250 years on

There is an adage that the Marathas use in the event of a rout, usually after an election debacle: “Iska to Panipat ho gaya (He’s met his Waterloo).” The phrase, said in half-jest, has its origin in the Marathas’ terrible defeat at the hands of the Afghan marauder Ahmad Shah Abdali at Panipat in 1761. It’s another matter that despite losing that battle —and in the process, losing all possibility of becoming masters of Delhi and India—the Marathas never lost their pride. It was this unsinkable spirit that was visible on Friday when Marathas from across India gathered here, 250 years later, to remember their heroes. The fact that the Marathas still use this adage to signify defeat can only mean that the defeat at the hands of Abdali still rankles them. So on Friday, the Marathas who gathered here pledged to take the defeat in their stride and remember instead the battle for the valour of their ancestors. Kala Amb, the venue of the third battle, today has no detail of the event, the names of the martyrs, or tales of their bravery. The Marathas would like a memorial at Kala Amb in memory of heroes who could have changed the course of India’s history but for a tactical mistake.
• The third battle of Panipat was fought between the Marathas led by Sadashivrao Bhau and Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Abdali at Kala Amb in Panipat on January 14, 1761
• The battle ended in few hours with 60-70,000 soldiers killed
• The Maratha line was to be 12 km across, with the artillery in front, protected by infantry while the cavalry was instructed to wait behind the artillery
• The waiting cavalry moved forward without any formal orders causing casualties among Maratha soldiers leading to the defeat
• Although the Marathas lost in the battle, no other foreign rulers dared to invade India through the Khyber pass as they remember the valour & bravery of the Maratha soldiers

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