The Battle of Panipat established the Mughal dynasty in India with its presiding emperor as Babur. It is an important landmark that helped shape Indian history in general. The first battle of Panipat is an important battle in the history of India and is often asked in competitive exams like UPSC. So, let us know the facts and story of the First Battle of Panipat through this article. So, why wait? Let us start exploring the history of the early modern period.
A brief introduction of the First Battle of Panipat
The First Battle of Panipat was fought between the Mughals led by Babur and the invading forces of the Lodi dynasty. Ibrahim Lodi presided over the Lodi dynasty and ruled much of Northern India. The battle was fought close to the village of Panipat in modern-day Haryana. The date of the First Battle of Panipat is 21 April, 1526, as stated by various scholars and old texts. Panipat was considered to be the hotbed for major warfare in North India. It was also the site of two other decisive wars including the Second Battle of Panipat and the Third Battle of Panipat.
What Made Babur Choose India for Expansion of His Rule?
- Babur was a Timurid prince whose descendants were Timur on his father’s side and Chengiz Khan on his mother’s side. He inherited a breakaway territory named kingdom of Fergana of the Timurid empire. Having gruelled between the Safavids (Iran) and the Uzbeks (Central Asia) and the triple defeat in the siege of Samarkand he successfully crossed the snowy Hindu Kush mountains and captured Kabul.
- Kabul at that time was under the Arghunids who were compelled to retreat to Kandahar. The country served as an important threshold that will help execute the plans of expanding his empire. After Kabul he came across India and raided across the Northwestern frontier multiple times. After having forsaken the idea of seizing Samarkand, he was waiting for an opportunity to establish a new empire east of the Indus.
- The opportunity arrived when he was invited by Alam khan (Ibrahim Lodi’s uncle) and Daulat Khan Lodi (Governor of Punjab) to depose Ibrahim Lodi from his throne. The two only required assistance in overthrowing the ruler and safeguarding their interests. Alam Khan was planning to establish himself on the throne whereas Daulat Khan as a noble was praying to save his life and secure his position from the clutches of Ibrahim Lodi.
- However, Babur’s plans exceeded their expectations when he established himself on the throne of the Delhi Sultanate.
Military Strategies Used in The First Battle of Panipat
- The Mughals were the first one to introduce gunpowder firearms and field artillery in a battle in the Indian subcontinent. It helped them secure larger gains from enemy territories. Lodi on the other hand was well-armed but not equipped with any artillery. For the first time, he came into direct confrontation with something that exceeded his expectations and plans. As a result, he couldn’t make strategic decisions which made him and his soldiers perish in the war.
- The war strategies employed by Babur in the battle were mainly two-1. Tulughma and 2. Araba. These war tactics were mainly adopted from those of the Ottoman empire that ruled Istanbul. The Ottomans used these war devices in the Battle of Chaldiran (23 August, 1514) which turned out to be a massive success against the Safavid empire.
- As per the tulughma strategy, the troops of the Mughals were divided into three parts-the Left, the Right and the Centre. The Left and the Right parts were further subdivided into the Front and Rear portions. By adopting this military strategy, a small army can be used to surround the enemy forces from all sides quite easily.
- The second strategy is called Araba where “Araba” literally translates to carts. This tactic used carts as a means of defense against the opposing forces. In this strategy, bullock carts were placed in rows facing the enemy forces in the Centre Forward division tied with animal hide ropes. The cannons were placed behind them protected by mantelets on wheels which were used to maneuver the cannons.
Details of the First Battle of Panipat
- The sole aim of Babur was to occupy the region in India that was a part of his ancestor Timur’s legacy. He was invited to India by Ibrahim’s uncle, Alam Khan and the Governor of Punjab, Daulat Khan Lodi who were rivals to Ibrahim Lodi.
- Thereupon, Babur claimed to be the rightful heir to the throne of Punjab which was under Ibrahim Lodi’s dominance in the early 16th century. For that purpose, Babur sent an ambassador to relay his message to the emperor. However, the ambassador was detained by the latter and released after several months.
- Moreover, the combined forces of Alam Khan and Daulat Khan Lodi tried defeating Ibrahim but both of their forces were driven off by the emperor Lodi. Unable to subdue the Lodi troops, Babur decided to go on a full-fledged war against the emperor.
- Babur secured his military troops of the right flank against the city of Panipat. For the left flank, he commanded to dig out trenches and cover them with tree branches. For the center, he placed 700 carts tied together with ropes and positioned breastworks in between for his matchlock men. Consequently, Lodi’s army found the least space for attack, which proved to be quite advantageous for the Mughals.
- At the behest of Babur, the troops flanked the Lodi army which made them panic and retreat in fear. Nearly, 20,000 troops of the Lodi army died in the course of the battle.
Results of the First Battle of Panipat
- The First Battle of Panipat ended with the death of Ibrahim Lodi in the battlefield. He was executed while trying to retreat. Moreover, he was abandoned by his mercenary troops, feudatories and generals. The reason was that there was already an internal revolt brewing against the Lodi emperor. Since there were many defectors within the kingdom, the allegiance towards the Delhi Sultanate rapidly shifted towards the new emperor.
- With Ibrahim Lodi’s death, Babur declared himself to be the sole emperor of Northern India. Although Alam Khan (Ibrahim’s uncle) was to accede to the throne, Babur placed himself in the position.
Reasons for Decisive Victory of the Mughals
There were quite a few reasons that helped the Mughals win the war against the troops of Ibrahim Lodi. There was a little role that destiny played when the war elephants of Ibrahim Lodi seemed to be working in the favor of the Mughals. Let us look at the reasons behind the victory of the Mughals in the battle of Panipat I:
- There was a total of 1000 war elephants deployed by the army of Ibrahim Lodi. The combat elephants were scared by the explosive noise from the cannons of the Mughals and trampled their troops in utter confusion and chaos. This proved to be an extreme advantage for the Mughals.
- It was not simply the artillery or the matchlock guns that brought the first battle of Panipat under the favor of the Mughals. Although the weaponry could be one of the causes that led to the victory, the military tactics employed in the battle were far superior to those of the Lodis.
- The two basic military strategies adopted by the forces of the Mughals including the Tulughma and the Araba led to their decisive victory. These war tactics were based on the popular strategies used by the Ottomans also termed as “Ottoman devices”.
- The Mughals used musketry, artillery and gunpowder firearms in the battle of Panipat I. On the other hand, the Lodi troops were only equipped with outmoded infantry, cavalry and war elephants.
- Babur only had 15,000 men in his troops and 20-24 pieces of field artillery (Dristhti IAS). The Lodis had 100,000 men and 1000 elephants ready for combat. Out of 100,000 troops, 40,000 were soldiers and the rest 60,000 were camp followers (Panipat Government of Haryana). Despite the looming numbers in warfare, the Lodi empire perished at the hands of the Mughals under Babur.
- The Lodi dynasty was already crippling because of the many defectors it housed. Ibrahim Lodi was not favorite among his men as he was responsible for the execution of the old nobles. The Governor of Punjab, Daulat Khan Lodi was one such noble who feared his life to be terminated by the emperor. As a result, he along with Alam Khan sent invitations to Babur to intervene in the affairs of North India by interrupting Ibrahim’s reign.
The end of the Lodi dynasty in India brought about the beginning of the most powerful dynasties in the Indian subcontinent-the Mughal dynasty. Following the 1st Battle of Panipat, the Mughals occupied larger territories over a period of years. The Mughal era also saw the emergence of major developments in art, religion and culture that became exemplary models for the contemporaries in India.
The above information on first battle of Panipat could work as notes for your competitive exam like UPSC, SCC and others. Tackling history seem to be a little difficult but with some smart study tricks you can find it easy. We hope that we have been able to satisfy the inquisitive good worms in your brain through this article.