The Third Battle of Panipat took place on 14 January 1761, at Panipat, about 60 miles (97 km) north of Delhi.
The battle was fought between a northern expeditionary force of the Maratha Empire and the forces of the King of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Abdali, supported by two Indian Muslim allies—the Rohilla Afghans of the Doab, andShuja-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Awadh.
The conquest of Punjab brought the Marathas into direct confrontation with the Afgan general, Ahmad Shah Abdali.
Causes of Third Battle of Panipat:
1.Weak Mughal Rule:After the attack of Nadir Shah, the foundation of the Mughal Empire was shaken.
2.Height of Maratha Power:Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao and his Generals had established their terror in the South by establishing their influence on Karnataka and Nizam etc.Raghunathrao made his faithful Sardar Adani Beg, the governor of Punjab and defeated Vimurashah son of Ahmed Shah Abdali.
So Ahmed Shah Abdali decided to attack India.
3.Invitation to Ahmed Shah Abdali: Many innovators got success in India due to internal dispute. Jai Chand invited Muhammad Ghori for invasion and Daulat Khan had invited to Babur. In the same way, Ruhels and Rajputs had invited Ahmed Shah Abdali to attack on India
4.Internal Disputes:Marathas started to fight with Nizam, Avadh, and Rajputs.Scindia and Holkar were also enemies because of the interrupting the problem of the succession of Ishwar Singh and Madhav Singh.Due to this internal dispute, Ahmed Shah Abdali was much encouraged.Rajputs also did not help Maratha.
Events of Third Battle of Panipat:
The Marathas attacked Abdali on 14 January, 1761. During the course of battle, Malhar Rao Holkar fled away. The Abdali’s army was damaged by the artillery of Ibrahim Gardi. By the evening, the Marathas were badly defeated, most of the Maratha’s soldiers were killed and the rest of them fled away.
The battle continued next day also. Several important rulers of Marathas including Bhau, son of the Peshwa, Viswas Rao, Jaswant Rao Pawar, Sindhia, etc. were killed in the massacre. The main cause of the defeat of Marathas was the failure of Bhau and the superiority of Abdali against Bhau as a commander. In Maratha’s camp, there were several women and servants which was also burdened to Maratha’s army.
The Maratha’s force numbered around 45000 and Abdali army consisted of nearly 60,000 soldiers.
After losing control over Doab for Bhau, he felt the scarcity of supplies. He wasted three months in the battle with Abdali at Panipat and worst was that from the last two months, the Maratha army was semi-starved. The Marathas also do not use their guerilla technique of warfare and depended on the artillery under Ibrahim Gardi. No doubt Abdali had better cavalry than the Marathas.
On the other hand, Bhau failed to get the support of the Rajputs and the Jats and is also one of the causes of defeat in the battle. According to Sardesai, the Marathas suffered the loss of life but the power of the Marathas was not destroyed nor did any change come in their ideal.
In the battle, the Marathas also lost their ablest leaders like Raghunath Rao, etc. that had also opened the way for defeat. Peshwas were become weakened in the battle and led to the disintegration of the Maratha Empire.
For some time, Sindhia remained the protector of the Mughal Emperor but the Marathas failed to strengthen their hold over the North. Therefore, the British could get the chance of eliminating the French in India and capture power in Bengal.
Consequences of Battle:
1. Loss of Marathas in a Big Number:
In this battle a big number of Marathas was killed. It would not be exaggeration to say that a generation of Maratha caste ended in this battle. J.N. Sarkar wrote, “The crisis fell on whole Maratha empire in this battle and there was not a single house in Maharashtra where was not mourned on the death of a person or head.”
2. End of Maratha’s influence in North India:
After the defeat of third battle of Panipat, Marathas lost their sovereignty in Panipat, Doab etc. Before this battle these states sometimes came under sovereignty of Muslims but after this battle Marathas gradually lost their control in North India.
3. End of Maratha Co-operative Commission:
In this battle Marathas had a big loss so Maratha co-operation commission ended. After this Maratha Sardars began to quarrel among themselves and the Maratha power completely ended. The destruction done in battle of Panipat broken the dream of establishing Maratha-Sovereignty.
4. Moral Fall of Maratha:
Maratha’s caste was considered very brave and courageous and their army was considered invincible. Other kings were eager to ally Marathas. But after the defeat in the battle of Panipat, their prestige was lost and their military moral was minimized.
5. Rise of the English:
Due to internal dispute and anarchy in India, the English had established their influence. Consequently, the foundation of English rule was firmed. “The Internal disputes of Marathas and Muslims made them weak and opened the door of getting sovereignty for the English.