in_maharastra

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.

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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?