Along the old Mumbai Pune highway, near the town of Vadgaon Maval, lies a tomb in the middle of a field. As one steps off the road, a tiled pathway leads up to a square enclosure around the tomb.
The tomb belongs to Captain James Stewart, who was locally known as Ishtur Phakda. He was the first commanding officer of the British forces in the Battle of Wadgaon during the First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-1782). According to sources and local legends, this is how the story goes: “Stewart” became “Ishtur” in the local vocabulary. The term “Phakda” was an honorific epithet given to him.
The term Phakda, which means gallant and heroic, was a term reserved for men of uncommon valor. During the second half of the 18th century, it was given to three men. The first two were Kanherrao Trimbak Ekbote and Manaji Shinde, both of whom were in the Maratha Empire. The third was Captain James Stewart, a British officer.
Sources say Captain James Stewart led the British forces and was killed at Karla in January 1779. The battle ended with the surrender of the British forces and a victory for the Maratha forces. Following this incident, the Treaty of Wadgaon was signed on January 16, 1779.
Today, Ishtur Phakda is a local legend. Since the event happened hundreds of years ago, it is difficult to separate facts and myths, but the name lives on in the form of local lore, stories, and anecdotes.
Know Before You Go
This tomb is located in Vadgaon Maval, a census town around 38 kilometers north-west of Pune along the old Mumbai Pune highway.