Battle of Panipat (1526)
|First Battle of Panipat|
|Part of Mughal conquests|
The battle of Panipat and
the death of Sultan Ibrāhīm
|Mughal dynasty||Lodi dynasty|
|Commanders and leaders|
Chin Timur Khan
Ustad Ali Quli
Asad Malik Hast
Raja Sanghar Ali Khan
Raja Hasan Khan Mewattpati
100-1,000 war elephants
|Casualties and losses|
The First Battle of Panipat, on 21 April 1526, was fought between the invading forces of Babur and the Lodi Empire. It took place in north India and marked the beginning of the Mughal Empire. This was one of the earliest battles involving gunpowder firearms and field artillery.
The battle was fought on 21 April 1526 near the small village of Panipat (now an industrial town in Haryana), in the present day Indian state of Haryana, an area that has been the site of a number of decisive battles for the control of Northern India since the twelfth century.
It is estimated that Babur's forces numbered around 15,000 men and had between 20 to 24 pieces of field artillery. Babur estimated Lodi had around 100,000 men, though that number included camp followers. The actual Lodi fighting force was around 30,000 to 40,000 men in total, along with at least 1,000 war elephants.
Hearing of the size of Ibrahim's army, Babur secured his right flank against the city of Panipat, while digging a trench covered with tree branches to secure his left flank. In the center, he placed 700 carts tied together with ropes. Between every two carts there were breastworks for his matchlockmen. Babur also ensured there was enough space for his cavalry to charge between these carts.
When Ibrahim's army arrived, he found the approach to Babur's army too narrow to attack. While Ibrahim redeployed his forces to allow for the narrower front, Babur quickly took advantage of the situation to flank (tulghuma) the Lodi army. Many of Ibrahim's troops, were unable to get into action and as the battle turned against Ibrahim, they fled. Faced with musket fire, cannon fire and cavalry attacks from all sides, Ibrahim Lodi fought and died with 6,000 of his remaining troops.
Advantage of cannons in the battle
Babur's guns proved decisive in battle, firstly because Ibrahim Lodi lacked any field artillery, but also because the sound of the cannon frightened Lodi's elephants, causing them to trample Lodi's own men.
New tactics introduced by Babur were the tulghuma and the araba. Tulghuma meant dividing the whole army into various units, viz. the Left, the Right and the Centre. The Left and Right divisions were further subdivided into Forward and Rear divisions. Through this a small army could be used to surround the enemy from all the sides. the Centre Forward division was then provided with carts (araba) which were placed in rows facing the enemy and tied to each other with animal hide ropes. Behind them were placed cannons protected and supported by mantlets which could be used to easily maneuver the cannons. These two tactics made Babur's artillery lethal. The cannons could be fired without any fear of being hit, as they were shielded by the bullock carts held in place by hide ropes. The heavy cannons could also be easily traversed onto new targets, as they could be maneuvered by the mantlets which were on wheels.
Ibrahim Lodi died on the field of battle along with 15,000 of his troops. Vikramajit, ruler of Gwaliyar, was killed as well. The battle of Panipat was militarily a decisive victory. But politically it gained Babur little, and initiated a new phase of his establishment of the Mughal empire.
- (Davis 1999, pp. 181, 183, 184 183)
- Butalia, Romesh C. The Evolution of the Artillery in India: From the Battle of Plassey to the Revolt of 1857, (Allied Publishing Limited, 1998), p. 16.
- Chandra, Satish. Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals, Vol. 2, (Har-Anand, 2009), pp. 27-31.
- Watts, Tim J. "Battles of Panipat". In Mikaberidze, Alexander (ed.) Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia, (ABC-CLIO, 2011), p. 707.
- Davis, Paul K. (1999), 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present, Oxford University Press, ISBN 1-57607-075-1
- Battle of Panipat animated battle map by Jonathan Webb