Get Your History Book Out: The 5 Battles that Created India

Akhilesh Pillalamarri

Key Point: The subcontinent has a long history of military valor and bravery. 

India’s history is characterized by a long list of battles as native and foreign powers sought to conquer and gain access to the wealth of the subcontinent. Here, I have decided to shed some light on the five battles that changed Indian history forever, focusing on more recent battles. They are as follows:

Panipat (1526)

The Battle of Panipat took place took place at a town northwest of Delhi in 1526 and lead to the establishment of the Mughal Empire. Panipat was directly on the invasion path to Delhi.

The founder of the Mughal Empire, Babur, is a remarkable figure because of the adventures of his youth, which he spent wandering around Central Asia, winning and losing kingdoms. He documented his life in a lifelong journal, giving us rare insights into a ruler’s inner thoughts. Babur became ruler of Kabul in 1504. In 1526, much of north India was ruled by Ibrahim Lodi of the Delhi Sultanate. Many of Lodi’s nobles were dissatisfied with him and invited Babur to rule over them instead. Babur knew a deal when he saw one. Writing in his journal, he noted “the one nice aspect of Hindustan is that it is a large country with lots of gold and money.”

Babur promptly invaded. His force of about 15,000 men was outnumbered by 30,000-40,000 soldiers under Lodi. However, unlike Lodi, Babur had a secret weapon—24 pieces of artillery—and put his men behind carts during the battle, allowing him to kill Lodi and most of Lodi’s forces. Thus was the Mughal Empire, South Asia’s dominant player for the next three hundred years, established.

Talikota (1565)

The same Delhi Sultanate that Babur defeated was itself a failing empire prone to breakaway states and bad relations with Hindus. In the 14th century, the sultanate’s attempted expansion into south India quickly faltered, but not before it lead to the rise of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire and the breakaway Bahmani Sultanate, which later splintered into five warring Deccan sultanates.

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