Government funds for ‘Rehan Baba’ Dargah at Vishalgad; Temples, and monuments to Bajiprabhu in ruins
Islamic encroachments an affront to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s legacy !
‘Vishalgad Protection and Anti-Encroachment Action Committee’ demands stringent action against erring officials
Kolhapur (Maharashtra) : Maharashtra is dotted with forts that have borne witness to the splendour of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s rule. The various monuments erected there bear testimony to the bravery of his legions of Mavals whose blood fortifies the structures to this day. Each brick of the forts narrates the glory of Hindavi Swaraj. Even today, when you visit these forts, you feel proud of your mighty history. Vishalgad is one of these forts ! For 350 years it has stood unwaveringly, facing sunlight, wind, rain and human attacks. However, this invaluable treasure of the Chhatrapati is in a bad condition today, due to the unforgivable negligence of the Archaeological Department and the District administration. The fort has been heavily encroached upon at more than 64 places. The ancient temples in the fort are in ruins, with idols defaced. The samadhis of the heroes Bajiprabhu Deshpande and Fulajiprabhu Deshpande, whose bravery fuels this land, lay in extreme neglect. The samadhi of Ahilyabai Bhosale, daughter-in-law of Shivaji Maharaj, has also been neglected.
On the other hand, funds worth lakhs of rupees are being made available by the Government for decorating the area of Rehan Baba Dargah and the construction of a road to reach the area. There is a paved road to get there. The construction is also done. An attempt is being made to Islamise the history of Chhatrapati Shivaji. This conspiracy will not be tolerated. The Islamic encroachments on Vishalgad are an affront to the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji and if these encroachments are not removed immediately, a state-wide agitation will be launched against them, warned Mr. Sunil Ghanwat in a press conference held today.
On the occasion, Mr. Sambhajirao Bhokare (Shiv Sena Upa-jilhapramukh), Mr. Charudatta Potdar, Mr. Pramod Sawant, Mr. Kishore Ghatge, Mr. Ramesh Padwal, Mr. Raju Yadav (Malakapur), Coordinator of the Action Committee Mr. Kiran Duse, Mr. Babasaheb Bhopale from Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and Adv. Sameer Patwardhan of the Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad were also present.
Mr. Ghanwat said, “We demand that the State Government takes stern action against the officials of the Archaeological Department whose apathy has turned the glorious Viashalgad fort into ruins. The encroachments on the fort should be evicted within a month, temples and monuments of neglected heroes be restored to their former glory forthwith”.
The sorry plight of Vishalgad Fort
1. Dilapidated condition of fort and temples : Shri Vaghjai temple is the village Deity of people in Vishalgad. Only about a foot high wall of the temple now remains, with a carved pillar in front of the temple and a murti of Goddess Vaghjai riding a tiger in the temple in ruins. Many temples including Vitthal Temple, Nrusinha Temple, Shri Vitthalaidevi Temple, Shriram Temple have collapsed. The fort is filth-ridden in many places.
2. Neglect of Bajiprabhu Deshpande’s samadhi : The Archaeological Department has completely neglected the Samadhis of Veer Bajiprabhu Deshpande and Fulajiprabhu Deshpande who sacrificed their lives for Swarajya. Followers of Shivaji Maharaj crowdfunded and built a roof over the Samadhi. There is no pathway to reach Samadhi. There is not even a simple board that displays information about the Samadhi.
3. Encroachment on Vishalgad : In 1998, this fort was taken under the control of the Archaeological Department. Even after this, a large number of illegal constructions have taken place on this fort. In this context, the difference in the RTI for the years 1997-1998 and 2015-16 to 2018-19 ranges from 200 square feet to 2,500 square feet. More than 100 such encroachments have taken place on the fort.
It is noteworthy that even though the fort is under the control of the Archaeological Department, the local administration has built houses for the homeless, inside the fort, by following the rules and regulations. The area allowed at that time was 288 square feet but now it seems to have increased from 1200 to 2013 square feet. There are many such constructions on the fort and their area seems to have increased everywhere. The same is true of the houses built under the ‘Indira Awas Yojana’.
In this regard, in a letter dated 27th January 2016, received under the RTI Act, the Archaeological Department acknowledged that ‘this fort has been heavily encroached upon by illegal constructions’. It is noteworthy that the permission given by the Gram Panchayat Gajapur Vishalgad for this encroachment has been mentioned as invalid. A letter was written by the Archaeological Department addressed to the Gram Panchayat, District Collector and Tahasildar Shahuwadi not to give any permissions for construction henceforth. Even after 5 years, the illegal construction on this fort still exists. On the contrary, new construction is taking place. Archaeological Department, Collector, Tehsildar have not initiated any action. In 15 years, the Archaeological Department has done nothing but moved papers from one table to another.
4. It is imperative to stop the Islamisation of Vishalgad ! : If we look at the area of temples and mosques in Vishalgad before 1997, the area of temples has decreased in some places after 2015, while in some places there is not even a single mark to indicate that there was a temple there. On the one hand, the number of temples is dwindling and the number and size of mosques seem to be increasing. According to historians, Malik Rehan was a chief who tried to attack the Hindavi Swarajya was killed. A large Dargah (in RCC) has been built in the fort, where an annual Urs is organized in his memory. Many people come here every day to visit and take vows.
In front of the Shri Vaghjai temple, on the right-hand side, there is a spring of clear water where there is a natural sign in the shape of a horse’s shoe. While this pre-dated symbol is a Hindu monument, it is being encroached upon by the religious fanatics and false information is being spread among the tourists that it is the sacred water of Rehan Baba.
1. Taking into account only the records held by the Government before 1998, all the remaining construction and encroachments should be evicted by the Government within one month. In this case, strict action should be taken against the officials of the Archaeological Department who are responsible for allowing unchecked encroachment on Vishalgad to date, as well as the poor condition of temples and samadhis.
2. Until the encroachments on the fort are completely removed, the Archaeological Department officials should visit Vishalgad once a week and submit the report to the Government in a transparent manner.
3. A unique historical monument should be erected to bring the historical battle from Panhala to Vishalgad before the people. Also, boards displaying the importance of all the temples, religious and historical places from the base of the fort to the top of the fort should be put up.
4. Anything that violates the sanctity of the fort (e.g. alcohol, sale of meat), as well as anything that is harmful to health, should be prohibited. Accommodation for tourists in the fort has led to inappropriate behaviour; all tourists should be accommodated at the base of the fort to prevent this.
5. All the temples including the temple of Shri Vaghjai Devi, the village Deity of the fort, should be repaired and restored.