Battle of Khanwa

Battle of Khanwa
Part of Expansion of the Mughal Empire

Mughal painting depicting the Rajput Army (Left) armed against Mughal Army (Right)
LocationKhanwa, Bharatpur, India
Result Decisive victory of the first Mughal Emperor Babur and consolidation of Mughal power in India.[1]
Expansion of the Mughal Empire into north-east and central India.
Mughal Empire Rajput Confederation
Lodi dynasty loyalists
Commanders and leaders
Ustad Ali Quli
Mustafa Rumi
Chin Timur Khan
Mir Mohib Ali Khalifa
Mir Abdul Aziz
Mir Muhammed Ali Khan
Khusrau Shah Kokultash
Kassim Husain Khan
Muhammad Zaman Mirza
Askari Mirza
Hindal Mirza
Sayyed Mehdi Khwaja
Asad Malik Hast
Raja Sanghar Ali Khan
Raja Silhadi (Switched Sides -Betrayed Rajput Confederate)
Rana Sanga (WIA)
Sultan Mahmud Lodi
Hasan Khan Mewati 
Maldeo Rathore
Uday Singh of Dungarpur 
Raimal Rathore of Idar
Ratan Singh of Merta 
Manik Chand Chauhan 
Chandrabhan Chauhan 
Ratan Singh Chundawat 
Raj Rana Ajja 
Rao Ramdas 
Gokaldas Parmar 
Raja Silhadi
Medini Rai
Sultan Nusrat Shah
40,000 Mughals
8,000 Kabul Reinforcements
50 Field Artillery
35,000 Purbiyas of Silhadi[2]
57,000 Hindu Rajputs
35,000 Purbiyas (defected under silhadi)
12,000 Muslim Rajputs
10,000 Afghans
500 War Elephants (Neutral claims)

The Battle of Khanwa was fought near the village of Khanwa, in Bharatpur District of Rajasthan, on March 17, 1527. It was fought 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.[3]


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 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. Historian Satish Chandra speculates that Sanga may have imagined a long, drawn-struggle taking place between Babur and Lodi, following which he would be able to take control of 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 that would either force Babur out of India or confine him to Afghanistan. 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.[4]

Initial skirmishes

After the First Battle of Panipat, Babur had recognized that his biggest danger came from two quarters: Rana Sanga and the Afghans ruling 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 at the head of 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 to conquer Dholpur, Gwaliyar and Bayana, 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. The force sent by Babur to Bayana was defeated and dispersed by Rana Sanga's forces.[4] However, subsequently, Bayana surrendered to Babur.

Rajput-Afghan alliance against Babur

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. Khanzada Hasan Khan Mewati, the ruler of Mewat State, also joined the alliance with a force of 12,000. Babur denounced the Afghans who joined the alliance against him as kafirs and murtads (those who had apostatized from Islam). According to historian Satish Chandra, Babur allied Afghans to unite against Hindus (kafirs), as it was a 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.[4]

Babur rallies his troops

According to Babur, Rana Sanga's army consisted of 200,000 soldiers. However, according to Alexander Kinloch, the army did not exceed 40,000 during his campaign in Gujarat.[5] Even if this figure is exaggerated, Chandra comments that it is indisputable that Sanga's army greatly outnumbered Babur's forces.[4] 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. In his autobiography, Babur writes that:

It was a really good plan, and it had a favorable propagandistic effect on friend and foe.[6]

The battle

The Battle of Khanwa took place at Khanwa, near Fatehpur-Sikri, on 16 March 1527. Before the battle Babur had carefully inspected the site. Like in Panipat, he strengthened his front by procuring carts that 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 made of rawhide 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. At about this time Silhadi of Raisen deserted the Ranas army and went over to Babur's. 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.[4]


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.

[4] 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.[4]

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.[7]

See also


  1. An Advanced History of India, Dr K.K.Datta, p. 429.
  2. Journal of Indian history, Volume 66, Dept. of History, University of Kerala, 1988
  3. An Advanced History of India, Dr K.K.Datta, p. 429.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Chandra, Satish (2006). Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals (1206-1526). 2. Har-Anand Publications.
  5. 8 Chaturkula Charitra, p. 25
  6. Babur, Emperor of Hindustan (2002). The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor. translated, edited and annotated by W. M. Thackston. Modern Library. ISBN 0-375-76137-3.
  7. Barua, Pradeep (2005). The State at War in South Asia. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 33–34. ISBN 978-0-80321-344-9.
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