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Battle of Khanwa

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Decisive victory of the first Mughal Emperor Babur and consolidation of Mughal power in India.

First Battle of Panipat, Battle of Ghaghra, Second Battle of Panipat, Battle of Haldighati, Siege of Chittorgarh

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The Battle of Khanwa was fought near the village of Khanwa, about 60 km west of Agra, on March 17, 1527. It was the second major battle fought in modern-day India, between the invading forces of the first Mughal Emperor Babur and the Rajput forces led by Rana Sanga of Mewar, after the Battle of Panipat. The victory in the battle consolidated the new Mughal dynasty in India.


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Battle of khanwa


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The Rajput ruler Rana Sanga had sent an ambassador to Babur at Kabul, offering to join in Babur's attack on Sultan Ibrahim Lodi of Delhi. Sanga had offered to attack Agra while Babur would be attacking Delhi. However, while Babur did attack Sultan Ibrahim Lodi, and took over Delhi and Agra, Sanga made no move, apparently having changed his mind. Babur had resented this backsliding; in his autobiography, Babur accuses Rana Sanga of breach of agreement The historian Satish Chandra speculates that Sanga may have imagined a long drawn struggle taking place between Babur and Sultan Ibrahim Lodi following which he would be able to take control over the regions he coveted. Alternatively, writes Chandra, Sanga may have thought that in the event of a Mughal victory, Babur would withdraw from Delhi and Agra, like Timur, once he had seized the treasures of these cities. Once he realized that Babur intended to stay on in India, Sanga proceeded to build a grand coalition which would either force Babur out of India or else confine him to Punjab. In early 1527, Babur started receiving reports of Sanga's advance towards Agra. It was treachery of a section of Sanga's army that resulted in his defeat.

Initial skirmishes

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After the First Battle of Panipat, Babur had recognized that his biggest danger came from two quarters: Rana Sanga, and the Afghans ruling in Eastern India at the time. In a council that Babur called, it was decided that the Afghans represented the bigger danger, and consequently Humayun was sent heading an army to fight the Afghans in the east. However, upon hearing of Rana Sanga's advancement on Agra, Humayun was hastily recalled. Military detachments were then sent by Babur for the conquest of Dholpur, Gwaliyar, and Bayana. These were strong forts forming the outer boundaries of Agra. The commanders of Dholpur and Gwaliyar surrendered their forts to Babur accepting his generous terms. However, Nizam Khan, the commander of Bayana opened negotiations with both Babur and Rana Sanga. Babur's initial military detachment to Bayana was also defeated and dispersed by Rana Sanga's forces. However, subsequently, Bayana surrendered to Babur.

Rajput-Afghan alliance against Babur

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Rana Sanga had succeeded in building a formidable military alliance against Babur. He was joined by virtually all the leading Rajput kings from Rajasthan—including those from Harauti, Jalor, Sirohi, Dungarpur, Dhundhar, and Amber. Rao Ganga of Marwar did not join personally, but sent a contingent on his behalf. Rao Medini Rao of Chanderi in Malwa also joined the alliance. Further, Mahmud Lodi, the younger son of Sikandar Lodi, whom the Afghans had proclaimed their new Sultan also joined the alliance with a force of 10,000 Afghans under him. Hasan Khan Mewat, the ruler of Mewat, also joined the alliance with a force of 12,000. Babur denounced the Afghans who joined the alliance against him as kafirs and murtads (i.e. those who had apostatized from Islam). According to the historian Satish Chandra, Babur allied Afghans to unite against Hindus (kafirs) as it was religious battle. Chandra also argues that the alliance weaved together by Sanga represented a Rajput-Afghan alliance with the proclaimed mission of expelling Babur, and restoring the Lodi empire.

Babur rallies his troops

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According to Babur, Rana Sanga's army consisted of 2,00,000 soldiers—probably a rough guess, according to Lane-Poole as the Mewar army along with the armies of Marwar, Merta and Dungarpur numbered 40,000 when Rana Sanga invaded Gujarat. Even if this figure is exaggerated, Chandra comments that it is indisputable that Sanga's army greatly outnumbered Babur's forces. The greater numbers and reported courage of the Rajputs served to instill fear in Babur's army. An astrologer added to the general unease by his foolish predictions. To raise the flagging morale of his soldiers, Babur proceeded to renounce future consumption of wine, broke his drinking cups, poured out all the stores of liquor on the ground, and promulgated a pledge of total abstinence.He declared the battle against Sanga to be a Jihad (To Struggle or Strive) and subsequently took on the title of Ghazi. He also made his nobles and soldiers take an oath on the Koran that they would fight to the death. In his autobiography, Babur writes that:

It was a really good plan, and it had a favorable propagandistic effect on friend and foe.

The battle

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The Battle of Khanwa took place at Khanwa, near Fatehpur-Sikri, on 16 March 1527. Before the battle, Babur had carefully inspected the battle site. Like in Panipat, he strengthened his front by procuring carts which were fastened by iron chains (not leather straps as at Panipat) in the Ottoman fashion. These were used for providing shelter to horses and for storing artillery. Gaps between the carts were used for horsemen to charge at the opponent at an opportune time. To lengthen the line, ropes built of raw hide were placed over wheeled wooden tripods. Behind the tripods, matchlockmen were placed who could fire and, if required, advance. The flanks were given protection by digging ditches. In addition to the regular force, small contingents were kept apart on the left flank and in front for the tulghuma (flanking) tactic. Thus, a strong offensive-defensive formation had been prepared by Babur. Rana Sanga, fighting in a traditional way, attacked the Mughal army's flanks. He was prevented from breaking through by reinforcements dispatched by Babur. Once the advance of the Rajputs and their Afghan allies had been contained, Babur's flanking tactic came into play. The carts and matchlockmen were ordered to advance, hemming in the Rajputs and their allies. Despite putting up a gallant fight, Rana Sanga and his allies suffered a disastrous defeat. Following his victory, Babur ordered a tower of enemy skulls to be erected, a practice formulated by Timur against his adversaries, irrespective of their religious beliefs. According to Chandra, the objective of constructing a tower of skulls was not just to record a great victory, but also to terrorize opponents. Earlier, the same tactic had been used by Babur against the Afghans of Bajaur.


The Battle of Khanwa demonstrated that Rajput bravery was not enough to counter Babur's superior generalship and organizational skills. Babur himself commented:

Swordsmen though some Hindustanis may be, most of them are ignorant and unskilled in military move and stand, in soldierly counsel and procedure.

This statement, made in the context of the Afghans, was equally applicable to the Rajputs according to Chandra. Rana Sanga managed to evade capture and escape to Chittor, but the grand alliance he had built collapsed. Quoting Rushbrook Williams, Chandra writes:

The powerful confederacy which depended so largely for its unity upon the strength and reputation of Mewar, was shattered by a single defeat and ceased henceforth to be a dominant factor in the politics of Hindustan.

On 30 January 1528, Rana Sanga died in Chittor, apparently poisoned by his own chiefs who held his plans of renewing the fight with Babur to be suicidal.

It is suggested that had it not been for the cannon of Babur, Rana Sanga might have achieved victory. Pradeep Barua notes that Babur's cannon put an end to outdated trends in Indian warfare.


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