Battle of Umberkhind
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|Battle of Umberkhind|
|Part of Imperial Maratha Conquests|
|Maratha Empire||Mughal forces|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|~ 50||~ 400|
Battle of Umberkhind took place on 3 February 1661 in the mountain range of Sahyadri near the city of Pen, Maharashtra, India. The battle was fought between the Maratha under Chhatrapati Shivaji and the Kartalab Khan of Mughals. The Marathas defeated the Mughal forces. Mughal forces consisted of 20,000 men, while there was just 3,000 light Maratha cavalry.
The battle is known for the strategic manner in which Shivaji deployed his forces and rapid movement that his cavalry was able to achieve.
On 10 November 1659, Shivaji killed Afzal Khan and routed his army in the Battle of Pratapgarh. A month later, Shivaji appeared near the Panhala fort and defeated Rustam Zaman, who was directed from Bijapur. His senapati Netaji Palkar caused havoc in the vicinity of Bijapur. Alarmed at this, Adilshah requested mughals to send forces against Shivaji.
The Mughals sent Shaista Khan with a large force against Shivaji who camped at Pune. Meanwhile, Shivaji was trapped in the siege of Panhala by Bijapuri forces under Siddi Jauhar, although he subsequently managed to escape . Shaista Khan planned to reduce Shivaji's possessions in Konkan and deputed Kartlab khan, an Uzbek general with a considerable force. Kartalab decided to surprise Shivaji and chose Khanadala Ghat to move towards Panvel. On receiving this news, Shivaji announced that he was moving his force towards Panvel. Learning this through spies, Kartalab Khan decided to move by another route and selected a less traveled path through Tungaranya, which went to Konkan through a mountain pass known locally as Umberkhind.
To reach Umberkhind from Pune, Kartalab traveled via Chinchvad, Talegaon, Vadagaon and Malavali (roughly parallel to the present railway line). At that point, he turned left towards Lohagad, which was a fort on the border of the Deccan plateau and Kokan. There, his army began the descent into the Kokan area through the narrow pass that separates Lohagad from Visapur. Planning to descend into Tungaranya—a dense forest with hills on both sides—and then move through the Umberkhind pass, before descending into Kokan proper. It is worth noting that when the British built the railroad between Mumbai and Pune, they chose go through Khandala Ghat and not via Umbar Khind. The reason for this is because Khandala Ghat, also known as Bor Ghat, is much more open and broad than Umberkhind and as such the ground is not as suitable for surprise attacks. Khan had initialled planned to descend through Bor Ghat and if he had done so, Shivaji would have a much harder battle on his hands.
Nevertheless, Khan went through Umberkhind. He had been forced into this course of action by Shivaji who had ensured that Kartalab knew that he was at the base of the khind. This was the cornerstone of Shivaji's strategy. Khan was planning a secret campaign but Shivaji's spies were far more skillful. Khan had heard that Shivaji and his army would be at Kurawanda, roughly 3 miles (4.8 km) from Lonavala. But when Khan reached Kurawanda, there was no sign of Shivaji or his army. His spies brought the news that Shivaji was at Pen, at the base of the Ghat. Naturally, Khan chose to quickly descend this mountain pass and launch a surprise attack on Shivaji. Khan was further disadvantaged by the fact that he was traveling in February when most rivers in Konkan area were dry and drinking water was scarce.
Unknown to Kartalab Khan, Shivaji and his army were already in the hills that surrounded the Umberkhind where they were ready and waiting for Khan and his army to descend to the base of the pass. They were equipped with rocks and boulders in addition to the usual rifles, sabers and bows and arrows. Although the army consisted of about 1,000 men, the entire pass was covered with dense forest and so Shivaji's army was not visible to Khan and his army. The trap was then set for Khan. Khan and his army climbed down to the base in about 4 hours and met no resistance whatsoever. As his army moved down, Shivaji and some of his men reached the top of the pass, thus effecting the envelopment of Khan's forces. As soon as Khan reached the base of the pass, Shivaji's army began the battle, rolling boulders down on Khan's men. Since Shivaji's army was on top of the hills, Khan and his army were in effect fighting an invisible army. Not only could they not see their enemy, but they were unable to retreat from it as a portion of Shivaji's army and Shivaji himself were waiting at the top of the mountain pass to cut them off. In the end, the battle was over in roughly two to three hours.
Khan had no choice but to surrender and beg for a safe passage. Shivaji's small army of 1,000 had trapped and defeated a well-equipped army of 20,000. Shivaji agreed to let Khan and his army leave Umberkhind and return to Khan's home base in Pune provided that Khan and his army left behind their equipment including their weapons, horses and food, and allowed anyone who wished to do so to join Shivaji's army.
Shivaji and his assistants inspected each person to ensure that they had followed the terms of the truce. Once Khan's army had left the battle area, Shivaji's army spent the rest of that day collecting, classifying and packing all items. Then they moved back towards Raj Gad.
The battle boosted the morale of the Marathas, providing them with a psychological boost. Conversely, as a result of the defeat, the Mughals gave up their plan to conquer Konkan and changed their strategy. Encouraged by this, Shivaji attacked Shaista khan in a night assault. The Maratha casualties amounted to about 50 men killed or wounded, while the Mughals lost about 400.
- Samant, S.D. Vedh Mahamanvacha.
- Duff, Grant. History of the Marathas.