First Battle of Panipat

Summary

The First Battle of Panipat was fought on April 20, 1526. It was the decisive military confrontation between the Timurid Babur (1483-1530) and the last Sultan of Delhi, Ibrahim II (r. 1517-26), from the Afghan-born Lodi dynasty. Babur”s relatively small army was victorious over the numerically superior force of Ibrahim Lodi, who fell in battle. With Ibrahim”s death, the Delhi Sultanate was extinguished and replaced by the Mughal Empire, whose foundation had been laid by this victory.

The campaign Babur set out on in November 1525, which ended with the First Battle of Panipat, was not the first time he and his army had set foot on the Indian subcontinent. He had already made advances there four times before. In addition to material gains, Babur had also secured possession of important passes and fortresses along the approach route to India through these “India campaigns.” Babur considered the conquered Indian territories as his rightful property. In doing so, he invoked Timur Leng (r. 1370-1405), his paternal ancestor, who had conquered Delhi in 1398 and transferred the Punjab to his vassal Khidr Khan as his domain. Even when Khidr Khan became Sultan of Delhi in 1414 and founded the Sayyid dynasty, which ruled until 1451, he still showed loyalty to the house of Timur by claiming only to be the Indian viceroy of Timur”s son.

India had come into Babur”s focus not least because he was forced to conquer a new dominion in 1501 after losing his ancestral domain and his favorite city of Samarqand to the Uzbeks under Shaibani Khan. As he himself writes in his memoirs, the so-called Baburnama, he thought of conquering India already after he had made himself lord of Kabul in 1504. However, the implementation of this plan was delayed, as Babur was still busy for years consolidating and expanding his Afghan sphere of power, so that it ultimately encompassed an area that stretched from Kunduz and Badakhshan in the north to Kandahar in the south. It was not until Babur”s Afghan empire was more or less secure and he had finally had to give up Samarkand in 1512 that the Indian subcontinent, which had always been one of the richest areas of Asia, became the focus of his interest.

In this context, it did not remain hidden from him for long that the Delhi Sultanate, whose rich provinces in the Punjab had been the target of his first four Indian campaigns, was anything but a firmly established state. By the time Ibrahim II became sultan of Delhi in 1517, the sultanate had already lost much of its former grandeur. Ibrahim”s empire was weakened not only by the confessional antagonism between the Hindu majority and the ruling Muslim aristocracy, but also by permanent power struggles within the Muslim noble class. Not insignificant parts of the empire, such as Rajasthan, which was ruled by Hindu princes, had already become independent. But the Afghan-born notables were also anxious to make themselves independent of the weakening center in Delhi, above all Daulat Khan Lodi, the governor of the provinces in the Punjab. In 1523, he had been driven out of the Punjab by Ibrahim”s army and had turned to Babur for help. After Babur intervened in India and conquered Lahore, Daulat Khan was not reinstated as governor.

But the still young Sultan Ibrahim was also threatened by his own family. Of all people, his uncle Ala-ud-din Lodi, called Alam Khan, opposed him and also requested Babur”s help. The latter instructed his Begs in the Punjab to assist Alam Khan in the planned conquest of Delhi. However, since the Begs refused to support him, Alam Khan finally turned his back on Babur and entered into an alliance with Daulat Khan. It was agreed that Daulat Khan would seize Punjab, while Alam Khan would attempt to capture Ibrahim”s power centers of Delhi and Agra.

Given the multitude of difficulties and dangers Ibrahim faced, his attempts to reestablish a strong central authority and consolidate his empire permanently were almost inevitably doomed to failure. Ibrahim was in the worst possible position to fend off a determined external attack, such as the one carried out by Babur a short time later.

As is so often the case in historical research, the problem with the events surrounding the first battle of Panipat is that the tradition of this battle comes exclusively from the victors. In this specific case, the most important source for Babur”s activities in India is his memoirs, the Baburnama, written by himself. This work also provides the only reasonably detailed contemporary account of the Battle of Panipat. Other historical works that discuss this battle, such as the Tarikh-e Shahi by the Afghan historian Ahmad Yadgar, probably completed during the reign of Babur”s great-grandson Jahangir (r. 1605-27), or the Tarikh-e Daudi by Abdullah, who was also a historian, written during this period, also draw predominantly from the Baburnama.

Although details often remain unclear and there are also a number of chronological gaps, Babur”s work must be credited with providing a fairly accurate account of his campaign to India. As for the battle itself, Babur unfortunately provides only rather cursory information about important details, such as the nature of his positional system and tactical procedures, and we learn nothing at all about other interesting details, such as the number of prisoners; nevertheless, the course of the battle can, on the whole, be understood well due to his very lively description and is beyond question. To Babur”s credit, his memoirs are characterized by a high degree of plausibility and critical distance from the events described. It is essential, however, that even the not inconsiderable number of original documents that have survived from Babur”s time can in no way replace the Baburnama as a historical source, and often cannot even satisfactorily close its gaps in time.

The pacification of Punjab

Babur set out from Kabul on November 17, 1525, for his fifth and final campaign in India. A garden, which he had laid out not far from the present-day city of Jalalabad, had been designated as the assembly point for the troop contingents from the various parts of his domain. Here he was joined by the troops from across the Hindu Kush, led by Babur”s son Humayun (1508-56), who was only seventeen years old, and the troops that had marched in from Ghazni. When the combined force crossed the Indus River on December 16, Babur already knew that trouble awaited him in the Punjab.

To make himself master of the Punjab again, Daulat Khan had raised an army and had already seized Sialkot, the capital of the province of the same name, from Babur. Passing Jhelam, Babur now marched toward Sialkot, where his army encamped on December 29. Here he received news that Alam Khan”s attempt to capture Delhi had ended in defeat and the rout of his forces. Betrayed and abandoned by his forces, who had either deserted or defected to Sultan Ibrahim II, Alam Khan finally had no choice but to surrender himself to Babur at his mercy or disgrace. The latter graciously took Alam Khan back and treated him with respect as long as he was still useful.

Similar to Alam Khan, Daulat Khan was left in the lurch by his “allies,” who apparently never really wanted to engage in a military showdown with Babur. Daulat”s army, which Babur was told was 30,000 to 40,000 strong and thus several times superior to his force, simply dispersed as he approached. When an advance party of Babur reached the camp of the enemy army on the banks of the Ravi River, it found it already deserted. Daulat Khan was captured and brought to Babur, who spared the life of his enemy but had his property confiscated. Babur was subsequently busy for some time eliminating remaining local centers of resistance. When peace was fully restored in the Punjab, he was able to set up his base for further campaigning here, within operational reach of Delhi, so to speak.

The march to Panipat

Meanwhile, Babur had also been informed by his scouts that Sultan Ibrahim II had left Delhi with a large army to confront him. Ibrahim”s defensive measures had, to all appearances, been very slow in getting under way. Only late, towards the end of February 1526, when Babur had already advanced far into the Punjab and was encamped at Ambala, did the first enemy contact occur. It was not yet Ibrahim”s main army, however, but the troops of Hamid Khan, the governor of Hisar-i Firuza, a city in the present-day Indian state of Haryana. Babur sent a part of his army under the command of his son Humayun ahead to fight down the enemy. Victory in Humayun”s first military engagement was not too hard fought, as Hamid Khan”s forces fled after only a short battle. They were pursued, placed in Hisar-i Firuza and defeated again. According to Babur”s information, the enemy”s losses in the first of the two engagements had not exceeded 200 to 250 men, about half of whom had been killed, but the others, together with 7 or 8 war elephants, had been taken as prisoners to his camp. On Babur”s orders, all the prisoners were shot there by his riflemen equipped with matchlock muskets. This firing squad undoubtedly represented a novelty in Indian military history and was intended, as Babur puts it, as a “deterrent example.”

During March 1526, Babur slowly advanced toward Delhi. News of Ibrahim”s movements now reached his camp more and more continuously, but there was still no sign of Ibrahim”s army. It was not until the morning of April 2, near the Yamuna River, that the first contact was made with a 5,000 to 6,000-man advance division of Ibrahim”s army. Babur”s men again remained victorious and pursued the defeated enemy to Ibrahim”s main camp. Once again they had captured 6 or 7 war elephants and taken 70 to 80 prisoners, most of whom were executed. Now it had also finally become clear that the enemy was not far away and preparations for battle had to be made.

Preparations for the battle

Given the enemy”s numerical superiority, it seemed advisable to Babur to use defensive tactics for the upcoming battle. The enemy was to run against a fortified position and be exposed to the fire of his musketry and field artillery. Babur therefore ordered his men to round up as many carts as possible. These carts – about 700 in number – were then tied together “in the manner of the country of Rum (in the Ottoman way)” with leather straps that came, among other things, from oxen harnesses. Between each pair of carts, 6 to 7 large protective weirs were then to be erected, behind which the musket riflemen could be posted. The field artillery was to further reinforce this defensive position. Babur thus used almost the same tactics with which the Ottomans had been victorious over the Persian Kizilbash in the Battle of Chaldiran (1514), the only difference being that the Ottoman carts had not been connected with leather straps at that time, but with chains. When this work was completed after 5 or 6 days, Babur convened a war council to discuss further action. It was decided to move to Panipat and fight the battle against Ibrahim there.

Babur”s fighters reached Panipat on April 12 and spent most of the following week preparing for battle. The wagons and guns had to be brought into position, entrenchment work had to be done, and barricades and entrenchments had to be laid. Ibrahim”s army remained inactive during this time, and did not respond to the repeated needle-stick attacks that small detachments of Babur made on their camp to bring back severed heads as trophies. Despite all this, however, a subdued mood prevailed among Babur”s men. They were facing a formidable superior force and were far from home in a land whose language they did not understand. Babur must have had to expend some effort in encouraging his men. Not letting Ibrahim off the hook, Babur finally followed the advice of some of his Indian begs and ordered a major night attack on his camp, provoking him into a battle. This risky venture, for which Babur assigned 4,000 to 5,000 men, did not go as planned, but seems to have convinced Ibrahim that he now had to put his army on the march.

The army of Babur

The armies that clashed at Panipat could hardly have been more different, both in terms of their size and armament and in terms of their tactics and the personalities of their commanders. As for Babur, it is unclear how many men he actually had at Panipat. All that is certain is that the army with which he operated in India was relatively small. On the basis of a census of troops that he had carried out on the Indus, it is known that his army-including those who performed purely logistical functions-comprised 12,000 men at the beginning of the campaign. Since it must be assumed that logistical units accounted for at least a quarter of this, the actual fighting strength of his army at this point is unlikely to have been more than 9,000 men. It also remains unclear how much reinforcement Babur received during his campaign. As he reports in the Baburnama, no substantial reinforcements flowed to him from his homeland because it itself was constantly threatened by the Uzbeks, his old enemies. Thus, the only option left was to obtain reinforcements in India. However, due to the difficulties with Alam Khan and Daulat Khan, these may not have been quite as numerous as Babur might have hoped. It is very unlikely that he had 24,000 men at Panipat, as the historian Ahmad Yadgar states, and it is completely exaggerated that he had 50,000 men, as his contemporary Abdullah reports. The actual number of Babur”s fighters may have been somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000.

The battles with the Uzbeks in particular had taught Babur early on to compensate for the lack of quantity in his fighters with quality. Babur had taught his warriors “to maintain strict discipline and to keep to the fighting positions assigned to them,” as he writes, for example, in his report on the battle of Kandahar (1507). There is no question that Babur”s army was a disciplined and battle-hardened elite force whose individual units had capable sub-leaders in his begs.

The backbone of Babur”s army was formed by mounted archers. Mounted on their swift horses and equipped with long-range composite bows, these tough steppe warriors specialized in ambush attacks, showering their opponents with a deadly hail of arrows from a distance of up to 250 meters, while remaining beyond their own reach. Babur, who was always open to innovations, knew how to combine the advantages of this traditional fighting method of Central Asian cavalry armies with the efficiency of the latest weapon systems of the time. It was probably the news of the decisive role played by firearms in the Ottoman victory at Chaldiran that prompted him to call in specialists from the Ottoman Empire to help him equip his army with small arms and artillery. One of these men, Master Ali-Quli, henceforth became the commander of his field artillery. Although neither the number of Babur”s musketmen nor that of his guns and mortars mounted on carts is known, it is certain that they played a decisive role not only in the victory at Panipat but also in the successes in the battles and sieges of the following years. In this context, it should also be mentioned that Babur”s firearms were by no means mere “imported goods”, for it is known from the Baburnama that master Ali-Quli cast cannons himself. In October 1526, for example, he was commissioned by Babur to make a large-caliber gun for the war against those Indian fortresses that had not yet surrendered.

The army Ibrahim Lodis

In contrast to Babur, Ibrahim Lodi commanded a huge force, for whose strength there are also different figures. The historian Nematollah, for example, in his history of the Afghan rulers in India, which was also written during the reign of Jahangir, reports that Ibrahim”s army comprised 100,000 horsemen, 5,000 elephants and a large number of foot soldiers. Babur himself estimated his enemy”s force at around 100,000 men and about 1,000 fighting elephants. Although Babur”s numbers also have a somewhat magical ring to them, they are accepted by most historians today and it is considered certain that Babur faced a vast superior force at Panipat. Mass armies could be raised in populous India without great problems. However, even for Ibrahim”s army, one must assume a not inconsiderable number of people entrusted with purely logistical tasks; moreover, there will also have been numerous people in his camp who are to be classified as mere “battle goers”, so that the actual fighting strength of his army will have been well below 100,000.

Ibrahim”s army consisted largely of infantrymen armed with lances. His cavalry may have been relatively weak and completely different in quality and tactics from Babur”s cavalry. India had never really developed a tradition of mounted combat using bows and arrows typical of the inhabitants of the Central Asian steppes. Unlike the highly mobile Central Asian cavalry units that specialized in long-range combat, Indian cavalry tactics were essentially based on frontal attack on horseback, with opponents fighting on foot simply being ridden down and enemy cavalry packs being fought down with weapons in hand. Because of their superior cavalry, conquerors from the steppes of Central Asia had therefore repeatedly succeeded in beating their Indian opponents and gaining a foothold in India. However, since India lacked sufficient grazing land and suitable fodder for the horses, it was not possible in the long run for these conquerors to maintain the mounted archers, which had formed the basis of their military success, from the land alone. Also, under these conditions, the quality level of Indian horse breeding lagged far behind that of Persia or Central Asia. In addition, the Indian climate affected the efficiency of the Central Asian composite bows, especially during the monsoon season.

In order to maintain the military strength of their cavalry – and thus their ability to hold their own on the battlefield – the conquerors, who had now settled in India, were forced to permanently and expensively recruit mounted warriors from those areas from which they themselves had originally come, i.e. mainly from the steppe regions of Central Asia. Analogously, the quality of Indian horse breeding could only be maintained by the permanent import of breeding horses from Arabia, Persia and Central Asia. In the late phase of the Lodi Empire, however, both import possibilities were no longer available to the same extent as in the period before, so that Ibrahim Lodi was forced to fall back mainly on “the traditional Indian military system,” “which, however, had for centuries proved inferior to the enemies from beyond the mountains.”

As a “substitute” for the missing or qualitatively insufficient cavalry, the fighting elephants have always offered themselves in India. Of course, the military value of this “breakthrough weapon”, which Indian warfare did not want to do without, was always doubtful. If the animals panicked, they could be just as dangerous to the army as to the enemy. Finally, firearms were completely unknown in Ibrahim”s army, and there is no indication that the Lodi Empire took any notice of this new type of weapon.

Ibrahim”s only advantage was thus the sheer mass of his fighters, who were essentially quickly recruited mercenaries and the posse of his vassals. The internal cohesion of such an army of individualistic warriors was naturally low; their loyalty depended on the personality, success and purse of the respective commander. To make matters worse, many of Ibrahim”s fighters were not Afghans but Hindus who showed little sympathy for their Muslim masters; and finally, a number of Ibrahim”s sub-leaders may well have consisted of notables who pursued their own interests and were therefore not very reliable.

Babur and Ibrahim Lodi as army commanders

Like the opposing armies, the personalities who led them were also contrasting. Babur was still described in the Propyläen Weltgeschichte, first published in the 1960s, as “a brilliant … prince of one of the greatest generals of his time. Today”s historians do not usually give such roses to Babur, but they do acknowledge that he was a quick-witted, determined and charismatic leader who had good ideas and who was able to deal with and motivate people. There is also agreement that Babur”s real great military achievement was to have recognized the battle-deciding importance of concentrated firepower and to have used it successfully for his own purposes within the framework of an already proven military tactic.

In contrast, Ibrahim Lodi seems to have lacked all these assets. Babur, at any rate, describes him as an inexperienced young man who showed little initiative during the campaign. In any case, the fact that Ibrahim did not exploit his military superiority for an immediate attack, but waited until Babur had fully developed his positions at Panipat, raises justifiable doubts about his qualities as an army commander. This omission on Ibrahim”s part and his decision to attack Babur”s position head-on on the day of the battle ultimately proved disastrous. In general, Ibrahim seems to have had some trouble keeping his army together. Babur, in fact, reports that he refused to pay his men their pay before the battle out of stinginess, as was the custom in Indian armies at the time. This probably led to desertions and a drop in morale in the crucial week before the battle.

The procedure

In accordance with the decisions taken earlier, Babur had positioned his army at Panipat so that its right flank was protected by the city and its suburbs. In the center were the prepared carts and protective weirs, behind which the gunners and musketmen had taken up positions. The left flank, as well as other neuralgic points, had finally been secured by ditches and tree barriers or entanglements of branches. Passages had been created, each an arrow shot apart, to allow cavalry units of 100 to 150 men to advance quickly. Babur held part of his cavalry in reserve, while the rest were assigned the task of attacking the enemy from the flanks and attempting to stab him in the back.

Ibrahim”s army advanced rapidly against Babur”s right wing at dawn on April 20, so he first ordered his reinforcements there. When the units at the front came face to face with Babur”s entrenchments in the center, their advance stalled, but did not come to a halt due to the pressure of the units streaming in from the rear. Babur now ordered his cavalry to move out and attack the enemy on the flanks and in the rear in accordance with their orders. Meanwhile, fierce fighting had broken out on Babur”s left wing, and he sent reinforcements there from his center; at the same time, his right wing was also fiercely attacked, but the Indians and Indo-Afghans failed to break through at any point. In the densely packed mass of the enemy, Babur”s riflemen and artillery were able to inflict a veritable bloodbath. In this, the effect of his firearms will have been compounded by the fact that neither the Indo-Afghan and Indian teams nor the elephants had previously faced firearms. Ibrahim”s war elephants, in particular, proved to be completely useless in the melee, as they had little room to move and therefore made only splendid targets. When Babur”s superior cavalry – Babur did not report any actions of Ibrahim”s cavalry units during the battle – entered the enemy”s rear, their fate was sealed: Ibrahim”s army began to retreat more and more from the hail of arrows raining down on them from their rear and flanks. As the barrier at Babur”s center proved insurmountable, Ibrahim”s fighters pressed closer and closer together until they were finally almost completely immobilized and panic broke out. What followed was a slaughter from which hardly anyone could escape. By noon, a few hours after the battle began, Ibrahim”s army was finally annihilated. In the midst of a mountain of corpses, his body was also found in the afternoon and its head was brought to Babur as proof of his death. Babur, who always showed a certain minimum of respect even to his opponents, had a tomb erected for Ibrahim in Panipat, which still exists today. What remained to be done was to bring in the prisoners and the war elephants, which, according to Babur, were captured by the herd.

The losses

15,000 to 16,000 of their opponents, Babur and his men estimated, had lost their lives in the battle at Panipat. In Agra, they later learned that Ibrahim”s losses were said to have been as high as 40,000 to 50,000 men. The Indian or Indo-Afghan casualty figures undoubtedly reflect the horror of the defeat suffered, which is why Babur”s figures are also likely to be closer to the truth. Nothing is known about Babur”s losses, but they could not have been very great, since his army remained powerful, as the events of the following months proved.

On the military-historical and operational significance

The First Battle of Panipat occupies a special place in military history. For the first time, and at a relatively early stage, firearms were used in a field battle in this part of the world. Henceforth, the use of small arms and artillery became an important element of warfare here as well, and the new weapons spread rapidly throughout the Indian subcontinent. It is noteworthy that this development was quite simultaneous with that in Europe – a fact that was invariably ignored in the older, Eurocentric military historiography.

The Mughal Empire – like the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid Empire in Persia – was from the very beginning one of those empires that equipped their armies with firearms and were therefore also referred to as gunpowder empires. However, there is a long-standing scholarly controversy about the significance of firearms in the Mughal Empire, which is essentially about the questions of whether the Mughals actually established “a “gunpowder empire” or … a cavalry state in the manner of their predecessors, and whether the introduction of firearms in their empire was accompanied by the same changes in warfare as in Europe. As has been convincingly argued in the last study to date of military affairs in the Mughal Empire, firearms – in combination with new infantry combat tactics – led in Europe to the replacement of cavalry by infantry as the dominant armament. This was not the case in the Mughal Empire, however, where cavalry was able to maintain its dominance on the battlefields. The main reason for this difference was identified in this study as the “horse-warrior revolution”, which was carried by the nomadic (equestrian) peoples of the arid climatic zone and led to a perfection of mounted warfare that was unique in the world. Europe, which lay outside the arid climatic belt and therefore had no indigenous nomadic (equestrian) peoples, “missed” this “revolutionization of warfare on horseback”.

In accordance with its predominantly sedentary population, European wars had always been fought using mainly infantry, and firearms were one of the reasons that infantry finally prevailed over the knights, who had been superior for several centuries. However, this was only possible because cavalry units here – measured by the standards of the Mughal Empire, for example – were always very small and rarely comprised more than a few thousand horsemen. In India, however, the Mughals, for example, were able to mobilize tens of thousands of cavalrymen for a single battle, divided into highly mobile light cavalry equipped with composite bows and heavily armored “shock” cavalry specialized in breaking through enemy battle lines. Such masses of horsemen, with their hail of arrows alone, could have destroyed from a distance any collection of infantrymen equipped with contemporary firearms, no matter how large. Small arms could not compete with composite bows in India and Central Asia simply because of their (still) short range and slow rate of fire, and artillery, in turn, could be outmaneuvered far too easily by the highly mobile light cavalry found in all armies in these areas because of their sluggishness. Thus, small arms and artillery could generally only be fully effective in more static or defensive military situations, such as sieges and ambushes.

The exceptions were those field battles where an army attacked head-on an enemy in a strong defensive position and equipped with firearms, or was enticed to attack by his cavalry in order to be brought within range of his artillery and small arms. This basic scheme of a heavily fortified and artillery-equipped defensive center, usually combined with highly mobile flanks of mounted archers, is almost always encountered in the major battles fought by the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals in the first decades of the 16th century. In this way, the Ottomans defeated the Safavids in the aforementioned Battle of Chaldiran, the Egyptian Mamluks in the Battle of Marj Dabik (1516) and the Battle of Ridania (1517), and the Hungarians in the Battle of Mohács (1526). Babur thus won the battle against Ibrahim Lodi, the Safavids the battle of Jam (1528) against the Uzbeks, and Babur”s son Humayun in turn the battle of Mandasor (1535) against the army of the ruler of Gujarat, although the latter even outnumbered the Mughal army in guns.

The Battle of Panipat also represented a decisive turning point in operational terms. The military showdown between Babur and Ibrahim Lodi was decided at the first direct encounter between the two. Babur”s overwhelming victory and Ibrahim Lodi”s death not only ended the campaign, but also ensured that the Delhi Sultanate was eliminated as a power factor. There was now no one capable of marshaling the Sultanate”s remaining resources and directing them once again against Babur. One unmistakable sign of the total collapse of the Delhi Sultanate for contemporaries was Babur”s occupation of Delhi and Agra, Ibrahim”s former centers of power, a few days after the battle.

On the political significance

While the question of what military-historical and operational significance the Battle of Panipat had can be answered clearly, the answer to the question of its political significance is not quite so clear. At first glance, the Battle of Panipat does indeed seem to represent something of an epochal turning point, but this view is quickly put into perspective when one asks about the significance of the battle for Babur himself and considers the subsequent history of the Mughal Empire. In fact, the result of the Battle of Panipat initially represented little more than a stage victory for Babur in establishing his rule in northern India. Although the Lodi dynasty had completely collapsed, Babur”s situation remained precarious. Only a small part of Ibrahim”s former empire was under his control by then, and Indian subjects were exceedingly suspicious of their new masters, although looting and pillaging by Babur”s troops are unlikely to have occurred. Babur”s begs and crews, in turn, saw their task in India as finished after the victorious battle and the distribution of the captured treasures. They longed for the cool summer of Kabul and initially found it difficult to come to terms with their commander”s decision to remain in India. In the end, however, Babur was able to persuade the majority of his men to stay with gifts, bribes and persuasion.

Babur”s greatest problem, however, was that powerful opponents remained who themselves had ambitions to succeed Ibrahim. The greatest threat to Babur initially came from the Rajput confederacy led by Rana Sanga of Mewar (r. 1509-27). Using tactics very similar to those employed at Panipat, Babur succeeded in crushing the Rajput army at the Battle of Khanwa, west of Agra, on March 17, 1527. However, new enemies emerged soon after. In the east of the former Lodi Empire, a number of Afghan feudal lords resisted, and Mahmud Lodi, a younger brother of Ibrahim Lodi, claimed the throne of Delhi and raised an army against Babur. He and the other Afghans received support from Nusrat Shah (r. 151819-3233), the ruler of Bengal, who hoped to keep Babur out of his domain in this way. In May 1529, Babur was finally able to master the threat in the east in the Battle of the Gogra, which lasted several days. Only now was his rule secure. His empire, however, was by no means consolidated, and further events would show that much blood had to flow before the Mughals were firmly in the saddle and one of the great empires of world history could take permanent shape.

German-language literature on Babur”s campaigns and battles in India is scarce. In general, it is dealt with in the context of the few easily accessible, but mostly outdated, popular works on the Mughals. Due to the further bibliographies, which characteristically list almost only foreign-language titles, some of these works are also listed in the bibliography. A few recommended English-language works on Babur and the military system of the Mughal Empire are also mentioned here, but a complete overview cannot be given for reasons of space; for the same reason and because of their frequently existing scholarly deficiencies (erroneous information, missing references to sources and literature used, etc.), the citation of web publications on the First Battle of Panipat has also been omitted.

Sources

  1. Erste Schlacht bei Panipat
  2. First Battle of Panipat
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