In the medieval times Chakan was an important trading post. Within its jurisdiction were eighty four villages. Therefore Chakan was known as Chakan Chauryaainshi (84 in Marathi).
The Fort of Chakan (a.k.a Sangramdurg as named by Shivaji. Original name was Chakrapuri. Later named Islamabad by Shaistakhan) is a small ‘bhuikot killa’ or a landlocked fort lying around 30 kms from Pune , off the Pune Nasik highway.
It is believed that the Fort was constructed by an Abyssinian general of the Nizamshahi sultanate sometime in the 13th century. It was said to have twelve feet thick and 45 feet tall walls made in solid stone, besides a moat around it and several bastions that served as its watchtowers. Later in the second part of 16th century , it was a part of the jagir given to Malojirao Bhosale, the grandfather of Ch.Shivaji by the Nizamshahi sultanate in return for the services rendered. Subsequently it came under Shahajiraje Bhosale the father of Ch.Shivaji.
Despite its small size Sangramdurg has gained recognition in the pages of history books as the last fort to be wrested by the British from its Maratha occupants.
But it is eulogized in Maratha history mainly for the heroic resistance shown by its fort keeper , Firangoji Narasala, against a Mughal army led by ShaistaKhan , the maternal uncle of emperor Aurangzeb.
It was the year 1660, when the Maratha king Shivaji was trapped in the fort of Panhala, surrounded by the forces of the Adilshahi commander,Siddi Jauhar, who had laid seige to the fort.
That’s when ShaistaKhan descended in the Deccan with a large army and plenty of resources made available at his disposal by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. He soon occupied the regions of Pune and encamped there.
The region beyond river Bhima was already under the mughal control, but for the tiny fort of Chakan that was still held on by the Marathas.
Note. The region that lay beyond Bhima was the Nasik region, then known as Gulshanabad.
On 21st June 1660, Shaistekhans commanders, Uzbekkhan,Jawahir Khan Habshi,Rao Bhavsingh,Raja Raisingh and Jadhavrao laid siege to the fort of Chakan with over twenty thousand troops and massive artillery and gunpowder.
Then, Firangoji Narsala, the Kiledar of the fort was holed up inside the fort with hardly two hundred men. Notwithstanding the heavy rains, the Mughal army was determined to capture Chakan. They had anticipated a easy win as the odds were stacked in their favour and Ch.Shivaji himself was not in a position to provide any immediate assistance.
But despite the adverse eventualities , the fortkeeper Firangoji Narsala offered a brave resistance.
He defended the tiny fort for whole fifty five days, harassing the mughals by their gureilla strikes and scorched earth policy, whereby they cut off the food supplies to the mughals.
Meanwhile, the Mughals had learnt that Shivaji had escaped from the Panhala seige. Therefore it became all the more imperative on their part to capture the fort at the earliest, before Shivaji could gather his forces and launch an counter attack on the mughals.
In a clandestine plan, the mughals dug up a secret tunnel below the fort , filling it up with gunpowder.They blew up the main bastion of the fort. In the aftermath, Firangoji lost more than half his men. Sensing that no immediate help from Shivaji was forthcoming, Firangoji Narsala surrendered the fort on 15th Aug 1660.
Shaistekhan was amazed by the bravery of the Marathas and especially by the steadfastness of Firangoji Narasala. He offered Firangoji a high post in the mughal army lest he joined them. But Firangojis loyalty towards Shivaji outweighed the offer by the mughals and he refused the same.
The fort remained in mughal control (Uzbekkhan was made its kiledar) until the daring nocturnal raid conducted by Chatrapati Shivaji himself at Lal Mahal, Pune, wherby its resident Shaistakhan barely managed to escape with his life.
Later when Firangoji presented himself before Shivaji, he expressed his dismay in not being able to defend the fort. But Shivaji on the contrary invested him with robes of honour and even made him the kiledar of another fort, Bhopalgad. Shivaji apparently told Firangoji, that if it took the mughals two months to capture a small land fort like Chakan, he wondered how much time the mughals would take to capture the stronger mountain forts in Maharashtra.So despite the loss the efforts of Firangoji and his men were indeed laudable.
Later, the fort kept changing hands between the Mughals and the Marathas until its capture by the British in 1818.
Today all that remain in the fort are crumbled walls and dilapidated bastions.
The fort inspite of its immense historical significance lies in a state of absolute neglect. All the old structures have disappeared and made way for modern houses.
There still exists in the fort premises, the old temple of Chakreshwar albeit in its renovated form.
Pics:Remnants of the old Chakareshwar temple
Some ancient sculptures,idols in the temple however are still preserved, like the Bhoo Varaha idol (an avatar of Lord Vishnu as a boar) and some Shivalingas etc.
Across lies a newly built Tuljabhavani temple, freshly painted in the vivid colours.
Unfortunately the local authorities don’t seem to have maintained the even the basic hygiene let alone the aesthetics of the fort. Some sections of the fort have been turned into urinals by some people. Chakan despite being a industrial hub, there seems no private initiative to preserve the fort either.
It is therefore desired that the government starts taking its role more seriously in preserving such heritage sites and fort regains its lost sheen. At least for the memory of the hundreds who lost their lives defending this fort.
Text and Photographs : Abhijit Rajadhyaksha