Miraj, lying between 16°45´ north latitude and 74°35´ east longitude is 9.65 km. (six miles) north of Sangli, the district headquarters, and 48.28 km. (30 miles) east of Kolhapur. It is the headquarters of the taluka of the same name as well as of the Miraj sub−division, which besides Miraj taluka includes the talukas of Tasganv and Jath. According to the 1961 Census it has a population of 53,345.
Miraj ground−fort figures as one of the most important of the historical relics that the district possesses and hence invites some attention. Though now it is in complete ruins except the front gate it is reminiscent of the history of the Adil Sahi, Moghal and Maratha regimes. In the absence of written records we are in the dark as to the builder of the fort or the date of its construction.
The town has the offices of the prant officer, mamledar and panchayat samiti. There are two civil courts, one judicial magistrate’s court, three branch post and telegraph offices, one sub−post office, a police station, a telephone exchange, a rest house, civil and veterinary dispensaries and a maternity home. Besides the health institutions maintained by government and the town municipality there are many private hospitals and dispensaries including the famous. Wanless T.B. Sanatorium.
In respect of learning and education the town has very good facilities. Within the municipal limits there are three montes−soris, 27 primary schools, five high schools, two training schools and one technical school. The institutions noted above include those run by Government as well as by private bodies.
Within a radius of 8 km. (five miles) taking the Wellingdon College as the centre. Sangli−Miraj area has educational facilities in Arts, Science, Commerce, Medicine, Engineering and Training, barring only agriculture. Thus there are two Arts, and Science Colleges, one Commerce College, one Engineering College and one College of Education. In collaboration with the Miraj Medical Centre Government has established a Medical College at Miraj. The town has two private libraries.
The renowned singer Abdul Karim Khan who lies interred within the compounds of the Khvaja Samsuddin Mira Saheb dargah was from Miraj and his high traditions in classical music are carried on even to−day by his disciples. Towards the close of the 19th century sri Vasudev Visnusastri Khare, also from Miraj. undertook the difficult task of probing into the historical records and published as many as 14 volumes which throw valuable light on the post−Panipat period of the Maratha regime. He also wrote plays in Marathi which became very popular.
Miraj is a large trading town dealing chiefly in grains. There is a sub−market yard. An industrial estate is soon going to be set up. There are quite of few banks and co−operative societies offering advance finance to agriculturists for purchasing fertilizers and modern agricultural implements. The weekly bazar is held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Miraj town is centrally situated in respect of the means of transport and communications. It is an important junction on the Poona−Bangalore route of the South−Central Railway. From Miraj trains run to Pandharpur as also a shuttle service to Sangli, which is only 9.65 km. (six miles) off. Besides the railway there is the city bus service between Miraj and Sangli, buses plying every ten minutes to and fro. Miraj has extensive betel−leaf orchards in the surrounding villages and these leaves are sent to places like Bombay, Poona, etc., by rail.
Miraj passed on to the Silaharas of Kolhapur when that house declared independence towards the close of the tenth century. Jattiga II (C. 1000−1020 AD.) the 4th ruler of this dynasty has been mentioned by his son Marasimha (C. 1050 to 1075 A.D.) in his Miraj plates dated Saka 980 or A.D. 1058 [J.R.A.S., IV, p.281.]. He was succeeded by Gonka who has been described in the same plates as the conqueror of Karahata (Karhad), Mairinja (Miraj) and Konkan. But the Hotur inscription of 1037 A.D. records that Panhala, the capital city of Silahara Jattiga II was conquered by Cavan−rasa, the general of Calukya Jayasimha II. The Miraj plates of 1024 A.D. reveal that Jayasimha II issued the grant when he was in his victorious camp near Kolhapur. This goes to establish that Panhala was captured before 1024 A.D. either at the end of Jattiga’s reign or in the beginning of his son Gonka’s. It seems that the Silaharas were allowed to retain their territory. There is no doubt that Gohka submitted to Calukya power but the fact that he is described as the conqueror of Konkan may mean that either he was appointed as the administrator or was allowed to penetrate beyond his territory. In 1216 A.D. Miraj along with other territories of Kolhapur Silaharas fell to the onslaught of the Yadavas who retained their hold up to A.D. 1318 when it passed on to the Bahamanis. We have it on the authority of the Tazkirat−ul−Mulk that Hasan, the founder of the Bahamam dynasty was in the employ of one Saikh Muhammad Junaidi at Gangi near Miraj [ Dr. B. G. Kunte. Bahamani Rajyacha Itihas, pp.26−27. ’] where he found a treasure with which he raised an army, marched on Miraj and captured the fort after defeating and imprisoning one Rani Durgavati who was its subhedar.[Ibid.] In view of his first victory the name of the town was changed to Mubarakabad at the wishes of Saikh Muhammad. This event took place in 748 Hijri or A.D. 1347, as to who built the fort of Miraj is not known. Some say that it was built by one of the Bahamani Sultans: but this view is untenable as the fort was in existence even before the establishment of the Bahamani dynasty. Bahamani Sultans may have only carried some repairs. The first mention of Miraj in Ferista occurs in the account of the revolt of Bahadur Gilani in A.D. 1494, which was quelled by Sultan Muhammad II (1482−1518). The Sultan had received a complaint from his counterpart in Gujarat and wanted to punish him. He invested the fort which was surrendered by its governor Buna Naik after some resistance. He was honourably received by the Sultan. The troops of Bahadur Gilani were given the alternative of either joining his own or leaving the fort. It is said that nearly 2,000 cavalry left the fort and joined Bahadur Gilani [Indian Antiquary, Vol. XXVII, p. 313.] Those of whom preferred to enter Sultan’s service were accepted and rewarded suitably. Whether this leniency shown towards the troops was an indication of the nobility of character of the Sultan or was the result of the growing weakness in the Sultanate following Gavan’s death may be best left to the imagination of the reader. Be that as it may, the importance of Miraj as a base of operations for the expeditions against South Konkan and Goa was clearly envisaged by the Bahamani kings and there are not a few references to the place being used as a camping ground for the purpose.
The Bahamani Empire disintegrated due to a succession of weak rulers who could not put down the turbulence of the powerful provincial governors. Thus in 1490 the governors of Ahmadnagar, Golconda, Bijapur etc., declared their independence and on the fall of the Bahamani dynasty Miraj passed into the hands of Bijapuri Sultans. Ali Adil Sah was kept there under surveillance during the later years of the reign of Ibrahim Adil Sah, his father, and on the death of the latter it was turned into a point the appui in the operations undertaken to possess the throne. The garrison took part afterwards in the revolt of Ismail against Ibrahim Adil Sah II
At this time Shivaji was fast rising into prominence and had carved out a separate principality at the cost of the Muslim dynasties that were gradually waning in power and losing hold over their dominions. His growing power was felt by the Moghals and the Bijapuris who relentlessly tried to suppress him though without any success. Within 18 day’s of Afzal Khan’s (Bijapuri sardar) death at Pratapgad, Panhala, the capital of the western Adil Sahi district was taken by Annaji Datto through negotiations on 28th November, 1659. Panhala and the surrounding district of Kolhapur, Vasantgad, Khelna, Rangna and other minor forts quickly capitulated [G. S. Sardesai, Vol. I, pp. 130−131.]. While yet Shivaji was camping at Kolhapur he sent Netaji Palkar to besiege Miraj fort. In January 1660 Sivaji arrived in person to press the siege which had continued for two to three months, when news of Siddi Johar and Fazal Khan invading his territories urgently called him to Panhalgad. Under these circumstances. Sivaji had to give up the siege and make arrangement to meet the challenge posed by the Bijapuri Sardars. In the regional period of Sambhaji, Maratha generals Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav had chosen the fort of Miraj as a safe custody for their families while they were engaged in carrying on guerilla warfare against the invading hordes of Aurangzeb, the Moghal Emperor. With the fall of Bijapur in 1687 Miraj passed into the hands of the Moghals and remained so until it was captured by Sahu on 3rd October 1739 in a personally led campaign lasting for two years.[ Shahu on another previous occasion had personally undertaken a campaign against Sambhaji of Kolhapur and Udaji Chavan of Athni (early 1730) whose only principle was an uncompromising opposition to Shahu and his Peshvas. In this campaign Udaji had the daring of setting assassins on Shahu without success. Shahu lost his equanimity and crossing the Varna defeated Sambhaji and Udaji separately. Udaji Chavan later gave up the cause of Sambhaji and took service under Shahu.] Thus the remnant of the old Moghal power almost bordering on the Maratha capital was wiped once for and all. [ G. S. Sardesai, Vol. II, p. 179,] It was one of the many pockets of the Moghals which threatened the Maratha dominions, the others being Rayagad, Gopalgad, Govindgad, etc. In 1761 the fort of Miraj with some thanas was assigned by PesvaMadhavrav to Govind−rav Patvardhan for the maintenance of troops. The forefathers of the Rajas of Miraj and Sangli, the Patvardhan sardars made their names in the campaigns that the Pesvas led against Haider and Tipu of Mysore. Khvaja Samsuddin Mira Saheb Dargah.
The dargdh of Samsuddin Mira Saheb is well−known in Miraj and has a compound wall around enclosing within it an extensive open ground which was once used as a burial place. Besides the huge main entrance there are many smaller gates which are generally kept closed. The main entrance is right in front of the dargah giving a complete view of the dargah from its threshold. In the front side there are eight pillars forming nine arches. The actual entrance door is about 3.04x 1.21 metres (10’ x 4’) and is plated with brass sheets ornamented with some fine floral and creeper designs. On either side of the gate there are extensions let on hire to the shopkeepers. These and some other buildings belonging to the dargah fetch an annual income of nearly Rs.15, 000. Immediately inside the entrance the passage is flanked by two raised platforms. The dargah stands on a raised plinth with eight minars which are illuminated with lamps on the occasion of the urus. The inner is approximately 5.48x4,87 meters (18’ x 6’) and contains the tomb of Khvaja Samsuddin Mira Saheb and that of his son lying side by side. The tombs are draped with precious silk. Besides the main entrance which is also similarly plated there are two side doors. A huge vaulted dome crowns the top and is decorated with four minars, one in each corner.
Samsuddin, who lived to be a great Muslim saint, was born in Kasgar in 1333 and right from childhood had a religious, bent of mind. While yet a boy he mastered the Quran and other Muslim religious scriptures and undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca, not minding the hazards and dangers involved. But his sojourn at Mecca proved to be very brief, for he was instructed by Allah in a vision to go to Murtajabad, identified with modern Miraj, posthaste to tree the people from the clutches of Gangna Dhobi, a magician who harassed the people and molested the women Now Gangna Dhobi was a powerful, wicked magician who worshipped a demi−goddess, to please whom he sacrificed human beings at her altar. He had married a woman who was also a witch. Alter coming over to Miraj, Samsuddin sent for the magician who at first refused, but yielding finally pleaded that he may be allowed to do some service to him. It is told that Samsuddin gave him his handkerchief to wash which the magician, forgetting his vow, threw in the Krsna. But to his surprise the handkerchief burned, out of which a cobra appeared and struck him down by its fatal sting. He was given a cremation on the same spot. On learning of the death of her husband his witch−wife who was in Bengal at that time, approached Samsuddin and begged for the life of her husband. Mira Saheb told her that he had died of his own evil actions and that if brought to life by magic charms he would appear in the form of a demon and except Allah no one can give him the original shape. In spite of this, she went to that spot and collecting the remains brought him back to life by means of witchcraft. Mira Saheb’s words proved prophetic and the demon−magician slowly began to advance towards her. She then fled and fell upon Samsuddin’s feet and prayed for mercy. Samsuddin took pity upon her and sealed the demon in a well. She further requested Samsuddin to allow her to stay near him and on one of the steps leading to the dargah a tomb−stone is pointed out as being the one of the wife of the Dhobi No one knows the truth or falsehood of this strange story.
Khvaja Samsuddin Mira Saheb died at Miraj in 1384. The structure housing him and his son was built during his lifetime in 1355. On his death he was laid to eternal rest in the place of his own choice. It was built by the money (41/2 lakhs of rupees) donated by the Sultans of the Bahamani dynasty and the wealth found while laying the foundations. It is believed that if persons possessed by ghosts and evil−spirits stay for a few days at the back side and otter prayers they are relieved of the torture. In the backyard there is also a small mosque dating from the same period.
An urus attended by thousands is held on 24th Rajab. The honour of laying the first wreath on the tomb on the day of the urus goes to a Cambhar (shoe−maker). It is said that one day while Mira Saheb was on his usual rounds he approached a shoemaker to get his shoe mended. The shoe−maker had no ready leather but offered to mend it with his own skin. He was so much touched at his gesture that he declared then and there, " the honour of strewing my grave with flowers, first will go to the Cambhar. "Since then the practice has continued.