Battles of India in recent history


  • MAGADHA 321 BC
  • KALINGA  261 BC
  • MAHMUD OF GHAZNI 1001-26
  • KOPPAM 1059
  • BURDWAN 1097
  • TARAI 1191-92
  • KAMRUP 1205
  • PATAN 1297
  • KAUTHAL 1367
  • DELHI 1398
  • TALLIKOTA 1465
  • GAUR 1493
  • CHAUL 1508
  • PANIPAT 1526,1556,1761
  • MALWA 1531
  • CHAUSA 1539
  • KANAUJ 1540
  • SRINAGAR 1540
  • TORNA 1646
  • COCHIN 1663
  • AMRITSAR 1708
  • DELHI 1739
  • ARCOT  1751
  • CALCUTIA 1756
  • References


The Mahabharata war, an event which is unanimously accepted as an actual occurrence, and subsequently given epic proportions, has been variously dated between 3000 BC and 2500 BC. It is believed to have been a local feud originally, involving finally most of the tribes of the northern plains and hills.

As legend has it, the original feud was between the family of the Kuru king and the Pandu family, cousins of the Kurus, over the tracts of land surrounding Hastinapur and Indraprastha, in what is Haryana today. The Kurus were in fact, defeated in the battle of Kurukshetra.


Alexander, prince of Macedonia, had set out to conquer the world but death came on the heels of his Indian/Punjab campaign. The real significance of Alexander’s invasion of the Indus Valley was in the opening up of the north-west to lands beyond the valley. The most famous of Alexander’s confrontations is the battle of Hydaspes in which he defeated Porus, the king of the jhelum region. Alexander left behind him anarchy in the north-west which Chandragupta Maurya exploited to his own advantage.


This battle won Chandragupta Maurya his kingdom. Having earlier defeated the Greek satraps of the north-west, he founded the Mauryan dynasty only after routing the last of the Nanda kings in this battle.


The battle is famous as the one that turned Emperor Ashoka to Buddhism and to the path of non-violence. It is said that over one lakh people were killed and nearly twice the number taken captive in the course of the war which took place in the ninth year of Ashoka’s reign. Kalinga, near modern- day Bhubaneswar, was the capital of a kingdom of the same name, wealthy and prosperous, rich in the arts and music. Its most famous king was Kharavela who came after Ashoka (See Archaeology/ Architecture- Bhubaneswar)


The Pandya dynasty captured the capital city of northern Sri Lanka. The Pandyas ruled the area south of the river Vallaru (the area that later came to be known as the Pudukkottai state). King Nedunchezian of this dynasty was one of the more renowned warriors. Later, after the Cholas had almost entirely replaced the Pandyas as the power centre of the region, the Chola king, Rajaraja I (985-1014 AD) conducted a naval attack on the Sri Lankan capital. Anuradhapura was destroyed and the Cholas moved the capital to Pollonnaruva.


The first ‘real’ invasion by Mahmud of Ghazni who defeated the Shahiya king, jaipal, near Peshawar in 1001 AD Mahmud Of Ghazni conducted 14 major expeditions into India between 1001 and which period he defeated the Rajput king of Bikaner, the legendary Raja Bhoj of the Par- mar dynasty of Malwa, Thaneswar, Matsya, Mathura and Kanauj. He met failure in Kashmir (1015), but succeeded in annexing Lahore (1021), which then became the launching pad for future Persian invasions into the Indian subcontinent. His final foray into India centred on Somnath, one of the richest cities of the region then, particularly its temple (See Holy Places: Temples).


Chola king Rajaraja I annexed the Maldives Islands.


A battle for supremacy in the peninsula took place near what is Mysore today between Chalukya king Somesvara I and Chola king Rajadhiraja, in which the latter was killed. The Chalukya king also defeated Chedi king Raja Kama soon after and became the most powerful ruler south of the Vindhyas.


The Senas began their rule in Bengal, put- ting an end to Pala rule, with the defeat of Madanapala by Vijaya Sena inthisyear.

TARAI 1191-92

1191 saw the first invasion of the Indian subcontinent by Muhammad Ghori. He was defeated by the legendary Prithviraj Chauhan of Ajmerin 1191 atTarain, but he routed the Ajmeri forces (again at Tarain near Ajmer) the following year. The greatest significance of his invasion lay in that he left behind his ‘slave’ Qutub-ud-din Aibak to hold the lands conquered. Thus began the age of the Persian Muslim rule in northern India.


Bakhtiyar Khilji attempted to annex Kamrup (modern-day Assam) and suffered defeat at the hands of the ‘mlecchas’ (barbarians) who held the region. Khilji destroyed Nalanda university and was later assassinated by one of his own men; 50 years later Kamrup was overrun and held successfully (till modern times) by the Ahoms who gave the region its name.

PATAN 1297

Ala-ud-din Khilji defeated Raja Kama II of the Chalukyas of Gujarat. This battle brought independant rule in Gujarat to a virtual end. While it remained subjugated totally till the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb held powers, later too it was not totally in- dependent. It became a dependent state of Delhi thereafter.


One of the bloodiest battles in peninsular India, it ended in the defeat of the Vijayanagara rulers, Harihara and Bukka at the hands of the Bahmani Sultans. But in the long run it did Vijayanagara no lasting harm. Vijayanagara remained, for the next century, the kingdom south of the Vindhyas.

DELHI 1398

Timur (Tamerlane) captured Delhi, and Hardwar thereafter. These are considered to have been the worst of the Mongol raids and they also signalled the end of the early Muslim era in India. Timur’s nominee, the first of the Sayyids, was named sultan of Delhi. The central Asian Turks settled down in India and wielded influence in al- most every important state in India.


The battle signalled the end of the once glorious Vijayanagara empire. Virupaksha II of Vi jay ana gar a was defeated by the combined forces of the sultanates of Ahmednagar, Bidar, Bijapurand Golconda.

GAUR 1493

Ala-ud-din Husain Shah defeated Muzaffar Shah Habsi at Gaur.

CHAUL 1508

The rulers of Calicut (the Zamorin) and Gujarat (Sultan Mahmud Begara) combined forces to defeat the Portuguese navy at Calicut. It is said the sultan of Egypt helped the Indian forces. But the Portuguese retaliated the following year and destroyed the Muslim navy in a battle off Diu in Gujarat. Soon after this Sultan Begara allowed the Portuguese to set up a factory at Diu. In 1534 the Portuguese captured Bassein in present-day Maharashtra and then Diu.

PANIPAT 1526,1556,1761

1526 saw the first of three major decisive battles at Panipat, at which Babar, the founder of the Mughal dynasty, defeated Sultan Ibrahim Lodi. The second battle of Panipat (1556) was between the forces of Akbar, the most renowned of the Mughal rulers, and those of Sikandar Suri, firmly setting the Mughals on the throne of Delhi. The third decisive battle at Panipat (1761) was the last battle for Delhi (through use of arms) between the Marathas led by Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao and the Afghan Ahmad Shah Abdali, at which the former were totally routed.

MALWA 1531

End of the Khilji dynasty with Mahmud Khilji II’s defeat and execution at the hands Of Bahadur Shah of Gujarat.


Sher Shah of Bengal defeated Humayun at Chausa, near modern-day Buxar, in june of 1539 and again at Hardoi (in modern-day U .P.) near Kanauj the following year. This led Sher Shah to hold Delhi for a brief period of five years, from Shergarh, the sixth capital at Delhi. Humayun fled to the north-west provinces. Humayun’s capture of Lahore in 1555 provided the base, finally, for a successful recapture of Delhi. Sher Shah died in an accident in 1545 and Delhi was then held by the Suris. Humayun Defeated Sikander Suri in 1555, five months after capturing Lahore.


Humayun was defeated by Sher Shah of Bengal for the second time. The battle actually took place near Hardoi (close to Kanauj) in modern-day Uttar Pradesh. This brought Delhi under the suzerainty of Sher Shah who then established the sixth capital of Delhi region – at Shergarh, the fort we know as the Purana Qila or Old Fort. Sher Shah died in anaccidentin 1545. Humayun was able to recapture Delhi on eying 1555.


The capital of Kashmir was seized in battle against chieftains of regional principalities by Hyder Mirza Doghlat, a general of Humayun. He proceeded to establish him- self as an independent king. Kashmir was in disarray after the death in 1472 of the scholarly Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin who patronized the translation of the Mahabharata and Rajatarangini into Persian and was Of Ladakhi origin.

At the time of Hyder Mirza’s invasion, Shia-Sunni (See Religion: Islam) quarrels were frequent in Kashmir indeed decisive in the politics of the region. However, these local factions got together to oppose the Mughal who was assassinated in 1551. After a further period during which the king failed to assert himself, Ghazi Khan Chak seized the throne in Srinagar in 1561 and founded the famous Chak dynasty.


Immortalised in several songs and legends, the battle of Haldighati or Gorgunda at which Rana Pratap of Me war lost to Akbar. In July of the same year, Akbar defeated Daud Khan Karnani at the battle of Rajmahal and thereby seized control of Bengal. This brought to an end 236 years of Afghan rule and virtually ended independant rule in Bengal which henceforth remained dependent on the Mughals till seized by the British. The battle of Nekujyal (1612) killed the last of the Afghan kings, Usman Khan Lohori.

TORNA 1646

The start of Shivaji’s adventurous career. He captured Torna fort from the Sultan of Bijapur this year. In 1664 he captured Surat and came into conflict with the British for the first time. In 1665 he entered into a treaty with Mughals at Purandhar. In 1672, at the battle of Salhire the Marathas completely routed the Mughal army led by Urahabat Khan. In 1674 Shivaji was crowned ‘Chattrapati’ at Rajgarh.


Captured by the Dutch.


After the assassination of the 10th Sikh Guru at Nanded (See Religion: Sikhism) by an Afghan hireling of the Nawab of Sir hind, Banda Bahadur Lachman Das became the temporal leader of the Sikhs and captured Amritsar from the Mughals. A running war continued however, and Banda Bahadur was finally captured in 1716 at Gurdaspur and executed with hundreds of his followers.

DELHI 1739

Nadir Shah of Persia ransacked Delhi and massacred almost all inhabitants – a massacre that continued for 58 days and left 20,OOO dead in the region. He took with him the Peacock throne and the Kohinoor diamond and left behind a crippled Mughal empire. A treaty in May the same year between Nadir Shah and the Mughal emperor gave Afghanistan a separate and in- dependent entity.

ARCOT  1751

The year in which Robert Clive captured Arcot from Chanda Saheb. But the battle for Arcot continued till the death of Chanda Saheb, the nawab who was executed by Clive after his defeat and capture at the battle at Tiruchirapalli in 1752.


Siraj-ud-Daula, nawab of Bengal captured Calcutta on 17thJune and locked 146 British prisoners in a small room, from which only 23 remained alive the next morning- this is the story of the infamous ‘Black hole of Calcutta.’ Clive attacked Calcutta in October of the same year and had recaptured it injanuary the following year. Soon after, the British captured Bandel from the Portuguese.


Hostilities resumed with Siraj-ud-Daula, who had never accepted British presence as a permanency. On 23rd June Clive defeated the nawab of Bengal with the help, through intrigue, of one of the nawab’s ministers – Mir jafar, who was thereafter named nawab of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Siraj- ud-Daula, who escaped the field of battle at Plassey, was captured and assassinated on the orders of Mir Jafar’s son Mirana injuly the same year. Mir Jafar died in 1765. In the meantime- and this was the real Significance of the battle of Plassey – Clive was declared the governor of Bengal by Mir Jafar and the 24 Parganas was ceded to the British.


The British under Clive captured Chandernagore from the French in March. In 1750 the French ceded Madras to the British. The battle of Wandiwash left the British the supreme European power.


Since 1947 the Indian armed forces have fought defensive wars against Pakistani and Chinese aggression (1948,1965,1971 and 1962 respectively). From 1987 to 1989, an Indian Peace Keeping Force (iPKF) was invited to Sri Lanka as a deterrent to Tamil separatists.

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