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Thread: To The Memory Of A Lion

          
   
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    To The Memory Of A Lion

    Tanaji Malusare was Shivaji's childhood friend
    and companion at arms. He was very brave and
    daring. Shivaji proudly called him his Sivnha or
    Lion. Tanaji had planned and fought many a battle by the side of his leader. They were determined to free their land from Mughal domination.
    Tanaji lived in the small town of Umratha. One
    morning, Umratha wore a festive look. Colourful
    bunting fluttered in the streets. There was a
    Mangal Kolas* at every door. Tanaji's son was
    to be married that day. People went in and out
    of his house, busy running errands.
    Just then a messenger came galloping down the
    street. "Look!" cried a man who had noticed him
    in the distance. "What s can he be bringing?"
    he asked Tanaji's servant who was near him. Before the servant could reply, the rider came to a
    stop in front of them. He leapt off his horse and
    said, "Where is Tanaji? I must see him at once."
    "In the house Sir," answered the servant. He
    had recognised the rider. "I'll take you to him."
    "Sire," the servant called out.

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    "Pots decorated with mango leaves and a coconut.
    18 Tanaji and his wife were busy selecting and
    packing clothes and ornaments for the bride and
    the groom.
    "Who is there?" he asked.
    "Suryaji," replied the servant.
    Tanaji put aside the jewel-case he was holding
    and stepped forward. "Come in, Suryaji".
    Suryaji entered and bowed to Tanaji and his
    wife.
    "Welcome, my friend. What brings you
    here?" he asked. His wife, too, stopped inspecting
    the sari she had in her hand.
    "Ka/e* wants you at Raigarh immediately," replied Suryaji.
    Tanaji k at once that it was something
    serious. He turned swiftly to his wife and put his
    hand affectionately on her shoulder. "My dear,"
    he said, "you know I have to go. Postpone the
    wedding. My first duty is to my leader and my
    land. Come, smile and bid me farewell. Do not
    wony. Suryaji and my men will be with me."
    Tanaji's wife was stunned. She held back her
    tears.
    "Please wait," she said and went in to prepare
    the ' tilak a n d 'arti'*** for the farewell.
    "His Majesty.
    s 3Vermillion mark on forehead.
    co "moving a lighted lamp round a soldier before he goes to
    battle.

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    Tanaji buckled his sword and stepped out of
    the room. He ordered his men to be ready to accompany him. The s spread and soon the
    soldiers assembled outside his house.
    After his wife had applied 'tilak' on his forehead and performed the 'arti\ Tanaji took leave
    of her.
    Leading an army of horsemen, he rode fast to
    reach Raigarh fort. Tanaji walked straight into
    Shivaji's room and found him sitting in a pensive
    mood.
    "Raje, I'm here at your service," said Tanaji
    bowing.
    "Oh! my Sivnha has come!" exclaimed Shivaji.
    He embraced Tanaji and said, "Come, sit down.
    We have a difficult assignment. Ma Sahib* feels
    that the other forts are not safe so long as we
    do not recapture Kondana fort.
    "Udai Singh Rathor is in command of the
    Mughal forces. His men are guarding the three
    gates. His sons are also with him. All of them are
    brave fighters. There is also the killer elephant
    Chandrawati. She is a force by herself. I have
    thought and thought, but can't find a way of capturing the fort. You are the only one who may
    be able to find a way."
    The lines deepened on Tanaji's brow. Then
    he spoke. "I have a plan. The fort is guarded only
    on three sides. We will try to enter from the west."
    "What?" Shivaji sprang up. "Enter from the
    west? You're not planning to climb that precipice?
    It is unassailable."
    Tanaji said coolly "No, Raje, it is not the
    way I intend doing it." He then explained his plan
    to Shivaji in detail.
    "It is a daring plan," said Shivaji anxiously.
    "Very difficult to execute. Everything depends on
    just one thing."
    "Yes, it is difficult, Raje, but not impossible

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    We will prepare well and we will succeed."
    Tanaji sounded confident.
    "Very well, go ahead with your preparations.
    May Goddess Bhawani* bless you."
    Tanaji bowed to Shivaji and left. He called
    Suryaji and some of his personal friends who were
    waiting in the adjoining room. He swore them to
    secrecy and then told them of the plan.
    "We begin preparing at once. Drill the soldiers,
    perfect them in the use of arms, but do not tell
    them for what. We have to take the enemy by
    surprise.'
    Soon everything was ready. Tanaji called his
    friends, and announced, "Tonight we attack. It
    is a moonless night and nothing will be visible.
    All of you must be absolutely silent as you approach Kondana fort. I will take the iguana Yashwanti. With her help, we will scale the rock."
    Then he turned to Suryaji. "You are to take the
    rest of the men and wait at Kalyan Gate. We will
    throw it open for you."
    Last minute preparations over, they marched
    to the fort quietly as shadows. In a short while
    they reached the foot of the precipice. Tanaji tied
    a rope to Yashwanti's neck. Then he threw her
    up hard, so she could clutch the wall. But the
    iguana lost her grip and slithered down.

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    "Oh, it is a sign of bad luck!" exclaimed one of
    the soldiers.
    Tanaji whirled round, "Who said that? There
    is no place for superstition in a soldier's life. He
    must only have faith, in himself and in God."
    Tanaji once again hurled the iguana up with
    greater force. This time Yashwanti gripped the
    top of the fort wall. Tanaji breathed a sigh of
    relief.
    "Hand me the bag containing the ropes," said
    Tanaji. A soldier gave it to him and he slung it
    on his back.
    "I go up first. I will tie the ropes to the projections on the wall and let them down. With their
    help you can all climb up. Remember not a
    sound."
    Tanaji held the rOpe tight and climbed up and
    up till he reached the ramparts. The soldiers
    followed him. Within minutes they were at the top.
    Tanaji whispered, "There must be a number
    of guards posted on the ramparts. Take them
    unawares and silence them. They should not be
    allowed to sound the alarm. We'll get down and
    attack the soldiers inside the fort. Let's go."
    The men stonned the fort and overpowered
    the guards in no time. Shouting 'Jai Bhatoani',
    they rushed into the fort. The Mughal soldiers
    offered stiff resistance and a fierce hand to hand
    fight ensued.

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    One of the Mughal soldiers quietly slipped
    out and rushed to inform Udai Singh.
    "The Marathas have entered my fort? But
    how?" cried Udai Singh.
    He sprang from his bed and hurried to the next
    apartment. "Wake up, my sons. Tell the
    mahout* to get Chandrawati. She'll crush the
    Marathas in no time."
    Udai Singh's sons joined in the battle and the
    mahout sent Chandrawati charging into the
    fray. The Marathas fought bravely. The casualties were heavy. Among the first to perish were
    Udai Singh's three sons and Chandrawati, the
    elephant. Tanaji went looking for Udai Singh.
    Udai Singh had by then heard of his sons
    deaths. He rushed into the melee. "Tanaji,
    you have a lot to answer for. You can't escape
    me."
    "That we'll see," cried Tanaji. With drawn
    swords, they closed in.
    Both were brilliant swordsmen. The battle
    raged fiercely round them. The attackers had got
    the better of the defenders. In a strategic move,
    a section of the Maratha soldiers had thrown
    open Kalyan Gate.
    Tanaji and Udai Singh were locked in a life
    and death struggle.
    Both were tired and bleeding profusely. Udai

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    Singh made a gallant effort and plunged his
    sword into Tanaji's chest. Tanaji stumbled and
    fell. Quite unexpectedly he sprang up and inflicted a mortal wound on a triumphant Udai Singh.
    He fell dead. Tanaji, too collapsed and died.
    All was quiet when Suryaji entered the fort.
    He rushed around, looking for Tanaji. He found
    him lying in a pool of blood. He knelt to feel his
    pulse.
    He looked aghast at his dead friend. His grief
    soon turned into anger. "We must complete your
    task", he muttered, drawing his sword.
    The Marathas, infuriated by Tanaji's death,
    fell on their foes like tigers. Udai Singh's death
    had taken the fight out of the Mughals. After a
    brief struggle, the Marathas won the battle.
    Kondana fort was once again in their hands.
    Suryaji returned to Raigarh fort to inform
    Shivaji of their victory. He was anxiously waiting
    for them.
    "Raje, the fort is taken," said Suryaji.
    "Good. But where is Tanaji?"
    Suryaji hung his head and remained silent.
    "Speak, Suryaji!" cried Shivaji shaking him by
    his shoulders. "What has happened to him?"
    "He is dead!" Suryaji said in a broken voice.
    Shivaji's face went pale as he mumbled, "The
    fort is won, but my lion is gone." He turned and
    walked to the window.
    25 He stood there looking out.
    A memorial to Tanaji stands on the spot where
    he fell. It is called 'Sivnha Garh

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