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Shivaji Killas – Diwali Mud Forts in Maharashtra - A Tryst with History - Diwali Shivaji Killa

Shivaji Killas, or Mud Forts, are a feature of Diwali celebrations in Maharashtra. The small miniature mud forts made by children remembers the heroic deeds of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Today, there are readymade mud forts which are part of Diwali decoration in many homes.
Historian Ninad Bedekar reiterates, "The tradition of making mud forts can be traced back to 300 years. Aurangzeb, who had put an end to the Adil Shahi and Kutub Shahi dynasties in Maharashtra, could never conquer the Marathi kingdom. It was all because of Shivaji's 260 fortresses, the defence lines of which were set from Salher to Gingee in Tamil Nadu. This could be one of the reasons why children build mud forts during Diwali. It is an act of pure reverence."

Kumbharwada in Pune, the hub that produces these clay products, is the place to be. Here, you would see about 60 to 70 shops dealing in what would be a child's fantasy: miniature forts sparkling with colorful glitter, toy elephants, horses, lions, birds, soldiers, vegetable vendors, gods, goddesses, wrestlers, musicians and Shivaji himself – enough to make one's own personal kingdom.Bharati Dastane, who visited Kumbharwada with her grandson, said, "As elders, we help our grandchildren make these forts. Once the fort is ready, it is decked with mustard shoots, mavals or toy soldiers and miniature animals. It is a tradition that has witnessed many generations. I did it, my children did it and now my grandchildren are taking this tradition forward.""About ten years ago, we would only get black-coloured forts in the market. Colourful forts came in only six years ago. These miniature bastions range from Rs 100 to 1,000," he said, adding that it takes a total of 15 days to craft these clay products. "We also have miniature Shivaji idols in eight to 10 sizes."Then there is the ever-popular fort making competition organised at Shambhaji Park by the Pune Municipal Corporation's Garden Department. Ashok Ghorpade, garden superintendent said, "This competition is being organised since 13 years now, from the tenure of former mayor Shantilal Suratwala, who had originally started it. The purpose is to acquaint children with our rich heritage. The competition, therefore, obligates them to research important information on the fort they are planning to replicate as a miniature."