Battle of Pavan Khind
We all know the Great Battle of Thermopylae. Where 300 hundred Spartans along with 7000 Greeks held out against 200,000 Persians for over 3 days. But what if I tell you, a similar war took place in India?
And on a ratio scales might actually be even bigger than the battle of Thermopylae!
Now what will you say?
In desperate times, great men come forth. Those men who are ready to sacrifice all of their lives work for a single cause.
Those men who do not hesitate to even give their lives for their true purpose.
Baji Prabhu Deshpande is one such man. His battle in the valley of Ghod pass has become legendary in western India.
Or should I Say, Battle of Pavan Khind (Holy pass)
Battle of Pavan Khind was a Last stand that took place on 13 July 1660 at a mountain pass in the vicinity of fort Vishal gad. It is near the city of Kolhapur, Maharashtra, in India.
Battle was between the Maratha Warrior Baji Prabhu Deshpande and Sidi Masoud of Adil Shahi Sultanate.
The engagement ending with the destruction of the Maratha forces, and a tactical victory for the Bijapur Sultanate, but failing to achieve a strategic victory.
Status prior to battle
No one could have thought that a simple young man, a mere son of a warrior general under the Bijapur Sultanate could form a kingdom of his own.
His daring raids and network of spies always kept the Bijapur soldiers at their toes. His warrior spirit could only be matched by his diplomacy as he would win many forts even without shedding a drop of blood.
Again, and again the Maratha flag started to fill the fortifications that once were considered under the Bijapur sultanate.
Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was different after all.
The then ruling dynasty were called the Adil Shahi’s and Shivaji had inflicted embarrassing defeats upon them.
Now here’s the thing, The Adilshahis and the Mughals were often at odds with each other, but in this case, they were aligned together with the joint purpose of crushing the overly audacious and clever Shivaji.
The two great kingdoms who were once at war with each other joint forces simply because one man was too much to handle for them.
In 1660, the Maratha King Sri Chhatrapati Shivaji was trapped in the fort of Panhala, under siege and vastly outnumbered by an Adilshahis army led by an Abyssinian named Sidi Masoud.
So, the stage is set.
And while everyone is thinking that finally the Maratha king will be subdued, Shivaji planned to escape to the fort of Vishalgadh. It was administered by a Maratha chieftain named Range Narayan Orpe under Shivaji.
For months the siege warfare continued as Shivaji made sure that the food source of the Besieging army drops down, due to which they will initiate a general assault on the castle.
Shivaji, Baji Prabhu, and around 600 of their best troops, hardened mountaineers of the Maval region, would dash through the Adilshahis force at night.
A man named Shiva Kashid, who resembled Shivaji in appearance, had volunteered to dress like the king and get captured.
It was envisaged that this would buy some additional time due to the confusion over identity, before Sidi Masoud realised the error and gave chase.
Sidi Masoud had hoped to see Shivaji with a surplus amount of resources in the castle, but all he could find was just a few men, and a barren fort.
Not with his men hungry, frustrated and wanting revenge, the Ethiopian ordered them to Harass the retreating Maratha with all their rage.
Shivaji made his escape on the dark night of 13 July, with his contingent of troops along with Baji prabhu’s.
With less than 600 they raced through the forest to reach Vishalgadh. But as the night time grew, Shivaji realised that it will be impossible for them to out run a large Adil Shahi army.
Along with the multiple garrisoning castles of the Mughal empire in the region will make it impossible to cut through
The only option was for a section of the Marathas to stay back and fight the larger Adilshahis forces in a rear-guard action, while the rest of the Marathas would carry on to their destination.
Shivaji decided that this was the inevitable choice and split his forces.
Baji Prabhu Deshpande agreed to face the troops of Bijapur with 300 soldiers of the contingent.
Shivaji told Baji Prabhu that he would hear the cannon fire from Vishalgadh (the destination fort), signalling Shivaji’s safety. The strategic position of Ghod Khind (Horse Pass) was chosen for the defence.
It was very narrow and only a few soldiers could pass at any one time.
Shivaji had hoped that once he reached his safe headquarters, Baji will soon follow. What he didn’t know was that this would be the last time he will see his good friend.
Bajiprabhu Deshpande occupied Ghod Khind, blocking the path of the pursuers, and made a determined defence against them.
His brother Fulaji Prabhu as well as sardars such as Shambusing Jadhav were present with him.
His bowmen climbed atop the low steep hills ready to shoot their arrows on the enemy. On a tactical basis Baji Prabhu had chosen a great spot.
A small valley would nullify the oncoming armies’ great numbers, and as his archers had already secured the hill, their flank was safe.
The approaching Adil Shahi army initiated a full head on assault. With the rage of men possessed the Maratha counter charged.
But the Marathas were no lesser than their Spartan counterparts
Swords clashed, spear shafts broke, men tumbled down.
Fighting was too tiring to continue for more than some minutes hence they fought in short burst like a boxing match.
Tackling then retreat, tackling then retreat.
But despite all this, the great number of the Bijapur Army showed signs of victory.
Fulaji Prabhu and Shambusing were killed after a gallant and fierce fights. Baji Prabhu was severely wounded but carried on fighting at his station.
The Adilshahi army desperately tried to break through the defences of the pass, but were repeatedly repulsed.
The archers atop the valley knocked loose arrow after arrow and when the gunner’s bullets were finished, they fought with their bare hands.
The unequal battle raged for hours, with the defenders maintaining their positions, but with rapidly depleting numbers.
Only a handful of Marathas survived, and around a thousand soldiers of the Adilshahi army became casualties in attempting to take the pass.
According to legend, Baji Prabhu was shot three time but still kept fighting as he wielded two heavy swords while using his own body as a wall of shield.
Five hours after the battle started, the cannon fire announcing Shivaji’s safe return to Vishalgadh was heard. Almost three hundred Marathas had been killed.
Down to the man they gave their lives.
Legend has it that a gravely injured Baji Prabhu continued engaging the enemy and held the pass, only laying down his life once he heard the sound of cannon fire.
The handful surviving Marathas then retreated and disappeared in the forest as per the plan.
On the other hand, Shivaji and his 300 soldiers had to break through the encirclement of Suryarao and Jaswantrao at Vishalgadh, who were the two local Maratha warriors under the Bijapur sultanates army.
A fierce battle ensued in which Shivaji himself fought wearing Dandpatta in his both hands.
Seeing this fight, the commander of Vishalgadh fort sent help to Shivaji enabling him and his troops to reach the fort safely.
Shivaji then fired cannons as a signal for Baji Prabhu to retreat.
Shivaji’s plan was successful. Having made his way to Vishalgadh, Range Narayan Orpe had fresh troops at his disposal.
These troops were being fed and watered, they were strong and heavily motivated to take revenge on the Adil Shahi army.
As they marched forth, they devasted Sidi Masoud’s contingent, routing the entire force. The local bards tell the tale that the green valleys of the forests turned red due to blood.
It is said that Shivaji’s mother sri Jijabai wept at the news of Baji’s death, Shivaji himself went to the village of his slain friend and appointed his son in his army.
The defence of the pass of Ghod Khind by about 300 Marathas led by the Baji Prabhu Deshpande was renamed “The Battle of Pavan Khind” which in Marathi means “The Battle of the Sacred Pass”.
“The defence…,” says historian Dennis Kincaid, in his book Shivaji the Grand Rebel “has become legendary in Western India.
The action is remarkable as an example of the spirit which Chhatrapati Shivaji’s leadership infused into his followers.”
Just like the battle of thermopily, the defence of the 300 Maratha is a tale that can never be forgotten.
Ballads and poems have been composed in his memory, some of which are still sung today.
Sri Aurobindo, the great yogi, mystic and revolutionary of the 20th century wrote a poem dedicated to Baji Prabhu.
This was used as a symbol to capture the spirit of sacrifice that was required of the young men in India’s freedom struggle which was then under way.
Historian Jadunath Sarkar describes the incident in his book “Chhatrapati Shivaji and His Times’
Ballads are still being sung, his legacy is still being preserved and people haven’t forgotten the sacrifice of the great Baji Prabhu.
We haven’t forgotten you.
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