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The Battle of Khanwa also spelled as Khanua in some texts, was the second in a series of three major battles, victories in which gave Zahir ud-Din Babur overlordship over North India. The Battle of Panipat was the first of the series, the Battle of Ghaghra was the last. This battle was fought near the village of Khanwa, about 60 km west of Agramarker on March 17, 1527. Babur defeated a formidable army raised by Rana Sanga of Mewar in this ten hour battle and firmly established his rule over northern India.Babur's grandson Akbar the Great established the city and fort of Fatehpur Sikrimarker in honor of his grandfather's victory in this battle.

Background

Maharana Sangram Singh better known as Rana Sanga was the ruler of Mewar, a region lying within the present-day Indian state of Rajasthanmarker, between 1509 and 1527. He was a scion of the Sisodia clan of Suryavanshi Rajputs. He defended his kingdom bravely from repeated invasions from the Muslim rulers of Delhimarker, Gujaratmarker and Malwa. He was the most powerful of the Hindu kings of that time. Above all, his continued expansion helped him unite the Rajputs under one confederacy.

This war was not the first event that introduced the two formidable commanders Rana Sanga and Babur. Before Emperor Babur had set out from Kabulmarker, his new dominion, on his last Indian expedition he had received from the Rana an embassy conveying expressions of regard and it seems to have been arranged that while Babur attacked Sultan Ibrahim Lodi by marching upon Delhimarker, Rana Sanga was to attack him on the side of Agramarker. Babur on his part complains that while he advanced and occupied these two capitals the Rana did not make a single movement. On the other hand the Rana complained of broken faith and in particular claimed Kalpimarker, Dholpurmarker and Biana as his by agreement all of which had been occupied by Babur. And as Agramarker itself had till recent times been considered as only a dependency of Biana that city might also have been understood to accompany it. Successes of the mighty power of the Rana might seem to justify at once his hopes of seating himself on the vacant throne of the Lodi’s and his more glorious ambition of expelling both the Afghan and the Turkic-Mongol invaders from Indiamarker and restoring her own Hindu race of kings and her native institutions.

In the meanwhile however he acknowledged Sultan Mahmud Lodi the son of Sultan Sikandar Lodi who had been set up by the Western Afghan Confederates as the legal successor of Sultan Ibrahim Lodi.

The preparations made by Rana Sanga evidently with the intention of marching towards Biana had induced Babur not only to collect a strong force near Agra for the purpose of repelling his attack but hastily to recall Humayun from Jaunpur. Soon after Rana Sanga was joined by Raja Hasan Khan Meo of Meo Rajputs who are Muslims of Indianmarker descent, and ethnic cousins of the Jat and Gujjar castes. Raja Hasan Khan was ruler of Mewat a region lying south of Delhimarker, spread across south Haryanamarker and North-East Rajasthanmarker.

This news was particularly unwelcome to the Emperor Babur. The Khan was a chief of great power and influence. At the Battle of Panipat his son Naher Khan had been made prisoner and he had ever since kept up a friendly correspondence with the Emperor and a negotiation for his release. Babur hoping that if he set the son at liberty he would attach the father by the strongest ties of gratitude invested Naher Khan with a dress of honor and sent him back to his father. But though the son had made the fairest promises no sooner did the old man hear that he was out of Babur’s hands and on his way to join him than without even waiting to see him he marched from Alwarmarker his capital and joined the Rana Sanga.

Initial Skirmishes

On February 11, 1527, the Emperor Babur marched out of Agramarker to proceed against Rana Sanga but halted a few days near the city to collect and review his troops, and to get in order his train of artillery, the baggage and camp followers. As in this warfare he had little reliance on the Afghan chiefs or his Indianmarker allies who had joined him, he sent several of them to strengthen his various garrisons. He then marched westward to Medhakur where he had previously caused wells to be dug and thence next day to Fatehpur Sikrimarker which from its having plenty of water he considered as a good situation for a camp but being apprehensive that the Rana who was now near at hand might attempt to occupy the ground before his arrival he marched out with his troops in order of battle ready to attack the enemy should they appear and took possession of the place which had been chosen for his encampment close by a tank. He was now joined by Mahdi Khwaja and the troops from Bayanamarker which he had called in. They had had some sharp encounters with the Rajputs in which they had been severely handled and taught to respect their new enemy. A party from the garrison had some days before incautiously advanced too far from the fort when the Rajputs in great force fell upon them and drove them in. All the troops that had been engaged in this affair united in bestowing unbounded praise on the gallantry and prowess of the enemy. Indeed the Chagatai Turkic-Mongols found that they had now to contend with a foe more formidable than either the Afghans of India or any of the natives of India to whom they had yet been opposed. The Rajputs energetic chivalrous fond of battle and bloodshed animated by a strong national spirit and led on by a hero were ready to meet face to face the boldest veterans of the camp and were at all times prepared to lay down their life for their honor. A small party being sent out to get notice of their motions discovered that they were encamped at Bisawer.

Emperor Babur was accustomed to commit to his principal Baigs in turn the charge of the advance and pickets. When it was Mir Abdal Aziz's, day that rash and impetuous youth pushed on seven or eight miles from Fatehpur Sikrimarker. The Rajputs hearing of this incautious forward movement dispatched to meet him a body of 4000-5000 horsemen who without hesitation charged the instant they came up. His force did not exceed a 1000-1500. Many of his men were killed others taken prisoners and carried off the field on the very first onset. The moment the news of what was going on reached the camp, Mohib Ali Khalifa Emperor Baburs’ Grand Viziers’ son and his followers were pushed forward to their assistance and there being no room for delay, numbers of separate horsemen, as fast as they were equipped, were sent off at the best of their speed while a regular detachment under Muhammed Ali moved forward to support them Mohib Ali who arrived first found every thing in disorder. Mir Abdal Aziz's horse tail standard taken and many excellent officers slain. Not only was he unable to turn the tide of success but was himself unhorsed though finally brought off by a desperate charge of his followers. The Emperor's troops were then pursued for about two miles and it was only the arrival of the regular detachment under Muhammad Ali that checked the enemy. Meanwhile when the alarm reached the camp the whole troops were called out and marshaled in battle order to meet the hostile army which was thought to be approaching. But after the imperial line had advanced a mile or two with all its artillery it was found that the enemy satisfied with their success had returned back to their camp. These repeated successes of the Rajputs, the unexpected valor and good conduct they displayed and their numbers for they are said to have amounted to a 120,000 horsemen along with their Mewat allies would have been considerably one of the largest armies Babur had to face, even in modern times such a huge army would have disheartened any battle hardened soldier. Babur began to see the discouragement of his troops.Every precaution was now taken to strengthen his position and to give his troops time to recover their spirit. At this critical juncture he received a small yet welcome reinforcement of 500 men from Kabulmarker. Babur decided to divert the attention of the enemy towards Mewat by sending some troops there, to ravage the territory. But the diversion did not answer his expectations.

Babur Rallies his troops

Babur was now in some measure cooped up in his camp while the enemy was in possession of the open country. The uneasiness which he in consequence experienced in this state of inaction appears very naturally to have excited feelings of religious compunction in his mind. When he reviewed his past life he keenly felt that he had long and openly violated one of the strictest injunctions of his faith by the use of wine. Like other habitual offenders he had all along firmly resolved to give up the evil custom at some future time but that time had been constantly deferred. He now resolved to perform his vows. Babur Said;

This was a visible sign commonly adopted by such as were under the influence of a vow. Many nobles and others to the number of 300 followed the example of their sovereign. Salt was thrown into the ample store of wine just arrived from Ghaznimarker all the rest found in the camp was poured upon the ground and a well was ordered to be dug and an almshouse built on the spot to commemorate this great religious event of repentance. As a boon to his Muslim followers and subjects he gave up the Temgha or Stamp tax in all his dominions so far as concerned Muslims and published a firman (royal edict) to that effect on February 26.

The dejection and alarm of Babur's troops had at this time reached their extreme point. The contagion had infected even his highest officers. He excepts only Mir Ali Khalifa his Grand Vizier who he says all along behaved admirably. Babur whose bold and elastic mind never gave admittance to despair but even in the lowest depths of danger turned to any gleam of hope saw that matters were fast advancing to a crisis and that some stirring and energetic measures were indispensably required. He determined to make a bold exertion to infuse a portion of his own heroic ardor into the drooping spirits of his followers and for that purpose he addressed himself to the religious feelings so powerful with all Muslims but especially with such as are engaged in a Jihad against infidels. He thus made the most famous and most important speech of his life;

–He then quotes a couplet from Firdowsi’s Shahnameh;


He continues,

Master and servant small and great all with emulation seizing the blessed Quran in their hands swore to fight to the finish. Babur’s attempt at reinvigorating his men remains to this day one of the most excellent displays of military leadership.

Babur's Advance

With his troops now in high spirits Babur decided to advance from the entrenchments in which the army had so long been cooped up. It was on March 12,1527 that Babur drew forward his guns and a kind of defensive cover that moved on wheels and which served as a breastwork supporting them by his matchlock men and all his army. He himself galloped along the line animating his troops and officers and giving them instructions how to conduct themselves in every emergency that could occur. The army having advanced a mile or two halted to encamp. As soon as the Rajputs heard that they were in motion several bodies of them galloped close up to the guns. Babur not intending to engage in a general action that day quietly finished his entrenchments and ditches and then sent out a few horsemen to skirmish with them and try the temper of his men. They took several prisoners and returned with a number of heads elevated on their spears or dangling from their saddlebow which had a wonderful effect in restoring the confidence of the troops.

He now threw up other trenches in a position about a mile or two farther in advance near the spot which he had pitched upon as favorable for a general engagement and when they were finished advanced to occupy them dragging forward his guns. His people having reached their ground were still busy in pitching their tents when news was brought that the enemy was in sight. All were instantly ordered to their posts. Babur mounted and drew up his troops riding cheerfully along the ranks and confidently assuring them of victory.

Battle Positions of Babur

The center Babur took to himself assisted by Chin Taimur Sultan the right wing he committed to Humayun who had under him Kasim Hussein Sultan, Hindu Baig and Khusroe Kokultash the left wing he entrusted to Syed Mehdi Khwaja with Muhammad Sultan Mirza, Abdal Aziz and Muhammad Ali.

He appointed strong reserves to carry out rescue efforts wherever required. On the right and left placed two flanking columns chiefly composed of Mughal troops who formed what is called the Tulughma and were on a signal given to wheel round on the enemy's flank and rear in the heat of battle. This arrangement he had learned to his cost in his early wars with the Uzbeks and he had practiced it in his later wars with brilliant success. His Indianmarker allied troops appear to have been stationed chiefly in the left. His artillery under Ustad Ali Kuli was placed in the center in front connected by chains and protected by the moveable defenses or breastworks which he had constructed, behind which were placed matchlock men and in their rear a body of chosen troops ready either to repel any attack from behind or themselves to rush forward and charge the enemy whenever the chains that connected the guns were dropped to permit their passage. The army abounded with veteran commanders who had learned the art of war under the Emperor himself.

Battle Positions of Rana Sanga

In the Rajput army the commanders under Rana Sanga were generally great chieftains who from their territorial possessions could bring a large force into the field. Thus Silhadi a Tomar Rajput chieftain of northeast Malwa the Chief of Bhilsa is rated at 30,000 Purabiya Soldiers; Hasan Khan of Mewat 12,000; Raul Uday Singh Nagari of Dongerpur 10,000; Medini Rao the Chief of Chanderimarker 10,000. The first and last of these had acted an important part in the history of Malwa. Sultan Mahmud Lodi a son of Sultan Sikander Lodi of Delhimarker who was acknowledged by the Afghans of the Delhimarker kingdom and by the Rana as the successor of his brother Ibrahim Lodi though he possessed no territory yet had with him a body of 10,000 adventurers who hoped to be liberally rewarded should fortune raise him to the throne. There were other chiefs who could command each from 4000-7000 men and all were animated by the most exalted hopes and by hatred of the common enemy. They also possessed 500 war elephants and included 7 Rajas, 9 Raos and 104 Rawals and Rawats (lesser chieftains). A more gallant army could not be put into the field.

The Battle

Khanwa is about 60 km west of Agramarker. Here the epic battle between the Muslim Mughal and the Hindu Rajputs would play out and decide the fate of Indiamarker. The battle began about 9:30 in the morning by a desperate charge made by the Rajputs on Babur's right. Bodies of the reserve were pushed on to its assistance and Mustafa Rumi who commanded one portion of the artillery on the right of the center opened a fire upon the assailants. Still new bodies of the enemy poured on undauntedly and new detachments from the reserve were sent to resist them. The battle was no less desperate on the left to which also it was found necessary to dispatch repeated parties from the reserve. When the battle had lasted several hours and still continued to rage, Babur sent orders to the flanking columns to wheel round and charge and he soon after ordered the guns to advance and by a simultaneous movement the household troops and cavalry stationed behind the cannon were ordered to gallop out on right and left of the matchlockmen in the center who also moved forward and continued their fire hastening to fling themselves with all their fury on the enemy's center. When this was observed in the wings they also advanced. These unexpected movements made at the same moment threw the enemy into confusion. Mughal cannon fire caused the elephants in the Rajput army to stampede. Mughal cavalry archers made repeated flanking charges from the left and right of their fortified position. These mounted archers inflicted maximum losses on Rajput ranks, as the latter were not accustomed to these tactics, their center was shaken, the men who were displaced by the attack made in flank on the wings and rear were forced upon the center and crowded together. Still the gallant Rajputs were not appalled. They made repeated desperate attacks on the Emperor's center in hopes of recovering the day but were bravely and steadily received by the Mughals and swept away in great numbers. Towards evening the Rajput defeat was complete and the slaughter was consequently dreadful. The fate of the battle was decided.

Nothing remained for the Rajputs to do but to force their way through the bodies of their kinsmen and enemy that were now in their rear and to affect a retreat.Emperor Babur pursued them as far as their camp which was about three or four miles from his own. On reaching it he halted but detached a strong body of horse with orders to pursue the broken troops of the Rajput Confederates without halting to cut up all they met and to prevent them from re assembling. But Rana Sanga escaped. Babur later mentions his regret in not going with the detachment in pursuing the broken Rajput troops because of Rana Sanga’s escape.

Aftermath

No victory could be more complete. The enemy were quite broken and dispersed. The whole fields around were strewed with the dead as well as the roads to Bayanamarker and Alwarmarker. Among the slain were Hasan Khan who fell by a matchlock shot, Raul Uday Singh of Dongerpur, Rai Chanderbhan Chauhan, Manikchand Chauhan (later awarded Kothariamarker jagir posthumously) and many other chiefs of note. Clearly Babur’s superior leadership and modern technology won the day. Babur henceforth assumed the proud title of Ghazi (Victorious Veteran of Jihad). Babur should be remembered more for this battle than for the Battle of Panipat. As for Sultan Mahmud Lodi, he also fled eastwards and would again pose a challenge to Babur two years later at the Battle of Ghaghra.

Since the time Babur had left Agramarker for this battle, insurrection and revolt appeared on every hand. The towns and forts of which with so much labor he had gained possession were fast changing masters. Raberi and Chandwar on the Yamunamarker River; Koel in the Doab and Sambhalmarker beyond the Gangesmarker all of them near Agramarker had been retaken by the Afghans. His troops had been obliged to abandon Kanaujmarker. Gwaliormarker was blockaded by the Rajputs of the vicinity Alim Khan Jilal Khan Jighat of Kalpimarker who was sent to relieve it instead of executing his orders had marched off to his own country. Many Hindu chiefs deserted the cause of Babur. Indeed the previous conquests and recent success of Rana Sanga a Hindu had inspired all his countrymen with hopes that a change of dynasty was about to take place and they hailed with joy the prospect of a native government. But after the battle of Khanwa, Babur sent forces to chastise the insurgents and quickly retook lost territories.

Being now disengaged of his most formidable enemies he was enabled to send a force to recover Chandwar and Raberi places not far distant from Agra of which the insurgents had made themselves masters during his operations against Rana Sanga. The consternation occasioned by his success was such that this object was affected with little difficulty and even Etawa lower down the Yamunamarker which had never yet submitted to his power, was surrendered by Kutb Khan. Rana Sanga died shortly after this battle in 1527 at Baswa on Mewar's northern border.

See also



References

  • A History of India Under the Two First Sovereigns of the House of Taimur, Báber and Humáyun By William Erskine, Published by Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1854 [183469]


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