Panipat, India (1526 AD & 1556 AD)
The two battles of Panipat roughly bookended the earliest Mughal invasions of Northern India. They pitted the armies of the Timurid kingdom of central Asia under some of its most gifted leaders against the waning might of the now-long established Delhi Sultanate. Both engagements were decisive Mughal victories. The first battle in 1526 is generally considered to mark the beginning of the Mughal Empire of India, while the second battle in 1556 essentially finished off any real opposition to Mughal rule in the north.
In the late 14th century, Tamerlane founded the last of the great Mongol realms in Central Asia. His successors, the Timurids, came to rule most of Central Asia, Pakistan and Persia. During the 15th century their power had waned, and most of the western territories were lost. However, in the early 1500s, a new dynamic ruler appeared, Babur. Babur set about restoring the greatness of the Timurids, but seeing in Persia a difficult target, turned instead to India.
In 1526, Babur invaded the Sultanate of Delhi, which had dominated the subcontinent for over three hundred years. The Sultan Ibrahim Lodi raised an army and marched north to meet the threat. The two sides clashed at the town of Panipat. Although Lodi had the larger force, backed by a large number of war elephants, Babur brought with him powerful artillery pieces as had not yet been seen in Central Asia’s wars. Lodi’s forces proved no match for these weapons, the army of Delhi was routed.
The disaster at Panipat cleared the way for Babur’s conquest of Northern India. After several victories, Babur’s legacy was secured. However, the Mughals soon faced a new threat. An army from the Hindu realms in the south under the command of their king Hemu Vikramaditya sought to take advantage of the chaos between the Muslim realms. This army arrived in Northern India and swiftly recaptured Delhi in the 1550s.
In 1556, Akbar, the grandson of Babur, took the throne and control of the imperial armies and went out to face the Hindu army. Again, the two sides clashed at Panipat. Again the Mughals emerged victorious, this time by virtue of superior tactics. This victory was more decisive, and the Mughals faced no further serious threats in Northern India until the arrival of the British centuries later.
The Battles of Panipat are well remembered by the local populace, and the city and surrounding area are full of monuments and sites related to the engagements. The main place of interest is the Battles of Panipat Museum, which features exhibits and artifacts of the fighting. The gravesites of Lodhi and Hemu, the leaders of the Delhi Sultanate and Hindu Kingdom, are both located here. Also of interest is a monument where the second battle was fought, featuring an engraved mural of the fighting.
The sites of the battles are scattered in and around the modern town of Panipat, approximately 100 miles north of Delhi. Most of the sites are open, except for the Battles of Panipat Museum. As of this writing no visitor information was available for the museum. Web: www.tourism.gov.in (official tourism website of India).