Afzal Khan (general)

Indian general

Afzal Khan (died 20 November 1659) was a general who served the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur Sultanate in India. He played an important role in the southern expansion of the Bijapur Sultanate by subjugating the Nayaka chiefs who had taken control of the former Vijayanagara territory.

In 1659, the Bijapur government sent Afzal Khan to subjugate Shivaji, a former vassal who had started acting independently. He was killed at a truce negotiation meeting with Shivaji, and his army was defeated at the Battle of Pratapgad.

Quotes about Afzal Khan edit

The Travels of The Abbe Carre In India And The Near East 1672 to 1674 edit

quoted in Carre, Abbe, The Travels of The Abbe Carre In India And The Near East 1672 to 1674, In 3 Volumes Ed., Charles Fawcett, Asian Educational Services, 1990. quoted from Jain, M. (editor) (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts. New Delhi: Ocean Books. Volume III Chapter 12
  • We arrived at Abdelpour [Afzalpur] a little before nightfall after a whole day’s march. It is a delightful town, situated in a fertile lowland with large meadows watered by a stream, which flows through the sluice of a large reservoir above the town: its water is confined by a curved embankment faced with stone, a work which well shows the power and magnificence of its builder, the nobleman of the place [Afzal Khan]. He was one of the greatest warriors and best generals in the kingdom of Bijapur in the reign of its rightful king, who was poisoned by his unfaithful wife [in the reign of Muhammad Adil Shah, 1626-56]. This governor was indeed a powerful and courageous vizir, who had done many splendid things for the good of the kingdom. Later on he retired to this town of Afzalpur, which had been granted to him, and lived here in great state and comfort in a magnificent castle. He was at ease here when the last Bijapur king sent an army against Prince Shivaji under Rustam Zaman, governor of Onquery [Hukeri]. He was summoned to the court and made a general of 15,000 horse, which were again sent to fight Shivaji. He resolutely promised the king to conquer the enemy or die in the attempt. But before leaving he committed an act, which was the most cruel and detestable it is possible to imagine. This man, like all those orientals whose chief pleasure in the world is to pass their lives among flocks of women, and being one of the most powerful nobles in the kingdom, had a fine seraglio of 200 women, to whom he was so passionately attached that he could not bring himself to leave them. Inspired by a mad jealousy, he resolved that no one else should see or enjoy the treasures he guarded so dearly, in the event of his death in battle. Therefore, when the time for his departure came, he left the court and went to Afzalpur to settle his household affairs. He stayed there three days, shut up in his seraglio, to feast and disport himself for the last time with his wives. He then actually had them all murdered and thrown into a fire, which he had prepared for this purpose in the middle of his palace. After this noble exploit, which was the last of his life, he left without any remorse, breathing fire and slaughter against the enemy. They soon made him rue this infamous cruelty towards a sex from whom he had always received favours, submission, and a blind obedience to his will.
  • Prince Shivaji, who had received warning of his march, went to meet him and placed all his forces in a favourable position to await attack. Both armies were in sight of one another; and the two generals, the most valiant warriors in the East, did wonders in moving their squadrons so as to seize hills and other points of vantage. The whole country swarmed with cavalry, elephants, camels carrying thousands of standards, to which each company could rally. Shivaji, on his side, encouraged his men by voice and action, showing himself in every part of his camp. In passing down their ranks, he urged them to remember that they were soldiers, brothers in arms, and companions in fortune, of the great Shivaji; that they must never fear enemies whom they had beaten so often, and who were more ready to retreat in an emergency than to attack and give a good account of themselves. He added that, if the enemy’s general was once the bravest man in the kingdom and had won great victories, it was at a time when he cared only for the art of war; now he had embraced another sort of life amid the pleasures and delights of the world, so that he had lost all his former redoubtable qualities, and become cowardly and effeminate. Shivaji’s soldiers were roused by his speech, and the camp rang on all sides with shouts and acclamations, which struck terror and panic into the hearts of the most courageous of their opponents. The latter knew that they had to do with an army which had made every oriental power tremble by reason of its ever increasing victories and conquests. They shivered at the mere sight of these terrible people, against whom they fought more unwillingly than they would have done against another less redoubtable army.
  • Both sides were awaiting the signal to attack, when two heralds were seen issuing from Shivaji’s camp. They asked the general to come for a quarter of an hour’s interview with that prince, who wished to communicate something of importance before the battle commenced. The general agreed to this, and it was arranged that they should both meet, unarmed, between the two armies with an escort of only two soldiers, who were to stand a little aside, so as not to hear the conversation. Shivaji spoke first and said to the other that he was well aware of his valour, his merits, and the glory he had acquired in his warlike career; also he had not forgotten the many courageous actions that had won him such a splendid reputation in his kingdom. Therefore he had been compelled to bring all his forces against him, in order to have the glory of vanquishing such a fine army as his, as he had no doubt of doing. But the real reason for which he had requested the interview before the battle was to demand the dismissal of a man in that army who did not merit the glory and honour of a soldier’s death. The general, astonished at Shivaji’s speech, asked who was the man that he wished to exclude from the glory of battle. “It is yourself, sir,” he replied, “you, who have lost all your former glory and the reputation you had acquired by your arms through your last action in massacring and burning two hundred poor women in such a brutal, inhuman and cowardly manner. You do not deserve to be conquered by force of arms, but rather to be chastised and punished in a manner worthy of your infamous action.” He then drew a poisoned knife, which he had hidden in the folds of his belt, and plunging it three times into his body, stretched him dead at his feet.
  • Shivaji’s generals, who had been given this coup for a cue, then charged the enemy so promptly that the first squadrons were cut in pieces, and the rest, being panic stricken, surrendered to their conqueror. The general’s son and six of his principal officers were taken prisoner and brought to the king. They begged for quarter for the rest of their troops, who were being massacred without mercy. Shivaji then stopped the carnage and, having surrounded the rest of the enemy, promised them quarter and good rewards, if they would enter his service and swear an oath of fidelity. They were all delighted, and with one voice declared that they would be glad to fight, and pass the rest of their lives, under the standard of the greatest captain in all the East. He accordingly reinstated all the captains and officers in their appointments, and returned victorious from a battle in which he had lost but few of his own men. Before leaving the field, he ordered some camp-followers of the enemy to take the body of their general, which he made them honourably place in one of his palanquins, after covering it with black [Afzal Khan’s decapitated head was taken to Shivaji’s fort at Pratapgarh and buried there]. He sent it to the nearest town, to which some companies of cavalry had fled. They joined the cortege and escorted it to Afzalpur, where a magnificent tomb was erected for him on the very spot where his unfortunate wives had been buried.
    • Carre, Abbe, The Travels of The Abbe Carre In India And The Near East 1672 to 1674, In 3 Volumes Ed., Charles Fawcett, Asian Educational Services, 1990. quoted from Jain, M. (editor) (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts. New Delhi: Ocean Books. Volume III Chapter 12

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