This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (February 2016)
statue of prataprao gujar
|Died||24 february 1674|
Prataprao Gujar, born Kudtoji Gujar ,was the third royal Senapati of King Shivaji's army, which was probably the most successful guerrilla force in 17th century India. He was given the pseudonym of Prataprao (the brave) by King Shivaji in acknowledgement of his bravery in the war against Mirza Jaisingh.
He was a highly gifted aristocratic general, who enjoyed the trust of his king and the loyalty of his troops. He defeated a large mughal army at the famous battle of Salher. Salher is a major battle between mughals and marathas, and the first large-scale pitched battle between the two in open field. The victory of the Marathas at Salher is seen as a definitive turning point in their military prowess vis-a-vis the Mughals. Prataprao Gujar's major drawback was his impulsive emotional nature.
A few months before King Shivaji's coronation in 1674, Prataprao Gujar was sent to deal with the invading force led by the Adilshahi general, Bahalol Khan. The Maratha army surrounded the camp of Bahalol Khan at the place of Nesari. Prataprao's forces defeated and captured the opposing general in the battle. In spite of specific warnings against doing so by King Shivaji, Prataprao released Bahalol Khan along troops and the seized war material, when Bahalol Khan promised not to invade King Shivaji's territories again. Days after his release Bahalol Khan started preparing for a fresh invasion.
When King Shivaji heard of about Prataprao decision, he was incensed and wrote an angry letter to Prataprao refusing him permission to see him till such time,until Bahlol Khan was re-captured. Prataprao realised his mistake and was so upset about what he had done that he now wanted to capture Bahlol Khan at any cost.
One day, he learnt of Bahlol Khan camping nearby. Prataprao decided to make a stand against Balol Khan at Nesari near Kolhapur. Prataprao Gujar with 1200 troops versus Khan with 15000. So, Prataprao reasoned that there was no point in taking 1200 men to suicide with him. So, in a fit of anger and overreacting to the letter, he left alone, without asking his cavalry to charge. It was his personal honour at stake, not his army. On seeing their leader head to certain death, 6 other Maratha sardars joined him in the charge, they attacked the enemy camp and were slaughtered. Anandrao Nimbalkar and Hansaji Mohite, though, stayed back. It was an impulsive decision and the loss of Prataprao Gujar was a big loss to the Marathas. Anandrao Nimbalkar managed to take the army to safer areas.
King Shivaji's army avenged the death of their general, by defeating Bahlol Khan and looting his jagir (fiefdom) under the leadership of Anandrao and Hambirao Mohite. Hambirrao Mohite became the new Sarnaubat (Commander-in-chief of the Maratha forces).
King Shivaji was deeply grieved on hearing of Prataprao's death. He married his second son, Rajaram, to the daughter of Prataprao Gujar; who was later to be the Empress of the Maratha Empire, Maharani Jankibai.