Battlefields of Panipat

In the textbooks of my childhood, we used to read about the three battles of Panipat. It is almost impossible to recollect and count the exact number of hours I had devoted towards learning about those battles. Their details always got mixed up amongst themselves and confused me a lot making it so difficult to remember about who fought with whom. The very name of Panipat made an indelible mark on my young mind to be remembered only as a battle-field. Sometimes I also used to think that people of Panipat must be very war-loving as they fought three battles in a row. Otherwise, how that could have been possible that people had chosen it for three battles? I always wanted to know the reasons behind selection of Panipat as a battleground by different rulers in different times. “What are the present states of those famous battlegrounds?” was another question that kept haunting me even when I grew up. Time passed by, my son entered into the seventh grade and started reading about those battles. His text books again fuelled and rekindled the desire to visit Panipat.
The Panipat is situated only at a distance of 100 kilometers from Delhi on the famous and smooth National Highway 1 via Sonipat. Panipat claims to be in existence since the Mahabharata days. It is stated to be one of the five prasthas (villages) demanded by the Pandavas. Those, who are familiar with this part of the country, generally prefer to have their morning breakfast at a place called Murthal, situated just near Sonipat. The eateries on the left side of the highway serve excellent stuffed parathas with tremendous amount of butter.

Parathas at Murthal

Parathas at Murthal


After breakfast, we proceeded ahead and reached near Panipat. A flyover has been constructed to enable the vehicles to bypass the city for going towards Karnal. Those, who wish to enter into the city of Panipat, should take the left exit a little before the Panipat flyover. One should be very careful about taking this exit; otherwise the flyover would take one over the entire city.
Our trip was an un-planned one. We had neither asked anyone about the locations of the battle fields nor were carrying any electronic GPS with us. The reality struck us soon when we entered into the city. It was almost impossible for a casual visitor to find out the battle fields. The modern construction and multi-storied buildings along the highways were giving the city as an intimidating look. At first look, it was just looking like any mid-sized Indian city, with unplanned growth, narrow roads and like a concrete jungle. Crowded and too noisy markets along-side the main roads were busy with activities. Without any help, it was almost impossible to locate the battle fields.

We asked a couple of local shop-keepers. They did not know about those battlefields. We asked some more people and they also could not reply. It appeared that 07 out of 10 members of local populace do not remember about those pieces of extreme historical importance that have given Panipat such recognition in the world. It was very disheartening. I was cursing myself for not preparing well for this journey thinking it as small pie for its distance of only 100-kilometers. Standing at the middle of the crowded market, however, I could remember the name of the Haryana Government tourism property as “Hotel Skylark”. Fortunately, it was known to the first shop-keeper whom I had asked for the direction. Following the clues given by him, we went to the hotel. There we saw a board showing the map of the tourist spots situated in the city. So, from that reference point, our real search of the battlefields began.

Tourist Map of Panipat

Tourist Map of Panipat


After the death of Sikandar Lodi in 1517 AD, his son Ibrahim Lodi came to power at Delhi. There are two versions about the causes of the First battle of Panipat. As per the board erected by the Archeological Survey of India, Chandigarh Zone, the rise of Ibrahim Lodi to the throne of Delhi was not acceptable to his uncle (Alam Khan), who conspired with the then governor of Lahore (Daulat Khan Lodi). At their behest, Babur came to battle with Ibrahim Lodi. The second version says that Babur went after Daulat Khan Lodi in Peshawar but could not find him there as he was in Punjab at that time. So, he pursued Daulat Khan upto Punjab. After conquering Punjab, he wanted to proceed to Delhi.
The Lodi Sultanate was then at its prime. They had a large army. So, they decided to fight the battle at the outskirts of Delhi. Panipat, being at a distance of only 100 Kms from Delhi and being on the direct boundary, was chosen as the place. It proved to be the battle of two different war doctrines. If Ibrahim Lodi had a large army and a number of war elephants, Babur had the canons and an efficient strategy for fighting the battles of those times. So, on 21st April 1526 AD, his forces defeated the larger army. The Sultan of Delhi, Ibrahim Lodi, was killed in the battle. Babur went on to form the famous Mughal Dynasty, which ruled India for more than three centuries.

Statues of Mughal Canons at the site of first battle

Statues of Mughal Canons at the site of first battle


500 years hence, the battlefield of the first battle was found near an old Goddess Durga Temple in the tehsil camp area. It was surrounded by the modern construction all around. The municipal corporation of Panipat had constructed a barricaded enclosure around it and had named it as Ibrahim Lodi Park. The park was inaugurated in 2006. The bronze statues of the Mughal canons have been erected inside the park near the tomb of Ibrahim Lodi, which stands on a high platform erected by the British. An inscription in Urdu was also put on one of the walls of platform so as to preserve the history.
Tomb of Ibrahim Lodi

Tomb of Ibrahim Lodi

After that, we went to see the location of the second battle. It was situated at the Sodhapur village on the Panipat-Jind road towards west of the Panipat city and was marked on the map as the ‘Hemu Samadhi Sthal’. But reaching there was not easy. There was no marking anywhere. Everyone I asked pretended to be ignorant about such a place. Lastly, I went inside a TB hospital where I found an octogenarian man, who could identify the location. When we went to that place, we found the Samadhi sthal duly encroached. It had been christened as a dargah and was painted green. It was locked from outside. Of late, I read in the Wikipedia about the encroachment and my observations were confirmed.
So, there I was standing at a place where Akbar had beheaded Samrat Hemchandra alias “Hemu” in the second battle of Panipat in 1556 AD. After winning the 22 battles in a row, Hemu had captured Delhi and anointed himself as “Samrat”. The Mughal commanders, while fleeing away to Kabul, had taken a last chance at the battle at Panipat. In the battle, initially Hemu’s forces were winning, but suddenly he was struck by an arrow in the eye. When he was not visible to his soldiers, they thought that he had been killed. So, the army fled the venue. Hemu was later captured and was beheaded. His head was sent to Kabul to be hanged outside Delhi Darwaza and torso was hanged outside Purana Quila in Delhi to teach a lesson. That war again decided and changed the course of Indian History by re-establishing the Mughal sultanate. The only reason for selecting Panipat as the battle field seems to be its location on the route of Kabul and just on the brinks of Delhi. With the wheat fields of Punjab on its side, the Mughal Army had plenty of rations for catering to the soldiers.

: Hemu Samadhi at the site for the second battle

: Hemu Samadhi at the site for the second battle


Watching the location of the second battle going to be lost forever, I came back with heavy heart as it was the time for searching for the third location. It was situated in a village called “kala-amb” at a distance of about 08 kilometers towards east of the main city. I had met a knowledgeable person at the Durga Temple, who had informed me the route. However, till I reached near the village through a single peaceful road, none other had any information about that place. It was really remarkable that the common people of that city had forgotten about the battles that seemed to define their identity.
Anyway, the place of the third battle was in a better shape and was well preserved mainly due to the political protection it enjoys due to a society that has good patrons. The other reason seems to be its locational advantage being a little away from the main city and its markets. The entire ground was well guarded with a boundary wall. The walking footpaths were neatly laid. Historical details of the three battles were depicted on the board and on the wall. A small parking facility, cemented chairs to relax a bit and facility for drinking water etc. were available there. At an open space, the images of the third battle were carved on two big copper plates.

Graphical representation of the third battle

Graphical representation of the third battle


But, the highlight of the third battle was the location where Maratha Commander Sadashiv Rao Bhau was killed in the battle between Marathas and the Ahmed Shah Abdali in 1761 AD. This battle is known as the third battle of Panipat. After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire had weakened. It was the time when Nadir Shah (1739) had looted Delhi and thereafter Ahmad Shah Abdali had taken away much of Punjab province. The local satraps of the Empire had established their own states. The Marathas power had risen and threatened the Mughals and had become the single largest power in the then India. The third battle of Panipat was a result of long drawn skirmishes between the Afgan and the Marathas. They chose Kala-amb village with an idea to cut the supplies of the opposite army. The Marathas thought that they would be able to cut the supply route from Punjab to cripple the Afgan army and the Afgans tried to stop the supplies to Marathas from Delhi. With the help of Nawab of Oudh, the Afgans were able to be successful in their strategy and that resulted in the heavy losses to the Marathas. In the fight that ensued Sadasiv Rao Bhau was killed beneath a mango tree of a variety that produced dark-green (nearing black) leaves. Due to its leaves, that mango tree was named as “Kala-amb”.
Brick Pillar at the site of the third battle

Brick Pillar at the site of the third battle


The defeat of Marathas ultimately proved to be beneficial to the British, who took advantage of the power vacuum. It is said that the third battle of Panipat had paved the way towards the British domination of the India as a country. The British built a brick pillar on the very place where Sadashiv Rao Bhau had been killed. An iron-rod adorns the top of the pillar. The entire memorial is surrounded by an iron fence. For the first time in Panipat, standing near the brick pillar, it felt as if the historical event had just happened. Standing in silence, I bid adieu to those great soldiers and left the place.
The well-preserved battle ground of the third battle

The well-preserved battle ground of the third battle


I had seen all the three locations in Panipat, where three battles had taken place. All those battles had changed the course of the history of our nation. The first battle had taken place in 1526. The second battle took place just after thirty years. In 1556, there might be a few people who would have seen the first battle too. Thereafter, the city grew silently for 200 years. When the memories of all earlier battles faded away, its citizen saw the third battle in 1761. Since then 250 years have lapsed and the local populace have forgotten the pains and sorrows of the earlier battles. God forbid if this city again becomes a battleground for the seekers of the ultimate prize of Delhi!

23 Comments

  • History revisited through your well articulated travel story of the Battlefields of Panipat. Thanks for sharing.

  • MUNESH MISHRA says:

    “Battlefields of Panipat” well written post with historical references.

    Thanks for sharing Uday Ji.

  • Dr.Rakesh Gandhi says:

    Thanks a lot Uday ji for sharing historical places visit.it is shame v r forgetting our history n Governments r doing nothing in this regards.Further encroachment on historical monument pained me n its purely negligent act of Harayana Government .

  • Shefali Arora says:

    Nice post Uday…

    It seems from the pic you had breakfast at famous Sukhdev Dhaba.

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Thanks Shefali

      I loved the stuffed Parathas so much that I convinced my wife to learn it and make it at home too.

      Thanks for your nice comments.

  • Anil Misra says:

    Great post. Very grateful.

  • Archana Ravichander says:

    Uday,

    Your post reminded me of the History lessons from school!! I used to love history more so because a friend of mine used to write down notes using pictorial representation. I would grab his book to see and never let him write down! Haha..

    The Parathas made me hungry even after my king-size breakfast :) Great post and thanks for sharing the story with us!

    Best.

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Archana

      Honestly speaking, many a times, we carry some of the notoriety of the childhood to our adulthood too. And smile over it from time to time.

      I was a complete dumb when it came to history, specially medieval. But, nowadays, this travel bug takes me to different historical places and I enjoy them too.

      Thanks a lot.

      Regards

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Well, I would have passed by Panipat a lot of times but it never occurred to me to take a break and look for the battlefields. And all of us have indeed grown up reading (and trying to remember and failing) these 3 battles of Panipat. Infact, this question comes up in the popular TV series KBC too :-)

    I guess the Battle 1 and Battle 2 was quite far back in time so the blame should go to British Government. In the same way, the preservation of Battle 3 ground should also go to them. At least one of them is safe. I do not know if it happens, but it would be good to see some program from ASI where they can take a bunch of kids of a ‘Familiarization Trip’ (FAM trip as what the PR companies say) to this place and probably they would remember this piece of history ever.

    Thanks again Uday. Keep traveling.

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Sir

      Thanks a lot.

      I have often felt that we have to relate to our history and heritage with or even without the Government assistance. How many times we have found that people had defaced even so-called protected monuments? The only viable trick for sustainable protection and preservation of heritage, which comes to my mind, is to somehow involve them with the people by highlighting their utility in people’s life-styles.

      Regards

      Regards

  • Santanu says:

    Dear Uday,
    A well balanced mixture of ancient history with real life experience of 2015. Its pathetic to see concrete jungle just beside historical place. Do we need govt. intervention to stop this practice? This is just opposite to what could be seen in Europe. Uday, hats off to you. Please carry on.
    Regards
    Santanu

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Santanu

      Thanks for your nice comment. Recently, there appears to be a move to bring some changes into the ASI Act. Lets see whether they reduce/abolish the present rule which bans/requires permission for constructing any building near the vicinity of a protected monument or make it more stringent. The impact of either decision would be seen only after a few decades.

      Regards

  • Ankitjha007 says:

    Dear sir,
    It seems it was quite tough to find out the marked places of first, second and third battle ground. I drove to panipat from my home in East delhi in Oct’13… It was a cumbersome to ask the local residents and they hove totally lost in the modern era that don’t care for the past. Alao, Haryana tourism dept. is not taking interest to protect the places of historical importance.
    Though i was carrying the desired GPS navigation, even after that i found it quite uncomfortable to find the places of interest.
    But you have explained nicely about the incidents.. Thanks a lot
    Warm regards

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Thanks for your comments Ankit.

      I feel that analysis of battle-heritage is a unique way to understand the growth of cities and its population.

      Nice to know that you had the same experiences as mine.

      Regards

  • Yogesh says:

    Very nicely elaborated article,Sir. I reside at panipat for last 7 years but din’t ever think that it has 3 different places for 3 different wars. I have yet to visit 1st/2nd battle ground. Panipat is historical since Mahabharata time,the famous “Panduprastha” one of few cities established by Pandavas.

    To more to this there a Famous ” Durga Maa Devi temple” beside Bus stand A kilometers inside. And Famous “Bul-Ali-sah Kalandar” Dargah .

    Thank you for such a nice input.

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Yogesh

      Thanks for appreciation. Yes, Panipat is an old settlement. The temple for Goddess Durga at Panipat is quite big. Within its premises, a temple built by a sepoy of Maratha Army, also exists today. The Bu-ali-sah-kalandar dargah is situated in a narrow streets across very busy market. The columns in its main sanctum is made with Kasauti stone and is priceless.

      There is another interesting monument built by Akbar after he defeated Ibrahim Lodi. It is called Kabuli Baag.

      Hope you get time to visit all the rest battle-fields too.

      Regards

  • h.mani says:

    I’m a American citizen who lived my first 26 years in North India and well versed in Indian History.I visited Valley Forge and Gettesburg Battle ground of 1863,durng american Civil War.I was surprised to see the battle field preserved the way it was on 2nd july 1863,even the old picket wooden fence and the original cannons on exact spot from where they were firing.Then then on my next visit to India,I visited Panipat.I could not find any one in Panipat who knew any of the 3 location.I asked ,where are the grounds and space for elepant and almost 150,000 people who fought?The answer was ,now we have building and malls in that place.It then dawned on me,Indians are least intrested,in writing or remembering their past.If they are going to build malls on where blood was shed to defend the nation,& people this little,no wonder we are a 3rd world country who were ruled by invaders from afghanistan(who are backword country in 21st century),and how disgraceful those savages,knocked the hell out of us.!Why,those who do not honor their past or fallen heroes do not deserve any respect.I now undersrand India much better and has immense respect for my adopted country.No wonder USA is world power and India is backward 3rd world.Wake up India.Love your past .H.Mani,USA

  • Vishal says:

    I randomly came across your blog and I too was pained how Hemu’s samadhi has been converted into dargah after being encroched upon. I have filed complaints with CM, Home Minister, DC, COmissioner, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, CS, IG, ADIG of police, MLA of Panipat and MP of Karnal (under which Panipat falls), few journalists and other officials. Keep highlighting such things and suddenly random people like me will help you. Now I have made my mission to have it investigated. Home Minister (who is Chief Minister himself)’s emailed me to say that this case has now been assigned to Haryana ADGP of Police (Law and order) for further investigation. I have written to politicians and press to ensure there is pressure on “prashashan” to act.

  • Hello,

    I am writing from DK, a London based publishing house. We are a part of the Penguin Random House group.

    One of the books that we are currently updating is entitled Battles That Changed History.

    For one of the spreads on Panipat Battle we would possibly like to use your image on Ghoomkar.com of Statues of Mughal Canons at the site of first battle. https://www.ghumakkar.com/battlefields-of-panipat/

    By agreeing to let us use this image we understand we have your consent to use this image in all editions in all forms of the work (including digital products based on (Battles That Changed History) in all languages throughout the world.

    DK is an award-winning global publisher of distinctive, highly visual products for adults and children. Founded in London in 1974, we are enormously proud to be the worlds leading illustrated reference publisher. You can view our books at:
    http://www.dk.com

    We look forward to hearing from you and would be happy to answer any queries you might have regarding this request or publication.

    Best
    Aditya Katyal
    Picture Researcher,
    Tel: 91-120-4689600

    DK 3rd Floor, Mindmill Corporate Tower, Plot 24A,
    Sector 16A, Film City, Noida, India, 201301
    http://www.dk.com DKinVideo

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