Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Ahmad Khan Bangash at the battle of Panipat

(Excerpts from The Bangash Nawabs of Farrukhabad—A Chronicle (1713-1857) by Irvine, William. 1878.)

When Ahmad Shah Durani entered India for the sixth time, in the year 1173 H. (25th Augt. 1759— 13th Augt. 1760), Ahmad Khan Bangash went with the Ruhela leaders to pay his respects to the invader. They were introduced to him at Koil on the 4th Zil Haj 1173, (18th July, 1760).The defeat of Dataji Sendhia took place shortly afterwards.

Ahmad Khan Bangash must have made more than a nominal submission to Ahmad Shah, for we find him forwarding supplies to the camp under a large convoy. Holkar, who had escaped from the defeat, was near Agra and, hearing of this convoy, crossed the Jamna. He took or destroyed a great part of the supplies and then retired again across the Jamna. A body of Afghans were, however, detached from their main army and, overtaking him by a prodigious march, routed his troops with great slaughter.

Ahmad Shah, after moving across the Jamna, took up his quarters at Anupshahr. After some time Shuja'-ud-daula was induced to give in his adherence. The local chroniclers assert that this was effected through Hafiz Rahmat Khan and Ahmad Khan. Soon Sadasheo Bhao arrived from the Dakhin with an immense army, under Jankoji, son of Apa Ji Sendhia, Ibrahim Khan Gardi, Mulhar Kao and others, in order to avenge the defeat of Dataji. On the 25th October, 1760, Ahmad Shah marched from Anupshahr and crossed the Jamna about twenty miles above Delhi. Ahmad Khan Ghalib Jang was present with a contingent of five thousand men. The Mahrattas proceeded to entrench themselves at Panipat, and Ahmad Shah encamped opposite them. Daily skirmishing, varied by one or two partial engagements, went on for more than two months, till the Mahratta supplies failing entirely, they were forced to risk a general action.

The story goes that Ahmad Shah Durani offered a reward of one rupee for every Mahratta head. Ten thousand horsemen were sent out daily to plunder villages and cut off supplies. These men used to capture any lagging groom, grasscutter or petty dealer they came across and, producing the captive's head before the king, they received a rupee for each head. Hearing of this ; Nawab Ahmad Khan said to his arz-begi (chamberlain) Musharrif Khan, that he would give two rupees for each Mahratta brought in alive. The Durranis then began to bring in their prisoners alive. The Nawab paid for each the sum of two rupees, and then at midnight he let them go free. On reaching the Bhao's camp, they were loud in their praises of Nawab Ahmad Khan. Shuja-ud-daula and Najib Khan reported this matter to the Durani king, and from that day he was displeased with the Nawab.

In order to augment this displeasure those two nobles also remarked that Ahmad Khan, although Amir-ul-Umra and Bakhshi of the Empire, had brought a very insignificant force. The Shah made no reply. But Shah Wall Khan, his Wazir, and himself of the Bangash clan, who happened to be present, sent for Ahmad Khan. On his appearing, the Wazir rose to greet him and gave him a place by his side. Then turning to him, he said, " O Ghalib Jang ! you are one of the great nobles of Hindustan, yet you have brought with you a very small force. What is the reason ?" Now Ahmad Khan had already heard, through Jang Baz Khan Bangash, of the evil speeches of his enemies. In reply to Shah Wali Khan, the Wazir, he said that he had left his bakhshi at Farrukkabad with a large force to guard his house ; for Grobind Pandit had advanced from Bundelkhand with three thousand men and, having crossed the Jamna, was encamped on the banks of that river. If he had left no troops behind, his capital and his house would have been plundered. Further, with this same small army he had once defeated Safdar Jang and his immense force, including Suraj Mal, Kajak Himmat Singh and other Rajahs. If he had wished, he could have then marched on Delhi, but refrained out of respect for the presence of the Emperor. Shah Wali Khan said he had already heard in Kabul reports of what was referred to. The Nawab ended by saying that the quality of his army, though it was small, would be seen in the day of battle.

Opposed to Ahmad Khan's battery was that of Ibrahim Khan Gardi who commanded twelve thousand regular infantry. One dark night, this Ibrahim Khan gave orders that, as Ahmad Khan's battery was weaker than that of any other noble, he would at that point make anight attack. In the last watch of the night Ibrahim Khan's troops attempted to surprise the battery. Ahmad Khan's guns were, however, all in order, and many had iron shields ( ? = chadaren). As it was the cold season, there "were watch-fires here and there, at which the camp-followers and labourers were warming themselves. These men, hearing the tramp of horses' hoofs, called out to each other that the Mahrattas were on them. They snatched up some lighted wood from the night fires in pieces of broken pottery and threw them on the port holes of the guns and cliddar," which all went off together. A number of the enemy were slain and the rest fled. On Ahmad Khan's side not a soixl was hurt. All this was done without the Nawab being disturbed. At dawn the Durrani king visited the field of battle. Ahmad Khan went out to meet him, when he said that he had now seen, with his own eyes, proof of that bravery of which he had heard. He took off his jigha and made a present of it to the Nawab. After that his enemies were abashed and silenced.

On the day of the great battle (7th January, 1761), Ahmad Khan was directed to guard the women, his force being so small. The Nawab refused indignantly, saying, that such work was fit for eunuchs, he would fight in the front. The Abdali king then sent him to the right wing. It was here that the first attack was made, and after a contest in which Ibrahim Khan Gardi was wounded, the Mahratta gained the advantage. In this emergency Ahmad Khan sent his darogha, Musharrif Khan, to Ahmad Shah asking for aid. When the messenger reached the king, Shuja'-ud-daula and Najib Khan stated that the enemy was not opposed in great force to Nawab Ahmad Khan, that the need for reinforcement was greater with Inayat 'Ali Khan, son of Hafiz Rahmat Khan. When Musharrif Khan reported that no reply had been given by the king, he was sent back with a still more pressing message. At length two divisions were ordered out, and these having strengthened the right wing, the Mahrattas were gradually driven back. Biswas Rao having been killed, Sadasheo Bhao fled, all became confusion, and by two o'clock in the day the field was won.

Daim Khan, chela, used to relate that when Ahmad Khan was sent for after the battle to receive a Ichilat, he sat down by the entrance of the tent. Shuja-ud-daula took up the Nawab's sword and pulled it out of its scabbard. There was no edge on it, the Nawab using it in a particular way. Shuja-ud-daula in a mocking manner said — " Are you a commander of Fifty-two thousand and own such a sword as this ?" The Nawab replied, " edge of this sword was felt by your father well." He referred to the defeat and flight of Safdar Jang. Nawab Najib Khan, Rohela, who was a great friend of Shuja-ud-daula, then asked for the sword and, having looked at it, praised it ironically and begged it as a gift. Nawab Ahmad Khan told him to take it. Najib Khan, said, " Steel should not be received for nothing ;" so he sent for a paisa (copper coin) and, putting it on both hands, offered it with mock respect to Nawab Ahmad Khan. The Nawab taking it up said, "It is right and proper that you should offer me a nazar, for " you were once in my father's service." This was true, for Najib Khan began life as a Jamadar on five rupees a month under Muhammad Khan Ghazanfar Jang and then entered the service of the elder Ghazi-ud-din Khan on seven rupees a month. The first interview was accorded to Nawab Ahmad Khan, and by special permission he was allowed to take in with him three persons to hold him up. They were Fakhr-ud-daula Bakhshi, Mihrban Khan Diwan and Daim Khan. Shah Wali Khan, the Wazir, being of the same clan, had recommended Ahmad Khan, and in this way he obtained the first entry. When all the other amirs were admitted, the king gave Ahmad Khan the order to sit down.

Portrait of Ahmad Khan Bangash leading his contingent

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