Why The Second Battle of Panipat Was More Important Than You Think?

Second battle of panipat

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We are in the 21st century taking history to be a thing of the past that is literally inaccessible. It is only through extensive studies, important discoveries and large-scale research of historians and archaeologists that have brought history close within our grasp. Today in this article, we will share such information that will serve as a periscope to the distant history of the 2nd Battle of Panipat. 

Additionally, the article includes important facts and events related to the 2nd Battle of Panipat. As history is an important topic for competitive exams, this article will be of help for UPSC and other exam aspirants. 

Introduction of the Second Battle of Panipat 

The Second Battle of Panipat was fought between the Hindu king Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya and the Mughals on 5 November 1556. Hem Chandra also called Hemu, fought against Mughal emperor Akbar and his commander-in-chief Bairam Khan who led the Mughal troops to war. It was fought close to the area where the 1st Battle of Panipat had taken place. While the Second Battle took place three decades after the First one, the Third Battle of Panipat was fought nearly two centuries later. 

Background of the Second Battle of Panipat 

  • Humayun was the emperor of Mughal dynasty during the 1530s.
  • He ruled over Agra and Delhi regions. However, because of his weaker administration and circumstances, he was exiled in 1540 by the forces of the Pashtun Lord Sher Shah Suri who further established his rule over his kingdom.
  • Sher Shah Suri died soon after in 1545 at Kalinjar (Madhya Pradesh) and was succeeded by his son Islam Shah Suri. The heir to the throne was an efficient ruler who could have secured other territories under his rule. However, he too died sooner like his father leaving the empire to the subject of succeeding battles, rebellion and secession of provinces.
  • Meanwhile, Humayun was gathering up his forces during exile. The weakening of the Sur dynasty served as a golden opportunity for Humayun who was planning to reclaim his territories back to his empire.
  • On 23 July, 1555 Humayun defeated Sikander Shah Suri who was the emperor of the Sur dynasty. Consequently, Delhi and Agra both came under his administration. 
  • 12-years old Firoz Khan was the next in lineage after Islam Shah Suri but he was assassinated three days after his father’s death by his maternal uncle, Adil Shah Suri who established himself as the new king. Adil Shah was a man of indulgence and ignored the affairs of the state. Hemu who was the old associate of Sher Shah Suri and Islam Shah Suri largely took care of the political and military affairs through his chief positions as Chief Minister and Wazir. 
  • As per Abul Fazl, one of the Navratnas in Akbar’s court, appointments and dismissal to service were all conducted by Hemu. He even looked after the distribution of justice in Adil Shah’s court. He had a humble origin and belonged to Rewari (modern-day Haryana). 
  • With Humayun’s death on 27 January 1556, the series of conquests by Hemu just began. First, he dispelled a rebellion in Bengal by killing the ruler Muhammad Shah. His troops advanced and captured several areas of Bihar, UP that were under the Mughal administration like Etawah, Bayana, Lakhna, Kalpi etc. In pursuit of the Governor of Agra, Hemu chanced upon Tardi Beg Khan at Tughlaqabad who was the Mughal Governor of Delhi.  
  • Consequentially, the Battle of Delhi or the Battle of Tughlaqabad took place on 7 October, 1556. The troops of Hemu defeated the opposing forces on the battleground and reclaimed Delhi. He exuded royal authority by assuming the title “Vikramaditya” which is traditionally conferred on legendary kings. The coronation took place in the Purana Quila in Delhi. Also, he had won 22 battles in the past which made him invincible. 

What Caused the Second Battle of Panipat? 

  • There has been a continuous shift of power between the Mughals and the Sur dynasty in the mid 16th century. The targeted areas mostly included Delhi and Agra which every ruler wanted to pursue. Both of the dynasties have been looking for golden opportunities to beat the other in a battle. The weakening of the empires under rebellion, poor administration, disadvantages and circumstances provided those moments for rivals to engage in warfare and subsequently claim victory.  
  • In a bid to reclaim the lost territories of Delhi and Agra occupied by king Hemu, Akbar with his regent Bairam Khan chose war to be the ultimate destination. Akbar was 13-year-old at that moment; hence he was guided by his guardian and mentor Bairam Khan. 
  • By a fateful turn of events, Ali Quli Khan Shabani (also Khan-I-Zaman) chanced upon Hemu’s artillery that was being moved by a weaker guard. The troops of the former included 10,000 cavalry forces which aided in the capturing of the train of artillery. The Afghans forsook the weapons and took flight in fear. For this reason, Hemu had to incur heavy expenses for nothing. This instance further anticipated the onset of a decisive battle between the two emperors. 
  • The Mughals continued to march forward until they reached the historic battlefield of Panipat. Hemu was ready with his troops after which the violent clash started. 

The Battle of Panipat 2– At a Glance  

  • Hemu led the battle himself against the Mughals. He participated in the war unlike his opponents Akbar and Bairam Khan who were stalled at a camp 8 miles away (Saudhapur)  from the war location. Moreover, Akbar was protected with 5000 trusted soldiers near his camp and was advised to flee to Kabul if Hemu won the war. 
  • In the battlefield, the war elephants rampaged the left and right flanks of the Mughals. The troops veered to the sides and attacked the flanks of the advancing cavalry of Hemu. The Mughals skillfully used a ravine as a defense against the opposing forces. They displayed their superior archery skills by darting their rivals with arrows. The latter had no option but to face the arrows and be wounded. 
  • Meanwhile the Mughal cavalry surrounded the Afghan forces from the flanks and the rear. This provided an easy opportunity to target the elephants. The animals were slashed and their riders tumbled to death. 
  • Gradually the Afghan forces slackened which made the Mughals encircle Hemu’s army. Hemu continued to fight valiangtly despite the loss of important lives. Infact, he was grudgingly applauded by his rivals for his potential and feats. 
  • With the ensuing war, Hemu appeared to be attaining victory when an arrow hit his eye socket which consequently resulted in his defeat. Additionally, more than 5000 soldiers were reported to have lost their lives in the battle (Wikipedia). 

Results of the Panipat war  

The Mughals under Akbar and several generals won in the Second Battle of Panipat against the Hindu king Hemu. The main reasons that can be attributed to the success of the Mughals in the war are discussed below: 

  • In the course of the ongoing war between the two opposing forces, Hemu was the target of several archers who were taking aim to kill him but the armor that covered his body was completely impregnable (). In the events that followed, he was hit by an arrow in the eye that pierced his skull. He was atop his elephant Hawai when he fell unconscious after being injured severely. Unable to find their king, Hemu’s troops were disarrayed amidst the chaos. 
  • As per the description of Abdul Qadir Badayuni who was a religious leader and historian of Mughal times: 
  •  “suddenly the arrow of death which no shield can ward off struck his (Hemu) squinting eye so that his brain passed clean out from the cup of his head, and he became unconscious and not to be seen in his Howdah. Not seeing Hemu in his howdah, Hemu’s army was in disarray and defeated in the ensuing confusion” (Panipat Government of Haryana). 
  • Since Hemu himself led his troops, in his absence they weren’t able to take any decisions that could help the war. The ensuing battle ended with the victory of the Mughals. It is said that Hemu would have won the war if he was not wounded severely. There was a mighty chance for the battle to be in the favor of Hemu. This would have brought about the establishment of the “Sanskritic monarchical tradition” to a place that has been under the Islam domination for centuries. 
  • The troops of Hemu were numerically superior to that of the Mughals. On one hand, Hemu had 30,000 cavalry forces, artillery of the vanguard, 1,500 war elephants whereas the Mughals only had 10,000 cavalries, out of which 5000 were experienced veteran soldiers.  
  • Despite being outnumbered by Hemu’s army, the Mughals managed to win the war. Fate took the greatest turn when the battle went to be in the favor of Mughals rather than Hemu. Some of the other possible causes behind the decisive victory of the Mughals are shortlisted below: 
  • The elephants proved to be talismans for Hemu against the advancing armies of the Mughals. The contingent of the elephants was able to carry out widespread rampages against their troops. This highly impressed the Mughals and they planned to use those elephants as a part of their military strategy in successive warfare. However, the elephant charges couldn’t deter the Mughal army and they went on fighting the battle. 
  • There was a huge loss of artillery when the forces of Ali Quli Khan Shabani chanced upon Hemu’s guards. 
  • Hemu should have continued his offensive policy after Tardi Beg. The considerable gap in the war session could have contributed to his defeat. 
  • Hemu led the battle himself and charged upon the enemies. Although it was a courageous stance, it cannot be deemed the wisest. Moreover, he lacked an advisor who could have chalked out some useful war plans and strategies. 

Aftermath of the Battle 

  • After being discovered by the general of the Mughal army, Hemu was brought to the tent of Akbar which was located 8 miles away from the battlefield. Bairam Khan asked Akbar to behead Hemu and assume the title of “Ghazi” which is a title conferred on the one who eliminates all infidels against Islam.  
  • The 13-year-old “spirited boy” Akbar however refused to execute an already dead man. Instead, he smote him just to be called the Ghazi (Champion of the Faith) and touched the sword to his head. Impatient and irritated with Akbar’s scruples, Bairam Khan beheaded Hemu. Thus ended the tale of the Vikramaditya Hemu and the last of the Hindu emperor of Delhi (Haryana Tourism). On can find this tale of execution recorded by Elphinstone and Ferishta (JSTOR). 
  • Hemu’s head was transported to Kabul to be hung outside Delhi Darwaza as a mark of victory. The severed head would serve as an exemplary to all the criminals and rivals against causing any grievance to the Mughals. Moreover, his body was gibbeted on the gate of Purana Quila in New Delhi where he was previously crowned as “Samrat” or Emperor on 6 October. 
  • Several supporters and relatives who championed King Hemu in his conquest against the Mughals were beheaded. A minaret was constructed later at the place consisting of the heads of other dead. The Mughals did not spare Hemu’s family including his elderly father who was initially asked to convert to Islam. On denying to forsake his beliefs and religion, he was consequently executed. Hemu’s wife, however, managed to flee from the clutches of the Mughals. 
  • Nearly 180 war elephants of Hemu survived the battle and were later incorporated as part of the military strategies of the Mughals. 
  • A Cenotaph was constructed by Hemu’s supporters at Saudhapur on Jindh Road at Panipat. The memorial was constructed at the site where he was beheaded by Bairam Khan. It is also known as Hemu’s Samadhi Sthal. His supporters also raised a ‘Chattri’, a shelter for travelers, at the place of beheading. 
  • With Hemu’s demise, Adil Shah’s fortunes plummeted and he was murdered by Khizr Khan Suri, also called Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah II (son of Muhammad Khan Sur) in April 1557. 

FAQs on Second Battle of Panipat 

Let us look at some of the Frequently Asked Questions on the 2nd Battle of Panipat: 

Who fought in the Second battle of Panipat? 

Answer: The second battle of Panipat was fought between the Hindu king of North India Hem Chandra Vikramaditya and Akbar. Hem Chandra also known as Hemu was accompanied by the troops of Rajputs and the Afghans whereas Akbar under the guidance of Bairam Khan and Khan Zaman I fought the war. 

Where and when did the Second Battle of Panipat take place? 

The second battle of Panipat took place in Panipat, the historic city of Haryana on 5 November, 1556. Panipat has been the pivot for major warfare like the First Battle of Panipat and the Third Battle of Panipat. 

Who won the Second Battle of Panipat? 

The Second Battle of Panipat was won by the Mughals under Akbar against the Hindu king Hem Chandra Vikramaditya on 5 November, 1556 in Panipat. 

What is the significance of the Second Battle of Panipat? 

Akbar’s victory in the Second Battle of Panipat paved the way for consolidation of the Mughal empire in North India. Delhi particularly would serve as a base for further conquests within the Indian subcontinent in the successive years of rule. Akbar became relatively safe from enemies by defeating Hemu in the battle and reclaiming North India. It is widely considered that Akbar’s defeat would have sealed the fate for the Mughals in India. 

Why was Panipat the battleground for important wars in history? 

Panipat remained to be the forefront for major and decisive battles in history. Some of the reasons are as follows: 

  • The topography of Panipat is plain in structure which proved to be advantageous for the movement of the cavalry. 
  • On the plains of Panipat, strength was more important than strategy in beating the opposite forces in battle.  
  • Tactics like guerrillas proved to be of no consequence on the battlefields of Panipat.  
  • It was located on the Grand Trunk Road that easily connected Afghanistan and Punjab making it a hotspot for invasion.  
  • Panipat’s distance from Delhi promoted easy mobilization of forces. 
  • The dry weather of the plains of Panipat suited itself for the purpose of carrying out conquests. 

Wrapping it!  

Now that you have come to the end of this reading journey, you have a firm and clear understanding of the Second battle of Panipat. The nooks and corners of history regarding the battle of Panipat are well-covered with this article. If you are a UPSC aspirant and have stumbled upon this page, you can find various facts and figures relevant to your history syllabus. Once you are ready with the notes in hand, all you need is perseverance and patience to stand victorious in your study battle. We hope for the best for you! 

Panipat Government of Haryana
Encyclopedia Britannica

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