On Saturday, two guys from the office were nice enough to go with me to Sinhagad, a mountain top fort about 30 km from Pune. It was good to get out of the crowds, traffic and pollution of the city. And the countryside is beautiful during monsoon season! The hills are all green, and shrouded with fog.
We drove up a narrow, winding road up to the fort, weaving around trucks and mopeds. You can also climb up to the fort from a town at the base of the mountain. It looked like a tough climb. The folks coming up the path were all soaked and muddy.
We walked around the perimeter of the fort, at times in fog so dense you could not see down the hill. Fortunately, it blew off after an hour or so, and we had a terrific view of all the surrounding hills and countryside.
For hundreds of years, this was a strategic point to control the region. It was the site of a famous battle in 1670 in which forces of the Maratha freedom fighter Shivaji captured the fort from the Moghuls.
There’s a famous story celebrated to this day, about how Shivaji’s top general Tanaji captured the fort. One of the old guides at the fort sang the song for us. They say that Tanaji was a fearsome fighter and a huge man – that he carried a sword that weighed 40 Kilos! (That’s a big hunk of metal)
The story is that on a moonless night Tanaji and 300 men scaled a steep cliff on the unguarded side of the fort. But the cliff was so smooth that Tanaji had to use a giant lizard to climb it.
That’s right.Â He tied a rope around the pet lizard and sent it up the cliff. Then while the lizard held tight, he hauled himself up on the rope.
In the fierce fight that followed, they say that Tanaji’s lost an arm, but he still managed to kill another 40 men before dying.
Now, I’m not saying that I don’t believe this story. Maybe they just exagerated a little over time. But any lizard big enough to belay a big man on a cliff belongs in a Japanese SciFi movie.
Now only ruins remain of the fort itself.Â The British destroyed it in 1818. The Maharashtra kings only controlled the region for a little over 100 years, in a brief period between Moghul and British rule.