The second battle of Panipat, 1556


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The Second Battle of Panipat took place between the forces of Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya and the army of Akbar. Hemu was the name of the popular Hindu king who was ruling North India from Delhi. This battle took place on November 5, 1556. It was a decisive victory for Akbar’s generals Khan Zaman I and Bairam Khan.

What happened after Humayun’s death?

On January 24, 1556, the Mughal ruler Humanyun died in Delhi. His son Kalanaur succeeded him, who was only thirteen years old. On February 14, 1556, the people crowned Akbar as the king. At the time of his accession to the throne, the Mughal rule stretched to Kabul, Kandahar, parts of Delhi, and Punjab. Akbar was then campaigning in Kabul with his guardian, Bairam Khan. Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya or Hemu was a Hindu emperor in Delhi. He was there by virtue of defeating Akbar/Humanyun’s army in the Battle for Delhi. Hemu belonged to Rewari in present-day Haryana. This person was earlier an adviser to Sher Shah Suri’s son Islam Shah from 1545 to 1553. Hemu had won 22 battles, as Prime Minister and Chief of Army of Islam Shah. It was during 1553 to 1556 to quell the rebellion by Afghan rebels against the Sur regime.

How did the second battle of Panipat begin?

 At the time of Humayun’s death in January 1556, Hemu had just quelled a rebellion in Bengal. He then killed the Bengal ruler Muhammad Shah in the war. He made his intentions of winning Delhi for himself known to his commanders. Then he started a campaign, winning battles throughout northern India. When he attacked Agra, the commander of Akbar’s forces in Agra, fled without fighting. A large area of Etawah, Kalpi, and Agra provinces comprising present-day Bihar and UP came under Hemu’s control. In the Gwalior, Fort Hemu consolidated his army by recruiting more Hindus.

Hemu then moved towards Delhi and stationed his forces outside the city at Tughlaqabad. On October 6, 1556, the army encountered Mughal resistance. After a fierce fight, Akbar’s forces were ousted. Tardi Beg, the commander of the Mughal forces, escaped, allowing Hemu to capture Delhi. Around 3,000 Mughals were killed. Hemu was crowned at Purana Qila on October 7, 1556.b He then established Hindu rule in North India, after 350 years of Muslim rule, and was bestowed the title of Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya. According to Abul Fazl in Akbarnama, Hemu was preparing for an attack on Kabul and made several changes in his army.

Developments in Delhi and Agra disturbed the Mughals at Kalanaur, Punjab. Many Mughal Generals advised Akbar to retreat to Kabul as Mughal forces may not face Hemu’s might and new awareness among Hindus to liberate their country. However, Bairam Khan decided in favor of war. Akbar’s army marched towards Delhi. On November 5, both armies met at the historic battlefield of Panipat, where, thirty years earlier, Akbar’s grandfather Babur had defeated Ibrahim Lodi in what is now known as the First Battle of Panipat.

What did HG Keen say about the battle?

H.G.Keen writes, “Akbar and his guardian Bairam Khan did not participate in the battle and were stationed 5 Kos (8 miles) away from the war zone. Bairam Khan did not permit the 13-year-old child King to be present on the battlefield in person, instead, he was provided with a special guard of 5000 well-trained and most faithful troops and was stationed at a safe distance far behind the battle lines. He was instructed by Bairam Khan to flee towards Kabul for life in case the Mughal Army was routed in the battlefield.”[3] Hemu led his army himself. Hemu’s army consisted of 1500 war elephants and a vanguard of artillery park. He marched in excellent order with 30,000 practiced horsemen composed of Rajputs and Afghans. They, on many occasions, had by their exploits increased the pride and arrogance.”

How did Hemu gather his army?

In order to hearten the soldiers and the Afghan Amirs, Hemu had given gifts of lands and opened the doors of his treasures. Thus, he mobilized the valiant fighters. According to Badaoni, Hemu’s army was dispirited, and who set all his hopes on the elephants, surrounded by his chiefs charged the imperial hosts. The army threw both right and left wings into great confusion. The Mughal forces were charged repeatedly by elephants to break their lines. The Mughal Vanguard according to sources consisted of 10,000 cavalries, out of which 5000 were experienced, veteran soldiers. They got ready to meet the advancing army of Hemu. Hemu was himself commanding his forces from the top of an elephant. It seemed Hemu was on a winning track and Akbar’s army would rout.

How did writers describe the battle of Panipat 2?

Abul Fazl has described the war as quote “Two armies so collided that they struck fire out of the water, You’d say the air was all crimsoned. Their steel had all become solid rubies” suddenly in the midst of the contest, an arrow from the bent bow of divine wrath reached Hemu’s eye, and piercing the socket, came out at the back of his head. In the words of Badaoni too, “suddenly the arrow of death which no shield can ward off struck his (Hemu) squinting eye so that his brain passed cleanout from the cup of his head, and he became unconscious and not to be seen in his Howda.” Not seeing Hemu on his elephant, his army was in disarray and was defeated in the ensuing confusion.

What happened after the battle ended?

Several hours after the war ended, dead Hemu was located and captured by Shah Quli Khan Mahram. The body was then brought to Akbar’s tent in the camp located at village Saudhapur in Panipat (Located on Panipat-Jind road, 5 km from NH1). General Bairam Khan was desirous that Akbar should slay the Hindu king Hemu himself and should establish his right to the title of “Ghazi” (Champion of Faith or war veteran). But Akbar refused to strike a blood-soaked and dead enemy but smote the dead body, just to be called a Ghazi. Bairam Khan irritated by Akbar’s scruples beheaded the king himself. This was what happened at the 2nd battle of Panipat.

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