The Mughals (1526-1707)- The First Battle of Panipat

The Mughals (1526-1707)- The First Battle of Panipat


Situated between Lahore and Delhi, Haryana had been the scene of battles throughout the medieval period. Almost every invader penetrating Indian Territory from the west and aiming at the capture of Delhi had to fight his way through this region. This was perhaps the primary consideration which Babur had in his mind on the eve of the first battle of Panipat which consequently led to the foundation of the Mughal Empire.


Ibrahim, the Lodi Sultan of Delhi, due to his overbearing nature alienated a number of Afghan nobles— the mainstay of his power in India, further creating suspicion in their minds concerning his intentions. Consequently Daulat Khan, the Governor of Punjab and Alam Khan (Sikandar LodPs brother) were led to invite Babur to invade India which, for an adventurer like Babur was indeed a golden opportunity.


Daulat Khan planned to capture Delhi and Agra; and in it quite a number of Afghan Amirs such as Ghazi Khan, Ismail Jilwani, Sulaiman Shaikhzada and Alam Khan joined him. Alam Khan personally met Babur at Kabul who, sent some of his nobles with the former to assess the situation. They captured Sialkot, Lahore and adjacent areas and reported back to Babur who accordingly started on his Indian expedition on December 16, 1525. Alam Khan’s view was that since the Mughals were invited by him, Delhi should be assigned to him after its capture. This was not acceptable to the Mughals. Consequently Alam Khan separated from the Mughals and with an army of 40,000 horsemen moved towards Delhi and laid seige to it. Sultan Ibrahim who was also not unaware of these moves, decided to march towards Delhi at the head of a huge army consisting of eighty thousand soldiers. Although receiving reverses in the initial encounter Ibrahim finally succeeded in defeating Alam Khan forcing him to flee towards Panipat and Indri, the latter also being deserted by a number of his Afghan nobles. Alam Khan, while he was passing through Sirhind with Dilawar Khan, heard the news of Babur’s advance and capture of Milwat. Mir Khalifa persuaded Alam Khan to join Babur, the latter received him well. Later on Daulat Khan and Dilawar Khan also joined.


Babur, who had already started his Indian expedition, followed the route via Sialkot, Lahore, Kalanaur, Milwat, Dun, Danur, Banur, Samana and Sunam. At the last mentioned place, he learnt about Ibrahim’s march towards Panipat, and the military movements of Hammid Khan, the shiqdar of Hisar-i-Firuza Ibrahim was also assisted by Husan Khan, the shiqdar of Mewat.’ For the assessment of enemies’ position Babur immediately despatched his envoys Kitta Beg and Munim Ataka to Panipat and Hisar-i-Firuzah respectively.’ Reaching Ambala (February, 1526), the invading army engaged the enemy at Hodal where Humayun defeated Hamm d Khan. It was Humayun’s ‘first affair, first experience of battle and an excellent omen’. The Mughals occupied Hisar which Babur presented to Humayun to remain as his personal From Ambala the army marched to Shahbad and then advancing along the bank of the river Yamuna reached Karnal. After a short stay at Gharaunda Babur led his armies to Panipat (April 12, 1526) the battle field where he was to meet Ibrahim Lodi.’


Babur arranged his armies in such a way that ‘on his right was the town of Panipat with its suburbs, in front the carts (700) and mantelets (shields), on the left and elsewhere ditch and branch’. Ustad Aliquli was ordered that the carts should be joined toeether in Ottoman fashion with slight modification of using ropes of raw hide instead of chains, and that between every two carts 5 or 6 mantelets should be fixed, behind which the match lockmen were to stand and fire.


During the interval before the actual start of the battle small parties of the Mughals attacked the enemy’s camp very closely. At the advice of his Hindustani well-wishers Babur followed it up by a night attack. As it was very dark the Mughals mistakably reached very close to the enemy’s camp but fortunately escaped unhurt. Humayun too made an advance along with his troops but received no response from the otherside.’


On Friday, April 20, came the news that the enemy was advancing in fighting array. Babur divided his army of 12,000 horsemen and numerous Afghan and Turk adventurers into vanguard, left wing, right wing and the centre. The Babiirndtnd provides the names of the commanders of various wings of the army. In the right were placed Humayun, Khwaja Kalan, Sultan Muhammad Duldai, Hindu Beg etc., while the left was led by SI. Mirza Mahdi Khwaja, Adil Sultan, Shah Mir Husain, SI. Junaid and others. The right of the centre was protected specially by Chin-timur Sultan and Sulaiman Mirza, while the left’s responsibility was shouldered by Khalifa Khwaja Mir-i-miran. The advance and the reserve were respectively in the charge of Khusrau and Abdul Aziz — the masters of the horses. The turning party {tidghuma) at the point of right and left wings were accordingly arranged.


The Afghan army, estimated about 100,000 men with about 1000 elephants, consisted mostly of mercinaries much inferior to the Mughals in discipline, training and valonr and their supreme commander Ibrahim, no match to Jahiruddin Babur in respect of organization, planning and military strategy. Ibrahim’s short comings have been very aptly commented upon by Babur. He observed, ‘hew should he (Ibrahim) content his braves when he was ruled by avarice and had a craving insatiable to pile coin on coin? He was an unproved brave; he provided nothing for his military opera- tion, he perfected nothing, nor stand, nor move, nor fight’. At another occasion when being asked by Darwish-i-muhammad Sarban ‘With such precautions taken, how is it possible for him to come?’ Babur replied, ‘Are you likening him to the Auzbeg Khans and Sultans? In what of movement under arms or of planned operations is he to be compared with them?


The battle began with the advance of Ibrahim’s army towards Babur’s right wing but was taken aback and sir ckened by the front line defences (of the enemy) reinforced by the right-reserve Abdul-aziz. Babur made second attack. His turning parties wheeled round and discharged arrows on the rear, right and left of the enemy forces. His right and left engaged the advancing enemy forces. The Afghans plan was to concentrate on Babur’s right wing in order to severe his connection with the city, and pierce through the centre. But Babur’s repeated pushing of fresh troops into that wing foiled enemy’s attack. The match-lock of Ustad Ali Quli Khan and the canons of Mustafa brought havoc among the Afghan forces.


The final scene of the battle is thus described in Babunidmd:


Our right, left, centre and turning parties having surrounded the enemy, rained arrows down on him and fought ungrudgingly. He made one or two small charges on our right and left but under our men’s arrows, fell back on his own centre. His right and left were massed in such a crowd that they could neither move forward against us nor force a way nor flight.


The Tdrikh-i’Saldtmi-A, a valuable source of information for the desperate fight of the Afghans, relates:


Many of Sultan’s soldiers were killed. He himself was standing with some of his men near him, when Mahmud Khan came forward, and said, ‘our affairs are in a very desperate condition; you had better leave the field of battle. If the king is saved, it will be easy to find another army, and again make war against the Mughals. We shall soon be able to find an opportunity of accomplishing our wishes. This is my opinion; but whatever His Majesty thinks is best’. The Sultan replied, ‘O Mahmud Khan, it is a disgrace for kings to fly from the field of battle. Look here, my nobles, my companions, my well-wishers and friends have partaken of the cup of martyrdom, one has fallen here, another there, where then can I now go? My horses’ legs are dyed with blood up to his chest. Whilst I was king, I governed the empire as I pleased; now, perfidious Fortune has sided with the Mughals, what pleasure is there in life? It is better that I should be like my friends, in the dust and in blood’. [Thus making his final say, the Sultan, along with his five thousand brave horsemen (the remnant of his imperial array) rushed into the thickest of the battle, slew many of the Mughal and finally towards the close of the day obtained martyrdom.]


The Tdrikh-i’Saldfin-i-Afghdna also gives us an idea of Afghan attitude to the battle and the excellent treatment which the victor offered to his fallen enemy. We are told that astrologers foretold Ibrahim’s defeat; and that his men though greatly outnumbering Babur’s, were dispirited and disheartened because of his ill treatment of them, and his amirs displeased with him, but that nevertheless, the conflict of Panipat was more desperate than had ever been seen. It further adds that ‘Ibrahim fell where his tomb now is; that Babur went to the spot and, prompted by his tender heart lifted up the head of his dead adversary, and said ‘Honour to your courage’, ordered brocade and sweetmeats made ready, enjoined Dilawar Khan and Khalifa to bathe the corpse and to bury it where it lay.’- It shows that although having a very poor opinion of his adversary as a military leader, Babur was greatly moved by the courage shown by him in the last moments. Ibrahim died a heroic death.


‘It was also one of the dying regrets of Sher Shah to have erected a monument in the memory of Ibrahim Lodi and another one in the opposite direction for theChagtai Sultans despatched to martyrdom by him, both constructed with such architectural embellishments, that friend and foe might render their tribute of applause, and his name might remain honoured upon earth until the day of resurrection.’


Like the second battle of Tarain (1192), the first battle of Panipat (1526) was also a decisive battle. Not only did it seal the fate of the first Afghan empire but also that of Haryana which passed on to the Mughals for centuries to come.


According to the Tdrlkh^i-Salattn-i-Afghana Babur stayed for about seven days at Panipat. He took possession of Ibrahim’s treasury, elephants (1500), horses (27,000) and other warlike implements, and gained the goodwill of eminent persons of the town by showing liberality towards them. Sultan Muhammad Aughuli for his excellent services in the battle was appointed Governor of Panipat with 10,000 horsemen under him and the revenue of one crop was granted for their maintenance. Babur’s constructive measures for the town consist of a tomb (in the memory of Ibrahim Lodi), a mosque, a tank and a garden, the last popularly known as Kabuli Bag? Babur’s next halt was at Sonepat whose people— businessmen, soldiers as well as village elders offered submission to him. All of them were amply rewarded. Babur next encamped near the fort of Indrapat for a little more than a month, as it was a pleasant and agreeable spot.


The establishment of Mughal rule in Haryana did not go unchallenged. Under the leadership of Hamid Khan Saranghkhani, the Afghans in the neighbourhood of Hisar-Firuzah revolted. They were about 3000 to 4000 in numbers. On November 21, 1526 Babur sent a number of his lieutenants Chin-timur Sultan, Ahmadi ParwanchU Abul Path Turkman, Malik Dad Kararani and Mujahid Khan of Multan to curb Afghan disturbances. Both the armies met near Hisar. The Mughal attack was so sudden that the Afghan had to give way, many fled and the rest put to death. Hisar was thus brought into complete submission.


Mewat was next to revolt. Its ruler Hasan Khan Mewati had sent his son Nahar Khan to assist Ibrahim in the first battle of Panipat. After the battle was over Nahar Khan fell into Babur’s hands that was kept as a hostage. Some of his councillors suggested Babur that if Nahar Khan is released unconditionally Hasan Khan would be more favourably disposed to him. But this move proved to be of no avail. Hasan Khan not only disregarded Babur’s favours, but created further disturbance and joined Rana Sanga. Babur in his Memoirs also expresses repentance for this tactical mistake. He further complains of the former Sultans, for not being able to establish order in Mewat and to bring it under their complete subjection.


That it was not simply a war of the Hindus against the Muhammadans but a united national effort against a common enemy of the country becomes clear from the following extract recorded by Ahmad Yadgir in his Tdrikh~i-Salattn~i~Afghana, He writes


Rana Sanga who was at that time a powerful chief sent a message to Hasan Khan saying “The Mughals have entered Hindustan, have slain Sultan Ibrahim, and taken possession of the country; it is evident that they will likewise send an army against both of us; if you will side with me we will be alive, and not suffer them to take possession. [And Hasan Khan agreed to this proposal].


True to his word the valiant Hasan Khan Mewati, along with his 12,000 troops, laid his life in fighting the invader at the battle of Khanwa (March 17, 1527). But when after the battle Hasan Khan’s son, Nahar Khan asked for peace Babur showed magnanimity in restoring him to favour and bestowing on him a Jagir of a few parganas worth several lakhs for his support. Tijara town, the seat of power of the Mewatis was given to Chin-Timur together with an allowance of 50 laks for maintenance.


The people of Kaithal were also not to lag behind. Under the leadership of a Rajput Mohan Mundahir they revolted. The Tarikh-i-Saldtin4-Afghdna provides for the first time, details of Babur’s punitive expedition to Kaithal sent from Sirhind against Mohan at the complaint of the Qazi of Samana. Although missing in the text of Babiirndmd the passage, as rightly pointed out by Beveridge, ‘in its precision of details besoeaks a closely contemporary written source’. The learned scholar adds: ‘In view of the vicissitudes to which under Humayun the royal library was subjected, it would be difficult to assert that this source was not the missing continuation of Babur’s diary’.


Babur while returning from Lahore received a complaint at Sirhind of Mohan Mundahir’s attacking, burning and plundering of the estates of the Qazi of Samana and killing his son. Babur ordered Aliquli of Hamadan to advance towards Mohan’s village (in the Kaithal tehsil of Kurukshetra district) with 3000 horses. Extreme cold season made fighting very difficult. The archers could not pull their bows. They fought their best but could not stand the brave villagers led by Mohan. After hearing of this discomfiture Babur sent a reinforcement of 6000 horses and many elephants with Tarsam Bahadur and Naurang Beg. Reaching Mohan’s village at night they planned their strategy. They divided themselves into three divisions of which one was to attack the enemy from the west side of the village. Accordingly, when this division made an attack, the villagers made counter attack and came forward. The Mughal forces having decided to play deceit turned back and fled, allowing the Mundahirs to follow them about two miles away from their village. This offered Tarsam Bahadur the desired opportunity to attack the remaining inhabitants of the village and to put it on fire. The terrible sight of their village compelled the Mundahirs to return only to get entrapped. The Mughals, known for their barbarity, punished the revolting Mundahirs severely. About 1000 of their men, women and a children were made prisoners. Some of them were slain, and a pillar of their heads was raised. Their leader, Mohan was captured and later on buried to the waist and shot to death with arrows.


After Sirhind, Babur is said to have spent two months hunting near Delhi. It may be, as pointed out by Beveridge, that ‘he followed up the punitive expedition to Kaithal by hunting in Nardak (in Kurukshetra), a favourite ground of the Timurids.


For the smooth running of administration Babur divided Haryana into four sarkars namely, Sirhind, Hisar-i-Firuzah, Delhi and Miwat. This besides, he appointed his faithful officer Ahsan Taimur and Bughra Sultan to look after the jagir of Narnaul and Samsabad respectively.

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