Battle of Sikandarabad
|Battle of Sikandarabad|
|Part of Mughal Civil War (1752-1754)|
"Tombs of the Mughal Nawabs and troops killed during the devastating Battle of Sikandarabad, built in 1755."
|Mughal Empire|| Maratha Empire
|Commanders and leaders|
|Ahmad Shah Bahadur
Javed Khan Nawab Bahadur
|Malhar Rao Holkar
|Casualties and losses|
|15,000 killed or wounded, (8,000 captured including women)||5,000 killed or wounded|
The Battle of Sikandarabad was fought during May, 1754; between the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur and his ruthless rebellious Turani, Mir Bakshi (commander) Ghazi ud-Din supported by the Maratha leader Malhar Rao Holkar. The Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur was defeated and 15,000 men and women of the newly organized Mughal army were massacred with impunity on the battlefield, when the battle ended more than 8000 Mughals surrendered most of them included women.
The Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah, struggled to maintain strict control over the Mughal Empire after his death and the succession of Ahmad Shah Bahadur, a highly provocative racial quarrel broke out between the historical Turani and the newly arrived successful Irani faction. This quarrel even led to mob violence and murder inside the streets of Agra. Although Ahmad Shah Bahadur refused to involve in their antagonist reactions towards each other.
In response to the Mughal Emperor's neutral stance towards the dispute Ghazi ud-Din and the Turani Faction vowed to kill Ahmad Shah Bahadur. The Irani Faction led by Safdarjung and Javed Khan Nawab Bahadur began to gather a large army and accused Ghazi ud-Din of a series of murders in the Mughal capitol of Agra.
This move by both the Irani and Turani factions at court ultimately developed into civil war. The Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur and his ruthless rebellious Turani, Mir Bakshi (commander) Ghazi ud-Din abandoned service and fled with his Turani Faction and galvanized the support of the Marathas led by Malhar Rao Holkar. According to later Mughal accounts Ghazi ud-Din rebelled in order to bring back some of his appointed Turani ministers.
In order to crush Ghazi ud-Din's rebellion and the Marathas led by Malhar Rao Holkar, the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur, Safdarjung and Javed Khan Nawab Bahadur began an armed campaign but were ambushed by the Maratha at Sikandarabad. The battle turned out to be the worst defeat in the history of the Mughal Empire, with the loss of more than 15,000 men in a single battle and the consequences proved to be even worse.
During the evening of May, 1754, while the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur and his army was on the march an ambush carefully organized by Ghazi ud-Din leader of the Turani Faction and his Maratha ally Malhar Rao Holkar began to unfold. While on the move the Mughal army, mainly commanded by Safdarjung and Javed Khan Nawab Bahadur, was poorly arranged and not ready for a major confrontation.
Ghazi ud-Din and the Sowar's of the Turani Faction were quick to assault and capture the Mughal Cannons, while the Maratha's under Malhar Rao Holkar routed and massacred the Mughal infantry, in fact the Maratha's had completely surrounded the Mughal army, leaving hardly a gap to escape from. in response to the ferocious attack the Mughal Sowars rode into the spears of the Maratha infantry leaving the cannons unguarded and the The Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur vulnerable. For the Mughals the battle was so fierce that Sepoys ran out of Musket balls and instead fired pebbles from their Matchlocks at the continually advancing Maratha's.
The Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur was advised to retreat from the battlefield by his Nawabs and following their advice, he dismounted his Howdah, mounted an Arabian horse and rode to safer grounds and eventually towards Agra.
But ultimately Ghazi ud-Din sudden assault on the Mughal army at Sikandarabad was morale breaking, his Turani Faction then aimed its newly captured cannons at densely defended Mughal positions throughout the battlefield. For the next hour Mughal positions were fiercely bombarded with impunity, even the tents erected for the wounded were not spared. The Mughal army began to collapse after the sudden loss of 15,000 men after two long hours of fighting. More than 8000 Mughals surrendered, the Mughal infantry refused to surrender to the Maratha but were later rounded up and captured by Turani Faction according to Ghazi ud-Din most of the captives included Mughal women from the city of Agra. According to the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur, of all those captured the fate of women was probably the worst, most of the women captured were stripped of their jewelry by the Maratha's and Ghazi ud-Din himself is known to have presented jewelry that he himself seized, to Malhar Rao Holkar.
The battle itself caused a spike in Shia-Sunni and Turani-Irani.[clarification needed] Safdarjung was forgiven and he fled to Awadh. Ghazi ud-Din arrested the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur and became the Grand Vizier of the Mughal Empire and in June, 1754, deposed Ahmad Shah Bahadur. The Mughals then chose Alamgir II to become the new Mughal Emperor but Ghazi ud-Din put him to death in 1759. But it was Ghazi ud-Din's punitive actions had allowed the Marathas, to become the undisputed power in the region when they drove out Timur Shah Durrani from Lahore in 1758, in fact the Peshwa discussed overthrowing the Mughal Empire and placing Vishwasrao on the Mughal throne in Delhi.
The aftermath of the battle was the complete decimation of the newly organized Mughal army. According to Maratha accounts the amount of booty collected from the Mughals was more than enough to mount a siege on the Mughal capital. After the defeat of the Imperial army, the Marathas looted the booty and captured many chief commanders.
This battle resulted in the complete shift of power from the Emperor to their Ministers. Never again will the Mughals be able to rule without their ministers' consent. Their authority was now effectively titular.
- Mountstuart Elphinstone, History of India (London, 1905), p. 276.