Saturday 22 December 2012

The graveyard of Indian Kings

It was the scene of one epic battle and three other battles that changed the course of Indian history. Win this place and you will win Delhi, was the refrain of Kings and Emperors.
Today, the scars of the battles have vanished and the town is known more for its industry than for its heritage. It is better known for its pickles, textiles, carpets and quality blankets.
It is also the city which has one of the busiest handloom weaving industries in the world. This is also the world capital of  “Shoddy Yarn”.  The blankets prepared here  through Handloom and powerloom are extensively used by the Defence forces.
It is also one of the five cities founded by the Pandavas. It was then called Pandavaprastha. But today there is no trace of this. It is now known as Panipat and it is in Haryana.
It is around Panipat that the Kurukshetra war was fought. That epic battle is only a memory now.
It was also in Panipat that the Mughal dynasty began its rule overt India. It is here that Akbar took his first step towards greatness when he overcame Hemu, the Hindu Emperor, and marched towards Delhi.
The third and last battle of Panipat saw an Afghan routing the Marathas and this blow dealt such a blow to the Marathas that it changed the course of Indian history forever.
All the battle are now only a thing of the past as rapid urbanisation and industrialization have overtaken Panipat and surrounding towns and villages.
Today, Panipat is a busy railway junction and the thousands of passengers who alight and board the trains that that steam in endlessly seemed to be in a hurry to move on. Ask them about what they saw in Panipat and more often than not you will be met with a blank stare.
You get more details in textbooks and history books about Panipat and its battles than in the city.
The once historic highway that saw Babur march towards Delhi and other kings and emperors now sees scores of shops selling pachranga pickles. This is a local specialty and it is a mix of lemon, mango, ginger, mango, chilli and lotus stem. All these ingredients are soaked in oil specially made in Panipat.
However, what makes Panipat one of the most historic places in India is that this is the very place that three decisive battles took place and they are called as the first, second and third battle of Panipat.
The first battle of Panipat changed the course of Indian history. An Afghan, Zahiruddin Babur, was at the head of a small army and he met Ibrahim Lodi of Delhi here on April 26, 1526.    
Babur had just 12,000 men as against more than a lakh of Ibrahim Lodi. However, it is in this battle that artillery was used for the first time in India. The vast army of Lodi was no match to the small but highly efficient artillery of  Babur.
Lodhi lost the battle and his life too. More importantly, he lost Delhi to and paved the way for the Mughals to rule India over the next two and half centuries.
This battle has left only a few mementoes. The first is the Baburi mosque in Kabuli Bagh and the second is Ibrahim Lodhi's tomb in Tehsil Camp, very close to the bus terminus in Panipat.
Babur built the Baburi mosque at the very site where he sank onto his knees in thanksgiving after the battle. Babur completed the structure during 1528-29 and even prayed in it. This makes the structure the first Mughal monument built in India.
This monument seems to have been forgotten by the locals. Ask for the Baburi mosque and you are sure to be sent to a 13th century shirne of Pir Qualandar, a Sufi saint.
The Baburi mosque is near Kutani road. It is located within a beautiful garden. The entrance to the mosque faces north. It is built of Lakhauri bricks. It has ten domes but has no minarats.
Babur's son and the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun,  constructed a brick platform in front of the main prayer hall after his victory over Islam Shah, a successor of Sher Shah Sur. This platform is almost ruined.  
The next important monument nearby is the plain and simple tomb of  Ibrahim Lodhi. It has no dome or any sepulchral structure. The tomb stands on a small platform of  Lakhauri bricks.
In the second battle of Panipat fought on November 5, 1556, Akbar defeated Hemu or Hem Chandra Vikramaditya and reclaimed the Delhi throne.
Hemu was beheaded at Akbar’s camp at Saundhapur on Jind Road in Panipat. After Hemu’s beheading, his head was sent to Kabul to be hanged outside the Delhi Darwaza and his body hanged on a gibbet outside Purana Quila in Delhi.
After a few years,  Hemu's supporters, constructed a Samadhi over the place where he was beheaded. The place and its surroundings are encroached now. This is the only remnant the second battle.
The third battle too sent shock waves in India when the Afghan invader, Ahmed Shah Abdali, routed the powerful Marathas on January 14, 1761. The battle put paid to the hopes of the Marathas to set up a Hindu Rashtra in India and paved the way for the emergence of the British as a powerful force.  
The place where this battle was fought is designated by an obelisk called Kala Amb. Locals say that a mango tree here bears  dark mangoes, a reminder of the thousands of Marathas and Afghan soldiers who died. The Maratha commander, Sadashiv Rau Bhau,  is believed to have fallen at this very spot.
This place is close to the road leading to Sanauli in Uttar Pradesh. It is now a large, tree-lined park. The park hides the dark secret of  the important war that brought the Marathas to their knees.  
The Marathas were winning the war when a stray bullet killed  Vishwas Rao, the son of Peshwa Baji Rao, and he fell
dead from his horse. A roar of anguish arose from the Maratha camp. When the body of  the 17-year-old Vishwas Rao was brought before Sadashiv Bhau, the Maratha commander, his rage knew no bounds. Disregarding all warnings,  he mounted on his horse and rushed into battle, only to be surrounded and killed by the Afghans. This completely shattered the morale of  the Marathas who fled from the battle.
A little away, the Peshwa, Balaji Rao, was crossing the Narmada with reinforcements when a soldier arrived with the coded  message ,“Two pearls have been dissolved, 27 gold coins have been lost and of the silver and copper the total cannot be cast up”.
The Peshwa realised the enormity of the defeat and the death of his son and others. He fell sick and  never recovered from the shock of the  debacle. He returned heartbroken to Pune and died.
An ornamental gate called Bab-i-Faiz (comfort of the world) built by Nawab Sadiq in 1733 AD stands as the  main entrance of the town. Though this did not play any part in any of the wears, it was a mute witness to the third battle of Panpiat.
By the way, Panipat has always gone with the invader. It first favoured Babur against Ibrahim. It also helped Akbar strengthen his position at the cost of the local Hindu kingdom. In the final battle, it proved lucky for the Afghan King and it gave the thumbs down for the powerful Marathas.  
Panipat is just 90 kms from Delhi and 169 kms from Chandigarh, It is very well connected by road and rail networks.

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