Kanhoji Jedhe was a 17th-century Marathi warrior, and a trusted follower of Shahaji, and of Shahaji's son Shivaji who founded the Maratha Empire in 1674. Kanhoji came from a village named Kari, in present day Bhor taluka, near Pune. He was respected among the Deshmukhs, noblemen in the area. Kanhoji was some 20 years older than Shivaji. Shahaji sent Kanhoji along with the young Shivaji to Pune. Because of his high personal standing among the Jamindars, he helped Shivaji Maharaj in organising most of them under his banner.
His actual testing time came when Afzal Khan, a Sardar sent by Bijapur court, came to attack Shivaji. Adilshah had threatened all the Deshmukhs of the Maval region to support Afzal or else perish. Kanhoji not only stood by Shivaji, but managed to keep nearly all the Deshmukhs on Shivaji Maharaj's side. After Afzal was defeated soundly at the Battle of Pratapgad, Shivaji Maharaj honored the loyalty and bravery of Kanhoji by awarding him talwarichya pahilya panache maankari (Sword of Honour).
Kanhoji demonstrated his own magnanimity after the Battle of Pavan Khind. Immediately after Afzul Khan's death during the encounter with Shivaji Maharaj, Siddi Jauhar, a great warrior, was sent to defeat Shivaji. To protect the citizens of the Maratha Empire, Shivaji decided to stay at Panhala Fort (near Kolhapur) which was at the boundary so that Siddi Jauhar's attack would not take him into the territory. Jauhar then surrounded Panhala with an army of forty thousand. When all other attempts to break Jauhar's siege failed, Shivaji decided to escape secretly. In the monsoon season, Shivaji and a small escort of soldiers crossed the siege line one night during heavy rain. However, Jauhar's army soon realized that he had escaped, and Jauhar sent soldiers under Siddi Masoud to catch Shivaji. After more than half a day's pursuit Siddi Masoud came very close to Shivaji and his escort. Then Baji Prabhu Deshpande, a senior warrior with Shivaji, convinced Shivaji to continue his travel towards Vishalgad while Baji Prabhu along with few warriors of Bandal clan held the narrow passage called Ghod-khind (Horse Pass). Baji Prabhu and his men fought with Jauhar's army and prevented them from crossing the pass. When Shivaji reached fort Vishalgad, defeating Surve Sawant's siege, he notified Baji Prabhu by firing three cannon shots. By now Baji Prabhu and his army were tired as they had been fighting for more than six hours, and Baji Prabhu had suffered many wounds. He died shortly after hearing the three cannon shots, realizing that Shivaji Maharaj had reached safety at Vishalgad. Shivaji was very sad to lose such a brave and loyal warrior. To honor Baji Prabhu, he wished to give the honor of talwarichya pahilya panache maankari – which had been held by Kanhoji after Afzal's defeat – to Baji Prabhu's Bandal clan. When Shivaji expressed this desire to Kanhoji, he agreed to it without hesitation. This was a great deed by Kanhoji, considering the fact that Kanhoji Jedhe and the Bandal clan had been great enemies until a few years before this incident.
Kanhoji Jedhe also played a pivotal part in bringing Shivaji back from Agra where he was under house arrest.
In the 20th century, the descendants of Kanhoji Jedhe also played a leading role in the establishment of the State of Maharashtra; Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti, founded by Keshavrao Jedhe, led the demand for a the Marathi-speaking state. Maharashtra was formed as a direct result of this Samiti; the Hutatma Chowk and Maharashtra Day commemorate the relentless efforts of the Jedhes.
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