India

The Fallen Heroes of Kondhawale

Kondhawale is located 30km west of Pune towards Mulshi in Maharashtra. This blog post is part of my on-going side project to document and record clusters of hero stones to be found in the Pune region, the scope of which will no doubt increase in the future to feature sites further afield.

For those needing an introduction to the subject matter, I suggest reading my account of the hero stones of Loni Bhapkar. Other sites near to Pune include Kikali and Morgaon.

The cluster of hero stones at Kondhawale probably has the widest variety of imagery I have witnessed thus far in my quest. Here we have conflict between enemies on foot and on horseback, attack (and death) by tigers, and the first time I have come across heroines as well has heroes. We also have a good mix of the more standard upright single-sided hero stones alongside the more elaborate four-sided stones depicting the deaths of multiple people, most likely occuring during the same event.

Sadly, however, it is here that I have also come across the first example of vandalism at such a site, details I will touch upon a little later on.

Whilst the hero stones at Kondhawale are located near to a Shiva temple, which always appears to be the case, the context here is different in that the site is nowhere near any dwellings. The stones are all south-facing, looking towards the Shiva temple, forming two distinct rows. The first (and longer) row also includes other worked stone in the form of a Shiva Linga and quern stone. Set a little further back appears to be remains of an upstanding Deepstambha.

As I have done in my other accounts of hero stones, I have numbered each of the stones thus :

First south-facing row, western extent
Continuation of first south-facing row, eastern extent
Second south-facing row

It was whilst photographing the eastern extent of the first row that I became aware of some recent changes that have occurred here. My friend Amar Reddy had visited this site in October 2017, his photographs clearly show a distinct set of seven stones, of which in January 2020 only four remained upright.

It appears that these three stones have been deliberately pushed over in an act of pure vandalism. The three stones still remain there lying on the ground, one face-up, the other two face-down. One of them has also been broken as a result of the displacement.

As the stones are still on the site at the place where they fell, I can only conclude that this wasn’t an attempt to obtain masonry for reuse. Note also that the positioning of the two stones on the far right has changed slightly, so clearly there was an attempt to do further damage. I think it is extremely unlikely that these stones fell over of their own accord, they are all quite firmly set into the ground, often burying the detail in the lowest carved panel.

This highlights just how precarious some of India’s heritage is, particularly in more rural contexts where such activities can occur without anyone else ever witnessing it. As with all hero stone locations, these memorials have been collected from various sites in the area and placed here for safekeeping, and whilst they have probably stood at this present location for centuries, they are now an easy target for anyone determined to do such damage.

It saddens me immensely to know this is happening, but preventing it from occurring is of course almost impossible in this situation. I have probably witnessed other examples of recent vandalism at various sites without actually realising it, but here I have hard photographic evidence.

With the less positive aspects of this site out of the way, it’s time to look at each of the numbered stones in detail with my attempts at interpreting the story behind each of our heroes and heroines.

There are 26 stones at the site, representing 32 individuals. For those wanting to skip to the highlights, stone #7 details the story of a heroine and her son, the four-sided stone #12 with an overhanging capstone preserves the best detail, and stone #15 depicts a hero’s death from a tiger attack.






















Hero Stones 13 and 14 have been toppled between October 2017 and January 2020 and are now lying face down. I did not attempt to inspect them any further.















The whole area around these hero stones is strewn with other fragments of masonry and small fragments of carvings. The substantial Shiva Linga and Deepstambha set a little further back did make me wonder if once there was an earlier temple on this site that has now been lost. Of course these fragments may also be the remains of other hero stones that were damaged long ago, as the first line of stones has a number of conspicuous gaps now, and as we have seen such gaps are becoming more prevalent.

The small yellow painted south-facing Shiva temple has all the hallmarks of being completely constructed during the Maratha era. I couldn’t find any evidence that this structure was adopted and renovated/augmented by the Marathas, a process that is far more obvious at larger temple sites such as the Bhairavnath Temple at Loni Bhapkar or the Bhuleshwar Temple near Yavat.

That concludes a virtual tour and documentation of the hero stones at Kondhawale near Pune. The site is home to an impressive selection of memorial stones and is well worth a half day excursion out of Pune to visit. I hope the clear evidence of recent vandalism is an isolated case here, I may well revisit the site at some point in the future to see if this is instead a recurring event.

My thanks to Amar Reddy for first bringing this site to my attention and for the use of one of his photographs. My thanks also to Anil Dudhane on Facebook, for helping me interpret the ‘mother and child’ stone.


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KevinStandage1@gmail.com
kevinstandagephotography.wordpress.com

8 replies »

  1. Excellent compilation. One query…how can one hero die two deaths as depicted on some hero stones? In battle and also while defending cattle?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Dhaval – because the battle was over cattle. They would have been (and still are) a valuable asset, so you can imagine cattle raids happening and a conflict occurring as a result. So here by battle I just mean armed conflict. Perhaps that was an inappropriate use of the word battle as it may imply something on a larger scale.

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  2. Wonderful Wonderful write-up! So informative. I have been to this site but never observed it so closely. Thank you for sharing the wonderful information. We stay in Pune, what about you? Your study is quite interesting. Would love to read more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I live in the UK but visit india once a year for a couple of months, and that always includes a few weeks in Pune as I have many friends there (used to work for Veritas/Symantec on the Baner Road). I always stay close to the Balewadi High Street, although I’m not sure if my 2021 plans will be possible for obvious reasons.

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  3. Beautiful photography I shall definitely try to visit this place when I go Pune next. Interpretation matters the most ,which seem to have properly done Great work

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amazing work as always Kelvin……one question always pops in my mind when I see your passionate blogs…..what interests you so much about Indian art, especially Stone carvings? I personally like this stuff because its part of my history, but how do you find this so interesting, since you are not a hindu or raised in India. I apologize if this sounds rude i, the only intent to ask this is that I want to understand on a more deeper level your passion for these things

    One more suggestion – If you can also post a link of google map location for these sites, it would be helpful, since quite often google maps has the same site with a different name, so it becomes difficult to locate it ourselves

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tanay. A google map should be visible at the end of the post – can you not see it (it’s embedded custom html) ?

      As to why I’m so interested in such things, back in the uk during the summer I am an archaeologist, supervising excavations in trenches and teaching university students how to do fieldwork. So I’ve always been interested in anything related to history, and with the hero stones I just feel they get little attention and yet can sometimes have fascinating stories to tell. Let me know if the embedded map isn’t working !

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