When the exploits of Shivaji's gallant companions are discussed, it is people like Tanaji Malusre or Baji Prabhu Deshpande who get the spotlight while Nettaji Palkar gets pushed to the background. Michael Macmillan, probably to set the records straight, depicts Nettaji’s life, right from his birth to the kidnapping of his sister by a Bijapur commander even as she was going in her wedding palanquin-how Nettaji resisted and killed a noble in the fight and escaped to Mathevan, where he was instructed in the use of arms by a hermit and how later, he joined Shivaji and played a big hand in routing Afzal Khan's army. The two warriors fell out after Shivaji's defeat at the hands of Raja Jai Singh. Later, Nettaji deserted to Bijapur. For, this offence he was arrested by the Mughals and forced to embrace Islam and sent to Afghanistan. After nine years he escaped and returned to Shivaji's court and was reconverted.
This novel is based on the earlier exploits of Nettaji, to which most people have very little access. It was originally published by Blackie and Son in the nineteen twenties.
Michael Macmillan, the author, was Principal of the prestigious Elphinstone College in Bombay and the author of Tales of Indian Chivalry and The Princess of Balkh.
In Wild Maratha Battle: A Tale of the Days of Shivaji by Michael Macmillan is being printed by the Sahitya Akademi as a part of its series of "Reprint of Rare Books." Michael Macmillan was the Principal of the prestigious Elphinstone College. He obviously knew the terrain, the Western Ghats (those days spelled and pronounced as 'Ghauts'), the Deccan plateau and the Konkan plain very well. And he seems to have researched the early career of Nettaji Palkar, thoroughly. The book was most probably published in the ninety twenties.
When the exploits of Shivaji's gallant companions is discussed today, it is people like Tanaji Malusre or Bajiprabhu Deshpande who get the spotlight. Nettaji Palkar, because of his activities in his later life, gets pushed into the shadows. On hindsight this is but natural. For instance, Bajiprabhu held the pursuing Bijapur cavalry at the Ghodkind Pass with just one hundred and fifty men, while Shivaji with another hundred and fifty of his soldiers, escaped to Vishalgadh. Bajiprabhu died fighting the overwhelming superior numbers of the Bijapur army. Nettaji Palkar, on the other hand, after numerous exploits was treacherously captured and forced to convert to Islam at the point of the sword. So when Maharashtrian historians tend to ignore his earlier daredevil feats of arms. it is in a way understandable.
Michael Macmillan seems to set the record straight and was obviously so impressed by the feats of Nettaji Palkar, which he catalogues meticulously, that he has not mentioned a word of Nettaji's later life. The author depicts Nettaji's life, right from his birth in village Chauk to the kidnapping of his sister by a Bijapur commander, even as she was going in her wedding palanquin, how Nettaji resisted and killed a Bijapur noble in the fight, to his escape to Matheran, where he was instructed in the use of arms for some years by a hermit. The hermit gets killed by a tiger, though the cat dies too, speared by the hermit. Nettaji Palkar leaves Matheran and joins Shivaji. He is the one who moves into the Rajmachi Fort to alert the sleepy commander that the Bijapur forces are going to attack the fort at dawn. In a hand to hand fight he kills a giant 'negro' Bijapuri warrior
Kashi, his childhood friend and later his wife, and her father are kidnapped by a robber chieftain, Venkat Wagh. Shivaji and Nettaji attack the robber in his cave. Just as the robber chieftain is about to kill Nettaji, whose axe shaft has snapped, Shivaji kills Wagh. The visions of Goddess Kali, the treasure discovered near her shrine, the journey to Torna to buy arms from the Portuguese, follow. Nettaji saves Shivaji's life in an ambush sprung by Baji Shamraj, an emissary from the court of Bijapur to Javli, which was ruled by Chandrarav More. Shamraj waits in ambush for Shivaji. his matchlock trained on the bridle track on which Shivaji is riding. Nettaji hurls his spear at Shamraj and kills him. The ambush party flees, thinking this was some divine intervention on behalf of Shivaji. Some of all this may be fiction or at least history fictionalized.
Nettaji Palkar was the first Sar-i-naubat (Master of the Horse) in Shivaji's army. He played a big hand in routing Afzal Khan's army after the latter had been killed by Shivaji with his dagger and his tiger-claws. He was known as the image of Shivaji. He was involved in the attack on Shaista Khan (maternal uncle of Aurangzeb) in Poona. Nettaji's niece was married to Shivaji, The two warriors are reported to have fallen out after Shivajis defeal at the hands of Raja Jai Singh, and the fall of the tort of Puranda After the treaty of Purandar (June 1665), both Shivaji and Nettaj fought for the Mughal army against Bijapur and distinguished themselves. They faced failures also, like Shivajis attack on the fort Pinhala on 21st January, 1666, in which a thousand Marathas tell dead or wounded and Shivaji had to retreat.
Nettaii's loyalties oscillated between Bijapur and the Mughals, once Shivaji himself came under the Mughals. He was not made a Panch Hazari and felt humiliated and crossed over to Bijapur. To quote Jadunath Sarkar, "about 20th (January, 1666) came the evil news that Nettaji, Shivaji's chief officer, who was dissatisfied with his master probably at the inadequate recognition of his valuable services and gallant feats of arms, had deserted to Bijapur for a bribe of four lakhs of hun and led raiding parties into Mughal territory. Jai Singh could not afford to lose such a man, and so he lured him back (20 March) with many persuasive letters and the acceptance of all his high demands, viz., the rank of a Panch Hazari jagir ... and Rs. 38,000 in cash. For this offence the Maratha general had to make a severe atonement; he was suddenly arrested at Dharur (October 1666), sent to Delhi in chains, and there forced to embrace Islam as the only means of saving his life (February 1667) on the orders of the Emperor.
Nettaji Palkar's wife and children were also captured and forced to embrace Islam. He himself was named Muhammad Quli and sent to Afghanistan to fight the rebellious Afghans. After about nine years, in June 1676, he escaped with his family, returned to Shivaji's court and begged to be re-taken into the Hindu fold. He and his family were allowed to be reconverted, but Nettaji was never given a prominent position in the army or the court again.
But enough in regard to the latter part of his life, most of it passed in rain-shadow. This 'novel', In Wild Maratha Battle, possibly romanticised, is about Nettaji's earlier exploits, to which most people have very little access. Two films have been made on Nettaji Palkar, one in Marathi by Bhalji Pendharkar (1939-Arun Pictures) and one in Hindi by V. Shantaram.
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