Get complete information on the Ahmad Shah Abdali’s invasion to India


Ahmad Shah Abdali or Ahmad Shah Durrani was an important General of Nadir Shah. When after the conquest of Qandhar, Nadir Shah decided to settle all his Abdali Subjects there, the relatives of Ahmad Shah Abdali also settled there. After the murder of Nadir Shah in 1747, all the Afghans proceeded towards Qandhar and chose Ahmad Shah Abdali as their leader. On reaching

Qandhar, they had to fight against the local garrison which was captured. Ahmad Shah Abdali was declared Emperor and coins were struck in his name. After Qandhar, Ahmad Shah Abdali occupied Ghazni, Kabul and Peshawar. All that added to his personal glory and the morale of his troops.

Ahmad Shah Abdali led as many as seven expeditions against India between 1748 and 1767. He undertook those invasions mainly with a view to establish Afghan Supremacy over India. There were many factors which encouraged him to undertake those invasions. The weak and precarious condition of the Mughal Empire encouraged him in his invasion. He had seen the weakness of the Mughal Empire when he came to India along with Nadir Shah. In subsequent years, the Mughal Empire became weaker all the more. Ahmad Shah Abdali wanted to take advantage of that position.


The neglect of the North-Western Borders by the later Mughals encouraged him to launch so many invasions. The Mughal Rulers completely neglected the roads passes etc., on the border. They did not employ any intelligence to keep the court informed about the developments on the border. This indifferent attitude of the later Mughal Rulers towards the defense of their border was fully exploited by Ahmad Shah Abdali.

The view of Elphinstone is that “Ahmad Shah Abadali invaded India so many times with a view to make financial gains and realise his political ambitions. He carried with him a lot of money and gifts from India which were utilised by him for increasing his military strength and improving its organisations. The immediate cause of his invasion on India was that he was invited by Shah Nawaz Khan, the Governor of the Punjab, to undertake an invasion of India. That invitation fitted very well into the ambitious plans of Ahmad Shah Abdali.”

Ahmad Shah Abdali crossed the Indus and the Jhelum to invade the Punjab in 1748. Lahore and Sirhind were occupied but he was defeated by the Mughal Army near Sirhind and he was forced to withdraw.

Ahmad Shah Abdali was not prepared to put up with the insult and he led another attack on India in 1749. Muin Khan, Governor of the Punjab, resisted the advance of Abdali and asked for reinforcements. As he did not get any help, he agreed to pay Rs. 14000 as annual tribute to Abdali.


Ahmad Shah Abdali led the third invasion of India towards the close of 1751 as the promised tribute was not paid to him. After defeating the Governor of the Punjab, Abdali advanced towards Delhi. The Mughal Emperor offered to transfer Multan and Punjab to Abdali. The view of some scholars is that Ahmad Shah Abdali also conquered Kashmir during his third invasion and appointed his own Governor. He had to go back because there was a possibility of opposition at home at that time.

Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India for the fourth time to punish Imad-ul-Mulk who had appointed his own man as the Governor of the Punjab. Ahmad Shah Abdali had appointed Mir Mannu as his Agent and Governor of the Punjab. In 1753, after the death of Mir Mannu, his infant son, under the Regency of his Mother Mughlani Begum, suceeded him. In May 1754, even this successor of Mir Mannu died. After that, there was chaos and confusion in the Punjab.

Mughlani Begum invited Imad-ul-Mulk, the Wazir of Delhi and he appointed Mir Munim as the Governor of the Punjab after imprisioning Mughlani Begum. When Ahmad Shah Abdali came to know of these developments, he decided to attack India. He came to India in November 1756. As soon as he reached Lahore, Mir Munim ran away to Delhi.

After capturing the Punjab, Ahmad Shah Abdali marched towards Delhi. He reached Delhi on 23 January, 1757 and captured the city. He stayed in Delhi for about a month and repeated the carnage and arson of the type of Nadir Shah’s invasion. The rich and poor, noblemen and commoners, men and women all suffered torture and disgrace indiscriminately.


After pillaging Delhi, the Afghan Army marched out leaving a trail of burning villages, rotting corpses and desolation. Crushing the Jats on the way, they proceeded to Mathura, Brindaban and Gokul. The carnage and destruction that visited these sacred towns beggars description. For 7 days following the general slaughter, “the water (of the Jamuna) flowed of a blood-red colour.” Temples were desecrated, priests and Sadhus were put to the sword, women were dishonoured and children were cut to pieces. There was no atrocity which was not perpetrated.

The cry of anguish which arose from Delhi, Mathura, Agra and a thousand towns and villages in Northern India remained unheard. However, the outbreak of cholera halted the Afghan Army. The soldiers clamoured for returning home. Ahmad Shah Abdali was forced to retire but not before he had collected booty estimated at 3 to 12 crores of rupees and inflicted unspeakable indignity upon the Mughal Emperor.

Before his departure from Delhi, Ahmad Shah Abdali compelled the Mughal Emperor to cede to him Kashmir, Lahore, Sirhind and Multan. He appointed his son Timur Shah to look after the Government of those regions. Mughlani Begum was not give Kashmir or Jullunder Doab which had been promised to her. She was imprisoned, caned and disgraced. Ahmad Shah Abdali appointed Najib Khan Rohilla as Mir Bakshi and he remained in Delhi as the Agent of Ahmad Shah Abdali.

After the departure of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the situation in India became critical. Najib Khan was forced to leave Delhi along with all his men and Ahmed Bangash was appointed as Mir Bakshi in his place. Najib Khan complained to Ahmad Shah Abdali and asked for a fresh invasion by him, Sirhind and Lahore fell into the hands of the Marathas in 1758.


Ahmad Shah Abdali sent Jahan Khan to the Punjab but he was defeated. When that happened, Ahmad Shah Abdali himself attacked India. The Maratha could not stand against him and were forced to withdraw from Lahore, Multan and Sirhind. Before the end of 1759, the Punjab was once again brought under his control by Ahmad Shah Abdali.

Ahmad Shah Abdali was full of anger against all those who had dared to defy his authority. He rushed to Doab. He fought against Dattaji and defeated and killed him. Malharrao was able to escape with great difficulty. The Peshwas took up the challenge of Ahmad Shah Abdali and sent Sadasiva Rao Bhau to the North in 1760. Many other Maratha Generals were sent to fight against Ahmad Shah Abdali. The Marathas had not a single friend or ally in the North on account of their previous treatment of the Rajputs, Jats and others.

There were differences within their own ranks in regard to the tactics to be employed against Ahmad Shah Abdali. They only success of their army was their entry into Delhi because Ahmad Shah Abdali was campaigning in the Doab. The Marathas were forced to leave Delhi on account of scarcity of food for men and horses. It was under these circumstances that the Third Battle of Panipat was fought on 14 January, 1761 between the Marathas and Ahmad Shah Abdali.

In spite of their best efforts, the Marathas were defeated. Holkar fled and the continents of Scandia followed him. The defeat turned into a rout and terrific slaughter ensued. On the battlefield, there lay the corpses of 28000 men. Most of the officers were killed. Both Vishwas Rao, the son of the Peshwa and Sadasiva Rao Bhau died fighting heroically.


The defeat at Panipat was a disaster of the first magnitude but it was by no means decisive. For Ahmad Shah Abdali, it was an empty victory. As soon as his back was turned, his conquests fell to pieces. He and his successors were pestered by rebellions at home. They were not able to give adequate support to their agents in India. The Sikhs drove out the Afghan Officers and plundered their baggages.

In few years, not a trace of Ahmad Shah Abdali’s conquest was left on this side of the Indus. The Marathas received a severe blow but within ten years they were back in the North, acting as the guardians of the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam whom they escorted from Allahabad to Delhi in 1771. The defeat of Panipat was not conclusive. The battle which was really decisive was the Battle of Plassey which was fought in 1757.

After the Battle of Panipat, Ahmad Shah Abdali recognised Shah Alam II as the Emperor of Delhi. Munir-ud-Daulah and Najib-ud-Daulah promised to pay a tribute of Rs. 40 lacs per annum to Ahmad Shah Abdali on behalf of the Mughal Emperor. After that, Ahmad Shah Abdali left India.

Ahmad Shah Abdali came to India for the sixth time in March 1764. The Sikhs had increased their power in the Punjab. They had captured considerable property and also killed Khawja Abid, the Afghan Governor of Lahore. The object of Ahmad Shah Abdali’s invasion was to punish the Sikhs. He stayed in India only for about a fortnight. He had to go back to Afghanistan as there, was trouble in his absence.

The Seventh invasion of Ahmad Shah Abdali took place in March 1767. However, this; invasion was not a success. He failed to crush the Sikhs. He had to retreat in view of the possibility of a revolt among his soldiers. As soon as Ahmad Shah Abdali left India, the Sikhs caputred Lahore. They also captured Majha and Central Punjab. However, Ahmad Shah Abdali was able to retain his control over Peshawar and the country West of Attock.

As regards the effects of the invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali, they hastened the downfall of the Mughal Empire. The frequency of the invasions exposed the rottenness of the Mughal Empire and created anarchy and confusion in all directions. So weak was the position of the Mughal Empire that Shah Alam II, the New Mughal Emperor was not able to enter Delhi for 12 years and was escorted to his throne only in 1772 by the Marathas.

However, Ahmad Shah Abdali acted as a check against the fast-expanding empire of the Marathas by defeating them in the Third Battle of Panipat. His invasion contributed a great deal to the rise of the Sikhs in the Punjab. It is rightly pointed out that the career of Ahmad Shah Abdali in India “is very intimately a part of the Sikh struggle for independence.”

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