14 January 1761, Day on which the historic and fateful 3rd Battle of Panipat took place. Panipat had seen a धर्मयुद्ध earlier in form of the 2nd battle of Panipat. Hindus lost because Raja Hemchandra Vikramaditya Bhargava’s eye was hit with a stray arrow. Little did anyone know this battle would have the same fate.
The battle was essentially a Hindu Vs Muslim Civilizational battle, where Hindus were led by Brahman Peshwas, and Muslims were led by Ahmed Shah Abdali. Shrimant Sadashivrao Bhau Peshwa, Prime minister of Hindu Padshahi fought with Abdali to maintain Hindu supremacy, as evident from his letters to Abdali, While Abdali fought for a variety of reasons, the obvious one was for Islam, when Shah Waliullah Dehlavi Called him to rally his forces against Kaffir Marathas.
Leaders of the Peshwa army were Sadashivrao Bhau, who was the best leader that Hindus had at that time, Shrimant Vishwasrao Peshwa, the Peshwa Prince and heir to Peshwa throne, he was the future of the nation. With them were experienced and brave generals like Krishna Rao(Shamsher Bahadur), Vitthal Shivdev Vinchurkar, Antaji Mankeshwar(Kulkarni), Jankoji Shinde, Mahadji Shinde, Yashwantrao Pawar, and others. Balwantrao Mehendale and Govind Pant Bundele were present too, but both died in one of the skirmishes so couldn’t fight the battle.
Sadashivrao Bhau was the son of the valiant Chimaji Appa, brother of Bajirao Ballal Peshwa. And Vishwasrao, of Nanasaheb Peshwa, and grandson of Bajirao Peshwa.
Coming to the battle itself, the Maratha army was starved for more than a week as their supplies had been exhausted because the Muslim army had cut their supply lines. There was a shortage of funds as they had taken very little money before going for the campaign because of the loans that Peshwai had. In one instance, the army had to melt the utensils and mint their coins with that metal. Freezing low temperature, unavailability of food, 0 funds and enemy encircling the fort, death of 2 commanders, even these odds didn’t put down the morale of Hindus. They decided to face whatever odds they had to fight for their dharma and not belittle their ancestry. Right from 17-year-old Jankoji Shinde, 19-year-old prince Vishwasrao to 66-year-old Vitthal Shivdev Vinchurkar. They decided to fight the enemy and have a last attempt at breaking encirclement after months of small skirmishes. And they came on the battlefield of Panipat face to face with Abdali.
The Center of the army was led by Sadashivrao Bhau And Vishwasrao, Both in the vanguard. Left and right flanks were led by Shamsher Bahadur, Jankoji Shinde, Ibrahim Gardi with his Gardi battalion, Malharrao Holkar, and others. Despite Sadashivrao Bhau being slightly pessimistic about the situation he and his army was in, he still didn’t let that feeling come on his face and rallied his forces from the very front. From this, One can guess how great as a commander he had been in the campaign.
Vishwasrao and Bhau faced Shah Wali Khan. They fought with such tenacity and valor that despite being starved, they broke the strong front of the Afghan army and started massacring the mlecchas. Shah wali had to sit on the ground saying “कहा भाग रहे हो कमबख्तो, काबुल तो बोहोत दूर है”. Such was the ferocity of the attack. Vishwasrao on his horse dilpak, was fighting in the front lines, he had injuries of a sword on his neck and forehead and one arrow injury on his shoulder. Nevertheless, he continued slaying mlecchas. And during the peak of fighting around 2 In the afternoon, when he climbed on the elephant for a view of the battlefield, a stray bullet him, leaving him mortally wounded. His presence in front had been very good for boosting the morale of troops, but now, the prince was lying mortally wounded in his howdah. History repeated itself, just like how Hemu was hit in the eye with a stray arrow which was the principal cause of the defeat of his army, it had happened here too. When Sadashivrao Bhau came to see his wounded nephew, the heroic Brahman Prince said “Why to care for me uncle, we might lose the battle if their leader is away”. Even death couldn’t flinch him and take him away from his goal of winning the battle. After some confusion, the Maratha army fled, but the bravest were still fighting. Sadashivrao Bhau kept fighting in front, having 3 horses shot down from under him. He kept fighting even though he was given a chance to escape. Sadashivrao Bhau was injured and limping because of wounds he received in course of the battle. He had with him a spear. He was surrounded by Afghan soldiers. Even when the army was fleeing on all sides, he still seemed to have his presence of mind intact. He looked still as firm as before. He was very well dressed, afghans asked him whether he was Bhau himself. And when no reply came, one soldier injured Bhau, but Bhau killed him. And then, they all encircled Sadashivrao Bhau and killed him for sake of his jewels, not before Bhau had killed half of them. The material loss at Panipat was made up of the spiritual and superhuman valor of Sadashivrao Bhau, Vishwasrao, and their commanders like Santaji Wagh(whose body had 40 cuts of swords).
After the battle, Afghans saw the body of prince Vishwasrao and exclaimed “This is the body of the king of unbelievers, we will have this dry stuffed and taken back to Kabul”. It is described as “Despite being an Indian, his skin was fairer than a Champa flower, his princely blue eyes were half-closed as if even death couldn’t conquer him. He had an extremely beautiful face and body, with limbs reaching till his knees”. Afghans found the body of Sadashivrao Bhau. It is described as “A tall, fair-skinned, deep eyed youth, around 30 years old, a body whose every muscle was well developed due to meticulous exercise”. His attendants confirmed the same as Sadashivrao Bhau used to perform 1200 prostrations before the sun every day.
After the battle, Abdali wrote a letter to Raja Madho Singh of Jaipur in which he mentions how “Marathas fought with such valor, beyond the capacity of other races. These dauntless blood shedders didn’t fall back in fighting even a bit. But then, Allah helped me, and wretched Deccanis suffered defeat.”
He wrote a letter to Shrimant Peshwa Nanasaheb and told him that he didn’t wish for a battle, and that let Punjab till Sutlej remain with him. Abdali never came to India after that. He accepted the superiority of Peshwa Madhavrao and didn’t fight against Marathas in the North.
This is your history, O Hindus. History of valor, sacrifice, strength, and iron will. It is due to heroes like these that we today are Hindus, that we have with us our cultural and ethnic identity intact. They didn’t give up in face of such overwhelming odds; they continue to inspire us at every moment in your life. Let us not make them feel ashamed, let us make them proud, let us make their sacrifices worthwhile. They dissolved their bodies on the battlefield and attained a position at the feet of god. Let us prove that we indeed are their real descendants.
जय श्री राम।
जय दादा परशुराम।
हर हर महादेव।