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Sultan Ibrahim was at a disadvantage, not only because of his out-moded
infantry, but also the inter-necine rivalries. Even though he had more men, Sultan
Ibrahim had never fought in a war against gunpowder weapons. Strategically, Sultan
Ibrahim didn‘t know wh
at to do militarily. Babur had the advantage right from the start.
Sultan Ibrahim perished on the battlefield along with 20,000 of his men in April 1526.
After losing Samarkand for the third time, Babur gave attention to conquer India
as he reached the banks of the Chenab in 1519. Until 1524, his aim was to only expand
his rule to Punjab, mainly to fulfil his ancestor Timur's legacy, since it used to be part of
his empire. At the time parts of north India was under the rule of Ibrahim Lodi of the Lodi
dynasty, but the empire was crumbling and there were many defectors. He received
invitations from Daulat Khan Lodi, Governor of Punjab and Ala-ud-Din, uncle of Ibrahim.
He sent an ambassador to Ibrahim, claiming himself the rightful heir to the throne of the
country, however the ambassador was detained at Lahore and released months later.
Babur started for Lahore, Punjab, in 1524 but found that Daulat Khan Lodi had
been driven out by forces sent by Ibrahim Lodi. When Babur arrived at Lahore, the
Lodi army marched out and his army was routed. In response, Babur burned Lahore
for two days, then marched to Dipalpur, placing Alam Khan, another rebel uncle of
Lodi's, as governor. Alam Khan was quickly overthrown and fled to Kabul. In response,
Babur supplied Alam Khan with troops who later joined up with Daulat Khan Lodi and
together with about 30,000 troops, they besieged Ibrahim Lodi at Delhi. He defeated
them and drove off Alam's army and Babur realized Lodi would not allow him to occupy
Hearing of the size of Ibrahim's army, Babur secured his right flank against the
city of Panipat, while digging a trench covered with tree branches to secure his left
flank. In the center, he placed 700 carts tied together with ropes. Between every two
carts there were breastworks for his matchlockmen. Babur also ensured there was
enough space for his cavalry to charge between these carts.
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When Ibrahim's army arrived, he found the approach to Babur's army too narrow
to attack. While Ibrahim redeployed his forces to allow for the narrower front, Babur
quickly took advantage of the situation to flank (tulghuma) the Lodi army. Many of
Ibrahim's troops, were unable to get into action and as the battle turned against Ibrahim,
they fled. Faced with musket fire, cannon fire and cavalry attacks from all sides,
Ibrahim Lodi fought and died with 6,000 of his remaining troops.
Babur's guns proved decisive in battle, firstly because Ibrahim Lodi lacked any
field artillery, but also because the sound of the cannon frightened Lodi's elephants,
causing them to trample Lodi's own men.
New tactics introduced by Babur were the tulghuma and the araba. Tulghuma
meant dividing the whole army into various units, viz. the Left, the Right and the Centre.
The Left and Right divisions were further subdivided into Forward and Rear divisions.
Through this a small army could be used to surround the enemy from all the sides. The
Centre Forward division was then provided with carts (araba) which were placed in rows
facing the enemy and tied to each other with animal hide ropes. Behind them were
placed cannons protected and supported by mantlets which could be used to easily
maneuver the cannons. These two tactics made Babur's artillery lethal. The cannons
could be fired without any fear of being hit, as they were shielded by the bullock carts
held in place by hide ropes. The heavy cannons could also be easily traversed onto new
targets, as they could be maneuvered by the mantlets which were on wheels.
Ibrahim Lodi died on the field of battle along with 15,000 of his troops. Vikramajit,
ruler of Gwaliyar, was killed as well. The battle of Panipat was militarily a decisive
victory. Politically it gained Babur little, and initiated a new phase of his establishment of
the Mughal empire.
On January 24, 1556, the Mughal Emperor Humayun died in Delhi and was
succeeded by his son, Akbar. Akbar was only thirteen years old. On February 14, 1556,
Akbar was enthroned at Kalanaur, in Punjab. At this time, Mughal rule was confined to
Kabul, Kandahar, parts of the Delhi region and Punjab. Akbar had been campaigning at
Kabul with his guardian, Bairam Khan.
Hemu had become the ruler of North India after he defeated Akbar's army in the
Battle of Delhi in 1556. Earlier Hemu had acted as Prime Minister-cum-Chief of Army of
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Afghan ruler Adil Shah. He was a Hindu from Rewari in present day Haryana. Hemu
had won 22 battles as Prime Minister-cum-Chief of Army during 1553-1556, from
Punjab to Bengal. At the time of Humayun's death in January 1556, Hemu had just
quelled a rebellion in Bengal, killing the Bengal ruler Muhammad Shah in the war. When
he heard of Humayun's death, he told his commanders he would seize the Delhi throne
for himself. He then launched an open rebellion, winning battles throughout northern
India. When he attacked Agra, the commander of Akbar's forces there fled without
fighting. Hemu gained control of Etawah, Kalpi, and Agra provinces, comprising present
day Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. At Gwalior, Hemu consolidated his army by recruiting
Hemu defeated the Mughal army on 6 October in the Battle of Delhi (near
Tughlaqabad). Around 3,000 Mughals were killed, and Mughal commander Tardi Beg
fled with the survivors, leaving Delhi to Hemu. The next day, Hemu was crowned at
Purana Qila fortress, re-establishing Hindu rule in north India, after 350 years of Muslim
rule. According to Abul Fazl in Akbarnama, Hemu was preparing for an attack on Kabul
and made several changes in his army.
The fall of Delhi and Agra to Hemu and the defeat of the Mughal commander
Tardi Beg Khan disturbed the Mughals at Kalanaur. Many Mughal generals advised
Akbar to retreat to Kabul, rather than challenge Hemu larger forces. but Bairam Khan
decided in favor of war. Akbar's army marched towards Delhi. On November 5, the
armies met at the historic battlefield of Panipat, where, thirty years earlier, Akbar's
grandfather Babur had defeated Ibrahim Lodi in the First Battle of Panipat. H. G. Keene
writes; "Akbar and his guardian Bairam Khan did not participate in the battle and were
stationed 5 Koss (8 miles) away from the war zone. Bairam Khan did not permit the 13-
year-old child King to be present on the battlefield in person. Instead he was provided
with a special guard of 5,000 well trained and most faithful troops and was stationed at
a safe distance far behind the battle lines. He was instructed by Bairam Khan to flee
towards Kabul for life in case the Mughal Army was routed in the battlefield."
The Mughal Empire's army consisted of 10,000 cavalry with its centre was under
the command of Shah Ali Quli Khan. Lal Khan of Badakshan led the light cavalry to
attack Hemu's positions. The Mughal Army's vanguard was led by Muhammad Qasim
(Mughal)'s brigade consisted of Mounted archers and the regular cavalry of Abdulla
Khan (Mughal) and Iskander Khan.
Hemu enticed the Mughal army's left and right wings by inducing a retreat on his
flanks. Shah Ali Quli Khan learned of this trick from Tardi Beg Khan and dug a trench to
protect the Mughal Army's center. But Hemu's War elephants crossed the trench and
caused panic in the Mughal Army's centre.
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A Mughal archer shot an arrow that pierced the eye of Hemu rendering him
unconscious and in agony, Shah Ali Quli Khan isolated the elephant and captured
The wounded Hemu was captured by Shah Quli Khan and carried to the Mughal
camp. According to Badayuni, Bairam Khan asked Akbar to behead Hemu so that he
could earn the title of Ghazi. Akbar replied 'He is already dead, if he had any strength
for a duel, I would have killed him'. After Akbar's refusal Hemu's body was denied
honour by the Mughal battle tradition and was unceremoniously beheaded by Bairam
Khan. Hemu's head was sent to Kabul where it was hung outside the Delhi Darwaza
while his body was placed in a gibbet outside Purana Quila in Delhi.
After Hemu's death, a massacre of Hemu's community and followers was
ordered by Bairam Khan. Thousands were beheaded and towers of skulls were built
with their heads, to instill terror among the Hindus and Afghans. These towers were still
in existence about 60 years later as described by Peter Mundy, an English traveler who
visited India during the time of Jahangir. Sikandar Khan Uzbeg commanded the Mughal
Army reserve which included the contingent of Mulla Pir Muhammad, who would
reassert Mughal rule in Delhi.
Despite Hemu's numbers, Akbar's force won the battle. Hemu was captured and
beheaded. His skull was sent to Kabul for display outside the 'Delhi Darwaza.[citation
needed] His torso was sent to Delhi and hanged outside Purana Quila on a "gibbet: to
intimidate the Hindu population. Hemu's wife escaped from Purana Qila, with the
treasures of the fortress, and remained untraceble. Bairam Khan ordered mass
executions of Hindus which continued for many years. Hemu's relatives and close
Afghan supporters were caught and many of them beheaded. Minarets were made of
their skulls at different places. Hemu's 82-year-old father who had escaped to Alwar
was traced after six months, and was beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam.
Akbar retook Agra and Delhi without much resistance. But soon
after he took possession of his capital, he had to return to Punjab to meet the advance
of Sikandar Shah Suri (Adil Shah Suri
‘s brother). Sikandar Shah was defeated and
taken captive after the siege of Fort Mankot by Mughal forces and exiled to
Bengal. The victory of Akbar at Panipat in 1556 was the real restoration
of the Mughal power in India. It took Akbar eight years to capture the territory which was
occupied by Hemu up to Bengal.
Third Battle of Panipat
Lahore, Multan, Kashmir and other subahs on this side of Attock are
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under our rule for the most part, and places which have not come under our rule
we shall soon bring under us. Ahmad Shah Durrani's son Timur Shah Durrani
and Jahan Khan have been pursued by our troops, and their troops completely
looted. Both of them have now reached Peshawar with a few broken troops... So
Ahmad Shah Durrani has returned to Kandahar with some 12-14 thousand
broken troops.. Thus all have risen against Ahmad who has lost control over the
region. We have decided to extend our rule up to Kandahar.
Raghunathrao's letter to the Peshwa, 4 May 1758
Decline of Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire had been in decline since the death of the Mughal Emperor
Aurangzeb in 1707 due to rise of Marathas. The decline was accelerated by the
invasion of India by Nader Shah in 1739 during the rule of Muhammad Shah who ruled
from 1719-1748. Nader Shah also took away Takht-i-Taus (the peacock throne) and the
Kohinoor Diamond. Continued rebellions by the Marathas in the south, and the de facto
separation of a number of states (including Hyderabad and Bengal), weakened the state
further. Within a few years of Aurangzeb's death, the Marathas had reversed all his
territorial gains in the Deccan and had conquered almost all Mughal territory in central
and northern India. Mughals had thus become just the titular heads of Delhi. At the
same time Punjab saw frequent invasions by Ahmad Shah Abdali, the great Punjabi
poet Baba Waris Shah said of the situation, "khada peeta wahy da, baqi Ahmad Shahy
da"--"we have nothing with us except what we eat and wear, all other things are for
Ahmad Shah". Abdali appointed his son, Timur Shah Durrani, as his governor in Punjab
and Kashmir. In 1758 the Maratha Empire's Gen. Raghunathrao marched onwards,
attacked and conquered Lahore and Peshawar and drove out Timur Shah Durrani.
Lahore, Multan, Kashmir and other subahs on the south and eastern side of Peshawar
were under the Maratha rule for the most part. In Punjab and Kashmir the Marathas
were now major players.
The Marathas had gained control of a considerable part of India in the
intervening period (1707
1757). In 1758 they occupied Delhi, captured Lahore and
drove out Timur Shah Durrani, the son and viceroy of the Afghan ruler, Ahmad Shah
Abdali. This was the high-water mark of the Maratha expansion, where the boundaries
of their empire extended in the north to the Indus and the Himalayas, and in the south
nearly to the extremity of the peninsula. This territory was ruled through the Peshwa,
who talked of placing his son Vishwasrao on the Mughal throne. However, Delhi still
remained under the nominal control of Mughals, key Muslim intellectuals including Shah
Waliullah and other Muslim clergy in India who were alarmed at these developments. In
desperation they appealed to Ahmad Shah Abdali, the ruler of Afghanistan, to halt the
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surmounted by large gilded ornaments, conspicuous at a distance... Vast
numbers of elephants, flags of all descriptions, the finest horses, magnificently
caparisoned ... seemed to be collected from every quarter ... it was an imitation
of the more becoming and tasteful array of the Mughuls in the zenith of their
Grant Duff, describing the Maratha army.
Ahmad Shah Durrani (Ahmad Shah Abdali), angered by the news from his son
and his allies, was unwilling to allow the Marathas' spread go unchecked. By the end of
1759 Abdali with his Afghan tribes and his Rohilla ally Najib Khan had reached Lahore
as well as Delhi and defeated the smaller enemy garrisons. Ahmed Shah, at this point,
withdrew his army to Anupshahr, on the frontier of the Rohilla country, where he
successfully convinced the Nawab of Oudh Shuja-ud-Daula to join his alliance against
in spite of the Marathas time and again helping and showing sympathy
daula. The Nawab‘s mother was of the opinion that he should join the
Marathas. The Marathas had helped Safdarjung (father of Shuja) in defeating Rohillas
in Farrukhabad. However, Shuja was very much ill-treated in the Abdali camp. Abdali
was an Afghan Sunni Muslim and Shuja was a Persian Shia Muslim.
The Marathas under Sadashivrao Bhau (referred to as the Bhau or Bhao in
sources) responded to the news of the Afghans' return to North India by raising a big
army, and they marched North. Bhau's force was bolstered by some Maratha forces
under Holkar, Scindia, Gaikwad and Govind Pant Bundele. Suraj Mal, the Jat ruler of
Bharatpur, also had joined Bhausaheb but left midway. This combined army of over
100,000 regular troops captured the Mughal capital, Delhi, from an Afghan garrison in
December 1759. Delhi had been reduced to ashes many times due to previous
invasions, and in addition there being acute shortage of supplies in the Maratha camp.
Bhau ordered the sacking of the already depopulated city. He is said to have planned to
place his nephew and the Peshwa's son, Vishwasrao, on the Mughal throne. The Jats
did not support the Marathas. Their withdrawal from the ensuing battle was to play a
crucial role in its result. Abdali drew first blood by attacking a small Maratha army led by
Dattaji Shinde at Murari Ghat. Dattaji fought with characteristic Maratha valour but was
soon defeated and killed by Abdali‘s troops.
With both sides poised for battle, there followed much maneuvering, with
skirmishes between the two armies fought at Karnal and Kunjpura. Kunjpura, on the
banks of the Yamuna River 60 miles to the north of Delhi, was stormed by the Marathas
and the whole Afghan garrison was killed or enslaved. Marathas achieved a rather easy
victory at Kunjpura, although there was a substantial army posted there. Some of
Abadali's best generals were killed. Ahmad Shah was encamped on the left bank of the
Yamuna River, which was swollen by rains, and was powerless to aid the garrison. The
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massacre of the Kunjpura garrison, within sight of the Durrani camp, exasperated him to
such an extent that he ordered crossing of the river at all costs. Ahmed Shah and his
allies on 17 October 1760, broke up from Shahdara, marching south. Taking a
calculated risk, Abdali plunged into the river, followed by his bodyguards and troops.
Between 23 and 25 October they were able to cross at Baghpat(a small town about 24
miles up the river), as a man from the village, in exchange for money, showed Abdali a
way through Yamuna, from where the river could be crossed, unopposed by the
Marathas who were still preoccupied with the sacking of Kunjpura.
After the Marathas failed to prevent Abdali's forces from crossing the Yamuna
River, they set up defensive works in the ground near Panipat, thereby blocking his
access back to Afghanistan, just as his forces blocked theirs to the south. However, on
the afternoon of 26 October Ahmad Shah's advance guard reached Sambalka, about
halfway between Sonepat and Panipat, where they encountered the vanguard of the
Marathas. A fierce skirmish ensued, in which the Afghans lost 1000 men killed and
wounded but drove the Marathas back to their main body, which kept retreating slowly
for several days. This led to the partial encirclement of the Maratha army. In skirmishes
that followed, Govind Pant Bundele, with 10,000 ligh
t cavalry who weren‘t formally
trained soldiers, was on a foraging mission with about 500 men. They were surprised by
an Afghan force near Meerut, and in the ensuing fight Bundele was killed. This was
followed by the loss of another 2,000 Maratha soldiers who were delivering the army's
payroll from Delhi. This completed the encirclement, as Ahmad Shah had cut off the
Maratha army's supply lines.
With supplies and stores dwindling, tensions rose in the Maratha camp as the
mercenaries in their army were complaining about not being paid. Initially the Marathas
moved in almost 150 pieces of modern long-range, French-made artillery. With a range
of several kilometres, these guns were some of the best of the time. The Marathas' plan
was to lure the Afghan army to confront them while they had close artillery support.
During the next two months of the siege constant skirmishes and duels took
place between units and individual champions from either side. In one of these Najib
lost 3,000 of his Rohillas and was very nearly killed but ran away. Facing a potential
stalemate, Abdali decided to seek terms, which Bhau was willing to consider. However,
Najib Khan delayed any chance of an agreement with an appeal on religious grounds
and sowed doubt about whether the Marathas would honour any agreement.
After the Marathas moved from Kunjpura to Panipat, Diler Khan Marwat, with his
father Alam Khan Marwat and a force of 2500 Pashtuns, attacked and took control of
Kunjpura, where there was a Maratha garrison of 700
800 soldiers. At that time Atai
Khan Baluch, son of the Wazir of Abdali, came from Afghanistan with 10,000 cavalry
and cut off the supplies to the Marathas. The Marathas at Panipat were surrounded by
Abdali in the south, Pashtun Tribes (Yousuf Zai, Afridi, Khattak) in the east, Shuja, Atai
Khan and others in the north and other Pashtun tribes (Gandapur, Marwat, Durranis and
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