Battle of Kolhapur:
The Marathas, under the leadership of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had done what was considered impossible by their contemporaries. They were able to kill Afzal khan and route his army in the battle of Pratapgarh.
Afzal Khan of Adilshahi had more than fifty thousand men under his command. And yet Shivaji Maharaj with less than twelve thousand men was able to decisively defeat the enemy.
This sent out ripples throughout the Indian subcontinent that the new Hindu warrior king wont back out from a fight this easily. A complete psychological reversal took place. Where earlier the Adilshahi’s were the aggressors and Marathas were the defenders, now the complete opposite was seen.
Riding on his good fortune Shivaji Maharaj continued on the good streak and were now looking to take major forts in all of the region.
To fightback, the Adilshahis had sent one of their veteran campaigners. History remembers his name by Rustam Zaman. And there was some connection between the two warring leaders.
You see, Rustam Zaman was the son of Ranadulla Khan, who was the mentor of Shivaji’s father named Shahaji. For Rustam, Shivaji was a traitor who could not fit the shoes of his father, while Shivaji himself stated that he fought for the greater cause of self-rule.
Needless to say, according to some historians there must have been pretty bad blood between the two. Rustam Zaman halted Shivaji directly in a small district known as Miraj.
The stage was set for an epic battle.
Status prior to battle:
With more than ten thousand strong army, the Adilshahi force marched along.
Rustam zaman was assisted by other chieftains such as Fazal Khan, Malik Itbar, Sadat Khan, Yakub Khan, Aankush Khan, Hasan Khan, Mulla Yahya, along with a local Maratha chieftain named Santaji Ghatage.
It consisted of selected cavalry of Adilshahi which was well known. In addition, Elephants were deployed as first line of defence. The centre was commanded by Rustam himself, left flank by Fazal Khan, right flank by Malik Itbar. Fateh Khan and Mullah Yahya were on the rear guard.
This sort of method acted as an impenetrable shield. As long as the defenders had no canons, nothing could break apart this contingent.
And unfortunately, the Marathas had no canons. To add to injury, Shivaji could only muster up to three thousand.
The Chhatrapati was assisted by Maratha Cavalry leader Netaji Palkar, Sardar Godaji Jagtap, Hiroji Ingale, Bhimaji Wagh, Sidhoji Pawar Jadhavrao, Hanmantrao Kharate, Pandhare, Siddi Hllal, and Mahadik.
Centre was commanded by Shivaji Maharaj himself. Siddi Hilal and Jadhavrao were on left flank. Ingale and Sidhoji Pawar on right flank. Mahadik and Wagh on the rear guard. Netaji Palkar was off the centre.
If the Marathas win this battle, then their kingdom will have a firm footing in all of western India. But if they lost, they have the chance to be completely wiped out.
This will be the battle on which the future of Maratha empire lies.
Rustam was planning to move towards Panhala fort. By his plans he would surprise the enemy forces before they were ready. And the entire brunt of ten thousand men will fall on the Marathas. With the might of a moving city the Adil Shahi army went forth to crush this new Hindu kingdom.
Shivaji had his fair share of troubles as well, the constant fighting had drained his men. Though the morale of his army was still at an all-time high, the conditions of their victory wasn’t.
His forces were less than a third of the enemy’s, and he knew that in a direct confrontation the chances of winning will be less.
But his spy network was still one of the best. Soon one of his retainers came forth and informed the Chhatrapati about the latest enemy manoeuvres. The king’s worst nightmare come true.
If the Adil Shahi could surprise the defenders then no one would be able to save them.
Shivaji realised the only way to win was to play like the enemy and in the thick night of 27th December 1659 carried a silent general march of his entire army.
With around three thousand five hundred strong men no ready to die, in a quick dash appeared before Adilshahi forces in the early morning of 28 December 1659.
Rustam had not expected this sort of a fast march. And now the enemy was right in front of them.
The battle slowly commenced as the two sides fought hard. The Marathas were courageous and well disciplined, but they were also tired by a night of march and were completely out numbered 3 to 1.
But they had the element of surprise and the enemy forces were vary of this.
Rustam was well sure that the fame Maratha pincer movement had to be avoided. Chhatrapati Shivaji was known for this double pronged attack.
So as to counter the pincer strategy, the Adil Shahi flanks pressed hard against the Marathas. In fact, they even managed to gain a few territories.
Rustam Zaman was content. Afterall he was now sure to win. Shivaji’s myth of invincibility was going to be shattered.
And this is where he was wrong.
In their bid to oppose the flanking manoeuvres, Rustam had weakened his centre. A gap between his troops, like a fissure had opened. And this was what Shivaji was waiting for.
With his elite cavalry Shivaji charged with his full force and attacked the Adil Shahi centre. Rustam tried to regroup his troops but by then it was too late.
Seeing their centre collapse the Adil Shahi flanks gave away a lot of ground to the Marathas and by afternoon, it was clear that who won and who lost.
This was a decisive Maratha victory against an enemy nearly three times its size.
Shivaji’s daring assault of his enemies had cost him dearly though. More than nine hundred of his troops lay dead on the battlefield. But their death was not in vain.
The Chhatrapati made sure that the families of his slain troops be given all the comforts and stability they could get. He even made sure that their children be given official posts in his army as soldiers.
Adil Shahi on the other hand, lost more than seven thousand men in the battle and would never under estimate the new Hindu king ever again.
Shivaji gained a lot of territory and secured a strong footing for his empire. The Marathas continued to conquer more of the enemy territory, soon winning a strong fort named khelna. Shivaji renamed the fort to Vishalgadh, and this is the fort which will later act as the protector of the Chhatrapati when he was under siege in Panhala.
But that is the story for another time.
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