Battle Of Umberkhind
20 August 2022
"The Battle of Umberkhind took place on February3, 1661, in the Sahyadri mountain range....."
Giving to the circumstances, guerilla Warfare was the strategic path that the founder of the Maratha Empire Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj has followed & had set an example by his own conduct to guide the successive rulers. The battle of Umberkhind is one of the greatest battle that Maratha Empire had fought with the guerilla warfare technique and that too in the leadership of its founding father himself. Such a strategic execution of plan that 10 times larger Mughal forces counted 30-40 thousand surrendered in front of merely 3 thousand extraordinarily led Maratha force.
The Battle of Umberkhind took place on February3, 1661, in the Sahyadri mountain range close to the Khopoli. The Mughal Empire’s General Kartalab Khan and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj fought this battle. The Mughal army were severely beaten by the Marathas. This conflict was a superb illustration of guerrilla warfare. Shahista Khan dispatched Kartalab Khan and Rai Bagan to attack Rajgad Fort on orders from Aurangzeb. They were located by Maratha troops in the Umberkhind, a jungle in the mountainous highlands.
In order to implement the deal that the Mughals had signed with the Adilshahi of Bijapur, Shahista Khan was dispatched as viceroy of the Deccan after Aurangzeb ascended to the throne in 1659 along with a sizable Mughal Army. However, Shivajiraje who had gained notoriety after murdering an Adilshahi general Afzal Khan in 1659, also strongly fought this area. Shahista Khan came in Aurangabad in January 1660 and soon progressed, taking the Pune region-the heart of Shivaji Maharaj's domain under his control. After a protracted battle with the Marathas, he also took control of the forts in Chakan, Kalyan, and north Konkan.
Shahista Khan requested assistance from Kartalab Khan and Rai Bagan for his campaign. The force contained contingents from Chauhan and Kachhwah Rajputs, and had Amar Singh, Mitrasen, Sarjerao Gadhe, Jaswantrao and Jadhavrao. Kartalab Khan and Rai Bagan were dispatched by Shahista Khan to seize Rajgad Fort. They each carried 20,000 men as they continued on their journey. In order for them to be easy targets for his well-thought-out guerrilla strategy, Shivaji Maharaj wanted Kartalab Khan and the renowned Rai Bagan (Royal Tigress), the wife of Deshmukh of Mahur Sarkar of Berar Subah Raje Udaram, to enter Umberkhind. Rai Bagan was the title given to her by Emperor Aurangzeb. When Aurangzeb was at the battle to dethrone his father Shahajahan and remove his brother Dara-Shikoh as heir apparent to the Mughal throne. He was supported by Mughal Sardar Raje Udaram’s Son. He gave up his life in the battle of Samugarh battling alongside Prince Aurangzeb. Seeing this his mother Savitribai Deshmukh (Rai Baghan) led the forces aiding Aurangzeb against Dara Shikoh in the defining history turning battle. Aurangzeb thought that she was man battling alongside him but got impressed after knowing the actual truth. Winning this hard fought battle emperor Aurangzeb conferred her with this royal title named Rai Baghan.
Kartalab Khan travelled via Chinchvad, Talegaon, Vadagaon, and Malavali to get to Umberkhind from Pune almost parallel to the present railway line. He then made a left turn in the direction of Lohagad, a fort on the border of the Deccan plateau and Konkan. From that point, his army started their ascent into the Kokan region via the treacherous pass separating Lohagad from Visapur. Planning to proceed across the Umberkhind pass before descending into Kokan proper. There is a dense forest with hills on both sides on this way. It is important to note that the British chose to use Khandala Ghat rather than Umbar Khind when building the railroad between Mumbai and Pune. Khandala Ghat, also known as Bor Ghat, is wider and more open than Umberkhind, and as a result, the terrain is less suited for surprise attacks. Khan had originally intended to descend through Bor Ghat.
Khan nonetheless travelled through Umberkhind. Shivajiraje, who made sure Kartalab knew he was at the base of the khind, had coerced him into taking this deed. This served as the foundation of Shivaji Maharaj's plan. Shivajiraje's spies were much more adept than Khan’s spies, who were organizing a covert campaign. In Kurawanda, around 5 km from Lonavala, Shivaji Maharaj and his army would be, according to rumors that Khan had heard. However, neither Shivajiraje nor his army were present when Khan arrived at Kurawanda. His spies reported that Shivaji Maharaj was at Pen, near the Ghat’s base. Naturally, Khan made the decision to immediately cross this mountain pass and carry out a shock assault on Shivaji Maharaj. Khan’s situation was made worse by the fact that he travelled in February, a time when drinking water was in short supply and the majority of the rivers in the Konkan region were dry.
Kartalab Khan was unaware that Shivaji Maharaj and his army were already waiting for him and his army to descend to the base of the pass in the hills that surrounding the Umberkhind. Shivaji Maharaj and a few of his men made it to the top of the pass as his army descended, causing Khan’s forces to be encircled. The Mughals were 15 miles away in Umberkhind when Shivaji Maharaj's troops began to sound their horns. The entire Mughal army fell silent. Then the Marathas launched a barrage of arrows against the Mughal Army. Maratha army started the battle by hurling boulders down on Khan’s men as soon as he arrived at the base of the pass. They had the typical weapons, sabres, bows, and arrows, as well as rocks and boulders. Even though the army had roughly 1,000 soldiers, Khan and his army were unable to see Shivaji Maharaj's army due to the deep jungle that concealed the entire pass. Khan along with Mughal Soldiers got trapped. In an emergency, Kartalab Khan, Rai Bagan, and other Mughal soldiers attempted to retaliate, but the jungle was so thick and the Maratha Army was so well-prepared and swift that the Mughals could not even see the enemy. Due to the circumstances, Mughal soldiers were being murdered by arrows and swords without even being able to see where the opponent was or where the blow was coming from. Many of the Mughal soldiers perished in this manner.
Kartalab Khan was then given the advice by Rai Bagan to submit to Shivaji and beg for compassion. She stated: “You made a big error by forcing the entire army into the jaws of Shivaji, who is a lion. You shouldn’t have attacked Shivaji in this manner. You need to give yourself over to Shivaji right now in order to save these dying warriors. Shivaji grants amnesty to all who submit, unlike the Mughals.” The conflict lasted for around two hours. After that, on the advice of Rai Bagan, Kartalab Khan sent the men bearing a white flag of truce. They cried out “truce, truce!” and were quickly surrounded by Maratha troops.
Khan was forced to give up and ask for a safe passage. A well-equipped army of 30,000-40,000 was cornered and routed by Shivaji Maharaj's little army of 3,000.Maratha troops had surrounded them. Kartalab Khan was then given permission to return to his main Mughal camp in exchange for paying a hefty ransom and handing over all of their weapons including horses, food, and weapons. Shivaji Maharaj placed his famed general Netaji Palkar at Umberkhind to keep an eye on them. After Khan’s army fled the scene of the battle, Maratha army spent the rest of the day gathering, sorting, and packing everything.
The battle gave the Marathas a psychological boost and raised their spirits. It also reaffirmed their belief on the well execution of plan to get best result with available resources. In contrast, it was huge blow to Mughal forces as despite having all equipments & numbers they had succumbed to Marathas. Mughals adjusted their tactics after the setback and abandoned their plan to capture Konkan. Ultimately Shivaji Maharaj launched a nighttime assault on Shaista Khan. Merely 400 Maratha soldiers disguised as members of the bridegroom’s procession entered in the City of Pune which was having more than half lakh Mughal Soldiers stationed. Nawab Shahista Khan lost three of his fingers in this courageous attack. Shaista Khan was abruptly sent to Bengal by Emperor Aurangzeb in a fit of rage when the city experienced a surprise and audacious attack. As was customary, he was not even given an audience when the transfer was made.
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