Three battles of Panipat were fought in Indian history: First in 1526 between Babur and Ibrahim Lodi, Second in 1556 between Akbar and Hemu and the Third in 1761 between Durrani Empire and Maratha Empire.
The first battle of Panipat saw emergence of the Mughals, mightiest power in Indian History. According to legends it was the oldest Indian battles to have used gunpowder firearms and field artillery. The battle was fough between two mega-powers. Babur, then ruler of Kabul and Ibrahim Lodhi, king of Delhi Sultanate. It was fought near Panipat (present day Haryana).
Although Babur had a fighting Army of 8,000 soldiers and Lodhi had around 40,000 soldiers along with 400 war elephants, yet the main element that proved an ace-card for Babur for the use of field artillery. Apart from fighting and defeating men, the artillery was powerful to scare elephants and cause havoc amongst them. In the end, it was Babur who emerged victorious and established the Mughal Empire, while Ibrahim Lodhi perished in the Battle.
Second Battle of Panipat (1556)
The Second battle of Panipat marked the beginning of Akbar’s reign in India, as it was in the first year of his holding the throne. The battle was fought between Akbar (Ruler of Mughal Dynasty) and Muhammad Adil Shah (ruler of Pashtan Suri Dynasty), along with his Prime Minister Hemu.
In the year 1556, Akbar had successfully taken up the throne of his father when Mughals had spread across Kabul, Kandahar and parts of Delhi and Punjab. Hemu (Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya) was the military chief of Afghan Sultan Mohammad Adil Shah, who was the ruler of Chunar at that point. Adil Shah was on a trail to remove Mughals from India.
Taking the advantage of Humayun’s death he was successful in capturing the reigns of Agra and Delhi without much difficulty. This victory of Adil Shah and Hemu didn’t last much as Bairam Shah, who was the chief Minister and guardian of Akbar proceeded with a large army towards Delhi.
The battle was fought at Panipat with strong competitors on both sides. Hemu had a large army along with 1500 War elephants. Hemu was struck with an arrow in his eye and subsequently the army got panicked seeing their unconscious leader. The battle concluded with Mughals crowned with victory.
The head of Hemu was chopped and the torso was made to travel to Delhi to celebrate the grand victory of Mughals. Thus, it was this ferocious battle that reestablished the strong Mughal Empire which had a powerful reign of Akbar to create history.
Third Battle of Panipat (1761)
The third battle of Panipat was fought between the Afghans and the Marathas. The battle was significant as it marked the end of Maratha dominance in India. At the time of this battle Afghans were under the leadership of Ahmed Shah Abdali and the Marathas under the leadership of Peshwas had established control across Northern India. During the eighteenth century the parallel decline of Mughal Empire and defeat of Marathas in the battle of Panipat saw a new beginning of the colonial rule in India.
The main cause attributed towards the defeat of Marathas in the battle was the lack of allies due to their brutal behavior during the earlier years of reign. All important rulers including Sikhs, Jats, Kingdom of Awadh, Rajputs and many more were all upset with the treatment of Marathas towards them. The third battle of Panipat was fought in between Kaalaa Aamb and Sanauli road of present day. Both forces moved in lines, but intelligently the Afghans had cut all possible lines for Maratha Forces.
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.
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. The battle lasted for two months which ultimately resulted in the defeat of Marathas and end of their dominance in India.