Panipat is a small sleepy town about a 120 km from Delhi, the capital of India. Its historical importance is however very great, as it was the scene of 3 great battles that decided the crown of Hindustan.  A visit to the place shows no remnants of those battles, but one can close ones eyes and dream of the clash of warriors as they fought for the soul of india. In that respect it is hallowed ground as it holds the blood of numerous warriors.

Panipat was the the scene of the first Battle in 1526. This was between the invader Babur and the ruler of the Delhi sultanate, Ibrahim Lodhi.  From the Baburnama we learn that just before the battle Babur had sought the blessings of a Pir ( Muslim Holy man) , probably Guru Nanak. Many attribute his victory to those blessings, but from a military viewpoint he won because he had canon and for the first time in India gunpowder was used. These canon's were not very effective , but they created a lot of smoke and noise and  in turn this frightened the elephant brigade of Lodhi.

The battle was over in a few hours and Ibrahim Lodhi was killed and Babur ascended the throne of Hindustan.  Babur was however a pitiless man and all the captured soldiers of Lodhi ( almost 50% Muslims) were massacred by Babur and a large pyramid of skulls of the vanquished men made as a reminder that he was a great warrior.

Just 30 years later( 1556) another great battle called the second battle of Panipat took place. This is a very significant battle as it marked the defeat of the last Hindu king who sat on the throne at Delhi. He was Samrat Hemchandra  Vikramaditya, popularly known as Hemu. His opponent was Akbar and his general Bairam Khan.  Hemu was winning and  Akbar and Bairam Khan  were contemplating a retreat to Kabul when Hemu was struck by a stray arrow in the eye. He was rendered unconscious and his army got demoralised and lost the will to fight.  Akbar prevailed by the skin of his teeth and beheaded Hemu. His head was taken to Kabul and   displayed to the ladies of Humayun's harem and his body hung at Delhi. Another 15-20000 soldiers of Hemu's army were massacred and a pyramid of their skulls erected.  In any case it was a great battle and sealed the Mughal rule in North India.

The third battle is equally significant. It took place in 1761 between the Mahratta confederacy and the Afghan warrior Ahmed Shah Abdali. Needless to add that Abdali proved himself a great general and almost 100,000 Hindu warriors  were killed.  Tens of thousands of surrendered Mahratta  soldiers were beheaded by Abdali who had a sadistic streak in him. His believed in taking no prisoners. This battle broke the back of the Mahratta confederacy and paved the way for British rule in India. Abdali could have made himself emperor of Hindustan , but he went back to Kabul.

Panipat will forever remain a hallowed ground. It has a permanent place in Indian history and one can take lessons from these battles. They bring out a serious flaw in military thinking of the Indian kings and warriors. One fails to understand why the Indian kings waited to give battle at Panipat and why they never thought of stopping the invader right at the Khyber Pass? The last word on this is written by Viscount Field marshal Barnard Montgomery in his " History of warfare" , who stated that the Hindus  lacked strategic sense and left the passes in the North West unguarded. This is food for thought. Unfortunately Nehru and the Indian leadership followed the same policy with China and Pakistan.


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