Monday, January 14, 2013
Had Marathas not fought the 3rd Battle of Panipat...
Last week, 3M wrote about the Maratha Conquest of Punjab (1758) during which the Maratha army drove out the Afghans from India. Sadly, leaders of the army (Raghunathrao and Malharrao Holkar) were keen to come back to their respective hometowns instead of stabilising their hold over the newly acquired territory of Punjab – the land of five rivers. (This trait can be seen in Maharashtrians even today!). At the request of Shah Waliullah (to defend Islam against infidels), Ahmad Shah Abadli came back to conquer not just Punjab but also overran the Gangetic plains. To defend India, the Maratha Empire put together an army of more than 1 Lakh combatants and started a long journey to the north. To avoid an all-out war, Ahmad Shah Abali offered the Marathas Chambal River as the border between the two warring empires. This compromise was not acceptable to the Marathas who were determined to get rid of "Mlechchas" from the Indian soil!
252 years ago on Makar Sankranti, the Marathas finally met the Afghans at Panipat. This 3rd Battle of Panipat was one of the bloodiest wars fought in the 18th Century in the entire world. For those who want to read a detailed unbiased account of this war, 3M highly recommends ‘Solstice at Panipat - 14thJanuary 1761’ by Dr. Uday Kulkarni.
Sadly this battle is neglected by most Indian historians and public at large. But what they fail to understand is that the map of India would have been totally different had it not been for the stiff resistance by the Marathas. After the war, Afghans abandoned the idea of invading India again. In fact, no one invaded India from the Northwest from 1761 right up to 1947! Thanks to Mahadaji Shinde, the defeated Marathas were able to re-establish their writ over most of North India within a decade. As can be seen in the map above, the limits of the Maratha Empire are today the Hindu majority area and hence part of Republic of India. Had Marathas not fought the war and accepted the terms of Ahmad Shah Abdali to “stay south of the Chambal”, we would have had a very different map of India. Pakistan-Bangladesh-Gangetic Plains would have been one contiguous Islamic Nation. The peninsular India would have been ‘Hindustan’ with a big Pakistani enclave in the centre thanks to the Nizam of Hyderabad!
Wishing all readers a very happy Makar Sankranti!