One of my favourite childhood memories was running to my grandparents’ bedroom at night with my little brothers, plonking myself on their bed, all set to hear my grandfather tell “Shivaji chi goshta” – tales of Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje from history. I remember being fascinated by the colourful pictures my grandfather painted as he narrated stories of the brave Tanaji Malusare with the famous “Gad aala pan Sivha gela” ending, Shivaji’s escape from Agra, Shivaji defeating Afzal Khan using tiger-claws at Pratapgad, Baji Prabhu Deshpande’s fight at Ghodkhind pass to help Shivaji escape from Panhala and many more!
Just like me, stories of Shivaji Maharaj are ingrained in the minds of Maharashtrians all over the world. They have given us our heritage and our identity. The glorious history of the Maratha king is still alive thanks to the forts that were built under his reign. It’s however, a known fact, that these forts are in a deplorable state. These forts have faced countless enemy attacks and invaders, witnessed unmatched bravery during epic battles and have come alive during the peak of Maratha victories. But, today they stand neglected. How will we pass on this pride of Maharashtra to the next generation if these forts turn to rubble?
Well, there is some hope and “Guardians of History” – our blog series is an attempt to inspire and generate awareness of what you and I can do to conserve our forts! In every blog post, we will be writing about a group of individuals, their fort conservation efforts and ways in which you can contribute. Our first group is Shivasahyadri Durgsanvardhan from Hadapsar, Pune.
Santoshgad Fort Conservation Project
It all started when a bunch of trekkers went looking for new heritage sites to explore and decided to visit Santoshgad. To their surprise, the fort was barely visible and was visibly neglected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Upon understanding the historical importance of the fort, the group of trekkers decided to take the responsibility of restoring the fort.
Taking baby steps
On 20th May 2016, the NGO – Shivasahyadri Durgsanvardhan was established. When they started, they were a team of just 12 trekkers, soon many fort conservation enthusiasts and volunteers joined the NGO to form a team of 60 people. They acquired permissions from the Gram Panchayat and the Forest Department and also gained a lot of technical support from the ASI.
Before the work began
Initially, only the fortifications were visible. The fort was hidden under a thick blanket of wild bushes and Ghaneri (Lantana) trees. According to the historical records, the fort had three doors, out of which, only two doors were left (partial) and 3rd door was discovered much later. The Citadel or the Bale killa which had three levels was completely buried. The water tanks and the Shiva temple which used to be in the middle of the fort were nowhere to be seen. The old well was filled with rocks and mud. Out of the two doors of the strong, armoured bastions on the south side, only six inches of one door were visible.
Work completed so far
Since a picture speaks a thousand words. We are sharing “Before and after pictures” of the work done by the group.
Guidance at every step of the way
The Santoshgad restoration project would have been impossible to complete without the guidance of a few good-hearted people, numerous donors, history guides and researchers, experienced excavators, sarpanchs, hundreds of villagers and volunteers who selflessly offered their support and who gave up a lot to ensure Santoshgad gets a face-lift it so deserves.
Each member of the NGO contributes Rs. 200 every week towards the continued restoration work. If you wish to contribute or volunteer and keep Shivaji Maharaj’s legacy alive, please get in touch with Vaibhav Satav – 099221 88497 or Nitin Bhadale – 7774034760.