• By Rajeev Katyal
  • November 19 2018

Battles for Delhi: Dilli Kareeb Ast traces the highs and lows of Indian unity. It looks at those phases of Indian history from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries when Delhi was the capital city of Indian empires. It describes a series of important Battles that were fought to preserve the unity of India either successfully or unsuccessfully and these are mentioned as the Battles for Delhi. When India was a strong nation, its boundaries encompassed almost the whole of South Asia, and it was economically and militarily one of the strongest nations in the world. This book also looks at the phases when India was not a united country although the whole of its land mass was recognised and referred to as India. In such times, India was split into various units and it was not under a unifying rule.


The book opines that India was a strong and united country, as in the Mauryan, Gupta and Mughal ages, when a strong, centrally controlled kingdom existed. This kingdom was centred around a capital city that symbolised the power and strength of India. These strong kingdoms had capable rulers, an established administrative infrastructure, economic prosperity, and formidable military power. In ancient times the capital cities of these kingdoms were Patliputra and Kanauj, and since the thirteenth century AD it has been Delhi.

The book describes the conditions preceding these Battles for Delhi, the battles themselves, and their consequences. Encompassing over six hundred years of Indian history, this book describes thirteen battles from the Battle of Tarain in the late thirteenth century to the Indian War of Independence in 1857, making a strong case for a continuous effort to preserve and strengthen India’s unity.


Rajeev Katyal is an alumnus of IIM Kolkata, Delhi College of Engineering and St. Columba’s High School. A veteran of the Human Resource Development industry, he has over thirty-one years’ experience in the field of Education and Skill Development.


He has written, lectured and advised on various education and training forums. He is a member of the School Education Committees of both the Confederation of Indian Industry as well as the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Today he leads a chain of schools in India and Japan called the Global Indian International Schools, virtually setting up and running schools from scratch to full functionality.


Having travelled all over the world and in India, he finds no place in the world more fascinating than his own country. A man fond of intense reading and internet surfing, he finds Indian history fascinating. He is of the opinion that Indian history should be written in such a way that it develops greater national pride in young Indians and changes their perspective of India.


To buy the book


Two Extracts from book, first is Centrality & Inclusive of Governance and second is Hemu and Second Battle of Panipat.


Chapter 1 – Centrality and Inclusiveness of Governance


India has been a land that has attracted conquerors through the ages. Semiramis, Darius, Alexander, Mongols, Huns, Arabs, Turks and the British are some of the people who have attacked India over centuries. Some have had the desire to plunder Indias fabulous riches while others have had the desire to establish an empire here. Whenever these forces have succeeded, India has seen capitulation to foreign invaders followed by massacres, ruin and loot, as well as the destruction of cultural and architectural symbols dear to it. Whenever these invading forces have been defeated, the ruling dynasty has succeeded in preserving the people, culture and wealth of India.

A lot of attention has been paid to those battles that have been decisive in terms of the defeat of the forces ruling India and where the invaders have been successful. These battles have resulted in unwanted destruction in India and the emergence of new empires. The three battles of Panipat, and the battles of Delhi and Tarain to name a few, have become well-known. But in the continuum of history, that is not the only way things happened. The battles that led to defeats of India have happened not one after another but after considerable intervals. In between these battles, there have been numerous instances where existing Indian empires and kingdoms have triumphed over the foreign invaders. Be it the defeat of Seleucus by Chandragupta Maurya, of the Arabs by the Rajput kingdoms, of the Mongols by Allaudin Khilji or of the British by the Marathas and the Mysoreans. The war history of India has not just been one of defeats and subjugation of India by foreign invaders. In between these defeats, strong Indian kingdoms have, time and again, inflicted defeats on invaders and preserved the unity and integrity of India.

However, so incessant has been the influx of invading forces into India, that at critical points of time, the invading forces have succeeded and this has led to a change in the ruling dynasty or the governing entity. Whenever India has been strong, these invaders have been defeated.


History has shown that whenever India had a strong empire or kingdom, ruled by emperors or kings who were capable military commanders, governing from a capital city but ruling over a large area of India under a strong hand, the invaders have been defeated. The defeat of Seleucus the Greek by Mauryas; the defeat of Huns by Skandagupta; the defeat of invading Arabs by Rajputs and Pratiharas; the defeat of Mongols by Khiljis; the Mughals defeating the Afghans; the defeats inflicted on the British by Hyder Ali and Mahadji Scindhia are cases in point.


However, history has also shown that whenever the strength of the ruling kingdom waned on account of the passage of time, and there has been a debilitation of economic and military resources with successor kings being weak, India has lost to invaders. So the Greeks overcame a weaker Maurya empire; Huns overran the Gupta domains in the later stages of the Gupta Empire; the Turks defeated the Rajputs; Taimur defeated a weak Tughlaq kingdom; Mughals defeated the Lodhis; Persians under Nadir Shah defeated the Mughals under Mohammed Shah Rangila and the British defeated the Mysoreans and the Marathas.


The Greeks could not defeat the Mauryas as long as strong emperors like Chandragupta and Bindusara ruled. They overcame weaker Maurya rulers later. The Huns were defeated by a strong Gupta emperor in Skandagupta but they defeated the later Guptas. Arabs and Turks tried hard but could not defeat the strong Pratiharas and the Rajput confederacy. It was an internecine struggle between Rajputs that resulted in Ghori emerging triumphant and planting Islamic rule in India. The invaders from North West could not have dared enter India as long as strong kings like Allaudin Khilji and Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq were there. They succeeded via Taimur when a weak Tughlaq kingdom of Mahmud Shah Tughlaq existed. The Mughals would have found Sikander Lodhi a hard nut to crack. They succeeded against a weak Ibrahim Lodhi whose rule was racked by internal rebellions. The Persians would not have dared touch India under a Shah Jahan or an Aurangzeb, who were formidable emperors and generals. They defeated a weak Mughal empire under a debauch called Mohammed Shah Rangila. The British for all their bluster did not dare raise their voice against a Jahangir or Shahjahan or Aurangzeb. Even Nawab Alivardi Khan was left alone by them in Bengal. They tasted defeats against strong generals like Hyder Ali of Mysore and by Mahdaji Scindhia near Pune. They succeeded against Sirajudaulah in Bengal, a weak ruler; Tipu Sultan who fought them alone; and against Daulat Rao Scindhia who was a weak successor to Mahadji Scindhia.


Therefore the history of India has not been about a string of defeats against foreign invaders alone. These defeats have resulted in a higher recollection among us because they represent milestones that saw new empires take over. In between these defeats are also sagas of heroic and successful defense against invading forces and substantial defeats handed to them by Indians. King Dahir defeated Arabs on a few occasions before succumbing to Mohammed Bin Qasim. The Guptas resisted foreign invasions for a long period before weakening and losing.


When we look at these successful defenses, certain things stand out. First and foremost a strong and large kingdom existed that could lead such a defense against a foreign invasion. Maurya, Gupta, Khilji, Pratihara and Mughal empires are some of the prime examples. So are the Mysore Kingdom and the Maratha Confederacy. Secondly, the kingdom or empire that was successful in the defense of India was economically strong and administratively well managed through a network of provincial governors, the fountainhead of which was a centrally led government with a well-established ruling infrastructure. Akbar, Chandragupta Maurya and Chandragupta Vikramaditya among others ensured the emergence of strong centrally led governance in India. Thirdly, the rulers who led such empires or kingdoms were not only strong rulers but also militarily very capable. They were capable of leading large armies in battle and of taking the enemy head on. Chandragupta Maurya defeated Seleucus, Chandragupta Vikramaditya defeated the Sakas, Nagabhatta Pratihara defeated the Arabs, Allaudin Khilji defeated the Mongols, Hyder Ali and Mahadji defeated the British and Akbar pushed back the Afghans and Persians.


These emperors and kings ensured economic prosperity through efficient governance that enabled them to field large, well equipped armies in the field. Moreover, by leading personally and using capable commanders, they led armies in a state of forward defense and also of defense in depth, ensuring the defeat of enemy forces. Chandragupta defeated Seleucus by aggressively moving forward and challenging his mighty Greek army. Allaudin Khilji routed the Mongols and then sent his best general Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq to pound them into submission in Afghanistan. Mahadji Scindhia forced an abject surrender of British forces in the Western Ghats. Hyder Ali dictated terms at Madras, now called Chennai to the British.


These empires or large kingdoms always operated from a central or capital city from where the power of the ruler emanated to all corners of his kingdom or empire. The ruling polity operated from this central place of governance and the administrative as well as military infrastructure was controlled from there. Large armies were placed to secure the central citadels and military governors were placed with strong forces in subas and forward areas to deter and defeat oncoming forces.


The Mughals always kept the Persians engaged in Kabul and Kandahar. This forward defense policy coupled with large forces positioned in districts and centre deterred Persians from even remotely contemplating coming into India. Allaudin Khilji did the same against Mongols. After defeating the British in the first Anglo Maratha war near Pune, Mahadji Scindhia spiritedly engaged them in Central India. The imperial capital, be it Delhi or Patliputra or Pune was removed from threat as the enemy was pressed into submission and fear near or in its own territories. Thereby the core centre of the empire, existing in the imperial capital, was always safe to govern and strengthen the empire further.


A weak ruler resulted in the empire becoming weaker economically and militarily. The capacity for proactive forward defense was lost along with a corresponding loss of strength of the military at the centre. Defeat became inevitable against a strong invader. A peace oriented Emperor Ashoka may have led to a militarily less aggressive Maurya empire and the pincering of its defenses by Greeks. Weak Gupta rulers after Skandagupta would have led to capitulation to Huns. After Aurangzeb, a succession of weak rulers led to a lack of defense of North West, incapable armies and the sack of Delhi by Nadir Shah. A weak Daulat Rao Scindhia meant the decimation of the Maratha Confederacy at the hands of the British.


Every empire or kingdom has had its zenith and fall. The highs saw strong rulers who were also strong generals, strong armies ready to provide defense in depth and also provide proactive defense against enemies. The ruin came when strong rulers ceased to exist, kings did not have the military sagacity or capability and governance started becoming weak. This happened when the empire or kingdom was eaten up by corruption, or when weak rulers dependent upon strong nobles came to the throne. An air of decadence started prevailing and soon pervaded the realms of the kingdom. The enemy outside was incessantly knocking on the doors. And sooner or later, a persistent enemy found an entry, then created a bigger gap and surged through to overwhelm what had hitherto been an impregnable kingdom.


The British succeeded in ruling India as they conquered a divided India in stages. Under the Grand Mughals, they were subservient traders. The Persians kept badgering on the doors of India’s North West only to sweep in against a lethargic Mohammed Shah Rangila. The Huns did it to the Guptas and Turks to the Rajputs.


Large kingdoms and empires are symbolised and derive their source of power from the Imperial Capital. That is where the rulers govern from. The rise and fall of kingdoms and empires of India have been defined by what happens inside those imperial capitals. Nandas fell as they were a decaying empire in Patliputra and could not withstand the onslaught of Chandragupta Maurya. The Mauryas fell to the Greeks and Guptas fell to the Huns. The story of a united ancient India governed from the imperial heart was the story of Patliputra.


Kanauj became the most important city in North India after Patliputra lost its preeminence. The Palas, Pratiharas and Rashtrakutas struggled for it. Harsha ruled from there. The Rajputs ruled from there till the Turks defeated them. The rise and fall of Kanauj was the rise and fall of India.


The Muslim Sultanates made Delhi the most important city of India and it has been like that almost continuously since then. Mamluks, Khiljis, Tughlaqs, Sayyids, Lodhis and Mughals have come and gone and the saga of India for the last eight hundred years has been the saga of Delhi. How India became strong under capable governance has been interspersed with how internal decadence and dissension have made it weak, making it capitulate to foreign invasions and rule.


We need to examine how the fortunes of India swayed up and down in the light of what happened at the imperial capital of Delhi. It was for this city that Battles for India were fought since the end of twelfth century AD. Victory or defeat for the ruling dynasty and therefore prosperity and ruin for India depended a lot on how the ruling dynasty preserved its economic strength, military might and political sagacity. The change of fortunes for Delhi and therefore of India was decided in critical Battles for Delhi, but the seeds of success or failure for the kingdom at Delhi were sown beforehand by the character of its rulers. We examine what happened so that we can learn from the past so as not to repeat the future.


India has remained strong and unconquerable throughout history when it has had strong central rule. This central rule was seen under the Mauryas, Guptas, some of the Islamic Sultanates as well as the Mughals. No foreign invader could come in and conquer India as long as a strong central empire existed. The moment this central control weakened and India became fragmented, it fell prey to these foreign invaders and became enslaved. That was not the only end result. Its people got massacred, got treated as second class citizens, its religious places were destroyed and its wealth looted.


India today is again centrally governed. The central governance is under a parliamentary democracy. It is also a federal structure with constituent state units and within these states people of various communities and religions live. This diverse entity called India has had a history of fissiparous tendencies where parts of it fancy they would be happier off being independent, little realising that such struggles, whether they fail or succeed, weaken national unity.


We have had a history of such movements in North East, Jammu & Kashmir and other areas. It has given foreign powers that are not happy to see a strong India, the opportunity to intervene. We have as a people little realised that history has always a habit of repeating itself. It was such internal dissensions that led to weakening of India under Mauryas, Guptas, Rajputs, Tughlaqs, Lodhis, Mughals and the Marathas. It paved the way for external aggressors to come in and enslave India. One hundred and forty four years of British rule is a comparatively recent memory.


Moreover, India has never lacked enemies. Whether it was Greeks, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Afghans or Huns poised on its North Western borders or whether it was the British coming in from the sea, the enemies always existed. Today it is Pakistan and China on our North Western and Northern borders and even Bangladesh and Myanmar laying claims to our territories.  The external threat has persisted for centuries and does so even more strongly today.


Are we prepared for it? How strong are we? How prepared are we? How well fortified is our national unity and purpose to defeat such internal and external enemies? How well focused is our continuous attention to strengthen ourselves economically as well as make our national growth inclusive in character? How rich is our effort at national integration? How ruthless are we in tackling our internal enemies and deterring our external ones? How strong is the rigor and aggression of our external diplomacy?


Efforts are required in the above areas continuously in much the same way as the Americans and Chinese exhibit. A continuously evolving, strong and centrally governed India with an all-inclusive federal character is a prerequisite if we are to preserve our national unity and integrity. India has to emerge again as one of the richest and most powerful nations on earth. It has just restarted its journey. Let it not flounder. History shows that the past has not been kind to us whenever we have floundered.


Chapter 8 – Hemchandra Vikramaditya and Panipat

Delhi in the mid sixteenth century changed hands between the Mughals and Afghans in turns. It first came under Humayun who inherited it from Babar. Humayun, an otherwise good general and soldier had at times a tendency towards indolence, neglecting what in modern management parlance may be called the urgent and important. Unfortunately he had to confront a military genius in the form of Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan commander.


A first soldier king of his age, and in terms of military and administrative accomplishments second only to Akbar, Sher Shah defeated Humayun repeatedly and forced him in abject state out of India. Sher Shah won the Battles for Delhi against Humayun. Capturing Delhi and ruling from what is now called Purana Qila, Sher Shah had a short but scintillating career. He transformed India’s transport system by rebuilding the Grand Trunk and other important routes. He revitalised the revenue collection system.  He also created a stronger postal system and ruled North, East and Central India’s major territories, thus creating an Afghan empire. Unfortunately for the Afghans, this amazing genius died early in a siege of Kalinjar and gave way to Islam Shah. Therefore a career ended short of an emperor whose rule could well have been talked of in the same breath as that of Akbar for its military and administrative achievements.


Sher Shah Suri was succeeded by his son Jalal Khan who took on the title of Islam Shah. Islam Shah did not prove to be an unworthy successor. He conquered territories further east and also brought about a more unified state. He successfully thwarted a weak and ineffectual attempt by Humayun to regain Delhi.


His successor and son Firoz Shah was a minor and was soon killed and dispossessed by his uncle Mubarriz Khan. Mubarriz assumed the titled of Mohammed Adil Shah. This, unfortunately for the Afghans, led to a free for all and the Afghan empire split into four parts. One part obviously went to Adil Shah beyond Agra to Bihar. Ibrahim Shah captured Delhi and Agra. Another captured Punjab, the gateway to the Heartland of Hind, and declared himself Sikander Shah Sur. There was an independent state declared by another contender in Bengal called Mohammed Shah. It was a time ripe for Mughals waiting impatiently in the wings. A lesson in how petty sub nationalistic politics and stupid individual aspirations counteracting central unity result in the downfall of not only the central empire but also the downfall of these sub nationalists who fondly imagine time has come to build their own independent states.


An internecine struggle developed among the Afghans for control of the Indian empire. This was not to escape being noticed by Humayun who was keen to recapture the lost empire of the Mughals in Hindustan.


In came a character called Hemu. Hemu is a character least written about and analysed by Indian historians. But Hemu clearly is one of the most fascinating characters to emerge out of Indian history. This was a time when the contenders for the throne of Hindustan were Islamic rulers – Mughals waiting impatiently in Kabul and the Sur contenders vying among themselves, oblivious of the impending danger from the Mughals. The only Hindu empire of any consequence, infact of great consequence was the Vijayanagar Empire in South but with hardly any aspirations towards the North. At this time, for a Hindu entity to emerge and became an emperor of Hindustan, in the process leading an Afghan army in battle, would have been considered a foolish thought. But this was precisely what Hemu achieved.  It was a truly meteoric rise followed by an equally tragic and unfortunate fall.

Hem Chandra was born in a Hindu family in a village near Rewari in southern Alwar. Hemu was not only educated in Sanskrit, Hindi, Persian, Arabic and Arithmetic but possessed an outstanding physique thanks to a self-imposed exercising and wrestling regimen.

Hemu started his career as a supplier of store items to the Army of Sher Shah Suri including supplying saltpeter. Sher Shah’s death resulted in the ascension of his capable son Islam Khan to the throne of Delhi. Islam Khan in fact proved more than a match for the Mughals thwarting an attempt by Humayun to invade India. 

Hemu rose to prominence under Islam Shah. Islam Shah gave recognition to the talent of Hemu and initially appointed Hemu as Shahang-i-Bazar, meaning 'Market Superintendent'. This gave Hemu control over commercial interests and also earned him the ear of the emperor. Hemu advised Islam Shah on a variety of matters. He used to supply him with secret information and therefore became an intelligence gatherer for the Sultan. Then Hemu rose to become Chief of Intelligence or Daroga-i-Chowki (Superintendent of Post). Islam Shah died early.

Islam Shah was succeeded by his twelve year old son Firoz Khan who was killed within three days by Adil Shah Suri. The new king Adil was an indolent pleasure-seeker and a drunkard who faced revolts all around. Adil Shah took Hemu as his Chief Advisor and entrusted all his work to him, appointing him the prime minister and chief of his army. After some time, Adil Shah became almost insane and Hemu became the de facto king.

Many Afghan governors rebelled against the weak King Adil Shah and refused to pay the taxes, but Hemu quelled them. Ibrahim Shah rose against Adil Shah but was defeated by Hemu on multiple occasions. While in the process of finally defeating Ibrahim Shah, Hemu got the news that Muhammad Shah was attacking Adil Shah who was in great danger. Hemu broke off the engagement with Ibrahim Shah and rushed to the aid of Adil Shah. The battle occurred at Chhapparghatta near Kalpi. Muhammad Shah was on way to victory against a helpless Adil Shah when Hemu arrived and attacked his army in the rear putting it to rout. Muhammad Shah is said to have been killed in the battle.

Sikander Shah Suri meanwhile had managed to get the better of Ibrahim Shah and captured the throne of Delhi. Humayun’s forces defeated both Ibrahim Shah and Sikander Shah and captured Delhi. Humayun died in January 1556 due to an accidental fall from the stairs of his library at Purana Qila. His son Akbar was a child based in Punjab under the tutelage of Bairam Khan. Mughal control on the throne of Delhi was tenuous at best. Tardi Beg, a Mughal Governor protected Delhi with a small but compact force. There were other Mughal Governors based in different parts of North India. Hemu was based at Gwalior and waiting in the wings. He advised Adil Shah that the time was ripe to attack Delhi and claim the throne back for Afghans. The scene was set for another epic Battle for Delhi.

Hemu advanced with a large force consisting of 50,000 cavalry, 1000 elephants, 50 cannons and 500 falconets towards Delhi. He had a mighty reputation of having won 22 battles for Adil Shah. He had a large force moving inexorably towards Delhi. The Mughals citadels standing in the way fell like nine pins as terrified Mughal commanders abandoned their posts in sheer fright at this formidable host coming on them led by an audacious commander. Etawah, Bayana and Sambhal all fell to Hemu. Finally the run halted at Delhi where the Mughals decided to give battle.

This battle for Delhi was on a smaller scale but significant as it gave Hemu control of Delhi and established him, although very briefly as an emperor. Tardi Beg had a force of 3000 heavy cavalry with which he came out to give battle against the much larger force of Hemu. Tardi Beg himself commanded the centre. Iskander Beg commanded the left wing and Haider Mohammed the right wing. Abdullah Uzbeg commanded the advanced guard. The heavy Turkish cavalry launched the initial assault on the right wing of Hemu and was very successful. 3000 Afghans were killed.

However, the Mughals mistook this charge for victory and started looting the enemy camp. Hemu regrouped and asked his left wing under Allahdad to attack the Mughal right wing. This had limited success. Hemu seeing his right wing destroyed and left wing under a stalemate, launched a furious assault at the Mughal centre with 300 elephants and his chosen troops. The Mughals could not withstand this heavy frontal attack and broke and fled. Hemu had captured Delhi, albeit temporarily from the Mughals. This was a direct battle fought for Delhi in Delhi itself near Tughlaqabad and resulted in the fall of Delhi to Hemu.

Hemu anointed himself as Raja Hemchandra Vikramaditya. Very interestingly, at a time when Muslim powers were vying for the control of Hindustan, it was a highly talented Hindu King who captured power with a mixed army of Afghans and Rajputs. How this strange circumstance happened and how quickly Hemu consolidated and started applying his administrative and military skill is another subject.

The Mughals were in complete disarray. Their force was too small to handle Hemu’s much large army. Tardi Beg fled back to join Akbar and Bairam Khan. He had gone back to his doom. Bairam Khan, more to settle earlier personal scores, had Tardi Beg executed for his failure to retain Delhi, although Tardi Beg could have done little about it. There was a general advice for Akbar to retreat to Kabul, consolidate and come back to handle a formidable adversary. Bairam Khan stoutly opposed this and propounded his own reasons to move forward and give Battle for Delhi. His advice prevailed and the armies of Mughals and Hemu moved forward to a highly awaited clash for a Battle for Delhi at Panipat.

A 20000-strong Mughal Army advanced for this fateful encounter and was bolstered on the way in Punjab by additional Mughal contingents of forces who had been earlier defeated by Hemu. The force swelled to 25,000. Hemu advanced with 50,000 strong army of cavalry, 500 elephants and 50 cannons. A huge mistake was made by Hemu who sent his artillery under the guard of Mubarak Khan in advance. This important arm should have been under heavy protection for ultimate use. Hemu could here have fallen prey to over confidence.  This entire pack of artillery fell into an advance Mughal party and their usage got transferred from Hemu to the Mughals, an event of immense importance to the outcome of the battle.

The Mughal Army was under the overall command of Ali Quli Khan. Akbar was young and safely ensconced 30 kms away behind the battle scene, something to take note of. Not once during this time of great uncertainty and turbulence did the Mughal notions waiver as to who was to be preserved as their Emperor in the event of victory. It was perhaps this unity in adversity, this focus of winning back an empire under the successor of Babar and Humayun that was to play an important part in the ultimate outcome.

The Mughal left wing was under Abdullah Uzbeg, the right under Sikander Uzbeg. Ali Quli himself commanded the centre and there was an advance guard under Hussein Quli and Shah Quli. There was a reserve of 6000 horse under Shah Badagh and Abdul Mali. The overall commander of the Mughal Army in the second battle of Panipat was Ali Quli Khan.

Hemu had a simpler centre, left and right combination. The left wing was under his own relation Ramayya and the right wing was under Shadi Khan Kakkar. Hemu himself was poised in the centre with 30,000 horse and 500 elephants to deliver the usual decisive blow.

The battle took place in winter on 5 November 1556. This was a very important battle because it was a single battle here that decided the fate of Mughal empire for years to come. The importance of this battle was that it helped fill a big power vacuum that was there at Delhi. The situation was not like the first battle of Panipat that required even tougher follow up battles for Babar or the third battle that ended in creating a vacuum and resultant confusion for the throne of Hindustan.

Hemu took the offensive as was his wont. His left and right wings pressed the Mughal right and left wings, which gave way steadily under the pressure but did not disintegrate. The Mughals responded by launching the Talughmas which wheeled around Hemu’s army and enveloped from both flanks, ultimately attacking also in the rear, showering arrows and rapidly attacking with their mounted horse. Hemu’s army began to suffer from the mounted archers and the fire of Mughal artillery. His commanders were killed. Ali Quli seized the chance and sent his cavalry to attack Hemu in the flanks thus further putting him under pressure. The Mughals were using the same tactics that had won them battles earlier in India, rapid flank attacks, mounted archers and frontal artillery fire. And these tactics seemed to be working.

However, the quality of the opponent they were up against was different, a much more fierce, mobile and resourceful commander. Hemu counter attacked and turned back the Mughal offensive. His countercharge blunted the Mughal flanking tactics and neither their talughma nor their flanking cavalry charges had the usual effect. Hemu had neutralised the tried and tested Mughal battle tactics and his main force was still intact. He now collected it together to deliver the typical central blow that usually won him the 22 battles he had fought so far.

Hemu advanced forward with his 500 war elephants and central cavalry, his elite force to destroy the Mughal army. He had blunted their advantage and now was poised to deliver the final blow. His furious charge unnerved the Mughals as his elephants and cavalry wreaked havoc within the Mughals. The Mughals were on the back foot and Hemu was ready to claim another famous victory. The Mughals fought back with their cavalry and arrows and the battle became fierce. But the tide was turning in favor of Hemu and so was the Battle for Delhi. Hemu was inexorably moving forward for the kill and the Mughals, having already lost to him on numerous occasions earlier, were anticipating the worst. At this stage occurred a freak event that was to prove decisive.

The man the Mughals proposed as their emperor was safely 30 kilometers away from the battlefield, who could live to fight another day even if his army lost. The man the opposing army proposed as their emperor was himself in the thick of battle because that is how he had fought and won so far. If he was lost, so was the cause opposed to the Mughals. And that is precisely what happened.

An arrow came from somewhere and hit Hemu in his eye, piercing deep. The circumstance was helped by the fact that Hemu was perched on his unusually tall, favorite elephant Hawai and thus was a more plausible target. Hemu, made of stern stuff, refused to give in. He pulled out the arrow, tied a scarf to stem the flow of blood and carried on bravely. But the die was cast. The bleeding continued and a badly wounded Hemu fainted. Hemu collapsed. His army lost sight of the commander and fled in confusion. The Mughals captured Hemu who had collapsed and took him to Akbar. The Mughals had won the day and the crown of Delhi was theirs. Hemu was produced before Akbar and Bairam Khan advised Akbar to execute Hemu. Akbar refused to kill an adversary who was half dead. Bairam Khan himself took off Hemu’s head. The Battle for Delhi had gone in favor the Mughals.



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