Date: January 8, 1026   Weather: Cold

TERRAIN:   Flanked on one side by sea and a lightly wooded forest on the other. Desert less than 50 miles northwest (direction taken by the attacking force).

STRATEGY:  Mahmud of Ghazni marched from Multan with 30,000 cavalry and a multitude of volunteers eager for plunder. Mahmud employed a combination of swordsmen and archers on horseback in an arc with a deep defensive force in the middle. The surprise attack resulted in a shower of arrows from archers and was followed by a ladder-borne mounting of the temple ramparts. The king of Somnath fled with his entourage while the temple was protected by 50,000 poorly armed faithful with little military training. Mahmud scored with surprise, cavalry charge, better logics and motivation of jihad.

SIGNIFICANCE:  The temple's ruthless plunder was a psychological setback to Hindustan. It set an example of India as a very rich but very poorly defended place-ripe for loot.

Date: 1192  Weather: Moderate

TERRAIN:   Flat. Western extremity of the Gangetic plains.

STRATEGY:     Prithviraj Chauhan, the king of Delhi was complacent after his success in the First Battle of Tarain in 1191 where he had defeated Mohammed Ghauri. This time Prithviraj was hamstrung as his two chief generals were unavailable. Ghauri attacked the rear lines of Prithviraj which were completely outflanked. Though Prithviraj's cavalry launched a very effective counter-attack, forcing Ghauri's retreat, the Rajput ruler didn't press home the advantage. The flanks of Prithviraj's forces were attacked by Ghauri's light cavalry. The sideways disruption caused a sudden halt and hesitation in Prithviraj's advance, and chaos in the rear which was moving forward. Tactically it was brilliant-it resulted in denial of space to Prithviraj which neutralised his numerical superiority. Once boxed in his troops were massacred.

SIGNIFICANCE:  The battle established the sultanate in Delhi.

Date: 1398  Weather: Cold

TERRAIN:  River-crossing a Attock-the same place where Alexander had crossed the Indus 1,700 years earlier. Slightly hilly.

STRATEGY:  The attack was in line with the Turkish-Mongol style of massed waves of attacks. Estimates vary but with 92 squadrons of cavalry the number could have been as high as 60-80,000. The Mongols who attacked Delhi were cavalrymen of a different order who could virtually live on horseback. This force, drawn by news of weak sultans in Delhi (the Taghlaq dynasty had ended and Delhi was ruled by Nusrat Shah), simply steamrolled all opposition till its destination. Nusrat Shah fled after weak resistance. The victory was followed by the sacking of Delhi and a general massacre of the population.

SIGNIFICANCE:  Taimur's raid ended the supremacy of the sultanate in India. In the aftermath of the attack the influence of the sultanate remained only for 200 miles around Delhi. It also marked a power shift form Afghans to Turks and Mongols.

First Battle of Panipat
Date: April 21,1526  Weather: Hot

TERRAIN: Flat alluvial plain near the city of Panipat.

Strategy: Babar, the invader from Samarqand, had 25,000 infantry and cavalry while Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi had a massive army of 1,00,000. For the first few days neither army moved. Then Babar sent 5,000 men swung in night attack. Although they were beaten, the momentum of battle swung in favour of Babar-Lodhi's armies moved the next day. Babar employed his cannons with great effect and induced terror in Lodhi's ranks. The well-defended middle of Babar's army pressed forward in flanking 'flying column' attacks with his cavalry. The attack from the left showered Lodhi's forces with accurate musket fire while the right absorbed the brunt of Lodhi's counter-attack and pounded his defences with artillery fire. The battle ended by late after with at least 20,000 of Lodhi's troops dead including Lodhi himself.

Significance:  First major battle to be won by artillery and against such superior numbers. The battle led to the establishment of the Mughal Empire in India. "Not for us the poverty of Kabul again," Babur records in his diary.

Second Battle of Panipat
Date: November 5, 1556  Weather: Cold and windy

Terrain:  Flat alluvial plain.

Strategy:    Hemu(Hemchandra), the King of Delhi had lost most of his artillery in an earlier battle where his advance guard had been defeated. However, his 50,000 soldiers struck rapidly at Akbar's force at 25,000 and were turning the battle into an easy victory for Hemu. Suddenly, Hemu was struck in the eye by an arrow which also pierced his brain. As in many medieval battles the loss of the leader caused panic among the troops and the tide turned the other way. At his point a concentrated artillery attack by Akbar's general-and mentor-Bairam Khan turned the tide of the battle. Later, Akbar beheaded Hemu and exhibited his head on a spike outside the gates of his fort in Agra.

Significance:  The battle gave the Mughal Empire a firm base. This was the first empire which ruled with the capability to aggregate as many as 5,00,000 troops aat short notice and, therefore, had a qualitatively firmer grip on its empire than the preceding sultanate.

Battle of Tellikota
Date: January 26, 1565  Weather: Mild

Terrain:    Rocky and arid

Strategy:  The Muslim kingdom ofAhmadnagar, Berar, Bidar, Bijapur and Golconda combined forces against Vijaynagar. It was one of the few medieval wars fought using a joing strategy. The attack also had material help from some Hindu kingdoms. The Battle was hard fought; the Vijayanagar empire had 10,000 horsemen and 1,40,000 foot soldiers. However, the critical strength of attack was in its superior supply line as it was being fed critical strength of attack was in its superior supply line as it was being fed from five sources. The combined invading Muslim force of 80,000 infantry and 30,000 cavalry launched a classic offensive with a massive frontal attack. This was made possible by an initial artillery barrage that softened up the Vijaynagar army's offensive capability. The attack was brief and concentrated; the aftermath was the pillage of Vijaynagar.

Significance:  Politically it sounded the end of significant Hindu kingdoms in India, and the last great southern empire. This battle signalled the beginning of chaotic fights among the Deccan kings who ultimately played into the hands of European invaders.

Battle of Plassey
Date: June 23,1756  Weather: Hot and humid

Terrain:  Rocky plain

Strategy:  The battle won even before it was fought. Robert Clive, the plucky representative of the East India Company employed persuasive diplomacy and offered Mir Jafar, a general of Bengal's Nawab Siraj-ud-daullah, the Nawabship after the war, in return for staying away from combat. Clive also bought over the chief financier of the Nawab called Jagat Seth. Clive had 3,000 troops and Siraj-ud-daullah 50,000. But this seemingly disproportionate array of forces was neutralised by the fact that Mir Jafar's forces of about 1,60,000-which included cavalry and heavy guns-did not participate. Moreover, the reliance on heavy guns by the Nawab backfired-some of his ammunitions burst, causing panic among the elephants and oxen which were dragging the heavy guns. The end of the battle came quickly with Company forces playing on intrigue, chaos and their own quick-footedness.

Significance:  The British Raj was firmly established after this battle. With this victory the 24 Parganas in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa came under East India Company Control.

Battle of Buxar
Date: October 24,1764  Weather: Moderate

Terrain:  Open field with marshy grassland nearby.

Strategy:  The armies of Mir Kasim and his allies Emperor Shah Alam II and Shuja-ud-daula, Nawab of Avadh, out-matched the British in number. To Mir Kasim's force of 40,000 Robert Clive's army commanded by Major Hector Munro had about 18,000 men. Early on, East India Company forces had to retreat across the river. But they were allowed to get away; the forces retreat across the river. But they were allowed to get away; the forces regrouped and through a naval force attacked through the river route. Mir Jafar also had trained Afghan cavalry and modern cannon manned by European mercenaries and led a charge on the Company's forces. However, the Company relied on its strength of sequenced shooting-its musketeers put up volley of gunfire. This coordinated gun shooting became very much a trademark of the British way of war over the next few decades. The sheer power of gunfire ensured that attacking cavalry scattered.

Significance:  The establishment of British paramountcy along with the diwani(revenue administration) of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

Battle of Chillianwallan
Date: January 4,1849   Weather: Cold

Terrain:  The flat plains of Punjab

Strategy:  The second Anglo-Sikh war culminated at Chillianwalan in a classic battle. Sikh forces numbered 60,000 and British, 30,000. The British made a headlong charge at the massed Sikh artillery which lead 
to massive losses for the British although they eventually overran some of the Sikh lines. The two-hour artillery barrage 'softened up' the Sikhs offensive capability. A rapid assault by the British across the Sikh lines neutralised the Sikhs' heavier artillery. Within two hours the Sikh lines were unable to provide cover to their cavalry. At this point the British launched a bold cavalry attack across the Sikh lines. This was followed by pitched battles and an eventual British Victory.

Significance:  British became masters of the Indian subcontinental. Kashmir was separated from Punjab and handed over to a Hindu regent. This was important in determining the future political boundaries of the empire and independent India.


This site is designed and maintained by Taurus Infotek