JOYDEEP SIRCAR AT FARNBOROUGH, 2006

Monday, 19 September 2011

ASIRGARH : PROUD FORTRESS


JOYDEEP SIRCAR


If, like me, you turn off the Bombay- Calcutta National Highway – or Mumbai-Kolkata if you prefer – past Edilabad, and head North across lands watered by the Purna and the Tapi (or Tapti) and blessed by the presence of the elusive Athene blewitti, you will eventually reach a dingy district town girt by remnants of huge walls. Burhanpur, founded around 1400 by the Faruqi sultan Nasir of Khandesh and named after the Sufi saint Burhanuddin Gharib, has a few good examples of medieval Muslim architecture and one authentic claim to fame : Mumtaz Mahal, beloved of Shah Jehan, died here while giving birth to the fourteenth fruit of imperial passion and lay buried here for 23 years while her incomparable mausoleum was being built.

As the road wends North towards Khandwa, the eye suddenly perceives tiny vertical needles rising out of a distant flat-topped hill, an outlier of the Satpura range. That was how we saw Asirgarh first, in the fading roseate light of late afternoon.

Asirgarh. It was the strongest fort in India - some even said in the world – and was known as the key to the Deccan. The principal medieval highway from Delhi to the Deccan passed below it's walls. For five hundred years it stood invincible, rebuffing the assaults of such formidable foes as Akbar the Great Mogul and the British. Yet it stands lonely and forgotten today. No guides peddle it's potted history to visitors, or sell picture postcards, and when I visited it tourism-conscious Madhya Pradesh was sublimely unaware of it's existence. The fort was in a state of picturesque ruin, it's complex medieval fortifications garrisoned only by the peaceable green troops of the jungle. Yet, to me, Asirgarh had an aura redolent of it's glorious military past that is absent in better-known forts like Gwalior or Mehrangarh or Devgiri or even Chitor : to me, it is the ultimate fortress in India.

Closer approach changed the needles to the tall white minarets of a mosque, built inside the fort by Shah Jahan. The highway skirted the 667 metre high Asirgarh hill and led to the small village of Asir at it's Western base. Since the declining sun did not offer us enough time to explore the fort, we tried to find accommodation at the only hostelry available, a rundown PWD bungalow, but with no success. The alternatives were either to return to Burhanpur, or to try our luck at the paper mill town of Nepanagar : we opted for the latter, but found the shelter on offer very seedy indeed.

We were back early next morning at Asir, from where an unmetalled motorable road 5 kilometres long had been built to Asirgarh, which towered some 850 feet (260 metres) above us. It's risky if your vehicle does not have 4-wheel-drive. Alternatively you can take the path from the village to the stone steps, and climb through five gateways to the top, wondering what impelled Asa Ahir to build the fort as a relief work : odd beginnings indeed for the most formidable fort in India!

As we laboured up the bumpy road in our Tata Sumo, I told my children Bubu and Jojo and my friend Prasad the history of Asirgarh. The real history – not the casual, error-filled horseshit so many of our intrepid travellers dish out these days.

This is the story I told them.

ASIRGARH : THE BEGINNINGS

According to the Persian historian Firishta (1560-1620), who spent his life in the sultani courts of the Deccan, Asa Ahir was a charitable Hindu whose family owned the estates, of which the hill formed a part, for nearly seven hundred years. Asa commissioned the building of Asirgarh fort in 1370 as a relief work for the people at a time of famine, and the fort derives it's name from him.(1)

This nice, philanthropic story, is only partially correct, as there is evidence that the origins of Asirgarh lie far back in antiquity. The Mahabharata mentions the fort as a place of worship to Aswatthama , the son of Dronacharya. According to Alexander Cunningham the Brahmins he met averred that Asirgarh is the demotic corruption of Aswatthama-Giri, and as proof they pointed out the existence of the shrine of Aswatthama Rishi called Astamb. (2)(3)

The Imperial Gazetteer of India hazards an etymological guess that Asirgarh may have been derived from the Asi or Haihaya dynasty mentioned in the Harivamsa Puran that ruled over Central India at some indeterminate time in the past. (10)

The region in which Asirgarh and Burhanpur are located is the plateau country of West-Central India drained by the middle course of the Tapi river. This area was part of the region that became known as Khandesh in the 1400s, roughly covering the present-day districts of Jalgaon, Dhule and Nandurbar of Maharashtra and East and West Nimar of M.P. (5)

The Pitalkhora cave-temple in Khandesh dates back to about 150 B.C. Local tradition has a Rajput dynasty from Oudh ruling Khandesh in the pre-Christian era. The first historical record we have shows the Satavahanas (Andhras) holding sway from around the second/first century B.C. to about 240 C.E., with a brief interregnum of about forty years in the first/second century C.E. when they were displaced by the Saka dynasty of the Western Satraps. Thereafter control of the region apparently passed to local Ahirs or Abhir rulers – the Ahirs are an originally pastoral people who inhabit, among other places, the fertile region around Asirgarh. The Vakatakas came to power around 400 C.E.(Common Era,earlier called A.D.) followed by the Chalukyas from about 489 C.E. (3)

The copper seal inscription of the Maukhari king Sarva-varman (reign 560/565 - 580 C.E.) found at Asirgarh shows it was (briefly?) an outpost of the Maukharis of Eastern U.P. at this time. This is the first authentic date we have for Asirgarh.(4)

The Chalukyas were succeeded by the Yadavas in the eighth century and thereafter the Rashtrakutas, who were overthown in 970 C.E. (3)

From about 800 C.E. to about 1200 C.E. Asirgarh was ruled by Tak Rajputs, who according to Tod are descendents of Scythians who invaded India around 600 C.E. The lords of Asirgarh are mentioned several times by the poet Chand as fighting the Moslems in the defence of Chitor. Chauhan Rajputs appear to have taken power at Asirgarh thereafter.(3)

All this goes to show that the strategic importance of Asirgarh was well-known, and a fortified military camp existed there from at least the 6th century C.E.

The Chauhan kings with their capital at Asirgarh appear to have ruled undisturbed till the advent of Alauddin Khilji (reigned 1296 – 1316). In 1294 Alauddin set out from his jagir of Kara, just West of Allahabad, on an expedition to despoil Devgiri (later named Daulatabad), near Aurangabad. Despite the immense strength of the Devgiri fort, he succeeded by a combination of luck and skill in forcing the Yadav ruler Ram Dev to ask for terms, and collected a huge amount of loot. On the way back to Kara in 1295 he conquered Asirgarh and put the ruler's entire family save one boy to the sword.(3)

From the time of Malik Kafur's invasion of the Deccan in 1303 Asirgarh was under the Delhi Sultanate, but it probably slipped out of the Delhi's control at the time of the revolt of the Deccan nobles in 1346. Asirgarh seemed to have passed under the control of local chiefs. Around 1370, during a time of great scarcity, Asa Ahir, a wealthy man, fed the needy people from his own grain stores and employed them to tear down the walls of the old camp and build a strong new fort for himself.(1)(3)


THE FARUQI SULTANATE

Malik Raja (died 1399), who claimed descent from the Arab Caliph Umar-al-Faruq, established the Faruqi dynasty of Khandesh. Appointed in 1370 to the Subahs of Thalner and Karanda by Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq (reigned 1351-1388), he expanded his territory, increased his power and autonomy, and then took advantage of the weakening grasp of Firuz to declare himself Sultan in 1385, beginning the line of independent Sultans of Khandesh. (3)(6)

His son and successor Malik Nasir , the founder of Burhanpur, began ruling in 1399 from Laling, a hilltop fort located about 10 kilometres South of Dhule. However, he coveted Asa Ahir's strong new fort and decided to seize it. Around 1400 he approached the hospitable Asa and sought shelter for his womenfolk on the plea that the chiefs of Baglana, Antur and Kherla were gathering forces to attack him, and his family was not safe at Laling. Asa agreed, and 200 covered litters of womenfolk duly arrived at Asirgarh and were well received. Next day another lot of covered litters arrived and were allowed into the fort. Armed men hidden in these litters sprang out and butchered the gullible Ahir's family: not a single male child was left alive. This account is corroborated by S.A.A. Rizvi's discreet remark that Asirgarh was taken 'by a ruse' by the Faruqis. (3)(6)

Nasir shifted his capital from Laling to Asirgarh, and later to Burhanpur, but Asirgarh remained the real seat of Faruqi power. Nasir was badly beaten by Ahmad I of Gujarat but won over that ruler's ministers with such success that he was awarded the title of Khan and accorded recognition as an independent ruler. It is from this time that the territory ruled by the Faruqis became known as Khandesh.(6)(3)(5)

The Asirgarh hilltop measures some sixty acres, and is surrounded by sheer rock walls between 80 and 120 feet in height except in two places. These two access routes are defended by ramparts, through one of which a narrow stone staircase rise through five gates to the fort. A lower hill called Maleegarh immediately above the Asir village is protected by an outer wall. The Faruqi Sultans devoted a great deal of effort into making Asirgarh stronger, digging huge chambers out of bedrock to hold stocks of food and ammunition and excavating huge water reservoirs so that the fort could withstand a siege of a hundred years. Not only that : royal princes were required to stay in Asirgarh at all times so that no foe could imperil the line of succession in case misfortune befell the reigning Sultan.(1)

Khandesh managed to retain it's independence despite conflicts with it's neighbours. Whenever seriously threatened the Faruqis took shelter in Asirgarh and waited out it's enemies.The fall of the Delhi Sultanate in 1526 and the rise of the Mughals signalled the arrival of a new and formidable power. Khandesh took the side of Bahadur Shah of Gujarat against Humayun, and narrowly escaped being conquered. Humayun passed through Burhanpur in 1534 en route to Mandu, but could not stop to take Khandesh because he had to counter the threat of Sher Shah. (3)

The beginning of Akbar's campaign of territorial expansion saw the conquest of Malwa from the last Sultan, the rather frivolous Baz Bahadur, in 1561. Malwa borders Khandesh to the North, and the Faruqis gave shelter to Baz Bahadur. Akbar's forces invaded Khandesh for this temerity and laid the country waste, but were defeated by the combined forces of Khandesh, Berar and Baz Bahadur. The latter regained his throne briefly but was defeated again by the Mughal forces in 1562. The Mughals occupied Malwa and the Malwa Sultanate came to an end.(3)(7)

In 1574 a Mughal force laid the country waste. The Mughals were followed by an Ahmadnagar army which chased the reigning Faruqi Sultan into his bolt-hole of Asirgarh, and had to be bought off with a huge indemnity. In 1577 it was the turn of the Mughals again to invade Khandesh. Sultan Raja Ali Khan, who had usurped the throne around 1576, was forced to accept Mughal overlordship, but turned against them in 1586 when they invaded Berar. He accepted Mughal suzerainty again in 1591, joined their invasion of Ahmadnagar in 1595, and died fighting bravely on the Mughal side in the Battle of Supa (Sonpeth) in February 1597.(1)(3)

The accession of Raja Ali Khan's son Miran Bahadur or Bahadur Shah (reigned 1597 – 1601) opened the most glorious chapter in the history of Asirgarh. (1)(3)


AKBAR'S SIEGE OF ASIRGARH

Miran Bahadur was not enamoured of the idea of helping the Mughals to annex Ahmednagar. He declined Abul Fazl's request to join the Mughal army, avoided meeting Prince Daniyal in Burhanpur in January 1599, and shut himself up in Asirgarh in 1599 and prepared for war.(1)

Seeing his Southern campaign floundering, Akbar left Agra in September 1599 to take personal charge. At Ujjain he issued orders to divide the Mughal army. One part led by Prince Daniyal and the Khan-i-Khanan was to attack Ahmednagar. The other, commanded by Abul Fazl and Sheik Farid, was to invest Asirgarh and force Miran to surrender. The siege of Asirgarh began on 12th March 1600. It was overseen by the Emperor himself.(1)

Akbar had earlier taken formidable hill forts like Ranthambhore and Chitor, but the technique of constructing sabats or covered pathways to enable his engineers to approach the walls that had worked at those forts did not do so on the steep approaches of Asirgarh. The surrounding terrain was flat and bereft of cover, and the defender's guns commanded the two narrow and steep pathways to the top. Personal reconnaissance convinced Akbar of the impossibility of taking the fort by assault or long-range gunnery with his existing guns. The Portuguese,approached through priests like the Jesuit Jerome Xavier who witnessed the siege, declined to provide Akbar with ordnance heavy enough to batter down Asirgarh's walls: they suspected his intentions towards them. Yet Akbar had to finish off Asirgarh quickly, for he was aware that his son Salim (later emperor Jahangir) was plotting to overthrow him.(1)

The news of the fall of Ahmednagar in August 1600 after a four-month siege put some cheer in Akbar, and after two days of thought he decided to write to Miran, advising him to surrender and retain his kingdom. Miran wavered, but then was emboldened to decline when his officers told him that Akbar was trying to achieve by diplomacy what he could not do by force of arms. He replied saying that he would not tender personal submission, but was prepared to acknowledge Mughal overlordship if Akbar raised the siege and marched away with his army. Akbar sent a letter couched in more conciliatory language, to which Miran responded by sending his mother to do homage to the Emperor accompanied by costly gifts; he persisted, however, in refusing to appear personally.(1)

Enraged at Miran's obduracy, Akbar reopened a furious bombardment on the fort's approaches. Then a defector from the garrison gave the besiegers information about a secret path leading to the foot of the fort : a team of Mughal sappers used this approach to blow a forty-foot breach in the outer wall. Miran's engineers repaired the breach so quickly that the Mughals were unable to break through.(1)

However, this reminder that Asirgarh was not invulnerable dented Miran's self-confidence.When Akbar sought a personal meeting after giving his solemn oath that the Sultan would not be harmed and would be allowed to return to the fort after the end of the talks regardless of the outcome, Miran disregarded the advice of his Abyssinian (Habshi) military commander Yaqut, and came out with only a few attendants to meet the Emperor on December 10, 1600. He was forcibly thrown to the ground to perform the act of submission, and detained by Akbar when he refused to send orders in writing to surrender the fort. The reader is free to decide whether Akbar's action was an acceptable ruse d'guerre, or a base, ignoble deed as opined by Catholic eyewitnesses like Jerome Xavier.(1)(7)

Akbar followed this up with a shocking and patently inexcusable act. Yaqut sent his son Mubarak Khan to remonstrate with Akbar about his shameless breach of faith in detaining Miran. Akbar asked the brave young man about his father's willingness to surrender the fort, and was told that Yaqut would neither give in nor parley, but would put a successor on the throne if Miran was not released (seven princes were at Asirgarh at this time). Stung by Mubarak's reply, Akbar had him stabbed to death.(1)

Poor, gallant, faithful Yaqut ! Heart-broken by the cruel fate that had befallen his son, Yaqut sent a message to Akbar that 'he prayed he may never behold the face of a ruler so faithless'. Then he exhorted his officers to resist, saying “No mortal man will ever storm this fortress into surrendering; it may be taken by God, or if the defenders should betray it”. Afterwards he committed suicide by strangling himself with his scarf. This rare example of honour and loyalty by a man who was after all only a mercenary shines like a beacon in this period when ignoble behaviour was seemingly the norm.(1)

Inspired by Yaqut, the garrison put up such a staunch defence that Akbar despaired of taking Asirgarh by force of arms. He resorted to bribery to effect a break-through. Huge sums of money and quantities of gold and silver were distributed to Portuguese officers of the garrison, and they treacherously opened the gates of Asirgarh on 17th January 1601[Cunningham says 18th August 1600]. Akbar celebrated the hollow triumph of entering Asirgarh, whose gates he had opened 'with a golden key', with a rock inscription and a gold medal struck at Asirgarh. Perhaps out of unease at the way he had procured victory, he declared a general amnesty. Miran and the other Faruqi princes were allotted subsistence allowances, and interned in Mughal strongholds outside Khandesh to live out their lives. Khandesh was annexed and given to Daniyal to govern.(1)(2)


LATTER DAYS AT ASIRGARH

The great gateway at Asirgarh was built by Jahangir (ruled 1605-1627), and the mosque by Shah Jehan (ruled 1628 – 1658). A great bronze gun cast in 1665 at Burhanpur was mounted on the Western bastion.(2)

In 1720 Nizam-ul-Mulk (1671 - 1748), aware of the web of conspiracy being spun around him by the Sayyid brothers in the decaying Mughal court of Muhammad Shah, set out for the Deccan to carve out his own principality. Stopping near Asirgarh he opened parleys with the garrison, who were restive as they had not been paid for two years by the Nazim of Burhanpur. The Nizam promised all pay arrears plus rich rewards, and despite the initial hesitation of the garrison commander Talib Khan the golden key turned smoothly again to open the gates of Asirgarh. The Nizam took five artillery pieces from the fort to reduce Burhanpur. He became the first Nizam of Hyderabad, being crowned on 31st July 1720, and died at Burhanpur in 1748.

In 1760 the Marathas under Mahadji Scindia ousted the forces of Nizam Salabat Jung from Asirgarh, which passed under the control of the Scindias from then on. It is likely that the Nizami troops were reluctant to fight hard for a master who kept them in arrears of pay.

A little after Arthur Wellesley's signal victory over the Maratha Confederacy at Assaye on 24 Sept. 1803, Col. Stevenson, commanding a 9000-strong mixed British/Nizami column detached from Wellesley's army, occupied Asirgarh on 21st October. The Maratha garrison offered practically no resistance. On conclusion of the treaty of Sarji Anjangaon on 30th December 1803 between the British and Daulat Rao Scindia, Asirgarh and Burhanpur were restored to the latter.

The fall of Asirgarh in 1720, 1760 and 1803 was the result of the decision of the garrisoning troops not to put up a determined fight, and not due to any diminution of the fort's capacity to resist.


THE THIRD ANGLO-MARATHA WAR

The Pindaris were originally unpaid freebooter horsemen who accompanied regular armies and plundered enemy territories. Lightly armed and fast-moving, they avoided combat with regular forces, and preferred soft targets like villages and undefended towns. They gained an unsavoury reputation for looting, wanton cruelty and rape. Maratha forces usually had a Pindari contingent with them. Later, from about 1800, the Pindaris formed freebooter bands under their own leaders, and operated independently in the cold weather 'raiding season', mounting long-range forays from their home territories in the Maratha lands of Central India. Maratha princes, particularly Scindia and Holkar, were suspected of deriving considerable income from the activities of the Pindaris. (8)

The growing Pindari menace caused Governor-General the Marquess of Hastings (ruled 1813-23) to decide to stamp them out once and for all. As it was certain that attacking the Pindaris would draw their protector Marathas into the war, diplomatic initiatives were taken to forestall this to the extent possible.

In October 1817, on the eve of the launch of the campaign, the British asked Daulat Rao Scindia to hand over the forts of Hindia and Asirgarh. Scindia, torn between loyalty to the Maratha cause and fear of the British, decided to play a double game. He agreed to hand over Hindia, but pleaded it was beyond his power to deliver Asirgarh while sending a secret message to Jaswant Rao Lar, the commander of the fort, to ignore any instruction he may receive from Scindia to surrender the fort. The British, fully aware of the importance of Asirgarh, saw through Scindia's subterfuge, but were unable to do anything. They called upon Lar to surrender the fort as commanded by Scindia, and were duly rebuffed: the curtain was about to rise on the last act of Asirgarh's dramatic history.(9)

The British had their hands too full at the moment to do anything about Asirgarh, now officially declared a renegade fort: the Pindaris and the combative Marathas took precedence. However, they made their intent clear in the Treaty of Gwalior (5th November 1817). Scindia was forced to accept clauses which spelt out who would bear the cost if the fort had to be battered into submission, and agree to the British taking actual possession as long as his flag flew over the fort.(9)

The war began with the Peshwa attacking the British garrison at Pune on 5th November 1817. By June 1818 the Peshwa was a prisoner on his way to exile at Bithur, and his territories annexed. Madhoji II Bhonsle, better known as Appa Saheb, was beaten at Sitabuldi Hill and Nagpur and deposed. He escaped from custody in 1818 while en route to exile at Allahabad, and became a fugitive. Much of Nagpur state passed to the British. The young Holkars of Indore lost the bloody battle of Mahidpur on 20th December 1817 when Nawab Abdul Gaffur Khan deserted to the British with his troops. Holkar power was broken, and much of their territory lost. The British deprived the Pindaris of their sanctuaries, and surrounded the Pindari gangs. The Pindaris found themselves unable to break through the encirclement by regular troops and cavalry, and were gradually destroyed. Some Pindari chieftains who surrendered were given lands – Amir Khan was made the Nawab of Tonk after he handed over his formidable artillery park. Others were relentlessly hunted down. Chitoo, the last major Pindari leader, who was acting as guide to Appa Saheb, vanished in the jungles near Asirgarh in February 1819, and was killed by a tiger.(8)(9)

Asirgarh played a minor part in these events : in May 1818 it's guns drove off a British force pursuing the Peshwa, who lurked near it and received help from it before surrendering. In June 1818 it's guns fired again to prevent a British column from passing under it's walls to intercept another Maratha fugitive, who got away. In early February 1819 Jaswant Rao Lar gave shelter to Appa Saheb although his companion Chitoo was turned away. Appa Saheb wrote to General Malcolm from Asirgarh expressing a desire to come to an understanding with the British.(9)


THE FINAL SIEGE

Negotiations for the surrender of Asirgarh with Jaswant Rao Lar, whom the British suspected of harbouring Appa Saheb, broke down by March 1819. The siege of Asirgarh was begun on March 17th by the forces of Generals Malcolm and Doveton. Asir village was occupied by Lt.Col. Fraser's infantry. A heavy gun battery effected a breach on the 20th in the walls of the lower fort called Maleegarh or Malaigarh above the village of Asir. A sally by the defenders on the 20th/21st night into Asir village succeeded in killing Lt.Col. Fraser, but the Maleegarh fort had to be abandoned the same night. At 7 in the morning of the 21st the heavy battery suffered a huge explosion, the magazine of 130 barrels of powder blowing up and destroying an entire company of the 15th Bengal Native Infantry, killing and wounding more than 100 soldiers. This emboldened the defenders to reoccupy Maleegarh. It was again evacuated by Lar's men on 30th March after bombardment by several batteries, and this time seized by the British.(9)

The British chose to mount a two-pronged attack. They concentrate their fire on the revetted wall at the North West corner, and moved up the big ravine to the East that led towards the bastion at the North East corner of the fort. After trenching and bringing up guns, firing from the Eastern ravine began on 31st March, and the bombardment intensified after additional artillery arrived from Saugor on April 4th. Next day part of the North-east wall came down along with a huge 140 pounder gun.(9)

Jaswant Rao Lar, having lost his Chief Gunner and used up almost the entire stock of gunpowder in the fort (which was clearly under-provisioned compared to Faruqi standards), decided that further resistance was futile, and agreed on 8th April 1819 to surrender Asirgarh. The 1200 Arabs, Sindhis and Makranees defending the fort descended and laid down their arms next day. It was lucky for the British that Lar gave up. Notwithstanding the damage inflicted, none of the breaches were suitable for assault, and indeed Lieutenant Lake of the Madras Engineers felt that the neither of the points chosen for attack would have yielded a practicable breach. In his opinion the only weakness of Asirgarh was the rock tower very near the South-East corner that had been kept outside the fortifications, though a sally-port had been built at the South-East corner to repel attempts to assault from this hill. It was called Mughal Topi because it had been occupied by Akbar's troops.(9)

The defenders suffered 43 killed and 95 wounded, and gave better than they got. The British lost Lt.Col. Fraser, 9 Europeans and 37 sepoys killed, and 10 officers, 73 Europeans and 181 sepoys wounded. In an era of massively one-sided and sanguinary British victories over other Indian forts, Asirgarh is a shining exception.(9)

It is pertinent to note that only a single Hindu Maratha, the fort commander, fought in defence of Maratha honour in this last battle in the history of the Marathas. All the other men at Asirgarh were Moslem mercenaries. This, I think, is a true measure of the decay of Maratha power.

The British had hoped to capture Appa Saheb at Asirgarh, but failed to find him. Appa Saheb went to the Punjab to seek asylum from the Sikhs, and finally found shelter at Jodhpur, where he died in 1840.

In terms of the Treaty of Gwalior, the Scindia flag was flown over the fort till secret correspondence came to light showing Scindia's instruction to Lar to render aid to the Peshwa. Then the Scindia flag was hauled down and replaced with the Union Jack. Aware that his double-dealing had been found out, the chastened and apprehensive Daulat Rao did not protest.(9)

Asirgarh was carefully surveyed. The British concluded it was the strongest fort in India, and proceeded to reduce it's defences so that it would not be a threat to them in future. The small detachment from Mhow posted there was withdrawn in 1904, and the fort allowed to fall into tranquil decay. (9)(10)

After climbing upwards for about two kilometres on the track that traverses from West to East across the Northern flank of the Asirgarh hill, our Tata Sumo suddenly canted over and became firmly aground at a place where the road surface has partly fallen away. It took one and a half hours before we could get it unstuck. We decided to send it back to Asir and walk the rest of the way up to the fort. As we watched the vehicle lurch out of sight my daughter Bubu said “Asirgarh is invincible even now.” 



Bombay, 1996 – Siliguri, 2011


Copyright J. Sircar 2011



REFERENCES


(1) Akbar by Muni Lal [Vikas, New Delhi, 1980]

(2) Asirgarh from Report of a Tour in the Central Provinces in 1873-1874 and 1874-1875
by Alexander Cunningham,Vol. IX [Archaeological Society of India, 1879]

(3) Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Vol.XII, Khandesh District [1880, reprinted 1985 by the
Gazetteer Dept., Govt. of Maharashtra, Bombay]

(4) Asirgarh Copper Seal Inscription of Sarva-varman from Corpus Inscriptorum Indicarum :
Inscriptions of the Early Guptas, Vol.III
by John F. Fleet [Govt.of India,Central
Publications Branch,Calcutta,1888]

(5) Historical Background of Khandesh in Maharashtra Govt. writeup on Dhule District
[http://dhule.gov.in/html/history_1fram.htm]

(6) The Wonder That Was India by S.A.A. Rizvi [Picador, 2005]

(7) Faruqi dynasty entry in Wikipedia

(8) Pindari Society and the Establishment of British Paramountcy in India – Masters thesis by P.F.
McEldowney, University of Wisconsin, 1966

(9) Political and Military Transactions in India during the Administration of the Marquess of
Hastings, 1813-1823
by H.T. Prinsep (Bengal Civil Service) [Kingsbury,Parbury and Allen,1825,
reprinted by the Irish University Press, 1972]

(10) The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. VI, p.12 [The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1908]














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