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Third Battle of Panipat

Third battle of Panipat has great significance in the history of south-Asia, this battle occurred in the mid of 18th century. This battle was a colossal defeat for the Marathas which is unprecedented in Indian history. The time period in which this battle was fought is of great importance, because this is the time when sub-continent was going through a transitional phase. The course and history of south-Asia changing, it was the time in which the glory of Mughal Empire was about to fade away, other powers in sub-continent were emerging in order to replace the Mughal rulers. French, British, Sikhs, Marathas and other independent groups were rising to claim the throne which was about to be vacated by Mughals due to their inefficiency and apathetic behavior.  Third battle of Panipat occurred when the Mughal Empire was disintegrating due to weakness of central power many skirmishes, uprisings, revolts, and battles took place at that time. Panipat battle ground is of great importance because three battles were fought there, Panipat is 90 Km away from Delhi.  This battle is also of great importance that after this battle colonial rule starts in Indian sub-continent.


Due to fragility of central authorities in sub-continent, it was also subjected to foreign invasions. Third battle of Panipat is a core example of foreign invasion. Another factor which brought this invasion was scuttling rule of Muslims in India in response to the atrocities made on Muslims by Marathas, Sikhs etc weak Muslim rulers invited Abdali to save them. This battle was fought between king of Afghanistan named Ahmed Shah Abdali and Maratha forces which were the main actors to scuttle the Mughal rule and tried to take over the Mughal crown.  Ahmed shah invaded India many times; Ahmed Shah invaded Punjab for the first time in January 1748 then in 1750, 1751, 1753, 1756, 1757, 1758, and 1759. The third battle of Panipat starts when Ahmed Shah Abdali invades India in 1759. Afghan army enters India in 1759 in Karnal without any apparent resistance by this time Marathas had captured Delhi. But when Afghan forces gradually started to approach towards centre skirmishes started between Maratha and Afghan forces. This was the time when both forces started making allies and partners and perceived war as a final and inevitable solution in the shape of Panipat battle. Sikhs, Jatts, Rajputs, and Nawabs of Oudh, Bengal, Mysore, etc were tried to win over by both the sides. Since Marathas had strained relations with almost all other groups so it helped them very little in this regard, whereas, Ahmad Shah won support of Shuja-uddin- Duala, Rajputs, and Jatts.


The main factor which strengthened Afghans was the support of Muslim rulers such as Najib-ud-Daulah and Shuja-ud-Daulah. In 1760 Afghan forces marched to Shahdara near Delhi river Jumna divides both armies on each side. Marathan army was led by Sadashiv Rao cousin of Marathan Peshwa Balaji Bhaji Rao on the other hand Afghan army was led by Ahmad Shah Abdali. The course of battle starts on 27th March 1760 when Marathan army begins its advance from Deccan to reach Delhi and in October they reached Delhi. This was the time when small conflicts occurred between them. On 23rd, 24rth October Afghans crossed Jumna River and reached Bhagpat. On 26th October Afghans drove Marathan forces to Panipat ground. Ahmad Shah took his position 5 miles south to Jumna River and created a complete blockade of Marathan camps. Skirmishes continued till November. Ahmad did not make any advance on Marathan forces albeit it was continuously advised by his allies to finish of the enemy. Marathas wanted to make settlement with Afghans but allies did not accept their proposal.


Due to the failure of negotiations it made Marathas desperate and they launched a sudden offensive upon Afghan forces on 6th January 1761. It was the day when conclusion of this battle was drawn; Ahmad Shah kept his nerves and composure and handled this sudden attack professionally. Afghan forces responded really well to the initial cannon attack inflicted by Marathan forces. Initially Marathan forces got edge due to their surprising attack and movement but very quickly Afghan army led by French trained general Gardi was able to overpower them. Both the belligerents possessed decent set of strengths Marathas got robust artillery and Afghan got modern war equipments so both forces seemed to be at par with each other. Afghans begin to push Marathas back very fiercely and enemy’s defense started to collapse very fast. Marathas faced wrath of Afghans and got slaughtered like animals 40,000 Marathas were made prisoners and colossal number of causalities occurred. Sadashiv Rao was killed and Marathas faced a complete defeat by Afghan invaders, which paralyzed Marathan power for next 10 years. Third battle of Panipat is a demonstration of victory of invaders which could be capitalized by the struggling Muslim rulers but unfortunately they did not take this advantage.

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