Battle of Prataapgadh 1659: Shivaji’s and Marathas Daring win against Afzal Khan.
The year is 1659. A veteran Campaigner of the Adil Shahi sultanate is marching towards Maratha lands. His name is Afzal Khan.
He has desecrated temples and shrines, all in the hope to lure out his major target.
None other than Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. For the other regional empires, Shivaji was none other than a rebellious prince. They all thought of him as a mere nuisance. He utilized guerrilla warfare to win.
His enemies called him a mountain rat due to his tactics.
Afzal Khan had underestimated the young and charismatic enemy. And this mistake was going to cost him his life.
Status Prior to Battle:
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was in the Maval region. He had good strong defenses but lacked the manpower necessary to go against Adilshahis.
On the other hand, the Adil Shahi knew Sri Shivaji was in a well-defended position. The invaders knew that there was only one general who could defeat Shivaji. And he was none other than Afzal Khan. The veteran general and pride of Adil Shahi army.
The Khan knew a lot about Shivaji’s kin. In fact, he had killed Sambhaji. (He was Shivaji’s older Brother. Not Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, who was his oldest son.)
He knew too well that the Rebellious prince was too smart for him. Shivaji would raid the invader in the night while avoiding a full head-on collision.
Afzal Khan knew that this would lead to complete desertion of his army. So, he switched his tactics.
To lure Shivaji out he started pillaging villages, raiding towns and even went as far as destroying the sacred temples and shrines of Shivaji’s patron deity, Maa Bhavani.
The havoc was too much to bear and so, despite his minister’s advice, Shivaji asked for a truce. He sent an emissary to Afzal Khan, stating that he was ready for a peaceful settlement.
The two parties arranged the meeting at the foothills of Prataapgadh. And both the parties arranged a grand tent to welcome the Generals.
The arrangement of such a meeting is always very complex, with the future being dependent on these meetings.
Ten bodyguards will follow their leaders respectively as neither side trusted each other.
Afzal khan was a crafty general. The peace negotiation was a ruse for him. He hid a dagger in his robes and planned to kill Shivaji at the first chance.
He was a mountain of a man, more than 2 meters in height, and so heavy that most of the horses weren’t able to even carry him.
The peace negotiation started, but Afzal Khan didn’t carry the talk anywhere. He had no reason to do so anyway. The Khan deliberately rebuked Shivaji and acted as if the Rebel Prince had humiliated the Khan.
He lunged forward, trying to crush and mangle Shivaji to death. But unbeknownst to him, the future Chhatrapati had already outsmarted the Khan.
Sri Shivaji had come in wearing plate armor that made him invulnerable to all attacks to the body.
Shivaji then retaliated by using his own dagger, nearly disemboweling him. The Maratha cut down all the men from Afzal’s retinue tho tried to retaliate.
Meanwhile, Afzal Khan himself woke up. managing to hold his entrails he tried to run away from the chaos and hid inside his palanquin. His loyal bearers rapidly carried him, trying to escape his fate.
But he had already sealed his fate.
One of Shivaji’s retainers saw Afzal escaping, and beheaded him right on spot.
Shivaji at once sped up the slope towards his fortress, ordering the cannons to be fired. This cannon shot marked as a signal to the infantry.
The battle was on.
Shivaji’s Captain, Kanhoji Jedhe rushed down the enemy troops. All the enemy troops were busy in merrymaking and weren’t ready for such an attack. The Marathas smashed the Adil Shahi contingent like a swift wind, and completely routed the invaders.
Most of the force fled along with their commander in chief Musekhan.
On the left flank, Moropant Pingle locked horns with the artillery brigade of the Adil Shahi. The sudden attack by the Marathas meant despite having heavy artillery, the invaders were not able to use it.
The Maratha’s bold attack weakened the Adilshahi’s morale as they fled the battlefield. In a hurry, they left their cannons on the battlefield without even firing a shot.
Meanwhile, in a last desperate attempt, the Adilshahi army’s cavalry tried to counter charge. They tried to join in with the reserve forces stationed at a nearby village, but they were unable to do anything.
Netaji Palkar, one of Shivaji’s retainers was already in hot pursuit, and before the Adil Shahi could make heads and tails of what was going on, the Marathas once again attacked them.
Unable to stand against the constant pressure from the Maratha soldiers, the Adil Shahi army surrendered the campaign, marking for a general retreat to Bijapur.
In this victory, more than 23 forts of the Bijapur kingdom ended up in the hands of the Maratha empire.
The Maratha army under the leadership of capable generals such as Kanhoji Angre, Moropant Pingle, Netaji Palkher, and Ragho Atre made short work of the invaders.
The Marathas had brought in a total of 15000 troops and lost 2000 of their men.
Meanwhile, the Adilshahi force was completely devastated.
With more than 60000 troops initially:
5000 soldiers died.
And more than 3000 were taken as prisoners of war.
From the monetary value, the invaders lost in total:
Jewels worth of 300,000 rupees,
Over 1,000,000 rupees
Thousands of miscellaneous items such as grains.
Unlike the policy of the then-contemporary kings, Shivaji was benevolent towards his prisoners. He treated the defeated army with respect and admiration.
The Marathas gave respect to the enemy generals equal to their ranks.
Afzal Khan’s sons were present on the losing side s well. Now here was the chance for Sri Shivaji to avenge his brother’s death. The sons were harmless and weakened before him. Shahaji, Shivaji’s elder brother was in the same situation when he was killed.
But Shivaji showed them mercy and let them go. Both of the sons were given gifts and safe passage to their home territory.
This is enough to show how far ahead of his time Shivaji really was.
“Once the enemy is dead,” He stated, “The enmity dies with it as well”
As per Islamic customs, Afzal Khan was buried, and Shivaji personally overlooked the construction of his tomb in Pratapgadh.
Siddi Hilal, one of Adil Shahi’s top general ended up switching sides when he felt that the Marathas gave him more respect.
For the Marathas, this was a day of honour and victory. The families of dead officers were given pensions, and those who had males alive were offered services in the Maratha army.
Afzal Khan’s death was a severe blow to the Adil Shahis, and this led Shivaji to double his already expanding empire. Sri Shivaji would later win the fortress of Panhala and seventeen other hill forts till the Konkan region.
This victory made Shivaji a legend and formed the core nucleus of what would later be coined the Maratha empire.
But that is a story for another time.
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