Battle of Pratapgarh – An Event That Laid the Foundation of the Maratha Empire

An important event took place in history on 10th November, 1659. It was the Battle of Pratapgarh that marked Shivaji’s rise to power. Shivaji killed the Bijapur general Afzal Khan at the Battle of Pratapgarh in 1659. It was the first major victory for him.

With Shivaji’s growing influence in the Maval region, the Adilshahi regime in Bijapur wanted to curb his activities. Afzal Khan was the commander of the Adilshahi forces, known for his towering presence, led the campaign against Shivaji. His strategy was to bring Shivaji out into the plains where he held an advantage as compared to the rocky Deccan terrain.

Afzal Khan attacked the holy town of Pandharpur and later demolished the temple of Bhavani at Tuljapur to bring Shivaji out. He had a mighty army, with around 12,000 cavalry, 10,000 infantry, around 80-90 cannons, and assistance from Siddi of Janjira.

One of the first persons to support Shivaji was Kanhoji Jedhe, one of the more prominent Deshmukhs, who did it on behalf of Shahji. His cavalry was commanded by Netaji Palkar who would later go on to assume a higher role under him.

Moropant Pingle lead the 3000 strong infantry forces during the Battle of Pratapgarh. He would later introduce the revenue system under Shivaji. Shahji was waiting with around 17000 forces, just in case Shivaji was killed, for a final battle with Afzal Khan.

Shivaji finally sent an emissary to Afzal Khan, stating that he was willing to meet him for peace talks, and they agreed on it. Yasaji Kank, Jiva Mahala were some of the bodyguards he chose for his personal safety, and had a wagh nakh concealed with him.

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This is how the Bagh Nakh generally looked, Shivaji used this against Afzal Khan to disembowel him.
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There was another variation of the Bagh Nakh called the Bichawa Bagh Nakh due to its shape.

Shivaji was attacked by Sayyed Banda, Afzal’s bodyguard, but his trusted bodyguard Jiva Mahala came to the rescue thus, cutting him down. Popular Marathi saying ‘Hota Jiva Mhanun Vachala Shiva,’ refers to Jiva Mahala saving Shivaji’s life.

Sambhaji Kondalkar, one of Shivaji’s lieutenants pursued the fleeing Afzal Khan and beheaded him. At a signal, Kanhoji Jedhe, led his cavalry on to the field, routing Afzal Khan’s 1500 odd musketeers.

Moropant Pingle, led the attack on the left flank of Adilshahi’s artillery, and they were caught unaware at the intensity of it. The cavalry led by Ragho Atre routed the Adilshahi’s cavalry, while Netaji Palkar led his troops against the retreating forces.

Pratapgarh was a massive defeat for the Adilshahis. They lost 5000 soldiers, another 3000 were taken prisoner whereas the Marathas lost 1700.

Shivaji offered the relatives of the killed soldiers, service in the Maratha army and it became a policy from then on. The families of those killed soldiers who had no male support, were given pension by Shivaji, and taken care of by the state. He ensured that those who performed heroically in the war were awarded suitably and given proper honors.

Shivaji’s success was as much due to the men around him – people like Tanaji Malusare, Moropant Pingle, Kanhoji Angre, Netaji Palkar. The victory at Pratapgarh made Shivaji a folk hero of sorts, it was also the genesis of the Maratha empire.

The historic fort of Pratapgarh located on a narrow ledge.

Pratapgarh’s conquest started Shivaj’s victorious march in the Deccan and also laid the foundation of the Maratha Empire.

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Painting of Shivaji killing Afzal Khan, one of the most epic moment in Bharat’s history.

This was an event that was a turning point which also led to one of the longest and bloodiest battles in the Deccan between Mughals and Marathas later on.

Shivaji had many memorable victories later on and laid the foundation for one of the greatest Empires that changed the course of history in the Deccan. And it all started on November 10, 1659, with the Battle of Pratapgarh.

Jai Bhavani. Jai Shivaji.

(This article has been collated from the tweet thread of @GabbarSanghi )


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About the Author

Ratnakar Sadasyula
I am a 40 year old Blogger with a passion in movies, music,books, Quizzing and politics. A techie by profession, and a writer at heart. Seeking to write my own book one day.