After signing the treaty with Mughals having Jai Singh as mediator, Shivaji returned all the forts he captured from Mughals. The Emperor awarded Shivaji some territories from the state of Bijapur. Shivaji’s son, five year old Sambhaji was granted the role of a Mansabdar of five thousand soldiers.
This togetherness helped both Shivaji and Jai Singh as they started supporting each other in battlefields. A young havildar of Shivaji’s force became a frequent visitor in the home of a priest from Jai Singh’s land. The professional purpose of the young man’s visit to the priest was collecting information from him. The personal purpose was to meet his beloved, tell the father and daughter the tales of war – how they had attacked forts on inaccessible hilltops, raided enemy’s camp or engaged in fierce battles in dense forests. Warriors are passionate about their mission, especially when that is driven by a revolutionary vision. Establishing the Hindu empire was the vision that united so many gallant warriors under Shivaji. Young Raghupati was one of them who loved sharing the success of mission.
Shivaji aspired to capture a remote but strategically important fort, Vajragarh, located on the eastern side of the main fort of Purandar. He didn’t let anyone learn his plans of attacking forts beforehand though his camp was set close to Jai Singh’s – only few kilometres away from that mountain fort. One evening he ordered one thousand of his soldiers to march with him. In the middle of the pitch-dark night, he disclosed his idea of attacking the fort before them.
The fort was on the top of a hill surrounded by plain land. Only one road to reach the fort was closed to prevent sudden attacks by enemies. The stony hill was covered with trees and plants, making the fort inaccessible from all the other sides. Shivaji ordered his men to climb the steep stone walls – they started climbing like mountain-cats – sometimes playing acrobatics from one branch of large trees after another. They found some flat stones to place their feet couple of times, but mostly they had to keep on crawling. They crossed some ditches jumping. Only the Maharashtrian force was able to stage that kind of guerrilla attack in the country at that time.
His men crossed halfway upwards when The leader suddenly noticed a few torches on the turret of the fort above. He stopped – took time to judge whether the enemies could hear the sound of their movements. The way they lit the torches, those lit up till the end of the fort-walls below, as if they were aware of some people’s trying to cross the walls. Shivaji ordered his army to be more cautious while moving through the trees and rocks. Silently they were cutting through the darkness. Rainwater flowing from the hilltop made a kind of a canal with both its rocky sides guarding it. The leader had an idea of crawling through the canal with his men to ensure not catching attention of sentries. He took a deep sigh of relief after his team reached another row of trees at the end of the canal.
Suddenly a soldier, who was standing beside him, fell down – an arrow stuck to his chest; then came another that hit another of his soldiers. He saw rows of arrows, flying one after another from the fort turret towards his men. The enemies, being aware of their presence nearby, attacked first.
He stepped forward taking cover of that row of trees; ordered one hundred of his soldiers to move to the other side of the fort. Within moments – a big clamor was heard from that side along with sound of gunfire. Assuming Maharashtrian force attacked the fort from that side, the sentries ran towards that direction with their torches.
The darkness brought good scope for the armed force, which was waiting with Shivaji, to stage an attack – charged by encouraging slogans from the leader. It was past midnight, to Shivaji’s army, the best time to pounce on the fort. The thunderous Marathi troupe advanced. One part of them attempted to cross the wall while the others, hidden behind the trees started shooting quick arrows at the sentries. The sentries on the wall were not scared either. Some of them were shooting arrows at the enemies while some jumped on them with their swords.
A brutal ambush broke out around the trees below the wall. Dead bodies piled up on both sides of the wall. Warriors continued fighting standing on the corpses of their fellow-fighters. Hundreds of Afghan soldiers from inside the fort rushed towards the trees to take on the ferocious Maolis. Streams of blood flowed from the bushes, through the rocks and behind the trees. The skilled Maoli archers brought the number of fort-sentries down. A Rajput warrior jumped on the wall bending his spears, using it like a pole, making his way through the enemies. He threw one sentry out, stood on the enemy’s flag, killed the flag bearer and then, yelled to announce his achievement. The thundering battle cry “Long Live Shivaji” shattered every one of the hostile sides. This was Raghupati Havildar.
The combatants lost themselves for a moment as they looked at the tall man on the wall. His iron headgear was shining in the light of the stars; strong arms soaked in blood. The man holding a long spear looked like the god of war, who might have come down on the wall from heaven.
The Afghans took only a moment to come back into sense. They ran towards the wall from all sides. Raghupati was excellent fighter with sword and spear, but fighting against over a hundred people was not possible after all. His colleagues, seeing his vigorous act, hurried to help him there. They jumped on the wall like a gang of tigers engaged to protect him. They gathered in tens, fifties and then in hundreds, distorted the Afghans by efficiently using knives and swords, cleared their way and raised their war-cry in a high pitch – high enough to be heard by all enemies in the fort.
As Shivaji and Tannaji jumped inside the fort from the wall, all their soldiers accompanied them. Shivaji arrived at the fort-keeper’s palace in a lightning speed. His force surrounded that strongly built palace and slaughtered all sentries there. Shivaji yelled at the fort-keeper inside “Open the door or I will set fire!” The unshakable Afghan replied, “We prefer to be burnt in fire than opening the door to a Kafir!”
The soldiers immediately started setting the doors and windows in fire. Fire engulfed the main door, windows, roofs and then the entire palace rising towards sky making a roaring noise. The fierce army of Shivaji conquered the unbeatable Mohammedan fort.
The fort-keeper, Afghan Rahamat Khan did fight valiant to embrace the death of a hero. As the palace was blazing in fire, he jumped on the ground along with his companions and began swordfight. At the end Shivaji’s vigorous soldiers wounded Rahamat Khan who continued fighting even after all other Afghan fighters had perished. The moment Maolis raised their swords to assassinate him, Shivaji’s voice was heard, “Do not kill the fort-keeper, arrest him!” The Afghan’s sword was snatched from his hand and he was tied up.
Maharashtrian were engaged in dousing the fire and Shivaji noticed a large army of well-armed Afghan soldiers climbing the road towards fort like a dark flock of cloud. In the beginning of war, when Shivaji sent one hundred of his soldiers to make noise in the other side of the fort, they went to counter them. The Marathas started fleeing, but those Afghan soldiers chased them till the foothills and slaughtered almost all of them. They were not aware of the fort’s being captured by Marathas. He planned strategy to counter them within moments; asked the soldiers, “Who among my havildars is capable of defeating enemies in this dark night leading only two hundred soldiers?”
Several havildars stood up to catch his attention. Raghupati also stood, but didn’t talk. Taking a glance at all of them he turned to Raghupati, “Well, you are youngest of all. You started conquering the fort today – you only finish it.”
Raghupati bowed before making a swift and silent move. He completed the task he accepted positioning his soldiers on the fort wall well. Their war cry “Hara Hara Mahadeo” made Afghans make out the impossibility of recapturing the fort. Quickly turning back they hurried downwards. Chasing Maolis started butchering them using knives and swords. Raghupati’s voice came from the top of the fort, “Let the absconders escape. Don’t kill them. Obey Shivaji’s instructions.” The battle was over. Rest of the Afghans ran away from the hills.
Ensuring safety in every corner of the captured fort, the havildar went to Shivaji to deliver him the good news.