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The tale of a once-glorious fort

By T. Ramakrishnan

Pune Oct. 18. The Sinhagad Fort, situated 25 km from Pune, looks hardly like a fort today.

Broken walls, two ornate gates and a few other structures stand as testimony to what was once a much sought-after place.

Monarchs including Muhammad bin Tuglaq and Chhatrapati Shivaji down to present-day tourists, have been attracted to the Sinhagad Fort, located atop a hill. Its record is marked by tales of bravery and derring-do. How Shivaji's general, Tanaji Malusare, captured the fort, and how the Koli chieftain, Nag Naik, defended it for nine months, are part of the lore.

The monument was named so after Tanaji's valiant struggle as he took on the Bijapur monarch's forces successfully. Legend has it that about three centuries ago, Shivaji's general, armed with ropes, scaled the fort with the help of giant lizards. But Tanaji lost his life in the process. When Shivaji heard the news, he is stated to have remarked: "We won the fort but lost the lion". This was how it came to be called Sinhagad - the Fort of the Lion.

The fort has a memorial inside with a statue of Tanaji. There is also the tomb of Rajaram, the son of Shivaji.

The monument has had pride of place in the freedom struggle. Bal Gangadhar Tilak used it as a summer retreat. In 1915, Mahatma Gandhi, after his return from South Africa, had a historic meeting with Tilak here.

There are two old bungalows atop the hill. While one was purchased by Tilak about 115 years ago, another was associated with Gandhi.

The bungalow that Tilak once owned, has his bust at the entrance. Tilak bought it from Ramlal Nandram Naik in 1890. He was said to have completed his research work for The Arctic Home in the Vedas (1903) and prepared Gita Rahasya (1915) there.

But the other bungalow is a shambles. According to some accounts, Gandhi stayed there when he came to meet Tilak.

V.S. Gajbhiye, Director of Archaeology and Museums of the Maharashtra Government, said that his department was trying to restore and conserve the historic buildings.

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