In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Third Battle of Panipat

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Autobiographies
  • Battle: Strategy and Tactics
  • Logistics of Warfare
  • Marathas
  • Maratha Polity
  • Mughal Decline
  • Soldiers and Warriors
  • Memory of Warfare

Military History Third Battle of Panipat
Kaushik Roy
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 June 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0248


The Third Battle of Panipat fought on 14 January 1761 was one of the decisive battles of the early modern era. However, people outside India do not know much about this gigantic clash between the Marathas and the Afghans. Some forty-five thousand Maratha troops under Sadashiv Rao Bhau fought against sixty-two thousand soldiers (Afghans and their Indian allies) under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Abdali at Panipat, some one hundred kilometers north of Delhi. This battlefield had witnessed two battles earlier (known as the First and Second Battles of Panipat fought on 20 April 1526 and 5 November 1556 respectively) between the Mughals and the Afghans. In both cases the Mughals emerged victorious. The day-long Third Battle of Panipat resulted in twenty thousand casualties on the Maratha side. After the battle, some forty thousand non-combatants from the Maratha camp were captured. About half of them (mostly females) were sold as slaves and the rest were executed. This battle changed the course of South Asian history in particular and global history in general. The Marathas were down and out and the Afghan Durrani Empire was too exhausted to reap the fruits of victory. This left the field open for the British East India Company to expand its sway over the Indian subcontinent in the second half of the 18th century. The establishment of the British Empire in India in turn significantly influenced the course of world history. Historians even now debate about the course and consequences of Panipat. Different communities memorized warfare in the 18th century and continue to do so. This essay takes into account the debates concerning the causes, course, and consequences of the battle. Both structural factors and human agency played a role in this story. The Mughal economy was slowing down due to long-term impersonal factors. Factional fighting among inefficient Mughal nobles also accelerated the collapse of the Mughal imperium. The different regional factors that influenced Afghan and Maratha policies are analyzed. For instance, the decay of Mughal power in central and north India allowed the Marathas to invade Punjab. The rapid Mughal collapse in Punjab enabled Abdali to intervene in India. In addition to the military aspects, the social, economic, and cultural dimensions of this climactic conflict have been considered. Academic studies of early modern Afghanistan are few compared to those of India. Hence, it is difficult to provide a balanced story. Finally, an attempt is made to put this battle in the global context.


The sources are divided into Marathi and Persian.

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