If Vincent A Smith can describe Samudragupt as an Indian Napolean we can certainly call Hemu ‘the Napolean of Medieval India’, as the victor of 22 battles before dying fighting as a valiant soldier at Panipat due to sheer bad luck. His triumphant march from Bihar to Dilli (Delhi) can be equated to the Italian campaign of Napolean “He came, he saw, he conquered”. Like him, Hemu never saw the defeat in a battle and romped from victory to victory throughout his life. Napolean used to promise his soldiers a glorious future if they fought bravely in his Italian campaign and instilled in them a new vigour and enthusiasm by an excellent address leading to glorious victories. Hemu too practiced it by his lavish distribution of the spoils of war among his soldiers after his grand victories.
Victory over Akbar’s forces in Delhi
Tardi Beg Khan who was Governor of Delhi, representing Akbar, sent a dispatch to Akbar and Bairam Khan that Hemu had captured Agra and was intending to attack the capital Delhi which could not be defended without adequate reinforcement. Tardi Beg Khan, at his own was not sitting idle. He summoned all the commanders of the neighbourhood to the rescue of Delhi and many reached soon. However, Hemu won Delhi on October 6th, 1556. Some 3,000 army men died in this battle. Mughal forces lead by Tardi Beg Khan vacated Delhi after a day’s fight and Hemu entered Delhi under a royal canopy.
Starting of Hindu Vikramaditya Dynasty
He had his formal Rajyabhishake or coronation following all the Hindu religious ceremonies in Delhi and became the ruler under the title ‘Raja Vikramaditya’. Hemu was crowned at Purana Qila in Delhi on October 7th, 1556 in the presence of all Afghan sardars and Hindu senapatis (Military Commanders). Thus Hemu re-established a Hindu kingdom and restarted Vikramaditya Dynasty in North India, after centuries of foreign rule. He reorganised his army but did not remove a single Afghan from any position. Abul Fazal writes that corrupt officers were removed from their posts. Hemu appointed many of his relatives to important positions. His brother, Jujharu Rai was made governor of Ajmer. Many of his supporters were made chaudharies and muqqadams. Hemu started coins in his name.
Second Battle of Panipat (November 5th, 1556) and Hemu’s death
On hearing about Hemu’s continuous victories, and fall of Agra and Delhi, the Mughal army at Kalanaur lost heart and many commanders of Akbar refused to fight Hemu. Abul Fazal writes that most of the commanders advised Akbar and Bairam Khan to retreat to Kabul as Akbar as a young boy would be safe there. However, Bairam Khan the guardian of Akbar and chief strategist for army matters, insisted on taking Hemu in a war and made an effort to gain control of Delhi. Akbar and Bairam Khan were not present in the Battle at Panipat. They stayed back eight Kos, or 12 miles away from the war-zone. However, Bairam Khan incited his army by a religious speech and ordered them to move for battle. Hemu lead his Army himself. Hemu’s larger army was poised to achieve victory, when Hemu was wounded in the eye by an arrow, which blasted his brain out and he collapsed. Taking him to be dead, his troops started fleeing.
Dead Hemu was captured by Shah Qulin Khan and taken to the camp of Akbar and Bairam Khan at Village Saudapur in Panipat, some 8 Kos away from battle field, and was smote first by Akbar to earn the title of Ghazi, then beheaded by Bairam Khan. The place where the dead Hemu was smote still has his samadhi there.
His head was sent to Kabul, in Afghanistan, where it was hanged outside Delhi Darwaza to create terror among his Afghan supporters, while his body was placed in a gibbet outside Purana Quila in Delhi, showing extreme barbarism to a dead body. Hemu’s 80 years old father was asked to convert to Islam to save his life. On his refusal, he was beheaded by Mughal commander.
After Hemu’s death, a genocide was ordered by Bairam Khan of the community of Hemu and his main Afghan supporters. Thousands of persons were killed to create terror among Hindus and minarets were built of the skulls of the dead.
Such minarets were still in existence about 60 years later as described by Peter Mundy, a British traveler who visited India during the time of Jahangir and photos of paintings of such minarets are displayed at “Panipat War Memorial Museum” at Panipat. Hemu’s Haveli in Rewari is in ruins now.
Sudhir Bhargava ( Concluded )