On this day: The First Battle of Panipat: How It Altered the Course of Indian History


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The First Battle of Panipat, fought on April 21, 1526, marked a significant turning point in the history of India. The battle pitted the invading forces of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire, against the army of the Delhi Sultanate led by Sultan Ibrahim Lodi. The battle resulted in a decisive victory for Babur, leading to the establishment of the Mughal Empire in India, which would last until the British colonisation in the mid-19th century.


Before the First Battle of Panipat, North India was dominated by the Delhi Sultanate, which had been weakened by internal strife and ineffective leadership. Babur, a descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan, had established himself as a powerful ruler in the region of modern-day Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. In 1524, Babur captured Lahore and used it as a base for his invasion of India, setting the stage for the First Battle of Panipat.

The Battle:

The two armies met on the plains of Panipat, a small town located approximately 90 kilometers north of Delhi. Babur’s forces, numbering around 15,000, were heavily outnumbered by Ibrahim Lodi’s army, which was estimated to be between 30,000 and 40,000 strong. However, Babur’s superior tactics, innovative use of artillery, and well-disciplined troops would prove decisive in the battle.

Babur utilised a formation called the “Tulughma,” which involved the use of a center force supported by two flanks that could envelop the enemy. He also deployed matchlock firearms and artillery to devastating effect, which were relatively new to Indian warfare at the time. The battle began with an intense artillery barrage, causing chaos among the Delhi Sultanate’s forces. The disciplined Mughal cavalry then charged and broke through the enemy lines.

The Aftermath:

The First Battle of Panipat resulted in a decisive victory for Babur, with Sultan Ibrahim Lodi killed on the battlefield. This victory allowed Babur to capture Delhi and Agra, leading to the establishment of the Mughal Empire in India. The Mughal Empire would go on to become one of the most powerful and influential empires in Indian history, known for its architectural marvels, such as the Taj Mahal, and its contributions to art, literature, and science.

The First Battle of Panipat was a pivotal moment in Indian history that marked the beginning of the Mughal era. The battle demonstrated the importance of superior tactics, discipline, and the effective use of technology in warfare. The Mughal Empire would continue to shape the cultural, political, and social landscape of India for centuries to come.

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