Baji Prabhu Deshpande was one of the great lieutenants of Shivaji’s era. He sacrificed his life defending Shivaji maharaj in a heroic last stand known as the Battle of Pavan Khind (Battle of the Sacred Pass) in which his force was vastly outnumbered, possibly by a ratio of 35 to 1.
Baji Prabhu was around 15 years senior to Shivaji maharaj in age. He started out opposed to Shivaji maharaj, as a sub-leader serving under a rival Maratha clan, who Shivaji maharaj subdued in 1656. At first it was impossible for Baji Prabhu to look favourably upon Shivaji maharaj, but he soon realised that Shivaji maharaj will stood for a larger cause than that of the many petty squabbling Hindu leaders of the era. Shivaji maharaj stood for national resurgence. Thus he became a staunch friend and loyal supporter of Shivaji Maharaj.
Battle of Pavan Khind
After defeating Afzal khan and the rout of the Bijapuri army at Pratapgad Shivaji continued to push deep into Bijapuri territory. Within a few days, the Marathas captured Panhala fort (near the city of Kolhapur). Meanwhile, another Maratha force, led by Netaji Palkar, pushed straight on towards Bijapur. Bijapur repulsed this attack, forcing Shivaji, some of his commanders and soldiers to retreat to Panhala fort
The Bijapuri force was led by Siddhi Johar, an Abyssinian general. Discovering Shivaji’s location, Johar laid siege to Panhala. Netaji Palkar made repeated attempts to break the Bijapuri siege from outside, but these failed.
Finally, a very audacious and high-risk plan was hatched and put into action: Shivaji, Baji Prabhu Deshpande with a select band of troops would attempt to break through the siege at the night, and make for Vishalgad. In order to deceive the Bijapuri forces, who would give a chase once they found that Shivaji had broken the siege, Shiva Nhavi, who had an uncanny physical resemblance to Shivaji, volunteered to dress like the king and let himself be captured.
On a stormy full moon’s night (night of Guru Pournima, Ashadh Paurnima) a band of 600 select men, led by Baji Prabhu and Shivaji, broke through the siege. They were hotly pursued by the Bijapuri force. As planned, Shiva Nhavi allowed himself to be captured and taken back to the Bijapuri camp, fully comprehending that he would be put to death once the charade was discovered. This sacrifice, however, gave the fleeing Maratha force some breathing space.
As soon as the Bijapuri force realized their mistake, the chase was on again, led by Siddhi Masood, the son-in-law of Siddhi Johar. Near the pass of Ghodkhind (Horse’s Pass), the Marathas made a final stand. Shivaji and half of the Maratha force pushed for Vishalgadh, while Baji Prabhu, his brother Phulaji and the remaining Bandal Sena of about 300 men blocked the pass and fought against 10000 Bijapuri soldiers in the Ghodkhind Pass for more than 18 hours.
Tradition and legend describe feats of valour displayed by the Marathas during this rear-guard action. Baji Prabhu had mastered the art of using a weapon called “Dand Patta”. Through the entire battle, Baji Prabhu, even though grievously injured, continued fighting, inspiring his men to fight on until Shivaji’s safe journey to Vishalgadh was signaled by the firing of three cannon volleys. It should be mentioned that when Shivaji approached Vishalgad with 300 men, the fort was already under siege by Bijapuri sardars named Suryarao Surve and Jaswantrao Dalvi. Shivaji with his 300 men had to defeat Surve to reach the fort.
Honour : Baji becomes a Maratha Martyred
Shivaji Maharaj was with heavy heart when he came to know about the death of Baji, a soul-tugging emotion that he would hold on for the rest of his life. In Baji’s honour, he renamed the Ghod-kind pass as Pavan-Kind (Pavan meaning pure, purified by the blood of this great Maratha Hindu martyr.) For the rest of his life, Shivaji Maharaj would also act as the guardian for Baji’s children.
The sword of honour was given to Bandal sena( Maratha Warriors) who fought vigorously with Bajiprabhu Deshpande. Shivaji Maharaj personally visited the house of slain Baji Prabhu, situated in the village of Kasabe Sindh near Bhor in the Pune district. His elder son was offered job as chief of a section. Other 7 sons were given honour of the Palkhi. Son of Slain Sambhaji Jadhav, Dhanaji Jadhav was inducted in the forces. Shivaji Maharaj also gave “manache pahile paan” (“Honor of the Court”) to Baji Prabhu’s family. The sacrifice of Bajiprabhu Deshpande and Shiva barber is a legend itself. Even today many youths from Maharashtra trek on the route taken by Shivaji Maharaj between the forts of Panhala and Vishal Gadh. The distance is around 70 km. The battle of Pavan Khind (Panhala) has been recited as folklore in Maharashtra in many awe-inspiring renditions
DATE-20 AUG 2020