Ibrahim Khan Gardi
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Ibrahim Khan (left) with Sadashivrao Bhau (center)
|Commands held||Third Battle of Panipat|
|Battles/wars||Third Battle of Panipat|
Ibrahim Khan (died 1761) was a Dakhani Muslim general in the 18th century India. An expert in artillery, he initially served the Nizam of Hyderabad, before working for the Peshwa of the Maratha Empire. As a general of the Maratha Empire, he commanded a force of 10,000 men, infantry and artillery. He was captured and killed by the Afghans during the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761.
Ibrahim Khan was an expert in artillery and was in service of Nizam of Hyderabad. He was in the services of Nizam Ali and was highly attached to him and had participated in the Battle of Palkhed against the Marathas in which the Marathas won.
Training in French discipline
Trained to the French discipline as commandant de la garde to Bussy, Ibrahim bore the title, or nickname, of "Khan," a souvenir of his professional origin or title. Originally part of the Hyderabad Nizam's army, consisting of a number of Telegus. His troops' military prowess and artillery tactics were considered a great advantage in various campaigns. Captured in the Third Battle of Panipat, he is alleged to have been tortured horribly before his death by his Afghan captors. His extreme sense of loyalty to his master Sadashivrao Bhau even when some of the Maratha generals deserted Sadashivrao Bhau's army during the thick of battle and escaped unhurt to their Jahagirs in Deccan, Ibrahim Khan fought to his end and was captured only when all his famed Maratha musketeers laid down their lives, one by one, or simply vanished during the night of 14 January 1761 when darkness fell on the battlefield. Some of Ibrahim Khan artillery detachment with infantry and musketeers kept on fighting while defending their positions until sunset to escape in the darkness of night. To this date, some of the Pardhi communities' folklore have various songs in praise of Ibrahim Khan as well as Suleiman Khan Gardhi.
In Service of Marathas
Ibrahim Khan was won over by the Peshwa of the Hindu Maratha Empire and he soon joined the services of the Peshwa to command a battalion having strength of 10,000 men consisting of cavalry, infantry, artillery, archers (including bowmen and pikemen), and bayonet wielding musketeers compared to the total strength of Nizam's entire army was no more than 2,000 men. This was windfall for Ibrahim Khan and he was the first person to reach the highest level of becoming deputy commander-in-chief as well as artillery in charge of one of the powerful Indian Armies.
Battle of Panipat
Sadashivrao Bhau along with Ibrahim Khan had planned and were executing a foolproof battle strategy to pulverize the enemy formations with cannon fire and not to employ his cavalry until the Afghans were thoroughly softened up. With the Afghans now broken, he'd move camp in a defensive formation towards Delhi, where they were assured supplies but jealous of the exploits of their artillery chief, the envious Maratha generals overacted while some left battlefield leaving their defenses open resulting in the defeat of the Marathas.
Abdali had given a part of his army the task of surrounding and killing the under Ibrahim Khan , who were at the leftmost part of the Maratha army. Bhau had ordered Vitthal Vinchurkar (with 1500 cavalry) and Damaji Gaikwad (with 2500 cavalry) to protect. However, after seeing the fight, they lost their patience, became overenthusiastic and decided to fight the Rohillas themselves. Thus they broke the round. This was because they were not experienced in fighting in such formations and is regarded as an instance of inexperience of the Maratha army in engaging in pitched battles. Hence, they didn’t follow the idea of round battle and went all out on the Rohillas, and the Rohilla riflemen started accurately firing at the Maratha cavalry, which was equipped only with swords.
This gave the Rohillas the opportunity to encircle and outflank the Maratha centre while Shah Wali pressed on attacking the front. Thus they were left defenseless and started falling one by one. This incident is also regarded as an instance where the Maratha army could not harmonise their light cavalry with their artillery supported infantry.
It was Ibrahim Khan battalion which faced & repulsed the Afghan onslaught during the battle. All of the Afghan attacks failed to dislodge Ibrahim Khan battalion from its defensive positions. About 12,000 Afghan cavalry and infantrymen lost their lives in this opening stage of the battle. Around 45,000 men from the Durrani army of Ahmad Shah Durrani lost their lives due to salvos fired at point blank range into the Afghan ranks.
Even when the news of the death of Vishwasrao, the Peshwa's son, reached Ibrahim Khan battalion it kept defending its position against a numerically stronger Afghan army as, one by one, musketeers fell and the remaining members escaped from the battlefield using the darkness as cover on the night of 14 January 1761.
Ibrahim Khan was caught by Afghans while performing last rites of his master Sadashivrao Bhau and Vishwasrao. Ibrahim Khan was tortured to death by Najib-ud-daula and his Rohilla men as revenge for serving the Marathas.
The family and army of Ibrahim Khan Gardi kept on serving Peshwas as personal guards as well as musketeers until the end of the Peshwa rule in 1818.
After end of the Peshwa's rule, his private army was disbanded by British Raj and some along with others from the Maratha armies joined services of the East India Company as sepoys, musketeers, cavalrymen in infantry and artillery units — especially in The Poona Horse in 1818, Bombay Sappers, Madras Sappers, and Maratha Light Infantry.
In popular culture
Ibrahim Khan Gardhi was portrayed as a main character Ibrahim Gardhi in Roktakto Prantor, a tragic historical play by Munier Choudhury.
- Barua, Pradeep (1994). "Military Developments in India, 1750-1850". The Journal of Military History. 58 (4): 599–616. JSTOR 2944270.
- Shejwalkar, Tryambak Shankar (1946). Panipat: 1761. Deccan College Monograph Series (1st ed.). Poona (Pune): S.M. Katre for Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute. OCLC 219459942.
- Verma, Abhas (2013). Third Battle of Panipat. Delhi: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan. ISBN 9788180903328.