The great Maratha King Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was an astute leader and his ode of bravery is still alive in the hearts of every Marathi and Indian.
From his early childhood, he dreams about freeing Maa Bharti from the rule of Mughals. His ambitious plan of Swaraj suddenly revitalized every single Maratha in the Sahyadris.
Under him, the Marathas did everything to decimate the Mughal rule of Aurangzeb and other sultanates. Initially, Shivaji Maharaj stealthily initiated his plan of achieving Swaraj, and later when an ideal opportunity came the young Maratha hero didn’t disappoint.
It was the incident of Afzal Khan’s execution that truly marks the beginning of Swaraj.
Ali Adil Shah’s ablest general and his army were routed by the brilliance of Shivaji Maharaj at the battle of Pratapgad. The folk song and tales had made this campaign immortal in the memory of every Indian.
Afzal Khan March Against Shivaji Maharaj
Afzal Khan was fully confident about his plan. He marched from Bijapur in Karnataka with an aim of wiping out rebel Shivaji.
Note: In the year 1659 the widowed queen of Bijapur i.e. Queen Dowager Bari Saheba sent Afzal Khan with an army of 10,000. They wanted Shivaji dead or alive.
Afzal Khan also followed the same tradition of the preceding sultans and general which was desecrating Hindu temples. The Bhavani Temple at Tulja was destroyed by him including several others.
If we compare the military power of Shivaji Maharaj and Afzal Khan then truly the latter had more firepower. Afzal Khan had the support of artillery, muskets, etc while Shivaji Maharaj had one dream only and that was Swaraj.
When Afzal Khan and troops were on their way to capture gallant Shivaji Raje the latter played a tactical move a moved towards the Rajgad fort.
Shivaji Raje stayed there until the end of the monsoon to further damage the stratagem of Afzal khan. Later in July Raje moved to Pratapgad fort. When Afzal Khan got this news he made his base at Wai.
Afzal Khan had a huge army (around 40,000) and they were able to hem the outnumbered Marathas from all sides.
Note: Pratapgad was specially chosen for this battle.
Prominent leaders of Raje in this battle were Kanhoji Jedhe, Netaji Palkar, Babaji Bhosale, Moropant Pingale, etc.
Battle: The Famous Decimation of Afzal Khan
On 10 November 1659 Afzal Khan and Chhatrapati Shivaji met face to face. Both of them had their envoys Sayyad Banda for Afzal Khan and Jiva Mahala for Shivaji.
Afzal khan sent Krishnaji Bhaskar with a letter for Shivaji which he promised the grant of forts and districts seized by him and the conferment of titles as a mark of honor.
A meeting was arranged between Shivaji and Afzal khan at a Shamiyana at the foothills of Pratapgad. Nevertheless, both were prepared for treachery.
Young Raje had his mother’s teaching and blessings to tackle the arch-enemy, Afzal Khan.
Negotiations: The Famous Meet
Afzal khan hid a Katyar (dagger) in his coat and Shivaji wore armor underneath his clothes and carried a concealed Baghnakha (tiger claw) in one hand.
Chhatrapati Shivaji had done sharp planning for this meeting. He had placed his men all around the vicinity of the Pratapgad fort. Raje placed Kanhoji jedhe with 3000 troops against the powerful Habshi musketeers of Afzal khan.
Also, men like Babaji Bhosale, and Moropant Pingale were also placed with plenty of support to face the Adil Shahi troops both in the hills and ravines of the neighboring areas.
What happened next became history. Raje killed Afzal khan while his envoy killed Sayyad Banda. The whole incident happened very quickly.
Soon after this Kanhoji Jedhe collided against the Habshi musketeers (1500 in number). On the orders of Raje, the Marathas who were placed around the vicinity of Pratapgad, Wai, etc came out and made a vehement charge on the invaders.
Moropant Pingale with 5000 soldiers fought against the retreating troops of Afzal khan. Furthermore, 3000 troops of Afzal khan were killed while retreating from Wai towards Bijapur.
Note: The Maratha army chased the retreating army on their way and captured 23 Adilshahi forts. Adilshahi forces lost their artillery, 65 elephants, 4000 horses, 1200 camels, etc.
Invading armies lost their high-rank officers and the region from Panhala and Vishalgad was freed by the Marathas. This victory of young Shivaji Raje raised his status both politically and strategically.
The Pratapgad campaign instantly raised the stature of Shivaji Maharaj. Both Deccan and Delhi now believe that they had a strong rival in the Shyadaris. Later the rise of the Maratha Empire under Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj made a huge impact on the history of the Indian subcontinent.
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