Trimbak FORT History

Trimbak with Nasik is said to have been governed by a brother of Ramchandra (1271-1308) the fifth of the Devgiri Yadavs. [Wilson’s Mackenzie Collection (2nd Ed.) 63.] In the Musalman histories of the Deccan, Trimbak is always coupled with Nasik, and it is still the practice to speak of the two places as Nasik-Trimbak. The earliest known mention of Trimbak is in 1629, in the third year of Shah Jehan’s reign, when a force of 8000 horse was sent to conquer Nasik, Trimbak, and Sangamner. [Elliot and Dowson, VII. 10, 11.] In 1683 mention is made that the Ahmadnagar or Nizamshahi commandant of Trimbak fort offered his services to the Moghals. [Grant Duffs Marathas, 49.] In 1635 a force of 8000 men was sent against the forts of Junnar, Sangamner, Nasik, and Trimbak. [Elliot and DOWSON, VII. 52.] In 1636, after his defeat at Mahuli. Shahji agreed to deliver Trimbak fort along with Tringalvadi, Hanshchandragad, and others, to Khan Zaman, the Moghal general. [Elliot and Dowson, 60; Grant Duff’s Marathas, 52.] About 1680 Trimbak (Tirmek) is mentioned as a sub-division of Sangamner which was a district of Aurangabad. A manuscript quoted by Orme, apparently of Moghal times, describes the river Ganga as coming from the Konkan hills on which Tirmek is built, passing through the middle of the Sangamner district forty miles (20 kos) to Gulshanabad or Nasik. Numbers of Hindus from the most distant parts are said to come every year to Trimbak to bathe on the day the sun enters the sign of the Scorpion. Every twelfth year the multitude was much greater and some came on every day of the year. The pilgrim tax yielded a large sum and belonged to the commandant of Trimbak fort. The rock out of which the Ganga springs had been fashioned into a cow’s mouth. [MSS. quoted in Orme’s Historical Fragments, 285-286.] In 1682 Aurangzeb’s generals advanced from Aurangabad to Nasik-Tirmek, near the source of the river Ganga, and their detachments reduced several posts on detached bills. [Orme’s Historical Fragments, 113.] In 1684 one of Sambhaji’s generals gained leave to go with the troops under his command to bathe in the Ganga at Nasik-Tirmek, as according to their belief every Maratha was bound to wash at least once a year in the Ganga, and in preference at Nasik-Tirmek. [Orme’s Historical Fragments, 143.] In 1716 Shahu demanded that the Moghals should restore Trimbak fort to the Marathas. [Grant Duff’s Marathas, 197.] The demand was refused and the fort seems to have remained with the Moghals till 1720 when the whole of Khandesh passed to the Nizam. [Grant Duff’s Marathas, 200, 206.] In 1730 the fort was captured by Kolis, [Transactions Bombay Geographical Society, I, 243.] but the Nizam recovered it and held it till 1752 when it was taken by a Maratha officer. [Grant Duff’s Marathas, 276.] In 1750 Tieffenthaler mentions Trimbak as a good fort on the bank of the Godavari. [Description Historique et Geographique de l’Inde, I. 482. The editor notices that Nasik-Tirmek is one place and it appears in Rennell’s map (1783) as Nasick-Trimuck.] In 1767 Trimbak is mentioned as part of the territory which Madhavrav Peshwa agreed to give to his uncle Raghunath Rao. [Grant Duff’s Marathas, 339.] In a revenue statement, prepared from Maratha records of about 1790, Trimbak is entered as a sub-division in the Sangamner district yielding £848 (Rs. 8482). [Waring’s Marathas, 239.]

Siege, 1818.

During the Maratha war of 1818 Trimbak, Rajdhair, and Malegaon were the only Nasik forts which offered resistance to Colonel McDowell’s force. Marching from Nasik on the 22nd of April Colonel McDowell’s detachment halted half way to Trimbak, while the engineers went ahead to reconnoitre and summon the fort to surrender. As the party approached the village of Trimbak the enemy left it and opened fire from the guns on the north side of the fort which were numerous and well served. They afterwards made a sally on the party but were at once driven back. The same evening a reconnaisance was made of the south gateway which was on the other side of the fort and at a considerable distance from the village. The commanding engineer Lieutenant Davies recommended an attack on the north gate. [The “reasons for the engineer’s choice were, that although the ascent to the north gate was more difficult than to the south gate, there was but one line of works to destroy, a point of great consequence, as the detachment had only six-pounders with which to effect a breach, as it was impossible to carry heavier guns up the hills on either side. A second reason was the advantage offered by the village of Trimbak and other ruined villages at the foot of the scarp in constructing batteries and giving cover to the troops. A third reason was that the road leading to the south side of the fort was impracticable for guns, and the wells on that side had been poisoned. Lake’s Sieges, 99-106.] The plan of attack was to silence the fire of the enemy’s guns, particularly these which boro on the ruined village, and for this purpose to erect a battery for the heavy ordnance at the northern side of the bottom of the hill, then to occupy and form a ledgment in the village at the foot of the north gate, to erect a battery in the village for four six-pounders to batter the gateway, and thence to carry the guns up to the gateway by hand as had been done at Rajdhair fort. At the short distance of about 100 yards it was hoped that the towers and curtains of the gateway might be demolished, and that the troops might advance to storm the breach under cover of the fire of the batteries and of musketry from the post in the village. At all events, it was hoped that a lodgment so immediately under the gateway would alarm the garrison and induce them to surrender.

To cut off from the enemy all hope of escape by the south side, and to distract their attention, two six-pounders and a howitzer were detached and established as high up the hill and as near to the south gate as the nature of the ground allowed.

The attack began on the 23rd. At eight in the morning the detachment took its ground before the fort, and the whole of the in trenching tools and materials collected for the siege were carried into the village to the place chosen for the engineer’s store. At four in the evening a detachment of fifty Europeans, fifty irregulars, and 150 horse with two six-pounders, marched from camp to take a position opposite the south gateway. With them was a working party under an officer of engineers, consisting of a small detail of sappers and miners, thirty pioneers, and fifty litter-bearers, provided with forty wicker-cages or gabions and 2000 sand bags. A battery for the two six-pounders and a place of arms for the troops were prepared during the night, and one of the guns was carried up and placed in battery. For the operations on the north side a working party was got ready of half the corps of sappers and miners, fifty Europeans, 100 litter-bearers, and about 100 lascars. As soon as it was dusk, the battery and place of arms were laid out, and when it grew dark the working party advanced and began operations. [Unfortunately, the ground on which this work was formed proved to be a bed of rock a few inches below the surface, which gave rise to great additional labour. For instead of forming a sunken battery, as it was intended, an elevated one had to be constructed; but the greatest inconvenience arising from this circumstance was the impossibility of lowering the trails of the guns, which rendered it necessary to form an inclined plane for the wheels of the guns to rest on, in order to give them sufficient elevation to bear on the upper gateway. Lake’s Sieges, 99-106.] At twelve at night the relief for the working party arrived in the trenches, consisting of the remaining half of the sappers and miners, fifty sepoys, 400 pioneers, and 200 litter-bearers. Owing to the rocky nature of the ground it was necessary to carry the earth for the battery from a distance. It was deemed therefore advisable not to relieve the old working party but to keep both at work, and thus, by great la

bour, the works were finished a little before daylight, and four heavy guns, two eight-inch mortars and two eight-inch howitzers, were got into battery. During the night the enemy fired occasionally on the working party from their different guns, but no casualties occurred.

On the 24th the battery opened at daylight and with great effect, so that in three hours all the enemy’s guns were silenced, and it was found on reconnoitring that they had left the ruined village. This induced the commanding officer to attempt a lodgment there at midday instead of waiting till night as had originally been intended. The working [The working party consisted of the sappers and miners, eighty pioneers, and 100 litter-bearers, under two engineer officers. They were provided with 100 gabions and 2000 sand-bags.] and covering [The covering party consisted of Her Majesty’s Royals and the 1st Battalion of the 13th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry.] parties for this service were ordered to parade at noon in rear of the work. From some misconception of orders the covering party advanced three quarters of an hour before the time ordered and before the working party were ready; and instead of remaining quiet under cover of the walls and houses, they attempted to force the gateway and the bluff rock 200 feet in perpendicular height.

The enemy opened a very heavy fire of jingals, rockets, and matchlocks, and rolled large stones on the assailants. When the working party arrived they tried in vain to establish themselves. At the same time the British battery discontinued firing as the artillerymen were worn out by twelve hours’ incessant labour and the working party were forced to retire with loss behind the walls of the village where they remained till night when a battery for four six-pounders was completed. During the afternoon of the 23rd, the enemy, fancying from the desperate enterprise of that morning that an attempt had really been intended by the narrow passage, and believing that neither rocks, walls, nor artillery could stop their assailants, lowered one of their number by a rope, who, when within hail, called out that the commandant was willing to treat with Colonel McDowell. The usual demand of the payment of arrears was made and refused. About six in the morning of the 24th, a Jamadar of the garrison came down, and terms were arranged for the surrender of the place, the garrison being allowed to retire with their arms and private property. In the coarse of the day the garrison turned out. There were about 535 men, Rajputs and Marathas with a few Sides or Abyssinians. It was arranged that they should leave by the south gate, but so well had it been secured inside by heaps of stones that they were not able to clear a way for themselves before three o’clock in the afternoon. Within the fort were found twenty-five pieces of ordnance, from a thirty-three down to a one-pounder, with a sufficiency of ammunition. [On examining their guns the artillery of the enemy was not found so unscientific as their practice seemed to show. Several shells that had been brought from Daman in the time of the Moghal government were lying about. Some of these being filled with loose powder, without a fuze or any other stopper, were run down with the usual charge of powder, and fired on the British. The gun gave a double report, as the shell burst the moment it left the muzzle. The assailants could not imagine what was the cause of the double report as they were never able to see where the shot struck or what became of it. The mouth of the gun was torn to pieces. Summary Maratha and Pendhari Wars, 181.] The loss in taking this important fortress amounted to thirteen Europeans and nine natives, including two officers. This loss was small, but the state to which the heavy guns and their carriages was reduced was a serious inconvenience. There were no means of replacing them; The siege of hill-forts was particularly destructive to gun-carriages. To give the pieces sufficient elevation it was necessary to sink the trails into the ground. Where this, as at Trimbak, was impracticable from the rocky site of the battery, the wheels had to be raised on sand-bags.

The fall of Trimbak so alarmed the commandants of the other forts that sixteen strong places surrendered witheut resistance. [These sixteen places were, Achla, Ahivant or Ivatta, Bahula, Bhaskargad, Ghargad, Harish, Hatgad, Kantra, Koledhair, Kanhira, Kavnai, Markinda, Ramsej, Ravlya-Javlya, Tringalvadi, and Vaghera. All these forts were visited and reported on by Captain Briggs immediately after their surrender. Ammunition and stores were found in Bhaskargad, Kantra, Kamsej, and Vaghera. Ahmadnagar Collector’s MSS. File VI. Inward Miscellaneous.] The occupation of so many forts caused serious embarrassment. No regular troops could be spared, and irregulars raised for the purpose were unworthy of trust. The temporary use of irregulars could not be avoided. At the same time application was made to Brigadier-General Doveton for more Native Infantry, who ordered two companies of the second battalion of the 13th Regiment to join from Jalna with all expedition. [Blacker’s Maratha War, 321-323. The guns used in the reduction of Trimbak fort were, two iron eighteen-pounders and two iron twelve-pounders, eight six-pounders, two eight-inch and two live and a half inch mortars, two eight-inch and two five and a half inch howitzers. The ammunition expended was 251 eighteen-pound shot, sixty-six twelve-pound shot, 111 eight-inch shells, 40 five and a half inch shells, and 2200 pounds of gunpowder. The stores used were S000 sand-bags, 200 gabions, and 50 fascines. Lake’s Sieges, 103-100.]

Two months after the surrender of Trimbak fort, Trimbakji Denglia tried to retake it by surprise. Only a few men of the 13th Madras Native Infantry, commanded by a Subhedar, had been left in the fortress. One morning the sentries at the north gate were asked to admit a band of pilgrims who wished to worship the source of the Godavari. They were admitted without suspicion. Before all of the party had entered one of them attacked the sentry, who, at the cost of his life, succeeded in closing the gates. The garrison, immediately alarmed, overpowered the few who had gained admittance, and the rest of the pilgrims, in the narrow t of steps leading to the north gate, suffered severely from stones dropped on them from above. [Lake’s Sieges, 110.]

The Brahmans of Trimbak played a seditions part during the 1857 mutinies. At their instigation a party of Bhils and Thakurs attacked the Trimbak treasury on the night of the 5th of December 1857, and some of the men who took part in the rising hid themselves in the hills round Trimbak. The hills were searched and among the men who were made prisoners a Thakur named Panda acknowledged his share in the outbreak and stated that ho and his people had risen under the advice of a Trimbak Brahman whom, he said, he knew by sight and could point out. Another of the prisoners, confirmed this story and promised to identify the Brahman. Mr. Chapman, the civil officer in charge of the district, who knew that the rising and attack on Trimbak had been organized by Brahmans, had brought all the Brahmans of Trimbak into his camp and ranged them in rows, but no one had come forward to identify the leading conspirators. Pandu was called and told to examine the rows of Brahmans and find out whether the man who had advised his people to revolt was among them. Pandu walked down the line and stopping before a Brahman, whose face was muffled, asked that the cloth might be taken away, and on seeing his face said that he was one of the Brahmans who had persuaded the Thakurs to attack Trimbak. Then the other Thakur who had confessed, was called in, and walking down the line picked out the same Brahman. Next morning this Brahman was tried, found guilty, condemned to death, and hanged. [See above p. 201.]

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