The Battle of Pratapgad (or Pratapgarh) was a land battle fought on 10 November 1659 at the fort of Pratapgad near the town of Satara, Maharashtra, India between the forces of the Maratha king Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the Adilshahi general Afzal Khan.
The Marathas defeated the Adilshahi forces. It was their first significant military victory against a major regional power, and led to the eventual establishment of the Maratha Empire.
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 elder brother Sambhaji in a battle, was selected to lead an assault against Shivaji. He started from Bijapur in 1659. Shivaji met Afzal Khan on 10 November 1659 and killed him in a truce negotiation. Shivaji’s forces then routed the scattered Adilshahi army.
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 they would bring only ten personal bodyguards each with them. All the ten bodyguards would remain ‘one arrow-shot’ away from the pair. Shivaji chose Sambhaji Kondhalkar, Jiva Mahala, Siddi Ibrahim, Kataji Ingle, Kondaji Kank, Yesaji Kank, Krishnaji Gayakwad, Surji Katake, Visaji Murambak & Sambhaji Karvar for the meet.Afzal Khan hid a katyar (a small dagger) in his coat, and Shivaji wore armour underneath his clothes and carried a concealed wagh nakha in one hand.
As the two men entered the tent, the 6’7″ tall Khan embraced Shivaji. He then tried to strangle Shivaji in his vice-like grip and pierced his dagger in Shivaji. But the armour under Shivaji’s clothes saved him. Shivaji retaliated by using his “wagh nakh” (tiger claws) to slash Khan’s stomach and disembowelled Khan. Thereupon Afzal Khan’s bodyguard Bada Sayyed attacked Shivaji with swords but Jiva Mahala, Shivaji’s personal bodyguard fatally struck him down. Also a lawyer of afzal khan krushna bhaskar kulkarni attacked on shivaji.Shivaji aware he killed krushna kulkarni by sword. 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 brother, Sambhaji Shahaji raje Bhosle. 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.
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 lieutenant, 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 and Legacy
Adilshahi forces lost their artillery, 65 elephants, 4000 horses, 1200 camels, jewels worth 300,000 Rupees, 1,000,000 Rupees, heaps of precious clothes, 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 the 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. Two of Afzal Khan’s sons were captured by the Marathas but were let off by the Shivaji. 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. Shivaji also buried Afzal Khan as per Islamic customs and built his tomb near Pratapgarh, as per his philosophy of ‘once the enemy is dead, the enmity is dead too’.
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 King 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 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.