Restoring lost glory: Pune-based Shivaji Trails visits 130 forts across India, Singapore
City-based Shivaji Trails group aims for another Limca Book of Records after performing Durg Pooja on 123 forts in India and two forts in Singapore.pune Updated: Mar 04, 2018 23:02 IST
As a part of their annual practice, aiming to preserve and restore forts, members of city-based charitable society Shivaji Trails visited 130 forts across India and Singapore on February 25; breaking their record of 123 from last year. This year, the list of forts included those in Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Delhi and even two forts in Singapore.
In 1997, Milind Kshirsagar, a sports teacher at Loyola School, took almost 1,000 students to forts on 157 trails. He later started Shivaji Trails with an objective of preservation of forts, as well as sustenance of villages hosting the forts. Kshirsagar started with a simple step of performing durg puja on Shivaji Maharaj’s capital, Raigad fort, in 1997. Since then, every year on the last Sunday of February, the members of Shivaji Trail perform durg puja on various forts in Maharashtra and other states.
“When we started durg puja, we involved several school kids from Pune in our mission. Almost 1,000 kids from 10 to 12 schools were part of the mission for several years. Now, they have settled down in various places, but have managed to continued the mission by performing the puja at their nearest forts,” said Kshirsagar.
Eighteen-year-old Nakul Rajput joined Shivaji Trail when he was in Class 6. Since then, he has been a part of the mission. “I attended the first durg puja on Ghangad fort and I was very inspired by the work. So I decided to attend durg puja every year on different forts. This time, I went to Madhya Pradesh and performed pooja on Narsinhagad. Residents also joined me and I hope they will continue doing the puja next year too,” he said.
As this initiative gained momentum, durg puja was conducted on 15 forts simultaneously in the year 2014. The number of forts being visited by Shivaji Trails members kept increasing since 2014. The collective effort inspired many other local groups working for fort restoration and 2015 witnessed durg puja being performed on 74 forts of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab on the same day.
The galore of this event soon became a national sensation and in the following year 2016, the puja was performed on 121 forts of India and the event proved to be historic with active participation of 21 royale family descendents of the Maratha empire at various forts. The effort were also applauded not only by the people and media, but also by the Limca Book of Records with a mention of this event as a milestone in the 'History and Culture of India' category.
Kshirsagar believes that durg puja is the first and basic step towards awareness about our rich historic heritage and the preservation of the forts.
“We want to reach out to every fort in India. We want people to realise the importance of the forts. Several centuries ago, these forts protected people and now it’s time for the people to protect the forts,” said Kshirsagar.
Forts in Singapore
Shivaji Trail members, currently residing in Singapore, decided to perform durg pooja on two forts – Fort Canning Hill and Fort Silaso.
Fort Siloso is the sole restored coastal gun battery from the 12 such batteries which made up ‘Fortress Singapore’ at the start of World War II. The fort is situated on Sentosa island. The fort is now a military museum open to the public.
Fort Canning Hill is a small hill about 48 metres high in the Singapore's central business district.
Why forts in Sahyadris are in worst condition
It has been observed that, compared to the forts in Rajasthan, Delhi or even Karnataka, the forts in Maharashtra are in poor condition and on many forts it’s just ruins that shows that these places were once a fighting station.
“We need to realise that forts in Sahyadris were in action till the British era. The Maratha warriors effectively used these forts against the East India Company and therefore in 1818, under the leadership of Col Prother, the British army destroyed almost every fort in Sahyadri with the help of canons and dynamites. We should be proud of these warriors, who instead of surrendering the fort, kept fighting till the last breath,” said Kharshikar.