Subedar Taanaji Malusare was a superior general and a man of iron will in the army of Chhatrapati Shivaji and also one of his dearest friends. He is most popularly remembered for the Battle of Singhagad in 1670 where he fought against Mughal fort keeper Udaybhan Rathore, a formidable Rajput warrior, until his last breath. Malusare’s martyring paved the way for his men to fight with renewed vigour fuelled by their rage and defeat the enemy that outnumbered them vastly.
Battle of Sinhagad: In 1665, the Treaty of Purandar required Shivaji to give up the Maratha fort Kondhana to the Mughals. Kondhana, located near Pune, was one of the most heavily fortified and strategically placed. It was garrisoned thereafter by Rajput, Arab and Pathan troop guards of the Mughals, such that it was all but impenetrable. The very capable commander at the helm of it was Udaybhan Rathore, appointed by Mughal Army chief Jai Singh I.
The idea of Mughals taking control of the fort was deeply disturbing and enraging to Shivaji’s mother Rajmata Jijabai. The conquest was considered virtually impossible but her decision was made. Upon knowing that her wish was unrelenting and set in stone, Shivaji entrusted Taanaji, the only man he could think of capable of finishing this dangerous mission — to reconquer the fort Kondhana, at any cost. So Taanaji rallied his troops of 1000 mavals and marched towards the fort in February 1670.
The fort had only two doors. The siege by Taanaji’s men was laid from the south side of the fort where there was only a deep cliff and no guards. According to legend, Taanaji had brought along with his pet ghorpad, or monitor lizard, that can cling to rocks. Rope was tied around it and the lizard was made to climb up the cliff, which set the ropes for the soldiers to climb.
The Maratha surprise attack was immediately responded to by outnumbering enemy forces, but Taanaji wasn’t the one to accept failure. A historic swordfight took place between Rathore and Taanaji. The two bravehearts clashed for a long while and it ended with Malusare losing his life. Enraged by the death of their general, the Marathas fought under the leadership of his brother, Suryaji Malusare, and vanquished the enemy.
The Maratha’s impossible victory did not result in a celebration. Shivaji was deeply saddened by the loss of his beloved commander and childhood friend, and he renamed the fort — Singhagad (Lion Fort). He has been noted to have famously said, “Gad ala pan Sinha gela.” (“The fort has come, but the lion is gone.”)