Marathas, by the middle of the eighteenth century, under the leadership of Peshwas had established their sovereignty over most of the north India. The Afghans also intruded in the country that time and Ahmed Shah Abdali was the leader of the Afghans, who initiated the third battle of Panipat on January 14, 1761. Ahmed Shah defeated the Marathas in this battle and marked the end of Maratha dominance over north India. This third battle of Panipat is important in the aspect that the defeat of Marathas along with rapid decline of Mughal Empire after Aurangzeb
`s death led to the initialization of British rule.
The main reason for the failure of Marathas was lack of allies. Though the Maratha infantry was built up depending on the European style but they failed to solicit allies in Northern India. This is because of the reason common people as well as royal power antagonized them because of their earlier behaviour and their political ambition which caused them to loot and plunder. Marathas had interfered with the internal affairs of princely states of Rajputana and levied huge taxes and fines on them. They also demanded the territorial and monetary claims on Awadh. They raided in the Sikh territory also and thereby causing rages of the Sikh chiefs. Similarly the Jat chiefs were also annoyed with him as they imposed heavy taxes and fines on them. Thus Marathas had no support from north India. Only there was a weak support of Imad-Ul-Mulk otherwise the Marathas had to fight alone against their enemies. Moreover Marathas did not have any unity as senior Maratha chiefs always quibbled among themselves. Each of them was more interested about ruling out their own states rather than fighting against a common enemy.
Ahmad Shah was the first emir of Afghanistan and he inherited the throne of Abdali tribe of Afghans. Ahmad Shah later renamed his ancestry as Durrani. Ahmad Shah was the leader of his tribesmen and served Nadir Shah, the King of Persia, who conquered most of Afghanistan and part of India. After the death of Nadir Shah, Ahmad Shah got the independent Afghan kingdom as his own territory. Between 1748 and 1752 Ahmad Shah invaded Punjab
six times and was also able to seize and sack Delhi. Although Ahmad Shah was a powerful military leader, he never permanently ruled in India and subsequently withdrew into Afghanistan.
The battle zone for third Panipat Battle was probably in between Kaalaa Aamb and Sanauli road of present day. The Afghan line formed a few metres away to the south of Sanauli Road and the Maratha lines began little north to the Kaalaa Aamb. They had thus blocked the north of the Abdali`s troops. At the same time Maratha force was also blocked by the Afghan army from the south i.e. from the side of Delhi. Thus the supply line for Maratha force was cut. The Afghans marched in a line proceeding with their guns. The Bhau with the Peshwa`s son and his troop of Maratha remained at the center. The left wing of Maratha troop consisted of the Gardis under Ibrahim Khan where Holkar and Sindhia were on extreme right.
The Maratha line was formed up 12 km across in the third battle of Panipat. It had the artillery in front, protected by infantry, pikemen, bowman and musketeers. The cavalry was instructed to wait behind the artillery and bayonet holding musketeers and they were ready to charge when control of battlefield is fully established. Behind the line were thirty thousand young men who were not that expert in fighting and then about thirty thousand civilians. This civilian line consisted of many middle class men, women, children who took this as an opportunity to visit pilgrimage to visit holy places and shrines and also Aryavarta (Aryan Land). Behind the civilian line there was another protective infantry line composed of comparatively young and experienced soldiers.
On the other hand the Afghans also formed up a similar kind of Infantry in the third battle of Panipat, the left wing formed by the Najib`s Rohillas and the right wing by two brigades of Persian troops. The left center was controlled by two higher officials, Shuja-ud-Daulah and Ahmad Shah`s Vizier Shah Wali. The right center consisted of Rohillas, under Hafiz Rahamat and other chiefs of the Indian Pathans. Pasand Khan led the left wing, which was composed of well-chosen Afghan horsemen. This way the army moved forward with the Shah at the center so that he could watch and control the battle.