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Statue of Murarbaji Deshpande at Purandar Fort.
Murarbaji Deshpande (17th century) was a general in the early Maratha Empire during the reign of Shivaji. He is best remembered for his defense of the Purandar Fort against Diler Khan, a Mughal general who accompanied Mirza Raja Jai Singh in the 17th-century siege on Purandhar.
Murarbaji Deshpande was born into a Kayastha CKP family and his native land was the Javali Satara District. His father was a servant of Chandrarao More. Later, in the service of Chandrarao More of Javali, he moved to Mahad. He fought very bravely against the Bhosales to protect the More's to whom he was loyal. 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 Killedar of Puranadar.
The battle for Purandar 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 sultanates. It was equally imperative for the Mughals to conquer Purandhar as swiftly as possible to demonstrate the futility of resistance of 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.
Diler 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 Swarajya. He was extremely enraged at this very suggestion and in an act of extreme daredevilry charged with his commandos right into the heart of the Mughal troops, killing hundreds. 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 Jai Singh, 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 Shivaji agreed to give up 23 of his forts and 400,000 rupees to the Mughals. He also agreed to let his son Sambhaji become a Mughal Sardar and serve the Mughal court of Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb sought to sign a treaty and invited Shivaji to Delhi rather than face a protracted and expensive campaign to conquer Marathas.