Battle of Delhi, c.November-December 1525

The battle of Delhi of 1525 was a victory won by Sultan Ibrahim Lodi over a rebel army led by his uncle Alam Khan. The battle fell into the gap between Babur's fourth and fifth expeditions into Hindustan, and played a part in convincing him that he couldn't work alongside any of the claimants to Ibrahim's throne but would have to seize Delhi himself.

At the start of Babur's fourth expedition he had been allied with Daulat Khan, the governor of Lahore, but this relationship had quickly broken down. Daulat had been arrested, released and then fled into the hills, from where he emerged after Babur's departure to throw Alam Khan out of Dibalpur (1524). Alam Khan fled to Kabul, while Daulat was defeated at Sialkot. By the end of the year Babur's men still held on to Lahore, and Daulat was still at large with his army.

In the spring or summer of 1525 Alam Khan returned from Kabul to Lahore, with Babur's approval for an attack on Delhi. Babur himself was prevented from leaving Afghanistan during the summer by an Uzbek siege of Balkh. On his arrival in Lahore Alam Khan decided to open negotiations with Daulat's son Ghazi Khan, and attempted to convince Babur's begs that they should unite with Ghazi for the attack on Delhi. When Babur's begs pointed to their orders, and refused to go along with this plan Alam Khan continued with the negotiations. Eventually he came to an agreement with Daulat Khan in which they would combine their forces to attack Ibrahim Lodi. After their victory Alam would receive Delhi, while Daulat would get Lahore and the Punjab, effectively replacing Babur in Alam's plans.

Alam Khan also managed to arrange a reconciliation of sorts between Daulat and his youngest son Dilawar, who had sided with Babur in 1524. Alam Khan and Dilawar then marched east to Delhi, joining up with Sulaiman Shaikh-zada, a member of a very powerful family in the Sultanate, giving them a combined army 30,000-40,000 strong. This army reached Delhi, but was too small to take the city by storm, or to impose a proper blockade. He also began to suffer from a series of desertions. 

Ibrahim Lodi had many flaws, but cowardice wasn't one of them. When he learnt that the rebels were attacking Delhi he gathered an army and rode towards the city, camping at least 12 miles from the walls. Alam Khan abandoned the ineffective siege, and advanced towards the Sultan's much larger army. He was aware that if he attacked during the day then numbers would tell, so the rebels decided to attack at night. Two attempts failed, but on the third occasion the rebels successfully broke into the Sultan's camp and rode through it setting fires and causing chaos.

Throughout this Ibrahim kept his cool, remaining inside the Imperial enclosure with a small number of retainers from his own family. At dawn the Sultan's party emerged from their tents, supported by a single elephant. Alam Khan's men were unable to cope with the elephant and fled from the camp. When news of this failure reached the rest of his army large parts of it deserted him. Alam Khan and his remaining supporters fled north towards the Punjab.

At Sirhind, 200 miles to the north of Delhi, they learnt that Babur was in India. At this point Dilawar abandoned his father, and returned to Babur. Alam Khan himself was nearly captured at Ginguta, near Jalandhar, but escaped into the hills. Dismayed by the poor reception he received there, he turned back and threw himself on Babur's mercy.  

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 May 2010), Battle of Delhi, c.November-December 1525 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_delhi_1525.html

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