VASOTA FORT History

Vasota hill fort, also called Vyaghragad (Javli T; 17° 35′ N, 73° 40′ E; Rs Satara Road 32 m. NE; p. 156) in Javli is situated five miles west-north-west of Tambi, at the head of a small valley which branches west from the Koyna. At the mouth of the valley is a village named Vasote, but the fort is within the limits of the Met Indavli village, and on the very edge of the Sahyadris. It is a flat-topped hill nearly oval in shape and about 800 feet above the valley. The height on the other or Konkan side is probably some 3,700 feet. The first clear drop is perhaps 1,500 feet, which, Arthur’s Seat excepted, is one of the sheerest on the Sahyadris. The ascent was made from Met Indavli village. The first half was through dense forest apparently primeval, a block specially preserved to increase the difficulties of approaching the fort. Emerging from this by the path which was here and there cut into steps and getting steeper every yard there was a karvi grove which was nasty to get through, but quite commanded from the fort. Further on was a perfectly bare piece of rock with rude steps cut in it. This led to the double gateway at the northern end of the eastern face along a causeway made for about twenty yards on a ridge below the scarp. To enter this the path, here much blocked up with fallen debris, turned right round to the south, and by some thirty steps cut in the rock emerged on to the plateau above. There were three massive masonry arches set in mortar and apparently of Musalman type. The space on the top was some fifteen acres in extent. On reaching the top and turning to the north close by was the temple of Chandkai a small plain stone structure. Fifty yards further was a large pond forty feet square and fifty feet deep. Besides this was another pond holding good water. It was built of large blocks of dry stone, each block-projecting about two inches below the one above, a very ancient type. Further on was a temple of Mahadev with an image-chamber and a small hall completely modernised. It had a small white-washed spire with an urn-like top. There were remains of the head-quarters or Sadar, a building about fifty feet square with walls about fifteen feet high and three feet thick, modern but of finely hewn stone. The plinth and first three feet of the walls were partly of large dry stone blocks and might be much older. To this building was attached an inner dwelling house or majghar with a court about thirty feet square, on the west of which was the powder magazine. The defences consisted of a vertical scarp varying in height from thirty to sixty feet, crowned by a well and parapet from six to eight feet high and loopholed at intervals. The principal portion of this wall was of huge boulders of dry stone, but it was added to by different masters of the fort, who mostly used mortar and smaller masonry. To the north was a small detached head, used apparently as an outpost. It was connected with the fort by narrow neck which dipped some thirty feet below the general level of fort. This was filled up with immensely strong mortared masonry, while the walls of this head, though mostly modern, were in very good condition. The rest were much fallen in. On the south of the fort was a gorge, on the other side of which rose what was known as the old fort. This was about 300 yards distant, and, like the hills to the north about 1,000 yards distant, completely commanded the present fort. Remains of the batteries of the British attacking force were to be seen on the brow of the old fort. But there were no other buildings or trace of fortifications on it, nor was any reason given why it was so named. The cliff to the west of the gorge has a sheer drop of 1,500 feet if not more. It was known as the Babukhada and was used as a place of execution for criminals or offenders who used to be hurled down the cliff. The west face of the fort was only a degree less abrupt, and a loose block or boulder of the old wall, if tumbled down the cliff, might be seen bounding from ledge with increasing violence- and speed for an extraordinary distance. The face of the cliff to the south is in three concave stretches and a shout or whistle gives three or sometimes four beautifully distinct echoes. The view to the north is fine, including Makrandgad or the Saddleback and the fine group of steep hills about Kandat and the Par pass. The view south is shut out by the Babukhada, but the west gives an extensive prospect over the rugged Konkan down to the sea.

History.

The fort of Vasota is the most ancient in the hill districts. It is attributed to the Kolhapur Silahara chief Bhoja II (1178-1193) of Panhala and, from the Cyclopean blocks of unmortared trap which formed the pond and older portions of the wall, appears undoubtedly to be of great antiquity. The gateway looked Musalman, but it is doubtful whether any Muhammedans ever came so far. The Shirkes and Mores possessed the fort till it was taken by Shivaji in 1655 after the murder and conquest of the Javli chief. Shivaji named the fort Vyaghragad which name it has not retained. The name of Vasota was seen permanently associated with Tai Telin, a mistress of Pant Pratinidhi who was undergoing imprisonment at Masur in 1806 under Bajirav I. During his absence Tai Telin obtained the possession of Vasota and had the dash and courage to release her paramour. [Grant Duff’s Marathas, Vol. II, 414.] Pratinidhi declared himself the servant of the Raja of Satara, and broke off relations with the Peshva. He was, however, soon overpowered at Vasantgad by Bapu Gokhale, the former General of Peshva. Tai Telin, however, continued to fight the Gokhale for over eight months at Vasota; but had to surrender in consequence of a fire which destroyed her granary. [Grant Duffs’ Marathas, Vol. II, 415.] Since then it was chiefly used as a State prison. Early after his defeat at Kirkee (5th November 1817). Bajirav sent the Satara Raja and his family into confinement at Vasota, but before the end of the month the princes were brought away and sent to join his camp on march from Pandharpur to the Junnar hills. The wives and families with him remained till the following April. About the same time Cornets Hunter and Morrison of the Madras establishment, on their way from Hyderabad to Poona with a small escort, were captured by the Peshvas forces at Uruli about fifteen miles east of Poona, sent first to Kangori fort in Kolaba. [Compare Bom. Gazetteer, XI 323, 471-72,] and thence to Vasota. At Vasota they were lodged in a single room in the head-quarter buildings. A man named Mhatarji Kanhoji Chavhan looked after them and was rewarded by the ex-Government for his attentions. Their human treatment was due to the special orders of Bapu Gokhale. The British force advanced from Medha by Bamnoli and Tambi, driving in outposts at Vasote and met at Indavli. Negotiations were opened with the commandant one Bhaskar Pant, but he obstinately refused to surrender. The British forces then advanced a detachment under cover of the thick forest before mentioned to positions in the karvi grove where they dug up shelters for themselves in the hill side. A battery was set on the old fort, The local story is that negotiations proceeded seven days, when at last it was decided to bombard. The first shot fell over in the Konkan, the next in the powder magazine which it blew up, the third in the temple of Chandkai, and the fourth in the middle of the head-quarter on which the commandant surrendered. According to Grant Duff, the bombardment lasted twenty hours. [Grant Duff’s Marathas, Vol. II, 517-18] The prize property amounted to about 2 lakhs and the Satara Raja recovered family jewels worth Us. 3 lakhs.

At Present (1960), the fort stands in a dilapidated condition amidst a thick jungle. There is no path through the jungle leading to the fort-hill and then to the fort. The fort is difficult of access. Nothing remains of the temple of Mahadev.

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