Friday, January 14, 2011

The Third Battle of Panipat (Featured)

The Third Battle of Panipat

The Third Battle of Panipat took place on 14 January 1761, at Panipat (Haryana State, India), about 60 miles (95.5 km) north of Delhi. The battle pitted the French-supplied artillery and cavalry of the Marathas against the heavy cavalry and mounted artillery(zamburak and jizail) of the Afghans led by Ahmad Shah Durrani, an ethnic Pashtun, also known as Ahmad Shah Abdali. The battle is considered one of the largest battles fought in the 18th century.

1st Battle of Panipat : Babur Defeated Ibrahim Lodi at 1526
2nd Battle of Panipat : Akbar Defeated Hemu at 1556

Looking to some factors before the war

...We have already brought Lahore, Multan, Kashmir and other subahs on this side of Attock under our rule for the most part, and places which have not come under our rule we shall soon bring under us. Ahmad Khan Abdali's son Taimur Sultan 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...we have decided to extend our rule up to Kandahar.
-- Raghoba's letter to the Peshwa, 4 May, 1758

Where did the war happen ?
The specific site of the battle itself is disputed by historians but most consider it to have occurred somewhere near modern day Kaalaa Aamb and Sanauli Road. The battle lasted for several days and involved over 125,000 men. Protracted skirmishes occurred, with losses and gains on both sides. The forces led by Ahmad Shah Durrani came out victorious after destroying several Maratha flanks. The extent of the losses on both sides is heavily disputed by historians, but it is believed that between 60,000-70,000 were killed in fighting, while numbers of the injured and prisoners taken vary considerably. The result of the battle was the halting of the Maratha advances in the North.

Faces of Battle of Panipat

Commanders and leaders
Sadashivrao Bhau
Malharrao Holkar
Mahadji Shinde
Jankoji Shinde
Ibrahim Khan Gardi
Shamsher Bahadur (Son of Bajirao) Sardar Bhivrao Panse (Artillery)
Sardar Bhoite
Sardar Purandare
Sardar Vinchurkar (Infantry & Cavalry)
Sardar Sidoji Gharge-Deshmukh(Cavalry)
Ahmad Shah Durrani
Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II
Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro
40,000 cavalry, 15,000 infantry, 15,000 Pindaris and 200 pieces of artillery,. The force was accompanied by 300,000 non-combatants (pilgrims and camp-followers). Thus, totally an army of 70,000.
42,000 cavalry, 38,000 infantry in addition to 10,000 reserves, 4,000 personal guards and 5,000 Qizilbash, 120-130 pieces of cannon as well as large numbers of irregulars. Thus, totally an army of 100,000. was Ahmad Shah Abdali ?
Ahmad Shah was the first emir of Afghanistan and he inherited the throne of Abdali tribe of Afgans. Ahmad Shah later renamed his ancestry as Durrani. Ahmad Shah was the leader of his tribesmen and served Nadir Shah, the King of Persia, who conquered most of Afghanistan and part of India. After the death of Nadir Shah, Ahmad Shah got the independent Afghan kingdom as his own territory. Between 1748 and 1752 Ahmad Shah invaded Punjab six times and was also able to seize and sack Delhi. Although Ahmad Shah was a powerful military leader, he never permanently ruled in India and subsequently withdrew into Afghanistan.



Who was Najib-ul-Daula?

In the Third battle of Panipat, during the Imperial Maratha Conquests, he allied himself with the Durranis led by Ahmad Shah Durrani, against the Marathas. Najib Khan was shrewd enough to understand changed ground realities after third battle of Panipat . His cunning political acumen was used by Ahmed Shah Abdali to isolate Marathas & preventing them from getting even single ally during their conflict with Durrani power. His opposition to signing of treaty, with Marathas was the main cause of battle being fought at Panipat. He not only provided, Ahmed Shah Abdali, with 40,000 Rohilla troops but also 70 guns to the combined forces. He also convinced Shuja-ul-Daula, the Nawab of Oudh, to join Ahmad Shah Abdali's forces against the Marathas. In this battle, the Maratha's were defeated and as a consequence Rohilla increased in power.
After the war he was made vizier of Mughal emperor

Describing the Maratha Army
The Maratha Army consisted of the artillery in front, protected by infantry, pike men, bowman and musketeers. The cavalry was instructed to wait behind the artillery and bayonet holding musketeers and they were ready to charge when control of battlefield is fully established. Behind the line were thirty thousand young men who were not that expert in fighting and then about thirty thousand civilians.

This civilian line consisted of many middle class men, women, children who took this as an opportunity to visit pilgrimage to visit holy places and shrines and also Aryavarta (Aryan Land). Behind the civilian line there was another protective infantry line composed of comparatively young and experienced soldiers. 
Maratha Formations--
The Maratha lines began a little to the north of Kala Amb. They had thus blocked the northward path of Abdali's troops and at the same time they themselves were blocked by the latter from the south which was in the direction to Delhi, where they could get badly needed supplies. Bhau, with the Peshwa's son and the household troops, were in the centre. The left wing consisted of the gardis under Ibrahim Khan. Holkar and Sindhia were on the extreme right.
Describing the Abdali’s Army
On the other hand the Afghans also formed up a similar kind of Infantry in the third battle of Panipat, the left wing formed by the Najib`s Rohillas and the right wing by two brigades of Persian troops. The left center was controlled by two higher officials, Shuja-ud-Daulah and ahmad shah`s Vizier Shah Wali. The right center consisted of Rohillas, under Hafiz Rahamat and other chiefs of the Indian Pathans.

Pasand Khan led the left wing, which was composed of well-chosen Afghan horsemen. This way the army moved forward with the Shah at the center so that he could watch and control the battle.
Initial Skirmishes
Battle of Kunjpura
The Marathas attacked the Afghan garrison on the banks of the river Yamuna at Kunjpura, north of Delhi, and killed or enslaved them. The Yamuna was in spate and Abdali, who was on the other side, could not do anything to save them. Along with his soldiers, he took a risk, reached the south of Delhi and crossed the Yamuna there, where it was relatively easier. He wanted to encircle Marathas. The Marathas were unaware of this as they were preoccupied with the skirmish at Kunjpura.
Lesson: One should learn from a setback and improve; one must have the determination to win. Sometimes, a better plan emerges that could increase the probability of success as in Abidali's case, where he saw his troops decimated on the other side of the river.Similarly, one may need to take snap decisions depending on the situation. An individual with a good network and a company that has good market intelligence can get the latest information, which could be crucial in planning and providing competitive advantage.When the stakes are high, lack of intelligence can invariably prove fatal, as in the case of how Abdali crossing the Yamuna went unnoticed by the Marathas.

Next Strategy of Marathas after Abdali crossed Yamuna
When the Marathas realised that the south of the Yamuna was captured by Abdali, they dug their heels in near Panipat to deny him access to Afghanistan. Slowly, Abdali encircled the Maratha army and cut off their supply line. The Afghans continued to get the supplies they needed due to their agreements with a few north Indian kingdoms. Therefore, their need to open up the route towards Afghanistan was not that urgent. But it was a desperate situation for the Maratha army who were expecting reinforcements from the south of the Narmada instead of the neighbouring states.
Lesson: It is important to do 'what if' contingency analysis planning for various scenarios. This upfront analysis may trigger a new partnership or alignment which could benefit the company. Sometimes, one has to provide new concessions to gain the required support and solidify one's position. Both wars and businesses can benefit from a deep multi-step scenario analysis.

Abdali was about to sign a peace treaty with Marathas,but Najib Khan opposed it
There were tensions in the Maratha army due to Abidali's strategy. In the next two months, the skirmishes between the two left many, including Najib Khan's soliders, dead. Abdali sensed a deadlock and decided to sign a peace treaty with the Marathas. The Marathas were keen as well, but Najib Khan advised against the treaty and prevailed upon Abdali to delay his decision.
Lesson: Empower and trust your team members.

How did things happened ?
The very initial scene
Before dawn on January 14, 1761 the Maratha forces emerged from the trenches, pushing the artillery into position on their pre-arranged lines, some 2km from the Afgans. Seeing that the battle was on, Ahmad positioned his 60 smoothbore cannon and opened fire. However, because of the short range of the weapons, the Maratha lines remained untouched. Ahmad then launched a cavalry attack to break their lines
The Maratha artillery was doing its job, but Abdali was too indecisive to come all the way into the field. The Afghans protecting Maratha artillery were loyal enough (as claimed) and held off some small bands of raiders from Abdali's Army (mainly North Indian Muslim horsemen). It seemed like an old fashined slug-fest the Marathas were sure to win.

Then disaster struck when the head of the Maratha cavalry decided to attack before being ordered to. The Maraths flew straight into Abdali's artillery and were decimated.
Eventually, the deteriorating situation forced the Marathas to attack the Afghans before their reinforcements arrived. The Marathas had better French guns and made significant progress. Ibrahim Gardi played a key role in getting early breakthroughs for the Marathas.

By noon, it appeared that the Marathas would win.
Faced with imminent defeat, Abdali called on his highly trained reserve soldiers and cannon-mounted camels. From these camels, they could fire artillery which would go over their own infantry and started decimating the Maratha army.
The Maratha artillery, initially used to weaken the enemy defence, was now placed behind the infantry and thus became ineffective. Besides, Bhau did not have any significant reserves that could join them with artillery for a counter-attack.
Eventually, the tired Maratha forces could not match Abdali's reserve army. This turned the tide in Abdali's favour. By the end of the day, the Marathas had lost the battle.

Appointing of Sadhashivrao as Supreme Commander was a mistake?
·         Peshwas decision of appointing Sadashivrao Bhau as the Supreme Commander instead of appointing Malharrao Holkar or Raghunathrao proved to be a kind of unrest among the Maratha Sardars.
·         Sadashivrao was totally ignorant of the Political and Military situation of North India.
·         Malharrao Holkar and Surajmal Jat had advised Sadashivrao Bhau to use Guerilla warfare against Ahmed Shah Abdali instead of a direct war which was declined by Bhau. He had also advised Bhau that instead of going forward to Panipat, they should wait for the enemy to come in their stronghold where it would become easy for them and difficult for Abdali. Even this advise was rejected by Bhau. Nana Phadnawis has stated that, at that time, Bhau didn't show his usual cleverness and rejected the advise of Malharrao Holkar and Surajmal Jat.

Role of Malharrao Holkar
It is alleged that Malharrao Holkar fled the battle-field in the Third Battle of Panipat 14/01/1761. It is written by many historians that he fought courageously in the battle-field. It is also written that Sadashivrao Bhau had entrusted him the job of saving Parvatibai as soon as told to do so. When Vishwasrao was killed and Sadashivrao Bhau felt they were about to be defeated he sent a message to Malharrao to immediately act as per directions and leave the battlefield. Malharrao acted as per the directions of Sadashivrao and saved Parvatibai. Malharrao was considered to be the right hand man of Peshwa. Others who escaped from this battle were Mahadji Shinde and Nana Phadnawis.

Role of Schindia in final phase
In the final phase the Marathas, under Scindia, attacked Najib Khan (whom he had a personal enimity with). However, Najib successfully fought a defensive action keeping Scindias forces at bay.

Reasons for Failure of Marathas !!!
·      The Maratha Muslim logistics infantrymen (Rohillas), who had not been trusted to fight in the front line because their loyalty was suspect—or, rather, who were suspected of being loyal to the Koran or fellow Muslims and not to their country— now responded to the calls of the Afgan army for jihad. They revolted, and started looting and pillaging the Maratha civilians inside the encirclement. This caused brought confusion and great consternation to loyal Maratha soldiers, who thought that the enemy has attacked from behind.
·      Sadashivrao Bhau, seeing his forward lines dwindling and civilians behind, felt he had no choice but to come down from his elephant and take a direct part in the battle on horseback at the head of his troops. He left instructions with his bodyguards that, if the battle were lost, they must kill his wife Parvati bai, as he could not abide the thought of her being dishonoured by Afgans.
Some Maratha soldiers, seeing that their general had disappeared from his elephant, panicked and began to flee. Vishwasrao, the son of Prime Minister Nanasaheb, had already fallen to Afgan sniper fire, shot in the head. Sadashivrao Bhau and his bodyguard fought to the end, the Maratha leader having three horses shot out from under him.
·      Abdali had given a part of his army the task to surround and kill the Gardis under Ibrahim Gardi, who were at the leftmost part of the Maratha army. Bhausaheb had ordered Vitthal Vinchurkar (with 1500 cavalry) and Damaji Gaikwad (with 2500 cavalry) to protect the Gardi’s. But seeing the Gardi’s fight, they lost their patience, became over enthusiastic and decided to fight the Rohillas themselves. Thus, they broke the round (circle) i.e. they didn’t follow the idea of round battle and went all out on the Rohillas and the Rohillas then started accurately shooting the rifleless Maratha cavalry which was equipped with swords. This gave opportunity to the Rohillas to encircle the Gardis and outflank the Maratha centre while, Shah Wali pressed on attacking the front. Thus, the Gardis were left defenceless and started falling down one by one.
·         The Maratha artillery, initially used to weaken the enemy defence, was now placed behind the infantry and thus became ineffective. Besides, Bhau did not have any significant reserves that could join them with artillery for a counter-attack.
·         The confident Marathas were led by Sadashivrao Bhau. They had a large army, but very few allies. Most of the kings from the Jat, Sikh and Rajput kingdoms did not support the Marathas as they resented the heavy tax imposed on them during the Maratha capture of north India. A few of them even struck favourable agreements with Abdali.
·         The over-enthusiasm of the charge saw many of the Maratha horses exhausted long before they had traveled the two kilometres to the Afgan lines, some simply collapsed. Making matters worse was the suffocating odour of the rotting corpses of men and animals from the fighting of the previous months.

"Kim's Gun", also known as the Zamzama was used in the Third Battle of Panipat
Panipat has always favoured the invader
Shlombay= The socrates of Pashtuns.
The battle lasted for several days and involved over 125,000 men
Despite Bhau's success, the over-enthusiasm of the charge and due to a phenomenon called ‘Dakshinayan’ on that fateful day, the sunlight went directly into the horses' eyes, many of the half starved Maratha horses exhausted
The Marathi term "Sankrant Kosalali", meaning "Sankranti has befallen us", is said to have originated from the events of the battle.There are some verbs in Marathi language related to this loss as "Panipat zale"[a major loss has happened] This verb is even today used in Marathi language. A common pun is "Aamchaa Vishwaas Panipataat gela” [we lost our own (Vishwas) faith since Panipat]. Many historians, including British historians of the time, have argued that had it not been for the weakening of the Maratha power at Panipat, the British might never have had a strong foothold in India.
The battle proved the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling's poem "With Scindia to Delhi".

Lesson: One needs allies; the need is even stronger when one is operating in a new territory/segment.

Aftermath of the Panipat War.
·         The third battle of Panipat ended the great Marathas' advance towards north-west India. However, after a few years under Peshwa Madhav Rao, they recaptured Delhi and retained it till 1818.

Lesson: To rise after a fall requires grit and determination. 

·         The victorious army led by Durrani oversaw the cremation of the bodies of Vishwas Rao and the Bhau. Many Maratha generals were subsequently tortured and executed by the victorious army. The overriding legacy of the battle was the halting of the Marathas'' advance and the brief restoration of the Mughal Empire.

·         However History shows that Marathas had learnt something from their past: The Marathas were back in action just four years later, because they were more or less a loose confederacy... cutting off one head replaced it with multiple smaller ones. A far better showing on the whole compared to usual one hit and a kingdom story of earlier 2 Panipats.
·         Abdali's soldiers arrested about 10,000 women and another 10,000 young children and men brought them to their camps. The women were raped, many committed suicide because of constant rapes perpetrated on them. All of the prisoners were exchanged or sold as sex slaves to Afganistan or North India, transported on carts, camels and elephants in bamboo cages.

Defeat of Marathas in the battle of Panipat saw a new beginning of the colonial rule in India.

The story of a place named Panipat
Pachranga pickle is Panipat's new identity. Sold at several hundred outlets along the highway, it is a mix of mango, lemon, chilly, ginger and lotus stem immersed in oil. But the soil of Panipat has been marinated in blood, not oil, for the last 500 years. Sometimes coveted for its own worth, at others as the last hurdle on the road to Delhi, Panipat has always favoured the invader. Lodhis, Mughals, Surs, Marathas and Abdalis have tested their power on its dusty plain, with the outsider winning each time. he second battle of Panipat has not left behind any mementos but an obelisk at Kala Amb on the town's outskirts commemorates the third battle. The Maratha leader Sadashiv Rau Bhau is believed to have fallen at this spot, changing the course of the battle against Ahmed Shah Abdali.

My Take on the Third War of Panipat

          The war of Panipat is taken as a huge defeat of Marathas by the historians.Its very true that we lost the battle..but we had had a far reaching effect on the minds of Abdali.After the battle..Abdali was frightened to such an extent that even after winnning the war   he did not dare to move forward towards Delhi.Before this invasion Abdali had plundered the land of India many times.But experiencing the valour,courage and bravery of the Marathas he never returned back to India..
          Nother interesting thing is that the Marathas fought for the nation and not for their personal benefits.But unfortunately no one helped them.Nor the Hindu kings,nor the Sikhs,nor the Muslim kings helped them.The Marathas travelled in thousands for the cause of the nation about 1200-1400km right from Pune when they came to know about Abdali’s invasion.Travelling today from Pune to Delhi is not that hard.But imagine that time, when their were no modes of transport and the big-big rivers came on the way.Passing through this rivers would had been a hard task.
The Marathas didn’t have an army as was the farmers who also acted as army dur war situation.It was phenomenon like the Marathas used to do farming during the rainy seasons and after Vijaydashmi(Dasshera) they used to turn into soldiers for military expeditions.
          Another interesting fact that we should  take  into consideration was that the main faces of the war Sadhashivrao Bhau was just 29 years and Vishwasrao,son of Nanasaheb Peshwa was 17 years old when the Battle was fought.Ahmed Shah Abdali was 32 years of we would see that this was the war of young people
          Abdali had cutoff the food and infantry supplies and the Marathas fought the war when they had not eaten food for five days.The horse and elephants  had no fodder  to live on.Nextly due to Dakshinayan on 14 Jan the sun rays falled directly on the faces of the Marathas.Still it was till afternooon 12:00 that war was almost won by Marathas but things went wrong on the way..and the war was lost!!!
          Ibrhim Gardi’s cannons played a measure role in the war. Due to formation in such a way that in the front was the cannons,follwed by the the soldiers then the pilgrims again followed by young soldiers.In this way Durrani’s soldiers were almost fleeing the battlefield,but in this period of time the Vinchurkar’s and the Gaikwad’s got so enthusiatic that the they overtaked the cannons and went in the forefront to cut the Afghans but due this the cannons had to stop their  work  as firing at that period of time would mean killing our own soldiers.Nextly the legs ofAfghans fleeing were cut by Abdali’s reserved armies forcing them to retrun back to the battle as a result of which they had to return back to the battlefield and inaction of cannons at this period of time messed up the entire game show and this was the turning point in the war where Abdali’s men had advancement over the Marathas.
           Also their were even Afghans about 2000 from the Maratha side fighting against the Abdali’s men.Urge from the enemy for jihad made them turn their minds and they started attacking,looting and plundering  the Marathas itself.
          This period of time was when the Marathas started fleeing.Their was total mess.By that time Vishwasrao was shot dead adding to discouragement among the Marathas and they cudnt find their Sardars around leading to mess.
          Role of Ibrahim Gardi is another important fact.The kind of loyalty shown by this man towards the Marathas is mind  blowing.Abdali many times tried to persuade Ibrahim towards his side by telling him that he would be made the Senapati. But his games didn’t affect Ibrahim.At the end of the war injured Ibrahim was brought in front of Abdali…even this time Abdali put forward his wish to accompany him to his place as a Senapati.But Ibrahim Gardi said that he was loyal his commander Sadhashiv Bhau.Abdali granted him mercy,Ibrahim was moving out of the court of Abdali,and Abdali called him again and asked him what would he do next.Ibrahim replied “I will again raise my army and if Allah wishes would come back strong and attack Afghanisthan to take the revenge.”The moment he said this  Abdali ordered his man to blow the head of Ibrahim Gardi.We cant forget the contributions of great Ibrahim Gardi!!!  

What I want to say is take the War of Panipat positively even if it was a defeat.It was the first time that a nationalist feeling came up through the Great Marathas!!!

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