Marathas v/s British , Haji Malang (Shri Malanggad) 1780 .

A long drawn battle took place between the British East India Company and the Marathas under Nana Phadnavis in the monsoon of 1780 for the control of Malanggad , also known as Haji Malang – famous for an old dargah of that name which is situated on the hill . It is a prominent landmark near Kalyan , where an ’urs ‘ for the dargah takes place annually .

Reasons for conflict :

As of 1780 , the primary concern of the British was to secure and fortify the Island of Mumbai , their base in this part of India . Hence , apart from forts in South Mumbai and what are today its suburbs – Sion , Mahim etc , they also wanted to secure the routes leading into the city . Bor Ghat and Kasur Ghat to name a couple . The whole aim was to cut off all routes to Mumbai from Pune , where Nana Phadnavis resided with considerable forces at his disposal . But by blocking the ghats and capturing the heights , the British wanted to neutralise any future Maratha plans of retaking Mumbai . The town of Kalyan was situated at a most opportune location . Having been a town right from Chhatrapati Shivaji’s times , it had major routes from both Pune – Khopoli as well as the north ( Kasara Ghat ) passing through it . The fort of Malanggad was situated right next to Kalyan , and commanded an excellent view of the region . The British aimed to capture this fort and then turn their attention to Vasai . With the routes leading to Mumbai from Pune blockaded and watched over , and little help expected from Gujarat , the capture of Vasai would make the ‘ring ‘ around Mumbai complete .

British moves :

Capt. Campbell captured Parsik hill the 12th of April , 1780 . The next day , that is on 13th April 1780 , the town and fort of Panvel was taken by Capt Lendrum . This being an important Maratha outpost , the British wanted to nip any help which may reach Kalyan by the Panvel- Taloja – Kalyan road in the bud itself . The fort of Belapur also fell to the British on the same day . From here , Capt Lendrum moved to Taloja and forced the Maratha chowkie established at the place to retreat to Kalyan . Kalyan was beseiged towards the end of April by Capt Campbell . Continuous bombarding for over five hours finally caused the fort to crumble . The arrival of another senior officer , Capt Hartley , aided in the British capture of Kalyan . With Panvel and Kalyan taken and the roads secured , the British turned their attention to Malanggad .

 

Belapur – Taloja – Malanggad

The Malanggad Fort :

This fort , situated near Kalyan consists of two machis and a balekilla . The hill stands rather isolated , and one can see for miles upon miles for end from its summit . I have myself trekked to it’s summit and have spotted the Mumbai – Pune Expressway from there . Without any binoculars . On the other side , the whole of the Ambernath and Ulhasnagar area can be seen . On the third side are Tavli and other such hills which were never full fledged forts . Infact , the summits of these nearby hills are nearly impossible to reach . Thus , the strategic value as well as natural defenses of the fort become readily evident .

Old British painting ( 1800 ) showing Malanggad

Old British painting ( 1800 ) showing Malanggad

The Marathas and British :

When Kalyan fell , Malanggad was under the control of one Pandurang Sambhaji Ketkar . The British did not immediately move towards the fort in the hot months of May and June , but instead decided on August to attack . Since the time of Shivaji , the monsoons had been taken as a time when warfare came to a stalemate in the hills and forests of the Sahyadris . What with the torrential rain making moving on the slushy ground extremely difficult and the dense fog making it impossible to sight anything . So , even in 1780 , not expecting much action , some of the garrison from Malanggad had been granted leave . On the 4th of August 1780 , Abbington attacked the fort and although Pandurang Ketkar fought bravely , managed to capture Pir Machi . This is the Machi on which the dargah is situated . Ketkar retreated to the other machi – Sone machi and decided to make a stand over there . Since the machi was not stocked with enough grain for all three hundred , upto 175 soldiers left the fort and made their way to Gangadhar Karlekar , the mamlatdar of Kalyan . Pandurang Ketkar continued to fight Abbington with his hundred odd troops and a few months of food supply .

Pune reacts :

Nana Phadnavis , realising the gravity of the situation , decided to send Gangadhar Karlekar , Kashipant and Anandrao Dhulap to aid Pandurang Ketkar .They reached Neral , near today’s hill station of Matheran . From here unfortunately , the next fortnight was spent in indecision , with the result that it was as late as 28th of August that they finally managed to reach a village called Kharawai near the fort . Abbington now tried to capture Sone machi and the bale killa by one spectacular attack on it , but failed in doing so . Pandurang Ketkar and his gardi musketeers were equal to the task . Not only did they manage to beat back the British assault , but even forced their cannons to retreat from Pir machi .The British grip on the lower ranges of the fort weakened , and Gangadhar Karlekar was able to send some much needed supplies and provisions to Ketkar . Nana Phadnavis , sensing that Gangadhar Karlekar was making little headway , now sent Balaji Phatak and Ragho Godbole to lift the siege . The two reached Shiravali in the first week of September and were joined by the others – i.e Karlekar , Dhulap and Kashipant . Turn by turn , the contingents of Anandrao Dhulap , Karlekar and Godbole attacked the British on Pir Machi , while Phatak supported them from their camp below and Pandurang Ketkar from the machi above . The Marathas managed to bring their cannon to Pir Machi and bombard the British positions . Considerable damage was caused to Abbington , but in the absence of a concentrated Maratha attack , they managed to hold fort . Finally , the 18th of September was chosen as the day when a combined attack would be mounted on the British . And in all probability , this would have meant the end of the British siege , but nature had other plans in mind .

A reprieve for the British &  a British counter attack :

On the 18th , it rained cats and dogs at Malanggad , making any warfare impossible . The entire region was shrouded in dense fog which made even the fort itself appear just like a ghostly blur . The planned attack had to be put off for obvious reasons . Abbington had not been sitting idle on Malanggad . He sent messages to Major Westphal at Kalyan , asking for help . Westphal responded by sending troops from Bhivandi around the 17th , which cut off the supply routes of the Marathas . Colonel Hartley started from Mumbai proper and taking the Belapur – Taloja route , reached Shiravali , the Maratha camp . Here , a fight ensued between the Marathas and Hartley and the former were driven back to the village of Vavanje . At Vavanje , the Marathas faced a two pronged attack from both Hartley and Jameson , causing them to first retreat to Panvel and then to Khopoli . Meanwhile at Malanggad : Pandurang Sambhaji Ketkar was once again left alone to fend off his attackers . The British had been weakened but not evicted . A Col Carpenter was now sent to aid the British assault on Sone machi and the bale killa . Pandurang Ketkar and his two Gardi musketeers Aziz Khan Jamadar and Abu Sheikh Jamadar held off wave after wave of British attacks in the early days of October . Even concentrated attacks were repulsed with clever use of muskets and swords . The Gardis ofcourse were expert in using the musket . All this , when their supposed reinforcement was fighting a battle in far away Khopoli . But the point being that Pandurang Ketkar held the fort .Failure to do so would have meant a direct threat to Pune in 1780 itself .

The siege lifts :

Nana Phadnavis now decided to step in himself . Free from troubles elsewhere , he moved to Khandala with Yashwantrao Panse , Bhavani Shivram and Haripant Phadke . Their plan was to take the Rajmachi route and reach Kalyan . He immediately instructed Panse and Shivram to proceed to Malanggad . Another officer was sent in the direction of Vasai . Col Hartley , with his troops fighting in various places at the same time , was had pressed to find an answer to this 10,000 strong army led by Phadnavis himself . Plus , even after two months of fighting , the citadel of Malanggad was still in Maratha hands . Hence , around November 1780 , the British lifted the siege of Malanggad .

Conclusion :

1. The British troop movements were better planned .

2. The Marathas managed their supply lines poorly .

3. The bravery displayed by Pandurang Ketkar and his Gardi musketeers is what kept the fort from falling . It fell eventually in 1897 . 4. The Ketkar family , which attributes the 1780 success to the dargah , continues to be its caretaker .

 

Ref : The First Anglo Maratha War – M.R . Kantak

Battles of Honourable East India Company .

© Aneesh Gokhale .

* Maps created via Google

Aneesh Gokhale is the author of two books on Maratha & Assamese history. His books can be purchased on Amazon India

Published by Aneesh Gokhale

Author - "Brahmaputra - The Story of Lachit Barphukan, Assamese contemporary of Chhatrapati Shivaji" , "Sahyadris to Hindukush" and " Battles of the Maratha Empire". Written over thirty five articles for a history column in DNA Newspaper. Published on many occasions in online publications such as IndiaFacts , Swarajya , TFI , Creative India , Indic Today and others. Given talks on Maratha and Assamese history at Pune Intl Lit Fest , INTACH (Delhi), Wadia College (Pune), Indian Institute of Democratic Leadership (Mumbai), Thakur College's TCET Talk (Mumbai), Pondy Lit Fest (Pondicherry), various Rotary Clubs and educational institutions in Pune and Mumbai. Also, qualified to navigate a ship.

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