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Maharaja Surajmal and the third battle of panipat

GS Paper 1:


Topics covered:

  1. Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

Maharaja Surajmal and the third battle of panipat


What to study?

For Prelims and mains: Battles that took place in panipat- overview, causes and outcomes, who was Maharaja Surajmal?

Context: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has urged the Censor Board to take note of allegations that Ashutosh Gowariker’s film, Panipat, had wrongly portrayed Maharaja Surajmal.

What’s the issue?

In the film, Maharaja Surajmal of Bharatpur is reportedly shown as having denied help to the Maratha army, one of the factors leading to the Marathas’ eventual defeat. The film is based on the Third Battle of Panipat.

Members of the Jat community have protested against the film and several theatres in Rajasthan have decided not to screen the film.

Maharaja Surajmal

Who is Maharaja Surajmal?

Born in 1707 in the kingdom of Bharatpur, Rajasthan, he ruled in the 18th century and was the son of the Jat chieftain Badan Singh.

He is described as “a strong leader who harried the Mughal empire in the anarchic period of its decline, consolidated the kingdom with its capital at Bharatpur and used the resources gained to build forts and palaces.

Some of the importants monuments include the palace at Deeg and the Bharatpur Fort”.

The third battle of panipat- what, why and how?

  • Fought between Maratha forces and invading armies of Afghan general Ahmed Shah Abdali of Durrani Empire in 1761.
  • Abdali was supported by two Indian allies—the Rohillas Najib-ud-daulah, Afghans of the Doab region and Shuja-ud-Daula-the Nawab of Awadh.

How it started?

After the death of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, there was a sudden rise of the Marathas and all his territorial gains in the Deccan were reversed and a considerable part of India was conquered by Marathas.

Abdali planned to attack the Marathas when his son was driven out of Lahore.

Finally, the Marathas were defeated in the battle, with 40,000 of their troops killed, while Abdali’s army is estimated to have suffered around 20,000 casualties.

Impact and outcomes:

It marked a loss of prestige for the Marathas, who lost their preeminent position in north India after this war, paving the way for British colonial power to expand here.

The Marathas lost some of their most important generals and administrators, including Sadashivrao and heir-apparent Vishwasrao of the Peshwa household, Ibrahim Khan Gardi, Jankojirao Scindia, and Yashwantrao Puar.

Additional facts- Other major battles fought at Panipat:

  1. The First Battle of Panipat, in 1526:

Fought between Babur and Ibrahim Lodhi. It laid the foundation of the Mughal Empire in India.

  1. The Second Battle of Panipat, in 1556.

Fought between Hemu ‘Vikramaditya’ and Akbar. It cemented Mughal rule.


Sources: Indian Express.