What Were The Main Causes Of The Three Battles Of Panipat

What Is The Difference And Similarities Between Them

First Battle of Panipat- 

  • Fought between Babur and Ibrahim Lodhi
  • Date-1526
  • BAbur emerges victorious


Second Battle of Panipat

  • fought between Akbar forces and Hemu
  • Date- 1556
  • Akbar emerges victorious


Third Battle of Panipat

  • In 1761,  Marathas were badly defeated by Afghan forces under Shah Durani

  • 3


It is generally told that 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. However a reading of the contemporary sources show that more than the gun, it was the tactics which helped in winning the day. The new war tactics introduced by Babur were thetulughma and the arabaTulughma 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 mantelets which could be used to easily manoeuvre the canons. These two tactics made Babur's artillery lethal. The guns and cannons could be fired without any fear of being hit as they were shielded by the bullock carts which were held in place due to the hide ropes holding them together. the nozzle of the heavy cannons could also be easily changed as they could be manoeuvered by the mantelets which were provided with wheels.

Ibrahim Lodi died on the field of battle, abandoned by his feudatories and generals (many of whom were mercenaries). Most of them changed their allegiance to the new master of Delhi. However had Sultan Ibrahim survived another hour of fighting he would have won, as Babur had no reserves and his troops were rapidly tiring


Developments in Delhi and Agra disturbed the Mughals at KalanaurPunjab. Many Mughal Generals advised Akbar to retreat to Kabul as Mughal forces may not face Hemu's might and new awareness among Hindus to liberate their country, but Bairam Khan decided in favor of war. 


Durrani had both numeric as well as qualitative superiority over Marathas. The combined Muslim army was much larger than that of Marathas. Though the infantry of Marathas was organized along European lines and their army had some of the best French-made guns of the time, their artillery was static and lacked mobility against the fast-moving Afghan forces. The heavy mounted artillery of Afghans proved much better in the battlefield than the light artillery of Marathas.[19]

The main reason for the failure of the Marathas was that they went to war without good allies. They were expecting support from their allies- RajputsJats and Sikhs, but none of them supported Marathas in the battle. The Marathas had interfered in the internal affairs of the Rajput states (present-day Rajasthan) and levied heavy taxes and huge fines on them. They had also made large territorial and monetary claims upon Awadh. Their raids in the Jat territory had resulted in the loss of trust of Jat chiefs like Suraj Mal. They had, therefore, to fight their enemies alone. Marathas treated Sikhs, who assisted them in their north-west conquest as a non-entity in Punjab affairs. According to an assessment, the Sikhs were ever ready to co-operate with the Marathas, but it goes to the discredit of the Marathas that they did not make a proper confederacy with Sikhs. Kirpal Singh writes[20]:

"Unlike Ahmad Shah Abdali who subsequently raised a cry of jihad, the Marathas couldn't mobilize their resources and make a common cause with the Sikhs in order to pay the Afghan Emperor in his own coin."

Moreover, the senior Maratha chiefs constantly bickered with one another. Each had ambitions of carving out their independent states and had no interest in fighting against a common enemy.[21]Some of them didn't support the idea of a round battle and wanted to fight using guerilla tactics instead of charging the enemy head-on.[11] The Marathas were fighting alone at a place which was 1000 miles away from their capital Pune.[22]

The Maratha army was also burdened with over 300,000 pilgrims who wished to worship at Hindu places of worship like Mathura, Prayag, Kashi, etc. The pilgrims wanted to accompany the army, as they would be secure with them.[11] Apart from just fighting the battle, the Maratha troops had the responsibility to protect the non-combatants from Afghans. That was the reason why Marathas suffered heavy losses even after the battle. They could not retreat quickly as they were to protect the non-combatants who were accompanying them.

Peshwa's decision to appoint Sadashivrao Bhau as the Supreme Commander instead of Malharrao Holkar or Raghunathrao proved to be an unfortunate one, as Sadashivrao was totally ignorant of the political and military situation in North India.[23]

If Holkar had remained in the battlefield, the Maratha defeat would have been delayed but not averted. Ahmad Shah’s superiority in pitched battle could have been negated if the Marathas had conducted their traditional ganimi kava, or guerrilla warfare, as advised by Malharrao Holkar, in Punjab and in north India. Abdali was in no position to maintain his field army in India indefinitely.[24]Marathas had used guerrilla warfare in North India. The Turki horses could not have handled the plundering and cutting of supply lines by the Marathas.

Najib, Shuja and the Rohillas knew North India very well and that most of North India had allied with Abdali. Abdali used shaturnals, camels with mobile artillery pieces at his disposal. He was also diplomatic, striking agreements with Hindu leaders, especially the Jats and Rajputs, and former rivals like the Nawab of Awadh, appealing to him in the name of religion.[11] He also had better intelligence on the movements of his enemy, which played a crucial role in his encirclement of the enemy army.

  • 1
What are you looking for?