(Adapted from Sir Jadunath Sarkar’s ‘Shivaji and his Times.’ )
1660. Aurangzeb had returned North. The kingdom of Bizapur was recovering. Queen Mother Bari Saheba had left for Mecca.
It was time for expansion. For accession. And Shiva, a warlord Chieftain had to be tamed. To begin with.
The brave Abdullah Bhatari known as Afzal Khan was given the task. A first class blaster veteran Afzal knew the art of winning. By strength. By treachery.
In an open court, Afzal smirked and boasted before the King and his men ‘ I shall bring Shiva captures before you without alighting from my horse.’
And he set off. With his army.
Rampaging the Maratha land. Looting. Burning villages. And destroying temples. Ransacking holy deities.
Shiva had an army that fought in hills. Ambushes. Skirmishes. But he had not fought thought wars. Yet. Therefore the army panicked. Stories of Afzal’s looting and his army reached the Shiva camp. His army was in a dilemma.
Legend has it thus. Midnight. Shiva was awakened. As if in a dream. He saw MA Bhawani. ‘Go my son’ she said. ‘ Go fight the battle. I shall be with you.’
Meanwhile in the Afzal camp. There was despair too. For small counties and villages had fallen. Hindu zamindars. Tehesildar SS had subjugated.Surrendered. But Shiva was deep in the hills. Where he hid with his army. And it seemed almost impossible to capture him.
Therefore treachery must be adopted.
Afzal sent message to Shiva. ‘ Your father and I have been friends. You are no stranger to me. Come and meet. Leave it then to me to convince the emperor Adil Shah to leave you to your forts and to your Konkan land. Attend the Court if you wish to. Or else I shall arrange exemption to your attendance if you so wish.’
Spies from both camps visited the opponent camps to see preparations and understand strategies.
Emboldened by his dream, Shiva convinced his Council of Ministers and generals that he would fight. He would meet Afzal as proposed. But not surrender. He would play along on the treachery. Fight treachery with treachery. In equal measure.
Shiva’s mother came to the court and blessed him.’ Go, fight the battle and return victorious’. She said. Shiva prepared to leave. He had summoned the armies of Pingle from the Konkan and Palkar from the Ghata to be to defend the kingdom. He left minute instructions on how the kingdom must be run in case he never returned.
Afzal’s envoy Krishnaji Bhaskar came then to meet. He was treated with respect. At night secretly they met. Shiva appealed to Krishnaji as a Hindu and a priest to tell him the real intentions of Afzal. Krishnaji hinted there was a conspiracy. A mischief is harboured by Afzal. But thus far.
Shivaji sent back Krishnaji with his own envoy Gopinath Pant. Pant was a spy. He too tried to gauze the intention of Afzal from his army. And he understood Afzal had a plan. A treacherous plan.
Shiva sent message through Gopinath that no harm shall be done to Afzal during the meeting. Afzal reciprocated that no harm shall be done to Shiva during the meeting.
The meeting was arranged to take place at the crest of an eminence below the fort of Pratapgarh and overlooking the Koyna valley.
On both sides was deep forest where Shiva places his finest warriors for an ambush. And in the Koyna valley, Afzal placed his troops ready for attack. As need be.
A tent was erected here by Shiva. A richly decorated canopy was set up. And gorgeous cushions and carpets lay worthy of a royal guest.
Shiva then readied himself for the meeting. Under his dress he wore a coat of chain armour. Below his turban he wore a steel cap. On his left land was a set of steel claws (baghnakh) and up his right sleeve lay hidden a sharp thin dagger (bichwa or scorpion).
And with him would be just two men. Jiv Mahala, the swordsman. And Shambhuji. Each of them carried sword and shield.
As the three were ready to move a saintly female figure stood before them. Jija Bai. Shiva’s mother. ‘Jayatu’ She said . ‘Be victorious.’
Afzal too came with two soldiers with him as Shiva had. Afzal came in a palki. With him came the two swordsman. And a famous swordsman . Sayiid Banda. And two Brahman envoys. Gopinath. Krishnaji.
On entering the tent Afzal was furious. To see the decoration. How dare a son of a jaigirdar display such wealth. He was pacified by Gopinath. Gopi explained to Afzal that soon all of this would be his.
Shiva came. And objected to Sayiid’s presence. Two swordsmen it was agreed upon. He insisted. Sayiid was removed.
Afzal has his sword by his side. Shiva came apparently unarmed. As if to surrender.
With attendants standing below, Shiva mounted a raised platform to meet Afzal who was taller. Afzal advances a few steps and opened his arms to embrace Shiva. Shiva reached the height of Afzal’s shoulders.
Shiva was in Afzal’s embrace.
Suddenly Afzal tightened his clasp. In his left arm was Shiva’s neck. An iron grip. Shiva struggled. With his right hand Afzal drew his dagger and struck Shiva’s side.
Shiva’s hidden armour rendered Afzal’s dagger strike harmless. Shiva struggles in the iron clasp of Afzal’s arm. Yet he soon recovered. Shiva passed his left arm around Afzal’s waist and tore Afzal’s bowels open with the steel claws. Then swiftly with his right hand he drove the bichwa dagger into Afzal’s side.
Wounded Afzal relaxed his grip and Shiva tore himself free. He jumped down from the platform and ran out towards his own men.
Afzal shouted ‘Murder, treachery. Help. Help.’ Attendants from both sides ran up fast. Sayiid Banda struck Shiva with his sword. And cut his turban. A deep dint invite steel cap below the turban happened.
Shiva grasped a long sword from Jiv Mahala and fought back. But Jiv came round and with one quick movement cut off Sayiid’s right arm and then killed him.
The palki bearers meanwhile tried to carry wounded Afzal away. Shambhuji intercepted them. He slashed at their legs. They dropped the palki. Shambhuji cut off Afzal’s head with one quick stroke.
And carried off the severed head in triumph to Shiva.
The head was buried beneath a tower (Abdullah bur) on with-eastern side of the lower fort. A Temple dedicated to Ma Bhavani built by Shivaji is at a short distance