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Third battle of Panipat

Topics Covered:

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


Third battle of Panipat


What to study?

For Prelims and mains: Battles that took place in panipat- overview, causes and outcomes.


Context: The trailer for the upcoming Hindi film ‘Panipat’, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker, was recently released. The title refers to the Third Battle of Panipat, fought in 1761.



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’.


What was the Third Battle of Panipat all about?

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.


Sources: Indian Express.