Murarbaji Deshpande

Murarbaji Deshpande ( Killedar(Purandhar)Murarbaji Deshpande was born into the Deshastha Brahmin family and his native land was the Javali Satara District. Later, in the service of Chandrao More of Javali, he moved to Mahad. He joined the army of Shivaji Maharaj in 1656 after the fall of More Kingdom to Bhosales. He soon became known as the Loyal Sardar of Maharaj and was awarded the title of Killedari of Puranadar.

The battle for Purandhar fort was a landmark battle of symbolic importance for both the Marathas and Mughals. It was essential for the Marathas to hold off the Mughals for as long as possible, thus demonstrating the difficulty of conquering the mountainous Deccan kingdom. It was equally imperative for the Mughals to conquer Purandhar as swiftly as possible to demonstrate the futility of resistance before the mighty Mughal empire.

In the end, superior European cannons fielded by the Mughals, under the leadership of the European mercenary Mannucci, blasted away the walls of Purandhar. In spite of crumbling defenses, Murarbaji and his troops sustained a dogged defense. When the Mughals breached the outer walls, Murarbaji and his soldiers, though overwhelmingly outnumbered, mounted a fierce counterattack. Maratha folk history has it that Murarbaji showed incredible skills as a swordsman and was an aggressive and inspiring leader who pushed back and caused a retreat of a larger Mughal force.

Dilyer Khan, impressed with the bravery of Murarbaji, offered him a truce and employment in the Mughal forces with a handsome salary. Murarbaji turned down the offer due to his loyalty to the ideals of Hindavi Swaraj, he paid for this decision with his life. The remaining Marathas retreated inside the inner walls (baalekilla) of the fort, refusing to surrender and willing to fight to the last man.

The battle of Purandhar showed the Marathas the difficulty in facing the overwhelming force led by Mirza Raja, and revealed to the Mughal the indomitable spirit and tenacity of the Marathas. Thereafter Shivaji agreed to surrender to Mirza Raja rather than risk the decimation of his forces and the ruin of his homeland. As a part of the settlement the Mughals opted to leave some of the forts and surrounding lands in the control of Shivaji rather than face a protracted and expensive campaign to conquer Marathas.

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