Monday 29 April 2013

The forgotten heroes and their forsaken descendents

Chatrapathi Shivaji (1630-1680) had with him a loyal and extremely skilled band of supporters who stood by him through thick and thin. Their tales of valour, devotion and single mindedness in protecting Shivaji and establishing a Hindu Rashtra are the stuff of legends and their names are even today recalled with awe and respect.
The exploits of these men have now become part of Indian folklore and legend. While we do have information about the descendents of Shivaji-his direct descendents continue to live in Satara and the 13th King, Udayanraje Bhonale, is he thirteenth descendent- there is little or no information about the descendents of Shivaji’s closest followers.
One of the first names that comes to our mind when we go through Maratha history is that of Baji Murarbaji Deshpande (17th century), a  general in the early reign of Shivaji. He is even today widely remembered for his stout defense of the Purandar fort ear Pune against the Mughal General Diler Khan, who accompanied Raja Jai Singh during the campaign.
Thus was in 1665 and Diler Khan, a Pathan, had camped outside the gigantic fort of Purandar. Baji was incharge of the fort and he had just 60 men at his command.
Undeterred by the massive Mughal strength,  Baji stormed the Mughal army, slaying 500 Pathans. The Mughal General stopped the battle midway and directly spoke to Baji, inviting him to join hands with him.
Baji refused and he was killed by an arrow shot by Khan himself. Sandip Potnis, a farmer near Pune, is proud of his ancestry tracing its roots to Baji.
Kaustubh Deshpande is a descendant of Shivaji's Kayastha commander Baji Prabhu Deshpande (1615-1660).  History says Baji Prabhu held off Bijapur General Siddi Jauda's or Siddi Jahaur’s forces for seven hours at the Pawakind mountain pass near Kolhapur, allowing Shivaji to escape. Baji Prabhu was wounded 47 times in the battle.
Today, Kaustubh, a computer professional, is trying to build a monument in his ancestral village Shind as homage to his ancestor. As can be expected , politicians and bureaucrats have shown scant  interest in building the memorial.
The descendants of Jiva Mahale, the bodyguard of Shivaji-who saved the Chatrapathi by killing Bijapur's General Afzal Khan-today lives in poverty. Balkrishna Sapkal, a descendant of Jiva, is paralysed and lives in poverty. A barber, he can no longer work and he lives in a small rented room with his wife near Kondivli
Ranojirao Ghorpade is a grandson of Shivaji's General Santaji Ghorpade.
Santaji belonged to the Ghorpade family and though his year of birth is not exactly known, it is generally put at 1660 AD. He along with his younger brother Bahirji accompanied Shivaji in his Karnataka campaign in 1678.
He was named by Shivaji on his death bed to be among six pillars of Maratha Empire who were tasked to carry out the war against Mughals and the Sultanates of Bijapur and Golconda and to save the Maratha kingdom at all costs. Santaji’s father Mhaloji died in the battle of Sangmeshwar while fighting the Mughals who then captured, tortured and killed Sambhaji.
Santaji’s descendent, Ranojirao, is a farmer in his ancestral village of Kapshi near Kolhapur.
Another farmer Dilip Singh Himmat Bahadur Chavan of Nigwe near Kolhapur is a direct descendent of Vithoji who earned the title of Himmat Bahadur from Shivaji's son Rajaram for his bravery against the Mughals.
Vithoji along with two other Generals Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav also known as Dhanaji Shambhusinha Jadhav (1650–1708) had almost captured Aurangzeb once. They had   once entered Aurangzeb’s camp, plundered it and cut off the penants at its gate.
Dhanaji’s descendent, Vikramsinhraje Jadhavrao, who is also the Raja of Malegaon Budruk near Baramati in Maharashtra, is a builder in Pune.
Jaywantrao Mohite, a retired professional, is the descendent of Hambirao Mohite who was the commander-in-chief of Shivaji's army after the Chatrapathi’s death in 1680. Mohite was the brother of Soyarabai, one of the Queens of Shivaji.
Krishnaraje Rajemahadik and his father Shilsinhraje are descendants of Shivaji's eldest son-in-law Harjiraje Rajemahadik. Even today, their haveli in Tarale near Satara has swords, daggers, spears, silverware and ancient covered carts used by women to travel. Shivaji had visited Tarale for his daughter Ambicabai's wedding.
Another forgotten hero is Balasaheb Jedhe who traces his lineage to Kanhoji Jedhe, the jagirdar of Kari near Pune who backed  Shivaji with 22 chieftains and soldiers in the battle against Afzal Khan.
In the battle of Yelburga in 1677, Kanoji's son Nagoji severed the trunk of the elephant on which Bijapur General Hussain Khan Miyana was riding. Nagoji was subsequently shot dead. Today, Jedhe and his four brothers share 70 acres of land and a haveli.
Padmasenraje Dabhade and his son Satyashil Dabhade are descendents of General Khanderao Dabhade who played a key role in extending Maratha power north of the Narmada during the reign of Shivaji's grandson Sahu.
The Dadhabes now live in a flat in Pune. One of their women ancestors Umabhai Dabhade, the daughter-in-law of Khanderao, led the Maratha Army and won a battle against the Mughals near Ahmedabad..
What we see here is that today’s politicians and governments are very adept at making promises and then conveniently forgetting them. The least they can do is to identify men and families that laid down their lives for the nation and honor them

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