Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj


Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was the founder of the Maratha Empire. He not only ranks among the greatest warriors of the world, but is also known for being an equally able and humane administrator. The empire he founded led a successful civilizational fightback against Islamic onslaughts.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (19th February 1630 - 3rd April 1680) - commanly known as Shivajiraje, was a king of Bhonsle clan and the founder of Maratha Empire. At the age of 16, he gained possession of Torna fort[ref] and carved out a small kingdom which later went on to become one of the largest empires in the world. 

Background

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was born to Shahajiraje Bhonsle and Jijabai. Shahajiraje Bhonsle was a renowned Sardar and held the Jagir around Pune and Supe region of Maharashtra since his father's time. Jijabai was the daughter of Lakhujiraje Jadhavrao the Jagirdar of Sindakhed Raja in Berar province. Before Shivaji's birth, Shahajiraje had been serving the various foreign Sultanates that were vying to establish their own rule over Deccan - the Nizamshai, Adilshai and the Mughals from Delhi.

Jijabai's Mental State

While serving the Sultanates, Shahajiraje had progressed much in terms of wealth and stature. If Jijabai had wished, she could have easily spent her life in wealth. But Jijabai was thirsty for Swarajya - one's own independent kingdom. She was a devotee of Tulajabhawani. She felt she should start a war with the Sultanates, and free this land of Gods and Saints. She was not able to bear the misery being wrought upon the Maratha households, region, Hindu Gods, and religion. She felt that the Marathas, as original Kshatriyas, the motive of their birth was to take care of their subjects, lands, and righteous people. She could not stand the idea of slavery. She wanted her own kingdom, independent throne, own standard (flag), own army, own artillery, own commanders and own ministers! 

Shahajiraje's Mental State

Shahajiraje also felt equally dissatisfied. He was disenchanted with the Sultanate rule, but refrained from expressing his displeasure in the open. He was a self-respecting person, really proud of being a Maratha and a descendant of the Rajputs. He felt love and sympathy towards his men. On getting insulted, he didn't have any other remedy, apart from moving from one Sultanate to another. From Nizamshahi to Adilshahi, from Adilshahi back to Nizamshahi, from Nizamshahi to Mughals, and from there, somewhere else! 

Increasing Dissatisfaction

Jijabai had also realised, that some mighty hero like Lord Shriram was needed to bring all the brave Marathas together and revolt against the Sultans. She started feeling confident that she would be instrumental in changing the situation, and Mother Bhawani would help her in the cause. Sometimes unknowingly, she used to get a feeling that Shahajiraje himself should throw away the Sultanate bonds of slavery, and should start the enterprise of an independent kingdom himself. But she was aware of the difficulty and the caustic nature of the task. She was ambitious, but not indiscreet. 

Understanding Maharashtra & Marathas

Jijabai was learning the many intricacies of politics in the company of old experienced stewards in the Bhosale household like Sonopant Dabir, Naropant Mujumdar, Balkrishnapant Hanmante etc. She used to continuously hear the various happenings from the four Sultanates. She used to understand the situation of the country and her people. She was directly witnessing Shahajiraje’s political moves. She had perfectly gauged the silent minds of her people. If you left out selfish Sardars and big Watandars, the common poor Maratha public was fed up of the Sultanate rule; but it did not have the courage. If someone gave these hardworking, honest and brave Marathas some support, this Sahyadri with hundreds of its forts and this Maharashtra with its tough Marathas wouldn’t remain a slave even for one more second. The devotees of Tuljapur’s Bhavani were brave like their deity. They just needed a leader. 

Jijabai understood and internalised politics. She started requesting Jagadamba to satisfy her deepest wish!

Jijabai Gets Pregnant

Jijabai’s face started glowing with some extraordinary light! Her joy became a little bashful! Astute ladies in the family quickly recognised the signs! Shahajiraje also understood! Jijabai’s eyes started talking! Jijabai was pregnant! Pregnant! Shahajiraje was happy. Jijabai’s behaviour started changing slowly. A different kind of brilliance started showing around her. New desires, wishes started growing in her heart. Mothers and sisters around her started asking her what she desired?

Independence! Might! Vengeance for insults! Answers unspoken were clearly visible in her eyes.

Jijabai’s desires were extraordinary! She felt like sitting atop elephants. She started feeling like climbing hilly forts. She had a great desire of sitting on a golden throne and perform charitable donations with Chhatra (umbrella, part of royal insignia) held over her head. She suddenly became eager for other royal insignia as well. Planting very high standards and listening to the welcoming clamour of war-drums, was something she longed for. A wondrous desire was produced in her heart to fight with full armour, bow and arrow, spear, swords etc. weapons. She started longing for winning forts and registering big victories. And most extraordinarily, she started feeling like sitting on a Tiger!

Lakhujiraje Jadhavrao's Assassination

Like a lightning a terrible news flew from the Daulatabad fort, and crashed on Jijabai’s mansion. A wail of grief suddenly Jijabai was drowned in grief! On the auspicious festive day of Shravan Pournima (full-moon) saka 1551, Jijabai’s maternal home was destroyed completely!

Jijabai’s own father and three brothers were killed, especially under Sultan’s own supervision. The doors of her maternal homes had already been closed to her (because of a previous feud). But today that home itself was destroyed completely. She was overcome with grief and anger. The fire of vengeance in her mind flared up all the more. That fire was now making its way from her mind to her womb. To the life which was growing there. The foetus had started clenching its fists with vengeance even before its birth!

Shahajiraje's Attempt at Swarajya

Shahajiraje and Lakhuji had the old feud. Their relation had already been cut to pieces under the swords. But still Shahajiraje had little bit of love left for his father-in-law. He also got very angry about the betrayal of his father-in-law and brothers-in-law. He was aggrieved. He was sick of Nizamshahi and decided to quit it again.

Shahajiraje started thinking. If this was the treatment given to the elite, then what must have happened with the poor? There was no limit to their grief. Nobody could hear that litany of woes. Shahajiraje could see that thousands of such Jijaus across Maharashtra were crying for their brothers, fathers, mothers, and sisters-in-law.

Shahajiraje was suddenly disturbed because of the Jadhavrao assassination. Even if he quit Nizamshahi, the competitors Mughals, Adilshah or Qutubshah were also the same! Slavery was at the root of all this misery. So, Shahajiraje who was fed up with this whole slavery, started to plan something really brave. Revolt! He didn’t want to be a part of this yes-men clan; he didn’t want this slavery! No Sultans needed, no Jagir needed! A courageous thought of raising a rebellion arose in Shahajiraje’s mind, with the help of his own land, his own people, his own might, and his own swords! Revolt! Revolt against Sultanates! And Shahajiraje put these thoughts of rebellion in action! That time he was near Parinda fort. From there he travelled to Sangamner. From there on to Pune. He had held the Jagir of Pune since the time of Malojiraje. He had an old mansion there. He declared this whole region as ‘Independent’! This was the day ‘Independence’ dawned on Pune after three hundred years! Shahajiraje quickly established his control over the region surrounding Pune. This region belonged to Bijapur’s Adilshah.

Shivneri

Shahajiraje had attempted an extraordinarily courageous act amidst all this. He had one big worry. That was concern about Jijabai. It was risky to keep her in open towns. A strong shelter ideal to keep her safe would be some hilly fort on the shoulders of Sahyadri. And Shahajiraje suddenly remembered one such a lofty fort. Shivneri!

The officer-in-charge was also powerful. Besides, he was a relative. Durgabai from his family was Jijabai’s sister-in-law. She was married to Sharifjiraje Bhosale (Shahajiraje’s brother). The officer-in-charge was named Vijayrao Sidhoji Vishwasrao. Shahajiraje decided, Jijabai would be kept under the care of Vishwasrao. Only that family could take care of Jijabai, even more than her own family. They would take care of the delivery like she was their own beloved daughter.

Due to the chaotic times, Raje decided to drop her to Shivneri himself. Along with experienced, aged stewards, who were extremely trusted, wise and bore immense affection towards the Bhosale family, like Naropant Mujumdar, Malharbhat Upadhye, Balkrishnapant, Gomaji Naik Pansambal etc., Her own female retinue was also in the tow.  

Shivneri fort was a very special fort. Twenty-six kos towards the north of Pune, this fort sat pretty in the matted dreadlocks of the Bhimashankar range, and right in the mouth of Naneghat (old Satavahana trade route). It was bounded on all sides by straight hewn cliffs, strong ramparts, gigantic turrets and powerful doorways. As one entered through the Elephant Darwaja (doorway), Bhavani Shivai Goddess in her temple on the right-hand side watched over the fort.

Shivneri fort was naturally fit into its hilly seat. Towards all the eight directions it had calm, quiet and sacred temples. Jyotirlinga Bhimashankar, Girijatmaj Ganesha of Lenyadri, Khandoba of Nimgiri, Vighnaharta Gajanana of Ozar, Kalbhairav of Parinda, Chaitanya Swami of Otur, Tuljabai of the nearby hill, Kukadeshwar of Naneghat, Goddess Amba and Ambika of the mountain caves and surrounded by all these the Shivneri fort and the residing deity of the fort Goddess Shivai. One could see the Sahyadri peaks kissing the skies. Naneghat filled with wild tigers, Bhimashankar with its dense forest and the adamantine forts Harishchandragad, Jivdhangad, Chawandagad etc. were also in the same area. But this was also under the Sultanate control! Jijabai was continuously witnessing this and getting troubled by it. Her eyes were overjoyed looking at this colossal Sahyadri, her intellect was getting stunned, but her heart was crying, looking at this vast Sahyadri bound in slavery.

Raje entrusted Jijabai’s responsibility to Vishwasrao. He also accepted the risk very affectionately.

Revolt Suppressed

At the same time, Pune started burning! All the houses in Pune had been set afire! Adilshah was beside himself with anger, when he came to know that Shahajiraje had started a rebellion in Pune, and had won over the surrounding Adilshahi region. Vazir Khawas Khan sent a big army on a campaign to break the back of this rebellion. It was under the command of another Maratha Sardar named Rayarao. Adilshahi armies entered Pune. Royal forces started playing havoc with arson and massacres. Shahajiraje’s mansion was burnt down. The poor had to bear the brunt. They started running helter-skelter, shouting and screaming to avoid the flames of fire and attacks by swords. Rayarao completely demolished the ramparts around Pune. All of Pune’s graceful Veshis (gateways), were blown to the skies with mines. Kumbharves, Mavalves, Kedarves, started looking like human skulls from which the flesh had melted away. Numerous funeral pyres were lit all over. Mohammed Adilshah and Vazir Khawas Khan completely destroyed Shahajiraje’s ‘Swarajya’ in this manner. And that too at the hands of another Maratha Sardar! Rayarao actually brought a pair of donkeys, attached them to a plough and paraded them through the whole Pune region (an erstwhile symbolic gesture that this region was now uninhabitable)! He also drew into the ground an iron crowbar, and hung a broken skull and piece of torn sandal! It was meant as a warning to the people, that rebel Shahaji Bhosale’s Pune had been destroyed! There won’t be any light here anymore! This had become a cemetery, a place where death reigns! This was the outcome of revolting against the Sultanate!

The sacred rebellion Shahajiraje had started, was burnt to ashes. But everybody witnessed what happens if one acts against the Sultanate, how everything gets destroyed, and the symbolism in broken skull and torn sandal. Jijabai also saw it. Everybody was filled with terror. But Jijabai? Of course, not! In fact, her brow clouded all the more with fury! Her brow was now taking the shape of a bow. Her heart was burning in the fire of vengeance like Draupadi. 

Shahajiraje was staring at a question of existence after his first play had failed. He sent an application to Shahjahan via Azamkhan, a Mughal Sardar (December 1629). And Shahajiraje quietly accepted the Panchhazari Mansab (a military commander of 5000 soldiers) with the Mughals.

An erstwhile Mughal Sardar Daryakhan Rohilla had come to the Deccan in Marathwada after revolting against Shahjahan. Shahajiraje was given the task of defeating this Daryakhan. Shahajiraje took leave of Jijabai and started his campaign against Daryakhan from Shivneri. 

Shivaji Maharaj's Birth

The year that began on Chaitra Shuddha Pratipada of saka 1551, was named Shukla Sanvatsar. But it was a really dark period. Maharashtra was burnt dark due to incessant battles and arson. Sardars like Lakhuji Jadhavrao were getting murdered. Youth were dying. Their young innocent brides were committing Sati behind them. Whole Parganas were getting rendered desolate like Pune. Shahjahan had started himself from Agra on a campaign to win over Deccan. Vazir Fateh Khan in Nizamshahi and Vazir Khawas Khan in Adilshahi were busy in their atrocities.

Jijabai was counting days atop Shivneri in the company of Goddess Shivai. Her time was full. Some special mansions had been built on the fort towards the north of the Kaman water tank. They were called Sarkarwada. Vishwasrao had arranged these for her living quarters. 

She had trusted stewards like Naropant, Balkrishnapant who treated her like a daughter. She had an ardent caretaker in the fort commander Vishwasrao himself. Her feet were slowing down day-by-day. Jijabai now started feeling even the weight of her ornaments. She felt tired. A touch of paleness crept up her face. Jijabai now couldn’t move much. Skilled and experienced midwives guessed, today-tomorrow, the time was near…! The whole fort’s minds were impatient for that moment, that news, that handful of sugar. The queen of a big Sardar like Shahajiraje was about to give birth on the fort.

The appointment of old, experienced midwives and highly skilled, experienced and trusted Vaidyas had already been made at the fort. Those Vaidyas were at Jijabai’s service round-the-clock. 

One of the more secure rooms on the fort had been prepared for the childbirth. The room had been painted brilliant white on the inside with lime. Swastikas and other auspicious symbols had been imprinted on the inner walls with vermilion. Curtains had been hung on the doors and windows. Paintings of sacred deities adorned both sides of the door. The room had been kept well-lit round the clock. A set of the necessary items and medicines had been kept at the ready, along with vessels full of water. Auspicious white mustard seeds had been thrown in all corners of the room.

Falgun Vadya Tritiya dawned (third day of the waxing-moon fortnight in Falgun month). Stars in the sky started vanishing slowly. Sending sharp arrows of bright light, and destroying the darkness, Usha (morning) arrived on the horizon. The whole creation started shining. It seemed as if, the heavenly deities had started throwing red colour with both their hands, to receive the infant Sun.

Hours after hours went past. Jijabai went into labour. Midwives, Vaidyas started bustling around her. Jijabai entered the room appointed for childbirth.

Vishwasrao, Naropant, Gomaji Naik etc. all loving people got engrossed in the concern as well as the curiosity towards Jijabai. Joy, curiosity, fear, again joy, again concern, again curiosity, all these emotions kept flashing on all their faces. These people were really devoted.

Curiosity was increasing. The past moment was asking the next one in curiosity, ‘What?’

‘Nothing yet!’ the next one would reply.

Each minute was becoming tough to while away like an hour.

And the curtain over the door moved. Was swept away. Curious brows asked. Necks craned. And the news came onto the lips with a smile.

What? What? What?

Son!

Son? Son? Son! Son!! Son!!!

Sahyadri's Son! Maharashtra's Son! Bharatavarsha's Son! 

And an instant clamour of joy exploded on the fort. Drums started beating. Cymbals started clapping. Shehnai and Chaughada started their music on the fort. Nagaras (bigger drums) started their thousand beat challenge. In the Shalivahan saka’s year 1551, the year named Shukla, in the summer semester, in the month of Falgun, on the third new-moon of the waning-fortnight (Vadya Tritiya), in Shishir season, on Hasta Nakshatra (constellation), with Leo as ascendant, on Friday after the sunset during the twilight, on this auspicious moment, at the time when the five heavenly bodies, that express the power to impart the whole earth’s empire, were opportune and powerful, Mother Jijabai gave birth to a son on Shivneri fort! (Dt 19 February, Friday, 1630).

Shukla (bright) Sanvatsar (year) had stood up to its name finally! People were unnecessarily cursing it as ‘dark’! Shukla sanvatsar! Auspicious sanvatsar! Shiv (sacred) sanvatsar!

The whole fort had a taste sweeter than sugar in their mouths. The front of Jijabai’s mansion was washed with torrents from big vessels that were kept filled. The news reached the border,

‘Whose son?’ Jijabai’s son! Shahajiraje’s son! Sahyadri’s son! Maharashtra’s son! Bharatvarsha’s son!

The news accompanied by traditional sugar pouch was dispatched to Shahajiraje. At this time Raje was busy fighting Daryakhan Rohilla.

The news of childbirth reached the small villages in the general area of the fort. The whole Junnar region was overjoyed at the news of the birth of a son to noble Shahajiraje and equally noble Jijabaisaheb.

Early Childhood

Shivba’s cradle started rocking atop Shivneri. Shivba was yet to come out of the maternity ward. The associated darkness and warmth provided by household stoves hadn’t stopped.

Shahajiraje visits Shivneri

Shahaji Raje was anxious to see the face of his new-born son. But there was no respite from the incessant campaigns! Raje defeated Daryakhan and turned his horses towards Shivneri.

Shahajiraje reached Shivneri. Jijabai’s personal quarters were especially happy. Shivba was waiting for his father all ready. Raje came. Jijabai gave Shivba in Raje’s caring hands. Raje looked at his son with loving gaze. Saw his son’s face for the first time. He had come from the embattled, bloody and fiery surroundings of a campaign. The joy felt to his hands like the cool wetness of rose petals. He was so overwhelmed with joy, that he immediately started showering countless rewards, gifts, donations in charity on everyone around. His largesse included all shapes and kinds from elephants to diamonds.

Shahajiraje spent a few days in the happiness atop the fort.

Toddler Years

Shivba was growing up on Shivneri. He was Jijabai’s only source of support. He was called ‘Shivba’ by everyone. He had quickly become everybody’s favourite because of his lovely baby fat. He was playing and growing in the free atmosphere of Shivneri. Shivba used to play a lot. Laugh a lot. Run a lot. Dance a lot. And in the night, he used to sleep peacefully after listening to Jijabai’s stories of Ram, Hanuman, Krishna, Bheema and Arjuna.

A group of other children used to gather around Shivba. This small group of beloved companions used to get so engrossed in laughing and playing with Shivba. Due to their sweet chatter Jijabai’s heart would get filled with satisfaction.

In Pune

Six years ago (in 1630 AD), Pune was turned into a cemetery. Pune, which once housed more than three thousand inhabitants, was now home to two to four helpless and lost households, living in some obscure corner under some cactuses or crumbling, half-burnt hutments, always terrified like a small bird. A life of cemetery ascetics.

But one day, the sun brought a reddish novelty with it. Hooves of a few horses made way towards Pune. The town which was living in constant terror was startled. The well-appointed convoy also had a few palanquins with it. The retinue told that there were ladies with the convoy. This was a convoy of Sakala Saubhagya Sampanna (Blessed with a stable marriage) Vajra Chude Mandit (bedecked with unbreakable bangles) Rajashree Jijausaheb Bhosale. With her there was a six years young boy as well. Shivajiraje Bin (son of) Shahajiraje Bhosale. Palanquin was accompanied with the Maratha cavalrymen in the front and back. The whole convoy entered into Pune through the fallen gateways. Jijausaheb and Shivbaraje entered Pune. But the royal armies had burnt down the mansions that belonged to this son and mother pair. So, they didn’t even have a place to call their home. The mansion of Pune’s Patil was somehow still holding itself together. Patil was named Zambre Patil. Zambre Patil welcomed these Gauri and Ganesha in his own mansion. Now Jijausaheb and young Raje were going to live in this mansion belonging to Zambre Patil, until they built a new house of their own. 

Jijausaheb and Shivajiraje had the whole retinue of Rajdeshmukhi (Royal revenue official) with them. Servants, workmen, guards, personal soldiers, clerks, Diwani (criminal) stewards, fadnis (civil) stewards, and a senior experienced Headclerk who used to manage the whole retinue with or without a sword, but definitely with his pen. His aura used to be on display through his speech, body language and eyes. The old man could easily be around seventy-five. Still he was erect and tough. He used to behave with all humility in the company of Jijausaheb and Shivajiraje. This old head-steward was named Dadaji Konddev Malthankar.

Pune's Resettlement

When Jijausaheb and Shivbaraje arrived at Pune, it wore a completely funereal look. Jijausaheb ordered Dadaji Konddev to start building their own houses in Pune and the catchment villages around it. Accordingly, Dadaji selected a few locations for the mansions. One of these locations was beyond the Katraj hill, near a village called Khed. All this area belonged to the Konde-Deshmukh family. Konde was a big and famous family. Jijausaheb had plans to settle a whole new town near Khed over the old tell mound, and converting the arable land around in an orchard. High mountain ranges on all sides, Kondhana fort on the west, soft soil like jaggery, and river Shivaganga flowing through the area. First mansion was to be built like a ‘palace’, and the town was to be named after Shivajiraje – ‘Shivapur’. Pant started the work. Various trees, especially mango trees, were planted in the fields around the town. The orchard was named after Shahajiraje. ‘Shahabag’.

One location was selected for building the mansion even in Pune. It belonged to the Zambre-Patil family. It was towards the west of Kasba, large area, river close-by, abundant water-supply, the town wouldn’t be troubled with the hustle and bustle of the stables. Besides, it was around Shreemoraya. Ground-breaking ceremony was conducted and the first stone was installed.

Around four kos from Pune, near the village named Pashan there was a Shiva temple. The deity’s name was Shree Someshwar. A small river used to flow just beside the temple. River was called ‘Ram’. A market was constructed for the village and a protective wall was constructed for the temple. Beautiful rock-set ghats, check-dam and deep basins were constructed for the river. A new name was given to the village, ‘Peth Jijapur’. Beautiful murals were drawn on the walls of Shree Someshwar temple. 

Dadaji had recognised the dreams that were continuously going through Jijausaheb’s mind and constantly visible in her behaviour and speech, to establish an independent Maratha Swarajya. The initiative taken by Jijausaheb moments after entering Pune to wipe out the insulting signs of slavery was itself a brave move. She had started an attempt to heal the wounds inflicted on Pune by the Adilshahi demons. She had uprooted the crowbar that had been hammered here. She had begun to renovate the demolished temples and households. A different kind of plough was replacing the donkey-plough that the Sultanate had paraded. Shivajiraje’s independent seal was being put to use. The administrative mandates used to be signed and sealed with young Shivajiraje’s name. All twelve standard village artisans and other village workmen had begun this reconstruction work along with Shivajiraje with high hopes. 

The general administration of Pune was started in Shivajiraje’s name as the prevalent authority. During the day the following words from Shivajiraje’s seal would reflect on the mandate letters of Jijausaheb.

’प्रतिपच्चंद्रलेखेव वर्धिष्णुर्विश्ववंदिता शाहसुनो शिवस्यैषा मुद्रा भद्राय राजते॥’

The ‘Shubham Karoti’ being recited by Jijabaisaheb and Shivajiraje, and the real soul within the Pratipat-Chandralekheva (growing like the new-moon) ‘benevolent seal’ used by Shivajiraje was one and the same. In both of them, sublime, ardent, and towering expectations and ambition shone brightly like a glorious lamplight. 

The construction work on the mansion near Kasba Ganpati in Pune was completed. Stables, cowshed, armoury, office, records-room, common courtyard, wells, store-rooms, living quarters, ritual rooms, kitchens, granaries etc. were built. Jijausaheb and Raje sought an auspicious day, did the Vastu-pujan, and came to live within this mansion with all their retinue. The mansion was named ‘Lal-Mahal’.

On the other side, the Shivapur mansion had also been completed. Shahabag planted around it was growing. All these things were being overseen and being done by Dadaji Konddev, as per Jijausaheb’s original plan and orders. 

Pune slowly started growing. Jijausaheb and Shivbaraje used to stay in the Shivapur mansion also sometimes. Shivapur’s Bapuji Mudgal Deshpande was in the service of Jijausaheb’s family. This was a very loyal family. Bapuji and his three young sons were special Shiledars (military chiefs) under Shahajiraje. Bapuji was looking after Shahajiraje’s whole Jagir encompassing thirty-six villages, with the responsibility of an unwavering security guard. Bapuji’s three sons were named Naroji, Babaji and Chimnaji. This Deshpande family had their own mansion in the new Shivapur.

The newly initiated settlement at the new town of Shivapur started growing as well. Dadaji Konddev personally felicitated the new town’s Patil, Kulkarni, Deshpande, Deshmukh right up to Yeskar, Joshi and Gurav families, by issuing them these posts through ritual ceremonies. All this planning came from Jijausaheb. During this time (1637-38 AD) Jijausaheb and Shivajiraje used to stay mostly at Shivapur. Jijausaheb used to keep a very careful eye on Shivba. In this playful age, she was ensuring education and correct impressions are imparted to his young mind.

Early Impressions on Shivba

Shivba was also growing fast. He used to sit engrossed near the teacher appointed for literacy. He was so intelligent that he used to remember everything told once. Shivba quickly learnt how to read and write.

There were quite a few temples around Pune. Jijausaheb by nature was a spiritual person. She used to go out to seek the blessings of these deities once in a while. Little Shivba would tag along as well. Her ardent devotion was making her seek blessings from Moraya Ganesha of Chinchwad, Dnyaneshwar Mauli of Alandi, Gajanan of Theur, Khandoba of Jejuri, Bhuleshwar, Bhawani of Kondhanapur etc. All these temple visits and darshans was her way of securing these impressions deep in Shivba’s young and innocent mind. Jijausaheb's devotion, and the power of Ashtabhuja Jagadamba was being imparted to Shivba as well. Only one name was playing on his lips, Jai Bhawani!

Like these religious places, Shivajiraje also used to look at the forts around Pune like Toranagad, Tunga, Tikona, Lohagad, Korigad, Purandar, and even Kondhana, sometimes from afar, sometimes quite close-up. All these forts used to fly the Adilshahi standard. Small pangs started germinating in his mind when he unknowingly looked at them. Raje was also gathering mighty friends and companions from the Maval region, at this young age.

Aaisaheb was fond of Puranas-Pravachan-Kirtan (Puranic storytelling). Shivba also picked up this liking. He used to listen to the stories from epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagwat etc. He used to visualise these mighty humans and gods. Ram, Hanuman, Krishna, Abhimanyu, Bheem, and their maces, bows and arrows, and swords and chakras! Whenever any righteous sage or learned intellectual Shastri Pandit visited Pune, he used to be felicitated at the court hall in Lal Mahal. Aaisaheb would sit in the purdah, while Pant would get this felicitation done at Shivba’s hands. And then meeting such learned and righteous men would turn into a hobby for Shivba. Shivba’s life was shaping by with such long-lasting impressions.

Until now, there was no justice. Whatever Qazi decided, would be termed justice! Pant forcibly retired all Qazis. He instituted a judicial court in Lal Mahal itself. Pant himself would listen to peoples’ complaints and grievances and started imparting justice. As Shivba started growing old, Pant started engaging him in this difficult task. He would ask Shivba to sit in attendance in the court, and would take judicial decisions after discussions. Many times, Aaisaheb herself used to sit in the court hall for some judgments. She used to listen to the whole dispute and used to give perfect judgment. 

All this administration by Pant and Aaisaheb was influencing Shivba deeply. The principal of ‘Justice’ was getting ingrained in his veins. He was slowly understanding what was meant by injustice. He started getting impatient with it. And he was witnessing the biggest injustice of them all – the foreign Sultanate!

The Jagir started getting transformed at a fast pace. The revenue collection was regularised and started increasing. Some savings started getting accumulated in the treasury at the end of the year. Lal Mahal and peoples’ houses started seeing prosperity. Abundance of food, fodder, livestock, and horses was visible everywhere. Aaisaheb started feeling blessed about the administration being run by Pant. It was such a small Jagir, but it started priding itself like an independent kingdom. The whole Pune Jagir consisted of just thirty-six villages! 

Shivba was growing up. His virtues and skills were developing. His sense of self-esteem, the earnestness towards his people, pride, flaming unwavering loyalty to Bhawani, and a little rowdy streak was also increasing! One needed to just witness Shivba once in the red soil of the wrestling ring, playground, on the hills, in the rivers, streams and in forests! In the Lal Mahal he used to forget himself in Shrutis, Smritis, Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayan, political and other sciences, and aphorisms of various saints; while outside, wrestling, horse riding, practicing swordfights, throwing javelins, trying out Dandpatta (a type of flexible, double-edged sword), archery, running fast, long-jump, playing hide-and-seek in inaccessible ravines, and wreaking a havoc to his heart’s content, kept him engrossed. His teachers were happy with him even in those areas. Sometimes he also rode an elephant with a goading iron. 

Shivba was now ten years of age. The sons of Pune’s Havildar Bapuji Mudgal Deshpande, Narayan, Chimnaji and Balaji had become Shivba’s close friends. But his closest future friends, like Angad, Hanuman, Sugreev, Nal, Neel, Jambavant etc. were to Shriram, were still playing on the branches of the trees in Maval region! They had not met him yet!

Shivba's First Marriage - Saibai

Shivba became ten years old. This was the right age to marry! Aaisaheb liked the daughter of Faltan’s Naik Nimbalkar. She asked her parents for her hand in marriage to Shivba. The girl’s name was Saibai. She was still young. Aaisaheb had liked her. Pant sent the marriage invitation to Shahajiraje. But Raje was stuck in faraway Bengaluru. It was not possible for him to attend. But he did send his blessings.

Pant and Aaisaheb got busy in the marriage preparations. Decorative pylons were hung all over the Lal Mahal. Haldi ceremony was celebrated with the application of auspicious turmeric paste to Shivba. Decorative headgear adorned Shivba’s forehead. Saibai garlanded Shivba in the thunder of Dhol-Tasha (Dt 16 May 1640). The whole marriage ceremony was arranged by Pant with ardent dedication. Shivba entered Lal Mahal with Saibai.

Bengaluru Visit - Second Marriage - Soyarabai

Shivba and Aaisaheb were in Pune for four years now. Even though living in Bengaluru, Shahajiraje’s attention was continuously directed towards them in Pune. He used to continuously send letters, clothes, and his favourite things to his favourite Shivba in Pune. Pant Dadaji Konddev also used to send regular reports about Pune’s progress to Raje. Raje used to feel satisfied hearing the progress of Pune Jagir. Now he started feeling anxious to meet his first queen and Shivba. He wrote a letter to Pant asking himself to visit Bengaluru in Karnataka, accompanied by Jijabaisaheb and Shivba.

The messenger from Bengaluru came to Pune’s Lal Mahal. Pant read the message. He rushed straight to Aaisaheb to give her the message. Jijabai was overjoyed. Shivba was happy too. Pant took a stock of all the accounting records of the Jagir so far, and the collected revenue as well as saved treasury, and packed all of it up for the journey.

The journey began. The convoy took the path leading to Bengaluru. Shivba was going to witness a new region, new people, new behaviours, overall a wholly new world. This was also going to be an important learning point in his education. The message that Jijausaheb and young Raje was travelling towards Bengaluru had already been sent ahead. Shahajiraje was waiting anxiously. Shivba’s elder brother, Jijau’s elder son Sambhajiraje was also in Bengaluru. Similarly, his step-brothers and everybody else would meet Shivba for the first time.

The whole palace was bustling with activity for receiving its eldest queen. Pant entered the palace gates with all the palanquins, the retinue and Shivba, and there was an instant commotion of meetings, bowing down, touching feet, seeking blessings, embraces, and celebration. Father met his son after a long time. The whole palace was full of joy. Shahajiraje’s second queen Tukabaisaheb and her first-born Ekojiraje met Jijausaheb and Shivba. Shivba’s own elder brother Sambhajiraje also met. Everybody felt full of satisfaction.

Since Raje himself could not attend Shivba’s marriage, he decided to marry him one more time! Shivba was married to Soyarabai, the daughter of the well-known Mohite family, in royal style. Raje celebrated this second marriage of Shivba with all his passion.

Pant presented all accounts of the Pune Jagir, and the detailed report of the activities undertaken in front of Raje. Raje was utterly satisfied looking at such progress, growth, high income and exceeding satisfaction in Pune. He showered immense laurels on Pant. He said he felt blessed to have Pant. 

Initial Foundation of Swarajya

Shahajiraje recognised that it won’t be possible to keep Shivba’s brilliance under the wraps for long. He actually felt happy about it. Shivba was probably born for a different purpose. Perhaps Shivba was getting special inspiration from Lord Narayana resident in his heart to protect the temples, households, religious places, religion itself, livestock as well as people in general! Shivba would perhaps achieve what Raje himself had not been able to achieve. Shri Kuladev (family-deity) Bhavanishankar (Lord Shiva) also seemed to desire this. Shivba would happily offer himself to be blown off a canon for Maharashtra’s religion; but he won’t serve the Sultan, even if he is given the whole Deccan as Jagir. This blatant reality was visible in his daily behaviour. So Shahajiraje thought it better to keep Shivba in and around Pune’s hilly region.

Shivba was also feeling anxious to leave for Pune. He couldn’t bear to see the shamelessness and the dogfight amongst Maratha Sardars, for somehow protecting their own religion, language, culture and people, that he had witnessed in Bijapur. Raje decided to send with Shivba, some more brilliant and efficient people. While doing this, Raje’s vision and intention was clear and grand. Raje appointed Shamraj Neelkanth Ranjhekar as the ‘Peshwe’ and asked him to accompany Shivba. He appointed Balkrishnapant Hanmante as the ‘Mujumdar’, Sono Vishwanath as ‘Dabir’, Raghunath Ballal Atre as ‘Sabnis’. This way Raje had sort of created for Shivba his first council of ministers, by sending these experienced and loyal people with him, with these appointments of Peshwa, Mujumdar, Dabir etc offices. Shahajiraje had quite a few stewards and officials serving under him, holding different kinds of designations. But nobody amongst them held the office of the ‘Peshwa’. However, Raje had given Shivba a ‘Peshwa’. Peshwa meant chief minister, Prime Minister.

Thus, Raje gave Shivba these trusted ministers, some elephants, horses, treasury, and some brilliant and peerless stewards. Besides he also appointed Balaji Hari ‘Majalsi’ and Narhar Ballal ‘Bakshi’. Apart from that, Raje also gave Shivba his own flag. Pant was always there like before. Completely satisfied with his service, Raje had increased his annual income and had given him an extension. And taking into account an auspicious day, he bade farewell to Pant Dadaji Konddev, Jijabaisaheb and Shivba, who started their journey back to Pune.

The convoy entered Pune. Lal Mahal started bustling again.

Pant’s administration started again, as if the seventy-year old Pant had shed his old skin! The twelve Maval basins started circling his mind. Actually, Pant was in his twilight years. People knowing him were half expecting him to declare his innings any time. But the times had turned around! Now Pant didn’t even have the time to die! Pant started working with a vengeance to establish the grand new kingdom. He started making rounds of the Maval basins with Shivba. Maharashtra’s real power lies in Sahyadri’s mountains. If the Marathi Deshmukh, Deshpande, Patil, Kulkarni people in these Maval basins pledged their loyalty, the whole region would become invincible not only to these Sultans, but even to the Yamraj (Death). Pant went to work deciding to turn all these Deshmukhs, Deshpandes into loyal friends for Shivba as his first task. He himself was an appointed Mokashi steward of the Pune Jagir belonging to Shahajiraje. Besides he was the nominated Subedar of the Kondhana fort as well. Being a royal Subedar, the gravity, weight and awe of his word, everything was huge.

Shivba's Band of Brothers

Shivba used to roam around in these basins, ravines, hills and forests with Pant. He became such an expert in gauging the virtues and vices of people, that he quickly understood the situation of the general public and the situation of the overall region, like an expert jeweller. He used to make an accurate reading of everyone from a very young age. And our Shivbaraje’s wisdom was so brilliant that he used to discern the right people as well. At such a young age, his intellect had grown to become sharp as a spear. His understanding always ran four steps ahead. He used to behave appropriately with both friends of his age, and elderly stewards of the court. Pant used to feel really satisfied looking at Shivba’s sagacity. 

While roaming around the maval basins with Pant, Shivba’s hawk-eye used to be noting down everything around. The maval youth used to bow down with respect bashfully. But they used to stay away. They used to look simple and poor. But their bodies were firm and tenacious like a tree trunk. Shivba used to accept their obeisance with a slight smile. The man paying obeisance would melt with just this. None of the earlier Sardars would accept one’s obeisance with such affection. Earlier also imperial Sardars would come visiting maval. But they would come kicking everybody in their way.

Shivba used to pick the right man perfectly. He would beckon that fellow near. The man’s heart would get filled with a mix of emotions like, sudden happiness because the king called him, curious about why would he call, and fear about whether he had committed any mistake! But Shivba used to greet him with a sweet smile, and the youth would literally melt with joy. Shivba built his band of friends by searching for them like this one-by-one. All these were sons of common poor farmers. Tanhaji Malusare, Suryaji Malusare, Yesaji Kank, Suryaji Kakde, and Baji Jedhe. Shivba was soon surrounded by a circle of friends like Sonopant Dabir’s son Tryambak Sondev, Bapuji Mudgal Deshpande’s sons Naroba, Chimnaji and Balaji, Rohid basin’s Narasprabhu Gupte’s son Dadaji etc. All these were not of the same age. Someone older, some others younger. Baji Pasalkar was the eldest. Almost a grandfather! Still he was Shivba’s childhood friend! ‘Oldest’ childhood friend! He was around sixty-five years of age. Baji had become a part of this gang of youth. Like an inseparable friend. Ready to even give his life whenever Shivba asked!

All these friends started visiting Lal Mahal. The atmosphere of Lal Mahal used to be filled with a wonderous kind of magic. Aaisaheb’s serene, loving and motherly behaviour and utterly devotional loyalty to the religion; the respectful behaviour of stewards like Sonopant Dabir, Raghunathpant Atrey, Balajipant Mendjoge etc., and strict awe of Dadaji Konddev, all these things came together in Lal Mahal and would create very different kind of impressions on a person.

Tanjaji, Yesaji, Baji etc. people were from the very core of maval basins. Other youth from Maval also started getting linked to the Lal Mahal due to all of them. Shivba took these tough and vagrant friends along and practised sword-fights. They used to roam around and pick various untravelled routes, mountain caves, high passes, trade routes, ravines and secret routes etc. through the Sahyadri.

Slowly these friends became passionate about Shivba. They became his unwavering devotees. They forgot their own households. These youth were even ready to cut their hearts out for Shivba. They started to come riding even in the middle of the night, at any difficult place, uncaring about a single thing in this world, at Shivba’s one call. They started looking at Shivba as the avatar of Lord Shiva Himself. They started considering Delhi and Bijapur Emperors as pure demonic evil. A germ of sharp disgust rose in their hearts about the imperial control. They were witnessing with their own eyes, how absolutely devoted to Tuljabhavani Shivba was. They were absolutely sure that Mother Goddess Bhawani had personally blessed their Shivbaraje!

Shivba also loved these friends like his own brothers.

And the fear of the Sultanate rule completely vanished from their minds! They made their decision, now Shivba’s rule would be established! They were ready to even die for it! But they all vowed to destroy the Sultanate. Shivba was utterly devoted to Jagadamba (Durga). He used to say to his close friends,

“Even Shree (Mother Goddess Durga / God Herself / Himself) wants this to be our own kingdom!”

Recce

Pant used to get reports of all these activities of Shivba and his gang. But he was ignoring them purposefully! Pant himself had played exactly the same hand in the twelve river basins of maval. The Jagir was being administered in Shivba’s name. He also had full backing along with precautionary suggestions from Shahajiraje. Shivba’s own seal was given shape. This was octagonal in shape. Of course, its documentary version had also been readied around the same time. This documentary seal was hexagonal in shape.

Shivba and Pant, along with their band of ‘vagabond boys’ used to roam around in Bijapur’s royal Suba around Kondhana without any apprehension. They used to gather invaluable intelligence and keep a watch along these cliffs and ravines. Pant and Shivba both knew, that they had started the enterprise of snatching away the kingdom from Sultanate hands, so it was natural that their rebellion will definitely be exposed to the Sultans one day. But they needed to ensure that their ‘secret’ plans were not leaked out. 

These guys had collected each and every bit of information about the forts and fortresses surrounding Pune. Secret passageways to enter, underground passages, cellars, ammunition dumps, armouries, and the location of Sultanate forces, the number of soldiers within the detachment, how many outposts were erected, which areas were left unattended etc. also they had observed, and everybody knew it very well.

Around twenty-five kos towards the south of Pune, in Bhor Tehsil, there is a very sacred, scenic and ancient temple of Lord Shiva named Raireshwar. This Shivalinga had self-existed there from eons ago as per the local lore. This temple is near the Jedhe Deshmukh villages of Kari and Ambavade, at the top of a very high and extremely difficult patch of the Sahyadri. Shivba was extremely fond of such places! He used to visit this temple often. He and his friend Dadaji Narasprabhu Gupte had made the arrangements of the daily worship of Raireshwar (Dt 26 May 1642). They had appointed one Shiva Jangam as the local priest there.

Pant always took Shivba along while going around the twelve Maval basins. And with Shivba used to be his band of brothers. Some of the Deshmukhs used to be extremely jealous of Pant. They and the Amin appointed at the imperial cantonment located at the fort Subhanmangal near Shirval would hear of these visits, and then they used to laugh derisively at the fact that such a big Jagirdar’s son Shivaji is keeping the company of these beggars, vagrant and vagabond maval locals.

Slowly this news travelled to Bijapur. Even the courtiers started gossiping amongst themselves that Shivaji was constantly in the company of vagabonds and lowly fellows. They all started feeling, that Shahajiraje’s son had wasted himself! What is this nonsense, Jagirdar’s son to keep the company of such ‘low-born’ and ‘vagabond’ people!

But Shivba and his band were continuing with their activities in the twelve maval basins. These so-called ‘low-born’ and ‘vagabonds’, were busy in keeping a watch and identifying, people who were amenable, who weren’t, who would help in tough situations, who would betray, where to keep a watch, where to procure the weapons from, etc.!

Now each and every person had become eager to listen to the horn of revolt being blown by Shivba!

Shivba's Justice

Shivba was also teaching all his close friends the lessons necessary for political behaviour through his own actions. He effortlessly indicated through his behaviour, that his close friends of today would become tomorrow’s governing elements of his Swarajya. His diction was sweet. His smile was serene, nature was loving, and he would never scold. But one day –

Shivba got really angry! Such instances were unbearable to him even in imagination. And this had happened right in his own Pune Jagir. At Ranjhe. Ranhhe was one of the villages near Khed-Shivapur which had been identified for private income of Aaisaheb. Just nine kos from Pune.

Ranjhe’s Patil misbehaved! His name was Babaji bin (son of) Bhikaji Gujar Patil. His misbehaviour meant he subjected someone else’s wife to rap…! Shivba got terribly angry that a responsible official like Patil would commit such a demonic crime, that too in Shivba’s reign, who literally treated all ladies as mothers. Probably someone else also would behave like this and would pronounce in the heady arrogance of the Patil office, generations together in his family.

Woman was a goddess in the Maratha sanctum. Her caste, religion didn’t matter. The first honour of everyone’s respect is to all women. This is Shivba’s Swarajya! Shivba has mounted this chariot of duty just to enthrone the honour of womenfolk in this Swarajya!

Shivba immediately ordered his men to go to Ranjhe. He had ordered them to capture Babaji Patil and present him in front of the royal court! The men complied and arrested Ranjhe’s Patil and brought him to Pune. The arrogance of his moustache was unravelled in a snap. People also got a taste of the justice of the Lal Mahal court. The imperial officials had not seen this till today. 

But under Shivba’s reign it was impossible to accept such sinful misbehaviour. Patil was presented in front of Shivba. Shivba did a proper inquiry of the crime. The crime was proven in court, and Shivba gave a thundering order, to amputate Patil’s both arms from the elbow joints and both legs from the knee joints! Besides Patil’s ancestral office was confiscated (Dt 28 January 1645 AD). Patil was rendered limbless!

People saw Shivba’s anger for the first time! They came to know, what he likes and what he doesn’t! Everybody got to know, what would happen if anybody crosses Shivba’s red-line. 

Torana

Barring the Gondwana region of the Gond inhabitants of Chanda (today’s Chandrapur), the whole country from Kashmir to Kaveri had turned green. The poison of slavery had entered the bloodstream. If one thought of dying independent, even if it needed just a small piece of land, one wanted to consume poison and just die independent; even that small piece of land needed for suicide was also not independent! Rana Pratapsingh’s Udaipur had also become a slave. Rana Pratap’s grandson, had become a ‘glorified’ Jagirdar of the Mughals! And even history would be ashamed speaking of the other Rajputs for eons to come. Regions like Punjab, Bihar, Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra had grown old in slavery like an old, seasoned, experienced and knowledgeable man. Many centuries had gone in slavery and how many other such centuries would go further, was something even God Himself wouldn’t dare to guess!

Five Sultanate powers were ruling over Maharashtra with their terror. Mughal Emperor of Delhi, Adilshahi Sultan of Bijapur, Portuguese Governor of Goa, Siddi of Janjira, and Qutubshah in the doab of Wardha and Godavari. Some were inflicting maximum atrocities, while some others were indulging in atrocities of somewhat bearable level. Nobody had the ability to utter even a single syllable against this slavery.

And in the Maval valley, fifteen-year-old Shivba had got the crazy idea of establishing Swarajya in his mind, freeing his land from the clutches of the foreign pythons!

Mughal Sultans were capable of maintaining a standing army of close to three lakhs. Adilshah’s power was at least seventy-five thousand strong. Qutubshah was also equally powerful. Portuguese foreigners in Goa and Siddi had a tight grip on the whole of the western coast on the basis of their mighty navies. Besides they had their own armies separately. All forts… in fact all Maharashtra had been engulfed by these Sultanates. 

Shivba was conspiring in the valleys and ravines with his friends. He was secretly plotting sometimes in an old decrepit temple, sometimes in front of Bhawani in dense forests; or sometimes basements or secret passageways. In all this enterprise that Shivba had started, the biggest importance was given to loyalty. Shivba was so dedicated to Tuljabhawani, that he used to say, this is her work. She is going to get it successfully completed through our hands.

Now everyone was eager to jump in! Everybody was in a hurry to secure at least the first strong fort. A high mountain nest was required like an eagle to take shelter in emergencies. Then howsoever much chaos can be caused sitting atop there. Shivba had also accepted this plan. He had also identified, which fort to capture.

Torana! This fort is in Kanad basin. It is extremely high! Its position is almost fatherly in the category of mountain forts. And it is equally broad. The fort had two machis. One is named Zunjhar Machi, while the other is Budhla Machi. Machi means Upatyaka. Upatyaka means the construction of ramparts done on the trunk of a mountain which descends down from the peak into the vale at the foot of the mountain. Budhla Machi’s last turret is at around one kos distance from the Zunjhar Machi. Thus, the fort extends one kos long and quarter of a kos wide. At the centre of Budhla Machi, one tusk of rock stands tall, and there is a huge rock sitting atop that tusk for centuries together. This looks like an oil can, which is called Budhla in Marathi. That is why this narrow machi is named Budhla Machi. Torana is around 4606 feet above the sea level.

Zunjhar Machi is actually Zunjhar (fighter in Marathi). It has mighty ramparts and sheer, straight cliffs beneath them. Torana, takes the top rank in the series of extremely strong and extremely tough forts in Maharashtra. Dark cliffs standing straight like walls, extremely narrow pathways, sturdy doorways, the ramparts which have been built right at the edges of the fort, and which follow the contours of the mountain, like a dark snake, turrets built within these ramparts at well-identified locations to achieve their mark accurately, and the bale-killa (citadel) right in the middle, this is how Torana looks. The fort has two main doorways. One is in the direction of Pune, meaning generally northerly, named Bini Darwaja, and the second one is towards the west named Konkan Darwaja. The view of the Sahyadri one gets to see from the fort is exquisite and terrifying at the same time. Around the fort, in each of its mountain trunks, and the dense forest, there were totally seven outposts, or watchtowers. There is a smallish temple of Goddess Toranjai towards the north of the main fort ramparts. There are other temples also at various places atop the fort.

Torana was the cynosure of Shivba’s eyes. The reason for that was, that it was an excellent fort no doubt, but more than that the fort lay completely neglected by the Sultan. It did not have sufficient protective force of soldiers. There was no proper arrangement for guarding, cannons, ammunition, patrols etc. The fort was literally lying almost deserted. The Sultan seemed to have completely forgotten this fort. Shivba, who had been keeping a watch, took his maval gangs and suddenly one day entered the Kanad basin and the fort itself. He captured the fort. Saffron standard started flying atop the Bini Darwaja! Maval-Maratha guards sat atop the Shingar Chauki (outposts). Similar guards were put across the fort over Konkan Darwaja, Zunjhar Machi, and Budhla Machi.

Torana became independent! The crescent moon of the Pratipada rose today on Swarajya, after the dark fortnight which had lasted three hundred and fifty years. The sounds of war drums and horns, and the war-cry of ‘Har Har Mahadev’ resounded in the heart of Sahyadri. The pangs of the broken idols stopped today. The souls of Shankardev Yadav and Harpaldev of Devagiri got salvation today. Independent Torana, independent Marathas, independent Shivba, independent Pant, independent Saffron standard, and independent Aaisaheb entered into a completely different and independent world today. Sahyadri was overjoyed today. Goddess Toranjai was satisfied. Slavery had ended! The Sultanate sway over a handful of Maharashtra soil had been uprooted!

Shivba surveyed the fort. Some of the construction needed to be repaired and made tougher. Shivba decided to repair the ramparts at those places. He started setting up the fort administration. For this, brave people from various castes, like Maratha Killedar, Brahmin Sabnis (head-accountant), Prabhu Karkhanis (Works manager), and mavalas, kolis, ramoshis and mahar etc. in the soldiery, were appointed. Cannons lying around disorderly were moved to the turrets and kept properly. Shivba had started a very difficult enterprise.

Swarajya's First Capital - Rajgad

The repairs on Torana started and Mother Bhawani showered her blessings! While working on one part of the ramparts, one large vessel was discovered buried within! Full up to the brim with wealth! A wave of joy swept over everyone. Everybody was convinced, that Shivba was Mother Jagadamba’s favourite, it was her wish to bring this kingdom to reality, and that is why she had blessed them with this treasure. Fort got its own treasury. But not a single Mavala got bitten by selfish greed, even after looking at such a huge treasure. Because this treasure belonged to Swarajya. It could only be spent in Lord Shiva’s work.

At that instant it was also decided, that the treasure should be used only for the work of the new kingdom. For a while now, Shivba had his eye set on a huge hill. It was also very high, tough and excellently located. Just two and a half kos to the east of Torana. It was called Murumbdev hill. Actually, it was an old fort. Eleven years back, some Sultan had ordered some repairs to be performed and some provisions to be maintained on the Murumbdev hill (Dt 17 February 1634). But this half-completed fort was lying simply neglected. Shivbaraje quickly captured that as well. And he started utilising the wealth found on Torana to build a new fort Murumbdev. Shivajiraje named this new fort, ‘Rajgad’.

Shivajiraje’s steps started quickening ahead. Pant took the Kuwarigad fort from Paud basin under his control from the administrative control of Dhamale Deshmukh. This fort was twenty kos towards Pune’s west. Baji Pasalkar’s Mose river basin was just adjacent to this fort. After this, Shivajiraje started occupying each of the Maval basins one by one. The forts which were generally neglected by the Sultan, were quickly captured by Shivajiraje at first. Of course, with this action, the region around the forts also came under his control.

The construction work at Rajgad had started at full steam. The stone carvers’ chisels were shaping the stones. Blacksmith’s bellows were blowing at the embers. Carpenters, masons, labourers, water-carriers were busy working. The mines set to cut-off the sheer cliffs and make the fort further inaccessible were being blasted. Raje’s clerks were keeping a close watch. The plan was to build three machis (built ramparts around the mountain trunks) and one citadel at the top. Besides there were regular buildings like the courtroom, royal palace, twelve smaller mansions and eighteen workshops as well. The sharp ramparts were weaving their way around the trunks. There was a special artificial tank built towards the north on the Padmavati Machi.

Swarajya’s new capital was taking shape in the form of Rajgad.

Subhanmangal's Amin

The Sultanate official on all this region, i.e. Bhor region, used to live in the land-fortress named Subhanmangal. He was called Amin. This Thanedar Amin of Subhanmangal used to collect the tax and the revenue from the Hirdas basin, Rohida basin and Shirval basin. This Amin got news that Shahajiraje’s son had started a rebellion, had collected few people, and had secured their loyalty. Immediately afterwards he also got the news, that these people had also captured a fort and named it ‘Rajgad’! It was conveyed to the Amin by the Bandal Deshmukhs, Kedarji Khopde Deshmukh, and relatives of Kanhoji Jedhe Deshmukh, who used to nurse some animosity with Pant and Shivajiraje! At some point of time, this was bound to reach Amin and Sultan anyways.

The Amin did not immediately realise, that these neglected forts were captured by Shivajiraje and his rebellious companions, but he slowly learnt it himself by roaming around in the region. The loyal Deshmukhs and Deshpandes who would normally bring the revenue collections themselves to Shirval, hadn’t even turned up this time. The whole revenue was deposited in Swarajya’s treasury.

The brave, joyous, and exciting winds of independence started flowing freely in the twelve maval basins. The maval region was small, but was now independent. Shivajiraje’s friends had busied themselves in thinking and plotting about when would the enemy attack hereafter, from which side, what should they do if he comes, and building their strength bit-by-bit. There was no time to rest. The feeling that they were doing an exciting adventure, was not allowing them to rest.

The Thanedar Amin at Shirval’s Subhanmangal fortress finally understood all this chaos. His eyes, which were by now red with anger, started going white with fear. He immediately sent a camel rider to Bijapur to report this rebellion to the Sultan. Shahaji Bhosale’s son had collected around himself some local vagabonds and common boys, and has announced himself their leader, he has captured the Torana fort and the Murumbdev hill calling it ‘Rajgad’, the Deshmukhs and Deshpandes of Rohida basin are in his support, Narasprabhu Deshpande is also betraying the Sultanate by colluding with him etc. news reached the Shah. The Sultan couldn’t believe, that in his Sultanate such small children were mounting a revolt. And even if it is true, the goat revolting against the butcher would die today instead of tomorrow!

Badshah simply waved away the incident, considering it trivial and undeserving his attention.

The Amin from Subhanmangal fort got really furious with this rebellion in Maval. The Amin was named Miyaan Rahim Mohammed. Miyaansahab kept sending his complaints to Bijapur constantly. But so far Badshah Hazrat Adilshah had not taken a single step. Actually, these rebellious betrayers and their whole region should have been crushed under the hooves of a huge mighty army. Badshah was somehow ignoring this first revolt from Shivajiraje. But there were reasons for that. One was, why to waste time about some children playing around and creating a ruckus. While another one was, Badshah’s whole attention and might had been concentrated on Karnataka at this time. Because all his Sardars and their various detachments were engrossed in defeating and looting all the remaining Kafir kingdoms in the Deccan. Mohammed Adilshah nursed a sacred ambition to build a masjid at Rameshwaram and to cut-off the shikhas (tufts of hair worn by Brahmins) and janeus (yadnyopaveetam) of all the brahmins living there! He and his Sardars Mustafa Khan, Afzal Khan, Farad Khan, Masood Khan etc. were struggling with all their might, to completely vanquish Penukonda’s Maharaja Venkatesh, Vidyanagara’s Shriranga Raya, Madurai’s Thirumala Naik, Jinji’s King Venkata Naik etc. However, Shahajiraje was trying really hard to somehow protect these small Karnataka ‘Swarajyas’, and one or the other way providing some kind of internal help and support to all these Raja-Maharajas.

Badshah was ignoring Maval region because of these campaigns in Karnataka. Besides, he was of the opinion that this lad Shivaji was only playing around with decrepit and desolate forts, which wasn’t a fact of much concern! On top of it all, around the same time, the Badshah himself had fallen really ill. Still Shirval’s Amin was waiting for the royal army. 

Bijapur Firmans

And something came! Big firmans (royal orders) sent by the Badshah himself came from Bijapur! The army never came! Only paper rolls warning the Deshmukh-Deshpandes came! Amin was disappointed. But now he was bound to ensure this imperial scrap reached the houses of Deshmukhs and Deshpandes. Amin dispatched the received firmans to the Deshmukhs and Deshpandes.

In these, Shivajiraje’s friend, Dadajiprabhu Gupte Deshpande’s father Narasprabhu Deshpande also received a royal firman. The firman was in harsh language. It referred to the shenanigans of Shivajiraje begun in the Maval region, the capture of Torana, Rajgad and others. It conveyed to Narasprabhu that the Sultanate was aware about his secret support to Shivajiraje. It expressed the Sultanate's displeasure about this treacherous behaviour and warned him to continue serving the Sultanate in complete devotion. If not complied with, it also threatened Narasprabhu of impending arrest and punishment by beheading at Bijapur.

Narasprabhu’s heart started beating faster upon reading the firman. He literally saw in front of his eyes, the destruction of himself and his household, especially after reading, ‘Shah will transport you to Bijapur and behead you!’ He was completely terrified. ‘We came under the influence of Dadajipant and Shivajiraje.’ But now the concern that the Thanedar Amin would send troops to arrest him, and then nobody would come to save him, would not let Narasprabhu sit quietly. Due to this fear, he ‘absconded’ from his house! He hid himself and his family somewhere! Amin got the news, that Narasprabhu Deshpande was absconding!

Narasprabhu’s fear was absolutely natural. He was aged. His whole life had been spent in witnessing the royal oppression. He had watched with his own eyes, how the women and children were paraded in the streets, how young ladies of the household were sold in open market, or how they were sent to Arabia or Turkistan loading them on ships, how the houses were burnt down, and how people were blown away from the mouths of cannons. Because of this, his state of shock was natural. Comparatively, his son Dadaji Narasprabhu Gupte was unafraid! Dadaji immediately informed all this state of affairs to Shivajiraje via another letter.

Raje also had received this news from outside. He sent a letter to Dadaji without the slightest hesitation, and using extremely respectful and effective words. Raje's letter allayed Narasprabhu's fears and concerns in soothing words. It reiterated that establishing Swarajya was the God's own will, and He was getting it established through everybody's actions. God was the inspiration behind it all. It also assured Narasprabhu that his family ownership of the revenue collector's office would be respected and continued in the Swarajya. Upon reading Shivajiraje’s letter Narasprabhu got the dose of courage. Dadaji was never afraid or even suspect. His love and devotion towards Raje increased all the more.

Shirval’s Amin eagerly awaited the responses and effects for these royal firmans. But there were neither responses nor visible effects! Everybody took these firmans and kept them wrapped in the stack of documents! Amin could not do anything.

Dadajipant's Death

Pant became bedridden. He realised his end was nigh! Pant started the preparations for his end. So far, he himself had taught everybody everyday sometimes scolding with compassion, sometimes lovingly, sometimes explaining, sometimes pleading, and sometimes just with a terrifying stare. He had taught discipline. He had taught how to recognise the difference between justice and injustice, profit and loss, friends and enemies, real and duplicitous, everything. 

Pant’s final day started approaching. His highly devoted wife was at his bedside all the time. His son was also near. Pant voice started growing weak. He beckoned Shivajiraje. Raje came near. Raje’s heart was overflowing with the realisation, that this frail body had toiled extremely hard until its final hour. Shivajiraje’s heart had a special pride of place for Pant. Raje used to be always prepared and eager to listen to every word uttered by Pant with faith, love and gratitude. Raje bent near Pant to hear him. Pant’s trembling lips started uttering a mix of clear and faint words. It was the handover of the Swarajya's responsibility to Shivajiraje's shoulders!

Pant handed over the protective umbrella of duty, that he had held over the subjects till today to Shivajiraje. Pant also handed over his own son to Raje. Whatever was expected in this world, Pant had carried it out perfectly. Now his soul was just simply showering his numerous blessings over Raje, Aaisaheb and the Swarajya. He turned his eyes around, and that tough but loving gaze was broken permanently! 

But the cosy protective covering over Raje was blown away!

The exact date of his death is not known. But he was not alive after March 1647. 

All responsibility of the administration fell on Shivajiraje’s young shoulders. Raje picked up the sealing dagger of the kingdom. Mighty diplomats like Shamrajpant Peshwe, Raghunathpant, Sonopant, Pantaji Gopinath, Mankoji Dahatonde etc. were still around Raje. Similarly, Sarnaubat (person who gets the honour of the first announcement of their arrival in court, accompanied by the rolling of the naubat drums, usually the chief of military) Tukoji Chor, and brave young fellows like Tanhaji, Yesaji etc. were also there.

Javli Politics

At this time, one political situation started developing. Chandrarao More of Javali died. ‘Chandrarao’ was an epithet granted to the More family. The real name of this Chandrarao who had died was Daulatrao. He himself was really brave, and a man with absolutely invincible power. And Chandrarao’s Javali was further invincible. The Javali basin was situated in such a tough and difficult location, that the Mores were invincible even for their equals. The people in the Javali basin, from Konkan and those from the banks of the Krishna river, used to consider this Chandrarao as the Badshah himself! But Chandrarao himself, was an humble Sardar for the Bijapur’s Sultan.

So, this Daulatrao Chandrarao More died (1647 AD). Chandrarao did not have an heir. It was like the skies fell over Chandrarao’s widowed wife. She could foresee the Jagir being gulped down their throats, by either the More fraternity or Bijapur’s Sultan himself. She thought if any strong person stands behind her in full brotherly support, only then the Jagir will remain in her household, otherwise she will be reduced to spending the rest of her life crying over her destiny, and working like a slave in someone else’s household after losing the Jagir. Shivajiraje’s Rajgad drew her attention. Her heart told her that this Bhosalerao would treat her like a sister. The lady had decided, that she would adopt a child from the More family of Shivthar. She had also identified a suitable candidate.

The lady sent an invitation to Shivajiraje. Raje had been eyeing Javali for a while now. It was adjacent to his own Jagir areas. Raje decided about the whole political plan, took his cavalry and infantry, and started. Raje entered the Koyna river basin with his army. Javali was sitting pretty ensconced in dense forest. On all four sides of Javali, lofty Sahyadri stands tall with all its huge features. Actually, this Javali valley in the Koyana basin was the valley of death. Raje entered Javali and quickly took control of the whole region by appointing his own outposts and patrols. Javali came under his control without any bloodshed. This way Raje engineered the lady’s betr…

Never! That was not Raje’s style. Raje captured Javali, but not for himself. Only to ensure that the More lady’s plan goes through without any obstacles. Thereafter, Raje himself, as per the lady’s decision, established the child selected by her, on the Javali throne as the next ‘Chandrarao’. Her desire was fulfilled. This child was not an actual child. He was around thirty-five to forty years of age! Even this child had two children. A full-grown capable, fighting-kicking man was made the owner of Javali Jagir. His name was probably Yashwantrao.

This new Chandrarao had assumed Javali’s throne with Raje’s help. Raje had played this political move through a foresighted policy and faith, that at least considering this favour Chandrarao More would permanently come to his camp. At this time Raje was just sixteen years of age.

Kondhana

Raje came back from Javali. Now there were a plate-full of other political items in front of him. Since Pant Dadaji Konddev had died, and the news had reached Bijapur court, the court had appointed Mia Raheem Mohammed, the Thanedar of Shirval as the head of the Kondhana fort and Suba, and ordered him to report immediately on Kondhana fort. This was going to be harmful for Raje. Raje had realised already, that this Miya Raheem would be very troublesome. The castellan of Kondhana at this time was Siddi Ambar Wahab, an old and capable fellow. That made the task all the more difficult. Kondhana lies to Rajgad’s northeast in a straight line of around six kos. Raje’s gaze was fixed on Kondhana.

Raje told his desire to Bapuji Mudgal Deshpande. We want Kondhana! Whatever it takes, we want Kondhana! Bapuji was the Deshpande (accountant) of the villages spread to Kondhana’s south. Due to this he knew each and every pathway around Kondhana. It was difficult to capture even after a prolonged struggle of six months. But Bapuji determined in his heart to demonstrate to Raje the power of his intellect. And he started. Alone.

And how much should one praise the sweet tongue of Bapuji! He conspired with the castellan of Kondhana, won him over by just negotiation, and put his own men on the fort. Kondhana itself surrendered to Bapuji without a single drop of blood! Without fight the fort was won, the saffron standard started fluttering atop the fort! The work was done like a snap.

Bijapur Shocked

Miya Raheem Mohammed, nominated Subedar of Fort Kondhana, started towards Kondhana from Shirval to assume office of his Subedari. Kondhana was just eleven kos from Shirval. And Subedarsaheb got the news, that Bhosale’s son has captured the fort through subterfuge! Miya Raheem had to turn back wringing his hands. Poor guy lost the opportunity on the way. He just relayed this news to Bijapur.

Till that day several times such news had reached Bijapur. These tidings had started with, Shivaji Bhosale gathers vagabonds around him. Badshah had laughed it off when he had heard the first news. His laughter had reduced to a smile at the next message. Thereafter Badshah didn’t even smile at all. One day the ash on his hookah flared up a bit.

And today’s news was, ‘Shivaji Bhosale captured fort Kondhana!’

Badhshah exploded! The ash on his hookah just burst out! He felt really astonished thinking, how could Shahaji’s little son carry out such a courageous act. The kid just captured the fort without shedding a single red drop. Now if we remain careless, this Shivaji’s menace will spread around. We must control it now, and Badshah got engrossed in these thoughts.

Shirval - Subhanmangal Captured

Shivajiraje immediately set right all administration of Kondhana once it was captured, and after that started planning for the next pounce. And suddenly he pounced directly on the Shirval cantonment itself! This was Miya Raheem Mohammed’s residential cantonment. Raje quickly captured the fort Subhanmangal, by defeating the force stationed there. Miyasaheb’s own household was disturbed! The excitement of Shivajiraje’s Marathas was on the upswing like high tide.

And this fresh news that Shivaji had also captured the Shirval fort as well, reached Badshah’s ears! It felt to him, someone had inadvertently produced a gunshot just beside his ears. Shivaji captured Shirval cantonment, fort Subhanmangal! Badshah’s anger was stoked further. He became quite concerned with the matter.

Why would he think so much to decide to crush this small rebellion? Wouldn’t this child’s play be blown to the skies if he sent one big well-armed Sardar and ten cannons? Then why was he thinking so much for that?

Because it was not that simple. Even Badshah thought, that breaking the back of Shivaji’s rebellion was absolutely nothing for him. He had become impatient to order a big Sardar carry out this campaign on Shivaji. But he was afraid how Shahajiraje would react while he did this. If Shahajiraje got news in Karnataka, that a big army had been sent to attack his son, he would possibly turn traitor. He commanded around fifteen-thousand-strong army in Karnataka, who were all ready to give their lives for him. Shahaji was rebellious from the beginning. This same nature was becoming evident in his son now. The Kafir kings in the south had also started loving Shahaji. So an impending rebellion by Shahaji would be a bigger problem for the Sultanate. So before breaking down Shivaji's revolt, it was important to consider Shahaji!

First Major Crisis

Rajgad’s construction was going on resolutely and stoutly. The fort was growing and slowly looking like a capital. The construction was not short work of one or two years. The overall plan was huge. The fort was to be built beautiful as well as tough. Each of the machis (trunks) had to become huge. Besides the three machis Padmavati, Suvela and Sanjivani, the Balekilla (citadel) had to be built equally huge as well. Court offices and residential quarters were to be built on all three machis and even on the citadel. There was concern; but there was equal amount of stubbornness, that once complete, everybody should agree that the whole Deccan region didn’t have any better-looking royal fort like Rajgad. Shivajiraje was actually decorating Sahyadri’s head with a respectable crown of his own capital. Raje and his royal cabinet was engrossed in building the new capital and Swarajya, almost like a passionate farmer.

Both of them, Shahajiraje in Karnataka and Shivajiraje in Maval, did not have the slightest idea, that they were facing a terrible calamity that was about to befall them.

Shahajiraje's Arrest

Badshah Adilshah sent Nawab Mustafa Khan himself to somehow capture Shahajiraje to where he was leading the southern campaign.

Nawab Mustafa Khan reached near Jinji. Shahajiraje’s camp was nearby. The moment Shahajiraje got news that the Nawab was on his way, he started ahead to meet him with the whole army. There was no love lost in Shahajiraje’s heart for the Nawab. Because he knew from experience, that this Nawab used to nurse extreme hatred for him, his religion and his coreligionists. But he was the main Vazir. And even if he didn’t feel like, only because of protocol, he had to be shown respect by going out to receive him.

Raje immediately started from his camp to receive the Vazir with his whole retinue. Vazir was kind of surprised to see Raje along with his army. He was slightly disappointed as well. He wanted Raje to come alone. Because he wanted to arrest him! Still Khan met with Shahajiraje with a deceptive smile on his face.

The meeting took place. It was followed by standard reception protocols. Khanbaba set up his camp right beside Raje’s own camp. He started behaving very lovingly with Raje. Jinji’s fort was under the control of a king named Venkat Nayak. The campaign to win it over was about to start. Mustafa Khan was taking Raje’s advice in every aspect, respecting him very much, and giving him the full initiative.

He took great care to ensure Raje was trapped. But he realised, that Shahaji was always surrounded by his own men and soldiers. He was not able to pounce on Raje, even after planning for it many times. But he kept on the crafty pretence of brotherhood all the while. Khan started casting new wider nets one after the other, every day, to somehow win over Raje’s trust. And Raje also felt really suspicious. Raje could not unravel the mystery, that why would this person, who would always be jealous of him, be so loving towards him suddenly. Because Khan’s behaviour was such a façade. Shahajiraje jokingly once said to Khan, that such deep love was always shown by people intending to betray.

Hearing this Mustafa Khan was stunned! He felt, this Shahaji has recognised his gameplan! Khan was suddenly dismayed. Actually, Raje’s remark was not replete with craftiness. But Khan, being a shrewd fox, was startled! A bewildered Khan quickly took Raje’s hands in his own, and in all seriousness vowed on his son's name, that he would never betray Raje.

Now Raje was convinced, that Mustafa Khan was a very good person! Khan-Bhosale were like brothers!

And on the same night (Dt 25 July 1648), Nawab Mustafa Khan gathered all his Sardars around in complete secrecy, and plotted with them. In that secret plot, Fahad Khan, Bajiraje Ghorpade, Yakut Khan, Azam Khan, Ragho Mambaji, Vedaji Bhaskar, Balaji Haibatrao, Sidhoji Pawar, Mambaji Pawar, Mambaji Bhosale etc. many Sardars were involved. Nawab Mustafa Khan asked everybody, in the name of the Badshah, to attack and arrest Shahajiraje. Khan ordered all Sardars to be ready for the raid. It was well past midnight when the discussion on this secret plot finished. The most excited of the lot was Baji Ghorpade. Because he used to nurse extreme hatred towards Shahajiraje.

Shahajiraje was also awake for a long time. He went to sleep quite late. Raje slept in his camp tent. A short while afterwards, the curtain over the tent doorway was lifted up surreptitiously! Raje woke up startled. One man quickly came to the fore and bowed down to Raje. He was one of Raje’s own spies. Raje asked him ‘What’. He told Raje the terrible news in hushed tones, about the secret discussion Nawab Mustafa Khan had held with all his Sardars, and about the Sardars who sat in all preparations in their tents.

But Raje didn’t believe it at all. Raje couldn’t digest it either. Khan had himself pledged, on his son Aatish Khan and Quran Sharif itself, that he wouldn’t betray. Shahajiraje’s eyes started seeing the venerable brotherly figure of Mustafa Khan holding his hands tightly, smiling sweetly, speaking with absolute affection, and assuring him with such compassion! He was sure that Khan’s loving hands, his genteel tongue, would never betray him!

And the curtain on the tent doorway fell back as it was. Raje completely ignored the news brought by the spy! Raje went to calm and carefree, deep sleep! The full cantonment slept!

The night went on. The camp was silent. Only the patrolling soldiers around the camp were awake. However, all preparations had been completed in the Nawab’s camp. The poisonous whispers between Nawab Mustafa and Baji Ghorpade had finished. This Baji himself had taken the main responsibility. The night was now well past midnight. Shahajiraje and his army was in the deep, early morning sleep. It was around 3:30 in the early morning.

Suddenly thousands of soldiers who were waiting, got their orders! And thousands of cavalrymen and foot soldiers from Khan’s camp, fell on Raje’s camp with all their weapons. Dilawar Khan, Masood Khan, Sarjayakut Khan, Ambar Khan, Farad Khan, Khairiyat Khan, Yakut Khan, Azam Khan, Bahlol Khan, Malik Rehan Khan, Ragho Mambaji, Vedaji Bhaskar, Balaji Haibatrao, Sidhoji Pawar, Mambaji Pawar, Mambaji Bhosale, King of Adoni, King of Karnapuram, Mudholkar Baji Ghorpade, Baji’s three brothers Khandoji, Ambaji, Bhanaji, Yashwantrao Wadve, Maloji Pawar, and Tuloji Bhosale etc. Sardars fell upon Shahajiraje’s sleeping, and due to that, completely unsuspecting camp upon Mustafa’s orders! Mustafa Khan himself, however, did not go! Because he had given Raje his word! But he was marshalling the troops by standing behind all of them.

This raid of thousands of soldiers suddenly attacked Raje’s encampment and it simply besieged the camp. Their clamour was so loud, that the sleeping soldiery in Raje’s camp suddenly woke up disoriented. There was utter chaos.

Baji, Khandoji, Ambaji and Bhanaji all Ghorpade brothers directly made way towards Shahajiraje. Shahajiraje’s sworn enemy Yashwantrao Wadve was also with them. The unsuspecting army of Shahajiraje was utterly routed. Hearing all this commotion, Raje himself woke up and ran outside taking his shield and sword. He was shouting to all his people, ‘Get ready! Get ready!’ Immediately, Raje mounted a horse.

There was a loud din outside. Raje’s soldiers were shouting, ‘Horse, horse! Soldier, soldier! Spear, spear!’ Because none of these things were quickly to hand. Shahajiraje himself was fighting from his horse using the sword and shield. Baji Ghorpade wanted Raje himself. Baji made his way straight towards Raje. Shahajiraje was shocked to see Baji Ghorpade himself! Raje was stunned for a minute looking at Baji Ghorpade, his own blood-brother, for whom he had toiled so hard, now attacking him. But parry after parry started swishing on him like lightening. Raje’s nephew Tryambakji Sharifji Bhosale and Yogaji Bhandkar, Santaji Gunjavatkar, Meghaji Thakur, Dasoji Gawli and many other soldiers came to Shahajiraje’s help, and then fierce fight started. Baji was fighting really hard. Raje and his soldiers were also defending at their limit. It was alight now. Full moon night had finished and Vadya Pratipada (first day of the dark fortnight) had begun. Raje’s soldiers were falling down one by one either dead or wounded. Raje was also getting tired. Normally the moon loses its sheen in the darker fortnight. Raje was bleeding from the various wounds on his body.

… And Raje suddenly felt giddy while fighting, and he fell down to the ground from his horse! And Baji Ghorpade yelped at the top of his voice with glee! All the enemy’s soldiers and Sardars started raising slogans of victory. It was clear that now Raje’s body will be crushed beneath the horses’ hooves. At this instant, one of the Sardars from the enemy force jumped down his horse, ran ahead, and started protecting Raje by holding his own shield over Raje’s head. This Sardar of Mustafa Khan was named Balaji Haibatrao.

Baji Ghorpade also jumped down quickly, and like an expert snake-charmer captures a defanged snake, Baji himself arrested Shahajiraje, who had already fallen unconscious. Raje was taken to the tent. Mustafa Khan confiscated all the decorations and tentage from his camp. This Khan and Baji had achieved one of the toughest things. Shahajiraje’s hands and feet were clapped in irons. Brave Shahajiraje, who had kept Emperor Shahjahan and Adilshah himself engaged, for years together at one time, had fallen prey to these cowardly royal Sardars quite easily.

When he came about, Shahajiraje noticed that he was a prisoner!

Dual Calamity

On the other side, Rajgad was overflowing with joy and excitement. Shivajiraje, Aaisaheb, and all the diplomatic members were engrossed in planning new political plays for the new Swarajya. What to win next, how to do it, which rampart to build, where to build turrets, where to appoint outposts, how to patrol borders, how to maximise the perfection in the management of forts like Rajgad, Torana, Subhanmangal, Kondhana etc., how to enhance their fighting capacities, how to obtain confidential information from the Sultanate forts, and from the secret discussions of Sardars and Jagirdars, etc. numerous things were being constantly discussed in secret meetings, under the light of traditional lamps, and at the feet of the Goddess Jagadamba. Maval hearts were raring to perform new adventures, to prove their prowess, and to earn Shivba’s accolades.

… And just at that time, that bitter poisonous news reached Rajgad! After the midnight of Shravan full-moon, Mustafa Khan and Baji Ghorpade raided Maharaj Shahajiraje’s camp by subterfuge! And Baji Ghorpade arrested Shahajiraje! The whole camp was destroyed. People were killed, camp was looted. Shahajiraje was wounded. He was now in Mustafa Khan’s captivity. And he had been clapped in irons. Mustafa Khan committed this act of terrible betrayal even after promising otherwise. Badshah had played this move with Shahajiraje through the hands of Khan and Baji.

Hearing this news, Rajgad was stunned! Such a terrible calamity over Swarajya, Shivajiraje, and Aaisaheb’s own marriage itself! Aaisaheb’s heart contorted. Badshah had surreptitiously captured her mangal-surta itself! There was no guarantee, when he will swipe and break it. Everybody’s chests started heaving wildly. The whole past history started standing in front of their eyes. What happened to Murar Jagdev! What happened to his own grandfather Lakhuji Jadhavrao? What happened to his three uncles? What happened to clever Sabajipant? What happened to Babaji Kate? Now it was his own father’s turn! Shivajiraje’s heart darkened with the thoughts of terrible future.

And more detailed intelligence also started reaching one-by-one. Detailed information about, how Shahajiraje believed Mustafa Khan’s promise, and how Khan betrayed with Baji’s help, was conveyed to Rajgad.

Shahajiraje, now sitting in fetters in Mustafa Khan’s camp at Jinji, was repenting with his head down. Mustafa had also arrested Raje’s two main assistants. Kanhoji Naik Jedhe Deshmukh and his steward Dadaji Krishna Lohokare were both arrested by Khan, and had been transported under full protection to the fort of Kanakgiri. Dadajipant Lohokare’s son Ratnaji Dadaji Lohokare was also arrested.

At this time, the Bengaluru town and its fort were under the control of Shahajiraje’s eldest son, and Shivajiraje’s elder brother Sambhajiraje. Raje’s family was in Bengaluru. Mustafa’s insidious sight was actually set on Raje’s household. He immediately sent three of his bravest Sardars along with some force to Bengaluru to capture the town. Farad Khan, Tanajiraje Dure and Vitthal Gopal were the three, who started on the campaign to capture Bengaluru with a substantial force.

Mustafa himself decided to win over the Jinji fort, which was in control of an independent king named Venkat Nayak. Accordingly, he besieged the fort and appointed outposts to tighten the grip.

Fateh Khan's Campaign

Bijapur was overflowing with joy. Sultan Mohammed Adilshah was very happy. Not only had a dishonest Shahaji, who had become sort of a challenge lately, been imprisoned, but his rebellious son Shivaji would also now be captured in a snap of his fingers. Convinced of this, the Badshah decided to immediately send one more large force to attack Shivajiraje. He ordered Sardar Fateh Khan to start the preparations. This Fateh Khan was a Sardar of highly ruthless nature.

Fateh Khan started on a campaign from Bijapur with a huge army. He was entrusted with the responsibility of arresting Shivaji, and thereby crushing to the ground his mischief, and establishing the acrid awe of the royal power once again, by winning over the forts like Kondhana. There were other Sardars with the Khan like Minad Sheikh, Ratan Sheikh, Sharif Shah, Muse Khan, Ashraf Shah, Matajiraje Ghatge, Balaji Haibatrao, and Bajajiraje Naik Nimbalkar. This Bajaji was actually Shivajiraje’s brother-in-law himself. The actual size of the army is unknown. But it was perhaps around five thousand.

Shahajiraje had been captured. Farad Khan was galloping towards Bengaluru and Fateh Khan towards Shivajiraje. Which meant this horrible plan was set up by Mustafa Khan, Baji Ghorpade, and the Sultan himself to completely destroy the Bhosale’s rebel seed. All these reports were reaching a concerned Rajgad. Another big army has started on a campaign to attack Bengaluru, and Bengaluru’s fort is right now home to Sambhajiraje and the rest of the family, this news also reached.

And at the same time this news also reached, that Badshah’s renowned Sardar Fateh Khan has taken a huge army from Bijapur and has started on a campaign and is making his way straight to Kondhana to attack Swarajya! This Fateh Khan also has many other renowned Sardars.

The first crisis over Swarajya, and that too this huge. Even the greatly experienced minds of all the diplomats were stunned. Basically Shivajiraje, Aaisaheb and everybody else as well, had complete anticipation, that since they had so openly erected the standard of rebellion, such kind of royal Sardars were bound to come some or the other time. And in the event of an attack by such Sardars with their mighty armies, preparations were also continuously going on to successfully defend. The plan was ready. Shivajiraje would never take a step without planning. But the crisis that had come was a little tricky. Father himself had been imprisoned by the Sultan! Badshah was openly asking, whether he wanted Swarajya or his father's life. It was a warning by the powerful Sultanate to surrender unconditionally, or lose his father.

This was the tough question posed by the Sultan to Aaisaheb as well. Whether she wanted Swarajya or her Saubhagya (blessed matrimony). Her husband was in fetters, and faced the ignominious future like erstwhile well-known examples.

This mother, Shahajiraje Bhosale’s queen, Shivajiraje Bhosale’s mother would beg! But not in front of the Badshah; she would do so in front of the ultimate mother, Jagadamba Tulajabhawani! And resolute Jijau Aaisaheb’s hands were always spread in front of Bhawani to seek her blessings. In happiness or crisis.

Raje was absolutely devoted towards his parents. Father was in a crisis, and that too life-threatening. In any case, Raje was a human being. Just a young boy. He couldn’t judge what he should do. His friends were concerned too. Even the minds of diplomats had surrendered. If he tried to free his father, he had to permanently sacrifice Swarajya. If he insisted on Swarajya, mother would be widowed! Swarajya of this motherly land, and father Shahajiraje himself, both venerable.

Purandar Joins Swarajya

And now the spies started bringing more reports one after another from Indapur, that the Sultan’s Sardar Fatteh Khan was coming with his army! Khan reached Bheema’s banks. Reached Nira’s banks. Reached Jejuri. Reached Belsar! Captured Belsar! Karha plateau had been terrified! Now Khan would enter Swarajya!

The time to think was finished! The time of action was here. Shivajiraje felt the goose-bumps of action. He got up! The resolution in his mind was final. That’s it, whatever happened, he had to face Fateh Khan. If God really wanted Swarajya to become a reality, He would help.

Resolution to fight! And Rajgad’s war-drums started rolling. Horns started blowing. The army was ordered to be prepared. How much? Just thousand-twelve-hundred, that too after getting everyone to hold a weapon! But hearing the battle drumroll, it rose like a sea’s high-tide.

Rajgad’s children started girding up their loins. The sons of cyclone, like Baji Jedhe, Kavji, Bhimaji Wagh, Bhikaji Chor, Bhairoji Chor, Godaji Jagtap, Balaji Naik Shilamkar, Shivaji Ingle, Sambhaji Kate etc. arose with a rush. And Baji Pasalkar was also along. His greyed, grizzled moustache was also twirled-up. Horses snorted, wrists tingled, spears started glistening.

Raje started towards Purandar fort. The drumroll of the march was sounded. Raje sought blessings of the Goddess and Aaisaheb in the mansion, and he climbed up his horse. With the appointed signal, that Shivaganga (the sacred river) of loyal bravehearts started at a quick-step following Raje’s galloping shadow.

Fort Purandar. This is situated at a distance of ten kos in a straight line southeast of Rajgad. The fort is very huge. The fort is very lofty. The fort is very strong. Actually, Purandar fort was not a part of Swarajya at that time. One really old Brahmin named Mahadaji Nilkanthrao Sarnaik was taking care of the fort’s administration. ‘Nilkanthrao’ was an epithet granted to Mahadajipant’s family. Pant’s generations after generations had been spent in serving the Badshah. His ancestor named Chandraspant had first settled the administration of Purandar earlier, and since then the office of the castellan of Purandar belonged to the Sarnaik family.

Mahadajipant and Shahajiraje were very old friends. Even at this old age, Pant had not kept down his sword. He also felt the same amount of fondness towards Shahajiraje’s rebellious son. And he felt an equal amount of appreciation and wonder as well.

Shivajiraje planned to fight Fateh Khan sitting atop Purandar. But the fort was under Pant’s control. Pant answered to the Badshah. Still, Shivajiraje thought he would request Pant directly. But Raje was determined to fight Khan only from Purandar. Because the town of Belasar, where Fateh Khan had encamped, was around five kos towards Purandar’s east. Near Jejuri. Raje sent an emissary with a question to Pant.

And what surprise! Mahadajipant said ‘yes’! The old man turned rouge! Because of the love and regards towards Bhosale family, Pant opened Purandar’s gates only for Shivajiraje at full tilt. This way, Pant gave Shivajiraje his active blessings. Raje began the campaign against Fateh Khan sitting atop Purandar. Raje came atop Purandar with all his force. This force was maximum one thousand to twelve hundred warriors.

The fort had been really well-maintained in terms of guards and patrols. Pant and Raje strengthened the fort further. Around the same time, they received a report, that Fateh Khan had sent one accompanying Sardar named Balaji Haibatrao to capture the Shirval cantonment. Accordingly, Balaji Haibatrao went ahead and captured the Shirval cantonment, and he entered the Subhanmangal fort at Shirval!

All his friends gathered around Raje. Their curiosity knew no bounds. Raje was standing in front of them. He was wearing armour. Sword at his waist, shield worn over the back, bow on his left shoulder, and a quiver full of arrows was peeking from behind his right shoulder. Raje’s face had a glowing smile. Raje spoke to his brave friends about the betrayal of Mustafa Khan. He spoke of his resolve to fight with the enemy till his last.

Hearing this speech from Shivajiraje, the jawans in front of him got so excited, that they instantly roared like a lion to even thunder across this sky.

Har har, har har Mahadev! Jay Tuljabhavani, hail thee! Jay yelkot Malhar!

Battle of Subhanmangal

Subhanmangal fort at Shirval had been captured by Balaji Haibatrao who had come with Fateh Khan. Shirval is around seven kos in a straight line to the south of Purandar. Subhanmangal fort stood on the south bank of Neera river. The mavalas excitingly snorting with valour were creating a din with their slogans. From that high and lofty Purandar, Subhanmangal fort was visible very faint in the wind half-covered in the thicket. Raje asked his trusted lieutenants to attack Shirval.

Everybody filled the skies again with their roaring slogans. The preparations to attack Shirval started. Raje quickly selected the team. Each of them was renowned gem of a person. Here was Godaji Jagtap! Godaji had the manly magic of ensuring each and every bone in his enemy’s body would become loose. Here was another terrifying man, Bheemaji Wagh! He had the power of Bheema and a Wagh (Tiger) both. Here was Sambhaji Kate! He was a pure ornament of the Ranachandika (The Goddess of battlefield, Durga). Here was Shivaji Ingle! This Shivba was like the point of a spear! He would penetrate so perfectly, that it would come out on the other side. Here was Bhikaji Chor and his brother Bhairoji Chor. The enemy would be stunned out of his wits just looking at them!

And there was this fellow Kavji! He was like a double-edged sword! And agile, like the crocodile in water. Raje selected these men quickly. He appointed Kavji as their lead. Kavji was deservingly so. The full name of this Kavji was probably Kavji Malhar Khasnis (an old word for a guard from special personal detail). This same person Kavji Khasnis was probably the Khasnis of Baji Paslkar.

If asked, who would go to capture Shirval, everybody would have clamoured with ‘I will go, send me’, demands. So Raje himself did the selection. He also gave common mavala soldiery with these brave leaders. These bravehearts started on their task. The campaign drumroll started. Kavji and everyone else paid obeisance to Raje, and roaring like thundering clouds they started from Purandar. That excitement was amazing. It was the excitement in the self-confident feeling that, they were the instruments to avenge the senior Maharaj's betrayal. They were to break Maharaj's shackles.

Their crackling hooves were as if telling Raje not to worry. That they will win Subhanmangal.

Kavji and his ragtag army got out of the fort with the roars of, ‘Har har’. And vanished shortly riding their horses over the hills. Actually, Subhanmangal was a minor land-fortress. Its ramparts were not that high. They were built of mud-brick plaster. There was a moat around the ramparts. But it was not that deep. The main door of the fortress was also no great shakes. There were no turrets. Balaji Haibatrao had encamped in the fort along with his force. He also had Sardars named Fazal Shah and Ashraf Shah with him.

Kavji started riding towards Shirval with his own force. He forded Neera river shortly, and coming abreast of the main door, he fearlessly attacked the fort directly with passion. Balaji Haibatrao had seen the enemy approach. His men had also seen them. The battle preparedness and overall look of Kavji’s mavalas, and Bheemaji Wagh, Bhairoji Chor, Godaji, Sambhaji Kate, and Kavji himself, were so terrifyingly impetuous, that the army with Haibatrao inside the fort was stunned for a time! They started losing patience! Realising that his people were confused, Balaji himself started encouraging them. He announced at the top of his voice not to fear Shivaji's army and fight.

His encouraging words had the desired effect over his men, and they started shouting their war-cries; but the moment numerous men from the fort peeked above the fortress ramparts, Kavji’s mavalas rained arrows on them and killed every one of them. Marathas started jostling to enter the fortress from all four sides. Kavji had warned them beforehand, that Shirval fortress was not strong.

And then the Marathas actually mounted a terrible attack. The soldiers inside the fort started throwing whatever they could find from the ramparts onto the Marathas down below. Bullock-cart wheels, ploughs, horns, stones, lit torches, burning wooden poles, embers, hot oils, and even mortars and pestles! Braving this barrage from the top, Marathas were climbing up their ladders. Kavji in fact attacked the main door of the fort along with his detachment, and broke it down with the help of heavy rams. And then everyone entered the fort roaring, like a buzzing flock of bees. Now the battle started in earnest. Shivaji Ingle started cutting off the enemy’s men. Bhimaji Wagh and Kavji himself had beaten down important people on the opposite side. And suddenly the small houses and hutments inside the fort caught fire! The flames, smoke, screams, cries, and the clamour of weapons created a huge din. The imperial army was frightened. People started running helter-skelter! Even Balaji Haibatrao was not able to arrest the slide now! Balaji was shouting at the top of his voice, ‘Cut them off, kill them, fight them, don’t fall back!’ But only Marathas were listening to him! It was like a race had begun in the fort. However, Balaji Haibatrao was still fighting with courage.

And finally, Kavji and Balaji came face to face! Kavji had a spear. The joust started. The most important combatants on either side started attacking each other. And it was over! Kavji’s spearpoint found Balaji’s body and suddenly Balaji fell! Dead! The Maratha soldiers witnessing this, resounded the whole fort with their victorious roars! Whatever remained of the Bijapur army, it started running wherever the road would take them. Numerous people laid down their arms and surrendered. Marathas spared their lives. The saffron standard was hoisted atop the fort. Subhanmangal fort was captured. Kavji found a huge cache of armament. This was the first battle of Swarajya. Kavji immediately did a detailed inspection of the fort and the wounded, and started riding towards Purandar along with his victorious bravehearts.

Kavji’s army was riding on the wind carelessly towards Purandar. Raje saw them and understood, that Subhanmangal battle was successful. These bravehearts who had left with thousand times excitement, had returned to Purandar now with lakh times more excitement. Kavji had brought together the valuable enemy cache he had confiscated, which he kept in front of Raje and bowed down to him with all his companions. Raje appreciatingly patted everybody’s back, ‘Shabaash, Shabaash, the pieces of my heart!’

This battle was fought right in the middle of monsoon (Dt 8 August 1648).

Guerrilla Attack on Fateh Khan's Camp

Fateh Khan’s gigantic camp was set up in the Belsar fields near Karha River. Khan had brought with him a huge retinue. Elephants, camels, tents, cavalry, infantry, sardars etc. everything was there. He was such a renowned sardar of the Adilshahi Sultanate. Then this kind of imperial retinue had to be there. But on the other hand, on Purandar, it was like child’s play. Handful kingdom, fistful army, and the king of the size of one’s little finger.

Badshah had also sent a firman to Kedarji Khopde Deshmukh of Utravali to join forces with Fateh Khan (Dt 8 August 1648). According to that Kedarji had probably joined Khan’s army. Because he was someone, who was opposed to Shivajiraje right from the beginning. The news of loss at Subhanmangal had yet to reach Fateh Khan.

The preparedness at Purandar was perfect. Mavalas, kolis, mahars, and ramoshis were guarding the fort. Shivajiraje had strengthened the cannon positions atop the ramparts. The outposts, ramparts and individual patrols had been arranged round-the-clock. The fort had been converted into a fighting unit. Everybody at the fort now started feeling, that the Khan should now be given one resounding slap. Everybody was smarting with the victory, that Kavji and his companions had achieved at Shirval. Nobody was afraid of Fateh Khan. Immediately the plan for the attack was confirmed.

Shivajiraje presented his plan in front of his closest lieutenants about surprising Khan suddenly through a sudden pounce. Everybody agreed with Maharaj’s plan. Everybody present there were always ready for battle. The plan to attack Khan’s camp was finalised. Maharaj immediately ordered everyone present to get ready.

The whole ploy was to be brought about through ganimi kava (guerrilla warfare). This type of warfare was taught by Sahyadri. In this type of warfare, killing and saving your life by running away, was more important than attaining martyrdom by sacrificing yourself. If the attack failed, and the enemy countered, there was no shame in running away to save lives. The Johar of Rajputs gave huge importance to the sacrifice. But the ganimi kava of the Marathas, gave equally great importance to killing the enemy, and running away to save your own life.

All the sardars started picking their own men. Everybody’s wrists started quivering with anticipation. The detachment got ready and stood up in front of the Bini Darwaja. All preparations were complete. With Maharaj’s permission, they stepped out of the fort. They were followed by other detachments as well.

Another detachment with a saffron flag started following everybody as well. Maharaj himself had arranged for this small detachment of cavalry and given them the saffron standard, so that there is some kind of floating central location for relaying news reports and orders in a moving, riding army. This was right at the back of the whole force. The flag was given to a young bearer, and around fifty to fifty-five tough Maratha horsemen were included in the detachment.

Khan’s camp in the Belsar area was completely carefree. Tents were swaying on the wind. They seemed like white elephants. All four sides of the camp were guarded. Mavala Marathas were galloping at a quick-step. These cavalry detachments were riding towards Khan’s encampment piercing the dense forest around them.

They entered the Belsar area. Now they had completely slowed down their speed. They reached near the camp without a word. However, there was sufficient distance between them and the boundary of the camp. Everybody was taking utmost precaution to ensure that the enemy shouldn’t get alerted because of his movement. The moment they reached, all the detachments moved around to encircle Fateh Khan’s camp from all directions, as previously planned at the fort.

… And suddenly the appointed signal was given, and on all four sides, the Maratha cavalrymen fell upon Khan’s unsuspecting camp like a pack of hungry wolves! Like a sudden cloudburst when the skies were absolutely clear, the Marathas crashed upon the Khan’s camp with their weapons and valour! The moment this attack fell, Khan’s army was taken by surprise! They were utterly shocked. Shouts, screams and scurrying around! Nobody could understand what was happening. Some started simply running, some started searching for their weapons. Marathas were causing utter mayhem like crazy, angry tigers! They started indiscriminate massacre of the imperial army. Khan’s army couldn’t find the time to even get ready. Khan himself woke up stunned due to all this commotion. And he witnessed these Maratha rhinos thrusting left, right and centre, killing everybody in their path. These handful of Marathas had begun the dance of the Satan.

Fateh Khan's Counterattack - Baji Jedhe

However, Fateh Khan himself now took the command. Quite a few of his soldiers also had somehow gotten ready, and had run to face the attacking Marathas. Till now the Marathas had performed quite well. Even though Khan was not completely routed, but the original goal of giving a dose of Maratha medicine had been successfully achieved. Khan’s army had gotten ready for a response, only after the whole camp had been crushed beneath their hooves everywhere.

The other contingents of the Marathas had attacked the camp. But the detachment of the flag had been waiting outside the skirmish at a little distance. But it had also now almost reached the point of entering the fray.

Fateh Khan gathered all his strength and started repulsing the Maratha attack. Khan’s army was also numerous. Because of this, his counterattack had the expected outcome. Marathas had to quickly take a step back. Khan’s power was increasing. The camp soldiers wherever possible, had started getting ready and entering the fight.

Marathas adjudged the overall situation, and gave the signal to retreat. And instead of just running away showing their backs, they started taking serpentine twists and turns while still fighting and started the retreat. Khan however was behind them. With attacking and parrying thrusts, all the horsemen embarked on the retreat.

However, the flag-bearing contingent had not turned back. Instead those bravehearts had started their attack! The flag-bearer was inching forward balancing the flag with one hand. Other jawans had started the enemy massacre without fear. All other detachments had moved away from the camp. And a huge mob of the enemy army attacked the flag-bearing detachment. All the enemy soldiers encircled the flag-bearer himself. And the flag started swaying in that battle-storm. Everybody’s hearts were set aflutter. Not because their lives were at stake, but because their victory was at stake. They didn’t care if they died, but losing the standard (flag) meant losing the reputation. Everybody started making utmost efforts to save the flag. But the enemy was really powerful. The flag had been caught right in the thicket of the enemy. The flag-bearer had been caught in a swarm of enemy: it was a terribly tight situation and the onlookers were all stupefied!

Suddenly one Maratha horseman entered the enemy mob with absolutely lightning speed! In one initial thrust, he killed five-six enemy soldiers! The enemy felt this stroke with such ferocity, that they fell back a little leaving the flag aside! But suddenly someone from the enemy mob had attacked the flag-bearer himself, such that he fell down from his horse. And he lost the flagpole. Before the flag could fall to the ground, that new swordsman caught it mid-air. He threw the wounded soldier on his horse and kept his hold onto the flag strong, and ordered the whole contingent to retreat immediately. By this time all other detachments had turned back. While on their way back, some of the Marathas were finished-off by their chasers. But the rest dug their heels in their horses’ sides, and ran away in the Purandar forests.

Finally, the flag-bearer contingent also retreated, and started riding towards Purandar. That new swordsman, horseman who had caught the reputation of Swarajya in his hands was well-known to everybody. Baji Jedhe! Kanhoji Jedhe’s son. Baji and Baji’s contingent rode towards Purandar, balancing the saved flag and roaring ‘Har har’. Khan’s soldiers had left the chase long back and had gone back to their camp.

All the detachments came together at the base of the fort. The mavala army started climbing up the fort, in a formation with the detachment of the flag first, and then the rest of the horsemen. The whole ravines and valleys of Purandar echoed with their victorious roars!

Battle of Purandar

Fateh Khan was terribly angry at the guerrilla attack. Around the same time, Ashraf Shah and other Shirval soldiery who had been driven away from Shirval reached Khan’s camp. Khan was stunned to witness their harried condition. Hearing from them, that a renowned Sardar like Balaji Haibatrao was killed in open fight by Shivaji’s vagabonds, the army was routed, and Subhanmangal’s cantonment was captured, an already angry Khan started literally burning with anger. In that same fit of anger his angry eye fell on Purandar fort.

Khan was violently enraged. And Purandar was laughing at him quietly. Khan suddenly ordered his whole army to get ready. Khan had lost his capacity for discretion because of his rage. His sword came out of its scabbard to make Shivaji’s mincemeat.

All the sardars like Muse Khan, Ashraf Shah, Minad Sheikh, Hassan Sheikh, and their own battalions got ready. Howdahs were mounted atop elephants. Standards and battle-drums were prepared. Khan signalled the march, and the army started towards Purandar. Purandar was just five kos from Belsar.

At Purandar’s top, Maharaj had been encircled in a sea of excitement. Maharaj’s friends were all the more thrilled, because of the successful raid on Fateh Khan’s camp and huge victory at Shirval. The fort’s guards placed on watch-duty spied Fateh Khan’s army riding full-speed towards them. Suddenly the whole fort resounded with their signalling cries. Rush, crowding, scurrying started in earnest. Cannon directions started getting adjusted. Everybody started taking his position, looking for all his weapons. Slingshots were readied up. The battle-drum started rolling on Raje’s order.

Khan came. As he grew nearer, the tension on the fort was palpable. Khan’s army reached that huge Purandar fort’s base, and Khan ordered them to start the climb. Muse Khan was in the front. On the left flank was Bajaji Naik Nimbalkar, on the right was Mataji Ghatge, and the rear was being brought up by Fateh Khan himself. Khan’s army started climbing shouting and screaming.

Fateh Khan’s army was filled with mostly people attuned to comfortable lifestyle. Leave alone hills, but people who had never walked on flat land much, people who had never moved without any vehicles for their whole lives, such heroes had enlisted in this campaign just as amateur sport. And now they were being asked to climb the mountain. Climbing a mountain is such a strenuous activity. That too, Sahyadri’s mountain, and to top it all, Purandar! Everybody was panting at each step. Now these fellows would climb up! Fight! Would win the fort! And that rebellious Shivaji would be…! They were almost on the verge of breakdown just while climbing up. Also, the army was climbing as they liked. Climbing Sahyadri’s range like this, as you like, using your own private routes, is utter foolishness. Terrible misery awaits such people. Khan had brought with him many Pathans. They also were facing similar troubles.

Raje’s wanar-sena (a reference to Lord Ram’s monkey army) was ready and waiting atop the fort. There was no visible resistance offered from atop the fort until Khan’s army came within the range of their weapons. And the enemy stepped inside the range! Raje gave the signal to everybody atop the fort! And thereafter what should one write about Khan’s plight! An incessant barrage of cannons, guns, and arrows started from the fort. Rajes mavalas started pushing huge boulders rolling down the slopes! Once these boulders fell off the ramparts, they picked up so much speed, that it would be impossible to move aside to dodge them! And how many would one dodge – one, two, five, twenty-five, or fifty? A rocky torrent was chasing them one after another from all sides. Khan’s army started getting crushed beneath these big boulders. such was the calamitous effect each of them was wreaking! Once freed from the ramparts, these initial boulders would hit their other friends resting quietly on the slippery slopes. The moment they were hit, the other boulders would also start running towards the Khan’s people, jumping down and leaving a dusty trail in its wake! Besides the mavalas were also showering smaller stones from their slingshots. Khan’s army started getting routed. The whole Karha plateau started resounding with their cries and screams.

Khan’s army was facing a terrible massacre. Shirval’s heroes Bheemaji Wagh, Godaji Jagtap, Kavji himself, Baji Jedhe, and even Baji Pasalkar etc. everybody had become intoxicated in the heady feeling of victory. Khan’s people were in utter dismay! Their chests were on the verge of exploding just while climbing the mountain. And besides there was a shower of stones and fire from the top. Bloodied dead-bodies were strewn everywhere on the whole mountainside.

Looking at this destruction of his army just facing the rocks and boulders, Muse Khan was terribly incensed and exhorted his forces to dig in. And urged on with these words, Muse Khan, Minad Sheikh, Ratan, Bajaji Naik and Mataji Ghatge started climbing with a determination. Because of them, even the remaining army of Fatteh Khan started climbing. At this point Raje opened the fort’s doors and unleashed his army on the force climbing up! And then battle ignited in the earnest on the fort slopes. Bhairoji Chor engaged Minad and Ratan Sheikh. Godaji Jagtap caught up with Muse Khan himself. This way each one on the enemy’s side got caught in one-to-one, one-to-two bouts. Blood started streaming down the slopes. While fighting Godaji Jagtap thrust his spear directly in Muse Khan’s chest! But that brave Muse Khan was such a tough warrior, that he pulled out the spear buried deep in his chest with a superhuman swipe! And broke it into two pieces angrily! He started a terrible fight Godaji now with his sword. Each of their jabs were falling on their shields like fell swipes of an axe. All of Raje’s friends were performing at the topmost limit of their might. Suddenly Godaji Jagtap’s swipe over Muse Khan’s shoulder fell so forcefully, that the sword just ran through his body from shoulder to stomach! Muse Khan fell! However, only after displaying extreme valour.

And then the patience of Fateh Khan’s army ran out. Sardars themselves started running away! Fateh Khan himself started running away! His army kept following close behind and then Bheemaji Wagh, Kavji, Baji, Balaji etc. hundreds of other mavalas started chasing them roaring like demons, almost as if a swarm of honeybees would attack! And they pounced on the Khan’s army!

Marathas roaring victoriously holding their swords-shields aloft, Maharaj looking at his friends satisfied and proud, and coward Khan running away leaving behind a trail of dust in his wake. This was the whole scene visible at Purandar’s base. Now small swordfights started happening even while running. Maharaj’s fellows had defeated an army much larger than theirs, with extreme tenacity, self-confidence, and utmost courage! Only a handful of Khan’s men could escape alive. Fatteh Khan was running towards Bijapur with his soiled face hung in shame.

The whole battle had been commandeered by Raje himself. Fateh Khan was royally defeated (after Dt 8 August 1648).

Baji Pasalkar Falls

And still the Marathas kept on chasing the running enemy. The chase took them away from Purandar and in open plains, and Baji Pasalkar and Kavji Malhar were just getting into their groove. The chase went up to Saswad, and Baji Pasalkar engaged the enemy again near Saswad. Kavji Malhar was also involved. And… a terrible thing happened! Baji Pasalkar was killed!

Such a big success was achieved against the Khan, but just at the last moment, this bad omen was introduced in the mix! Shivajiraje felt extremely sad. He had lost his solid support like Lord Balram was for Krishna! This huge banyan tree who had always provided enormous shade to Raje from the beginning was suddenly uprooted!

Diplomatic Play

Fateh Khan was utterly routed. He ran away to Bijapur. Shivajiraje came to Rajgad with the victory. Aaisaheb was concerned about Shahajiraje. The fact that Fateh Khan was so summarily beaten by the children, was such a happy fact. But this happiness could only fill half her heart. The other half was still being hollowed out by the concern for Shahajiraje. She was now even more concerned, whether Badshah would get angrier because of this defeat, and would harm Maharajsaheb in any way.

And Raje was also preoccupied because of the same concern about his father. At the same time, one very important news came. Farad Khan who had attacked Bengaluru, was dealt another terrible defeat by Sambhajiraje! This report also brought great happiness.

But again, the concern increased about the reaction of the Badshah now. Raje became even more anxious. But his anxiety vanished quickly. He got an idea! Raje thought of an amazing and perfect trick to ensure Shahajiraje was released. He decided to send a letter to Delhi’s Mughal Sultan Shahjahan. The letter was to inform the Mughal Badshah that he and his father Shahajiraje intended to serve the Mughals. It requested for issuance of the firmans conferring imperial service, on the pre-condition that with the help of these firmans, Shahajiraje would be freed from Adilshah's captivity.

This diplomatic move by Raje to give Delhi’s Mughal Emperor’s check to Bijapur’s Adilshah was amazing and wild. One of the Shehzada (prince) of Delhi's Emperor Shahjahan was a Subedar at Ahmedabad in Gujarat. This Shehzada was named Murad Baksh. He was Aurangzeb’s brother. Raje wrote out the letter like above, and rapidly sent to Murad. At that time Raje’s age was just eighteen years.

But Raje himself agreed to enter imperial service and sent such request to the Mughal prince. How so? How could Shivajiraje, who had planted a rebellious standard saying he won’t serve any Sultan, he will establish Swarajya; agree to serve another Sultan? Then this type of service he would have got at the Bijapur court any time! Would Raje become a slave to the Mughals?

Never! Raje was just using his honeyed tongue for Delhi’s Emperor, for getting his father out of captivity. Shahjahan knew Shahajiraje’s capability well enough, and even Shivajiraje had displayed his brilliant spark in the battle with Fateh Khan. Shahjahan and Murad Baksh thought, if this father-son duo came to serve under them, it would be accretion of much larger power to help the Mughals capture the whole of Deccan.

At this time, Afzal Khan had started towards Bijapur taking Shahajiraje along. Commander-in-Chief Khan-i-Khanan Khan Mohammed had handed over the responsibility to safely transport Shahajiraje to Afzal Khan. The immense loot captured while winning over Jinji, was also loaded onto eighty-six elephants, and that was also being transported to Bijapur with Afzal Khan. All the elephants were carrying the loot, and one of them was carrying Shahajiraje.

Afzal Khan entered Bijapur (Dt 10 March 1649). That long serpentine queue of elephants was chugging along with the rhythm of tolling bells round their necks. Eighty-six elephants were loaded with the wealth, and a prisoner even more valuable than those eight-six elephants worth of wealth, was loaded onto another separate elephant, although clamped in fetters. Raje Shahaji Bhosale! With his hands and feet fettered in chains, Raje was sitting with his head down, burning in repentance. Cavalry carrying unsheathed swords and spears was marching with resonating sound of hooves in their arrogant splendour. Afzal Khan was on seventh heaven. This sight was witnessed by thousands of citizens from Bijapur’s roads, homes, windows, and shops. The awe of Adilshahi prowess itself was being paraded down the road. The roads were resounding with the sounds of bells, hooves, snorts of the horses, and screams of the elephants. Sultan Mohammed Adilshah’s terror was parading with angry hooves. This was the outcome of trying to utter even a single word against the Badshah. It should be considered fortunate, that Raje was sat on an elephant. Otherwise, such betrayers should be paraded on donkeys… Afzal Khan had purposely sat Raje on an elephant. As a mark of respect to him!

Shahajiraje was sent to the prison. People were confident that, Raje would very soon be sent to ‘hell’! At the mouth of a cannon! Because very recently two Sardars had been beaten black-and-blue and had come to Bijapur crying. Farad Khan had returned from Bengaluru and Fateh Khan had returned from Purandar. Badshah and the court had been incensed because of the utter rout Shahajiraje’s sons had dealt to these two Sardars. The outcome was imminently visible. Shahajiraje’s death!

Shahajiraje Released - But Condition!

And the court somehow got wind of the news that, Shahaji Bhosale’s son Shivaji, had entered a diabolical alliance with Delhi, and was conspiring to bring the bigger Mughal calamity over Bijapur, to get his father freed of the prison! All the carefully woven conspiracies to end Bhosale seed started crashing down one after another. The court could see clearly, that Delhi’s Shahjahan would now become a menace for the Adilshahi, making Shahaji his front. Probably even a firman would also reach tomorrow saying, that they had imprisoned Shahajiraje. Both Shahajiraje and his son Shivajiraje being considered for imperial service, it would amount to a crime keeping Shahajiraje imprisoned.

Such a firman would become a question of Adilshahi’s esteem. And if Shivaji and his brother Sambhaji become one with the Mughals and erect an open standard of revolt, then it would become terribly difficult to control both. Shivaji had openly sent his application to Delhi.

Even Badshah Adilshah was a little confused because of this political move by Shivajiraje. If Shahaji was to be punished, that Shivaji had created the terror of the Mughals. If Shahaji was let off from the prison, the court esteem was at stake. There was no point sending another force to attack Shivaji. Fateh Khan had totally got a taste of how Shivaji was! And now even Mughals would come for his help. All the Badshah’s counsellors, diplomats started looking concerned. Shivajiraje had challenged Bijapur by aligning with Delhi behind their backs!

And they got a solution! Badshah thought this was the one and only solution! Shahajiraje was to be honourably released! And the Sultan quietly ordered Shahajiraje to be freed after breaking down his fetters (Dt 16 May 1649, Jyeshtha Pournima)!

It was the Jyeshtha month. Day of the Pournima – full moon. Eons ago, one devoted wife had stubbornly insisted to Yamraj on this same Jyeshtha Pournima, asking for her husband’s life (a reference to the mythical tale of Savitri and Satyawan). That Sati, already frail due to her vows and lent, had gone behind Yamraj falling at his feet and begging for her husband’s life.

This was the same Jyeshtha Pournima. Aaisaheb’s heart was anxious for Shahajiraje’s freedom. And Shahajiraje was freed! Aaisaheb’s blessed marriage was returned to her. And Swarajya was implicit in this Saubhagya (blessed, marital status). Aaisaheb was as happy as that Sati Savitri herself. Swarajya was saved. Even Saubhagya (husband’s life) was returned completely. Jagadamba had smiled upon Purandar, Bengaluru, Belsar and Subhanmangal battles to grant victory. Jagadamba herself had protected her Saubhagya.

Shahajiraje had no guarantee, what would Badshah do with his life. He was also anxious. He was repenting the fact, that he had been captured purely because of his own carelessness. He was sure, that the Badshah’s order will be on its way to kill him, sooner or later.

And Badshah’s orders were received in the prison, that the guards should present Raje at the court. Immediately Raje was honourably released from captivity. He was respectfully offered clothes and ornaments. Badshah’s order was recited in front of him, that he should accept these special clothes and headgear, and wearing them he should present himself for a personal interview, of Hazrat Zille-ilahi (Sultan Adilshah). Raje was stunned because of these unexpected laurels and his freedom being granted.

Raje took his bath and wore the newly gifted clothes and headgear and entered the court. Adilshah met him in Kalyan mahal. Raje kept wondering how the Badshah’s mouth had opened in surrender. But soon he realised that it was Shivba who had tightly clasped the Badshah’s proud nose between two fingers, because of which he had had to open his mouth, gasping for breath! Badshah, who had tried this whole trick to ensure Shivba surrenders unconditionally, the same trick had now started troubling him. Raje’s heart was suddenly touched by thousands of rippling sensations of paternal-love, appreciation, happiness, pride and blessedness. But his anger about the betrayal and insult didn’t die away. It was impossible to extinguish until the time, Baji Ghorpade, who had captured him, and Afzal Khan, who had transported him insultingly to Bijapur, were punished.

Badshah addressed Raje with a sweet smile, saying he regretted the misunderstanding which caused his imprisonment. He reiterated how much respect the court accorded to Shahajiraje, but put a condition that the fort of Kondhana must be returned along with the fort of Kandarpi from the southern Jagir.

Badshah asked Shahajiraje for Shivajiraje’s beloved fort Kondhana! Returning invaluable Kondhana to the Sultan was a must. But Shahajiraje smiled in acceptance, thinking one whose sword had the power, would capture thousand forts like Kondhana. Raje unwillingly agreed to return the Bengaluru city, Kondhana and Kandarpi forts to the Sultan. Raje also intended to ensure that Shivba’s political play should get to its intended outcome and should not get disrupted midway.

Badshah honoured Shahajiraje. He gave him elephants, horses, new clothes and ornaments. Baji Ghorpade and Afzal Khan were burnt black with jealousy and hatred, at these honours being showered on Raje. Looking at the felicitation being offered to Shahajiraje who deserved beheading, all the jealous courtiers were beside themselves with envy. Even other neutral ones were surprised.

Shivba Shown the Mirror

Shivajiraje was very happy on Rajgad. All the calamities had been blown away. His men had achieved victory by showing their brave prowess in their initial battles. His father had been released. Aaisaheb was happy. Swarajya had been left untouched. Raje felicitated his swordsmen in a grand fashion. Baje Jedhe had protected the flag even at the grave danger to his life. Baji Pasalkar had also sacrificed his own life for the cause. Besides many others had been wounded. Many had died as well. Raje gave an epithet ‘Sarjerao’ to Baji Jedhe. Besides he was also awarded two beautiful and fast Turkish horses. Raje also honoured all the others. Whoever had died, Raje also took good care of their families. They were being provided some continuous income. Baji Pasalkar’s son, named Krishnaji was awarded an epithet ‘Sawai Baji’.

However, Raje’s happiness was extinguished in a flash! Shahajiraje had sent a letter, that Kondhana fort had to be surrendered back to the Badshah! He had agreed in the interview with the Sultan, that he would return back Kondhana. So, when the royal official visited, the fort should be handed over to him. This was conveyed by Shahajiraje to Shivba in that letter.

Looking at this letter from Shahajiraje, Shivajeraje felt extremely dejected. He was angry at his father. He could not bear the loss of Kondhana. He sat alone dejected, looking at Kondhana in the distance. When the whole fort was revelling in the joy of victory, Raje was sitting miserable. Raje’s old steward Sonopant Dabir went to meet him. The moment Pant arrived, he asked Raje about the anxiety that was now playing on his mind. Raje spoke to Pant, that his father had not recognised his true self, and that hurt him.

Pant suddenly couldn’t understand all this. He kept looking at Raje surprised. Raje went on to say that, Shahajiraje should never have accepted the condition to return back Kondhana. He questioned Shahajiraje's wisdom in this diplomacy. He was also blaming his own father for the complacency shown in the face of the enemy.

Pant was stunned into silence! Raje was bad-mouthing his own father in a fit of anger! Raje, who was utterly devoted to his father, was now uttering bad words for him because of anger induced by the misery induced by the loss of Kondhana! Pant was surprised. He did not feel it right. My king is missing a step! My king is committing a sin! Pant couldn’t bear it. Pant instantly said to Raje in pointed words that this line of thinking was sinful! Condemning his own father was not correct. Even if he had to surrender Kondhana against his father's freedom, it was nothing. His father's greatness was incomparable. What was one Kondhana in front of the Meru Mountain of Shahajiraje's prowess.

These golden words of fatherly Sonopant brought Raje suddenly to the ground. As if Pant had sprayed Raje’s face with a handful of water. Raje was shocked. Pant’s loyal, selfless, but equally loving eyes had been staring at him angrily today. That pointed stare was as if reminding Raje, for his own benefit, that he was a descendant of Prabhu Ramachandra, who left the whole kingdom for just one word from his father.

Shivajiraje realised his mistake, and resolved to one day vanquish his father's betrayers.

Pant felt greatly blessed, his king was still unblemished. He was discreet. In fact, he had emerged all the more radiant! Shivajiraje also realised, that a kingdom is not simply run in a straight line, as you please. At times, one needs to bend our ways.

As per Maharaj Shahajiraje’s orders, Raje gave back the Kondhana fort. Raje gave Kondhana back, but with a dormant decision to win it back at an opportune moment!

The loss of Fort Kondhana to the Sultanate, was like a wedge in Swarajya’s side. From Rajgad-Torana in the south, right up to Rohida basin, the whole region was in Swarajya. The region up to Chakan and Dehu in the north was also in Swarajya. But the Kondhana area that lay in-between these two, started flying the royal standard again. But Maharaj was not disappointed about it anymore. He had taken it for granted, that if he was going to win two hundred forts overall, Kondhana was one more of them! But whatever happened, Maharaj’s heart had two fresh wounds. They had not healed completely. One was Kondhana, and another was Baji Pasalkar’s loss. One fort had been won (Purandar). One lion had been lost. There was guarantee that the lost fort (Kondhana) could be recaptured. But the lion was gone forever.

Stage 2 - Expansion

Kondhana fort was literally the blessed lucky omen for Swarajya. Swarajya itself was of the size of one’s hand. Twenty-five kos long and twelve kos wide. Kondhana fort was smarting after the recent handover to Sultanate, encircled by all this Swarajya. But finally, it had to be given away. When Badshah had imprisoned Shahajiraje, and then later released him, he had forcefully negotiated for ‘Kondhana, which has been captured by your son Shivaji, to be returned back’. Shivajiraje had to let go of Kondhana for securing his father’s freedom.

Because of the victories at the time of Fateh Khan’s campaign, all Shivajiraje’s friends had got a huge boost of self-confidence. Everybody was convinced in their hearts, that they all were better in terms of prowess than the imperial Sardars, and this Swarajya is destined to be created at their own hands.

Still, it was as if an obstacle was placed in the Swarajya’s full gallop because of Shahajiraje’s imprisonment. Badshah was finally forced to release the senior Maharaj; but even Badshah, after releasing Shahajiraje, did not immediately send him to Karnataka. He kept him at Bijapur for some days. Due to that Maharaj could not create trouble against the Sultan in maval region. Maybe he would put Shahajiraje back in prison! So Raje had to spend some quiet time. His friends however, were getting restless.

Rajgad - First Capital of Swarajya

Maharaj’s capital place was now almost ready. Jijabai Aaisaheb had also liked the fort very much. There is no other fort like Rajgad till date. The fort’s citadel was vying with the skies. The ramparts were built close to the fort’s citadel like the snake around Lord Shiva’s neck. The gateways were like the open hood of the Sheshanag (a reference to Lord Vishnu’s companion). The fort had three machis, one very high and invincible citadel, two palaces, four court and office halls, three big tanks, eighteen karkhanas (workshops) like nagar-khana (workshop for the signal-drums), top-khana (workshop for cannons and associated ammunition), Shile-khana (workshop for stonemasonry and associated weaponry) etc.; living quarters for stewards, sardars, and castellans; temples for Bhawani, Shiva, Hanuman, Bahiroba etc.; caves, secret passageways, basements, stables etc. each and everything was built by Maharaj with style. The style was Maratha style! There was no gleam of wealth or arrogance of Delhi, Agra here.

Rajgad’s citadel was built such wonderfully difficult by Maharaj, that to climb atop it was a very dangerous proposition! One had to climb a sheer straight cliff like a ladder. Around handful long, and four fingers wide steps were carved into the cliff’s wall. Even if one slight mistake while holding or keeping the feet at the right place, and death was certain! However, Maharaj’s wanar-sena was accustomed to climbing it.

Careful Administration

Maharaj had a careful eye for all the various aspects of Swarajya. Agriculture, army, forts, weaponry, intelligence, justice, revenue collection, temples and religious places, external intelligence, etc. many aspects were being minutely observed by Maharaj at such a young age.

Maharaj would not just order his subjects to keep their swords sharpened. He was also busy in ensuring prosperous agriculture supported these weapons. Like he built this dam near Kondhwa, he also built similar dam near Shivapur for irrigation of nearby farmland. He carried forward the system implemented by Pant Dadaji Konddev related to the revenue collection, Tagai lands, and governmental help. Maharaj would encourage the subjects to develop various horticultural and other useful gardens for trees like mangoes, tamarind, lemon, pomegranates, etc. He would grant government lands to farmers for such plantations. He had created a rule, that one-third part of the resulting revenue from such land-grants should be submitted to the government. Maharashtra’s independence and individual households were becoming prosperous through such efforts.

Maharaj also carefully addressed the areas like protection and enhancement of cows. He would proudly call himself a protector of cows. Cow-slaughter had been stopped without any law being enacted or an order being proclaimed. Now cows and their progeny were living happily in this small Swarajya. In the earlier imperial days of absolute anarchy, people’s livestock would get kidnapped by any government soldiery, thieves or butchers. But now in Swarajya, the livestock stables were fearless.

Maharaj used to follow Pant Dadaji Konddev's teachings in case of general administration. Maharaj had started following the late Dadajipant’s footsteps in almost all administrative activities related to agriculture, maintenance of subjects, official working, judicial working, public welfare, and disciplinary actions. Pant’s plumb would never stray from the tight circle of practicality. Even Maharaj’s behaviour would follow the same path. Dadaji Konddev was actually a small Brahmin, small clerk! He was not a Vazir for a royal kingdom, was not a Sadar-e-Jahan, or Qaid-e-Azam; but the judgments he had imparted were accepted even by great intellectuals. Shehzada Aurangzeb had also accepted them! Aurangzeb used to say often, that the judicial thought propagated by Dadaji Konddev, and his judgments were excellent!

And here was Pant’s disciple, determined to beat him in all that. If he was alive today, he would have been truly satisfied.

Justice was perfect. Important quarrels were being settled by holding the trials in front of the local village assembly, and with the decision being given by the village assembly. If not satisfied, the defendant had the freedom to seek further justice from Maharaj himself. All these activities would happen without any connections or influence coming into play. If witnesses or evidences were not sufficient, result was based on a difficult sacrificial task. Whoever would pass the sacrificial test, he was considered the winner and accordingly the matter was resolved. Qazis were given a permanent leave. Theft, robberies, murders, fighting, arson etc. violent hooliganism had been brought absolutely under control. This was our kingdom. Meaning it was own kingdom. Everybody started realising this. People started saying this was God’s kingdom.

In just three years the whole twelve mavals had really turned a new leaf.

Real tests were in the future. Maharaj and his friends were ready to fulfil whatever tests were being readied for them. They were in fact eager for all of them. And around this time, one more Balram (a reference to Krishna’s brother), permanently joined Maharaj. Kanhoji Naik Jedhe Deshmukh. When Shahajiraje had been arrested, at that time Mustafa Khan had also arrested Kanhoji Jedhe, his steward Dadaji Krishna Lohokare, and Ratnaji Dadaji Lohokare, and had kept them imprisoned at Kanakgiri. In the subsequent imprisonment, Dadaji Lohokare’s son Ratnajipant had died. Further, Shahajiraje gained freedom at Bijapur (Dt 16 May 1649), at that time, Kanhoji and Dadaji were also freed. Raje had felt really sad, that because of him the loyalists like Kanhoji and Dadaji Lohokare also had to face imprisonment. Raje called Kanhoji for a secret interview and asked him to help Shivajiraje in his efforts. He requested Kanhoji to bring about all maval Deshmukhs in alignment with Shivajiraje.

The moment Maharaj Shahajiraje said this, Kanhoji immediately vowed. While taking the vow Kanhoji said, ‘I will serve Shivajiraje with utmost devotion!” And then Raje felicitated Kanhoji and Dadajipant with clothes. Soon Kanhoji and Pant started towards Pune. At that time, Raje gave some letters and assistants for Shivba with Kanhoji and gave both of them the ritual betel-leaf as a token of respect and the responsibility they had picked-up. Kanhoji started towards Pune with a vow that he won’t serve the Badshah now! Whereas Kanhoji’s son Baji had already, ‘Without asking his father’, proved his prowess over Fateh Khan’s army.

Shahajiraje sent him, and Kanhoji Jedhe returned to the maval basins. He met Shivaji Maharaj in Pune. He handed over selected trusted lieutenants brought along to Maharaj. Besides these, many other men had been collected by Maharaj. He was collecting many new ones as well. He was identifying, selecting, judging, and shaping each one of them, and fitting them in the perfect place for them. Kanhoji’s arrival increased Maharaj’s power immensely.

Javli

At this time, Bijapur’s Sultan had cast his attention over Chandrarao More from Javli. Actually, it had been in the making for a while. But due to the matter of Shahajiraje’s arrest it temporarily got distracted, and now the Sultanate had fixed their attention back on Javli again. After the death of late Chandrarao More, Chandrarao’s widow had sat a man named Yashwantrao More on the Javli throne with support from Maharaj. Actually, More was a sardar at Bijapur’s Adilshahi court. If any ‘Chandrarao’ died childless, then who should have decided the new heir? Who should have made him eligible to sit on the throne of ‘Chandrarao’? Who owned this right? It was clear, that this was Adilshah Badshah’s right. But the widow of Daulatrao Chandrarao, who had died two years back, made some other heir named Yashwantrao as the next ‘Chandrarao’, and that too with the support of Shivaji Maharaj. Meaning even the heirs to the royal Sardars and Jagirdars would be appointed with the approval of this rebellious tramp. Badshah didn’t like this. But he decided to confiscate the Jagir of Javli by uprooting this new Chandrarao directly, without saying even a single word about Shivajiraje. Badshah proclaimed that Javli’s Jagir, ‘Has been captured by some unknown people through subterfuge!’ and entrusted the responsibility to confiscate it on his famous sardar Afzal Khan.

Afzal Khan started on a campaign to vanquish this new Chandrarao along with his Jagir. This campaign was in reality against Chandrarao More. Not against Shivaji Maharaj. Khan was aware of Javli’s famous location. Terrifying mountains, covered in extremely dense forests, and overgrown with innumerable ravines and cliffsides, Javli was a den of tigers. Campaigning there was a very strenuous task. While on his way, Khan made the first announcement, ‘After late Chandrarao’s death, the Jagir of Javli has been captured by some other unknown, unrelated people through subterfuge!’ That is why he had been sent to take control of it. Khan started all his preparations by taking this stand for his campaign (July 1649).

Afzal Khan was not desirous of entering this tough terrain. His heart was telling him to directly send his army there, and ask them to capture Javli. So, he sent an order to Kanhoji Jedhe, that he should join in the Javli campaign with his own forces. But Kanhoji Jedhe was now the disciple of a seasoned preceptor. He discussed this with Maharaj, and kept on a continuous correspondence with the Khan. Khan kept waiting for him. But by then Badshah himself ordered Afzal Khan to join the Karnataka campaign instead. Due to that, Khan went off to Karnataka and the Javli campaign folded up. This way the calamity that had befallen Javli’s Chandrarao More was deferred.

Purandar

One sudden news came from Purandar fort, that Mahadaji Neelkanthrao Sarnaik died (before Dt 23 May 1654). Maharaj felt sad. Pant was a good man. He was very fond of Shahajiraje and Shivajiraje. Pant had taken good care of the Purandar fort till today. At the time of Fateh Khan’s campaign, looking at the difficult situation Maharaj was in, Pant had admitted him in the Purandar fort, along with his little army. If Pant hadn’t surrendered Purandar fort in Maharaj’s service, it would have been difficult to fight against Fateh Khan. This invaluable old man had spent himself in Maharaj’s service even at the end of his life.

The moment Maharaj got the news of Pant Sarnaik’s death, he sent condolences to his four sons. He also sent a report to Shahajiraje who had just left on the Karnataka campaign that time. Upon this, even Shahajiraje’s condolences reached Pant’s family. Raje had written consoling words for the family. Because of Mahadaji Neelkanthrao’s death, the matter of Purandar’s Sarnaik watan flared up. Pant’s four sons, Nilopant, Shankarajipant, Visajipant and Tryambakpant started fighting amongst themselves. Maharaj got the report, that there was family feud in the offing at Purandar fort. Maharaj immediately went to the fort’s base village. All four brothers brought Maharaj respectfully on the fort, and started putting their own individual claims in front of him. Everybody started feeling that the control of the fort should be given to him. Maharaj, who spent every living moment keeping the ambition of Swarajya in front of his eyes, heard these selfish and foolish quarrels, and got very upset. He tried to reason with all four brothers. But wisdom doesn’t work in front of classy stupidity. Finally, Maharaj clearly saw signs, that because of these quarrels maybe some imperial castellan would get appointed over Purandar. Maharaj hardened his stance and instantly ordered the mavalas whom he had taken along, to install his own patrols and outposts everywhere on the fort! And to take the control of the fort!

At the same time, Maharaj also raided the fort houses of all four brothers, and clapped them in fetters! Then all four brothers were shocked. Fort was now under Maharaj’s control. Maharaj used to consider Mahadajipant as a fatherly figure. So, these four brothers were like his own brothers for him. But Maharaj had had to harden his stance, because forgiveness wouldn’t have helped establish Swarajya. He brought all four brothers in front of him. He freed them from their fetters, and granted them the status of owning palanquins. He recruited them in his own service, and appointed a new castellan over Purandar named Netoji Palkar (After October 1654 AD)!

Chandrarao More

Chandrarao More’s Javli was located amidst huge mountains of Mahabaleshwar, Makarandgad, Mangalgad, and the Par-ghat mountain pass. All these mountains were so lofty, that if one peeked from the top, they would feel the ground had gone to the level of the underworld! Forest was dense like overgrown moss. It was also overrun with wild animals like tigers, bears, leopards and such others. It would rain like crazy. It would seem like even the large mountains would flow away with it! One needed a tiger’s heart to rule this thicket of Javli! And the More family’s heart was of real tigers. This More family was ruling their kingdom in the ravine of Javli for generations together. They used to call themselves Badshah Adilshah’s sardars.

This time the More throne had been saved, only with the support extended by Maharaj. Otherwise, six years ago, Badshah had issued the confiscation orders. The current ‘Chandrarao’ Yashwantrao More had assumed the throne with the help of Maharaj. Otherwise, Afzal Khan had been sent to vanquish More family. But Kanhoji Jedhe with his delaying tactics had engineered a resolution. Now Chandrarao More and his steward Hanmantrao More were looking after the Javli Jagir. This Hanmantrao was also one of Chandrarao’s relatives.

Even Maharaj was taking real good care of his own Swarajya. Maharaj had also gathered new beloved friends. Netoji Palkar, Moropant Pingle, Annaji Datto Prabhunikar, Shamrajpant Padmanabhi, Bahirji Naik, Sambhaji Kavji Kondhalkar, Noorkhan Beg, Vishwasrao Dighe etc. so many of them! Each one of them was ready sacrifice their own lives for Maharaj. The moment Maharaj would say a word, his boys were ready to throw themselves at any kind of work, of any degree of difficulty. Only Maharaj could have acquired and nurtured such men. Swarajya was still in its cradle. Only four-five forts were considered part of Swarajya. Maharaj wished greatly that Chandrarao More should join Swarajya. He should take care of his own Javli, but he should be a part of Swarajya. But he hadn’t put in a word for this yet.

Chandrarao More had been behaving appropriately with Maharaj since he had assumed the Javli throne. But this Chandrarao’s vision had slowly started turning green. Chandrarao started saying openly, that Gunjan maval’s Deshmukhi was his by rights. Actually, he did not have anything to do with Gunjan maval. Maharaj got to know of this unjustified claim of Chandrarao. Gunjan maval’s Deshmukhi rights were actually owned by Shilamkar Deshmukh. These Shilamkar family members had helped Maharaj and proved their prowess at the time of Fateh Khan’s campaign. Some wagging tongues had, of late, scared Haibatrao that, ‘This Shivajiraja would now make a play for his watan rights as well. Because More had put a counter-claim. And the watan had become a matter subjudice.’ Hearing this even Haibatrao Shilamkar got frightened. Upon getting all this information, Maharaj himself wrote a letter to Haibatrao Shilamkar, conveying to him that he was not interested in causing any harm to Shilamkar.

Chandrarao did not like that Maharaj had sided with Shilamkar. But he kept quiet and kept nursing his anger. Around the same time, one sin took place in Maharaj’s Swarajya. One Kulkarni named Rango Trimal Wakde in the Muse Basin committed adultery with a widow named Haubai! And Maharaj got this report. Everybody knew, what harsh punishment was reserved for such a crime in Maharaj’s reign. Previously, one such Patil had committed such ‘misbehaviour’ and had been made a ‘Chowrangya’. Rangoba was terrified. He ran away thinking that now Shivajiraja will kill him and took Chandrarao’s protection in Javli. Maharaj did not like this act of Chandrarao, where he had provided protection to a fugitive from Swarajya. But to avoid any bitter feelings, he kept quiet. But soon enough this Rangoba died.

Chandrarao also started claiming the right to the income of Birwadi’s Patil. Chandrarao started collecting revenue from the village allocated for Patil’s income. That Patil then came to Maharaj begging for justice. He pledged to the Patil, that his matter will be taken care of.

Chandrarao started to climb his ladder of misbehaviours step-by-step. He attacked Rohida basin which came under the region belonging to Kanhoji Jedhe and a part of Swarajya and killed Ramaji Wadkar Patil of Chikhli. He also cut off that Patil’s son Lumaji Patil. This way, Chandrarao had started a kind of animosity with Maharaj. He forgot the favours granted earlier. His steward Hanmantrao More became all the more arrogant. Maharaj got very angry at this rascally behaviour. Still he wrote a letter to try and reason with Chandrarao using four bitter-sweet words.

Chandrarao and Hanmantrao More had reached the limits of arrogance. ‘We are powerful. Our Javli is tiger’s den. Who has the guts to enter Javli! If anybody tries to enter, we will tear him apart’, such were the arrogant notions these two entertained. More’s stables were huge (meaning they maintained a sizeable cavalry). They also had decent enough infantry. Besides Mangalgad, Makarandgad, Rairee’s gad, and the difficult region of Johor maval basin was under More’s control. More family had also amassed huge wealth.

Maharaj sent a tough-worded letter with his emissary to Javli. Chandrarao took the letter. Hanmantrao was also present. The steward opened the letter. After appropriate address, Maharaj had written in angry words, asking Chandrarao to call himself Raje and exhorting him to join Swarajya. He had warned them with an impending attack on Javli if it was not complied with.

Reading Maharaj’s letter, Chandrarao laughed. Hanmantrao also got angry. Shivaji Bhosala is trying his play in Javli, but he doesn’t know the strength of these sons of More! Both the countenances of More were covered with an extremely arrogant, conceited expression.

And Chandrarao wrote his own reply to Maharaj’s letter and sent it back to Rajgad.

The reply was presented in front of Maharaj’s court at Rajgad. With Maharaj’s due permission, Pant started to read the reply. Chandrarao had written back that Shivajiraje was no king he would recognise. He openly challenged Raje to attack Javli.

Listening to this arrogant reply Maharaj got angry. He sent one more, final warning to Chandrarao. In this, Maharaj’s only intention was, if Chandrarao was even a little bit wise, he would understand and mend his ways. Maharaj wrote the final warning signal in his letter. The letter was sent to Javli.

Chandrarao opened this letter. Maharaj had written in no uncertain terms, asking him to vacate Javli and surrender.

Once he received this strict letter from Maharaj, Chandrarao’s arrogance was all the more incensed. The arrogant fellow won’t listen to Maharaj! Hanmantrao’s instigation on top. Chandrarao again replied in arrogant language to Maharaj’s letter, telling him to stop this unnecessary correspondence.

Maharaj heard this reply, and then his anger knew no bounds. Maharaj’s nature did not agree much with trying to convince such arrogant rascals. He sent urgent orders for Kanhoji Jedhe, Haibatrao Shilamkar, Sambhaji Kavji Kondhalkar, Bandal Naik, and Raghunathpant Sabnis and asked them all to meet him.

Maharaj’s decision was done. Chandrarao More was a stupid idiot! He had become arrogant because of the tough terrain of Javli and thousand-strong cavalry! That’s it, Javli should immediately be annexed! This More family must be uprooted from Javli!

Kanhoji, Haibatrao, Sambhaji, and Raghunathpant presented themselves at the court bowing obeisance. Maharaj said to them that he had reached the limit of his patience with Chandrarao. All these Sardars and selected armed guards entered Javli’s forests. Javli’s route was tough. Forest was dense. It was as if an appointment with Yamraj.

Hanmantrao More was present in Javli. One more ‘Chandrarao’ named Prataprao More was also present. Sizeable infantry and cavalry were also in attendance. And Chandrarao himself was there. Raghunathpant went to Chandrarao and started his efforts to convince him through talks. But all the bad inauspicious planets had converged upon this moment in the More’s horoscope!

Murarbaji Deshpande

Suddenly a big commotion ensued. It was an attack on Chaturbet, Johor basin, Shivthar basin and right onto Javli itself. Hanmantrao, Chandrarao, and all the other Mores ran for defence. The whole of Javli resounded with screams and cries. A general massacre started in earnest. Guns started firing. Echoes started booming in the ravines and the whole basin. Maharaj’s men had blockaded Javli. More people were extremely expert in their arms. In them one fellow from the More army was fighting with extreme valour. His sword was moving like a Sudarshan Chakra (a reference to Krishna’s weapon). He won’t let the enemy step forward even one bit. He fought really bravely. His name was Murarbaji Deshpande.

Mores were attacked on all sides. Suddenly Sambhaji Kavji Kondhalkar killed Hanmantrao More! More army started getting cut-off everywhere. And seeing Javli being snatched away, Chandrarao himself ran away. He took shelter in the Rairee fort beyond Mahad. And in the rush, Chandrarao’s relative Prataprao More ran away taking the benefit of the forest thicket. He went straight towards Bijapur.

Maharaj himself came to Javli. Maharaj became mighty impressed looking at Murarbaji Deshpande’s tough and expert stand. But Murarbaji was on the wrong side. Whoever had taught Murar to fight on someone’s side, or against someone, had taught incorrectly.

Javli was captured (Dt 15 January 1656). Maharaj reasoned with Murarbaji. He requested him. All this work was for Swarajya. For God and religion. Shivajiraje Bhosale did not fight just out of personal enmity with More. He would never do so. In the past, we Bhosales had provided our own support to these Mores and had allowed them to assume the epithet of Chandrarao. But More had forgotten. They had made a mistake. Now you Murarbaji should at least not make the same mistake. Maharaj put forward his demand to Murar, come and serve Swarajya. I want you! The fame of your sword will spread everywhere!

And Murarbaji came. He joined Maharaj. This invaluable warrior who was serving Javli’s selfish arrogance, joined Swarajya.

The moment Javli was captured Maharaj appointed Krishnaji Babaji as the Subedar there. Viro Ram was appointed as the Mujumdar there. Both these brought one renowned local citizen from Javli named Ganeshshet Shete. They asked him about all the information of the old watandari right owners. They collected the names of all the respective right-owners and their posts, and asked them to carry out their responsibilities as before.

Raigad

Thereafter Maharaj attacked the Rairee fort (Dt 6 April 1656) from Javli. Because Chandrarao had taken shelter at that Rairee fort. Rairee fort was very high. It was almost ten times in height as compared to the Daulatabad fort. Maharaj besieged the fort. Chandrarao’s whole prowess was now only limited to this fort.

Maharaj’s army had Shilamkar Deshmukh in it. He was actually a nephew of Chandrarao. Shilamkar however, did not like his uncle’s obstinacy, and he was fighting on Maharaj’s side (April 1656). One month went past. This Javli’s tiger would not come quietly. Maharaj was not letting go of the siege. Finally one day, Chandrarao surrendered. He put down his arms. Maharaj had a big heart. He deigned to permit Chandrarao be left alive. Maharaj felt, he would again hand over Javli’s administration under Swarajya banner to Chandrarao and get him to serve honestly. He sent Shilamkar up the fort and brought Chandrarao to the base camp with all due respect. He honoured him. Gave him gifts of horse, clothes and arms. However he was deprived of the royal insignia. Maharaj gifted him the handkerchief. But More sent it back declining to accept it. Keeping Chandrarao in the protection of his army at the base Maharaj himself went up the fort to visit. Such a huge fort. Just the climb itself would be three kos. Maharaj ordered some repairs to be carried out and named it ‘Raigad’. Maharaj really liked Raigad.

Around the same time, Chandrarao’s destiny turned! The strings of his life became strained! Sitting in Maharaj’s camp, he tried to connect with Bijapur. He stealthily sent some letters to Baji Ghorpade of Mudhol. Maharaj’s spies caught them in the way unbeknownst to Chandrarao. And suddenly Chandrarao himself went absconding from the camp. He got captured again! Maharaj was angry. He ordered Chandrarao to be beheaded and that arrogant head was shown its place. Maharaj also ensured his sons Baji and Krishnaji were also executed (After Dt 27 August 1656).

Pratapgad

The forts near Javli like Chandragad, Makarandgad, Kangori, Songad, Chambhargad etc. also became a part of Swarajya. Javli’s location was so difficult and unapproachable that it was almost invincible! The moment he captured this invincible hidden place, Maharaj selected this place to relocate his treasury there. Very near to Javli, right at the mouth of Par-ghat and facing Radtondi-ghat there was a mount sitting like a steady security guard Ramoshi. That mountain was called Bhorpya Dongar. Some also called it ‘Ran Aadva Goud’. Maharaj’s careful eye caught this Bhorpya guard. Maharaj realised that this Bhorpya would not only guard Javli, but also the whole Swarajya. He ordered Moropant Pingle, to decorate the guard with a turban-like rampart.

And Pant started building the fort there.

Around the same time in one of the dark caves near Shivthar in the Varandha-ghat, one radiant saint was engrossed in retelling the philosophy of Karma Yoga through his couplets, in the dim light of the oil lamps, resting one hands on the staff. Samarth Ramdas Swami! This was Shivthar Ghal. This Ghal (ravine) was named by Samarth as ‘Sundar Math’.

Karha Plateau

Bearing right of east, five kos from Pune, the Dive-ghat mountain pass stands tall. Once one climbs this Dive-ghat, one steps into the basin of Karha River. This Dive-ghat is the entrance to the Karha plateau. Starting from Jejuri, and moving in a circular arc covering Vajragad, Purandar, Bopdev-ghat, Dive-ghat, Sonori’s hill, Dhawalgad up to Bhuleshwar, Sahyadri has actually drawn a crescent moon. Standing atop one extremity of this hilly crescent is Bhuleshwar Mahadev temple, while on the other extremity it’s Jejuri’s Khandoba temple. And right in the middle of the crescent, Karha river flows.

Purandar fort stands guard for this Karhe-pathar. Like a plume of pearls kept on a silver platter. This side Sonori, Jejuri on the other side, Karha river flowing in the middle; and Karhe-pathar’s Purandar looks befitting plume of pearls in the headgear of Shivashahi (Shivaji’s kingdom)!

Purandar was now a part of Swarajya. Netoji Palkar had been appointed a castellan there. Netoji had further strengthened the fighting spirit of the fort. Netoji was amazingly brave and equally intelligent. He had officiated many judicial disputes of the defendants from the Karha-plateau, and region surrounding Purandar, very skillfully, sitting atop the fort. People were very happy with his administration. His fame, that Netoji Palkar adjudicates with a foresight, had spread throughout the region.

Around the same time, an intense anxiety had overcome Bijapur. Everybody was going through the motions in the imperial palace with anxious faces, bowed heads, without any conversation or laughter. Many big royal functionaries all over the royal Sultanate, and even from Konkan strip had been especially ordered to present themselves at Bijapur. All these big Sardars were whispering amongst themselves. Their anxiety was increasing by each passing day. Everybody’s attention was directed towards God. The Hakims were trying their best, and Badshah Mohammed Adilshah was extremely unwell.

Supa Pargana - Sambhaji Mama Mohite

Maharaj got the report, that because of Badshah’s sickness many of the Adilshahi Sultanate activities had gone a little slack, and all big functionaries of the Sultanate had gathered in Bijapur leaving their individual stations. And at that time Maharaj’s attention was drawn towards the Supa pargana in Karha-plateau. There was a fitting reason for the same. Maharaj felt, that until the Supa pargana is not under his own control, the eastern boundary of the Karha-plateau was wide open and defenceless, and hence was dangerously exposed for Swarajya. Supa pargana was actually part of the Jagir of Shahajiraje. Raje had handed it over to Sambhaji Mohite. Sambhaji Mohite was a brother of Shahajiraje’s second queen. Raje’s brother-in-law. Maharaj’s step-uncle. Sambhaji Mohite had been administering the Supa pargana affairs by living in the Supa fortress. The relation was a little delicate. Maharaj used to call Sambhaji Mohite as ‘Mama’ (uncle). But Mohite-mama wasn’t especially fond of his nephew, and that’s why the Supa pargana was not a part of Swarajya, even while being a part of Shahajiraje’s jagir.

Slowly, Maharaj started receiving many complaints against the uncle. Mama had started oppressing the subjects through bribery and corruption. Mohite mama had kept a man named Timaji Khando Kulkarni in prison for three months. He had been beaten endlessly. To give the watan-grant of this Kulkarni surreptitiously to two brothers named, Visaji and Ramaji Pandarkar! These Visaji and Ramaji brothers had given a bribe of one horse and one hundred and fifty-seven rupees and fifty paise to Mohite mama for this great task! In return for the bribe taken, Mama had tortured Timaji Kulkarni for three months and forcefully extracted the watan surrender document from him, and released him.

Timaji Kulkarni was free. He went straight to Shahajiraje in Karnataka to plead for justice. Mohitemama got the wind of this. Mama remained unfazed even after hearing that his sinful activities had reached Raje’s ears. Mama did not fear anyone.

Sambhajimama Mohite had become an expert at corruption. He had become absolute hardcore criminal. Taking bribe from one party and committing injustice to the other party. Fearlessly battering someone who was innocent. Committing new oppressive acts daily. Such administration had begun under mama.

Mohitemama was a brother of Jijabaisaheb’s rival in the household. Already Tukabaisaheb nursed utter hatred towards Jijabaisaheb. Jealousy born out of competition! In that, if Mama’s matter was handled harshly, it was clear that this jealousy would have increased all the more.

Even Shahajiraje had received numerous complaints about Mama. This new complaint of Timaji got added to those. Raje listened to the plaint. He realised that overall behaviour of his brother-in-law was not right. He wrote a letter to his son Shivajiraje, and gave it to Timaji and sent him on to Pune. Raje had written to the junior Raje, to properly investigate Timaji’s complaint.

But before that letter arrived Maharaj took a few selected cavalrymen with him and had started towards Supa. Dussehra had gone past. Diwali was imminent, just in fifteen more days.

Maharaj entered Karha-plateau. Supa’s fortress was visible from a distance. The fortress did not have much soldiery. Gateways were guarded. Maharaj and his mavalas rode straight to the fortress doorways like a flock of birds and got off their horses. He made straight for the door walking. Now, Raje himself had gone there. Shahajiraje’s son. He was the master. Maharaj went inside and sent for Mamasaheb saying, he had come for seeking his Diwali gift. It was tradition to seek blessings and gifts from your elders. Not waiting for Mama’s response, Maharaj quickly started towards his inner quarters. Mama was not even expecting, that this nephew would suddenly come and enter the fortress this way. In the inner doorways and various opportune places, Maharaj’s mavalas stopped as guards. Maharaj went straight and stood in front of Mama. Maharaj clearly told Mama to hand over Supa cantonment and pargana to himself! Mama recognised this bullying. He refused flatly. He answered only to his master Shahajiraje. This Sambhaji Mohite was giddy in the arrogance that, ‘I am brother-in-law of your father, senior Maharaj!’ The moment Maharaj realised, that Mama didn’t intend to come quietly, he ordered his mavalas to arrest Mamasaheb!

Mohitemama was arrested in that instant. Mama was shell-shocked! And more than mama, Maharaj’s friends were stunned. Nobody had thought that Maharaj would so suddenly arrest the brother of his stepmother. They had thought, he would try to cajole him, convince him, due to the delicate relation. Maharaj sat Mama under guards. Took the fortress under his control. The fortress had around three-hundred horse, much treasury, garments, and some precious articles, all of which was confiscated (Dt 24 September 1656).

Then Maharaj met Mama. With utmost humility and respect, he said, ‘Do stay back in Swarajya!’ But Mama’s heart was never aligned to that of the nephew’s. He refused. So, Maharaj sent him with utmost respect and full retinue to his father in Karnataka. He appointed Yesaji Ganesh Atre as the Havildar on the Supa cantonment.

Supa was captured. Now almost all of Karha-plateau was a part of Swarajya. Timaji Khanderao Kulkarni came back from Karnataka. He gave Maharaj Shahajiraje’s letter to Shivajiraje. Maharaj listened to his complaint along with the available witnesses and evidences, and imparted justice. He returned back his watan rights.

Shahajiraje knew the virtues of his brother-in-law. Raje did not get angry at all because Shivajiraje had raided Supa in this manner and took its control.

Mohammed Adilshah's Death

Suddenly Bijapur drowned in grief. Badshah Mohammed Adilshah had died (Dt 4 November 1656). Mohammed Adilshah had expressed to all his Sardars while dying, that his sole wish was to bring the whole of Karnataka under his control, and to convert it to Islam. He had exhorted everyone to strive towards completing his dying wish.

This Badshah was amorous and conceited. He had assumed the throne by blinding his elder brother, chopping off each and every one of the fingers of his younger brother, and keeping both of them permanently in prison. After Mohammed, his son Ali became the Sultan. However, all the administration was being looked at by Mohammed’s begum ‘Badi Begum’. This was an extremely shrewd and scheming woman.

Shivajiraje's Pretence for Aurangzeb

Around this time the Mughal Subedar of Deccan was equally poisonous, ambitious, and capable. He was Emperor Shahjahan’s own son. Shehzada Aurangzeb. He nursed an ambition to capture the whole of Deccan one day. The moment he heard that Bijapur’s Sultan had died, Aurangzeb’s ambition reared up. In fact it had reared up its head the moment he had heard of Mohammed Adilshah’s sickness. Aurangzeb suddenly besieged the Bijapur’s fort of Bidar. Maharaj also ordered Raghunath Ballal Atre to capture the Dabhol alias Mustafabad harbour, and the forts around it, and sent him on a campaign to Konkan. The Konkan coast was under Bijapur’s Adilshah’s control. Raghunathpant quickly captured all the cantonments and Dabhol harbour itself at a run.

Maharaj immediately sent his clever steward Sonopant Dabir to Aurangzeb in the Bidar pargana. Why to Aurangzeb? Because, he wanted Delhi’s Shehzada Aurangzeb's approval for whichever of forts, region, and the Dabhol harbour he had won so far from Bijapur kingdom! Meaning the region won over belonged to Bijapur’s Sultan, and the approval was being sought from Delhi’s Aurangzeb! This is called “indolence”! This was a pretence to show he was a loyalist towards Delhi by just creating a façade of respect. Sonopant met Aurangzeb with utmost humility and submitted for an approval for the region captured by Maharaj. Aurangzeb also was overjoyed. He was happy with himself, thinking this bully like Shivaji was behaving so respectfully with him. With great compassion, he accepted Maharaj’s submission. He bade Sonopant farewell by giving him a letter. This letter was written in Farsi. In short, he relayed that whichever forts, region and the Dabhol harbour, belonging to Bijapur earlier, and were now in Shivajiraje's control, was acceptable to the Mughal Sultanate.

This letter was dated, 18 Rajab 1067 Hijri (Dt 23 April 1657). Aurangzeb’s appreciation was received! Maharaj showed the worshipful arrangements to Aurangzeb through Sonopant. And in just seven more days…

Junnar Plundered

The spies had brought news. And Maharaj himself started on a campaign. He took around five to six hundred mavalas with him and entered Pune. Nobody knew where they were going and what they had to do. And nobody would engage in such unnecessary questions. On the same day, Maharaj started before sundown. And following him all the cavalrymen also tightened their reins.

Actually, one feels, when God was distributing cleverness, these Mughal soldiers had resolved to remain absent! They had thought, ‘Now that Shivaji had sent his emissary to Shehzada Aurangzeb and expressed his loyalty! Then they had nothing to fear from Shivaji! Sleep carelessly! Not only had Shivaji not tried even one bit of hooliganism in the Mughal areas. But now he had all the more taken up the loyalists’ mantle. Shivaji is very good!’ Even Mughal Thanedars were under this impression, and they started sleeping peacefully at night. Similar Mughal Thanedar of Junnar was absolutely careless. Already implementing a strict patrol by resting on their cots and dragging on their hookahs, these bravehearts were not ready to fear Shivajiraje at all now! The spies had noticed this laxity that had crept in the Mughals…

…On that dark night, Maharaj reached outside Junnar with his trusted lieutenants. Maharaj had ensured they were carrying the required material. Junnar’s cantonment had high ramparts. The gates were closed. The Mughal soldiery had slept off realising there was no further precaution required.

Maharaj started. And behind him his mavalas also followed like small clever rats. This wanar-sena climbed atop the ramparts and climbed down inside along with Maharaj. They had already collected exact information about the location of treasury, stables, armoury, ammunition, garments, tentage etc. things. He always carried such intelligent informants with him. The moment Maharaj gave the signal, all the mavalas rushed into the cantonment. Someone went to the armoury, someone in the treasury, someone to the ammunition dump. The mavalas waiting outside were let in by opening the main door. Mughal soldiers woke up shocked. A swordfight started in earnest and a commotion ensued.

Marathas started the raid, and picking up whatever they saw and started carrying everything outside. The stables had around seven-hundred horses of excellent pedigree. These rats made all those horses run away! Mughals were only dying! The whole treasury was looted. The whole cantonment was cleaned up completely, and quickly! Wounded Mughals were left behind groaning. Rest all were dead-bodies! The mavala wanar-sena loaded the whole loot on horses and vanished in the same stealthy way, as they had arrived!

Just some hours before, Junnar cantonment was protecting lakhs of rupees of wealth. And now? It had been completely cleaned out! Only invaluable peace remained behind (Dt 30 April 1657)! It was only seven days past the day when Aurangzeb had sent that loving letter to Maharaj!

Maharaj came back to Swarajya with this loot. In Swarajya meaning he reached the Chakan fort at a distance of around fifteen kos from there. He started creating such nuisance in other surrounding Mughal areas as well. Maharaj had looted around ten and a half lakh rupees, precious stones, tentage, other articles and seven hundred horses from Junnar. While all this looting was going on, one of Maharaj’s men named Minaji Bhosale had attacked Shrigonda cantonment belonging to the Mughals. He also earned some income.

Ahmednagar Attacked

Maharaj gave very little attention to his family life. All his attention was occupied by this running around for Swarajya. He again took his cavalry contingent, and rode towards the Ahmednagar cantonment of Mughals. The spies used to come with such invitations! Nagar was still smarting stylishly. The Nagar fort had housed a Mughal cantonment for the past fifty-seven years. A Mughal Sardar named Nauseer Khan was officiating the fort. The army was also sizeable. Maharaj was taking a risk. But considering all aspects, the risk was not that much. It had been usually decided prior, to run back and save lives if nothing looked to be working out.

Maharaj reached near the Ahmednagar town. The fort and the town were around one-and-half kos apart. Maharaj entered the royal town with his mavalas. But suddenly Nauseer Khan came there with his whole army. Maharaj did not get enough loot. And his intention was not to engage in battle. Maharaj took whatever he got, and turned back. But Khan had reached. The battle started. Some mavalas fell. Some got wounded. Still Maharaj’s force succeeded in pushing Khan back and running away towards Pune.

And these shenanigans of Maharaj were conveyed to Aurangzeb. He was so incensed, that there was no limit. He immediately sent Multafat Khan to Junnar. By the time Multafat Khan reached Junnar, Maharaj was not waiting for him there! Maharaj had ensnared Aurangzeb, by his sweet assurances, even without him desiring them.

Aurangzeb sent Kartalab Khan for Junnar’s security, and Hoshedar Khan, Raikaran Singh, Rai Singh, Shaistakhan, Abdul Munim etc. Sardars to guard the Mughal borders and gave them extremely strict written orders exhorting the sardars to completely destroy all villages in Shivaji's regions without mercy.

Aurangzeb leaves for Delhi

Maharaj knew that all this would happen. Because he himself had attempted to poke this Emperor’s Shehzada in his nose. So then, it was clear that this terribly hot-headed man would go ballistic. Maharaj had already sent his shrewd and clever emissary Raghunathpant Korde to Aurangzeb quickly! To express repentance for the raids and looting and hooliganism committed at Junnar and Ahmednagar! To seek forgiveness! Maharaj had also sent a submission to Aurangzeb with Raghunathpant, that he would not repeat this mistake again! ‘I seek your forgiveness for whatever mistakes I have committed! I am always ready to serve you in absolute loyalty!’

Pant read out the request in front of Aurangzeb with an absolutely serious and repenting face. He also told how much Maharaj was sad about the loot committed. But this astute emissary did not utter a single word about returning back the looted wealth! All the emissaries, commanders, friends of Maharaj were almost equally clever that way.

Aurangzeb too, without haggling too much granted his mercy with a big heart! What? How did Aurangzeb become so sober? There was a reason behind it. It was top secret. But Maharaj knew it! That reason was, Aurangzeb’s father Emperor Shahjahan had fallen ill in the Agra fort. Whose heart would not get clouded upon hearing his dearly beloved father was keeping unwell? To top it Aurangzeb was absolutely devoted to his father! So his mind was pulling him toward Delhi. He was getting concerned about his father. His heart had started feeling restless. Whenever an emperor fell ill, his children became so fearful. Not in grief! In the concern about how would they get the father’s throne even before he died! His children would get overjoyed even if the emperor just fell sick unfortunately, or died altogether fortunately. And then a fratricidal competition ensued amongst them to kill all their brothers and capture the imperial throne immediately! Aurangzeb was concerned, but not on account of getting his father to full health; but to see that his father died, and then he got the throne! Aurangzeb had the capability and devotion towards his ambition to fight against his father and even kill him if need be! His father, Emperor Shahjahan had also revolted against his own father in the past. Shahjahan’s father had also revolted in a similar manner against Akbar. It was such a sublime, great tradition! Aurangzeb pardoned Maharaj and gave a letter addressed to him, acknowledging the letter. He reiterated that Raje's actions were unforgivable, but since he had expressed repentence, he was forgiving Raje.

This letter was dated Jakhar 1 Hijri 1068 (Dt 14 February 1658).

Maharaj was absolutely confident, that Aurangzeb would send a letter exactly along these lines. Because where was the time to pay attention towards Maharaj? He was in a hurry to become ‘Emperor’ himself.

Junior Sambhajiraje to replace the Elder

Before this letter arrived, Maharaj had stunned Bijapur’s Adilshah with another forceful blow. Maharaj had himself gone with his army and went straight from Pune to Masur in a single-minded thrust (before November 1656). Masur is on the southern border of Dharwad district. Badshah immediately sent Mohammed Ikhlas for the defence. Shah also sent Badali’s Rowloji Ghorpade as well in assistance. The royal forces attacked Maharaj himself. Guttal’s Hanmant Gowda fought bravely with the marathas. Finally, Maharaj had to retreat. This was the time when Mohammed Adilshah was really sick.

Around the same time, one really terrible thing happened in Karnataka. Shivaji Maharaj’s elder brother Sambhajiraje was betrayed by Afzal Khan in the siege of Kanakgiri. Sambhajiraje and Afzal Khan were overseeing the siege of Kanakgiri. Actually, Raje and Khan both were Adilshahi’s servants. But Khan used to hate Bhosale family like anything. He did not help Sambhajiraje in time of dire need. Because of this, Sambhajiraje was killed at the hands of the inhabitants of Kanakgiri fort. Raje’s wife Jayantibai was widowed. Raje had a son. His name was Umajiraje (Sambhajiraje’s death 1656 CE).

Maharaj felt extremely sad because of Sambhajiraje’s death. This was another experience of Afzal Khan’s betrayal! Aaisaheb also felt very sad. More than that she was angry. Right after Sambhajiraje’s death, or around the same time, Maharaj’s eldest queen Saibaisaheb remained pregnant. She was kept on Purandar. Probably, Aaisaheb also went and lived with the daughter-in-law on Purandar. And soon a sweet news was received. The queen had delivered a baby boy! A Prince was born (Dt 14 May 1657). Everybody was happy. Prince was named after Sambhajiraje who had been killed at Kanakgiri. Prince Sambhajiraje had been born with the legacy of his brave uncle.

At this time Shahajiraje was in Karnataka.

And Aurangzeb was running towards Delhi to take his own father and brothers out of the running for the imperial throne.

Aurangzeb was the most disingenuous person. He had to rush to Delhi in order to capture the imperial throne. Otherwise, he would not have left Maharaj alone. He couldn’t bear the thought of a Maratha independent kingdom getting established. But because of Delhi’s pull, he had to leave Shivaji’s rebellion alone. But Maharaj had recognised this secret problem beforehand, and he had managed to avoid any major retaliation for the lootings.

Naval Beginnings

Even if Aurangzeb had gone to Delhi, he kept nursing a terrible anger against Maharaj in his heart. He took this anger with himself while going, and he also sent a letter to Bijapur’s Ali Adilshah, which exhorted Adilshah to recapture the Deccan realms he had lost to Shivajiraje. He had also warned him to stay aligned with the Mughal Sultanate.

Now Maharaj was not afraid of Aurangzeb, nor of Bijapur’s Ali Adilshah. From the palace atop Rajgad, he kept on seeing Kondhana. Kondhana had had to be released and given back to Adilshah at the time of freeing Shahajiraje. Maharaj had always wanted to take it back. This Kondhana was making him restless ten times every day. The dark clouds of Maharaj’s close friends started gathering around. Their roars and thunderclaps filled the whole sky. All preparations of the storm were completed perfectly. Lightning bolts of arms started flashing. Maharaj just blew the signal whistle for the deluge of prowess, and a huge storm of Swarajya’s soldiers, stepped out of Rajgad’s doorways. Horns were blown. Deafening shouts of Har Har Mahadev and Jai Bhawani were heard. Shiva Tandav (a reference to Lord Shiva’s Dance of Death) began. First victim of the Trishul was the imperial army atop Kondhana. Kondhana was captured. Saffron standard was hoisted over it (around Dt 13 August 1657).

Rahghunath Ballal Atre had already captured Dabhol. He now started for Danda Rajpuri (Dt 14 August 1657). Raghunathpant captured the whole coast around Danda Rajpuri and besieged the Janjira fort of the Siddis. This Siddi of Janjira was actually like an otter! The Kalal Bangdi (name of a cannon) atop Janjira had established a reign of terror in the whole Konkan. Maharaj was anxious to somehow drown this otter Siddi permanently, and capture the north of Konkan completely. But it was extremely difficult to capture this Janjira fort that was in the sea, near Murud. For this an excellent navy was required. Maharaj had recognised the real power of the sea. His ambition was to establish an extremely powerful Swarajya supported by the extremely strong Sahyadri, Sea and the Mavalas. Raghunathpant found it impossible at that time to actually capture Janjira fort. However, he did ensure that the Maratha terror was definitely established over this Siddi.

At this time, Maharaj’s primary officials were on the campaign alongside him. Following were the main officials. Shamraj Neelkanth Ranjhekar (Pant Peshwe), Vasudev Balkrishna Hanmante (Mujumdar), Mahadaji Shamraj Surnis (Sachiv / Assistant), Mankoji Dahatonde Sarnaubat (Commander-in-Chief of the cavalry), Noorkhan Beg Sarnaubat (Commander-in-Chief of the infantry). Apart from all these, numerous aggressive, young and even aged marathas had joined in this cyclone of prowess. Nilopant Bahutkar, Sonopant Dabir, Kanhoji Jedhe, Tanhaji, Yesaji, Suryaji, Netoji, Jiva Mahala, Moropant Pingle, Ramchandrapant Bahutkar, Tryambakpant Dabir etc. Everyone, everybody was riding everywhere.

Around this time Maharaj himself entered Konkan stealthily from Kalyan. His closest lieutenants started getting anxious when he did something like this. But he would never quit until he had completed whatever he desired. After completing the full reconnaisance, Maharaj came back on the plateau. At this time, Dussehra had just gone past (after Dt 6 October 1657).

Maharaj gave one task to each of his lieutenants quickly. Dadaji Bapuji Ranjhekar was ordered to capture Kalyan. Sakho Krishna Lohokare was asked to capture Bhiwandi. Rest everybody were listening with their eyebrows upturned, in anticipation of the upcoming task for them. And then Maharaj started allocating one fort to each of these trusted lieutenants. Maharaj had prepared a full-blown aggressive campaign planned for around forty forts like Lohagad, Tung, Tikona, Visapur, Rajmachi, Prabalgad, Sarasgad etc. And one by one all these stations started becoming a part of Swarajya at a steady pace. Bhiwandi and Kalyan, two important stations were captured on the same day (Dt 24 October 1657). Maharaj was showered with victorious news reports from everywhere. Continuous scattering of such joyful news kept on happening. Maharaj was so proud of the valorous acts of all his brave friends!

Foundation of Maratha Navy

The moment Kalyan was captured, Maharaj himself started on a campaign to Konkan. He came to Kalyan with the whole army. The Sea was dancing in the Kalyan creek. Maharaj and the Sea both were extremely satisfied with the Maratha prowess. The tides were running towards the coast and washing over it. It was as if that king of water, was welcoming Maharaj with open arms. The frigates anchored in the creek were flying saffron flags high in the skies and swinging on the tides themselves. This first budding navy of Swarajya was floating on the seas. Maharaj appointed Daryasarang (an epithet of Kanhoji Angre) as the first navy chief. Besides he also appointed extremely brave, courageous and loyal officials like Ibrahim Khan, Daulat Khan and Maynak Bhandari on the navy. Maharaj also ordered Subedar Abaji Mahadev to build one fort at Kalyan on the creek to make it into a naval base. This is the Durgadi fort. While digging the foundation of this fort, Maharaj’s people found immense wealth buried underground.

From Kalyan, Maharaj himself again started towards the Mahuli fort. Mahuli fort is near Asangaon. Twenty-one years ago, on this same Mahuli fort, Shahajiraje had given his last stand against the Mughals to preserve Nizamshahi. He had lost in the fight. Today Maharaj had won that fort (Dt 8 January 1658). Immediately after this, Maharaj returned to Rajgad (Dt 14 January 1658).

After this Maharaj turned his attention to Chaul from Rajgad. Chaul was under the control of Portuguese foreigners. That was also captured. Goa’s governor general was terrified. Maharaj’s army was small. But that army’s power was terrible like the gunpowder used in mines. At this time, Maharaj captured the fortified naval bases named Tale and Ghosale soon afterwards.

Goa’s governor had written about this Maratha hooliganism in his report to his foreign king at Portugal (Dt 5 May 1658).

Maharaj had literally unleashed a storm in the north Konkan in these six-seven months through the Maratha valour. The foreigners and Siddi were so cruel, so hardy, but they also were so afraid. Maharaj captured many other posts like Ratnagiri, Kharepatan etc. and started to enhance the powerful sea-fort named, Vijaydurg. Now there were three powerful naval bases at Suvarnadurg, Kalyan and Vijaydurg.

Thereafter Maharaj entered southern Konkan. He also went to Vijaydurg fort. The endless sea was spread in front of him. Skies above, and limitless sea below. Maharaj standing on Vijaydurg. All three of them kind of equivalent of each other. Maharaj’s stole, tunic, and the pearl plume in his turban were swinging in the wind, and the waves of the sea were crashing on the walls of Vijaydurg.

Around this time, Maharaj also participated in the launch ceremony of a couple of armed frigates named Sangmiri. The awe of the saffron standard had been successfully established on the western sea. Maharaj had correctly realised, whoever had the navy, would control the sea.

The Savant Bhosale family owned the Jagir at Kudal and Savantwadi near Goa. These Bhosales were actually related to Maharaj. The coast from Bhagwantgad right up to the Terekhol fort was a part of the Savant Jagir. But he was not interested in maintaining a navy. These Savantraje used to pride themselves as Adilshahi Sardars. At this time, Bijapur’s Sardar Rustam-e-Zaman was the Subedar of Konkan for the area from Rajapur to Vengurla. Of course, even the Savant region also was under the control of Rustam-e-Zaman. But Lakham Savant and Rustam fell out. So Rustam attacked Savantwadi. Small skirmishes started flaring up between him and Lakham Savant. Lakham Savant realised that their power was insufficient and ran to Maharaj for help. Savant’s emissary Pitambar Shenvi came to meet Maharaj and the terms were agreed between them. As per the terms of this treaty, Savant agreed to accept Maharaj as his overlord and join Swarajya. Seeing that Savant Bhosale and Shivaji Maharaj Bhosale had become one, Rustam-e-Zaman was forced to sit quietly.

In this same campaign Govalekar Savant came to meet Maharaj. Maharaj appreciated him and accepted him in service. Govalekar Savant had one excellent double-edged sword. It was forged in the region of the seafarers (Europe). It was probably forged at Toledo in foreign (Portugal) lands. Savant presented that excellent sword to Maharaj. For it, Maharaj awarded Savant with three hundred hon (around 1050 Rupees) and protocol garments. Maharaj named this sword ‘Bhawani’. This was the famous Bhawani sword!

Pratapgad

Moropant had completed building the fort in Javli. Maharaj went there to perform official inspection. Pant had shaped the fort by applying all of his intellect. Maharaj liked the fort too much. When Aaisaheb saw the fort, she fell in love with this ornament of Sahyadri. The fort was actually constructed well. Maharaj appreciated. Pant felt satisfied. Pant had built mansions, court halls, tanks, secret passageways, armoured ramparts and citadel atop the fort. While working, under one creeper of jasmine, the workers found an ancient self-existent Shivalinga. Maharaj ordered a temple to be built for consecrating this Shivalinga and named it Kedareshwar. Maharaj named the fort ‘Pratapgad’. To the fort’s east towered the huge Mahabaleshwar mountain, and equally lofty mountains and deep ravines were accompanying on the fort’s all other directions as well. There was not a single such difficult and tough fort as Pratapgad now in the whole of the maval region. The forest at the base of the fort was so dense, that it was easier to find a lice hidden in a giant’s hair, but it would have been difficult to find an elephant hidden in this forest!

The whole Mahabaleshwar and Javli region itself is covered in dense forest and terrifying ravines and valleys. The cliff from which Savitri river jumps into Konkan, is extremely terrifying. From all these huge cliffs continuous waterfalls keep flowing down in the rainy season. Their noise keeps resounding in the ravines below. Just around Pratapgad, near Ghonaspur village, there is Makarandgad. Chandragad is situated near Umrathe village. Mangalgad is near Golewadi village. All these forts have turned Javli valley into a virtual prison. The Umrathe village near Chandragad was the village of Tanhaji Malusare. There were old routes to descend into Rohida basin from the top of Pratapgad. These routes were so difficult that only mavalas could dare to travel using them.

Some days after Saibai’s delivery, Aaisaheb took her and Prince Sambhajiraje from Purandar to Pratapgad. Saibai’s health had deteriorated after the delivery. Young prince could not get enough of his mother’s milk. So Aaisaheb sent for one lady named Dharai from a Maratha family named Gade, from the Kapurvahal village near Nasrapur to Pratapgad. Dharau came running. Aaisaheb kept Sambhajiraje in her lap. Dharau took Sambhajiraje in her embrace and fed him. Dharau became milk-mother for the prince. Young prince started getting nutrition in her milk. Her own two children were really brave. They were part of the Swarajya army. The elder one was named Antoji, and younger, Rayaji. Dharau was given a standing annuity of twenty-six hon.

After Pratapgad’s construction was complete, Maharaj appointed Arjoji Yadav as its first castellan. Thereafter he was replaced by Ganoji Govind. Gorkhoji Kakde Dinkarrao was named as the Subedar on the Javli Suba. ‘Dinkarrao’ was the epithet awarded to Kakde.

Netoji Palkar - Sarnaubat - Commander-in-Chief

At this time, the Swarajya’s Commander-in-Chief Mankoji Dahatonde had become quite old. Still he was displaying immense prowess. But Maharaj now appointed an equally aggressive and tenacious Commander-in-Chief to replace him. His name was Netoji Palkar. Netoji was the castellan at Purandar. He became the Commander-in-Chief and Mankoji became an advisor in Maharaj’s court.

Afzal Khan's Campaign

The storm that Maharaj had wrought had caused the atmosphere at Bijapur Court to grow extremely heated-up. And most angry was one person… Uliya Begum Badi Saheba! Badshah Adilshah’s mother. The court was extremely angry. Daily, some or the other thing was reported as ‘lost’. Today this fort lost; tomorrow that other one lost; that region over there; such and such outpost was looted; such and such naval base was captured; Shivaji completely swept the royal region clean; half the Konkan coast was lost! This way, every day something or the other was being lost. Badshah was getting overcome with the anxiety that, if this continued, one day even Bijapur, and the very next day, the news reported will be of the loss of his own life! Nobody could suggest what to do about this standard of revolt erected by Shivaji. Sardars were anxious. But one thing was certain. Adilshahi court’s power was countless times more than Shivaji Maharaj. It was not difficult for the Badshah to completely crush Maharaj. But everybody was stunned seeing, even looking at such huge power in the Sultanate, why was this rebellious Shiva not afraid of it. All the Sardars were concerned.

The royal quarters were absolutely burning in the boiling oil of anger. Badshah’s mother was angrier than Badshah himself. It’s no wonder that she would have easily burnt Maharaj alive ten times during a day, skinned him alive twenty times, and beheaded him fifty times all in her imagination!

The lady resolved to uproot Shivaji Bhosale’s revolt from the foundations. But thinking of informing Shahajiraje about his son’s rebellion once, she also sent a harsh letter to Raje in Karnataka in the Sultan’s name, warning Shahajiraje to exercise some control over his son, and threatening of terrible consequences of his rebellion.

Hearing of his son’s mighty fame, Shahajiraje felt blessed. He straightaway informed the court, that his son did not listen to him, and the court was free to take whatever action it deemed suitable.

Badi Begum's Challenge

Badi Saheba got convinced fully that Shivaji and Shahaji were both treacherous! But first Shivaji must be destroyed. She started thinking.

Maharaj didn’t have the time to even think. He was continuously increasing his power. He was strengthening his forts. He was making naval bases more capable. He was trying to get as many horses, infantrymen, and artillery as possible. He was playing the game of chess sitting atop Rajgad. The trusted lieutenants and Aaisaheb were keeping a close watch on each of these moves on the political chessboard. The moment an opportunity made itself evident, everybody would advise Maharaj, move this pawn ahead!

However, the Badi Begum was extremely angry. This Badi Saheba was Ali Adilshah’s mother. The was not his birth-mother though. Still she would dote on Ali Adilshah. All the Sultanate administration was in her hands. She was a daughter of Golconda’s Sultan Mohammed Qutubshah who had married late Mohammed Adilshah. Her name was Taj-ul-Mukhaddirat. She was addressed using respectful epithets like Badi Saheba or Uliya Janaba by everybody in the Sultanate. However, she was called Badi Sahebin in the maval region. She had established a reign of terror at the Bijapur court. Everybody was extremely afraid of her. Because, she was really scheming. She had ordered one of the mighty Sardars and Commanders Khan Mohammed to be killed on Afzal Khan’s advice (Dt 10 November 1657). Similarly, based on an opinion that the Sardar Bahlol Khan was no longer behaving loyally, she had ordered him to be cut into pieces (July 1658). Such a highly shrewish lady was now angry with Maharaj. She decided, Shivaji must be completely destroyed. She ordered the Vazir to call all the Sardars and Mansabdars for a general court assembly.

The Champion - Afzal Khan

Each and every famous, warrior, popular commander and noble gathered in the court. The court was resplendent as always in its usual glory. The usual court style involved carpets, lacy silk curtains hung over huge archways, huge chandeliers with their colourful glass, large carved vessels made of gold, incensed smoke wafting out of gauzy incense burners, royal ushers with their exquisitely carved sceptres, glorious throne at height, brocade bolsters, cushions and seating arrangement on top of it, and the velvet frilled parasol or umbrella above signifying the Sultanate rule. Giant security guards holding drawn swords or spears would guard the entrances to the courtroom. A separate independent balcony was constructed within the courtroom to enable the ladies of the Sultan’s harem to sit. It had gauzy curtains. Vazir would stand towards the right of the throne on a step below it. 

Courtroom filled up with the faithful. Badshah Ali Adilshah walked into it in the resounding clamour of the announcements and sat on the throne. The whole standing court was bowing down and paying their respects. Even Badi Begum came and sat at her curtained balcony. She was extremely restless. The court had numerous Sardars with topmost twenty-two commanders including Baji Ghorpade, Mambaji Bhosale, Jhunjharrao Ghatge, Ankush Khan, Rustam-e-Zaman, Muse Khan, Yakut, Ambar, Hasan Pathan, Siddi Hilal, Pehelwan Khan etc. The most important question in front of the assembly was, how to break the back of Shivaji’s revolt. The question was, who was ready for a campaign against Shivaji.

On a small stool in front of the throne, in a platter, some campaign betel-leaf paans (chews) were kept as per protocol. Whoever was ready to end this whole menace of Shivaji, should come ahead and pick up the responsibility in front of the throne! There was a palpable seriousness in the courtroom. Nobody was lifting their heads. Badi Saheba challenged everyone present in court to come forth for the campaign against Shivaji. The courtroom atmosphere grew all the more suffocating. Everything went terrifyingly quiet. Everybody kept staring down at their feet. Begum’s brow furrowed with anger. Her eyes popped out. Even Badshah became fidgety. It was clear that now the lady would go ballistic.

Suddenly there was some movement. An extremely gigantic man gathered amongst the Sardars present suddenly came ahead. Afzal Khan! Afzal Khan! Khan came ahead bowing down in respect. The whole assembly fixed their eyes on him. Badi Saheba’s countenance suddenly turned happy. Badshah was overjoyed. Afzal Khan quickly picked up the betel-leaf signifying the responsibility, walking up to the platter!

Suddenly the courtroom became animated. Afzal Khan with great courage and valour agreed to take charge of the campaign. Hearing this vow, Badi Saheba was extremely happy. The court Mansabdars started appreciating Khan loudly. Everybody started thanking him. Marhaba! Subhan Allah! Shabaash! Long live the braveheart! May your life increase manifold! Amen, Amen, Amen!!

The courtroom was filled with excitement. Dejected, hopeless and concerned faces started smiling. Immediately Badshah showered Afzal Khan with the respectful insignia like pearl plume, headgear, clothes, horse, etc. as a token of appreciation. Khan had shouldered a very big campaign. But Khan was not considering it that big. Shivaji was just some menacing rebellious boy. I’ll kill him easily. I will end this menace with absolute ease, was his hope.

Bijapur suddenly started huge preparations. Tents, awnings, camels, elephants, cannons, ammunition, provisions and army, everything started getting gathered and readied up. Bijapur became busy in the military preparations. A huge camp was erected outside the city. Around twelve thousand cavalry and ten thousand infantry entered the camp. Twelve hundred camels, more than sixty-five elephants, numerous cannons of various sizes, palanquins, their bearers, servants, merchants, bazaar-labourers etc. huge retinue spread itself everywhere.

Badshah gave Khan an unlimited treasury. Khan’s preparations reached its zenith. The day of the march drew near. That time Badshah met with the Khan in solitude and clearly ordered him, ‘You kill Shivaji by hook or crook, by subterfuge or valour!’ Badshah further said words of encouragement for Khan.

Listening to this, Khan expressed his happiness at being given this opportunity to show the power of his wrists to the whole world.

And then the happier Badshah again rewarded Afzal Khan with more invaluable articles and ornaments. He also presented his own extremely sharp dagger to Afzal Khan. 

Badi Saheba advised Khan, to use any means required to arrest Shivaji.

Khan, who was already arrogant about his own prowess, turned all the more vane now. He bowed down to the Badshah and went to his camp. His camp was ballooned up arrogance, personified.

Badshah also ordered many Sardars to accompany Khan. Ambar, Yakut, Muse Khan, Hasan Khan Pathan, Ranadullah Khan, Ankush Khan, Siddi Hilal, Ghorpade, Naikji Pandhare, Kharate, Kalyanji Yadav, Shahajiraje’s cousin Mambaji Bhosale, Jhunjharrao Ghatge, Kate, Jivaji Devkante, Prataprao More Javlikar, Abdul Sayyed, Sayyed Banda, Afzal Khan’s nephew Rahim Khan, Pilaji Mohite, Shankaraji Mohite, Pehelwan Khan, Saif Khan and many other Sardars apart from these joined Khan’s army. Khan’s eldest son Fazal Khan and other two sons also joined their father. Khan took a very clever steward named Krishnaji Bhaskar Kulkarni, as an emissary. Adilshahi green standard started flying atop the camp. All this huge army was now going to fall upon Maharaj. Besides there were many others who were going to join on the way. They were ordered that way. Badshah had issued strict firmans in harsh language for all the maval Deshmukhs to break them away from Shivaji Maharaj and align them with Bijapur. Khan had planned to run a strict and tight campaign until Shivaji was captured. The planning was at least for three years! All preparations were complete.

The primary reasons for Adilshah to begin this campaign against Shivaji Maharaj are to be found in the contemporary references of that time.

Noorullah says,

‘Adilshah saw one thing clearly. Unless the overgrown forest of the Kafir religion is not burnt to ashes in the fire of the sword that destroys the enemies, it would be impossible for the people to accept and follow Islam. He appointed Afzal Khan (to this task). He gave him an army of ten thousand soldiers. The intention was to punish the cruel Shivaji, and he is uprooted completely.’[ref]

Campaign Begins

Afzal Khan started.

The clamour of war instruments and the shouts of the soldiery reached the skies. Khan’s elephant at the forefront started with its standard. Badshah and Begum Saheba were on the seventh heaven with joy. Everybody from the Badshah to the Khojas in Zenana busied themselves in weaving lofty colourful dreams. Even die-heard enemies of Maharaj were not sure of what would happen to this Shivaji now! Khan had taken with him cannons, ammunition, tentage, treasury, arms etc. war-kitty to such an extent…

… that it would last many days for Maharaj!

Khan stepped out of Bijapur. The carts carrying the supplies and camels started following. A huge line soon took shape of the whole army following the lead. Palanquins, litters, howdahs etc. were also there. Khan had also taken his own Zenana with him! Meaning Khan had started with his whole family, sons, and extended family to capture Maharaj who was flying with the winds in maval!

After he started from Bijapur, the first stage camp was set up at just two kos from the start of the journey. Night fell. Huge towers of ambitions were getting built in the minds. Suddenly one slave asked for entrance there. And that slave gave the report with an extremely sad face, ‘The elephant Fatehlashkar has died!’ Khan’s elephant, named Fatehlashkar had died! Still Khan’s resolve didn’t diminish. Khan’s warrior spirit was extremely tough. He was not a coward.

The report of the elephant Fatehlashkar’s death later reached the city and Badshah. Thereupon he ordered his own special elephant to be sent immediately to the Khan. This was Badshah’s imperial concern to keep Khan’s spirits flying high. But Khan himself would not let such puny omens diminish his will-power. That dead elephant was not going to hold him back. He would not be held back now even by thousands of alive elephants. He was confident, that even though Fatehlashkar had died, his lashkar (army) would secure Fateh (victory)!

The streak of hatred towards Bhosales had gone to Khan’s head all the more. He started plotting his moves one by one in his mind. He felt it was not enough to only attack Shivaji. The religious institutions and temples along the way must be destroyed. In his hatred towards idols (calling himself 'But-Shikan', and 'Kufr-Shikan') he was hell bent upon destroying places that Shivaji held sacred.

Sacred religious places like Tuljapur, Pandharpur, Mankeshwar were all under the Adilshahi control. After Maharashtra fell into Sultanate control, a lot of local deities and religious places had been done to dust. But after the initial one-and-a-quarter century, their excitement of breaking down the temples and building masjids over them had started seeing a decline lately. Every village belonged to the Marathas. Every village would at least have one temple. There was little to be gained by oppressing those, whom they wanted to rule, whom they wanted to use as labour, and on whose support they wanted to run their administration; otherwise, all the transactions of the kingdom, agriculture, industry would get destabilised and it would disrupt their own consumption. Realising this, the Sultans had, slightly, even though not completely, started to rein-in the oppressive acts like destroying temples, converting everyone, and perpetrating religious oppression. Temples, monasteries and Brahmins would get a new ‘Inam’ (grants) only once in an odd century. Badshah and imperial officials, however, continued the traditional old Inams and watans. But Afzal Khan resolved to perpetrate an extremely terrible practice.

And he ordered his army towards Tuljapur.

Afzal Khan's Nature

Afzal Khan was a terrible man! His strength equalled Mahishasura (a reference to the Puranic demon killed by Goddess Durga). He was broad-chested, huge, and tall as well like a spear. Standing up, he seemed like a giant stone turret. People were highly afraid of him. Especially the good people were all the more frightened of him! Because a demon as he was in body, his nature was demonic too. He was extremely brave. And equally cruel. Cunning and deceit were his pet policies. He used to proudly called himself ‘But-Shikan’ and ‘Kufr-Shikan’.

Although he was demonic in nature, he was equally capable. Once he took any responsibility, he wouldn’t let go without completing it successfully. However difficult it might be. He had grown in his current stature of a Sardar solely based on his ability. Actually, he had been born in a very poor family. His mother was a cook. But he had climbed up the social ladder due to his sparkling prowess. He had grown up purely on the basis of his capability.

Khan used to nurse immense hatred towards Shahajiraje. He used to hate him and his sons like anything. That was why, he had picked up the campaign responsibility to destroy Shivaji Maharaj. The jealousy was his inspiration.

First of all, Khan had shown the brilliance of his sword in the campaigns in Karnataka. He was a Sardar under Ranadullah Khan. Around the same time Shahajiraje also used to serve Ranadullah Khan in his campaigns. At least around six years, Raje and Afzal Khan (1638 to 1643 CE) had worked together under the leadership of Ranadullah Khan. Ranadullah Khan used to absolutely dote over Shahajiraje. He used to respect Raje a lot. Ranadullah Khan had rewarded Raje with the city of Bengaluru. His imperial commander himself loves a Kafir like Shahaji so much, would most probably have been a fact that grew unbearable for Afzal Khan. Later, after the death of Ranadullah Khan, the most die-heard enemies of the Bhosale family, Mustafa Khan, Afzal Khan and Baji Ghorpade came together. Due to this, constant insults and betrayal became Raje’s eternal friends. Mustafa and Baji Ghorpade arrested Shahajiraje. And Afzal Khan had insultingly paraded him in chains, and brought him to Bijapur. This insult had hurt Raje so bad, that it was difficult to heal the wound without revenge. It had become unbearable for Aaisaheb as well.

Khan had committed one more crime. Shivajiraje’s elder brother Sambhaji Bhosale used to live with Shahajiraje right since his birth. He was as brave as his father. He used to participate in all the campaigns with his father in Karnataka. Badshah had entrusted the responsibility to capture the Kanakgiri fort to Afzal Khan. Upon the imperial decree, Sambhajiraje Bhosale had also joined Afzal Khan’s siege (1656 CE). Guns and cannons were being fired from the fort. And one day while Sambhajiraje had started an attack, Khan did not provide the required help. Due to this, Sambhajiraje got caught up in a counterattack and was killed! A huge treasure of Shahajiraje had been lost. His prodigal son had died because of this Khan. Aaisaheb’s own son had died. Aaisaheb and Maharaj were absolutely sure, that Khan himself had engineered Sambhajiraje’s death on purpose.

However, Afzal Khan had become immensely famous on the basis of his prowess in Karnataka. He had defeated the Srirangapattan’s king. He had made Karnapuram’s king surrender. He had destroyed the city of Madurai, and he had looted countless gold after the capture of the city of Kanchi. He had forced Bednur’s king Veerabhadra into accepting feudatory status of the Bijapur throne. He had attacked the Kenganayaka’s Basavapattan fort, displayed peerless valour and had defeated Kenganayaka. Only Khan’s terror was sufficient to bring the king of Chikkanayakanahalli to his knees! He had also made his name in the battles of Belur and Tumkur based on his prowess.

There was such a terror of Afzal Khan’s prowess in the southern states, that even Ceylon’s ruler was terrified of Bijapur court and Afzal Khan in particular. Afzal Khan had also once defeated Aurangzeb himself. When Aurangzeb was fighting Bijapur armies around Bidar and Kalyani (1657 CE), Afzal Khan, along with Commander-in-Chief Khan Mohammed had displayed outstanding valour and bravery. Since then, Aurangzeb was also in Afzal Khan’s awe. And in this same battle, Afzal Khan could have almost captured or killed Aurangzeb! He had been saved from Afzal’s attack purely on the basis of his luck!

Afzal Khan had taken up this idol-breaking activity like a mission, and was carrying it on with unquestioning devotion. It had become like a habit since birth. He used to feel that this was a noble deed. He used to consider himself as a virtuous man.

He was cruel by nature. He was a zealot. He was ambitious. He was brave. He was absolutely loyal to the Badshah. He was vindictive. He was a sworn enemy of the Bhosale family. He wouldn’t think twice to use any means necessary, right or wrong, to carry out the responsibility entrusted to him. In it he would even bet on his life. His awe and respect were terrible in his own Jagir, Suba and army.

He was a strict disciplinarian and an excellent administrator. He would never oppress or commit any injustice against the subjects under his control. For the welfare of his subjects, he maintained stringent discipline in his administration. Probably in that then, there was no cruel oppressive element. Only the welfare of his subjects was involved. He would not demonstrate partiality while imparting justice.

Nobody had the slightest doubt about Khan’s capability and excellent administration. But everybody was well aware of Khan’s bigoted, cruel and scheming nature. So, this ‘fine man’ had started on a campaign to capture Shivaji Maharaj alive or completely destroy him, by any means necessary. And he was riding with an urgency towards Tuljapur! This Mahishasura was riding towards Tuljapur at full gallop to break into pieces under his hammers, the family deity of Maharashtra and Maharaj himself.

Tuljapur Sacked

The Bhawani temple at Tuljapur is ancient. She was the mother to the whole Maharashtra. No Maratha household would eat a square meal without inviting Goddess Bhawani to the ritual, without completing the usual ritual offerings to the female deity, and without seeking her blessings before beginning any auspicious work. Nobody would start preparations of their marriage without seeking an attendance in her sanctum. Aaisaheb’s and Maharaj’s hearts themselves were always submitted in utmost reverence at her feet. That Tuljabhawani’s temple itself was now going to be attacked by Khan’s army.

Khan came. The whole town started running here and there in fright. Destruction reigned supreme. Idols started breaking by the dozen. The whole religious place was completely destroyed by Khan. The Goddess’ priests were called Bhope. Khan drove them away. He entered the Bhawani temple itself. He knew that Shivaji and all his Marathas were devotees of this Goddess. Khan’s mind was giddy with the pride of his own strength and bigoted hatred towards Marathas. The moment he saw the Tuljabhawani idol with its eight arms, Khan said to it with passion,

“Show me your prowess now! Show me your power!”

‘Show me the miracle of your might!’ challenging the Goddess Bhawani thus, he attacked the idol and struck the idol with his hammer! Tuljabhawani’s idol broke! It was crushed to pieces! Immediately Khan killed a cow right there in the sanctum sanctorum! Such an insult of the Tuljapur of the Marathas and Goddes Tuljabhawani herself! And that too in front of Maratha eyes! Pilaji Mohite, Shankaraji Mohite, Kalyanrao Yadav, Naikji Kharate, Naikji Pandhare, Prataprao More, Jhunjharrao Ghatge, Kate, Ghorpade, and Maharaj’s uncle Mambajiraje Bhosale himself, were all part of Afzal Khan’s army! Khan was anyways an openly declared enemy to the Marathas’ Maharashtrian religion, to Swarajya and Raje as well. Because his and Maharashtra's relationship itself was of an enemy. But what about these Marathas? Bhosale, Ghorpade, Mohite, More, Ghatge, Pandhare, Kate, Kharate, who were all these? They used to call themselves the true Marathas. And all these had become part of Afzal Khan’s campaign to behead Shivajiraje and Swarajya itself. They were not saddened by the fact that Khan had broke the Bhawani’s idol in Tuljapur. Even killed a cow… Khan was anyways killing cows everyday. These people didn’t feel a thing about it. They did not understand the importance of Swarajya, Maharashtra’s religion, and Maharaj.

Pandharpur Sacked

Khan stayed at Tuljapur for a while. Now his next target was Pandharpur! He started towards it. He came! Bheema and Chandrabhaga were frightened. Khan wrought his dance of destruction in Pandharpur as well. Pundalik (Vitthala’s devotee) was thrown in the river. Vitthala’s temple was also destroyed. Just his idol was saved somehow.

Maharaj had also received accurate and advance reports through his secret messengers, that, “Afzal Khan has been nominated by Bijapur for a campaign along with twelve thousand cavalry!”

Khan pushed ahead. None of the temples in his way remained standing. Each and every report of Khan’s campaign and atrocities were like pouring boiling oil in Maharaj’s and Aaisaheb’s ears. Maharaj got the report that Khan destroyed Tuljabhawani’s temple. He was incensed. He felt utterly dejected. But his discretion signalled, ‘Hold on’. Aaisaheb was absolutely restless because of all Khan’s reports. She kept thinking this Mahishasura would destroy Swarajya and kill Shivba as well. Aaisaheb’s concern started giving her sleepless nights.

At this time, Maharaj was in Shivapattan (Shivapur) near Rajgad. Khan was leaving a trail of decimated temples in his wake. In this his intention was really shrewd. Upon seeing that the great deities like Bhawani and Panduranga had been destroyed, Shivaji would get angry, and would come out of his hilly fortresses. He would attack Khan. And Khan absolutely desired, that Shivaji would thus expose himself on open plains. Because it was extremely easy to absolutely crush Shivaji’s pinch-full army on open plains. That was why Khan was using his demonic intellect. And Khan was headed to Wai with all these kind of activities on the way.

But his misfortune that Maharaj was really wise! He was completely aware, that if he goes out angrily with Tuljapur’s vengeance playing over his mind, everything will be destroyed. Bhawani had been broken already, with this mistake, even Swarajya’s destiny will be destroyed!

At this time, Maharaj was surrounded by Aaisaheb, and absolutely trusted lieutenants like Gomaji Naik Pansambal, Krishnaji Naik, Moropant, Nilopant, Annajipant, Sonopant, Gangaji, Mangaji, Netoji Palkar, Raghunathpant Atre, Prabhakarbhat Rajopadhye. Everybody was really afraid witnessing Khan’s terrifying character so far, and the havoc he was wreaking in front of their eyes. Besides he had also brought with him twelve thousand horse, ten thousand infantry, huge artillery and countless other armament.

Maharaj was quiet on the outside. However, a storm of thoughts was raging in his mind. He was continuously thinking. That Lone Supreme was resident in his heart. He was continuously remembering her. Mother Goddess Tuljabhawani!

Maharaj proposed one of his thoughts in the council of his advisors, due to which all the council members were frightened all the more. Maharaj ordered his army to gather around him, start the preparations for a battle with Khan in Javli. He wished to mount his counter-attack from Pratapgad.

Battle? With Khan? Difficult! Impossible! Nobody accepted this thought of a battle proposed by Maharaj. Everybody utterly refused and openly advised that there was no point in a losing battle, and he should negotiate with the Khan, and agree to a treaty. Obviously, a treaty meant the forts and the region captured for Swarajya would need to be handed over. Khan would not agree without that. Everybody was well aware of Khan’s nature. Maharaj, in his perfectly calculated, precise and accurate words, put the reality in front of everyone, that Khan intended to kill him like Sambhajiraje. There was no scope for negotiation. He proposed fighting was the only option left.

But nobody would gather up the courage to bring the thought of the battle to the forefront. Everybody was shaken with this crisis that the Khan had brought upon Swarajya. Maharaj and Mahishasurmardini (finisher of Mahishasura) Bhawani’s intent had become one. This insolent Mahisha (male buffalo) was an opponent of God and religion! What was there to negotiate with him? Tear him apart! Behead him! The whole earth grows troubled due to him!

Maharaj was engrossed in thoughts. He was thinking about the whole motive of his own life. Maharaj thought to himself, that Badshah had sent Khan in a fit of anger. They together had insulted the Goddess Tuljabhawani like the demon Nishumbha. Khan was born to destroy the Dharma, and he had begun amassing his mountain of sin. He was killing cows every day. All these foreign invaders were desirous of drowning the whole earth in their sins. Like Lord Vishnu took ten avatars to save the earth in hoary antiquity, like Ram killed Ravan, Krishna killed Kansa, and established the righteous path again. Like Narasimha appeared out of a pillar and tore apart Hiranyakashyapu just with his claws, he also must kill this Khan and destroy his demonic cruel enemies. He was born for this righteous task.

But everybody felt that they should not fight Khan at this moment. They kept saying it was very difficult with slim chance of success. Maharaj replied to that, saying the path of negotation had death written all over it. He preferred fighting and winning, dying even, and becoming famous martyrs if they didn't win.

Bajaji Naik Nimbalkar Arrested

Just then, one more report reached Maharaj. Afzal Khan went to Malwadi from Pandharpur. Naik Nimbalkar’s Faltan was near Malwadi. Khan knew, that Faltan’s Bajaji Naik Nimbalkar was Shivaji Bhosale’s wife’s brother. To incite Maharaj, Khan played one more dirty trick here. The news report was about that terrible incident.

Khan arrested Bajaji Naik Nimbalkar. He put the prisoner in fetters with a collar around his neck. Like a wild animal is hung on poles after the hunt. Khan thought, that now he had captured Shivaji's brother-in-law himself, he will try and force him to convert, and will condemn him to die at the feet of an elephant.

Actually, Bajaji Naik Nimbalkar was a loyal Sardar under the Bijapur’s Badshah. His sister Saibai was married to Shivaji Maharaj, still Naik Nimbalkar had never joined Maharaj. Instead, earlier he had joined Fateh Khan’s campaign from Bijapur. He had fought Maharaj as well. Then why was Nimbalkar being punished even after loyalty to the Badshah?

Just because Bajaji Naik was related to Shivaji Maharaj! Khan had clamped Naik Nimbalkar in collars and fetters, and had resolved to kill him at the feet of an elephant, was the news reported to Maharaj. 

Khan was curious to see what would Shivaji do now. At least now, Shivaji will get angry and will come down to the Man region plains from the hilly region in a fit of anger, was Khan’s intention in this terrible play.

Maharaj became very upset. At this time Saibaisaheb’s health was not so good. She was quite ill.

Maharaj started worrying. There was no time to even think. Finally, Maharaj decided on a resolution. In Khan’s own army, there was a renowned Maratha Sardar named Naikjiraje Pandhare. Only this Sardar was the powerful and respected enough and was close to Nimbalkar. In the hope, that maybe, Pandhareraje’s heart would relent, if urged properly and maybe some respite would be granted, Maharaj sent a request letter in utmost secrecy immediately to Naikjiraje Pandhare requesting his help to get Bajaji freed from captivity of Afzal Khan. He even agreed to pay any fine to ensure this happened.

Naikji Pandhare received this letter. Whichever way Maharaj had written the letter, reading it, Pandhare’s heart also got filled with sympathy for Bajaji. He went to Afzal Khan’s tent. He requested Khan, to free Bajaji Naik Nimbalkar from his fetters. But Khan would not relent. Still Naikji Pandhare kept on requesting to free Bajaji. Khan also started thinking. Because if he had stuck to his intention about Bajaji, then the powerful Sardar like Naikji from his own camp would get upset. These Marathas were not so respecting of their own people and religion; but they get very upset about any personal hurts to their ego. So, Khan started thinking. Finally, Khan agreed to release Bajaji upon payment of sixty thousand hon (two lakh ten thousand rupees).

It was such a huge fine, but finally on personal bond of Naikji Pandhare, Bajaji was freed from the fetters. Bajaji, Mahadaji and Savitribai Nimbalkar, took a loan from Malwadi’s moneylender Jaychandibhai and Babanbhai on interest, and kept it in front of the Khan. Bajaji also had to mortgage his Deshmukhi watan of Faltan with these moneylenders for the money.

Even this trick to pull Maharaj over to the open plains had failed. However, Khan then started towards Wai.

Khan Reaches Wai

So, Swarajya was under the storm clouds gathered all around. Khan had now reached near Wai. Khan was the erstwhile Subedar of Wai Suba. Maharaj’s diplomatic council had become flummoxed. Big diplomatic experienced stewards were bowing down in fear and because of the force of this impending storm. But Maharaj was calm and serious. He was unmoved like the peaks of the Sahyadri, the turrets of Rajgad and the Janjira standing in the seas. He had full confidence in his Bhawani. His left arm was resting on his left waist. And right hand was over his heart. Both places were blessed by Bhawani herself. Goddess Bhawani in heart, and the sword Bhawani at his waist!

Kanhoji Jedhe

Kanhoji Naik Jedhe was a renowned person in all twelve maval basins. Kanhoji was well-respected by everybody. Everybody in Maval would bow down in his respect. It would never so happen that anybody wouldn’t listen to him. All the subjects in maval basins would feel his support like a mountain. People with big names would respect him. It had become maval practice, that Kanhoji said something and everybody just did it. In some of the Adilshahi firmans, he had been addressed by an epithet-cum-suffix ‘Raje’.

Kanhoji’s family owned the Rohida basin’s Deshmukhi rights since generations. His ancestral house was in the village named Kari. This Kari village was four kos away towards the south of Bhor. Kari was nestled amongst the highest of the peaks and in the lap of the huge mountain of Raireshwar. Dense forests, deep ravines, and in them was situated Kari. The population was limited to just about hundred households. Kanhoji’s house was the biggest among them. The storehouse was overflowing with the latest crop. Huge storage of fodder. Snorting stables and rectangular courtyard. The house had a gateway manned by guards round the clock. The house used to always remain busy with servants and soldiery. The Jedhe Deshmukh family was highly respectable. It was huge as well. And now Kanhoji Naik had become a right-hand man of Shivaji Maharaj. Then the whole bustle was obviously expected.

All the Deshmukhs were taken under his influence by Kanhoji. Now everybody had resolved as per the teachings of Dadaji Konddev and Maharaj. Now no more bloodshed of our own people with our own weapons. If one dies, it would be for our God and our religion. If one kills, it must be the enemies.

Kanhoji Naik was at his own house in maval basin. Monsoon was near (June 1659). All the maval farms were baked, cracked, waiting for the first rains. At the same time, Khan had just finished the destruction of Tuljapur-Pandharpur on his campaign that had begun at Bijapur, and all the harsh firmans issued by Badshah had been sent to all the maval Deshmukhs.

And one fine day, one of the Badshah’s terrifyingly strict firman reached Kanhoji Naik Jedhe’s doorstep! The imperial messenger brought the firman. Kanhoji took the firman pouch in his hands with utmost curiosity. He opened up the scroll. The firman was on letter-head that bore the twelve-turret insignia of Ali Adilshah Badshah. The firman was in Farsi as always.

This firman of Badshah Ali Adilshah is dated 5 Sawal Suhoor San 1059 (Dt 16 June 1659). It mentioned about Shivaji's ignorant actions, and informed Kanhoji about the campaign initiated by Afzal Khan. It ordered him to join forces with Khan and help defeat and completely destroy Shivaji.

Firman was very strict. Kanhoji became serious. He was well aware of Khan’s nature. He had experienced Khan in one of the campaigns in Karnataka. He knew what kind of nature this man possessed. There was a storm raging in Kanhoji’s head. He started seeing Khan’s gigantic persona, infinite army, and thundering artillery in front of his eyes. Now this Khan would turn the whole maval region to dust, won’t let even one neck go free, whoever had joined in the bandwagon of Swarajya, would be sent to the cemeteries along with their women and children! Forget that, their homes will be turned into cemeteries! It was clearly evident that there would be nobody even left to mourn. If one had to save their lives and households, then they must go into abject surrender in front of the Khan, otherwise they should get ready to die. 

Kanhoji was stunned upon receiving that letter. Such threatening firmans might have reached other Deshmukhs similar to him, and they had actually received as well.

And Kanhoji suddenly got up. Dressing up hastily, he called out to his sons. Baji, Chandji, Mataji, Naikji, Shivji. The house was suddenly buzzing. He ordered the servants to get the horses ready. His sons came out. Kanhoji prepared to start on a journey. He ordered his sons also to accompany him. Get ready for the march. All five sons got ready with their arms by the waist. Kanhoji took the imperial firman along. Everybody took blessings from the Nageshwara and stepped out. All five sons mounted their horses behind their father. And they all started leaving a dust cloud in their wake. 

Kanhoji rode atop his horse to Welvand basin. Right in front of him, black Rajgad sitting atop the green mountain was flying the saffron standard against the blue sky. Maharaj was currently staying at Shivapur beyond Rajgad. Kanhoji had mounted the wind itself… to Maharaj!

Shocking news reports were reaching Shivapur one after the other. Everybody’s ideas had dried up because of the constant concern. Maharaj was anxious. At this time Kanhoji Naik entered. Maharaj was informed. Naik came to Maharaj’s quarters with all five sons to pay obeisance. Maharaj was surprised to see Naik. His curiosity had peaked.  

And with all five sons, Naik bowed down in respect. The bow offered was from the bottom of the heart full of utter devotion. Maharaj received all of them with a smile. Maharaj was overjoyed. Naik had come just at the right time. Still Maharaj asked out of curiosity, the reason for their arrival together.

Naik replied that the situation itself had demanded so.

Upon this, Maharaj proceeded with Naik to the secret communications room. Immediately they started their discussion. Kanhoji Naik put the imperial firman in front of Maharaj, and informed him that he had received it from the Badshah.

Maharaj saw the firman. Badshah had threatened in it, ‘Join up with Afzal Khan, otherwise consequences will be bad.’

Looking at that Maharaj informed Kanhoji that his neighbour Khandoji Khopade Deshmukh of Utravali had already gone to Afzal Khan.

Kanhoji was stunned to hear that Khandoji Khopade Deshmukh, living in his own maval basin, had gone to Afzal Khan and had joined him. Similar to Kanhoji, Khopade had also received a firman containing threats. It also contained allurements apart from the usual threats. Kanhoji became restless upon hearing that Khandoji Khopade had left Swarajya’s standard and had straightaway joined Khan. There was one more news. Sultanji Jagdale Deshmukh of Masur near Karhad had also ran for Khan’s help. Kanhoji’s heart was shocked. Thereupon Maharaj intentionally said to Kanhoji, that he should also go and join Khan in order to avoid his own watan grants, and avoid this calamity on his life.

Hearing these words from Maharaj was like shredding his heart for Kanhoji. Betrayal? Only for watandari grant and pots and pans of the household, I would betray Swarajya and Maharaj? It was like each and every wrinkle on Kanhoji’s face each and every hair on his eyebrows and eyelashes, was standing on its end and calling out loud to Maharaj, ‘What are you saying Maharaj? This Jedhe family’s progeny is not a traitor like these! This Kanhoji Jedhe is serving the Bhosale family for the past twenty-three years by offering his own head at your feet, it is not for committing an act of treason at such a time like this? Jedhes won’t betray even if Badshah showers us with seventeen such Jagirs! You think I love my own sons more than Maharaj? No, no, Maharaj, please don’t speak thus! If you want, please take your sword and behead us, but not this! I and my five sons, will die here at your feet! Let the family seed go waste here itself! I’ve come at your feet just for that.’

Maharaj kept looking at Kanhoji’s countenance. Kanhoji sprang up and passionately said to him, Senior Maharaj himself had sent him from Karnataka to serve Raje. That reward was good enough for him. He reiterated his own resolve to die along with his five sons and soldiery in Maharaj's cause, instead of betraying him.

But Maharaj reminded him of the impending confiscation of his watan.

Kanhoji instantly took some water in his hand, and let it flow at Maharaj's feet in a sacred vow of renunciation.

Maharaj was testing Kanhoji’s heart! Looking at his loyalty, Maharaj’s countenance flowered up like a yellow daisy. Maharaj was sure, that Kanhoji Naik was definitely his man! Do you think Naik got angry because he was subjected to this kind of examination by Maharaj? No, never! Maharaj was energised now like he had got the power of hundred elephants.

Then Maharaj and Naik thought about Khan’s crisis in detail. Maharaj asked Naik to go and meet all remaining maval Deshmukh to first understand their mind and bring them together. Because, like Jedhe Naik had been sent a firman, all other Deshmukhs had also been sent their own firmans. Every Deshmukh had fallen into anxiety. Now Swarajya will be destroyed along with Maharaj! And then Khan’s oppressive plough would not return to Bijapur without ruining the whole maval region. Every poor soul was confused. Maharaj gave the responsibility to talk to each of these Deshmukhs with a careful hand on their backs to Kanhoji. Kanhoji started on his return journey towards Kari after deciding everything about the next steps. That time Maharaj told him, to shift his whole household from Kari to Talegaon Dhamdhere, out of the harm's way. Avoid keeping women and children in maval region. What if there is an attack suddenly. Naik also decided to do the same.

Kanhoji Naik came to Kari. He sent messages to all the Deshmukhs and called them for a meeting. All the Deshmukhs gathered upon receiving an invitation from Naik. Kanhoji and everybody else sat together in his hall. All terrified Deshmukhs told, that they had also received the threatening imperial firmans. Shah had ordered everybody to report to Afzal Khan and join him. Upon this Kanhoji said, ‘I have also received the same.’ But in Kanhoji’s mighty words, on his face and huge body, there was no sign of fear! Afzal Khan’s power was not a consideration for him at all. However, the hearts of the rest of the Deshmukhs were jumping like the hearts of the hens about to be slaughtered! Besides, they were also aware of Khandoji Khopade leaving Swarajya and joining Khan. Deshmukhs asked Kanhoji directly, what were his thoughts.

On that Kanhoji Naik said… with utmost passion, highest emotion, that he had already renunciated his watan in favour of his loyalty to Maharaj. He had made up his mind to sacrifice himself and his sons in Maharaj's cause. He exhorted everyone to come together and serve Maharaj. Upon this, all the Deshmukhs felt instilled with bravery. All their fear vanished. Their devotion towards Maharashtra’s Mahadev came afore. All the Deshmukhs agreed with whatever was Naik's proposal.

All the Deshmukhs offered the auspicious rice of their own loyalties to Naik. Kanhoji realised, that the heads of all these Deshmukhs were ready to sacrifice themselves at a single order from Maharaj. Kanhoji was satisfied. His moustache was twirled. From the Koral pass to Mohor mountain pass, and from the Pavana to the Koyana river, every maval household and hutment resounded with loyalty to Maharaj.

With all the Deshmukhs and with the whole gathered force, Kanhoji finalised the plan to go to Maharaj. Immediately everyone brought out their own mavala battalions from the maval basins. Now every single one of them was burning with the fire of vengeance against Khan for the insult meted out to Bhawani. Besides Badshah’s letters, Khan himself had also sent letters to Deshmukhs. He had sent a letter to Haibatrao Shilamkar. He had sent another letter to Shivji Jedhe one of Kanhoji Jedhe’s sons, saying, ‘Do not hesitate because your father and brothers serve Shivaji!’ Of course, these received letters were now permanently resting in the wrappings of the official documents of all these Deshmukhs!

Bhawani's Blessing

Maharaj was in Shivapur. Khan had reached Wai. His huge camp was set up on the banks of Krishna river. Wai was flying Adilshahi flags everywhere.

Even while Maharaj was carrying out all his political activities with precaution, still, along with his efforts, he was also devoting his time towards the worship and meditation on Shree Bhawani. He was supremely confident, that Jagadamba will grant him success, and one day Maharaj had an extremely wonderful experience. Maharaj was sleeping. In his sleep he dreamt. He saw Tulajabhawani herself. The moment he saw that radiant form, he was confused for a moment. He was kept folding his hands and bowing his head at her feet. Jagadamba Bhawani picked him up and assured him smilingly, that he would be victorious. She informed him that she had made his sword her residence. Saying so, the brilliant image entered Maharaj’s Bhawani sword and vanished! That radiant brilliance of crores of suns entered the sword and merged with it. Maharaj was left standing there in front of Jagadamba with folded hands.

And Maharaj’s eyes opened. He looked around while opening his eyes. It was a dream. Tulajabhawani had come in his dream and blessed him. He was so happy! Maharaj again folded his hands! Jagadamb! Jagadamb! Jay Bhawani!

He called Aaisaheb, Netoji, Moropant, Nilopant, Raghunathpant, Gomaji Naik Pansambal, Krishnaji Naik, Prabhakarbhat Rajopadhye etc. folks to gather around and told all of them this ethereal dream, and informed them that the Goddess was delighted with them. He expressed confidence about being able to kill Afzal Khan.

All these people had earlier been frightened. They were saying all the while, “Start negotiations with the Khan! Don’t fight a battle! Do a treaty! Don’t fight!" Maharaj told them all about this ethereal revelation with Tulajamata. All these closest confidantes also felt relieved. Maharaj himself started feeling that he had got the power to win over Death itself. Still he proposed discreetly and with patience that Mother Aaisaheb and young Sambhajiraje needed to be kept protected at Rajgad. If he was successful in killing Afzal Khan, then well and good. But if he got killed somehow in the battle, then he entrusted the responsibility of managing the kingdom to his trusted lieutenants and carrying on the cause in the name of Sambhajiraje.

Maharaj was thus talking of his own death like this. Everybody’s hearts were shaking. Khan had reached Wai. Prataprao More, a brother to Chandrarao More of Javli was with him. Prataprao’s utmost ambition was to recapture the whole Javli kingdom and the epithet of Chandrarao. Prataprao had been especially advising Khan all this while, capture Javli. Based on this studied advice from him, Khan started planning to capture Javli. This whole Javli region was one of extremely dense and difficult forests and ravines, and Prataprao was well-informed about it, so Khan would usually listen to this expert. Khan’s plans were being conveyed to Maharaj. One of Maharaj’s spies Vishwasrao Nanaji Dighe was constantly buzzing around Wai and the surrounding areas. Maharaj had also arrived at a considered decision, that if he had to fight Khan, it would have to happen in this difficult terrain of Javli. And he decided to himself go to Pratapgad, and keep Aaisaheb and Shambhuraje safe at Rajgad.

It was certain that Khan would soon enter Swarajya. And Maharaj’s plan was now ready. Until he enters these anthills of Sahyadri, he won’t even hear a small hiss; but once he enters the anthills…!

Maharaj immediately signalled to Netoji Palkar, to block Afzal Khan's return from Javli by climbing the western ghat summit on the other side. Maharaj ordered Raghunath Ballal Sabnis that he should accompany Sarnaubat (Commander-in-Chief) Netoji Palkar. Similarly, he sent messengers to his cousin Babajiraje Bhosale who was in the Bheema river basin, and Shamrajpant Ranjhekar and Tryambak Bhaskar who were in Konkan with the message, asking them to come and meet him at Pratapgad. And Maharaj started for Pratapgad. He was embarking on the journey to face an extremely difficult, terrifying incident which could almost threatened his life. Maharaj had decided to meet Khan face-to-face!

But it was time now to first carry out something which was even more difficult than that. To bid farewell to Aaisaheb! And second excruciatingly painful task was to take leave of Queen Saibai! Mother and wife.

The fact that Shivba would leave her and go to Pratapgad, was something completely unbearable to Aaisaheb. The moment she learnt that Shivba had decided to face the Khan personally, it was as if her heart had started getting churned by a churning stick having sharp edges. ‘Shivba, do not leave me!’ was the sob that tried bursting up from the mother’s heart. It was extremely difficult to become Shivaji’s mother.

Aaisaheb had had total six sons. Shivba was the sixth. Shivba was the last one to be fed on Aaisaheb’s milk. Out of the elder five sons, four had already been taken away by Death in their infancy. Only one of them could grow up. Sambhajiraja. He used to always be with his father Shahajiraje, at Bengaluru. But he was also dead now! It was on account of the cruel and intentional delay of this same Afzal Khan, that Shivba’s own elder brother Sambhajiraja had been killed (1656 CE). Now only Shivba remained. A lone heir.

Maharaj asked to all the stewards while leaving, to make Sambhajiraje the king, if he died in battle.

And he turned towards Aaisaheb who had been keeping her heart imprisoned within the ramparts of tough exterior. Shivba is going to Pratapgad, and then one day he would also go and meet Khan face-to-face! Aaisaheb asked him passionately to avoid going for a face-to-face meeting with Khan.

To this Maharaj seriously asked for this permission from her, to allow her to meet Khan face-to-face.

Aaisaheb had stood there with so many invocations of the Mother Jagadamba herself. She was really courageous. She knew the tough duties of a king and politics. She was someone who would behave carefully, understanding the twists and turns of a situation. She would be the one who would calmly and generously encourage even experienced diplomats if they committed any mistakes. But finally, she was also a mother to her son! 

Aaisaheb’s Shivba was standing in front of her to seek her blessings. Shivba’s whole ‘life’ was offered as service to God, subjects and religion. Shivba was going to Pratapgad to carry on this ‘living’. It was clear that Shivba must go. Slowly Aaisaheb’s heart started acquiring the toughness of a Sahyadri cliff. Now she started feeling that Shivba must go to Pratapgad! Maharaj touched her feet with his forehead. Aaisaheb bade farewell to her beloved son with blessings, and exhorted him to avenge his brother Sambhaji.

Aaisaheb reminded Shivba of Sambhajiraje’s death with passion. Reminder of vengeance. She blessed him, bade him farewell. Maharaj also took leave of Queen Saibai. She was ill. He embraced a two-year-old Sambhajiraje. He took leave of the Daruni mansion.

And Maharaj’s feet took the road to Pratapgad (Dt 11 July 1659).

Maharaj at Pratapgad

Pratapgad was slightly towards the southwest of Rajgad at a distance of around twelve kos.

Maharaj came to Pratapgad. It was just the start of monsoon. Krishna and Koyana rivers had already started overflowing. Khan was sitting quiet in Wai only because of the rains. Otherwise he would have attacked Maharaj immediately after reaching there. Khan had encamped in Wai for a long haul with all his family and retinue. Now he was only waiting for the rains to subside. But in the meanwhile, he had sent detachments of his army to attack some other areas within Swarajya. Kalyanji Yadav alias Jadhav was sent to Supa pargana, Naikjiraje Pandhare on Shirval, Naikji Kharate on Saswad, Siddi Hilal on Kariyat maval basin, and Siddi Saif Khan attacked the Konkan plains. Some area in all these regions and even the cantonment at Shirval, was lost to these attacking forces.

But Khan especially wanted Shivaji himself. His time and money were being wasted in capturing cantonments, fortresses and forts. Khan was hungry for Shivaji. So, he was planning to anyhow capture Shivaji alive, through a meeting at Wai if possible, and prove himself the mighty servant of Badshah. And so, he planned to send his intelligent, clever emissary with a letter to Shivaji, and to outwit Shivaji through this emissary, and somehow get him to leave Pratapgad and meet himself in Wai. Badi Begum Saheba and the Badshah had anyways advised him to capture or kill Shivaji through subterfuge. Khan was thinking along the same lines.

Maharaj was busy in his own discussions atop Pratapgad. Looking at Khan who had come to vanquish Maharaj, his enemies in the Konkan – Siddi and the foreigners – had started their movements. Siddi Saif Khan was attacking the Swarajya realms. One more shrewd enemy was trying out his pranks. He was the warehouse owner of Rajapur, the hat-wearing British, Henry Rivington. These British were extremely shrewd. They were carrying on their political sleight of hand under the guise of commercial operations. Maharaj’s spies were everywhere. They were bringing detailed and internal secrets from every adversary.

One more news report came, that a few ships laden with cargo owned by Afzal Khan were anchored in the Jaitapur creek. Each of these news reports were reaching Pratapgad one by one.

Hearing all these news reports reaching the fort daily, a common cowardly man in Maharaj’s place would have lost his nerve and would have ended up on his deathbed. Khan had embarked upon a spree to increase his own power. An imperial order had been sent from Bijapur to Vishalgad’s Thanedar, Abdul Qadir Sarvarkhan, to join Afzal Khan with the whole army kept at Vishalgad.

Saibai's Death

And in these, one day an excruciatingly painful news reached the fort. The whole Pratapgad fell into grief. Everybody’s hung their heads. The news had come from Rajgad. Destiny had offered one more bitter poisoned chalice to Maharaj. Maharaj heard the news. Queen Saibaisaheb had breathed her last (Dt 5 September 1659)! It was Bhadrapad Vadya Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the waning moon fortnight in Bhadrapad month) on this day. Actually, Maharaj and his queen were deeply in love with each other, and enjoying married bliss. But suddenly Yamraj, the Lord of Death had casted his net. 

Ranisaheb was extremely beautiful and sweet-natured. Maharaj had been married to her for eighteen years. Pant Dadaji Konddev was also alive then. This delicate Laxmi (Goddess of Wealth) had entered the Bhosale household eighteen years back holding Maharaj’s hands when she had been barely seven years old. She was a sister of Bajaji Naik Nimbalkar of Faltan. Around two years and three months before, she had given birth to Sambhajiraje atop the Purandar fort (Dt 14 May 1657). Since then she was not keeping well. Her own milk couldn’t prove enough for Sambhajiraje. So Aaisaheb had had to bring to Rajgad, a lady named Dhara Gade of Kapurvahal as his milk-mother.

Ranisaheb had taken leave of this world in a situation when the Khan’s crisis was hovering over Maharaj and everybody was in deepest anxiety. Maharaj quietly gulped down this misery. Now the only worry was Swarajya.

Kanhoji & Other Deshmukhs

The maval horses were eager for an adventure. Swords were rustling. Kanhoji Jedhe had brought together all the Deshmukhs of the twelve maval basins, along with their forces. Now they were no longer ready to be cowed down by the scrolls of imperial firmans. They had started roaring Har Har Mahadev following Kanhoji. Jhunjharrao Maral, Haibatrao Shilamkar, Yashwantrao Pasalkar, Marne, Dhamale, Bandal, Dohar etc. expert fighters had joined in. All the sacred rivers of maval basins had started flowing towards Pratapgad. Koyana basin resounded with the cheers for gods and goddesses. This tide overcame that dense deep forest throbbing, frothing and climbed up Pratapgad. Maharaj got the news. Kanhoji Jedhe Naik had come! He had brought along thousands of wrists from the twelve mavals! Maharaj smiled at this ray of hope. This crisis brought by Khan was so terrifying, that Maharaj was valuing each of these men like his own limbs. And Kanhoji was not alone. Now Maharaj felt like he had accrued the power of ten thousand elephants!

At the same time Babaji Bhosale also reached Pratapgad with his men. Badshah had sent one firman to Babaji also, to join forces with Afzal Khan! Babaji had rolled up the firman and kept it along with his other documents, and instantly started riding, only to be halted at Maharaj’s feet!

Each and every chevalier, each bombardier, and every marksman, even common assistant was concerned about Maharaj. Everybody was so devoted to Maharaj, that they felt, where to hide their king from this crisis? They blindly believed, that serving Maharaj meant searching God and their religion. Everybody had got convinced through experience that their lives had been turned into pure gold by coming in contact with Maharaj. Carrying saffron standard and attacking the Badshah was as religious and virtuous a task that brought salvation, as was carrying the saffron flags on their shoulders and spend the whole life doing pilgrimages to Pandharpur! They believed ‘Tuljapur’s Bhawani would become more and more satisfied as they free villages from the Sultan’s control one by one. Now, if they destroy Khan, who had insulted the Goddess herself, that ever graceful Khandeshwari Durgabhawani would pat their backs with all her eight arms! That was real spiritual work. This was Maharashtra. This was God’s own kingdom. This must be carefully protected even at the cost of their lives!’

Everybody’s blood was boiling with anger about Khan. Khan intends to destroy Maharaj! Let him come! Our Maharaj is blessed by Jagadamba herself! If she doesn’t accept this sacrifice of this goat with thirty-two teeth, then the whole relationship between Mother Bhawani and Shivajiraja is false! Such was the huff and passion that had crept in each of Maharaj’s mavalas. Maharaj had so much of loving impact on these simpleton, loyal, and brave friends, that everybody would consider Maharaj his own brother.

Kanhoji Naik reached Pratapgad. Now the fort resounded with a completely different kind of bravery. Otherwise the existing population on the fort were like living under a dark shadow before. Tanhaji, Yesaji, Moropant, Suryaji etc. people were anxious. Because everybody was concerned, if all the other Deshmukhs join Khan like Khandoji Khopade had. But Kanhoji came and the fort smiled.

Kanhoji took everyone along to pay obeisance to Maharaj. Maharaj himself received them with an overwhelmed and deeply touched heart. Maharaj was sitting in the nine-yard courtroom. Kanhoji and all the other Deshmukhs sat around him. Of course, discussion about the Khan ensued. That time Kanhoji asked everyone to take a sacred vow of loyalty to Maharaj. And instantaneously each of the Deshmukhs stood up in front of Maharaj and took his vows.

And then Maharaj ordered a sumptuous meal for everybody. All of them, including Maharaj, sat together sitting right beside each other.

And there in Wai? Khan was under the influence of his heady arrogance. He was a sworn enemy of the poor people and their Gods resident in Swarajya. He violated the modesty of the region. The people were afraid.

Khan prepared to send his emissary to Pratapgad. Krishnaji Bhaskar Kulkarni, a resident of Wai was in his service. Krishnajipant also used to feel passionately about Khan. Pant was Khan’s advisor. It was him who had advised Khan to send letters to Haibatrao Shilamkar and Shivji Jedhe asking them to join the campaign. Of course, nobody fell prey to such treachery. Everybody had gone straight to Maharaj at Pratapgad.

Khan’s emissary Krishnajipant Kulkarni started from Wai towards Pratapgad. Khan had instructed him about everything.

The news of Khan’s campaign had spread not only all over Deccan, but also in the rest of the Hindustan. Aurangzeb, Qutubshah, British, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, French, Siddi, Mughal Subedars, and Bijapur’s Thanedars, all had their curious eye on this unique confrontation between Afzal Khan and Shivaji Bhosale. Everybody desired, secretly or otherwise, for Shivaji to be wiped out without their involvement. Everybody was waiting for the latest news reports.

Khan's Emissary

And one report reached the fort, that Khan’s emissary is approaching the fort. Khan’s emissary! Actually, just a common man, like anybody else, but his approach brought curiosity and concern back to the fort. The emissary was granted entrance with due respect. He was given an excellent independent house atop the fort as his living quarters. All his required needs, including assistants, were met properly. Then the emissary was taken to meet Maharaj. He was accorded due reception like in an imperial court. After usual conversation, the emissary came upon the primary subject at hand. The emissary started to inform Maharaj, whatever Khan had instructed him. Afzal Khan had reached Wai; he and Shivajiraje's father Shahajiraje went long back in their brotherhood and affection; and Khan did not consider Shivajiraje a stranger. He asked Shivajiraje to come and meet Khan. He tried to allure Raje by promising that Khan would recommend the kingdom and Jagir of Konkan plains to the Badshah. He agreed to allow Raje to keep all the forts he had captured till then, and get Khan to officially proclaim him the overlord for these regions. The only condition was to come and meet Khan.

The emissary had sowed both hands full of sugar supplied by Khan. Maharaj replied sweetly, that Khansaheb is like a father to him, and showed eagerness to meet him.

Khan had also given a letter for Maharaj. Krishnaji Bhaskar put that letter in front of Maharaj. Maharaj took the letter and bade farewell to Krishnajipant, so that he could go and take rest at his living quarters. Maharaj told him, he will provide the official response to the letter, the next day. Krishnajipant left for his appointed quarters.

(Kavindra) Paramanand has included two letters in his Sanskrit epic ‘Shivabharat’, one of them was a letter sent by Afzal Khan to Maharaj. The overall purport of that letter is that, after the Nizamshahi was vanquished, the area which fell under Adilshah’s control, had been given to Mughals in order to maintain peace. Maharaj had captured this whole region dotted with hilly forts. He had besieged (Danda) Rajapuri’s sardar (Janjira’s Siddi) many times in the past and had captured his region as well. He was angry with Maharaj. Chandrarao’s (More) realms were so inaccessible, but Maharaj had attacked him too, and had captured that huge realm forcefully after fighting with him. Maharaj had captured Kalyan and Bhiwandi too, and it was said that he had destroyed the masjids there. He had looted everything from the Muslims. He had insulted them. They were very angry with Maharaj. He didn’t even understand his own power. He had imposed restrictions on Islamic Qazis and Fakir Aulias. He had raised obstacles to prevent the Muslims from following their religion. He used all the royal insignia freely; he sat over the golden throne unjustifiably. He fined, punished, or pardoned people using his own power, and obstinately refused to obey the orders from those who should be obeyed. He roamed around as he liked or thought. He didn’t fear anybody. For all these reasons, the great Adilshah has sent Afzal Khan himself. The army accompanying Khan was constantly insisting on a battle. Muse Khan and other officials with him also favoured a fight. The sardars who intended to take Javli back also desired the same. All those kept telling him again and again that he should attack Maharaj. So, Shivaji was to follow his orders, give back all of his regions and forts. Big and strong forts like Sinhagad, Lohagad, similarly Purandar fort, Chakan town, the region between Neera and Bhima rivers, all this region, Shivaji was to hand back to the all-powerful Emperor of Delhi. And Ali (Adil) Shah demanded that Maharaj also handed back the Javli kingdom that had been forcefully captured from Chandrarao.[ref]

Maharaj took Khan’s letter. He sat privately with his diplomatic council of advisors. Pantaji Gopinath Bokil, Moropant, Shamrajpant Ranjhekar, Raghunathpant Atre, Naropant, Sonopant etc. everybody was in that meeting. One of them started reading Khan’s letter aloud. Khan had written to Maharaj, that his behaviour had become irresponsible with time, and it was prickling the Badshah Adilshah like a sharp arrow. He had taken the whole region in his control. Apart from listing down all such transgressions by Maharaj, Afzal Khan had also warned him that his whole retinue that had accompanied him kept on instigating him for battle. Still he was trying for conciliation and was desiorous of treaty.

Maharaj listened to every word of this letter from Khan. Khan had threateningly written, ‘I am neither ready nor desirous of battle, but my brave army and sardars like Muse Khan etc. are encouraging me for battle.’ Still, Khan was ‘ordering’ Maharaj to hand over the whole Swarajya and come to terms! Maharaj discussed with his council in extremely minute detail.

The most important question was, now whom to send to Khan as his own emissary. Maharaj chose a perfect man. Intelligent, shrewd, trusted, experienced, honourable, skilled and equally cunning! His name was Pantaji Gopinath Bokil. He was especially close, of the people at the fort. He was like family to Maharaj. His stature reached to (the limit of) even at times playing the old Chausar game with Aaisaheb herself. Everybody used to call him ‘Kaka’ with utmost respect and affection. He had been in Maharaj’s service for a long time. Maharaj used to respect Kaka a lot. Pantajikaka was Maharaj’s Chitnis. Kaka’s surname was Bokil. There is a village named Hiwre near Saswad. He was a Kulkarni of that village. (Maharaj thought) this tough pawn in political chessboard must be entrusted to Kaka. He would play it well.

Maharaj's Response

And it was decided, that Pantajikaka will be sent to Khan as an emissary. Same way, the responses to be provided to Krishnaji Bhaskar, were also decided. The sun set.

It rose the next day. Maharaj sent for Krishnaji Bhaskar for an interview. He came. Khan had absolutely warned him, to ensure Shivaji comes along with him for the meeting, by hook or crook. Krishnajipant came to the assembly hall to meet Maharaj. Pantajikaka was also in attendance. Maharaj had already spoken with Kaka prior to the meeting. Now Maharaj said to the Khan’s emissary with utmost concern on his face, that it was merciful of Afzal Khan to have offered hims treaty. He had only the utmost respect for Khan, and he was extremely frightened. He requested Khan to come to Javli instead to allay his fears, and he would happily meet Khan face to face there, to carry out the terms of the treaty and lay down his arms.

Krishnaji Bhaskar tried his best to get Maharaj to come with him to Wai. But Maharaj also stood firm on his stand that, he was afraid of Khansaheb. He had committed many grave mistakes. Khansaheb should come to Javli, pardon him, holding his hands, should take him to the Badshah. He was ready to hand over all the forts, Javli. He considered Khansaheb as almost his father, but he had to come there. Upon this, Khan’s emissary accepted whatever Maharaj was saying so completely, that he agreed to relay this whole message to Khansaheb himself.

Then Maharaj felicitated Krishnaji Bhaskar with protocol clothes to demonstrate respect. Similarly, he gave further high-quality clothes for Khan with Pantajikaka and sent him with Krishnajipant. 

Pantajikaka prepared himself to start the journey with Krishnaji Bhaskar. Before they started Maharaj confided in Pantajikaka in solitude, to meet Khan and engage him in conversation, to provide his solemn vow. He entreated Kaka to anyhow make Khan accept his proposal to come to Javli. He also asked Kaka to collect all information about the Khan's army encampment with the intention to gauge Khan's real motive about Shivajiraje.

Kaka was so expert, that he had taken even greater precautions than this. Kaka and Krishnajipant started to go to Wai from Pratapgad.

From the high mountain pass of Pasarni, the Khan’s encampment spread everywhere in Wai was clearly visible. The white tents and camps in the surrounding greenery was looking like monsoon mushrooms. On one side the Pandavgad, the other side Sonjai and Chandangad range towards the east were standing guard. River Krishna was flowing in the middle winding its way. Normally, the village of Wai standing on the evergreen banks of Krishna river would seem extremely picturesque. But in the dense outcrop of Khan’s camp, all the temples of Wai had vanished. Wai had been hijacked.

Pantajikaka started to climb down into the Wai basin. Thousands of kinds of thoughts occupied his mind. Khan’s encampment was coming nearer with every passing moment. Krishnaji Bhaskar and Kaka reached Wai. And entered the camp. Kaka’s eye for minute detail started noting down everything in Khan’s camp. The camp was bustling. The stay ropes of all the tents were spread everywhere like a spider-web. Khan had spread such a huge web. Countless elephants were standing with their trunks hanging about. So many big and small cannons stood yawning. Camels were plying the weights of their loads from one place to another. Thousands of horses were kept ready in their stables. Besides numerous servants performing their many daily activities, were roaming around in the camp. Armament was ample. Guns, spears, armour, shields, swords, staffs etc. weaponry was infinite.

One part of the encampment was taken up by an overflowing marketplace. It was full with things from articles to eat and drink, up to even precious stones and jewellery. Absolutely convinced that Shivaji will be defeated, many jewellers, gemstone workers, sellers of real pearls had come with Khan taking along their trunk-full of diamonds and pearls. With the intention to get some kind of business, wherever the camp would be setup, they had carried overflowing cartloads of their own goods along with Khan.

Pantajikaka was spying the whole camp with his eye for detail. Overall, Khan’s camp was extremely powerful, extremely prosperous, extremely wealthy, extremely careless, and extremely courageous as well as skilled. And the army at Pratapgad on the other hand? Extremely insufficient and poor, in bare necessities! Such imperial style, so many elephants, cannons, ammunition, treasure, camels, mules, bulls, such countless armament, a giant of a leader of unmatched strength, and such arrogance? No! Swarajya was not blessed with a single item out of these! Looking at that vast and excellent preparation of Khan, a small prickle of concern gave goose bumps to Kaka. 

Khan was eager to meet his own and Maharaj’s emissaries. Khan’s emissary first went to meet him, and he told the full initial story to Khan. How much Shivaji is afraid, how he is repenting, and how he’s praying for mercy in utter helplessness without uttering a single word about battle, Krishnajipant told Khan everything. Khan heard that, ever since their army has reached Wai, Shivaji had holed himself up atop Pratapgad! They had made his arrogance and sound sleep vanish completely! Now he was ready to hand over the whole region, and even Javli unquestioningly, and he was overjoyed! Khan ordered Krishnajipant to bring Shivajiraja’s emissary for the interview.

Krishnaji Bhaskar came and met Pantajikaka and asked him to meet Khan. Pantajikaka got up. Kaka took the gifts and protocol clothes meant for Khan with a servant and started. Now to meet Khan! Kaka approached Khan bowing down in respect and humility. That giant of a messenger of death was sitting in makeshift court tent. Kaka offered the gifts to Khan, and private discussions started between Khan, Krishnaji Bhaskar and Pantaji Kaka. Kaka presented the letter-pouch to Khan with utmost respect. It was a letter written by Maharaj himself to Khan. It begged for Khan's friendship, requested his pardon, and vowed to serve Adilshah thereafter. In short, an admission of guilt right from the toenails up to the hair on head!

Krishnaji Bhaskar completed reading the letter. Khan’s face had a sweet satisfied smile. Kaka said humbly to Khan that Shivajiraje was not a stranger. He considered Khan an equal of Shahajiraje. Raje was well aware of Khan's valour and awe, and was grateful for his mercy. It was Shivajiraje's humble request, on account of his own fear, to come to Javli. This would give some courage to Raje.

Hearing Kaka’s words, Khan was extremely happy. He felt like, his campaign was utterly successful and Javli had come under his control! But he felt a little uncomfortable to enter the terrible ravine of Javli. He knew that forest well. He was insistent that, Shivaji himself should come to Wai! This would ensure Shivaji’s lifelong welfare! Maharaj was insistent upon, granting Khan his own lifelong welfare, but in Javli.

Khan thought deeply. Shivaji was calling them along with the army. Just hearing about his fame, Shivaji was absolutely frightened. Even if he went to Javli, he would go there with the whole army. How would Shivaji possibly harm them? He would personally wring Shivaji's neck! How much was his power? If his sword, his army, and his cannons get up incensed would Shivaji stand in front of them? That’s it, let us go to Javli! His own trusted emissary Krishnaji Bhaskar Pandit was saying. Besides mighty sardars like Prataprao More, Khawas Khan and Ankush Khan themselves were urging him to fight wherever Shivaji stood to fight. Then what was wrong in going to Javli?

Khan showed positive inclination! Once inclined, just a small step remains for the fall! Khan already had the required arrogance, impetuosity, and unthinking behaviour in sufficient measure. He thought deeply using this capital. Of course, it was hasty thoughtlessness. Shivaji was ready for an interview and handing over all his kingdom; his only condition was, the interview should happen beneath Pratapgad. What could happen? Shivaji won’t sum up the courage to fight in the heat of the moment! If he didn't go, Shivaji would remain holed up in his fort. Shivaji would start running from one fort to the other. Then how would Khan find him? Then it would become a greatly difficult task. This whole region was hilly. Khan had the army. If that swindler didn't keep his solemn word, this vast army he had was prepared to fight! Once Shivaji came to meet him as agreed, then he won’t escape his wrath! Khan thought like this. 

Pantajikaka requested him with great sincerity, to come to Javli without suspicion or fear. He told Khan that Shivajiraje would enter his service, and would listen to whatever he said, but in Javli.

Upon this Khan expressed his displeasure about Shivaji's fear. He asked Kaka to stand responsible and assure him so that on his word only he would agree to come to Javli for the interview. He knew Shivaji was a traitor.

Hearing such bitter words showered on Maharaj by the Khan, Pantaji took this oath without a second thought! And added another urge not to be suspicious.

And Khan agreed! He agreed to come to Javli with his whole army! Maharaj had the utmost desire that Khan should come along with all his army and the whole armament! Because…? To ensure everything is vanquished in one fell swoop! All his intentions would get completed together! Kaka had won half the battle in this interview!

Khan comes to Javli

Khan bade farewell to Pantaji so that he could proceed to his resting place. Pantajikaka came to his camp. He did not immediately start for Pratapgad. He remained in the camp. In anticipation of gathering any secret intelligence. Maharaj’s other spies were also keeping a close watch over the camp.

Kaka sought interviews with many other sardars in standard emissary style. Khan’s camp had the presence of many sardars. While coming from Pratapgad, Kaka had brought with him various gift articles, precious things and hard cash. Kaka met some already identified sardars and diplomats and unknowingly, by offering generous gifts, extracted confidential information!

And Kaka uncovered the secret political ploy Khan had in his mind! Kaka became aware that, Khan was of a strong opinion that Shivaji was a swindler! Trying to fight him directly, he wouldn't show up face-to-face. So he was engaging Shivaji in false diplomacy, and planned to capture him at the time of the meeting.

Hearing this, Kaka’s heart started beating fast. In all, Khan’s confirmed intention was, to betray. And then Kaka couldn’t sit still. He somehow stayed the night in the camp, and the next day he started towards Pratapgad. He met Khan once again before leaving, and sought permission to go to Pratapgad. However, this time Khan felicitated Kaka with due protocol and bade him farewell.

One thing was decided. Khan will definitely come beneath Pratapgad for the meeting! Pantaji Gopinath Bokil took the road to the fort with a mixture of happiness and concern in his heart.

Some Sane Advice

All the Khan’s sardars had got the news about Khan agreeing with Shivaji’s emissary, that he would come to Javli’s valley for the meeting. Some of the sardars in these were extremely circumspect and really loyal caretakers of the imperial interests. But some others were pure brutes! Pantaji Gopinath had already extracted Khan’s real cruel intention from these other ones with his sweet talk! Some of the sardars were highly excited. They were in a hurry to anyhow defeat Shivaji even by going to Javli. But some wise foresighted sardars told Khan in no uncertain terms that going to Javli was dangerous. Taking his whole army containing elephants and cavalry there, would be all the more sending an invitation to calamity. The region was full of dense forests and mountains.

Upon this, his face colouring with evident and extreme anger, and blinded with hatred, Khan berated them for praising Shivaji's bravery. They did not recognize Afzal Khan's might. Khan decided, now he must go to Javli. And he ordered the whole cantonment to start the preparations for the march to Javli.

Maharaj was waiting for Pantajikaka on the fort. Storing Afzal Khan’s threatening message in his heart, Kaka had started from his camp and reached the fort. Maharaj met him eagerly. Kaka told him the whole story. Maharaj felt, Khan’s agreement to come to Javli was such an excellent achievement that half the battle had been won already. Kaka informed about the discussion that had taken place with Khan, and the intelligence he had gathered about the camp itself.

Maharaj's Plan

That night, Maharaj sent for Kaka in absolute privacy. Maharaj asked him to relate any other secret intelligence he had gathered about the cantonment. Upon this Kaka started relaying the whole story, that Khan nursed the thought of betrayal in the deepest recesses of his heart.

It was confirmed that Khan’s intention was to openly betray. Maharaj had also assumed this from the beginning. Because in Karnataka campaign, this same Khan had called the Shirepattan’s King Kasturiranga outside the fort under the pretext of negotiations. He gave his own word to earn his trust. Kasturiranga came to meet Khan trusting him, and during the meeting Khan engineered his assassination! This Khan’s history had run ahead of him afresh. But looking at this demonic nature of Khan, Maharaj became all the more serious.

On this Kaka assured him, that he will bring Khan to Javli. He was to catch Khan in solitude and kill him with all his courage, plunder the whole army and armaments, and claim his kingdom back. Pantaji had this plan! This was his desire. This was the advice. Maharaj agreed with it. This was a task of extreme courage and high risk to life. It was not easy. Still Kaka said, summon up all courage and kill him while alone! 

Maharaj decided to send Kaka to Khan again. Urge Khan again to come to Javli. Maharaj had resolved to, entrap this bigoted hater, who was hell-bent upon betraying him, in the Javli ravine and drown him there along with his army.

These plans were being discussed on the fort every day. Tanhaji, Kanhoji, Yesaji, Moropant, Shamrajpant etc. people were continuously thinking about this crisis upon the kingdom sitting alongside Maharaj. Day by day, the fort’s air was thickening with extreme anxiety. Aaisaheb sitting at Rajgad was getting concerned there. Maharaj had not brought her to Pratapgad on purpose. Because if she had personally witnessed the game taking place with Khan, then it would have been stressful for her heart. But the stress was not any less sitting stop Rajgad as well.

Kaka again started towards Wai. Pratapgad was sixteen kos from Wai. With such difficult hilly routes. Getting down half a kos from Pratapgad, again one-and-half kos climb to the top of Mahabaleshwar mountain, again climbing down the Pasarni pass for one-and-half kos. Kaka, in his age and bodily condition, was covering this distance, sometimes on horse, sometimes in the palanquin, and sometimes walking. One round was complete. Now he had started a second time. Before starting Maharaj had asked Kaka to impress upon Khan that Shivaji was afraid.

Kaka started. Reached Wai. Khan was already getting prepared to come to Javli, even more than an eager bridegroom. Still Pantaji went at his job of convincing Khan to come to Javli.

Khan was surprised how afraid Shivaji was. He promised that he will definitely come to Javli.

Khan Reaches Javli

And Khan’s whole army, elephants, camels, cannons and bullocks started their journey towards Javli. Now, how were these poor animals going to climb that high mountain pass for one-and-half kos, how were they to cross the five kos of dense forest at the top, and then how were they to climb down the extremely difficult Radtondi mountain pass? How was this Bijapur army, which had spent whole life in revelry, to carry those heavy cannons, tentage, huge trunks containing all packed goods, food grains, and fodder, and reach Javli’s deep ravine? Was it a joke to cross this huge and vast Sahyadri? Earlier one more crazy fellow named Mohammed Tughlaq had decided to cross the Himalaya and attack China. He lost whole of his army in that huge heap of snow. The power of Lord Shiva resident in the Himalayas defeated him. Now Afzal Khan had embarked upon the misadventure to win over Shiva’s power resident at Pratapgad by crossing the huge Sahyadri range. And who were his advisors? Prataprao More, Khawas Khan, and Ankush Khan! 

The army was moving with ant’s feet. All the detailed intelligence regarding the march was being conveyed to the fort every day through the appointed spies. Pantajikaka had also reached the fort. Maharaj had kept excellent security at the fort. The preparations and the concern were increasing by the day.

It is impossible to say, what all troubles were faced by Khan’s animals like elephants, camels and the heavy armaments like cannons etc. while they climbed the whole mountain. Elephants were climbing up taking support of the trees winding their trunks around them. The war-hardened skin of these huge beasts was also getting torn in the brambles and their knees were getting bloody. They were somehow making it up. Horses and other animals were also facing the same plight. Large boulders getting loosened up because of the weight of all these elephants were crushing the people climbing beneath. All the standards and umbrellas of Khan were getting torn, caught in the brambles. Many people fell down the cliffs. Animals’ backs were permanently broken. It was extremely exhausting. They felt like they have reached heaven when they reached the summit of Sahyadri. Now there was a dense forest without any set routes for five kos, and then only one-and-half kos long sliding incline and then Javli’s ravine! Finally, all this retinue reached Javli bearing extreme pain, falling down, getting up again with shaky legs. The whole forest was abuzz with Khan’s army. Not a single bird would be visible around.

Pratapgad’s base was around one-and-half kos from Javli. Javli was surrounded by extremely high mountains and forests on all sides. Afzal Khan had finally reached there.

Everybody atop the fort was concerned. They had lost their sleep. Everybody was absolutely alert every moment of their waking time. This Khan had made everybody’s hearts extremely restless.

Khan had encamped this time in the Koyana river basin. In that forest, even thousands of the soldiers of Khan started getting frightened. But Khan was not afraid at all. He thought to himself, that Javli was now his to take.

The land required to establish the camp was cleared in the forest and huge tents were erected. The elephants were tied in their usual chains. Horses were provided their space by driving huge pegs in the ground. Camels were also secured at another place. All these movements and the soldiers roaming around made that forest completely busy. That huge army was also seeming just a pinch-full in the whole dense forest. It had got hidden in that huge forest.

Plan for Meeting

Maharaj called an assembly of all his special council members at the fort. Going to Khan’s cantonment and meeting him would definitely be embracing death. So, it was decided that Khan should now be invited to one of the machis (trunks) of Pratapgad, and how should he come… i.e. how Maharaj wanted him to come… This was the draft Maharaj had readied up for the discussion! Maharaj decided to send Pantajikaka again to Khan, with every detail of the plan carefully worked out first. Kaka and the spies had previously provided Maharaj with an extremely invaluable information. The information was, that Khan’s convoy also included various jewellers from Bijapur who were holding huge wealth! Hearing this information, Maharaj had become restless! Fatherly great man like Khan was coming to meet him! Besides, all the greats like Ankush Khan, Muse Khan, Ambar Khan, Yakut Khan and his own uncle Mambajiraje Bhosale himself had come to his region. Now how to show his respect towards all these. So, Maharaj decided that anyways these jewellers had accompanied Khan here. Let them be invited to the fort. Khan will send them all to us upon request. All their goods would be bought in one go!

And Pantaji Gopinath started to meet Khan from the fort, again. He reached Khan’s camp. Met him. The whole story of how Maharaj had been frightened, and how he is under an awe and respect of Khan, was recounted to him. Khan’s ego was getting inflated and Kaka broached the important point. He again informed Khan that Raje was afraid of coming into his camp, and had requested Khan to meet alone near the fort's base.

Alone? Khan’s heart skipped a beat. But Kaka told him Maharaj’s request in detail. He told him about the detailed plan about the meeting. Khan was to keep the whole army in the camp. Him alone was to start armed, and reach the meeting place, accompanied by two or three assistants and ten well-armed guards for his personal security, to be stationed at an arrow's distance from the meeting tent. Shivajiraje would also come to the meeting place in a similar manner accompanied by similar security detail for the negotiation to be held face to face.

Khan absolutely agreed with this plan. Khan’s emissary had already accepted the whole detail before this. Khan had now become extremely eager. He wanted Shivaji. Kaka had recognised that. Kaka’s eye was sharp, ears were alert, intellect was piercing and speech was sweet like sugar. Kaka had extracted the acceptance nod from Khan just as desired. Kaka’s mind also had the point about the jewellers! He respectfully submitted to Khan, that Raje was confused about how he could pay his respects to Khan and the renowned sardars accompanying him. So he had requested the jewellers in Khan's camp to be sent up to Pratapgad so that he can buy their precious stones for Khan's gifts.

Khan agreed. Even liked the proposal. He sent for all the jewellers instantly. The traders presented themselves in front of Khan. Khan ordered them all, to accompany Pantajikaka to the fort and allow Shivaji to buy their goods. Hearing this all the traders were happy. Because all their goods would be bought now! Khan also was overjoyed. Because he had now understood how Shivaji, who was now utterly afraid of him, was preparing to entertain him. Traders, with trunk-loads of their goods, started behind Pantaji. They reached the fort. The fort inhabitants started staring at them surprised. The traders presented themselves along with their goods in front of Maharaj. Seeing all that brilliant wealth, Maharaj smiled with a happy heart! Maharaj took all the goods under his control and arranged for the traders’ accommodation atop the fort! It was decided that the remuneration for all the goods will be paid after the meeting with Khansaheb! Those traders giddy with joy believed it! Immeasurable wealth from Khan’s camp was brought to the fort by Kaka, without any fanfare! Khan also displayed such love towards Maharaj! He himself ordered the whole treasure to be home-delivered to Maharaj.

The place appointed for Maharaj’s meeting with Khan, was also not absolutely at the base of the fort. After climbing the fort halfway through, one of the trunks of the mountain had branched off towards the left. On this flat portion, the central thicket had been cut-off and some of the land had been cleared. Maharaj had started to erect an exquisite tent there using absolutely invaluable materials. This meeting place was not visible from Khan’s camp or even from the base of the fort. Maharaj had selected even this difficult meeting place carefully. The intention was, if at all Khan betrayed, his army should not be able to reach the place easily.

The secret discussions involving concern and precautions to be taken, were continuously being held atop the fort every day. Aaisaheb sitting atop Rajgad had submitted herself to Goddess Bhawani. Netoji Palkar was stationed on the plateau near Mahabaleshwar with the whole army at this time. Rest all his closest lieutenants were with Maharaj on Pratapgad. Each and every stone of the fort was now staying awake. Every mavala’s blood was coursing through his veins with love and loyalty towards Maharaj, and anger towards Khan. Numerous spies kept on watching Khan’s camp from the thick forest around. Everybody was besieged with anxiety.

And the day of the meeting was decided! Thursday afternoon on seventh day of the waxing moon fortnight in the month of Margashirsha! What was to happen! That was known only to Lord Brahma. The rest of the world, however, was thinking that these two would negotiate terms of a treaty.

The day before the day of the meeting dawned. Everybody atop the fort was busy in their work. Nobody’s heart was at its right place. Everybody was urging Khandoba and Bhawani, ‘Dear Mother and Father, just take care of this Raja. Everything is in your hands now!’

However, Maharaj with an absolutely calm demeanour and with utmost caution, was getting everything implemented as planned. He had planned everything in absolute detail. Everybody was entrusted with some or the other task.

Especially, even though a most wonderfully tempestuous and an incident vying to play with the lives of Maharaj and Swarajya itself was taking shape at Pratapgad, and still, none of the other regions and forts of Swarajya, had neither seen any lax, undisciplined, terrified, irresponsible or perfidious incident; nor there was any such indication. All normal transactions were taking place in an extremely organised fashion. Only everybody’s ears, eyes and mind were preoccupied with concern about Maharaj. 

The sun set, bringing the night on. It was a terribly dark night (Wednesday, 9 November 1659)! All good or bad future was to be born from this night’s womb tomorrow. Night went on. Maharaj was sitting in the nine-square-yard room. He had gathered all his closest friends, beloveds, elderly diplomatic thinkers around. Pantajikaka, Moropant, Raghunathpant Atre, Naropant, Subhanji Ingle, Mankoji Dahatonde, Shamrajpant Ranjhekar, Jivaji Devkante, Subhanji Kanakhre, Pilaji Beldar, Bahirji, Kanhoji Jedhe, Jhunjharrao Maral, Jiva Mahala, Sambhaji Kondhalkar, Shamrajpant Padmanabhi, Baji Jedhe, Siddi Ibrahim, Kataji Ingle, Krishnaji Gaikwad, what all names to recount? Everybody had gathered around Maharaj. Netoji Palkar had also come from his station at the top of the plateau. Tanhaji and Yesaji’s names don’t have to be repeated! They were like Maharaj’s life and soul. Everybody gathered around. The whole atmosphere was serious. They were all aware that everybody’s hearts were torn with anxiety. Loyalty, bravery, passion, concern, anger, and vengeance were overflowing from their hearts. And right at the bottom was their utter devotion towards Maharaj. Maharaj also said to everyone with equal amount of passion and bravery that all of them were to station themselves in the dense thicket around Khan's camp. If Khan betrayed, he would fire three cannon shots as the signal from the fort. The moment the shots were heard, all of them were to attack Khan's army and cut-off every single soldier.

Wrists started rustling. Maharaj was speaking in front of his closest friends, who were listening attentively in the serious atmosphere of that midnight, in the fading light of the torches and lamps. Next Maharaj started to take the names of each of his warriors, and started allocating their next mission one by one. Everybody became eager to pick up their own responsibilities. Maharaj stationed Bandal-Naik in the Javli and Par-Ghat thicket. Kanhoji and Baji Sarjerao (Jedhe) were given the responsibility to block the routes climbing up to Par-Ghat. They were to block any climbers from the Khan's army. Haibatrao and Balaji Shilamkar were stationed in the Bocheghol mountain pass. Netoji was to climb down from his position over the plateau, and attack Khan's camp with all his might.

This way, Maharaj allocated the locations and tasks for each of his sardars including Moropant Pingle, Shamrajpant, Tanhaji, Babaji Bhosale, Marne, Dohar, Pasalkar, Tryambak, Suryaji, Dhamale etc. Everybody had only one order. Kill! Cut! Finish off! Only their locations differed. Maharaj had ensured such tight entrapment of Khan’s army. This military plan was so secret, that Khan’s defeat was a foregone conclusion. Now the only tight spot was the actual face-to-face meeting with Khan.

Maharaj warned all these alert sardars as a final and important message. He also told them to spare everyone who laid down their arms.

The most important question was, whom to take along while going to the actual meeting. Because everybody thought, he needed to be with Maharaj, when he visited that Khan ready to give Maharaj the embrace of death. But Maharaj had already selected only ten trusted lieutenants. All of them were excellent. Ten were chosen out of the lot. Rest of them had already been given their own responsibilities. It was decided previously that ten guards could be brought along while coming to the meeting. Sambhaji Kavji Kondhalkar, Jiva Mahala, Siddi Ibraim, Kataji Ingle, Kondaji Kank, Yesaji Kank, Krishnaji Gaikwad, Soorji Katke, Visaji Murumbak, and Sambhaji Karwar. These ten expert tigers were extremely brave, agile, intelligent and extremely loyal. These ten were like the ten layered armour on Maharaj’s body. Besides Pantajikaka was going to be with Maharaj.

Everybody had to go into hiding in the dense forests, trees, various hollows, cracks, crevices, whichever place that could be found, quietly, surreptitiously, without giving the slightest hint to the enemy, almost like a thief, and the moment the signal cannons were heard from the fort, they had to fall upon the unsuspecting enemy. To carry out this task perfectly, everybody had to sit tight and quiet at one place for around seven-eight hours straight! They had to sit at one single place for seven to eight hours without letting out the slightest hint to the enemy! Maharaj had warned, behave absolutely carefully and wisely. If the enemy gets suspicious, the whole plan will go awry. It meant that the success of failure of the whole battleplan was dependent upon each and every single soldier.

Nobody slept that night! The day dawned. While it was still dark, Kanhoji, Tanhaji, Moropant etc. people started from the fort with their soldiers. They bowed down to Maharaj. Everybody was extremely unsettled. Today, our Raja is going to meet Khan. Maharaj bade farewell to everyone lovingly and with a heavy heart. He gave only one assurance. ‘Shree Jagadamba Bhawani is in full support behind us. Don’t worry. Wield your weapons with confidence. We will win. Jai Bhawani!’

Final Preparations

After this, Maharaj discussed the overall plan with his special diplomatic council. It contained people like Krishnaji Bankkar, Raghunathpant Atre, Mankoji Dahatonde, Shamrajpant Ranjhekar, Subhanji Ingle etc. Maharaj asked them how he should go for the meeting.

A deep discussion ensued regarding which precautions to take while going to meet Khan. Krishnaji Bankkar suggested, he should wear proper mail-chain armour. Then somebody suggested some other precautionary measure, and then Maharaj decided what all to do and how to do it.

The next day dawned. Lord Suryanarayan (sun) came upon Mahabaleshwar’s peaks riding his chariot of seven horses.

Meeting Tent

The meeting tent was ready with all its decorations. The whole tent was erected supported on extremely beautiful poles. It was bedecked with curtains of special Burhanpur cloth. The curtains on the doorways were made of similar valuable cloth. The frills of these curtains were decorated with pearl strings. Small bunches of pearls were kept hanging at specific distance. The roof was made of golden brocaded fabric. The decoration was made in diamonds, pearls and other gemstones. Cusions, pillows and mattresses were covered with brocaded covers. Such a stylish arrangement was glowing brightly. Four corners had four Indian traditional lamps. Fans were made of the soothing roots of khus. The tent sported pinnacles made in gold plated silver. The meeting area was sprayed with fragrant musk. Valuable spittoons, a tank to collect condensate, various platters, pots etc. articles were kept. The overall decoration of the meeting place was so stylish and lavish, that it would have even shamed Lord Kuber. A tent with such decorations was not erected by anybody even for the father of Badshah! The tent was clearly visible from the fort. This was where the meeting was to happen on afternoon later.

The whole atmosphere at the top of the fort had become somewhat bizarre. All work was being carried out perfectly. But nobody’s hearts were calm. They were shivering.

And pigeons were flying over Khan’s camp. Everybody was happy. There was no sign of anxiety. Everybody was confident, that today we will start back to Bijapur taking Shivaji along! Our Khansaheb will go to the meeting. That already frightened rat Shivaji will surrender himself to Khansaheb. And he will come back along with Shivaji. And then we begin the return journey! Everybody was appreciating themselves upon winning such a huge victory without fighting! The whole of Khan’s army had got the special news, that actually Shivaji was terribly frightful and now he’s all the more frightened. Due to this, these people had now become extremely careless, inattentive and nonchalant. 

Rajopadhye (imperial purohit) had done all the preparations of Maharaj’s daily worship. Maharaj took his bath. He was calm. He was not appearing shaken at all. His unwavering faith was at the feet of Goddess Bhawani and Lord Shiva. He was also confident, that the work of Swarajya was god’s own work. It was bound to succeed. But not an ounce of mistake should happen in efforts, and such mistake had not happened so far in efforts and labour.

Maharaj sat for his worship of Lord Shiva after his bath. Rajopadhye was reciting the chants of the worship. The whole ritual worship was taking place with absolute perfection. Maharaj was deeply engrossed. After the worship, Maharaj carried out his routine charity donations.

It was around eleven o’clock in the morning. Maharaj passed on the message to Pantajikaka to start for the Khan’s camp. Because it was important to have Kaka in attendance when Khan started from his camp. What if Khan took more than the agreed number of soldiers with him at the last moment? Kaka was sent to Khan from the fort, to ensure he didn’t indulge in anything to that effect.

Khan’s camp was brimming with joy. Khan had started his preparations for the small journey. Kaka came to the camp. And he witnessed a somewhat bizarre incident. Almost one-and-half to two thousand karol soldiers (musketeers) were standing ready with their guns! A large palanquin was kept ready outside the camp tent. Khan was getting ready. He had hidden a sharp dagger in his clothing in extreme secrecy!

The cannons atop the fort had been made ready full of ammunition. Maharaj sat down to eat something. He ate little.

Khan stepped out of his tent. He had worn the usual kimaunsh on his head and excellent court clothing overall. Khan was accompanied by his emissary Krishnaji Bhaskar and personal bodyguard Sayyad Banda.

It was twelve o’clock! The sun was at its zenith. Maharaj started his preparations.

In the camp, the bearers had brought Khan’s palanquin ahead. The one-and-half to two thousand soldiers with their guns, made ready to start with the group! Pantajikaka was stunned looking at this. He came hurriedly in front of Khan and asked him, whether those musketeers were going to accompany him to the meeting place. Upon this Khan replied in affirmation. Hearing this Kaka quickly told him if he took so many, Raja will get frightened, and go back to the fort. The meeting itself would not take place.

Listening to Pant saying this, Khan stopped for a moment. Actually, as per the agreement, it had been decided that nobody should bring soldiers with them. But Khan had unilaterally decided to take a sizeable force along. But hearing that Shivaji would not even show himself and will go back to the fort frightened, Khan was rendered helpless. He changed the plan quietly. He cancelled the whole armed detachment! He decided to only take the agreed ten security guards. Still Khan was happy! He started blushing! His eyes started sparkling! But why? Ask Kaka! It was because Kaka had told him, that Shivaji is already a coward, and he will be frightened all the more!

It was extremely entertaining for Khan and his army to see this ‘frightful’, ‘cowardly’, and ‘fearing’ nature of Maharaj, and that was why these people had become so carefree and inattentive trusting this frightful nature of Maharaj. This was brought about by Kaka with absolute perfection.

Khan sat in his palanquin. Four bearers lifted the palanquin. Pantajikaka, and Khan’s special security detail Krishnaji Bhaskar, Sayyed Banda, Abdul Sayyed, Khan’s nephew Rahim Khan, Pahilwan Khan, Pilaji Mohite, Shankaraji Mohite, and other four Khans started with him. Khan had started!

Maharaj kept drinking small sips of water in quantities one takes in one’s hands for ritual oblations. He remembered Jagadamba Tulajabhawani once. And he started to wear clothing as decided in the night. He wore full armour, protective helmet. He wore a brocaded kurta and tunic over the armour. Wore his standard turban over the helmet. Tied a cummerbund at the waist. He wore only a few ornaments. His turban and tunic were brilliant white. Turban had the usual tuft of pearls. White tunic was sprayed with light saffron. He wore the traditional salwar trousers. Maharaj folded up his sleeves and picked up the sharp dagger and a special weapon shaped like tiger’s claws! He hid the dagger in one of his sleeves and the tiger-claws on the inside his fingers!

Then Maharaj observed his overall attire in the mirror. All the preparations were done. Everything was complete. It was one in the afternoon.

Shivaji-Afzal Khan Meeting

Khan’s palanquin had reached the meeting tent. Khan climbed down from the palanquin, and entered the tent just looking at the decorations in awe. With him, Krishnajipant, Pantajikaka and Sayyed Banda came inside. The other nine guards of Khan kept standing a little farther from the tent. Khan was left staring at the style with which the tent had been decorated. But his heart was burning with jealousy. Khan said looking at all that wealth, and was absolutely stunned to see that a son of a common sardar like Shahaji had such wealth.

Upon this Kaka submitted humbly, that the Sultanate goods will be returned to Sultanate.

Khan then sat reclining on a cushion.

Maharaj was preparing to start climbing down from the fort. He bowed down to the royal purohit and other Brahmins. They graced Maharaj with their blessings. Then Maharaj touched the auspicious curd, durvas (auspicious blades of grass), and ritual rice grain, which had been brought to him on purpose. He took the darshan of Lord Surya. There was a cow with her calf brought up, which Maharaj donated to one virtuous Brahmin along with golden offering.

And Maharaj started! Seeing him on his way, many others started insisting, ‘Take us along!’ Everybody’s hearts started fluttering. The castellan and countless mavalas gathered around. Maharaj said to them with throat choked with emotion, telling them not to accompany him. And he started giving everyone their future responsibilities, should anything untoward happen to him. Netoji was entrusted with the responsibility of the whole Swarajya.

The whole Pratapgad felt choked with emotion. Raje remembered Aaisaheb. With such forceful effort Raje had left that bond of love back atop Rajgad! 

Maharaj instructed everyone to carry out their own tasks perfectly. He had chosen the Dandpatta (flexible double-edged sword) as today’s weapon. Jiva Mahala, Sambhaji Kavji Kondhalkar, Sambhaji Karwar, Kataji Ingle, Kondaji Kank, Krishnaji Gaikwad, Siddi Ibrahim, Soorji Katke, Visaji Murumbak, and Yesaji Kank, all like his younger brothers, started with Maharaj as security guards.

Cannons and a gunner mavala were kept at the ready atop the fort.

Khan urged Kaka eagerly to call Raja quickly. Immediately Kaka called the messenger standing a little distance further outside the tent, and sent a message to the fort, asking Maharaj to come. This was a messenger from the fort. Kaka didn’t leave his post. Because maybe Khan could have probably tried some other trick in his absence!

The messenger came near Maharaj. He relayed the message. Maharaj stopped. He asked the messenger detailed information about the meeting tent. The messenger relayed the complete information. In that he also informed, that Khan has his personal well-armed bodyguard Sayyed Banda standing within the tent! Hearing this Maharaj halted there in the middle of his path. Khan’s tent was visible from there. Maharaj realised that there was something fishy here. He sent a message to Pantaji to come where he was.

And the Assassination

Kaka got the message. Khan was surprised. He was suspicious as well at this exchange of messages. Kaka took permission and immediately came to meet Maharaj. Maharaj told him to relay the message to Khan to send Sayyed Banda away. This was a request... It was meant for Khan. Kaka also agreed. Maharaj was extremely alert and cautious. Kaka quickly approached Khan’s tent again. He relayed the message to Khan!

Khan was continuously hearing the same thing. ‘Raje is afraid’, ‘frightened’, ‘suspicious’, ‘terrified’! This was the absolute limit of ‘terror’! Khan immediately ordered Sayyed to go and stand with the other guards! And then Maharaj started towards the tent again taking small but sure steps. He was continuously chanting Adishakti Bhawani’s name with his lips. Jagadamb! Jagadamb! Jagadamb!

Khan sitting inside the meeting tent was now visible straight ahead! With each walking step, it was as if Death itself was drawing near!... Khan also saw Maharaj walking towards the tent from afar. Khan became too eager. Shivaji who he wanted, had come finally! Now he cannot escape!

Maharaj reached near the tent. Now Khan felt as if he was just two inches away from the heaven! Khan suddenly stood up! Their eyes met. Maharaj smiled slightly. Khan took a little step forward. Both the emissaries were in attendance. Maharaj went inside the tent. Even the sun seemed to halt! Wind had gone silent! Chitragupt’s (a reference to the heavenly accountant of sin and virtue) pen halted! Even the chests of Yamadutas (a reference to the reapers of souls, working under the Lord of Death, Yamaraja) started pumping like bellows! Khan instantly gave his sword to Krishnaji Bhaskar. Khan was putting up a pretence of love and affection. But it was full of deception. Maharaj’s trained eye caught everything perfectly.

Khan disguised his words in false praise about the tent's decorations. Maharaj replied, all that wealth was a reward of his actions. Khan in a slightly admonishing tone told him that he had misbehaved in arrogance against the Sultanate, and he had come to destroy that very same arrogance. He also tried to present allurements of a future Jagir as a reward for surrender, and beckoned Maharaj to embrace him.

Saying this, Khan opened both his arms in an act of acceptance to give Maharaj a bearhug! It was like the jaw of death! He was trying to make a morsel of Maharaj, Swarajya, gods and religion, blessings of destiny, Aaisaheb’s maternal affection, and Maharashtra's everything in that jaw of death! Khan suddenly drew Maharaj into an embrace! Maharaj was really short in front of huge Khan. His head came up to Khan’s chest! And… and… and… Khan suddenly wrung Maharaj’s neck under his left armpit! And he tried to squeeze! Just one moment. Within the blink of an eye! Khan suddenly drew out his dagger and with full force thrust it in Maharaj’s side! The tunic was torn with that stroke! And the dagger just scraped! There was armour inside! Suddenly Maharaj, with extreme agility stabbed his bichwa instantly in Khan’s stomach! Khan let out a sudden dying cry! Khan cried out,

“Aah, Aaaargh! Dagaa (treason), dagaa, dagaa! Lavha (weapon)! Lavhaa!”

Suddenly Khan’s entrails were jumping out of his torso! Blood started out in a torrent. How did this happen! Khan also didn’t understand! Everything happened in just a blink of an eye! Just a blink-long game! Sudden a commotion ensued. Even outside the tent, Khan’s and Maharaj’s security guards were engaged in combat. One has to wonder about Khan’s courage! He gathered together his entrails with his own hands, and shouted loudly even though his whole body had started swaying from side to side, shouting that Shivaji had attacked him.

Suddenly Khan’s emissary, Krishnaji Bhaskar swiped at Maharaj with the sword he held! Maharaj parried that swipe and asked him to get out of the way since he would not kill a Brahmin. Still Krishnajipant attacked Maharaj. Then however, without thinking twice about his Brahmin status, Maharaj killed Krishnajipant in one fell stroke! But suddenly out of the commotion outside, Sayyed Banda entered the tent. He attacked Maharaj. And at the same time, Jiva Mahala also ran towards Maharaj. Looking at the attacking Sayyed, Jiva took his stance and told Maharaj that he will take care of Sayyed Banda.

Jiva anticipated Sayyed’s swipe, parried it by interjecting his own body in the middle, and with a terribly strong counterswipe cut Sayyed Banda in half from his head to toe![ref]

In all this commotion, Khan came out of the tent. He was bleeding profusely. Swaying from side to side. Suddenly his bearers brought his palanquin forward. Khan threw himself in his palanquin. The bearers lifted the palanquin and started running as fast as they could.  Sambhaji Kavji saw this. He went running. And with sudden and swift swipes he cut off the legs of these bearers! Palanquin came crashing down to the earth. Sambhaji cut off Khan’s head with his sword and brought it to Maharaj. The rest of the scuffles were still on.

And in all this the cannons atop the fort issued their reports! All the ravines and valleys resounded. Khan’s careless army thought, these were probably shots fired as a mark of respect at the time of the meeting! But that was not correct! They were signal reports given out by Ranachandika (Goddess of Battle) Tuljabhawani to all the Marathas who were hiding in the forests! The moment the cannon signals went off, Kanhoji, Tanhaji, Netoji, Moropant, Shamrajpant, and all the remaining Maratha tigers pounced out of their hiding places, roaring threateningly and they attacked the enemy ferociously! The cries of Khan’s army suddenly rent the air! Massacre, massacre, and uninhibited massacre! It was as if Goddess Bhawani herself, with her loose hair, in her terrifying anger, tearing the skies with her terrible cries, carrying thousands of weapons in thousands of her arms, was attacking and killing Khan’s arrogant and extremely foolish force with ultimate passion. Elephants were going berserk. Marathas were cutting everybody off in their heady passionate state. Blood started streaming down the ground. Bandal, Marne, Shilamkar, Baji Jedhe, everybody had sort of began a competition. Even the smallest common mavala was fighting with anger. All the sins committed by Khan and his army for the past six months were being re-paid with interest. Swipe here, cut a head there! Such was the overall scene. Koyana and Krishna waters became red. Netoji Palkar surpassed all limits. The whole Javli forest resounded loudly with cries, screams and war-cries in equal measure. They couldn’t even run away. Only one road was left free! And that was to heaven!

Outside the meeting tent, the battle was still raging between the special security guards of Maharaj and Khan. Yesaji Kank, Ingle, Karwar, Katke and Siddi Ibrahim demonstrated extreme warrior spirit. Pahilwan Khan, Rahim Khan, Abdul Sayyed, Pilaji and Shankaraji Mohite, etc. all ten guards of Khan fell dead around the meeting place. However, not a single soldier out of the ten accompanying Maharaj was killed!

The ravines and valleys beneath Mahabaleshwar and Pratapgad were filled with the clamour of war. Full blown massacres were taking place by blocking all the exit points. The enemy was utterly routed. The sacrificial fire of war had reached its highest point.

Most special sacrificial victims were strewn around the meeting place. Sambhaji Kondhalkar was carrying Khan’s severed head in his left hand and his dripping sword in his right. He was appearing like Lord Kaalbhairava (a reference to Lord Shiva’s terrifying avatar). In all this fury of battle, Pantajikaka’s arm had been wounded by a sword! Maharaj had also received a gash on his head. Due to the helmet the wound was not that deep. But his whole body was covered in Khan's blood. Maharaj, Kaka and all his security guards climbed up the fort.

This bigot Afzal Khan got killed at around two in the afternoon, eighth hour on Thursday, on the intervening sixth-seventh day of waxing-moon fortnight of the month of Margashirsha, in Saka 1581, the year named Vikari. The fort was resounding with war-drums. War-horns were blowing.

Sabhasad Bakhar has a mention of the amount of plunder that was acquired in the battle of Pratapgad. Around 65 elephants, male and female; around 400,000 horses; 300,000 gems and precious stones; around 1200 camels; 2000 bales of cloth, 7,000,000 cash, gold coins, and hon; gold, silver articles; and artillery etc. huge plunder was collected.

Marathas wrought a terrible massacre of the Adilshahi army. One of the big powers in the south had been shamed into an ignominious defeat. Afzal Khan who had once beaten even Aurangzeb had been vanquished by Shivaji Maharaj. In an incomparable battle, both outright victory and complete defeat were evident. The Maratha morale got a great fillip. With this singular victory, the whole world started looking at the Marathas as one of the big powers in the Deccan.[ref]

The news was sent to Aaisaheb at Rajgad.

Khan’s army was utterly routed. Whoever was laying down arms, were spared. Once the news of Khan’s death reached Javli, Marathas were all the more excited. The enemies lost their courage. Even countless horses and elephants were killed. There was no count of killed humans! Kamaloji Solankhe, Ramaji Pangarkar, Naropant, satisfied their desire of wielding their swords. 

It was getting dark. Khan’s son Fazal Khan was wounded. He was still fighting. He was looking for an escape route! Poor fellow’s father was dead, and two brothers had been captured as prisoners by the Marathas. Muse Khan was trying to encourage everyone, to fight! Finally, Muse Khan himself ran away hiding in the thicket! He was followed by Fazal Khan, Hassan, and Yakub Khan as well! Ankush Khan, Fazal Khan’s confidante, was now worried about how to save his life by hiding in the dense forest. Fazal’s leg was wounded.

All the special sardars of Khan had been killed. Mambajiraje Bhosale, Maharaj’s own uncle had been killed. Besides countless prisoners were also taken. Jhunjharrao Ghatge, Ambar Khan, Ranadullah Khan Junior, Afzal Khan’s two sons etc. were captured alive. They were sent to the fort. They were brought to the base of the fort. A message was sent to Maharaj that some prisoners of war had been brought. Immediately he came down the fort personally. The prisoners thought they would be killed now! But our Raja was Punyashlok (virtuous). We don’t kill those who surrender. Maharaj met these prisoners. Many of those he embraced affectionately and consoled. This is our so-called ‘culture’!

The loot confiscated by Maharaj’s army was vast. Thousands of elephants, thousands of horses, camels, bulls, cloth, gunpowder, camp equipment, cannons, palanquins, weapons, treasury and precious stones, everything was immense, copious, infinite!

Raja had become victorious through different types of courage and efforts. He had killed a Duryodhana like Khan. This was a task of a Bheema! He had swallowed the valorous Adilshahi sea of an army in one small oblation to the inner deity. 

The Aftermath

Afzal Khan’s crisis had become a mountain of concern upon Aaisaheb’s and the whole maval region’s hearts. That mountain was wholly uprooted and thrown away. Everybody desired to kill Afzal Khan; that desire was fulfilled by Shivba. As if Khan’s severed head had been presented as a sacrificial offering to Jagadamba. Sambhaji’s vengeance had been completed.

Maharaj had taken Khan’s severed head to the top of Pratapgad. He ordered Khan’s headless corpse to be buried with due respect as per the standard rituals. He ordered Khan’s head to be kept in a caged basket. That is, it was wrapped in a sort of cover. And he sent the whole package to Rajgad. Aaisaheb was at Rajgad.

That severed head reached Rajgad. As per Jijabai's instructions, Sambhaji’s vengeance had been taken. Khan was an openly pronounced enemy. But still Maharaj or Aaisaheb did not cause to molest his headless corpse or the severed head. It was not the practice of the Marathas, and in them especially this mother-son duo. They fought with countless enemies all their life. They cut off numerous enemies. But they never treated any of their enemy’s corpses with disgrace. Afzal Khan’s corpse was no exception. Maharaj had an enmity with Afzal Khan. Not with his corpse. While sending Afzal Khan’s severed head to Rajgad, Maharaj had ordered the people carrying it, that his head should be installed within a special niche in the Mahadarwaja of the citadel, and its daily worship and offering should be started! The preparations to that effect were made at Rajgad.

The moment he had arrived at Wai from Bijapur, Afzal Khan had sent some of his battalions to Saswad, Shirval, Supa etc. areas and had won those stations over. Those forces had been sent under the command of sardars like Kalyanji Yadav, Naikji Kharate, Naikji Pandhare, Siddi Hilal etc. These cantonments like Shirval, Supa etc. were under the control of these Bijapur sardars since then. Maharaj had desired, that on the day when Maharaj was to meet with Khan at the base of Pratapgad, the same day the above mentioned Supa, Sirval, etc. cantonments should be captured and merged back with Swarajya. Accordingly, he had already sent well-appointed battalions to each of these cantonments and had ordered them, to attack the installations on the day of the meeting itself, and recapture them back!

Saswad, Shirval, Supa etc. cantonments were attacked by Maratha forces! Each of these towns was captured! Each of the cantonments started flying the saffron flags.

After finishing off the enemy, all of Maharaj’s beloved friends Kanhoji Jedhe, Bandal, Moropant, Tanhaji, Naropant etc. came to Pratapgad after proving their mighty prowess. Everybody had been bathed in red. A sea of joy of victory was in tempest at the fort. Pratapgad from the morning and Pratapgad now were poles apart. Maharaj was embracing each one of his beloved friends who were drenched in the enemy’s blood. It had been a huge, an absolute sky-high victory. Round-the-clock efforts taken painstakingly over many months had borne fruit. The victorious cannon-shots were being fired.

New Campaign

And Maharaj sent orders for the next campaign on the same midnight from atop Pratapgad. There was no respite after earning a huge victory! There were to be no victory celebrations! There was to be new transition! New campaign!

Maratha swords had been drawn to free Maratha region from the Sultanate shackles. Right in the middle of the night, Maharaj had started for a seemollanghan (traditional crossing of borders ritual). There was that usual roar in the air, Har har Mahadev!

Afzal Khan had come to finish off Swarajya and Shivajiraje in one small mouthful. But Swarajya itself had finished him and his huge army off in that same mouthful. Swarajya’s Swami (master) and Swarajya’s servants were all alert. They were prepared. They were proud.

The day Afzal Khan was killed, on the same day Shivaji Maharaj started a sudden counterattack on the Marathi region under Sultan Ali Adilshah’s control! A triple campaign! Commander-in-Chief Netoji attacked towards the east. Doroji attacked the west. Maharaj himself attacked towards the south. It was as if Shivashahi’s (Shivaji’s Kingdom) Trishul (a reference to the trident, Lord Shiva’s weapon) had stabbed at the heart of Sultanate stronghold!

Shivaji Maharaj and the Maratha warriors’ horses were galloping ahead. With each one of their hooves, each moment, Maharashtra’s land was gaining freedom. Krishna (river) was crossed. Vasana was crossed. Urvashi was crossed. All these Maharashtra’s Gangas became independent! 

Fazal Khan's Escape

Many from Afzal Khan's army entered the dense thicket to escape the blood-riot. Prataprao More took three-four men with him and entered the forest. He was well-aware of this dense forest. Khan had brought his whole army to this dense forest listening to his advice. He was the sole guide for Khan! He ran away. 

Fazal Khan, Muse Khan, Hassan Khan, Yakut Khan, Ankush Khan etc. all the renowned sardars also had got confused and terrified. Fazal Khan’s legs were wounded. Everybody had been slashed. Fazal Khan was Afzal Khan’s eldest son. All these couldn’t stand in front of the Maratha gang of ghosts. They lost their patience. And suddenly Fazal Khan’s two younger brothers, Afzal Khan’s younger sons were captured by the Marathas.

At the beginning, Muse Khan had summed up the courage of Alexander. He was loudly shouting and trying to encourage his forces. He was angrily scolding and cursing those who were running away. He was disparaging them. And he also attacked the Marathas jumping onto a horse. Following him, Hassan Khan and the others also started attacking the Marathas. All mounted a brave counterattack. Destiny was not on their side! Nobody was able to hold onto their own in front of the Marathas. Muse Khan’s horse was killed. Yakut Khan turned around and started running! These brave warriors, who were besieged by the forest and the Marathas, were fighting holding their lives in their hands. Ankush Khan lost his footwear! And Muse Khan was now searching for a sufficient opening to run away.

Everybody was on the verge of bursting in tears. Death or surrender, there was no other way. The sun set. Maratha massacre was still on. Finally, Fazal Khan and others summed up all the remaining courage, and made a final run towards the forest, and entered it. There was no route in the thicket. But they simply started running wherever their feet would take them. At least they were out of the main slaughterhouse. And fortune somehow favoured them! They were saved with great difficulty, and then staring in all ten directions with their terrified eyes, crossing branches, roots, stems of that dark, dense thicket, urging each other on, they just started running for their lives. Running was not possible. But they had their hearts almost at their throats. There was no telling, from behind which tree, the next swipe would come. There was no assurance, from which tree, Marathas would jump on them. They were unaware where they were going. These so-called tigers were so much frightened, that at any small rustling of the moss, was making them remember their Khuda! Fazal Khan had taken off his rich, princely attire completely. Poor Ankush Khan was running without his foorwear in those thorns and brambles. Fazal’s leg had been severely wounded.

The going of these sardars was terribly difficult due to the dark thicket as well. The bushes and thorns had ensured all their clothes had been torn asunder. Their wounds were oozing blood. They were stumbling, falling down. Bodies had given up. Throats were dry. They couldn’t guess the directions correctly. Slowly all light was vanishing. Everybody was burning with the efforts and the pain. Fazal Khan’s sorrow knew no bounds. Poor fellow had lost his father, the whole treasury, the whole army, and two of his brothers had been captured. And now this misery.

And suddenly Fazal Khan stopped in his tracks with a start. Others also stopped. They were terrified. 

In the dark thicket, Fazal Khan had suddenly spied something right in front of him! He signalled with his sword to the bush ahead. He had seen three-four Marathas some distance ahead in the thicket, and everybody else also saw them! Marathas! They were left tongue-tied. They felt ready to break-down. Everybody was straining their eyes to observe all movements of those Marathas. However, those Marathas had not spotted this party yet. And suddenly, after observing them from a distance, Fazal Khan was overcome by sudden emotion, and sprang from his spot, and started running towards those Marathas! He started running angrily with his unsheathed sword! Others couldn’t fathom. Muse Khan was left stunned as well. Other Khans also started running behind Fazal. He was murmuring to himself in anger, something about killing the person ahead.

Now that group of Marathas became more visible. It was clear now. It was Prataprao More! Now all the Khans found long-lost courage. All of them had fallen into this dense forest and this situation, all because of this Prataprao. This whole rout was due to him. He only gave bad advice to Afzal Khan.

Prataprao More saw Fazal Khan and other four-five Khans angrily charging at him with murderous intentions. He was already running away fearing for his life. Looking at this sudden new calamity, he started shaking in fear. Everybody caught up. The moment he realised his death was upon him, he started bowing down to all of them turn-by-turn, and started urging them with pleading words.

Fazal Khan and everybody else also were very angry with Prataprao. But even in that anger, Muse Khan was however, very happy upon meeting him! He started stopping everyone. Started calming them down. He also started urging everyone, not to kill Prataprao. But Fazal, Ankush, Yakut etc. protested saying that Afzal Khan had died all because of this fellow.

Prataprao was snivelling at their feet and entreating them. Muse Khan was foresighted. He said to everyone else, in very light voice, that he would be able to help them all back to Wai. He advised not to kill anyone.

Now, everybody agreed with this advice from Muse Khan. Even Fazal realised that by killing him, he was actually causing himself a huge loss. And then Muse Khan assured Prataprao, that they would not kill him, but he should help them get out of the dense forest and to Wai. 

Hearing these words from Muse Khan, Prataprao was extremely relieved! He agreed with great enthusiasm.

Everybody was utterly eager to somehow escape this forest. They were feeling even now, they were right on the lips of Death. And it was true. Fazal’s heart was pulling him towards Wai; because his family women and children were housed at the Subedar’s mansion in Wai. Afzal Khan had brought his whole zenana while coming from Bijapur! Everybody was eager to reach Wai before Shivaji’s army would reach there. If Shivaji or any Netoji of Shivaji reached Wai before, then everybody, and especially Fazal Khan was troubled, that Shivaji would get the treasure, elephants, horses and zenana kept there by Afzal Khan. His steps were quickened on that count. The whole procession was going behind Prataprao in the darkness. Prataprao was well-aware of these routes. He chose one secret route that nobody knew.

Through the islands of bamboo, bushes and brambles, low-hanging branches of berry trees, these people were somehow inching forward. Each and every tree there was loyal to Maharaj. These fellows were not even able to walk properly. Darkness was increasing. The creepers were ensnaring them and making them stumble. Thorny bushes had already drawn a lot of blood scratching their legs. Their clothes hung in tatters. Even the chirping of forest crickets was terrifying! Fireflies were suddenly glowing in front of their eyes. Feet were about to fall off. With every hurdle, as if the tree or bush was asking them, ‘What? Will you come again in our way? This is Swarajya!’

It was completely dark now. The branches that stood in the way became invisible. Everybody had reached their limits taking the oncoming slaps from those branches. Wai was still far away. There were five kos of jungle still to cross! They were simply stumbling behind Prataprao taking Allah’s name and cursing Shivaji. They were urging each other on. They were afraid that if they didn’t get out of Wai before dawn, Marathas would attack and tear them apart there.

They started climbing down the Pasarni mountain, bearing such terrible misery right in the middle of the night. Absolute darkness. Steep route. Difficult route. Terror of the enemy’s slight movement always at the back of their minds. They felt like they would close their eyes in fear… but there was no difference in closing their eyes or keeping them open. There was nothing visible in the darkness with their eyes open anyways! At least one thing was good. Prataprao More had chosen this completely unknown, completely different route. At least they were not meeting Shivaji Maharaj’s Marathas due to that!

And finally, they reached open, flat land. They were so agonised because of hunger, thirst, and the misery of their wounds that they were clinging on to their lives just with their shaky fingers. Their feet were so numb that they were not able to gauge, which foot had taken a hit stumbling around, and which foot had the wound from the battle! They almost felt like, it was better to die now. But they were not able to sum up that much courage, and that was the root of all this pain!

All these people reached Wai with all possible haste. The residents of Wai were sitting quiet in the dark, blessing long life to Maharaj. Wai probably did not know what had happened at the base of Pratapgad. Because Khan’s mansions were engulfed in serene peace.

All these wounded, bleeding lost fellows came running to the mansion. The security guards saw them.

A sudden uproar rose in the mansion. Everybody started crying in the zenana hearing that Khan was dead. But there was no time to cry. Fazal Khan immediately ordered whatever was left of the army there, to start preparing for an immediate retreat. It was not possible to take the whole treasury with them as well. They only took whatever they could carry. Taking elephants, horses etc. everything along was impossible. An axe had fallen over their heads, and they had to somehow dodge it. Fazal was hurrying everyone to march.

Fazal gave the order instantaneously and everybody started riding taking their women and children atop horses. The moment their horses stepped out of Wai, they saw some torches behind them on the Pasarni mountain. The Maratha army was marching towards Wai from Pratapgad! Fazal saw it!

And they started running for their lives! To save their lives, and whatever was left of their respect!

Maharaj Reaches Wai

Wai town woke up hearing all this commotion. Thousands of soldiers were climbing down the Pasarni mountain pass.

The cavalrymen approached. Waikars couldn’t guess what was the whole ado about. The soldiers entered Wai in loud claps of their horses’ hooves. Marathas! Led by Commander-in-Chief Netoji himself.

The news of Khan’s death spread on that dark night throughout Wai, and suddenly joy burst forth. People woke up and came out. Their joy knew no bounds.

Netoji suddenly besieged the mansion. He found all the treasure, elephants, horses, and other valuables. Just then, hearing Fazal Khan etc. had escaped, Netoji jumped on his horse. His army followed behind. And the chase began.

Fazal Khan had put a lot of distance between himself and the chasers. He was riding passionately for saving his life. He was running ahead, summoning all his strength thinking, ‘Let anything happen now, it was better to even die running, but I’m not getting caught by those Marathas now.’ The zenana and rest of the force was also riding behind him.

Netoji was following. But he was not able to track them. Even if they increased their speed, there was no sign. Finally, Netoji felt this was a mistake; otherwise he would have caught them up by now. He stopped.

Netoji ordered his force to turn around. Everybody obeyed. Netoji started back towards Wai. Fazal Khan’s good fortune, that he was saved thus. If Netoji had kept on following for another four kos, Fazal was finished. But Marathas were not able to judge and track them in darkness. Netoji started riding back towards Wai (the huge dawn of Dt 11 November 1659).

Maharaj killed Khan, and on the same day (Dt 10 November 1659) he moved another piece on the chessboard quickly. He sent one swift swordsman named Doroji to Rajapur in Konkan with his army. Because Maharaj had already got intelligence that some ships owned by Afzal Khan were anchored in Rajapur harbour! Maharaj had thrown this lasso from Pratapgad to capture those ships.

The whole political chessboard was arranged at the ready in Maharaj’s mind. He was moving the pieces around. Maharaj himself started past midnight. Five-thousand cavalrymen were given the signal. Before recouping out of the weariness, no, no, before even the weariness approached, Maharaj started on the next campaign!

Wai had woken up at midnight because of all the commotion caused by Fazal Khan. But now the new day had dawned. The east was climbing Sahyadri’s steps one by one wearing reddish orange saree and smiling sweetly. Her vast forehead was looking all the more brilliant with the lone Venus. The courtyards of each and every home in Wai had been washed. People had decorated them with auspicious rangolis and other symbols. The tulasi plants in the middle were swaying in the wind. Even the birds sounded happy. The bush on the banks of Krishna was buzzing with their chirping. Wind was light and serene. Krishna’s ghats were bustling with people performing auspicious baths and worship. The eclipse had finished! Now the cleansing bath! Everybody was chanting auspicious mantras.

The morning light rose, sun’s rays lit up the horizon. A huge clamour of hooves rose from Wai’s west. The sounds of horns reached. Dust started rising up to the sky. And the whole town of Wai dropped whatever they were doing, and ran towards the noise. It was a joyful occasion. Maharaj had come! Maharaj had come with a five-thousand strong personal detail. People kept looking at them with eager eyes. 

The cavalrymen entered Wai’s turreted west gateway, with proud chests, in style. Their faces were awash with happiness and excitement. The standard was fluttering on the wind. The calls of the blowing horns had overwhelmed Wai and Maharaj entered the gateway right after the standard. His brilliant white horse was riding in utmost style.

Just then, Netoji who had gone to chase Fazal Khan, entered Wai on his way back. One more tidal wave of happiness came running. The roars of ‘Har har Mahadev’ filled the skies.

Netoji came forth bowing to Maharaj. His Maratha force also bowed down.

After Khan’s assassination yesterday, Netoji had proved his mighty prowess while routing the Bijapur army. This news had reached Maharaj. Maharaj appreciated Netoji and his soldiers profusely.

At the same time some of the sardars in Afzal Khan’s army Naikji Pandhare, Siddi Hilal, Naikji Kharate etc. and met Maharaj at Wai! The cantonment towns of Saswad, Supa, Shirval etc., which were under the control of these Bijapur sardars, had been attacked on the day of Afzal’s assassination by the Maratha forces, and those towns had been captured. The above mentioned sardars had all been defeated. They had run away after the defeat and had reached Wai riding through the night. Upon reaching Wai, the tables had turned! Afzal Khan had been killed and Shivajiraje had entered Wai! All prepared for the next huge campaign. All these sardars, Pandhare, Kharate, Yadav, Hilal etc. surrendered to Maharaj. They all decided to switch their loyalties to Maharaj. And they joined the Maratha army!

The lost stations had been captured. Brave men from Khan’s army had also joined Swarajya. Only one thing was amiss. Khandoji Khopade who had joined Afzal Khan after betraying Swarajya, had somehow escaped through the Javli forest very skilfully. That Khandya had surely hid somewhere! If he could have been captured, his deceitful head would have been severed, and the pestilence of betrayal in Swarajya would have died. But he had escaped.

Shivashahi's Trident

Maharaj had started from Pratapgad by finalising many new plans. The enemy, who had been beaten down, who was running here and there to save his life, should be subjected to a follow-up attack of such fierce ferocity and speed, that looking at the terrifying passion of the attack, the enemy should lose all his valour. The moment a lion lets out a passionate roar, the monkeys in surrounding trees fall down in shock – that’s what was intention! Don’t let the enemy get any free time even to catch his breath! Sudden attack! Sudden pounce! There was no respite even for a moment, forget for hours. Adilshahi ramparts had been breached yesterday. Maharaj had decided to enter the breach and achieve whatever he could this time.

Maharaj himself decided to attack Kolhapur by entering Satara region. Nobody had the courage to stop him now. It was decided that Maharaj was to capture all the region up to Panhalgad, and Netoji Palkar was to get up rightaway and rout the whole imperial domains right up to Bijapur, looting and plundering on his way (Dt 11 November 1659)!

Immediately everyone got up, and the signal horn was blown. The drumroll of the march was sounded. Netoji’s and Maharaj’s armies mounted. Maharaj also sent another detachment to capture the twin forts of Chandangad and Vandangad at a distance of five kos from Wai.

Netoji and his army bowed to Maharaj before leaving. Netoji dug his heels into his horse’s side by echoing a huge roar of ‘Har har Mahadev’. Maharaj’s sword was pointing to Bijapur. Maharaj himself started immediately. The army was just waiting for the signal.

The spears glistening in the radiant sun were caught mid-air. Maharaj’s horse jumped into an instant gallop. Behind him the Shivaganga (a reference to the Ganges jumping forth from Lord Shiva’s matted dreadlocks)!

Before starting from Pratapgad, Maharaj had ordered his Maratha sardar named Doroji to enact his stormy Tandav (Dance of Lord Shiva) in the Adilshahi realms in Konkan. He also started and entered Konkan straightaway. He was not satisfied with riding just over land. He rode the seas as well. All the imperial outposts in Konkan started shaking.

Maharaj, Netoji and Doroji entered three different Adilshahi realms taking their separate routes. This was a campaign to break the back of the enemy! Nobody had the power to block this attack now. This trident of Shivashahi flew towards Adilshahi. Maharaj and the horses of Maratha warriors were galloping ahead. With each one of their steps, Maharashtra's land was becoming independent every moment. Like the way the sun’s rays chase away all darkness after the dawn, Maharaj’s thousands of horses were chasing away the shackles of slavery. Krishna river was crossed. Venna river was crossed. Vasana river was crossed. Urmila river was crossed. Now Maharaj was riding ahead towards the confluence of Krishna and Koyana. The doab between these two rivers had become independent. Three and a half centuries after the destruction of Yadavs and Shilahars, the water of these rivers in southern Maharashtra was becoming independent. Maharaj and his warriors of independence were drinking that sweet elixir in handfuls. 

Grief in Bijapur

The whole Swarajya was waiting eagerly for the outcome of the meeting between Afzal Khan and Shivaji Maharaj. The whole Swarajya was concerned about it. But that concern had been mixed with a dash of anger. However, Swarajya’s enemies were extremely eager to hear Pratapgad’s news report. Their eagerness was filled with anticipation. Badshah Adilshah himself and Badi Saheba both were looking forward to the camel rider carrying the sweet news with eager eyes, dreaming of an absolutely wonderful future. The sun reached zenith, now Khan would have reached for meeting Shivaji, probably Shivaji would have got captured by now, probably even killed! Night fell, probably by now Khan would have either captured Shivaji alive, or would have started towards Bijapur taking his severed head on a platter! Badshah and Badi Saheba were getting restless waiting for the news.

Suddenly the news report entered riding in Bijapur! What news came? What? What happened to Shivaji?

Khan died! Shivaji tore our Khan’s innards and killed him! Khan’s army was completely destroyed! The whole treasure was looted! These news reports broke upon an unsuspecting Bijapur, spread like wildfire and this whole Hindustan from Chandawar (Tanjore?) in the south to Lahore in the north was stunned!

It was as if a mountain of grief had crashed upon the Badshah’s heart! Begum threw herself on her bed! Such a huge wail of grief rose. Begum started mourning. She couldn’t bear the grief. She started wailing. Her grief knew no bounds. Badshah Ali Adilshah himself was feeling as if the skies of misfortune had been torn apart on his head. He was dreaming to see Shivaji's severed head in an assembly full of courtiers. But the reverse had happened! Even Afzal Khan’s head had not returned from the campaign! Such a powerful sardar had been wasted. Treasure worth lakhs had been lost. Adilshahi’s name had been consigned to the dustbin of history. Suddenly the whole city fell into chaos, confusion and wailing. The city drowned in grief! Vazir-e-Azam Ikhlas Khan ordered the imperial band to stop the usual drumroll. The drums went silent. The drummers kept their instruments inverted, and stood silent with heads hung low. Begum refused to eat anything or even drink water. Badshah stopped holding court. The throne was shrouded in mourning. Not only the imperial mansions, but the whole city was covered by an atmosphere of mourning. Bibis and Begums started lamenting in each house. And a shower of curses had started falling in Maharaj’s name.

Fazal Khan, Muse Khan, Ankush Khan etc. people reached near Bijapur with the whole zenana and whatever remained of the retinue. Every single one of them had lost all power in their limbs. They were miserable with all the problems faced on the return journey.

A fresh wave of grief broke over the city. Everybody’s heads were hung in shame. Even onlookers were witnessing them sadly. Fazal Khan was feeling the highest misery. Insult, loss of respect, misery and loss! He wouldn’t lift his head at all. His legs had been wounded. Whatever temporary bandages applied were now hanging from there. Many of them were walking in tattered clothes. Faces were funereal. It was like they were returning from the funeral of Adilshahi’s grand respect. Fazal Khan went to meet the Badshah with extreme sadness.

Kolhapur Captured

Three days went past and suddenly another extremely disconcerting and frightening news reached Bijapur. Shivaji’s army had ridden towards Kolhapur! It had begun capturing the whole region in its way! And soon enough he would enter Kolhapur with all his forces! This and such news reports started getting presented in front of the Badshah one by one. He was stunned. Shivaji was attacking Kolhapur! So then, he would definitely attack Panhalgad! Hearing that the complete region from Wai up to Karhad had been captured by Shivaji, the whole court was in a state of shock.

The whole world’s eyes were still trained on Pratapgad. Everybody was dead sure that Shivaji won’t be spared by Afzal Khan’s claws. British, Dutch, French, Portuguese, Qutubshah, Aurangzeb, Siddi of Janjira and the castellans, station-chiefs, Subedars and Amins of all these were in a state of happy anticipation because of this. They were inattentive as well. But the tables had turned! Nobody had received confirmed news report of the Khan’s rout so far. The news had only spread in the region just surrounding Pratapgad.

Maharaj started from Wai. He went on capturing the whole region in a whirlwind campaign. Nobody expected, even in their wildest dreams that Shivaji would attack them.

Win one cantonment, look quickly after its security, rest a few hours, and the moment the marching orders were heard, the whole army would get up. Maharaj was moving on and on with such a quick gallop. Maratha horses couldn’t even stand still! Mayani was raided after Khataw. Mayani was captured. Immediately afterwards to Rampur, from there Kadhelon, Walve, and Ashti were captured. Before even the reports of gunshots fired at the previous station died out in the air, the next station was pounced upon. The whole region from Ashti-Wadgaon-Velapur-Audumbar-Masoor-up to Karhad was captured. Karhad’s resident deity, Uttaralakshmi had been propitiated. She entered Swarajya.

From there Maharaj gunned for Supa. He freed the whole region of Tambe, Pali, Nerle, Kameri, Visapur, Save, Uran, and Kole. In just thirteen days after Khan’s assassination!

And Maharaj entered Kolhapur on 6th day of the waning moon fortnight of the month of Margashirsha! Maharaj’s eye fell on Panhalgad. Panhalgad was just five kos from Kolhapur! Panhalgad! An impenetrable fort! An ancient fort! It was a huge fort that stood as the capital of King Gandharaditya Shilahar in the glorious days of Maharashtra! Maharaj’s sword was now pointing to Panhala’s chest. Maratha army started galloping towards it.

Shivaji entered Kolhapur. Hearing this news report, Adilshah was stunned. The court’s chests started heaving like a bellow. Shivaji’s commander-in-chief Netoji Palkar had plundered the cantonments at Gadag, Tikote, Hukeri, and Gokak. He was actually looting Lakshmeshwar right then. And now he was going to attack Bijapur itself. These news reports also came knocking at Bijapur’s gates!

Panhalgad Captured

The next news that reached was, Shivaji had besieged Panhala!

Maharaj reached the base of Panhala with his army. Maharaj quickly issued orders. In around an hour, Maratha outposts took their positions in the siege. The fort rose in an uproar. Castellan started getting frightened. Marathas started jostling with the fort ramparts. Like ants clinging to a cake of jaggery. The fort was completely unprepared. Castellan came to know that the fort had been besieged by Shivaji himself. He was surprised and confused. Terrified. 

Panhalgad soldiery were in a state of consternation. Castellan quickly readied up his cannons. And fired. He started firing on all cylinders, and the sky filled up with smoke. Still the Marathas were inching upwards. A barrage of gunfire had also begun from below. The fort’s circumference was huge! If held off on one side, the Marathas would start advancing on other sides. Castellan was in a state of utter confusion because of all this.

The court got news report that Netoji Palkar had run towards Kolhapur taking with him a huge booty he had collected plundering the imperial realms up to Lakshmeshwar. Netoji entered Kolhapur taking this whole plunder. He had literally denuded the whole imperial region in just last fourteen days.

The second night of the siege of Panhala set in. The fort approached the verge of breakdown. The cannon shots fired from the fort used to look like shooting stars in the dark. Marathas were looking to reach the fort’s ramparts. The point up to which this wanar-sena had reached, was not easily discernible from the fort. They finally reached the gunshot range from the ramparts. The Marathas started hitting the soldiers running over the ramparts by gunfire and arrows. Cannons fell silent. The flares were extinguished. Marathas clung to the ramparts. They quickly scaled the fort ramparts by making human ladders. And a terrible massacre began. The door was opened from inside. The deluge of Maratha army entered the fort. Torches started chasing each other. The din tore at the eardrums. Countless soldiers of the enemy were killed. The remaining lost their resolve. They surrendered throwing away their arms. And the fort was captured! Horns and war-drums started clamouring. The saffron standard started fluttering atop the main doorway. Maharaj was at the base of the fort. One torch was sent to him to inform of the victory. Immediately he personally climbed up to the fort. In the light of dancing flames of those torches, and in the din of their victorious roars the Marathas welcomed Maharaj (Dt 28 November 1659). By this time, it was well past midnight. Maharaj was overjoyed. He inspected that excellent fort’s each and every corner staying awake the whole night. Netoji also came atop the fort; it was a rising tide of prowess, excitement, courage and victory! In just eighteen days since Afzal Khan’s assassination, the whole belt from Wai to Panhala had been captured. Difficult forts like Vasantgad, Vardhangad, Karhad’s fortress, Machhindragad, and Kalyangad had been captured.

Rustam-e-Zaman's Campaign

Because of his father’s assassination, Fazal Khan was burning inside. He was anxious to take revenge. It was his and everyone else’s biggest wish, to destroy Shivaji with their own hands. 

Now Fazal Khan had been joined by another sympathetic sardar. His name was Rustam-e-Zaman. When the news reports that Maharaj captured Kolhapur, Panhala, Netoji had raided Raibaug, had reached Bijapur, everybody had been shocked. Rustam-e-Zaman was especially concerned. Because Maharaj had entered the region belonging to his own Jagir!

He owned the Jagir of Raibaug, Kolhapur, Rajapur and Karwar regions. His sleep left him the moment he heard that Panhala was lost. Fazal Khan also got a friend to cry, get angry and fight together. Both of them immediately went to the Badshah and demanded that, he should send them immediately on a new campaign against Shivaji! Badshah also immediately unleashed these two flaming arrows towards Maharaj.

Rustam and Fazal started from Bijapur along with the standard retinue of ten-thousand-strong army, elephants, cannons, camels etc. They also had sardars like Malik Aitbar, Sadat Khan, Fateh Khan, Mulla Hay, Ghorpade, Sarjerao Ghatge etc. They had started off in a huge pretence of anger and passion, but each one of them was afraid inside.

Each of the soldiers was shocked by the utter rout that was dealt to Afzal Khan at the base of Pratapgad. In their hearts, they had built certain fanciful notions about Shivaji and his companions, who had crushed twenty-two thousand strong army and steely sardar like Afzal Khan, in just five-six hours. Bijapur court’s famous court poet Mohammed Nusrati had actually written, that Shivaji looks like a human being, but is in fact a ghost!

And now they were being sent to face this Shivaji directly! So, this Bijapur army under Fazal Khan had lost half the battle in their mind itself! Their heart kept telling them, they won’t last now! Rustam-e-Zaman and Fazal Khan had started from Bijapur taking such frightened army with them.

This Rustam-e-Zaman was actually the son of Ranadullah Khan who used to dote over Shahajiraje with all his heart, and there is no need to re-introduce Fazal Khan! Maharaj’s spies brought the intelligence to Panhalgad. Maharaj immediately recalled the army that had been sent towards Raibaug. Maharaj’s warriors like Godaji Jagtap, Waghoji Tupe, Hiroji Ingle, Bhimaji Wagh, Sidhoji Pawar, Mahadik, Jadhav, Pandhare, Kharate and Siddi Hilal got up thinking their prey had approached. Netoji Palkar was anyways there at Maharaj’s right hand.

The Maratha army was absolutely confident that they could do anything, because of the continuous string of victories that they had achieved right from the day of Afzal Khan’s assassination. Wherever there was Maharaj, victory had to be there. Maharaj was blessed by the Mother herself with these victories. They couldn’t lose!

Rustam-e-Zaman’s army reached Miraj. And immediately started riding towards Kolhapur. The spies immediately gave this news to Maharaj on Panhala.

Maharaj ordered to sound the war-drums for marching signal. The whole fort got up. The horses were saddled. Swords were tied at the waists. Some people and soldiers had already been appointed for the security of Panhalgad. They ensured a very tight cordon was pulled over the fort. 

Maharaj took Jagadamba’s darshan (a reference to the ritualistic seeking of blessings of the deity). Remembered Aaisaheb and Shahajiraje for a moment. And Maharaj came (to court). In front of him five thousand Maratha warriors were standing with their ears alert for the oncoming order. Everybody roared ‘Har har’. All of them paid their respects to Maharaj by bowing down and jumped over their horses. It was as if they were five thousand reflections of Maharaj himself who were dancing on their horses. This Mahadeva of us Marathas was reflected in each of his Marathas!

First face-to-face Battle

Rustam and Fazal reached near Kolhapur. They were getting confident that they would be able to enter Kolhapur quite easily. Suddenly, the reconnaissance spies that were sent ahead of the overall marching army, brought news that, Shivaji himself and Netoji, are riding towards them with five-thousand-strong force. Shivaji himself and Netoji! Two ghosts in a single confrontation! Bijapur force gulped down the feeling of terror that had suddenly materialised in their throats!

Rustam-e-Zaman immediately started preparing his army for battle in a perfect manner. He himself went to the forefront, and started ordering everyone in a loud and confident voice. He had a bare sword in one of his hands. He also allotted specific positions in the battle array to everyone.

Instantly Adilshahi forces started their alignments. Maharaj’s shrewd spies quickly provided all this intelligence to the oncoming force.

Maharaj also came near. Maharaj also allocated individual tasks to all sardars in the Maratha army. The whole Maratha force got excited for the battle. The war-drums raised an instantaneous din. Maratha army readied itself.

Rustam-e-Zaman was arraigning the Bijapur army in front of them. Maharaj’s and Rustam’s armies were still quite far from each other. But they could see the primary sardars and their armies from the distance. Maharaj carefully completed his closer inspection of the whole enemy array. Maharaj accurately recognised quite a few of the opposing sardars. Some of the opponents had some time or the other tasted the ‘beating’ handed by Maratha army earlier, and had run away! Maharaj’s closest lieutenants like Netoji, Hanmantrao Kharate, Pandhare, Ingle, Bhimaji, Godaji, were standing around him. Maharaj too allocated individual battle-array positions to his warriors and encouraged them by saying he himself would be in the centre and attack the enemy's centre.

Maharaj’s orders gave everybody a fresh spunk. The Maratha soldiery took out the war-drums, horns, drums, and trumpets and a right clamour ensued. The roars of Har har Mahadev and Tulaja Bhawani’s cheers filled the skies. The chests of Maratha cavalrymen got pumped up. Saffron standards started fluttering at the forefront.

Rustam-e-Zaman also ordered his army to attack the Maratha force. Bijapur army started roaring the Adilshahi slogans.

And in one fell swipe, the blade of Maharaj’s sword pointed in the direction of the enemy force, and the dam broke! Maratha army started riding like the wind. Maharaj himself was riding at the front. His ‘Bhawani’ (sword) was quivering like the tongue of an attacking tigress. Maharaj had made directly for Rustam-e-Zaman, while Netoji Palkar had made his way towards the prey which had escaped him previously. Fazal Khan! Bhimaji Wagh, Hiroji Ingle, Siddi Hilal etc. everybody, had attacked their own targets previously ordered by Maharaj. Even though the Maratha army was smaller than the enemy force, its excitement was wonderful. They were absolutely confident, they would win! They would kill!

The dust clouds rose to the skies. The two masses of flowing armies came from the two sides jumping at each other, and crashed into each other. Weapons started clanging with each other. One difference was distinctly visible. Rustam-e-Zaman’s army had elephants. Maharaj’s force did not have elephants. Of what use were huge and slow animals like elephants in brisk, sudden, hurried, hand-to-hand combat? Maharaj had changed the whole fighting technique altogether. He would never carry elephants or heavy artillery in his army. Maharaj’s army would particularly be full of only agile, clever and skilled swordsmen and tigers!

Bijapur army was encircled by these Maratha waves on all sides. It was stuck in the middle like an island. The attack began on all four sides. Fazal Khan was finding it tough to face Netoji soon enough. The going had quickly gone tough for him. His army, which was already afraid, was now facing Netoji! As expected! Fazal Khan’s line broke. Fazal was frightened to the core. His force started getting massacred wholesale. Maharaj also wrought a similar havoc on Rustam’s force. Sadat, Aitbar and Mulla were also frightened. And look there, he started running! Fazal Khan! Fazal Khan, son of Afzal Khan Mohammedshahi! Poor fellow couldn’t hold his own. Seeing a toughie like Fazal Khan running away, Sadat Khan also summed up some courage to run himself! Then Malik Aitbar, Fateh Khan, Baji Ghorpade, Ghatge etc. all the other Bijapur stalwarts started running in earnest! All of them were utterly routed. Rustam-e-Zaman started seeing this completely bizarre picture in front of his eyes. Wherever he could see, he saw people running. He was shouting at the top of his voice, pleading with them to stop. To fight. But nobody would listen. It was a complete disaster.

Rustam-e-Zaman himself started running away! His pride was utterly cut-off in front of Maharaj’s sword. Time had come to run away. After running away, they had to reach Bijapur as soon as possible! When Rustam escaped, he had five-six cavaleymen with him. Actually, all of them must have thought about running away from the battlefield already. Only who would begin was the question! Fazal Khan demonstrated excellent courage in beginning this ignominious retreat! He didn’t take a step back! Because he was kind of getting used to the art of running away.

When Rustam-e-Zaman turned around and started running away, Maharaj’s men started to give a chase. But Maharaj called them back. He was smilingly looking at all this running around. It seemed that Maharaj wanted to say, let him run, let him! Let the Badshah hear about your might from Rustam himself!

Karaveer’s skies were once again filled with the acclamations. Imperial armies were dealt a huge defeat. Maharaj got the whole imperial war chest. Besides they also confiscated two thousand horses and twelve elephants. This battle had brought a huge profit overall. This victorious day was, tenth day of the waning moon fortnight of the Magha month in Saka 1581 (Dt 28 December 1659).

Doroji's Konkan Campaign

Two twin forts Chandangad and Vandangad near Javli had also joined Swarajya. Similarly, the Dabhol harbour in Konkan was also captured (Dt 4 February 1660). When Afzal Khan had encamped at Javli, that time, three huge ships laden with goods were anchored in the Dabhol harbour. The goods loaded in these ships were owned by Afzal Khan. That time, even though Maharaj was engrossed in preparing to welcome Afzal Khan, he had one careful eye on the Dabhol harbour. Mohammed Sharif was Dabhol’s Subhedar.

Immediately after killing Afzal Khan, Maharaj sent an extremely courageous warrior named Doroji (Dauloji?) on a campaign to Dabhol. The moment he got the wind that the Maratha raid was approaching Dabhol, Subedar Mohammed Sharif ordered the three ships to be navigated towards Rajapur. He also went to Rajapur with them.

Rajapur was a huge trading station. Rajapur harbour was not right on the seashore. The town was on the bank of creek, in one of the distributaries on one of the banks, and the warehouse factory of the English foreigners was on the opposite bank. The town was encircled by dense forest and high mountains. The trading goods from Konkan and foreign lands meant for the Deccan plateau would be normally collected mainly at Rajapur, and would be loaded on bullocks, and sent to Kolhapur etc. regions through the Fonda, Raipatan-Anaskura etc. mountain passes. Rajapur had thereby become a very wealthy and prosperous city. And English factories for import-export was a must in such a huge marketplace! East India Company had established their warehouse factory here.

Even though Mohammed Sharif had run away from Dabhol to Rajapur, Doroji was well aware of the routes leading to Rajapur! Doroji changed his track towards Rajapur. But by then Mohammed Sharif brought those ships in Rajapur harbour and requested the head official of the British traders there, to take the ships under their control and take care of them.

This chief official of the British foreigners was named Henry Rivington. This gentleman was highly scheming. He used to take upon himself most profitable activities with an ardent passion! Henry considered Mohammed Sharif’s request with great sympathy. But he saw this very clearly that, if they took all three ships under their control, nobody would believe them. So, Henry took only one ship under his control from Mohammed Sharif after due consideration. But then Sharif faced the other question, about what to do with the remaining two ships. So shrewd Henry suggested they took the other two ships to Surat. Surat also had a British warehouse. This is called British advice!

By this time, Doroji reached Rajapur. Mohammed Sharif boarded a rented ship out of fear, and that ship hastened to Vengurla leaving Rajapur behind. He left those two ships in Rajapur itself. But the sailors on those two ships quickly lifted the anchor and took them right in the middle of the seas far from the shore. Probably this idea was also given to the sailors by that scheming gentleman Henry.

Marathas entered Rajapur. They came to the harbour. British warehouse stood on the shore. Some of their stuff was also lying around in the harbour. Doroji inspected the harbour. He could not see Afzal Khan’s ships there. He saw British ships instead flying striped British flags. Doroji was suspicious of these white British. He straightaway demanded the British to hand over all three ships that belonged to Afzal Khan.  Upon this, that Henry Rivington came to the harbour putting up a great pretence of gentlemanly seriousness, and said to Doroji and other Maratha warriors, that they were just traders and did not want to get into the local politics. He assured Marathas that they don't help anybody against anybody else. Henry flatly refused to hand over to Doroji any of his or anybody else’s ships.

Seeing that the foreigners were not listening, Doroji suddenly raided the British goods, and took all of it under his control. There was a British officer named Phillip Gifford there. Doroji arrested him as well. He also captured one more broker. Henry Rivington requested Doroji to let the British people and goods go. But Doroji told them in no uncertain terms, that they wouldn't be released unless Khan's ships were handed over.

That broker captured, was not a ‘white’ person. He was ‘dark’. Doroji later released that broker. But he did not release Phillip Gifford. He sent the captured prisoner and the British goods to Kharepatan from Rajapur. Finally, these so-called politically aloof British started speaking to the point! Henry secretly negotiated with Doroji, and he gave an extremely secret promise to help Shivaji Maharaj fight against a powerful enemy in Konkan! Doroji forced the British into this most important agreement! He did not release Phillip Gifford! Neither did he release the captured goods! He told Henry, that whether to release British men and goods was something that Maharaj would deliberate upon.

Doroji then started from Konkan towards the plateau to meet Maharaj, holding this new political brief.

Overall, Afzal Khan’s campaign had turned out into a very profitable business! Maharaj, Netoji and Doroji achieved extremely fruitful victories. Maharashtra’s prowess was now riding at full gallop. Courage was throwing itself across huge valleys and ravines confidently. The excitement did not know lassitude. Victory and wealth were running around searching for Maharaj with garlands in their hands.

Badshah and Badi Saheba got the news report that Fazal Khan and Rustam-e-Zaman had been handed a resounding defeat and had run back to Bijapur. They were both stunned. This was the second stroke dealt by Shivaji in just three-and-half months immediately following Afzal Khan! Both their heads started spinning in the storms of worry. 

Begum had become annoyed. She started speaking about resigning from the worldly affairs and retiring to Mecca! Shivaji had troubled the whole principality. Whoever went to attack him would not return back at all! And if they turned up, they would be failures! Running to escape alive!

Maratha armies had begun the great dance of Lord Shiva in the imperial realms. Three thousand strong Maratha army was dancing on the Konkan shores like flashes of lightning. One moment at one place, a completely different place at the next moment! The same situation was in eastern Maharashtra, southern Maharashtra and north Karnataka. Maharaj himself had captured the whole belt up to Vishalgad. Netoji had embarked upon a plundering expedition of the imperial realms. Nobody would stand up to resist the Marathas. Huge imperial forces were being beaten back, and this was actually a really wonderful vision. How did these Maratha people, who were being beaten down in Sultanate slavery and somehow carrying on with their ignominious lives for three-hundred-and-fifty years continuously, become so powerful? Everybody was surprised. Even the white seafaring foreigners were wondering.

Maharaj was winning victories all around. Even if the enemy army was three, four times, handful of bitter Maratha army would render it completely ineffective. Goa’s foreign Portuguese governor general had written a letter to his king around this time. He had relayed that one rebel named Shivaji had become extremely powerful. He was quickly capturing Adilshahi realms. If his mission continued like this, he was sure to take over the Bijapur kingdom very soon. This letter is dated, 18 December 1659.

Exactly similar letter had been written by the Dutch governor to the Board of Directors of his trading company. He says in that, the subjects were up in revolt due to the incessant oppression. In these, the rebel named Shivaji had become so successful, that he had captured many of the forts and cities, and his army was now knocking on Bijapur's doors.

'That' Political Move

Maharaj had given completely free reign to Commander-in-Chief Netoji Palkar to plunder Adilshahi realms. Netoji began. Netoji was a cyclone. Netoji was the brilliance of Sikandar’s sword! Netoji’s army was a herd of rhinos! This herd had started pointing their horns ahead from Karaveer to ram into Adilshahi!

Maharaj went back to Panhala from Kolhapur.

Netoji started picking up the Adilshahi outposts on the banks of Krishna one-by-one. Netoji captured the towns like Kavthe, Borgaon, Malgaon, Kundal, Ambap, Ghogaon, Sattikir, Aad, Sangli, Mayil, Pargaon etc. so easily that it would seem as if he had used only his left hand!

However, one of the cantonments would not bow to the Maratha standard nor the Maratha rhinos! Netoji rammed into it with all his might, but it only resulted into a huge dust cloud to rise to the skies. The wall won’t breach. That station was the fort of Miraj. It was a landed fortress. There was a moat surrounding the fort and the ramparts were made of only mud! But they were five yards thick! If rammed correctly, it would even breach the stone walls, but in front of mud, even elephants would surrender! Mines were useless in such cases. Cannons were of no use. To win over mud walls, one needs the perseverance of rats and mice.

But Netoji did not have the time to keep sitting in a siege. He had to render the whole Sultanate restless by covering long distances! Still Netoji started struggling with the fortress. This news reached Maharaj at Panhala. Maharaj recognised that, it was not profitable to let Netoji fight with the soil like this, and so, he himself came down to Miraj from Panhala (January 1660).

Maharaj himself besieged the Miraj fortress and released Netoji for the next campaign. Netoji restarted his planned ride. The Miraj siege now started under the earnest guidance of Maharaj himself. Minutes, hours, days went by. Maharaj was struggling with Miraj. But till now there was no sign of success. At this time Doroji arrived to meet Maharaj with ‘that’ special political move from Konkan. Doroji’s British prisoner Phillip Gifford was imprisoned at the fort of Kharepatan. The tight slap dealt to the British by Doroji was still burning on their cheek. And they had started one important political negotiation with Maharaj through Doroji. The British had offered an invaluable compensation in return for the freedom of their man and the confiscated goods. Doroji informed that secret political ploy to Maharaj. Maharaj listened. He also wanted exactly the same thing. He had previously started negotiations with the British for such a move. But these politically ‘aloof’ British had not provided their response then. But now, the moment their nose was held in political tongs, the British had agreed to fulfil that political desire. That was, the British to help Maharaj with the required armament, and the naval capability necessary to permanently finish off Siddi of Janjira.

Maharaj had a burning desire to fly saffron standard atop the Janjira fort. But the fort was invincible. It was surrounded by the sea on all sides. Earlier, efforts had been made to trounce and drown this Siddi by sending army with Raghunath Ballal. But that move had met with utter failure. Before Afzal’s assassination Maharaj had opened up negotiations with the British requesting their naval help to capture Janjira and Danda-Rajpuri. But that political move had taken a back-seat due to Afzal Khan’s campaign. Now the British had agreed to help and sent the reply with Doroji.

With this alliance brought about by Doroji, Maharaj was overjoyed.

At this time, the British officer Henry Rivington sent one letter to Maharaj from Rajapur. Who had brought this letter is unknown; but he must have been probably an interpreter or a ‘native’ working as an emissary for the British. Probably Henry would have sent Velji. This letter was dated 13 February 1660. The letter confirmed the British promises previously committed about Janjira and Danda-Rajpuri. It explained their refusal to hand over Afzal Khan's ships earlier, and assured of British neutrality. It also requested Maharaj to release British captives from various prisons.

Maharaj listened to the whole matter sent by the British. But while listening, Maharaj’s mind was thinking inside, that the Maratha kingdom was not a gang of thieves and robbers troubling harmless people. The British claimed that they kept aloof from the political activities, maintained friendly relations with everyone, and were a harmless third-party only in India for trade. But he was puzzled why they had helped his enemies. He recognised that the British were not as straightforward as they pretended. They were greedy for land. They were not usual moneylenders. They intended to establish their own kingdom in the end, while putting up a pretence of trading all the time. These people had to be kept in check.

Normally, Maharaj would have thrown this letter from Henry over the wind; but Maharaj stopped himself. Because Maharaj wanted to finish off the Siddi of Janjira with British help! So, keeping his future plan in mind, Maharaj accepted Henry Rivington’s request. He ordered the release of the British captive and handing over their confiscated goods. Not only this, he also pretended to the British, that he had ordered Doroji to be punished for the trouble he had caused them!

British or Janjira’s Siddi, both were Maharaj’s enemies, but by taking help from one enemy to vanquish the other, Maharaj intended to engineer a political move to increase his own, and Swarajya’s strength. He showed some mercy to the British, just for this long-term purpose.

Now the British had the responsibility to keep the promise made to Maharaj. Phillip Gifford was released. During this imprisonment, British had been supplying their own food to Gifford.

Maharaj sent the permit to release Gifford. But by that time he had been taken out of the Kharepatan fort and had been moved to the Khelna fort by the Marathas. British came to know this. So, the same party was redirected to Khelna. As ordered by Maharaj, Marathas handed over Gifford to the British. It was clearly visible, how much the British brethren would exert themselves to free just one of their men. Henry Rivington was restless until Gifford was released.

The Miraj siege was still on. This was the month of Falgun in Saka year 1581. Netoji Palkar was riding roughshod over and lighting fires in the imperial realms. Because of this overall menace created by Maharaj, Badshah’s heart had been set afire with anger.

Siddi Johar's Campaign

Sultan Ali Adilshah had been harried by three syllables. The same three syllables had also been troubling his sardars and army, ‘Shi-Va-Ji’! Even if someone somewhere murmured these three syllables extremely quietly, their echoes with increasing intensity would keep resonating in each one’s hearts! Like in the Gol Gumbaz!

These echoes contained surprise, terror, curiosity, anger, and vengeance. They hardly contained any appreciation.

These three syllables were constantly being chewed with extreme hatred right in Badshah’s teeth. But there was no solution in sight! A thorn named Shivaji had made its house in hearts. Who was so powerful, to be able to wipe these three syllables ‘Shi-Va-Ji’ from the face of the earth? Badshah and his counsellors were thinking. Memories were being explored!

And it was found! One fine day, Badshah found one black diamond in the mine of his memory! Sardar Siddi Johar from the fort Mohammed-noor alias Kurnool in Telangana! And the memory brought the vision of that dark, huge, steely statuesque body to the Badshah. The word ‘Johar’ meant ‘precious stone’. Siddi Johar was actually a precious stone. He was extremely brave, experienced, capable, persevering in his duties. He had all the virtues of a Commander-in-Chief, but Bijapur court used to always disregard him. He was not in Badshah’s special favour. That straightforward brutish soldier had never learnt the art of securing Badshah’s good offices. The imperial court would always refer to him disparagingly. But now Badshah remembered this disfavoured sardar from the bottom of his heart.

And what a coincidence! Siddi Johar himself had sent an application to the Badshah! His application, conveyed to the Badshah that he was repenting for his past mistake and sought pardon. He requested to be given one opportunity to prove his loyalty.

Upon seeing this application from Siddi Johar presented at the court, Badshah and other important sardars were overjoyed. Johar had responded even before they had called him. And then Badshah showered heaps of praise on Johar in open court. He immediately sent for Johar. However, in the firman for the personal audience, Badshah had put on a different pretence. The firman relayed Badshah's willingness to pardon all Johar's previous mistake if he took up the task of vanquishing Shivaji.

Immediately, Badshah sent the court assistant Kashi Timaji with the firman to Kurnool. Kashipant was to bring along Siddi Johar to Bijapur.

Kashi Timaji went to Kurnool and came back to Bijapur with Siddi Johar. Johar also brought along his Abyssinian army. Abyssinian army looked like a black sea. Thick swollen lips as if stung by honeybees, huge eyes, thick eyebrows, curly hair and such colour! These Abyssinians were extremely brave. Perseverance and honesty ran in their blood. They were equally powerful. Like a bison. Once their bare bodies stood up with a sword on their shoulders, even the enemy elephants would fear them. Siddi Johar was a commander of such wonderful capability. However, he was not diplomatic. He was a straightforward soldier.

After coming to Bijapur, Siddi Johar went to court. Today, he was the cynosure of all eyes in court, because he was being given the much-acclaimed responsibility of a new campaign against Shivaji. Badshah treated him to an excellent felicitation. He was given an epithet ‘Salabat Khan’. He was given usual protocol felicitation honours. He was praised in front of the full court assembly. Siddi Johar was overwhelmed with all these favours. He was never praised this much anywhere. Badshah also granted an epithet ‘Diyanatrao’ to Kashi Timaji and ordered him to remain in Siddi Johar’s service. This Kashi Timaji’s surname was Deshpande. He was originally from Karhad.

Seeing that Siddi Johar had been nominated to lead the campaign against Shivaji, many other sardars felt somewhat courageous. Badshah ordered many other sardars to join Johar’s campaign army. Rustam-e-Zaman, Sadat Khan, Siddi Masood, Mudhol’s Baji Ghorpade, Bhai Khan, Pidnaik, Bade Khan etc. names were included in the campaign. Besides Fazal Khan was also ordered to accompany Johar.

Shivaji was at that time sitting in the siege of Miraj, the fort of Murtuzabad, in the Panhala region. So, it was decided that Salabat Khan should aim for Miraj.

Johar’s campaign encampment was set up. This camp was even larger than Afzal Khan’s army. The numerical strength of Johar’s army is variously found in different documents. Somewhere it is mentioned that he brought twenty-thousand cavalry, and numerous infantry; somewhere, twenty-five thousand all together; while one Dutch scribe from Vengurla has mentioned in his letter to his governor-general, that Johar’s camp contained sixteen to twenty thousand cavalry and thirty-five to forty thousand infantry. There is no doubt the overall army was at least thirty-five thousand strong.

Bijapur again got busy in the rush of the new campaign. Johar had the assistance of people who had become wise in the previous campaign. Precautions to not repeat even a single mistake from Afzal Khan’s campaign again were being taken right from the beginning. Johar was personally looking after each and every arrangement. Cannons were running crushing the ground beneath them. Carts full of fodder, swaying from side to side, were inching towards the encampment in their convoys. A huge line of elephants was standing at the entrance of the camp. Tents, awnings, smaller tents, were countless. Ammunition, treasury, armament, orderlies, provisions, all the paraphernalia were vast.

Besides, Shringarpur’s Raja Suryarao Surve, Palavani’s Jaswantrao, Sawantwadi’s Raja Bhosale Sawant etc. armed sardars from Konkan, had been ordered by the Badshah to join the campaign by sending them firmans. He had also arranged for all other enemies in Konkan to rise against Maharaj. Not only this, but the Badshah had also sent one earnest application to Aurangzeb at Delhi saying, ‘I am sending an army to permanently vanquish Shivaji, who has become terribly menacing for the Deccan Sultanate. Please send as much provisions as possible!’ This meant, the Badshah had hatched a plan to break the dams of all Shivaji’s enemies together, and completely drown Shivaji in the resulting deluge of armies.

Campaign Begins

This vast army under the leadership of Siddi Johar took leave of the Badshah and began its campaign. Towards Panhalgad! Via Miraj!

Maharaj was at Miraj. He got the news reports about this new campaign. This was expected. Maharaj thought about the plan, and decided, to lift Miraj siege and reach Panhalgad. Because he knew he did not have the numerical strength to fight such big army in open battle. He would have got crushed. He chose Panhalgad this time, because it was right at the edge of Swarajya. Howsoever difficult the forts Rajgad, Pratapgad or Purandar were, they were right in the core of Swarajya. If Maharaj had gone there, the enemy deluge had entered Swarajya behind him and the subjects would have been done to dust. So, Maharaj’s plan was to meet the enemy either outside the kingdom or at least at the borders. Maharaj recognised, that wherever he went, the enemy would follow, and hence he had fixed Panhalgad, which lay right at the edge of Swarajya.

Besides Panhalgad was extremely strong and Maharaj thought, that the monsoons were near. Netoji Palkar was on a campaign outside Swarajya. If he went to Panhala, Siddi Johar would besiege the fort. Netoji would attack him from outside, and the siege would not be sustainable under the incessant monsoon showers. Siddi would get irritated by all this, and then he would not have the spunk and enthusiasm to besiege a new fort. With all this thought Maharaj decided to take shelter at Panhalgad.

At this time Aaisaheb was at Rajgad. The mother-son had not met even after Afzal Khan’s assassination. Because on the day of the assassination itself (Dt 10 November 1659) in the middle of the night, Maharaj had embarked on the next campaign. Both of them did not have it in their nature to get caught up in emotions leaving aside the Rajadharma (kingly duties). Both mother and son would have cut-off the ties of emotion with a grim heart for Rajadharma. Both their minds were constantly thinking of each other. Now Maharaj was getting caught up in another terrible crisis again. How many days this new crisis would last, was known only to destiny. To fulfil the ultimate goal, this separation from the beloved had to be borne. And readiness for sacrificing one’s life was also finally there.

Maharaj entered Panhalgad. The fort was bedecked in saffron flags and celebration pylons. This was the first day of the waxing moon fortnight in the month of Chaitra (Dt 2 March 1660). 

At the beginning of the new year, Swarajya was facing terrible calamities. One extremely huge crisis was coming from the north. Prompted by Adilshah’s letter, Aurangzeb had decided to send a huge force to attack Maharashtra. Siddi Johar was anyways coming from Bijapur.

Dust clouds of the gathering storm were riding towards Panhala. Johar’s army was galloping. Panhala was standing proud and unmoved holding the saffron standard in the clasp of its turrets in the front. The moment it came in sight, Johar’s army got intoxicated by a new frenzy. It was roaring. Galloping.

Johar knew that it was impossible to win the fort through a direct attack. He had confirmed intelligence that Shivaji was atop Panhala. He had planned to besiege the fort and stay there until Shivaji surrendered. He planned to starve Shivaji out into surrender. He was ready to put up a fight if Shivaji picked up a sword and attack the siege. This was Johar’s resolve.

Panhalgad Besieged

A huge camp was set up at Panhalgad’s base. A thicket of tents was erected. Johar planned for besieging Panhala on all four sides, and accordingly he quickly set up the force’s outposts. In a short while, Panhala was besieged. Fazal Khan, Bade Khan, Rustam-e-Zaman and Johar himself took the command of the eastern side. Sadat Khan, Siddi Masood, Baji Ghorpade, and Bhai Khan blocked the western side. Johar ensured similar blockade on the north and the south sides as well.

The siege positions started attacking the fort with cannons, guns, and arrows. Even the Marathas responded from the fort, and such barrage was kept continuously on amongst them. None of Johar’s barrages affected the fort. Maharaj was extremely alert. He wouldn’t allow the enemy even move an inch towards the fort. It was like the Lakshmanresha (a reference to the magical line Lakshman had drawn to protect Seeta)! Johar couldn’t manage to move beyond a specific range. The moment anybody crossed that point, the fort cannons would be fired! Or arrows or guns would be fired! Johar’s shots couldn’t reach the fort at all.

However, Johar’s power kept on increasing continuously. Shringarpur’s Suryarao Surve and Palavani’s Jaswantrao joined Johar with their own armies.

Two weeks went past like this (Dt 15 March 1660 or thereabouts). Johar and Fazal were only thinking of one thing. How to make their shots to reach the fort ramparts? They needed guns with longer range and the required ammunition. But the siege positions did not have such cannons. Suddenly Johar and especially Fazal got one idea. They remembered the British warehouse owners of Rajapur. Fazal Khan and Rustam-e-Zaman were acquainted with Henry Rivington through prior correspondence. What if they received such long-range cannons and ammunition from the British? But the British only limited themselves to trade! They remained aloof from local politics. Then how would they help? But if they get paid, then probably they would agree! Not as part of any politics, but in the name of trade, there would not be any hesitation to supply ammunition and the long-range cannons! Even if the British company didn’t agree, there should not be any hesitation on Henry Rivington’s part to provide this help at a personal level!

British Help

Thinking of all possibilities, Johar and Fazal sent one of their emissaries along with four-hundred cavalrymen to the British at Rajapur immediately. Siddi Johar’s emissary reached Rajapur with an urgency. He met Henry Rivington in the factory, and presented to him Johar’s letter and message: ‘we are ready to buy long-range cannons and required ammunition; please supply these items to us’, was Johar’s demand.

Henry started thinking. Because supplying these cannons and ammunition to Johar, was helping Shivaji’s enemy. Just a little while back, they had simply taken Afzal Khan’s ship under their custody, and Shivaji’s army official had rendered a stinging slap. Now what would Shivaji say if they directly supply ammunition to his enemies? But immediately Henry also thought deeply and with foresight! Shivaji was now caught within the wheels of a mill, it was impossible for him to escape from this situation. And Johar had blocked him with his vast army on Panhalgad. There was another force from Aurangzeb, four-times larger winding its way down to Deccan with an intention to destroy Shivaji’s kingdom. Other enemies were also ready to pounce. It was impossible for Shivaji to escape the double grindstones alive. He was to have died at the time of Afzal Khan's campaign itself, but Khan had behaved naively. But this time Shivaji was done for. Then there was no problem providing help to Siddi Johar. It would be a way to secure some concessions from the Bijapur court.

This way, Henry measured up his diplomatic stature. His ambitions got a fillip. He became greedy and he suddenly agreed to Johar’s demands! He did not even feel the need to take the permission from the governor at Surat. He took this decision at ‘personal’ level! Even when the agreement entered with Shivaji one-and-half month back was fresh in his memory, Henry acted against Shivaji Maharaj. Not only did he agree to provide the ammunition, but he also agreed to provide two British gunners! Not only this, he himself decided to join Panhala’s siege! His other collegues were also happy at this new invitation. 

The march preparations were completed. One small detachment of British gunners, one huge cannon, the casks of ammunition and other required articles stepped out of Rajapur factory and especially, the British standard known as Union Jack also came out fluttering! Henry had intended to help Johar openly flying this standard.

Henry started from Rajapur (Dt 2 April 1660). And he started climbing Sahyadri by the Raipatan-Anaskura ghat. That huge cannon was going to take this very high mountain pass. It was peak summer. Henry had the four hundred cavalrymen sent by Johar assisting him.

Finally crushing the ground beneath, that huge British cannon entered the region of Malkapur. Siddi Johar welcomed Henry in style. Immediately that cannon and the British guests joined the siege camp at the base of Panhala marching to British tunes (around Dt 10 April 1660).

Immediately, Johar commercially sweetened the deal for Henry in diplomatic language! He told the Sultanate was ready to order more of these cannons.  But everybody had become curious to see the new cannon’s fire! The siege was experiencing a wave of enthusiasm due to British cannon. The British preparations were excellent. Henry was accompanied by others like Mingham, Phillip Gifford, Velji etc. colleagues.

After some time, the British gunners, Henry Rivington and Siddi Johar stepped out to examine the cannon’s impact. People pulled and pushed that huge cannon to the attack position. Aiming for Panhalgad’s ramparts the gunners ‘fixed’ the cannon angle. Stuffing the gunpowder and ball in it, the British gunners stood aside. Henry Rivington hoisted his Union Jack standard beside the cannon. By flying this standard openly, British declared their rivalry with Maharaj. It was an enmity with fire! But those British soldiers weren’t even bothered about what they were doing. They were intoxicated in their arrogance.

Maharaj was pacing around in anxiety atop the fort.

Henry gave the signal. The wick was lit and a resounding boom filled the skies! Such a huge report! A plume of smoke arose. Red hot cannonball flew towards the ramparts. When did the enemy camp acquire a cannon producing this big a report? The whole fort got curious. And behold, there was a British standard flying! And right beside it, the British themselves were firing a huge cannon!

Maharaj realised! Seeing the British firing the cannon in such shameless arrogance, Maharaj was beside himself with anger. These were the same British, whom he had favoured one-and-half months back! Their goods were returned. Their man was released. Their trade was allowed to run unhindered till today, this was their way of repaying all these favours! 

However, there was no impact to Panhala due to the British firing. No special impact had been observed to the fort due to those cannonballs. Maharaj had kept Panhalgad in excellent condition.

But the British were anyways foreigners. Siddi Johar was also a foreigner. No wonder if one foreigner colluded with another. But what would you say if someone from your own family aligned with a foreigner? And this soil had given rise to too many of such treacherous family members. Shringarpur’s Surve and Palvani’s Jaswantrao were Badshah’s Jagirdars from the beginning. To nurse enmity towards Maharaj and Swarajya was their duty! It was named ‘Loyalty’! But some other shameless people keeping an eye only on their livelihoods, had started feeling overwhelmed with love towards the Badshah. There were two of these people. One was named, Gondaji Pasalkar. He used to live in Mose basin. He was a cousin of Baji Pasalkar. But so different from his brother, that Baji Pasalkar made the supreme sacrifice while fighting for Swarajya, and this ‘virtuous’ Govinda was colluding with Swarajya’s enemies. He had requested the Sultanate to grant him the local village and surrounding arable land, after which he would happily serve Siddi Johar.

The other was named, Kedarji Khopde Deshmukh. He was related to Khandoji Khopde. He had sent an application to the Badshah again similarly requesting additional land-grants, for him to be able to serve Siddi Johar.

Both their applications were instantly approved by Ali Adilshah. Would an enemy to Maharashtra and Maharaj let go of such an opportunity to set alight such embers right in Maharashtra’s lap? Badshah had sent the grant firmans to both of them on the same day (Dt 9 March 1660).

It was impossible even for a small bird to breach the fort siege. Maharaj was not able to receive any outside intelligence. Some of the men from the fort tried to step out of the fort and escape the siege once. But all of them were killed by the enemy! Johar had taken two most important actions. One was, he had besieged Khelna, alias Vishalgad, which was towards Panhalgad’s northwest. He had appointed Suryarao Raje Surve and Palavani’s Jaswantrao on the siege of Vishalgad.

This action taken by Johar was as important as it was an indicator of his alertness. Monsoons were drawing near. It rained heavily beneath Panhala. He started building roofs for the oncoming rainy season for his siege positions and camp to ensure the siege went on determinedly and without any problems. This was the arrangement to ensure the siege didn’t relax even in huge downpour. Badshah was continuously sending warning messages to Johar, to remain extremely careful. Shivaji was extremely shrewd. There was no guarantee what move he would play. So he had warned Siddi to keep his eyes open and be on his toes.

Maharaj was hoping atop the fort, that Netoji Palkar would attack Johar’s siege from outside and it will scatter the siege. That opportunity could be availed to get out. But there was no sign of Netoji so far.

The monsoon footsteps were evident in the skies. The month of Vaishakh passed. Jyeshtha had arrived. This year, the lunar calendar had the Adhikmas (additional month to account for the alignment of days in the lunar calendar with the solar cycle – something similar to leap year).

Shaistakhan's Campaign

The application sent by Badshah Ali Adilshah from Bijapur reached Aurangzeb in Delhi. Adilshah had resolved to completely destroy Shivaji Maharaj. He had sent thirty-five thousand strong army with Siddi Johar and Fazal Khan to Panhala. And besides he had sent this request to Delhi. The request informed Aurangzeb that Shivaji intended to lay the foundation of an independent Kafir kingdom in the Deccan region. This was a very bad situation for Islam and Islamic rule. Shivaji was deceitful. So to consign this rebel Shivaji to dust, they were requesting the Mughals to send an experienced imperial commander along with as much force as possible to the Deccan. They had already sent their own force to attack him. And the request was to entrap him in a pincer attack. This was a very good opportunity to finish off Shivaji by coming together.

Aurangzeb started thinking about Adilshah’s request. The speed of his rosary, which was a permanent feature, started increasing. Each one of the gemstones on that rosary was like one Mughal move! Aurangzeb thought that Adilshahi army and sardars have been sent to attack Shivaji. If he also sent an army in this situation, he will be able to avail the opportunity to send this rebellious Shivaji permanently to hell.

Aurangzeb nursed intense hatred towards Maharaj. Because two years ago, Maharaj had denuded two outposts belonging to Aurangzeb. First one was Junnar (Dt 30 April 1657) and second was Ahmednagar (Dt 4 June 1657). Together in these two raids, Maharaj had looted nine hundred horses, awning and tents, precious stones and treasury worth more than forty lakh rupees! That time Aurangzeb was at Bidar. He was very angry with Maharaj at that time itself. But he had not been able to take any decisive action then. Because his father Emperor Shahjahan had fallen ill, and he was in a hurry to reach Delhi to acquire the imperial throne. He had left for Delhi keeping this anger against Maharaj consigned to a deep corner of his mind.

Now Aurangzeb had become completely carefree after very creatively murdering all his brothers and nephews and imprisoning his own father in the Agra fort. He had trained his attention towards the Deccan and especially Maharaj since the time of Afzal Khan’s campaign itself. Afzal Khan was a renowned sardar at Bijapur court. Aurangzeb nursed equal amount of hatred towards Afzal Khan as well. Because he had engineered to entrap Aurangzeb at the time of the Bidar campaign once (1657 CE) in such a way, that in that battle Aurangzeb would have either got killed at his hands or would have been captured alive. But through a stroke of immense luck and Khan Mohammed’s blessings Aurangzeb could escape unscathed that time. But that escape had done nothing to reduce his animosity towards Afzal Khan. Aurangzeb would have felt neither joy nor grief, if anyone out of Afzal or Shivaji had died or emerged victorious from their confrontation. Because one could have said, Aurangzeb had become satisfied when Khan got killed! If both had died, Aurangzeb would have been overjoyed with his God!

But now considering that the time had come to finish off Shivaji, he gave an approval to Adilshah’s request, and decided to send a vast army and armaments sufficient to crush Shivaji. Someone Ba-Himmat (courageous), Diler (brave), Wakif-e-fan-e-Azb (well-versed in the swordfight), Tajurbekar (experienced), and Wafadar (loyal) warrior was required for this campaign. Aurangzeb remembered a high-ranking sardar who was the subedar of Deccan and stationed at Aurangabad. This sardar was really high up in the ladder. He was a spitting image of Aurangzeb himself! He was related to Aurangzeb as well. An uncle! Amir-ul-Umrao Nawab Bahadur Mirza Abu Talib alias Shaistakhan!

It was not like Shaistakhan was renowned only because he was Aurangzeb’s uncle. In fact, he was a great diplomat, brave commander and experienced administrator. He was currently stationed at Aurangabad.

Aurangzeb immediately issued a firman for Shaistakhan about the campaign. He expressed his desire to vanquish Shivaji permanently. He approved a vast cavalry, infantry, artillery and full imperial war-chest for this Deccan campaign. Besides, he issued standing orders for everyone to instantly meet Shaistakhan’s needs, apart from all these.

This was the first wave of the deluge Aurangzeb unleashed on Maharaj. Now he was continuously focussed on the Deccan and Maharaj. Aurangzeb’s firman for Nawab Shaistakhan started at a quick gallop from Delhi’s Red Fort. Khan was at Aurangabad. Khan got the firman. ‘A campaign against Shivaji meant assured victory! How much maximum force would Shivaji own after all? Besides, the thirty-five thousand strong Bijapur force is already upon him.’ Khan thought of this whole Shivaji campaign too lightly. He immediately ordered to start the preparations of the campaign.

Swarajya was getting covered with these storm clouds on all eight directions. This was the demonic play to hit Maharaj with armies and armaments on all sides and break into pieces, Maharaj and his Marathi kingdom itself. 

The moment Maharaj’s enemies got the news that the Mughal army would start from Aurangabad, they became extremely happy. Adilshah also became overjoyed. People who had been rendered wringing their hands in helpless frustration till now, started clapping with them.

Shaistakhan’s army prepared itself. They were looking like four-five additional cities had been established outside Aurangabad. Around seventy-seven thousand cavalry and around thirty thousand infantry was standing ready. The army contained many mighty warriors belonging to various races like Kazhakh, Pathans, Uzbeks, Gond, Baxari, Arabic, Mughal, Rajput, Bundelas etc. And there were Marathas too!

All the preparations of Shaistakhan’s campaign were completed. The standard-bearers were sent to the first resting spot ahead of the army. The provisions were also sent ahead to the first resting spot. The marching drums started to roll. Nawab Shaistakhan started. His sardars fell in line one after another. Each and every one of these sardars under Khan’s command had their claim to fame in huge battles before. They were highly respected. The first sardar was Shams Khan Pathan. He was a famous, mighty and equally proud warrior in the Mughal Sultanate. More courageous than him, in fact invincible, here came the second warrior, Namdar Khan. This third one –

Each and every one of them was equally great. Ghiyasuddin Khan, Hassan Munim, Sultan Mirza, Manchehar, Turuktaj Khan, Kubahat Khan, Haud Khan, Imam Birudi Khan, Lodi Khan, Dilawar Maulad, Abdul Beg, Khoja Sultan, Siddi Fateh Khan, Fateh Jung, Kartalab Khan, Ghazi Khan, Bhav Singh, Kishor Singh, Sham Singh, Raja Girdhar Manohar, Raja Pradyuman, Raja Anirudh, Raja Purushottam, Raja Govardhan, Raja Rajsingh Goud, Raja Biramdev Sisodia, Ramsingh and Raisingh Sisodia, Raja Amarsingh Chandrawat, Commander-in-Chief of Chanda’s gond king Arindam, and Shaistakhan’s son Abdul Fateh Khan. All these sardars also had another sardar named Khoja Bhangad also amongst them.

And then came some recognizable names! Soorji Gaikwad, Dinkarrao Kakde, Rambhajirao Pawar, Sarjerao Ghatge, Kamlojirao Kokate, Jaswantrao Kokate, Tryambakrao Khandagale, Kamlojirao Gade, Antajirao Khandagale, and Dattajirao Khandagale. Pure-blood Marathas all these! They felt Shaistakhan was closer to them than Maharaj.

There was Tryambakjiraje Bhosale, Jiwajiraje Bhosale, Balajiraje Bhosale, and this Parsojiraje Bhosale. These Bhosale warriors themselves were all blood-brothers of Maharaj. These were all Maharaj’s cousins, uncles, nephews and once-removed-cousins etc. relations. 

Pandita Raibaghan

And what wonder! One lady was riding atop a horse!

Woman? Shaistakhan’s Mughal force had one true Maharashtrian Brahmin lady?

Yes! She was the famed lady of Mahur. Pandita Raibaghan! This lady’s bravery was renowned. She was extremely capable, religious, diplomatic, and extremely proud. But that pride lay in the service of Mughal Sultans. She had been attending all campaigns of the Mughal army with her sword ever since her husband had died. Her real name was Savitribai. She was the wife of Raje Udaram Deshmukh from Mahur in Berar. Rajeram Uddhavrao alias Udaram made his name in the Mughal Sultanate and died in the service of Mughals (1632 CE). His son Raje Jagjivanrao was so aligned with Mughals that his speech, behaviour, likes and wants and overall lifestyle had become true-blue Mughal! He used to serve the Badshah with all his heart. Jagjivanrao had stood behind Aurangzeb in the fratricidal wars he had fought to acquire the throne. And he had died fighting for Aurangzeb (1658 CE).

And after the death of her son, holding her grandson Baburao in one hand, Savirtribai was personally serving Aurangzeb again. The grandson was also getting trained in his childhood in the footsteps of her husband and son, but again to serve the Mughals. This was the difference between Aaisaheb Jijabai and Savitribai alias Raibaghan saheb! Both were from the same Berar region. But such a vast difference. First one showed the sinewy muscles made out of the Berar cotton to the Sultans, while the other made her life the wick dipped in ghee burning in front of the Sultanate throne for life.

This lone woman was managing the Jagir of the Mahur, Pusad, Washim, Malegao Bhosale, Vara, Tulshi etc. areas in Berar.

Happy with her valour Aurangzeb conferred upon her two epithets ‘Pandita’, and ‘Raibaghan’. Raibaghan meant Royal Tigress! She was actually as brave as a tigress. She was the tigress of Mahur, but she had now turned an enemy of Swarajya and Maharaj.

Two more amazingly brave persons from Berar were proudly marching in the line of Shaistakhan’s sardars. Sindakhed’s Dattajiraje Jadhavrao and Rustamraoraje Jadhavrao. These were from Aaisaheb’s own family, Maharaj’s maternal family! Instead of appreciating their own nephew and sister, they had prepared to finish them off. Maharaj who had sacrificed his own life for establishing Swarajya was facing such opposition from his own people! They were hell-bent upon not allowing the establishment of an independent kingdom of the Marathas! Shivaji must be destroyed was their intention!

Shaistakhan marched towards Swarajya with his vast army (Dt 28 January 1660). He kept Mukhtar Khan back at Aurangabad. Khan started in the din of his war-drums and other instruments. His artillery was also huge. Philnals (cannons mounted on elephants), Sutarnals (cannons mounted on camels), Jejale, Hatnals, Garnals, cannons atop horses, war vehicles filled with ammunition etc. all armaments were accompanying the artillery. The chief official on the artillery was a very able sardar named Tarbiyat Khan. Mir-e-Aatish Tarbiyat Khan.

And it was as if a sea of people had suddenly started flowing. Seventy-seven thousand cavalry, around thirty-thousand infantry, and servants, assistants, camp-followers etc. were countless. So many eating mouths. The marching elephants seemed like a live wall. Only barn camels carrying provisions were around hundred! Fighting elephants were around four hundred. 

Shaistakhan started from Aurangabad and reached Ahmednagar in fourteen days (Dt 11 February 1660). At this time, Maharaj had besieged the Miraj fort. He was getting the intelligence reports about this vast campaign of the Khan and Siddi Johar’s march continuously. Around one-and-half lakh army was encircling Swarajya from two directions at the same time. And what was Maharaj’s own strength? Maximum fifteen-thousand-strong army including infantry and cavalry both! What were fifteen thousand in front of one-and-half lakh enemy? What would Maharaj have felt hearing these reports of the enemy strength? Did he get frightened?

No! Absolutely and definitely not! His courage was amazing! All his own and foreign enemies had gathered together and risen up against him at this time. Maharaj was standing tall and straight like a cliff of the Sahyadri and thinking about defeating all of them!

Shaistakhan stayed at Ahmednagar for thirteen days, and on the fourteenth day (Dt 25 February 1660) he marched off from Nagar. Now Swarajya’s boundary was very near. Khan entered Swarajya the very next day of Pratipada (first day) of the waxing moon fortnight of the month of Chaitra (Gudipadwa). Khan entered Swarajya (Dt 3 March 1660, halt at Sonwadi).

And Swarajya started being rendered desolate by the Mughals! Whole villages started running away! Traders ran. Temples and monasteries started getting destroyed. Idols started breaking. Farmlands and horticultural lands started getting burnt. Arson, repression, rapes, rioting – what else? – Whatever the Sultanate armies used to do, all that started happening. 

Khan crossed Bhima river. He entered the Karha plateau. The saffron standard atop the Supa fortress was taken out. Khan kept Jadhavrao at Supa and entrusted to them the responsibility to continue gathering provisions for the Mughal army! The morsels of food that were happily feeding the children and livestock in Swarajya without hindrance, started getting robbed away for the Mughal army. And that too at the hands of our very own Jadhavraos.

Guerrilla Tactics

Thereafter Shaistakhan’s front made way towards Baramati. He reached Baramati (Dt 5 April 1660) and stayed there for eleven days. He arranged for repairs of the local fortress and kept sufficient soldiery there. At the same time, he captured Indapur as well.

Khan was making all these moves along with his huge army in an absolutely carefree manner. He was confident, that Shivaji did not have the courage to oppose him. But suddenly, like a long thorn of the Babool pierces one’s foot, one Maratha detachment raided the Mughal camp fearlessly. Whatever massacre and plunder possible, was carried out and quickly scurrying like rats, the Marathas vanished as well!

And then this started happening consistently. This small detachment raiding Khan’s convoy was from Rajgad. Jijabai Aaisaheb was on Rajgad.

Shaistakhan travelled from Baramati to a village named Hol on the banks of Neera river (Dt 16 April 1660) and after a couple of days he marched towards Shirval. Maratha detachments kept on harrying Khan’s convoy through guerrilla warfare. Shaistakhan entrusted the responsibility of protecting the convoy, from these runaway Maratha detachments raiding every now and then, to a sardar named Sharza Khan along with three-thousand men. Sharza Khan kept a close watch one time and attacked these raiding Marathas. But he could not catch even a single one of them. 

Khan reached Shirval. He captured Shirval’s landed fortress Subhanmangal. He kept some of his army there. Khan came to know at Shirval, that Shivaji’s fort named Rajgad was just ten kos from there. There were four-five other forts also in Rajgad’s vicinity and Shivaji’s Marathas were securely ensconced atop those forts for raiding them. Upon this, Khan ordered Sharza Khan, Rao Bhav Singh, Shamsuddin Khan and Mir Abdul Mabud, to permanently finish off these Marathas. These sardars were also given one thousand special musketeers. These sardars went behind those Marathas, but they also could not catch anybody. But these Mughals were considering these incidents as their ‘victories’!

But the most surprising or appreciable incident in all these raids was, the Maratha detachments outfoxed all these sardars and attacked the main camp of Shaistakhan! The traps set to ensnare them remained open with their doors, and the rats raided the main feast directly! Shaistakhan realised, that these moves were not taking him anywhere!

Khan’s army burnt down some of the villages surrounding Rajgad. The villages on the Karha plateau were in a similar condition. Not even a single blade of grass (needed to perform the death rituals), was left due to all this plunder and arson! All the able-bodied, working, capable men from Swarajya were struggling to keep it alive from atop Panhalgad with Maharaj, or other forts, and with Netoji and on the other side. While like huge stone-crushers spewing out dust, Khan’s army was crushing down the Maratha households. Swarajya was facing a dual calamity like never before.

Aaisaheb was constantly working beyond her abilities from atop Rajgad to protect her poor Maratha subjects. She was covering the Swarajya with her loving protective care. But the enemy’s stormy breath was so powerful, that her protective cover was constantly getting blown away.

All the borders of Swarajya were crying aloud for help. To protect their lives and self-esteem, people were abandoning their homes and running away helplessly.

Fears of Aaisaheb’s ambitions of Swarajya being blown away like dandelions on the wind, had started raising their heads. Siddi Johar had caught Panhala in a tight embrace like a Bakasur (a reference to the well-known demon’s tale in Mahabharata), and Rajgad had been besieged by anxiety.

Aaisaheb’s handful force had irritated Shaistakhan’s huge army through their guerrilla tactics. Maharaj’s enemies were getting strong by the day like Ahirawan and Mahirawan (a reference to the demons from Ramayana). But Aaisaheb at Rajgad, Maharaj at Panhalgad and every other mavala at their own forts, were hardening their emotional strength inspired by Bhawani. ‘We Marathas will neither bend nor break!’ was their resolve.

At Lal-Mahal

Shaistakhan came to Shivapur from Shirval. And then he made his way to Saswad. Khan’s army started marching through the Garade mountain pass, which was also known as Mariaai Ghat. Following the rhythm of big and small bells around their necks, elephants, horses, camels and the accompanying soldiers were marching. With absolute slow speed and carefree attitude. Suddenly, a terrifying commotion arose! Marathas came! Marthas attacked! Suddenly the Marathas pounced on the imperial army from the surrounding mountains like monkeys. Unleashing a terrible massacre, they suddenly vanished like they had appeared! Marathas destroyed Khan’s stock of tobacco!

The Marathas wreaked utter havoc over Khan’s army during this travel from Garade to Saswad. Finally, Khan decided to encamp at Pune, and then to think about his next steps. He marched off from Saswad. He made way towards Pune via the Rajewadi, Patas, Yavat, Hadapsar route. This distance by the chosen route from Saswad to Pune is just ten kos. To cover this ten kos distance, Khan took only nine days! This meant his army was ‘galloping’ at an average speed of one-and-a-quarter kos daily! One kos is around three-and-a-quarter kilometres. The reason was, Khansaheb was camping at various places along the way. The day when Khan started from Saswad was 1 May 1660. Khan had now reached the peripheral fields of Pune.

And Pune was attacked. Shaistakhan’s cavalry and Khan’s own elephant entered Pune. The deluge of the army followed behind. Pune city did not have a fortified rampart. The fortified rampart that existed, had been destroyed already by Adilshahi sardar Rayarao long back. Pune was captured easily (Dt 9 May 1660).

Khan’s eyes lit up seeing the capture of Shivaji’s Pune. Khan’s encampment was set up on the long banks of Mutha river for around one-and-a-half kos. Shaistakhan himself made way towards Lal Mahal with his sardars. Maharaj’s own residence ‘Lal Mahal’ was towards the west of Kasba Pune. Khan was overjoyed when he came to know, this was Shivaji’s own mansion.

Shaistakhan crossed Lal Mahal’s threshold and stepped inside. Brocaded silk and net curtains were hung everywhere. Khojas (transgender) walking their unnecessarily girlish gait entered Lal Mahal. Khan’s zenana palanquins followed them. Lal Mahal got busy. Crowded. Khan selected Lal Mahal for his own stay. Immediately it was decorated in the Mughal style with curtains, carpets, spittoons, censers, platters and wine jugs. Servants like tartar ladies, khojas, slaves, courtesans, cooks, water-carriers and other assistants came. Noble and genteel Maharashtrian Lal Mahal was turned into Mughal green palace!

The whole surrounding areas of Pune were covered by the one-lakh strong army. Strict outposts and patrols were set up from the Maval entry point right up to Kumbhar Gateway. Green standard was hoisted over Pune. The Azaan started echoing across from the masjids. A deluge of all kinds of Muslim people including the Mughal soldiery, camel-riders, palanquin-bearers, khojas, fakirs, bhishtis (water-carriers), Abyssinian slaves etc. flooded the whole area. Tents, awnings, small camps covered every inch of ground.

And then the revelry started on Mughal drums. Tambourines started joining the music. Courtesans named Salma-Roshan-Najma-Nigar started dancing, removing their niqabs. Some rosy artists started opening up their Qawwalis with left hand on their ears, girly flourish of the right hand reaching their hearts, winking through the corner of their eyes. Streams of laughter, heady intoxication of the hookah, wafts of smoke and frolic everywhere! The whole Mughal camp relaxed in the enjoyment.

Netoji Attacks Bijapur

Commander-in-Chief Netoji Palkar got the news report, that Maharaj was stuck at Panhala, and Siddi Johar had besieged the fort extremely tightly. Similarly, Mughal sardar Shaistakhan had also reached the Pune province. Netoji realised his responsibility. First task was to free Maharaj from the siege and then the Mughals. But breaking the siege just with five-six thousand strong army wouldn’t have been successful, so he decided to first directly attack Bijapur. That would threaten the Badshah, and for his protection either Johar or someone else would have to come down to Bijapur. And then the siege of Panhala would relax a bit. This was Netoji’s thought. He had already plundered and beaten down the Adilshahi imperial stations Gokak, Dodwad, Murbad, Fort Dharwad, Khudawandpur, Sangaon, Kanad, Kurundwad, Hebbal, Hanuvalli, Hunwad, Hukeri etc. Now he was getting ready for the next move.

Netoji marched off from Gadag. He suddenly raided Shahpur, which was very near Bijapur, in the middle of the night. Shahpur was fast asleep. Shahpur was turned desolate like Ravan’s Lanka. Netoji looted, burnt it and finished it off.

Netoji’s terror reached Bijapur. The whole Bijapur city was frightened. Netoji had defeated imperial sardars like Mullah Mohammed, Babul Khan (Bahlol Khan) and Ajappa Naik etc. so convincingly at Shahpur, that they ran away to Bijapur. Due to this Badshah himself was frightened. At this time, Bijapur had a standing army five-thousand men for Badshah’s protection. Badshah in a fit of terror ordered this five-thousand strong army to march under the leadership of Khawas Khan against Netoji.

Netoji was riding towards Bijapur. He was obstructed by Khawas Khan in the way! A terrible battle ensued. Khawas Khan’s army included some men from the army of Golconda’s Qutubshah as well. Netoji and Khawas both were fighting with great valour. But Netoji could not even move an inch ahead! Imperial force was fighting as if their lives were on the line. Besides they were all fresh. Netoji’s army was on the road and fighting ever since the day of Afzal Khan’s assassination. A lot of Marathas were killed. It proved impossible to push ahead! Netoji had to beat a quiet retreat. If he had adamantly pushed ahead, he and his men would have been completely destroyed. Netoji’s desire to enter Bijapur was completely defeated.

Netoji turned around and came back three kos before he could stop for rest. Khawas Khan did not pursue him. He was happy with whatever he had achieved! Netoji’s force was absolutely exhausted. There was no possibility to receive reinforcements. What all destruction Shaistakhan had wrought in Pune region, was another concern anyways. Finally, Netoji decided to first go back to Rajgad and report to Aaisaheb, and then decide about the next course of action with her advice. However, his plan to loosen up the Panhala siege by attacking Bijapur met with utter failure.

Aaisaheb was concerned atop Rajgad. The noose around Panhala was tightening every day. Shaistakhan’s wave had reached Pune. Netoji had been defeated. Mughals had mostly captured the whole eastern part of Swaraja (including Pune, Baramati, Indapur, Supa, Saswad, and Shirval). Not even one good news was reaching them. To gulp down Swarajya and Shivba’s sacrifice, the enemy had opened its gigantic jaw. So much pain, so many difficulties, so many depressing instances, such scarcity of army and resources, such difficult was the situation! 

[ref]

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