Afzal Khan, a powerful General from Afghan descent is best remembered for his campaign against Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Swarajya that later evolved into the Maratha Empire. This campaign, which resulted in Afzal Khan’s death, victory to Shivaji Maharaj came to be highly celebrated in Maratha history.
Shivaji was a son of the Bijapur’s General Shahaji and Jijabai, Shivaji was asked to administer Shahaji’s jahagir in the Pune and nearby region, slowly Shivaji started acting independently of the Bijapur government. He had captured territories ruled by other subordinates of Bijapur, and had negotiated with the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, who was having fight for supremacy in deccan with the Bijapur Sultanate. Shivaji claimed that he is loyal servant to Bijapur Sultanate and doing it to maintain its allegiance Bijapur, Bijapur government always doubted the loyalty of Shivaji Maharaj. During much of the 1650s, the Bijapur sultanate had been unable to take any steps against Shivaji because it was busy dealing with the Mughal invasion, internal factional politics, and a succession dispute. After a peace treaty with the Mughals, and the general acceptance of Ali Adil Shah II as the king, the Bijapur sultanate became more stable, and turned its attention towards Shivaji.
Ali Adil Shah II was a minor whose mother Badi Sahiba, sister of Qutub Shah of Golkonda and Prime Minister Khan Muhammad had been the de-facto ruler since the mid-1640s,
The decision of sending Afzal Khan against Shivaji was probably taken by his Badi Sahiba
An English letter sent by factor Henry Revington to East India Company, dated 10 December 1659, states that the queen Badi Sahiba advised Afzal Khan to pretend friendship with Shivaji, because military strength would not be enough to defeat Shivaji in his stronghold.
Legend states that Afzal Khan had sixty wives, before this campaign out of sheer jealousy that if anything happens to him, his wives should not remarry and live happily. Afzal Khan killed his 60 wives and buried them at one place known as ‘saath Kabar’, outskirt of Bijapur (Vijapur). This shows how cruel person he was. When Afzal Kahn reached Wai, strength of Afzal Khan’s force was having as many as 35,000 infantry; 12,000 cavalry; and 500 cannons. (Hisotrian has different numbers and different views on this)
Afzal Khan, like the ruler of Bijapur, was a Muslim, while Shivaji was a Hindu. According to Shiva-Bharata (1674), composed by poet Kavindra Paramanand Govind Newaskar of Poladpur under Shivaji’s patronage, Afzal Khan’s army started its march amid several evil omens, such as falling meteors and thunderbolts in cloudless sky. Manh historian states from Bijapur Afzal Khan first came to Tuljapur, where he destroyed the idol of Shivaji’s family goddess Bhavani, and slaughtered a cow in front of temple. He went on the desecrate the Hindu temples at Pandharpur and Shingnapur (Shambhu Mahadev) and other temples.Sabhasad Bhakhar also supports the account of Afzal Khan’s desecrations at Tuljapur and Pandharpur. The Chitnis Bakhar and Shiva Digvijaya state that the idols at Tuljapur and Pandharpur were removed before Afzal Khan could destroy them. But the contemporary English letters of the East India Company, the Dutch East India Company’s Dagh-register, and the Portuguese records do not mention any desecration of temples by Afzal Khan. So there are different version to these stories.
Afzal Khan finally encamped at Wai, a town that he had governed in the earlier years. Shivaji had taken up residence in the newly-fortified Pratapgad surrounded by dense forest of Javli, and Afzal Khan’s desecration of Hindu temples and villages were probably aimed at provoking Shivaji into leaving the safety of the fort and come in open battlefield to fight Afzal Khan. These actions alienated the many local Hindu Deshmukhs, who could have provided local support to Afzal Khan. Since Afzal Khan had governed the Wai region in the past, and knew it well, he presumed that he did not require any such local support.
After reaching Wai, Afzal Khan wrote letters to local chiefs, seeking their support against Shivaji. Vithoji Haibat Rao, the deshmukh of Gunjan-Maval, was asked to bring a contingent to Javli in Afzal Khan’s support. Deshmukh Khandoji Khopde agreed to support Afzal Khan’s campaign on the condition that he would be made the Deshmukh of Rohidkhore, which was held by Shivaji’s loyalist Kanhoji Jedhe. Many Deshmukh and Patil supported Afzal Khan Fearing that he is going to finish Shivaji Maharaj and to safeguard their future. Kanhoji Jedhe from a village names Kari was respected Jamindar or Deshmukh. He supported Shivaji Maharaj and made sure that most of Deshmukh from this region will come and support Shivaji Maharaj whole heartedly.
According to Sabhasad Bakhar, Afzal Khan then sent his envoy Pandit Krishnaji Bhaskar to Shivaji, declaring that he was a great friend of Shivaji’s father Shahaji. He promised that he would use all his influence or power in the Bijapur court to get the king to officially recognize Shivaji’s control over Konkan and nearby region and various forts which he had in his control. He also promised to secure further distinction and supply of military equipment for Shivaji from Bijapur. Finally, he declared that Shivaji is welcome to attend the Bijapur court, or be granted an exemption from personal attendance and tried to convince that he will guarantee the safety of SHivaji Maharaj.
Meanwhile, Afzal Khan’s unchallenged march to Wai had greatly frightened Shivaji’s followers. His well-equipped army had freely plundered the territory of Shivaji, who had confined himself to a fort instead of challenging Afzal Khan in an open battlefield. Both Sabhasad Bakhar and Chitnis Bakhar state that Shivaji’s counsellors urged him to avoid losses by negotiating peace with Afzal Khan.
Texts from Afzal Khan-Vadh and Shiva-Bharata claim that the goddess Bhavani, Shivaji Maharaj’s family goddess appeared in Shivaji’s dream, warning him of Afzal Khan’s treacherous plans, and assuring him of victory. After waking up, Shivaji prayed to the goddess Bhavani, and made a decision to either win against Afzal Khan or die fighting. He summoned the armies of his generals and senior advisors – Moro Trimbak Pingle from Konkan and Netaji Palkar from the Ghats – close to Pratapgad.
Shivaji treated Afzal Khan’s envoy Krishnaji Bhaskar with respect, and met him secretly at night, urging him as a Hindu to divulge Afzal Khan’s real intentions. Krishnaji hinted that Afzal Khan had treacherous plans. Shivaji then sent Krishnaji back with lots of costly gifts to Afzal Khan with his own Vakil Gopinath Pant. The envoy presented Shivaji Maharaj as someone who respected Afzal Khan as an elder and an close associate of his father, and as someone who was willing to submit easily on Afzal Khan’s Advice. However, his real objective was to find familiarity with Afzal Khan’s camp and enemy’s military strength and intentions. Sabhasad states that Gopinath Pant bribed Afzal Khan’s officers and closed aids, and learned that Afzal Khan planned to kill or arrest Shivaji during their meeting.
After learning these details from Gopinath Pant, Shivaji pretended that he was scared of Afzal Khan, his power and his military, and refused to come to Wai for a meeting. Shivaji Maharaj’s envoy Gopinath Pant proposed a negotiation meeting with only a few bodyguards at Javli, located near the foot of the Pratpagad fort and made sure that Afzal Khan will feel confident, secure and in full control of the situation. Go[inath Pant also requested Afzal Khan to bring all his merchants along with him so that SHivaji Maharaj can buy many thing sfrom them and it will be great business for them as well.Afzal Khan agreed, and accordingly, Shivaji ordered his men to clear forest and create a path from Wai to Pratapgad.
The place chosen for the meeting was a crest located below Pratapgad, overlooking the Koyna River valley. One day before the meeting, Afzal Khan marched to Par, a village near Pratapgad, via the Radtondi pass. His soldiers were tired of difficult terrain. His soldiers encamped in scattered places for rest, they were close to water bodies near the source of the Koyna River. Meanwhile, Shivaji placed his well prepared infantry soldiers in ambush in valley at various intervals along the path leading to the meeting point. He set up luxurious tents at the meeting place to show that he has lot of wealth and he is frightened to the power of Afzal Khan.
Before departing for the meeting, Shivaji left instructions for continuation of swarajya and of his government, in case he was killed at the meeting.
Shivaji took all precautionary measures to defend himself against Afzal Khan: he put on thin chain mail and an iron cap under his clothes, and concealed two weapons: the bagh nakh (“tiger claws” or metal hooks attached to fingers), and a sword said to be “possessed” by the goddess. He left for the meeting accompanied by two soldiers – his expert swordsman Jiva Mahala and Shambhuji Kavji strong build like of Afzal Khan, each of whom carried two swords and a shield.
Afzal Khan left his camp confidently thinking of great victory at Par with an personal escort of 1,000 soldiers. However, Shivaji Maharaj’s envoy Gopinath Pant argued that such a large escort would scare Shivaji away from the meeting, and convinced Afzal Khan to bring only two soldiers to the meeting, just like Shivaji. Accordingly, Afzal Khan left most of his escort at a short distance from the meeting place, and came to meet Shivaji in a palki, accompanied by five men two soldiers, his expert swordsman Sayyid Banda, and the Brahmin envoys Krishnaji and Gopinath.
Shivaji, who was waiting at a distance from the meeting place, seen Sayyud Band near teant and demanded that Sayyid Banda leave the tent where the meeting was scheduled. Afzal Khan agreed to the demand both Afzal Khan and Shivaji now entered inside the tent, each accompanied by three men – two soldiers and an envoy.Afzal Khan insulted Shivaji by calling him Siva, and Shivaji responded by calling him a son of a fry cook (bhatari).
According to the Maratha texts, Afzal Khan asked Shivaji to submit to the Bijapuri king Adil Shah II, and be recognized as a vassal lord. He pretended to embrace Shivaji, grabbed his neck with one hand and then quickly stabbed him with a concealed weapon. Shivaji Maharaj tried to free himself from grip. Shivaji was well protected by his chain mail but stabbing tored his dress, and Shivaji Maharaj retaliated with bagh nakh and penetrated his stomach. Afzal Khan then rushed out of the tent completely injured and tried to get into Palki. His companion Sayyid Banda attacked Shivaji with his long sword, but was killed by Jiva Mahala woth his long sword in time. This event is remembered in a Marathi language idiom ‘Hota Jiva Mha?un Vachla Shiva’ (“Because of Jiva, Shivaji survived the attack”). Krishnaji Bhaskar attacked Shivaji Maharaj. Shivaji Maharaj killrd Krishnaji Bhaskar Kulkanri with his sword.
Afzal Khan was subsequently killed and beheaded by Sambhaji Kawaji Kondhalkar with Vijayghosh. His severed head later sent to Rajgad to be shown to Shivaji Maharaj’s mother Jijabai.
After Afzal Khan’s killing, Shivaji Maharaj sped up the slope towards fortress and once reached fort, his generals ordered cannons to be fired. It was the signal to infantry and light cavalary. Shivaji’s Maratha troops, hidden in the forest, came out and routed the Bijapur army at the Battle of Pratapgad. Kanhoji Jedhe swept down Afzal Khan’s Personal bodyguards and other army stationed at foothill of Pratapgad. Moropant Pingle cleared the left flank of Afzal Khan’s army and made it ineffective. Rago Atre’s light cavalary attacked on unprepared army of Afzal Kahn. Netaji Palkar attacked Wai along with his well-prepared cavalry and cleared and took back control of most of the area, on 20 November 1659 (10 November 1659 in Julian calendar). According to Revington’s letter, around 3,000 to 5,000 of Afzal Khan’s soldiers died in the battle. Two of Afzal Khan’s sons were captured by Shivaji’s soldiers. Another son – Fazl Khan – escaped along with Afzal Khan’s wives with the support of Khandoji Khopde. The Maratha texts state that many of Afzal Khan’s men were killed, but those who surrendered were invited to join Shivaji.
Maratha took back 23 forts in no time.
This was great victory to Maratha army and new start to Swarajya.