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  hotel mahabaleshwar, mahabaleshwar hotel, mahabaleshwar resort The Battle of Pratapgad
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THE BATTLE OF PRATAPGAD

hotel mahabaleshwar, mahabaleshwar hotel, mahabaleshwar resortThe Battle of Pratapgad was a land battle fought on November 10, 1659 at the fort of Pratapgad near the town of Satara, Maharashtra, India between the Maratha Shivaji and Afzal Khan of the Adilshahi. The Marathas defeated the Adilshahi forces despite having fewer soldiers. It was their first significant military victory against a major regional power, and led to the eventual establishment of the Maratha Empire.

The location of the fort was selected very intelligently by Shivaji. It was in the center of Sahyadri ranges. As such it was very difficult to attack. It was very conducive to control the surrounding territory and the Par Ghaut, the only route to Kokan, then. It was constructed with such the brilliant intelligence that it was considered to be impregnable. Besides massive strong fort wall there was one inner fort known as Balekilla Shivaji’s residence and an independent edifice for consulting and discussing various strategies was also inside Balekilla, known as Khalbatkhana. There was enough stock of drinking water at two spots.

The Bijapur empire was aware of rebellious activities of Shivaji but the Adilshah on the throne was minor. His mother was looking after the empire and running the administration. Naturally she was influenced by senior courtiers and powerful nobles. To put pressure on Shivaji, Sambhaji, killed. Thus it was but natural for Shivaji to act in retaliation.

Background
Shivaji held a commendable position in parts of Maval. The Adilshahi court wanted to curb his activities. Afzal Khan, a renowned general of Bijapur who had previously killed Shivaji's brother in a battle treacherously, was selected to lead an assault against Shivaji. He started from Bijapur in June 1659.

Battle
After starting from Bijapur, Afzal Khan began by destroying the temple of Bhavani at Tuljapur. He moved on to the Vittal temple at Pandharpur. He was trying to entice Shivaji out of the mountainous areas he occupied and onto the plains, where Khan's larger army trained and equipped for warfare on plain grounds would have an absolute advantage. Shivaji had encamped at Pratapgad, which, being located in a hilly area, was strategically advantageous for mountainous guerrilla warfare.

Unable to incite him to attack first, Afzal Khan moved his army to Pratapgad. As he had once been the subedar of Wai, he had experience with the geography of the region. He tried to bolster his position by obtaining the support of the militarily independent landlords of the region. Although they nominally acknowledged the sovereignty of the Adilshah, the powerful baron Kanhoji Jedhe, as directed by Shahaji, helped Shivaji to counter these moves and garner their support.

Composition of Adilshahi forces
Afzal Khan was assisted by the chieftains Sayyad Banda, Fazal Khan, Ambarkhan, Yakutkhan, Siddi Hilal, Musekhan, Pilaji Mohite, Prataprao More and many more commanders of note. His forces consisted of 12,000 select Adilshahi cavalry, 10,000 infantry and 1,500 musketeers. He was accompanied by 85 elephants and 1,200 camels. His artillery consisted of 80-90 cannons. Siddi of Janjira was approaching from the Konkan coast.

Composition of Maratha forces
Shivaji was assisted by Kanhoji Jedhe along with other Deshmukhs of Maval region namely Maral, Dhamale, Silimkar and Bandal. His cavalry was commanded by Netaji Palkar, and were placed in a forward position near the fort. Moropant Pingle was in command of 3,000 chosen infantry men, who were positioned in a densely forested area. Sambhaji Kavaji Kondhalkar, Yesaji Kank, Jiva Mahala and many other skilled military leaders were in charge of them. Kanhoji Jedhe assisted Shivaji directly along with other commanders. In the meantime, Shahaji was ready in Bangalore with his army of 17,000 for a final Battle in case Shivaji and his forces were routed by Khan. He had warned Badi Begum of Adilshah that, if Afzal Khan and his Adilshahi forces killed Shivaji by deceit, then there wouldn't remain even a brick of the Adilshahi kingdom. These forces were being carefully watched by the Adilshah.

Combat of Shivaji and Afzal Khan
Shivaji sent an emissary to Afzal Khan, stating that he did not want to fight and was ready for peace. A meeting was arranged between Shivaji and Afzal Khan at a shamiyana (highly decorated tent) at the foothills of Pratapgad. It was agreed that the two would meet unarmed, but would bring ten personal bodyguards each. Nine of these guards would remain 'one arrow-shot' away from the pair, while a single bodyguard would wait outside the tent. Nevertheless, both were prepared for treachery: Afzal Khan hid a katyar (a small dagger) in his coat, and Shivaji wore armour underneath his clothes and carried a concealed wagh nakhi in one hand.

Wagh nakhi (Tiger Claw)As the two men entered the tent, the 7' tall Khan embraced Shivaji, swiftly drew his hidden dagger and stabbed Shivaji in the back. The dagger was deflected by his armour, and Shivaji responded by disembowelling the Khan with a single stroke of his wagh nakhi. Khan rushed outside shouting for help, and was defended by Krishanaji Bhaskar Kulkarni, his emissary, who was himself then killed by Shivaji. Thereupon Afzal Khan's bodyguard Sayyed Banda attacked Shivaji with swords but Jiva Mahala, Shivaji's personal bodyguard fatally struck him down, cutting off one of Sayyed Banda's hands with a Dandpatta(Pata- a medieval weapon). (This event is remembered in a Marathi idiom: Hota Jiva Mhanun Vachala Shiva - 'Because there was Jiva, Shiva lived'). Afzal Khan managed to hold his gushing entrails and hurtled, faint and bleeding, outside the tent and threw himself into his palanquin. The bearers hastily lifted their charge and began moving rapidly away down the slope. Sambhaji Kavji Kondhalkar, Shivaji's lieutenant and one of the accompanying guards, gave chase and beheaded Afzal Khan. The severed head was later sent to Rajgad to be shown to Shivaji's mother, Jijabai. She had long wanted vengeance for the deliberate maltreatment of Shahaji (Shivaji's father) while a captive of Afzal Khan, and for his role in the death of her elder son, Sambhaji. Shivaji sped up the slope towards the fortress and his lieutenants ordered cannons to be fired. It was a signal to his infantry, hidden in the densely forested valley, to raid the Adilshahi forces.

Hand to hand combat of the forces
Maratha troops commanded by Shivaji's captain Kanhoji Jedhe, swept down on Afzal Khan's 1,500 musketeers; resulting in a complete rout of the musketeers at the foothills of the fort. Then in a rapid march, a section of Adilshahi forces commanded by Musekhan was attacked. Musekhan, Afzal Khan's leiutenant, was wounded and subsequently fled the field.

Meanwhile, Moropant led the Maratha infantry toward the left flank of Adilshahi troops. The suddenness of this attack on Afzal Khan's artillery at close quarters made them ineffective in providing artillery cover for the main portion of their troops. And as a result of this the rest of their troops rapidly succumbed to an all out Maratha attack. Simultaneously Shivaji's Sardar (captain), Ragho Atre's cavalry units swooped down and attacked the large but unprepared Adilshahi cavalry before they were able to be fully geared up for battle and succeeded in completely routing them in short order.

The Maratha cavalry under Netaji Palkar pursued the retreating Adilshahi forces, who were attempting to join up with the part of their reserve forces stationed in the nearby village of Wai. They were engaged in battle before they could regroup and were defeated prior to reaching Wai. The Adilshahi forces not withstanding the onslaught of the Marathas started retreating towards Bijapur. The Maratha army chased the retreating army and on their way captured 23 Adilshahi forts. In fact, the Adilshahi Killedar of the Kolhapur fort himself handed over the keys to the Marathas.

Aftermath
Adilshahi forces lost their artillery, 65 Elephants, 4000 Horses, 1200 Camels, jewels worth 300,000 Rupees, 1,000,000 Rupees, heaps of precious cloths, tents to the Marathas. They also lost their money and grain stored at Wai.

5,000 Adilshahi soldiers were killed and almost as many were wounded. 3,000 soldiers were imprisoned, and the remainder were allowed to go home in defeat. The Marathas lost 1,734 soldiers, while 420 soldiers were wounded.

As it was policy of Shivaji to humanely treat the defeated army, neither the men nor women were sold as slaves or molested. Wounded commanders were offered treatment deserving of their rank and either imprisoned or sent back to Bijapur. Some of the defeated Adilshahi generals like Siddi Hilal changed their loyalties and joined the Marathas to serve under Shivaji Maharaj. Two of Afzal khan’s sons were captured by the Marathas but were let off by the Shivaji Maharaj. Fazal khan (son of Afzal khan) and the Adilshahi soldiers with him who were badly injured were shown a safe passage out of the forest of Jawli by Prataprao More.

The sword of honour was presented to Kanhoji Jedhe for his invaluable and outstanding performance of service to Shivaji. The relatives of the killed soldiers were offered service in the Maratha army. Families without any male left alive to support the family were awarded pensions. Heroes of the war were rewarded with medals, kada (bracelets) and horses.

Khan's death dealt the Adilshah's rule a severe blow. A quarter of his territory, forts and a fifth of his army were captured or destroyed, while Shivaji doubled his territory, losing a tenth of his army, within fifteen days of the Battle of Pratapgadh.Shivaji maintained his momentum, sending cavalry towards Kolhapur, which succeeded in capturing seventeen forts, including the prestigious fort of Panhala. Cavalry was also sent towards Dabhol and Rajapur under the command of Doroji Patil, which was also successful in capturing forts in the southern Konkan.

This remarkable victory made Shivaji a hero of Maratha folklore and a legendary figure among his people. Having established military dominance and successfully beaten back a major attack by a powerful empire, Shivaji had founded the nucleus of what would become the Maratha Empire.

 

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