Kishan, a young storekeeper had a pet goat and aspired to join the infantry division of the noble Malhar Rao just like his father. Rani who was the daughter of another soldier and lived a couple of houses away at the quarters of the fort township was jealous that all of Kishan’s time was spent on petting the goat or getting his daily feed. The story unfolds somewhere in the early 18th century atop Panhala fort sitting at a height of 2000 plus feet providing a cushion of comfort to the thousand or more occupants. Hope you enjoy it…
Gopi, one of the door keepers of the fort’s main gate had taken a liking to the lively Rani and Sunanda who were inmates on the fort like him. He was pressing his elders for his marriage but all such engagement proposals would have to wait since the whole town on top of the fort was in siege for the last 3 months. The Shah of Bijapur who had laid the siege could ill afford to wait further as his forces were also homesick. Infact Panhala was a stronghold of Bijapur for quite some time but they had lost control of it recently. Moreover his supplies from his city 150 miles away had been cut now and then by the chief Sreeraj, a tribal chief in the plains and who was loyal to the Malhar noble.
Shah was expecting Malhar to come down to accept his terms but there was no sign of him relenting. His small town nestled in the fort had around 1000 people including the soldiers who should have been famished by now so that they either rose up in revolt against their noble or must have resigned themselves to hunger and death. He couldn’t force his troops up as the fort gates were unbreakable just as the fort was impregnable with steep slopes on all sides. The bowmen at the turrets would make them easy targets if they ventured too close to the gates through the narrow winding way upward.
Rani was being well looked after. After all her marriage to a suitable boy on the hill was on the cards. She was happy to see that Gopi was trying to gain their friendship. She liked Gopi to be her friend and took pride in that bond. After all he was the gatekeeper of the entire fort.
Malhar Rao decided to send a letter of friendship to Shah asking him to lift the siege and promised him ten thousands gold coins and some fertile land so that he could still keep the fort and allow himself a safe passage to his other territories. He was not sure if the enemy would accept it but it was a honest try. The rains had subsided and the Sun was making his presence felt on the town. This was one fort of the seven he would not dream to hand over as it was here he and his retinue could remain immune to any attack.
Sunanda’s father Jagan would be the messenger of the friendship letter and it would be relayed to one of Shah’s soldier who was standing 100 steps below the fort gate. At dawn the gate would open a little to let Jagan out as per the plan laid out.
Sunanda had Kishan’s goat in tow when she accompanied her father till the gate. Rani came to know about the messenger at the last minute and came dashing to the gate like an unstoppable. The gate had been opened and the messenger Jagan had just stepped out. The goat already nervous with so many persons unknown to him panicked when he saw Rani dashing towards him. He strained at the rope that held him to Sunanda’s hand and dashed out of the small gate down the steps and out of the fort. On the fifth step or so he knocked Jagan down so that the message flew out of his hand and went flying out into the rocks in no man territory to be read by none. The goat still continued going down the steps towards the enemy with Rani and Sunanda going after him. It was with big effort on their part to get hold of him and pull him back. Maybe he gave in as his eyes had picked a lot of men further down.
The sight amused the enemy soldiers who reported it to their chief and hearing the commotion, The Shah also came out of his tent to see the scene unwinding in front of his eyes. There was a plump goat chased by two girls who looked healthy enough. The girls came mid- way took hold of the goat in their hands and managed to run back before his soldiers could react. He nodded to the commander not to chase the retreating girls.
He called the commander to his tent and they had a discussion. “There is no point waiting here chief. Did you see the fat goat and those two girls. Did the three look famished? On the contrary they are much healthier than our soldiers. I think Malhar Rao has enough food stocks on him to last many a month. It is we who are starving due to lack of supplies. The moment he senses we are too weak to resist he will run us down with whatever soldiers he has up there. Do you think it was a freak incident? They are teasing us and had the audacity to send a goat and the two girls down. Who knows, we maybe the goats he is waiting to sacrifice at the right opportunity?
The flurry of activity at the gate was known to Malhar Rao. He was upset at the turn of events. He was angry at Gopi and called him and demanded an explanation. At the same time he sent summons to the fallen Jagan, Rani and Sunanda. The noble was still finding it difficult to understand the chain of events after the gate was opened. He wanted to know everything from everyone who played in his message being thrown to the winds. Just as they were explaining it to their noble came another message from the turrets which also Malhar Rao couldn’t believe.
The army of Shah was withdrawing back to the plains which also meant the siege had been lifted. I don’t know what you all have done there a couple of hours back and I don’t care since you all have saved the people here and a lot of gold which I was planning to give them. We will now have a fortnight of rejoicing.
I don’t have to tell you that during the joyful festival, Kishan was getting married to Rani and Gopi to Sunanda atop the fort of Panhala.
Author Note: This is a pure work of imagination and should not be confused with eminent people and places having similar names who lived and flourished in the said period.