Saturday, February 23, 2008

How Shivaji used tiger claw?

The battle of Pratapgarh was fought between Chatrapati Shivaji and the Afzal Khan commander of Adil Shah. The guerrilla tactics of Shivaji was well known to Afzal Khan so he wanted a open battle at Pratapgarh. For that he destroyed temple of Goddes Bhavani at Tuljapur and the temple of Lord Vittal at Pandharpur in the motive to bring Shivaji out of the Jungle for a face to face battle. Shivaji then sent an emissary to Afzal Khan, telling him that he did not want to fight and was ready for peace. A meeting was arranged between Shivaji and Afzal Khan at a shamiyana (highly decorated tent) at the foothills of the fort Pratapgarh. It was agreed that the two would meet unarmed, but were to bring with them ten personal bodyguards each, who were to remain at a distance of one 'arrow-shot' away. Nevertheless, Afzal Khan, as was his reputation for cunning, hid a 'katyar' (a small but very sharp dagger) in his coat. Shivaji, knowing Khan's reputation, came prepared. Thus each man went to the meeting intending to slay the other. Amongst Shivaji's weapons was a small but effective weapon called Bagh_nakh which literally means 'the claws of the tiger'. It consisted of an iron finger-grip with four razor claws which could be concealed in the clenched fist. As the two men entered the tent fixed for meeting, the 6.5-feet-tall overconfident Khan, having little difficulty hiding his dagger, lounged forward pretending of giving an open-armed hug, grabbed the 6 feet Shivaji in his left arm, swiftly drew the hidden dagger and stabbed Shivaji in his back. But since Shivaji was wearing armour beneath his coat was saved. Shivaji opened his fist and disemboweled the Khan with one swift stroke of his "wagh nakhi". Stunned by this sudden turn of events Khan rushed outside shouting for help. Krishanaji Bhaskar Kulkarni, Khan's emissary tried to give battle, Shivaji warned him ;but when he went offensive, Shivaji killed him. Meanwhile Khan's bodyguard, Sayyad Banda, a renowned fighter (each had agreed for one guard be placed immediately outside the tent), pounced on Shivaji on hearing Khan's cries. Before he could strike, Shivaji's bodyguard, Jiva Mahala, who too rushed inside hearing the pandemonium, slashed him with his sabre. (The pithy Marathi phrase: 'Hota Jiva Mhanun Vachala Shiva’ - 'As there was Jiva, so lived Shiva' - owes its origin to this miraculous act). Afzal Khan managed to hold his gushing entrails and hurtled, faint and bleeding, outside the shamiyana and threw himself into his palanquin. The bearers hastily lifted their charge and began moving rapidly away down the slope when Sambhaji Kavji Kondhalkar, Shivaji's lieutenant and one of the distant guards, went in pursuit, and beheaded Afzal Khan. Shivaji sped up the slope towards the fortress and his lieutenants ordered cannons to be fired. It was a predetermined signal to his infantry, which had been strategically placed in the densely covered valley, to raid the Adilshahi forces. The severed head of Khan was sent to Rajgarh to be shown to Jijabai. She had long wanted vengeance for the deliberate maltreatment of Shahaji (Shivaji's father) in his captivity by Afzal Khan, and for getting her elder son, Sambhaji, killed through treachery.

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