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1761 Battle of Panipat

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

1761 Battle of Panipat:


Manoj Dani, an independent U.S.-based researcher of art history, has assimilated rare paintings pertaining to the battle and its key players in a work titled Battle of Panipat: In Light of Rediscovered Paintings.

  • The book contains rare paintings from the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), the British Library, the National Museum in Delhi, Bonhams of U.K. and the Pune-based Bharat Itihas Sanshodak Mandal (BISM).

What does the book tell about the battle?

There are a myriad of myths surrounding Panipat. Far from a well-established narrative of this pivotal event, we have only scratched the surface of this crucial episode, and that whatever we know is only from a handful or selected sources of dubious veracity.

  • The paintings depict key players such as Ahmad Shah Abdali, Sadashivrao Bhau, Najib Khan Rohilla, Dattaji Shinde, Vishwas Rao, Suraj Mal Jat and other Maratha, Afghan, Rohilla and Jat chiefs.
  • The book deftly weaves analysis from original archival sources, casting a revealing light on the shifting alliances of 18th century Indian politics.


Two other major battles had been fought on the Panipat plains:

  1. The First Battle of Panipat, in 1526, laid the foundation of the Mughal Empire in India after its first ruler, Babur, ended the Delhi Sultanate, which at the time was led by the Lodi dynasty.
  2. The Second Battle of Panipat, in 1556, cemented Mughal rule when Akbar fought off a threat from the king Hemu ‘Vikramaditya’.

About the Third Battle of Panipat, fought in 1761:

  • 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?

  1. After the death of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, there was a sudden rise of the Marathas. The Marathas reversed all his territorial gains in the Deccan and conquered a considerable part of India.
  2. The decline was hastened by the invasion of India by Nader Shah, who also took away Takht-i-Taus (the Peacock Throne) and the Kohinoor Diamond in 1739.
  3. Abdali planned to attack the Marathas when his son was driven out of Lahore.
  4. By the end of 1759, Abdali with his Afghan tribes reached Lahore as well as Delhi and defeated the smaller enemy garrisons.
  5. The two armies fought at Karnal and Kunjpura where the entire Afghan garrison was killed or enslaved.
  6. The massacre of the Kunjpura garrison infuriated Durrani to such an extent that he ordered for crossing the river at all costs to attack the Marathas.
  7. Smaller battles continued through months and forces from both the sides amassed for the final assault. But food was running out for the Marathas.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Prelims Link:

  1. About the third battle of Panipat.
  2. Key players in the battle.
  3. Causes.
  4. Outcomes.
  5. Who was Shuja-ud-Daula?
  6. About the first and second battles of Panipat.

Mains Link:

Write a note on causes and outcomes of the third battle of Panipat.

Sources: the Hindu.