Battle of Panipat: First, Second and Third for KAS, PSI, KPC, KPTCL

Battle of Panipat is one of the main and important battle of Indian History. In this blog you will learn about background of war, facts and figures of battle, war and aftermath of the all three battle of Panipat. If you are preparing for KAS, PSI, KPC, KPTCL exam, Oliveboard has mock tests package for all those exams. You can visit Karnataka Exam Section in our website for more details.


Panipat is a place currently located in present day Haryana district. Geographically Panipat is located at a distance about 97km from North of Delhi and has straight plains. These two geographical conditions become main reasons for this place to witness three pivotal battles in Indian history, which are called as battles of Panipat. As Panipat is nearer to Delhi and anyone who enters from North West side of India with an intention to capture Delhi have to pass through Panipat and also the level plane land of Panipat is suitable for cavalry movement, these factors makes Panipat a perfect place for battle field and hence this place witnessed three pivotal wars which shaped Indian history. As these battles took place in a place called Panipat, these battles are called as battle of Panipat and the fun fact is that the battles of Panipat were never fought for the city of Panipat. Battles of Panipat turned out to be major battles in history of North India as they became an important mark in the history of Mughal Empire and Maratha Empire.

Battles of Panipat were fought in the 16th century and 18th century with the first two battles of panipat being fought in the 16th century and the last battle of Panipat was fought in the 18th century.

1. First battle of Panipat – 1526

2. Second battle of Panipat – 1556

3. Third battle of Panipat – 1761

The first two battles of Panipat turned out to become crucial battles for Mughals in India as these battles established and further developed Mughal’s supremacy in North India. Whereas the third battle of Panipat turns out to be the battle which weakened the hold of Marathas in North India.

First battle of Panipat (1526)

First battle of Panipat was fought on 21 April 1526 between invading forces of Babur and Ibrahim Lodhi of Lodhi dynasty.

Background of war

  • Babur was ancestor of Taimur and prince of Timurid empire
  • Babur after losing Samarkand to Uzbek’s three times and tempted by wealth of Hindustan he turned his attention to conquer Hindustan as to fulfill his great grandfather Taimur’s legacy.
  • Babur’s aim was only to expand his rule to Punjab 
  • At that time Hindustan was under sultanate rule of Pashtun ruler Ibrahim Lodi, who soon after attending the throne after his father’s death faced rebellions and displeased the nobility. Because of this he was surrounded by many defectors.
  • Ala-ud-din uncle of Ibrahim Lodhi was not impressed by Ibrahim’s rule and claimed the throne of Delhi, but was surpassed by Ibrahim Lodhi. So Ala-ud-din sent an invitation to Babur to attack Hindustan.
  • Daulat Khan Lodhi the governor of Punjab became a defector ruler and joined hands with Babar.
  • Babur captured Lahore and joined his troops with other rebellion governors of the Lodhi sultanate.

Facts and figures of Battle

  • Size of Ibrahim Lodhi’s army during first battle of panipat: – 100,000 men of which there was a fighting force of 30,000 to 40,000 men armed with swords, pikes, bows and bamboo rods and remaining were camp followers along with at least 1000 war elephants.
  • Size of Babur’s army: – 10,000 – 15,000 well trained men in using gunpowder weapons and skilled in traditional steppe warfare along with 20 to 24 pieces of field artillery.
  • Composition of Lodhi’s army for the first battle of Panipat:- Lodhi’s army was composed of cavalry and war elephants which were proven to be effective in earlier times of war.
  • Composition of Babur’s army for the first battle of Panipat: – Babur’s army consisted of cavalry, field artillery with gunpowder weapons and cannons.
  • The First battle of Panipat was one of the earliest battles involving gunpowder firearms and field artillery, making this war a new kind of warfare in the Indian subcontinent.
  • Arrangement of Lodhi’s Army during first battle of panipat :- Although Ibrahim Lodhi had a larger army than Babur he lacked war tactics and tricks of which Babur was more equipped. Ibrahim Lodhi arranged his army in traditional old way which well known to Babur
  • Arrangement of Babur’s Army during first battle of Panipat:- Even though Babur’s army was smaller in size. Babur had good experience of leading an army along with extraordinary war tactics. He used war tactics called Tulghuma and Araba in the first battle of Panipat.

The war

Ibrahim Lodhi’s army and Babur’s army came in front of each other on April 12th 1526 on an open field of Panipat for the first battle of panipat. Babur, showing his brilliant war tactics, secured his right flank against the city of Panipat, while digging a trench and covering them with tree branches to cover his right flank. Babur divided his army in Tulghuma form in which he divided the army into left and right divisions, which were further divided into forward and rear divisions. This helped Babar’s small army to surround the enemy from all sides. In the center he used tactics of Araba in which he placed 700 animal carts tied to each other with ropes which were hidden. The space between two carts was used as breastwork for his troops which was supported by moving mantlets ensuring movement and protection of cannons. Babur ensured that there was enough space between two carts for his men to place their matchlock guns to rest and fire.

On the other hand Ibrahim Lodhi was aware that he was surrounded by traitors in his own camp and was unsure about winning the war if it occurred at night. So when he faced Babar’s army he waited there without striking first thinking that the enemy’s army belonged to a colder region of the world, hence they will not be able to sustain the summer of north India and then slowly they will cut them off from supplies and reserves. This tactic of Ibrahim Lodhi worked well until 21st April and on 21st April Babur launched an attack at night with a cavalry of 5000 men which went in vain as Ibrahim’s army defended it well and Babur’s cavalry escaped narrowly. 

Excited with win over Babur’s cavalry Lodhi decided to launch attack on Babur but as soon as Ibrahim learned that Babur’s army is too narrower to attack he started arranging his army narrower which brought his army in front of Babur’s army to point blank range and then Babur’s army charged by firing guns and cannons along with launching the cavalry from both ends and surrounding the enemy. When cannons were fired the war elephants of Lodhi got frightened causing them to Trample Lodhi’s own men. Soon within no time Lodhis army was defeated and was retreating. As many of the governors and fighters were feudatories and mercenaries they left Lodhi alone in the battlefield and Lodhi was beheaded eventually. Lodhi would have won the war if his army had fought for another hour as Babur’s army was tired and short of supplies. 

Aftermath of the first battle of Panipat

  • Casualty of Lodhi’s army:- Around 20,000 to 50,000 killed in war and around thousands were killed while retreating during the first battle of panipat
  • Casualty of Babur’s army: – Not specific but estimated around 4,000 – 5,000.
  • Ibrahim Lodhi died on the battlefield.
  • First battle of Panipat turned out to be a decisive victory for Timurids as it gained Babur new land for administration and established a new Timurids Empire called the Mughal Empire in the Indian subcontinent.
  • The Taimurids called the new kingdom the ‘Mughal Empire’ to reflect their Mongol descents.

Second battle of Panipat(1556)

 Second battle of Panipat was fought on 5th November 1556 between Hindu king Hem Chandra Vikramaditya also known as Hemu and Mughal prince Akbar.

Background of the second battle of Panipat

  • After founding and establishing Mughal rule in Indian Babar died in 1530 and his son Humayun was crowned as second Mughal emperor.
  • Soon after his coronation Humayun faced revolt against him in his own kingdom as many of Mughal nobles thought that he was not a rightful ruler.
  • Facing many revolts and rebels Humayun got defeated by Sher shah suri in battle of Kannauj and Chausa and was forced to leave Delhi and take refuge in Persia. Meanwhile Sher shah suri founded a new empire called as Sur dynasty and started ruling Delhi.
  • After Sher sha Suri died his empire was over took by his son Islam Sha Suri but he too died soon as Sur dynasty didn’t had any capable ruler and faced internal rebellion in which son in law of Sher Sha Suri took the throne by killing 12 year old son of Islam Sha Suri and took name Adil sha suri.
  • Meanwhile Hemu who was a soldier in Sher Shah Suri army slowly rose to prominence and when Adil shah suri became king Hemu became chief minister and general supervisor of state and the army.
  • As Adil shah suri was in pursuit of pleasure Hemu looked after all the matters of state. The Sur dynasty was divided as part of Delhi was ruled by Sikandar Shah Suri and part of Bengal was governed by Hemu.
  • Humayun defeated Shikander Shah suri in battle of Sirhind and re-established the Mughal Empire in India. Hemu on the other hand Hemu won all the battles against rebellions and opponents of Adil shah.
  • Soon after recapturing Delhi Humayun died which gave the perfect opportunity for Hemu to defeat Mughal’s. Hemu was in Bengal when Humayun died, as soon as he learnt about Humayun death Hemu started a rapid march from Bengal and captured every place from Mughals including Agra, Tughlakabad and Delhi. And after taking control over Delhi Hemu crowned himself as king of Delhi and assumed title raja Vikramaditya
  • After 350 years Hemu became first Hindu ruler to gain control over Delhi and this spread the message of freeing Hindus from Muslim rule as a result more and more Hindus started getting recruited in the army.
  • By this time Hemu was victorious in 22 battles.
  • Soon after hearing the disastrous capture of Tuglaqabad Humayun’s successor, 13 year old Akbar left for Delhi along with his guardian Bairam Khan.

Facts and figures of Second war of Panipat

  • For the second battle of Panipat, Hemu’ army: – 1,500 war elephants. Each elephant was protected with plate armor and mounted with musketeers and crossbowmen, 30,000 well trained horsemen and vanguard of artillery.
  • For the second battle of Panipat Akbar’s army: – 10,000 cavalry of which 5000 were veteran soldiers.
  • Hemu’s army was led by Hemu himself sitting on the back of a war elephant in Howrah for the second battle of panipat. Name of the elephant was Hawai.
  • Akbar’s army was led by Ali Quil Khan and Guardian of Akbar Bairam Khan
  • Akbar was stationed about 8 miles away from the war zone along with his guardian Bairam khan with the protection of 5000 well trained and faithful troops.
  • Lucky day before the war Ali Quil Khan got to know about the artillery of Hemu being transported under weak guard and captured the entire artillery.
  • On 5th November 1556 Hemu’s Army met with the Mughal army at the historic battlefield of Panipat for the second battle of India .

The war

According to Abu’l-Fazal who wrote Akbarnama describe second battle of Panipat in Akbarnama saying “Two armies collide each other in such a way that they struck fire out of water; you’d say the air was all crimsoned daggers, their steel had all become solid rubies.Hemu’s army had outnumbered the Mughal army. But earlier capture of Hemu’s artillery turns out to be an odd factor for Hemu. Both armies faced each other in war formation and waited for each other to charge first. Hemu made the first move of the second battle of Panipat by setting his elephants loose on Mughals left and right wings. 

Mughal soldiers, those who escaped the attack instead of retreating back, charged on Hemu’s cavalry with pelting archers. Mughal’s center also advanced and took up a defensive position before a deep valley with steep sides. This makes Hemu’s elephant and cavalry difficult to reach and makes them vulnerable to the projectile weapons of the enemy from either side. Now the Mughal cavalry mounted an attack on Hemu’s Afghan rank from the flanks and started targeting the elephants by slashing their legs or taking out their riders, soon Hemu’s army was under attack which forced Hemu to pull back his attack. Seeing the Afghan attack getting weak Ali Quil Khan who was waiting with his cavalry led it out circling around and falling upon the Afghan army from the rear. 

Hemu seeing this formation of Ali Quil Khan immediately hurried to counter the charge with his contingent of war Elephants. Even though most of his lieutenants were down he continued the attack crushing everyone who challenged his elephant and moved his cavalry and contingent forward destroying Mughal’s center. Now it was at this point Hemu was moving towards victory. But out of nowhere an arrow came and struck an eye of Hemu piercing through his head and Hemu collapsed unconsciously. Watching their leader collapse, Hemu’s army panicked, broke the formation and fed away and Hemu lost the second battle of Panipat.

Aftermath of the second battle of Panipat

  • After the second battle of Panipat the elephant carrying an unconscious and almost dead Hemu was captured and Hemu was beheaded by Bairam Khan.
  • Hemu was hanged in Delhi Darwaja of Kabul.
  • Hemu’s body was gibbeted at Purana Qila in Delhi where he was crowned on 6th October 1556.
  • Many supporters and relatives of Hemu during the second battle of Panipat were also beheaded.
  • The destructive rampage of Hemu’s elephants impressed Mughals so much that they included 120 war elephants of Hemu in their army and thereafter made them integral part of their military strategies.
  • Adil sha was killed by Khizr Khan and along with his father Muhammad khan Sur made Bengal independent from Delhi
  • Akbar became emperor of Mughal under Guidance of Bairam Khan and other nobles.

Third Battle of Panipat (1761)

Third battle of Panipat was fought on 14 January 1761 between Maratha Empire and the invading army of Durrani Afghan Empire.

Background of the war

  • The 27 year long Mughal-Maratha conflict and War resulted in the Maratha Empire’s territorial loss to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
  • However after Aurangzeb’s death in 1707, Marathas majorly under leadership of Peshwa Baji rao I quickly regained their territories and extended their by conquering Gujarat, Malwa and Rajputana.
  • Peshwa Baji rao I defeated Mughals and brought much of the outskirts of Delhi till south of Agra under Maratha’s control.
  • After Peshwa Baji rao I his son Peshwa Balaji rao extended the territory by invading Punjab in 1758. This brought the Marathas into direct confrontation with Ahmed Shah Abdali of Durrani Empire as Abdali’s son Timur Shah was appointed as governor of Punjab by Ahmed Shah but was unable to defend Punjab against Marathas.
  • To counter Marathas interference in Punjab Ahmad Shah Abdali raised an army from Pashtun and Baloch tribes and made several victorious attacks on smaller Maratha platoons in Punjab.
  • At the end of 1759 Abdali got allied with Rohillas of India who were migrated to India from Afghanistan after that Abdali successfully defeated Marathas small platoons in Lahore and Delhi and returned back to Anupshahr which was frontier of Rohilla country
  • In 1760 to counter these attacks Raghunath Rao, brother of Peshwa Balaji Rao was instructed to go north. Raghunath Rao demanded a large number of army soldiers and financial investment but was denied Sadashivrao Bhau the Diwan of Maratha.
  • At that time Sadashivrao Bhau, cousin of Peshwa Balaji rao was the Diwan of Maratha, which was third highest authority after the Chhatrapati and the Peshwa.
  • Then Sadashivrao Bhau was appointed as commander in chief (Sardar Senapati) of Maratha army and raised army of 45,000-60,000, which was accompanied by roughly 2000,000 non-combatants, a number of whom were pilgrims desirous to make pilgrimages to Hindu holy sites in northern India.
  • Both the sides tried to get Nawab of Awadh, Shuja-ud-Daula to their side but Shuja-ud-Daula got convinced by Abdali and decided to join Afghans-Rohilla coalition preferring the collation as’ Army of Islam’. It is believed that without support and aid of Shuja-ud-Daula the Afghans were unable to continue their conflict with Marathas.

Facts and figures about the war

  • Marathas army strength :- 55,000 Maratha cavalry, of which 11,000 was regular cavalry 9,000 Gardi infantry 200,000 non-combatants (pilgrims and camp-followers)
  • Afghan army strength:-42,000 Afghan cavalry, of which 28,000 was regular cavalry. 32,000 Rohilla infantry
  • The battle is considered to be one of the largest and most eventful fought in the 18th century,[15] and it has perhaps the largest number of fatalities in a single day reported in a classic formation battle between two armies
  • The battle lasted for several days and involved over 125,000 troops

The war

  • Marathas army reached Delhi and successfully captured Delhi defeating troops of Afghan army.
  • Both the armies try to skimmers each other inorder to block aids and supplies of each other. In these attempts both army faced heavy losses but it mostly favored Afghans
  • Afghans were successful in cutting up the supplies of Marathas and sieging them at Panipat by surrounding them with Abdali himself in south and other allies and Pashtun tribes from north, east and west
  • Seeing the siege Maratha chiefs pressurizing Sadashivrao Bhau, to go to battle rather than perish by starvation, on 13 January, the Marathas left their camp before dawn and marched south towards the Afghan camp in a desperate attempt to break the siege. The two armies came face-to-face around 8:00 a.m.
  • Before dawn on 14 January 1761, the Maratha troops broke their fast with sugared water in the camp and prepared for combat. They emerged from the trenches, pushing the artillery into position on their prearranged lines, some 2 km from the Afghans. Seeing that the battle was on, Ahmad Shah positioned his 60 smooth-bore cannon and opened fire
  • The third battle of Panipat occurred in three phases in the first phase Marathas left flank under Ibrahim Khan launched the attack killing about 12000 Rohillas.
  • In the second phase Sadhashivrao Bhau himself launched the attack against left of center Afghan forces but because of absence of heavy armored cavalry units the Marathas line were forced to return to their lines.
  • In the third phase Marathas attacked under Scindian and by noon it looked like Marathas were winning, as the Afghan center flank was broken into two and the right flank was destroyed. But Abdali had backup force of 15,000 with musketeers mounted cavalry and camels mounted with cannons
  • Abdali launched firing with a cavalry of musketeers and cannon mounted camels which were effective against fast moving cavalry. The remaining Abdali troops were sent to strengthen the destroyed flanks.
  • The Marathas couldn’t respond to fresh Afghan reserve attacks and many of them got killed before hand to hand fighting began.
  • Sadhashivrao seeing all this destruction of his army got down from the elephant and fought till the end and died
  • Scindian and Holkar, seeing that the battle was lost, managed to escape and return back to Pune and Gwalior.

Aftermath of the war

  • From Marathas side :-30,000 killed in the third battle of Panipat 10,000 killed while retreating 10,000 missing
  • From the Afghan side:-15,000 Rohillas killed in the third battle of Panipat .
  • 5,000 Afghans killed in the third battle of Panipat 
  • The Afghan cavalry and pikemen ran wild through the streets of Panipat, killing tens of thousands of Maratha soldiers and civilians
  • According to the single best eyewitness chronicle – the bakhar by Shuja-ud-Daula’s Diwan Casi Raja(Kashi Raja) – about 40,000 Maratha prisoners were slaughtered in cold blood the day after the battle.
  • Some 22,000 women and children were driven off as slaves.All of the prisoners were transported on bullock carts, camels and elephants in bamboo cages
  • The bodies of Vishwasrao and Bhau were recovered by the Marathas and were cremated according to their custom.
  • Peshwa Blajirao, uninformed by the state of his army, watches marching towards Panipat with relief force and supplies. When he was crossing Narmada he got to know about defeat and returned to Pune but never recovered from the shock of defeat at the third battle of Panipat.
  • Though Abdali won the third battle of Panipat , he also had heavy casualties on his side and sought peace with the Marathas. Abdali sent a letter to balaji rao Peshwa appealing to the Peshwa that he was not the one who attacked Bhau and was just defending himself.
  • The third battle of Panipat destabilized Marathas and halted their advancement in North India for ten years. But after 10 years under Peshwa Madhav rao Mahadaji Sinde led a large army to reestablished Marathas dominance in North


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