Afzal Khan

This is one of the most dramatic moments in Shivaji’s life that
gave him pan-Indian fame. Shivaji began his work in 1645. He defeated
Adilshah in 1648 and after the treaty, Afzal Khan was appointed as
Subhedar of Vai in 1649. Shivaji conquered Jaavli in 1656
nevertheless. Given this background, Afzal was marching to destroy
Shivaji. There is an added perspective to this relation as well.
Shivaji’s elder brother, Sambhaji, was killed in battle due to
treachery of Afzal Khan in early 1650’s. Shivaji had pledged to kill
Afzal Khan as a vengeance. Therefore, there was a personal touch to
this struggle as well.
Afzal Khan was aware of Shivaji’s valor and courage; his record
of deceit, his pledge to kill him for settling the score. Afzal
himself was valiant and master of all deceitful tactics. He had a
record of being ever alert. Yet, it is an enigmatic choice to make on
his part to leave his army behind and meet Shivaji alone. Certain
Persian documents suggest an explanation stating that it was Jijabai,
Shivaji’s mother, who guaranteed safety of Afzal Khan. It was a
notion that his mother heavily influenced Shivaji. No one knows
exactly what happened in that meeting. Shivaji had planned this
strike for almost 4-5 months. Afzal was just an opening move in his
campaign. It was a plan of Shivaji to kill Afzal and establish terror
in the mind of Adilshah. Many Marathi records state that it was Afzal
who struck first. However, this is not definitive, looking at the
depth of planning by Shivaji that preceded it. It was in plans of
Shivaji to finish Afzal Khan. Therefore, who struck first is a matter
of speculation, given Afzal’s infamous and felonious record of
deceit. Shivaji had planned his entire expedition taking death of
Afzal for granted.
Afzal wanted to avoid Jaavli, but Shivaji’s moves forced him to
enter the difficult terrain. In May-June 1659, Adilshah issued orders
to all the local zamindars to help Afzal. However, most of the
deshmukhs in the region backed Shivaji. The main collaborator of this
alliance was Kanhoji Jedhe, a special man of Shahaji. Thus, here
again we see the influence of Shahaji working in favor of Shivaji.
The local Zamindars preferred to fight for Shivaji and refused to
cooperate with Adilshah is itself testimony to this fact. Shivaji’s
stature had not grown so much yet to influence the decision of
masses. The basic outline of Shivaji’s strategy was -
To Kill Afzal Khan at Pratapgarh in the meeting OR in the
battle that would follow.
Destruction of his army stationed at the base of Pratapgarh by
Armies of Silibkar and Bandal.
Destruction of Afzal’s troops on Jaavli-Vai road by Netaji
Destruction of Afzal’s armies in the Ghats by Moropanta
Subsequent hot pursuit of fleeing Adilshahi forces.
To capture Panhalgadh and Kolhapur and Konkan, and invade the
territory in Karnataka up to Bijapur as soon as possible.
This entire strategy was planned for 3-4 months. This was a huge
campaign. Shivaji was not a fool to waste all this planning. Shivaji
had planned the killing of Afzal. Who struck first in that meeting is
speculative. Nevertheless, looking at this holistic planning, I think
it did not matter to Shivaji whether Afzal struck first OR not. Afzal
was infamous for many such deceitful killings in his life. Therefore,
given his past record, it is not garrulous to assume that Afzal
struck first. However, nothing definitive is known about it. The
weapon used by Shivaji, according to Marathi resources, was Tiger-
Claw and a curved Dagger, Bichwa. It is possible that even a Sword
was used.
Dutch reports state that while Shivaji was advancing towards
Bijapur after Afzal’s defeat, even his father Shahaji was approaching
Bijapur with huge army simultaneously. Thus, we can see the plan on a
grand scale. However, somewhere, something went wrong. Shivaji’s
forces came as close as 16 miles from Bijapur and waited for three
days. Shahaji’s forces from Karnataka reached 5 days late and
returned from 20 miles. (It is said that) Certain Persian documents
buttress this Dutch claim. Thus, one of the delicately planned
campaigns was not completed to its fullest. This is last reference of
Shahaji in Shivaji’s political life. Hereafter, Shivaji grew without
support OR shadow of his father. Adilshah sent Rustum-e-jaman to
destroy Shivaji. However, for the first time, Shivaji entered into a
classical head-on cavalry charge, and completely out maneuvered and
defeated Adilshahi forces 10,000 strong. Shivaji had 5000 horses at
his command.

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