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The Third Battle of Panipat, 1761

The Third Battle of Panipat, 1761

  • The third battle of Panipat, 1761 is one of the decisive battles in the history of India.
  • The defeat in the battle dealt a severe blow to the Marathas and the Mughal Empire and thereby paved the way for the rise of the British power in India.


  • The tottering Mughal Empire neglected the defence of the north-west frontier areas.
  • This prompted Nadir Shah, the then ruler of Afghanistan, to invade India.
  • In spite of his repeated demands, the Mughal ruler, Muhammad Shah, provided asylum to the Afghan rebels.
  • So, his invasions started in 1739.
  • Delhi was plundered.
  • The Kohinoor diamond and the valuable peacock throne were taken away by Nadir Shah.
  • When Nadir Shah was assassinated in 1747, one of his military generals, Ahmad Shah Abdali became an independent ruler of Afghanistan.
  • After consolidating his position, he started his military expeditions.
  • The Mughal emperor made peace with him by ceding Multan and the Punjab.
  • Mir Mannu, appointed by the Mughal Emperor as the governor of Punjab, was to act only as an agent of Ahmad Shah Abdali.
  • On Mir Mannu’s death, the widow of Mir Mannu, with the help of the Wazir of Delhi, Imad-ulMulk, appointed Mir Munim as the Governor of the Punjab, without the consent of Abdali.
  • Infuriated by this move Abdali invaded India and captured the Punjab.
  • Mir Munim fled to Delhi.
  • Pursuing him Abdali captured Delhi and pillaged it in January 1757.
  • Mathura and Brindavan were desecrated.
  • Before leaving Delhi, Abdali appointed Mir Bakshi as his agent in Delhi.
  • Timur Shah, his son, was made the Viceroy of Lahore.
  • An expedition under Malhar Rao Holkar and Raghunatha Rao reached Delhi after Abdali had left.
  • They removed the agent of Abdali at Delhi and appointed a man of their choice as the Wazir.
  • Thereafter they captured Sirhind and Lahore in 1758.
  • The Afghan forces were defeated, and Timur Shah deposed.
  • So, Abdali returned to India in October 1759 and recovered the Punjab.
  • The Marathas were forced to withdraw from Lahore, Multan and Sirhind.
  • The wildest anarchy prevailed in the region.
  • So, the Peshwa sent Dattaji Scindia, the brother of Mahadhaji Scindia, to the Punjab to set matters right.
  • But Abdali defeated and killed him in the battle (1760).
  • Malhar Rao Holkar was also defeated at Sikandara.
  • Thereupon the Peshwa recruited a huge army under the command of Sadasiva Rao.
  • Abdali responded by forming an alliance with Najib-ud-Daulah of Rohilkhand and Shuja-ud-Daulah of Oudh.
  • The Marathas could not find allies among the northern powers, as they had already alienated from the Nawab of Oudh, the Sikh and Jat chiefs and gained the distrust of the Rajputs.
  • The Maratha army was under the nominal command of Vishwas Rao, the young son of the Peshwa.
  • The real command, however, was in the hands of Sadasiva Rao.
  • On their way, they were joined by the Holkar, Scindia and Gaikwar.
  • Around this time, Alamgir II, the Mughal Emperor had been assassinated and his eldest son crowned himself as Shah Alam II.
  • But the Wazir who manoeuvred the assassination enthroned Shah Jahan III.
  • Sadasiva Rao intruded and deposed Shah Jahan III and proclaimed Shah Alam II as Emperor.
  • After the preliminaries were settled, Sadasiva Rao, instead of attacking the forces of Abdali, remained quiet for a long time, until the scarcity of food became acute.
  • Abdali stationed his troops in the fertile doab from where he could get food without interruption.

Effects of the Battle of Panipat

  • The third battle of Panipat was fought on 14 January 1761.
  • The Maratha army was completely routed.
  • The Peshwa’s son Viswas Rao, Sadasiva Rao and numerous Maratha commanders were killed.
  • Holkar fled and the contingents of Scindia followed him.
  • The Peshwa was stunned by the tragic news.
  • The Peshwa died broken hearted in June 1761.
  • After the battle of Panipat, Abdali recognized Shah Alam II as the Emperor of Delhi.
  • He got an annual tribute.
  • The Marathas, though they received a severe blow initially, managed to restore their power within ten years in the north by becoming the guardian of the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam.

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