Flame of rage engulfed rebels at the dead of night.
Against the ruler they vowed to unite.
The emissary had to travel across a long route alone. City-dwellers fell asleep draped in the dense anonymity of the night. In that reign of silence, all on a sudden, he sensed something wrong – as if there was a sound of footsteps behind him. He stood motionless for some time, but couldn’t hear anything any longer.
Again he started walking; again he felt he was being followed by someone. The unseen follower annoyed him. Who could be the follower – a friend or foe? Did he identify him? Stopping for a moment to judge the situation, he pulled a sharp knife from under the sleeve of his cotton-padded shirt quietly. He kept on waiting at roadside gazing backwards, but could see none except the thick darkness; could hear nothing beyond the absolute silence.
He returned to the well-lit marketplace. That area was crammed with many shops. People from different business communities were trying to sell and purchase different varieties of goods. He sought to hide himself in that crowd. Again he entered into another narrow lane. Cutting through many lanes and by-lanes at a swift pace, he reached the end of the city – stood there rock-still for long holding his breath. All the roads and lanes and houses and palaces seemed dipped into stillness. The entire area was hidden under the dark attire of the night. He knocked a door nearby. A Maharashtrian soldier of Shaista Khan’s army came out. Together they walked towards a remote place within the city to discuss something in secret.
Mahadeoji: “Tell me about the preparation.”
Soldier: “Everything is ready.”
Mahadeoji: “What about permission letter?”
Soldier: “I collected one for ten musicians and thirty guards with weapon. They are not ready to allow more.”
Once again a faint sound of footsteps was heard. Mahadeoji’s eyes flashed. He jumped forward with his knife in hand; but returned after some time being unable to trace anyone. “Hope you didn’t come empty handed?” – he asked.
The soldier pulled a knife from under his chaste-shield to show him. Mahadeoji continued: “Well done, forty is more than enough. The procession with the groom will start from this side. Invite as many friends and relatives as possible. When is the wedding going to take place?”
Soldier: “One at night.”
The emissary smiled, “Good, I will be priest performing the rituals. The Grand wedding will be remembered as an historical event forever.”
An arrow shot from somewhere struck his chest before he finished. It could end his life if he didn’t wear an iron-shield under his cotton shirt. The arrow displaced. But within a moment, a spear hit him. Though it couldn’t pierce his strong armour, he fell down on the ground as an effect. He got up – only to find a tall Mughal warrior with an open sword in hand standing before him – it was Chand Khan.
The Commander Shaista Khan humiliated Chand Khan. Khan, who had spent long in the warrior’s profession, had been deeply hurt by the criticism. He decided not to express his anguish to anyone, instead take revenge doing something heroic. The emissary’s behaviour in the court made him suspicious. He could not believe a vigorous leader like Shivaji whose devotion to Hindu identity and desire for establishing a Hindu empire became a myth, had requested for a treaty surrendering before the Mughal in the beginning of the war. Who could be the Brahmin emissary whom the great leader had issued an authorization letter?
Also the messenger’s conducts were not beyond suspicion. His eyes flamed in anger when Shaista Khan criticized Maharastrians. With an intension to capture the deceiving messenger instead of inviting rebuke in the court again, he kept on following him keeping a distance through the roads and lanes and by lanes – not missing the target even for a moment. The dialogue between the emissary and the soldier helped astute lieutenant figure out the entire story. He planned to show own competence by taking the life of the emissary and presenting the captured soldier before his commander.
The time when Chand Khan sacrificed own life to fulfil the duty of a warrior, his superior Shaista Khan was probably dreaming of defeating Shivaji through a peace-treaty!
Photo: Indian dagger 17th century, source Wikimedia Commons