– Mira Savara
We were talking about the 75th year of Independence which was coming up.
“Do you know that a war was fought against the British here, where we stand.” Said my friend, Mr. Khan.
I had recently moved to a Seniors Resort near Kamshet, a village near Pune. Situated in a peaceful valley with hills waterfalls , rice fields, buffaloes and goats walking by.
I thought, every place has so many multiple histories, most we are unaware of. But to learn that this area was part of a war was new .
“Yes, on this land was fought the first Anglo Maratha War between 1775 to 82. It was fought right here between Talegaon and Karla .And guess what, the East India Company lost that war to the Peshawas. It is probably one of the only victory of an Indian power over the British in India.The British had to sign a treaty handing over properties to the Peshawas. Come with me”
My friend took out his Maruti and took me to Vadgaon, 7 km away.
On the way he told me the story.
“It’s a cloak and dagger story really. It’s a long story but let us start in 1772, when Mahadev Peshwa died. His brother NarayanRao became the Peshwa King. NarayanRao’suncle(RaghunathRao) had NarayanRao assassinated and became the Peshwa. Got it so far?
Howeve, Mahadev’s widow had a posthumous son. He was the legal heir to the throne. !2 Maratha chiefs led by Nana Phadnis acclaimed the son Sai MahadavRao, the ruler.
RaghunathRao had to do something.
The port of Mumbai had been under British rule since 1661.With the rise of the Maratha Empire, the British were afraid that they would ally with the French. So Raghunathrao, sought help from the British in Mumbai, and Signed the treaty of Surat in March 1775 handing over the forts of Salsete aandBassein.
Hearing this the Marathas granted the French a port on the West coast.
In retaliation the British sent in their troops, which were joined by Raghunathraos soldiers. They started their march towards Pune from Khopoli, up the Bhor Ghat. You drive up that ghat from khopoli to Pune.
And so, the Marathas got together soldiers from their Empire, and an army of over 10,000 men under the command ofMahadji Shinde and Tukojirai Holkar lead the Maratha response to this attack.
The Marathas surrounded the British from all sides, cutting down their supply lines. They followed a scorched earth policy…burn the fields and poison the wells. They played hide and seek from the caves around. Bhagha and Bedse have become heritage sites now.
On 12 January 1779, the British withdrew from Talegaon by retreating in the middle of the night. They were surrounded at Wadgaon and surrendered. The treaty of Wadgaon was signed.
This is the spot apparently that the surrender occurred.
Stopping by the main Mumbai Pune highway ,NH 4, just as you exit the highway for Wadgaon, near Malinagar, Is the Shrimath Madadevji SHinde Garden. Shinde was the commander in chief of the Maratha army to whom the British army surrendered to. And there was this tower, the Victory Tower. Clearly, diyas were put at some time… there were bottles on the tower. And a big statue of Mahadev Shinde
It was a beautiful green garden, with a childrens play area. A group of 4 school girls were talking on the benches.
Behind was a painting, a mural where the British soldier is on his knees to the Maratha, sitting above. On the sides are the explanation of what this place honours. In English and Marathi.
We walked around in silence.
“I’ve got to take you to one more place,” said Mr. Khan. And we went walking to the Police Office. Inside the gate was the usual government shack with many people around. St one corner, there was a placard again giving the History. Looking inside the grills was a long narrow room with fairy lights going on and off. And a cross.
The commander in chief of the British army was James Fawda was killed in battle on the battle field at Wadgaon.
And here is his grave.
I was amazed. The place was obviously looked after. There was a lighted diya inside.
I found it quite amazing, that the grave of the defeated English commander was being so well looked after. I was also quite confused. An enemy grave? Was this to always respect the dead? And what the British did to us in 1857 is well known.
There are so many many gems like this, in thousands of villages around India. But somehow, very few, even in that area are aware of the existence of the place. If there was a celebration on the 13 July every year,it make would make us, and the people of this areas, the children, have a hero in their midst.
It has been 75 years of independence. And we should not allow our history to be forgotten.