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Baji Prabhu Deshpande Punyatithi – Death Anniversary - History of Baji Prabhu Deshpande

Baji Prabhu Deshpande Punyatithi is annually observed in Ashada month. It is the death anniversary of Baji Prabhu Deshpande (1615-1660 CE), who was minister and general of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, founder of the Maratha Empire. Baji Prabhu Deshpande Punyatithi 2024 date is July 22.

Baji Prabhu was a great warrior who sacrificed he life for his country. He along with 300 warriors took on 4000 Muslim invaders so that Shivaji Maharaj can escape from Panhala Fort.

Baji Prabhu Deshpande and Bandal Sena of about 300 men blocked the Ghodkhind (Horse's Pass) so that Shivaji Maharaj and rest of the soldiers can escape to safety.

Through the entire battle against the Muslim invaders at Ghodhind, Baji Prabhu, even though grievously injured, continued fighting, inspiring his men to fight on until Shivaji's safe journey.

Here is how a poet described Baji Prabhu Deshpande:

'' Looking at him soaked in blood from head to toe,
fighting with a sword in both hands,
was like looking at the rising sun,
Glowing Red and shunning away the darkness.'' 

Baji Prabhu Deshpande Punyatithi is annually observed on Ashadha Krishna Paksha Pratipada Tithi or the first day during the waning phase of moon in Ashada month as per traditional Hindu lunar calendar followed in Maharashtra. 

History of Baji Prabhu Deshpande

Baji Prabhu Deshpande (c. 1615-1660) was a commander of Maratha king Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha empire. The legend of Baji Prabhu is linked with an important rear guard battle enabling Chhatrapati Shivaji's escape from Panhala fort; he was the hero who sacrificed his life for his king..

On 13th July 1660, 300 Brave Maratha Soldiers led by Baji Prabhu Deshpande held the narrow passage of Gorge (Ghod Khind) against 10,000 Adilshahi soldiers so that Shivaji Maharaj could reach Vishal Fort safely.

It was a last stand of this Great Warrior Baji Prabhu and the 300 Marathas, which lasted for more than 8 hours till they heard the cannon fire from Vishalgarh Fort signalling arrival of Shivaji Maharaj.

In 1660, Shivaji was trapped in the fort of Panhala, under siege for nearly 4 months and vastly outnumbered by an Adilshahi army led by an Abyssinian named Siddi Masud. The Adil Shahis were the invaders who ruled Bijapur for a few years. The ruler at the time was Ali Adil Shah II. Adilshahi, having suffered several defeats from Shivaji, and even though they were at odds with Mughals, had aligned with the Mughals to temper Shivaji's ambition.

On a rainy night a distraction was created to divert Adilshahi forces and create an opening in the perimeter. Baji Prabhu Deshpande managed to engage a large Adilshahi army of 10,000 soldiers with 300 soldiers, while Shivaji managed to escape the siege along with his 600 soldiers on barefoot. They left the Panhala fort for a nearby fort-Vishal Fort. Path to Vishal Fort was around 50 km trek through dense forest of Sahyadri in heavy rain.

Strategy was simple: Don’t let any enemy pass through the Khind.

The Khind was to be held till sound of a cannon is heard from Vishal Fort. Baji Prabhu and his brother Phulaji Prabhu divided the Marathas in small groups along the narrow gorge, mainly swordsmen and slingers. Few groups were placed on the heights overlooking the gorge , mainly the archers and reserves. It was a multilevel battlefield for every single enemy entering the gorge.

In the heavy rain Marathas took positions and soon came the Adilshahi juggernaut lead by Siddi Masud.

Bajiprabhu Deshpande occupied Ghod Khind, blocking the path of the pursuers, and made a determined defence against them. His brother Phulaji Prabhu as well as sardars such as Shambhu Singh Jadhav were present with him. Phulaji Prabhu and Shambhu Singh were killed after a gallant and fierce fights. Baji Prabhu was severely wounded but carried on fighting at his station. 

The Adilshahi army repeatedly tried to break through the defenses of the pass, but were repeatedly repulsed. The unequal battle raged for hours, with the defenders maintaining their positions, but with rapidly depleting numbers. Only a handful of Marathas survived, and around a thousand soldiers of the Adilshahi army became casualties in attempting to take the pass.

Eight hours after the battle started, the cannon fire announcing Shivaji’s safe return to Vishalgarh Fort was heard. Almost three hundred Marathas had been killed. Legend has it that a gravely injured Baji Prabhu continued engaging the enemy and held the pass, only laying down his life once he heard the sound of cannon fire. The handful surviving Marathas then retreated and disappeared in the forest as per the plan.