Shivaji's historic meeting with the Bijapuri General Afzal Khan (10th November 1659)

Afzal Khan, the dreaded Bijapuri Commander, had advanced from Bijapur to Wai laying waste the whole country. His march till Wai had been an unrelieved calamity. Shivaji's men had not till now faced a regular army equipped with artillery etc. At the first council he called, Shivaji found that every one around him was scared of the bold bad man "who would shrink from no act of cruelty and treachery". They all advised him to make peace. But how could he trust a man like Afzal Khan who had murdered Kasturi Ranga, the Raja of Sera, whom he had invited to his tent under promise of safety to make submission. Also it meant submission to Bijapur and ruining all his dreams of establishing "Swarajya".

This was a most critical moment in Shivaji's career. If he submitted to Afzal Khan, all his hopes of independence and future greatness would be gone for ever. If he declined to negotiate, it would mean war with Bijapur. Shiva was in a dilemma. After pondering for a fortnight, he decided to meet Afzal Khan alone at a meeting. A legend says that the care-worn Maratha fell asleep in which state he had a vision of goddess Bhawani who urged him to face Afzal Khan boldly. On waking up Shivaji decided in favour of hostilities with Bijapur. He however agreed to meet the Khan, who, it is believed, had hoped to arrest or kill Shiva at the interview, not at Wai but near th fort of Pratapgarh. Afzal Khan agreed.

On Shivaji's orders, an open pavilion, richly decorated was erected on the crest of an eminence below the fort of Pratapgarh. Shivaji prepared himself for any eventuality. To prevent detection of the steel claws in the palm of his left hand and a short dagger up his right hand sleeve, he had put on a long white flowing robe with broad long sleeves.

Shivaji now insisted that Afzal Khan should come to the tent for meeting accompanied by only two body-guards and that he too would come with only two body-guards, accompanied by their respective Brahmin envoys.

When Shivaji was coming out of Pratapgarh fort, his mother blessed him saying that victory would be his. At the time of the meeting on 10th November 1659, only Afzal and Shivaji were present in the tent. The body-guards and the Pandits were below the platform.

We have a detailed account of the high drama which resulted in Afzal Khan's death and rout of his army. Afzal, a tall and well-built man, was first to arrive in the tent pitched for his reception. Shivaji was seemingly unarmed "like a rebel who had come to surrender, while the Khan had his sword and dagger at his side … Shivaji mounted the raised platform and bowed to Afzal. The Khan rose from his seat, advanced a few steps, and opened his arms to receive Shiva in his embrace. The short slim Maratha's head came only up to the shoulders of his opponent. Suddenly, Afzal tightened his clasp, and holding Shiva'a neck fast in his left arm with an iron grip, while with his right hand he drew his long straight-bladed dagger and struck at the side of Shiva. The hidden armour rendered the blow harmless. … In a moment Shiva recovered from the surprise, passed his left arm round the Khan's waist and tore his bowles open with a blow of the steel claws. Then with the right hand he drove the bichwa into Afzal's side ….. Shivaji jumped down from the platform and ran towards his own men outside. The Khan cried out ":Treachery! Murder! Help! Help! The attendants ran up from both sides; Saiyid Banda faced Shivaji with his long straight sword and cut his turban in two, making a deep dint in the steel cap beneath. Shivaji quickly took a rapier from his bodyguard, Jiv Mahala, and began to tarry. But Jiv Mahala came round and cut off Saiyid's right hand and killed him.

Meanwhile the bearers placed the wounded Khan in his palquin and started for his camp. But Shambhuji Kavji slashed at their legs, made them drop the palquin and then cut off Afzal Khan's head, which he carried in triumph to Shivaji.

Thus Shivaji by endangering his own person extricated his nascent kingdom from a very dangerous situation by turning back the tide of the Bijapuri troops and by outwitting the dreaded Afzal Khan.

In the next painting the artist has tried to recreate the whole sequence of events.