Battle of Pharwala, 15 March 1519

The battle of Pharwala (15 March 1519) saw Babur capture a strong fortress held by the Gakhar tribe. The Gakhars ruled a large part of the northern Punjab from strongholds on the flanks of the mountains east of Rawalpindi. Pharwala (Parhala in Babur's memoirs) itself is about 25 miles to the east of Rawalpindi, and was described in some detail by Babur. The fort had no breast-works or battlements, but was on a steep sided hill, with vertical edges up to 10 yards high that meant that the only way to get into the fort was through the gate. The entire area was protected by ravines, and there were only two roads to the fort, both of them single-file in places. The road from the south-east, which Babur used, ran along the ridges between the ravines.

At the start of 1519 the Gakhars had been ruled by two cousins, Tatar Kakar and Hati Kakar. Tatar ruled from Pharwala, in the foothills of the mountains, while Hati's strongholds were further into the mountains. Tatar accepted the authority of Daulat Khan, the governor of Lahore for the Sultan of Delhi, but Hati did not. During Babur's first expedition into Hindustan in February-March 1519 Tatar, who had been blockading Hati, was ambushed by his cousin and killed. Babur's new subjects in India informed him that Hati was a bandit, and Babur agreed to deal with him.

On 13 March, having appointed governors to rule the areas that had submitted to him, Babur left Bhira, and moved north towards the Gakhar lands. His small army rode all day on 14 March, then after a short break continued during the night of 14-15 March.

The ride continued on the morning of 15 March, until the army was two miles from Pharwala. Babur decided to try and take the fortress by surprise, so at this stage his army was ordered to go to the gallop. The left and centre of the army charged straight up the read towards the fort, while the right wing went to the east.

Hati responded to this sudden attack by emerging from the fort at the head of a force of 30-40 armoured cavalrymen, supported by a large number of infantry. This force managed to drive back the vanguard of Babur's left and centre, but was defeated by the rearguard under Dost Beg. Hati attempted to retreat back into the fort, but Dost Beg pressed him too closely - some of his men chased Hati back into the fort, while others were sent around to the north-west to try and block his escape. Hati was unable to make a stand in the fort, but did manage to escape from the trap. While this was going on Babur had also entered the fort, and reached Tatar's former house.

In the aftermath of this victory Hati sent an envoy to Babur to offer his submission, which was accepted, and the Gakhars eventually became loyal subjects of the Mogul empire.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 May 2010), Battle of Pharwala, 15 March 1519 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_pharwala.html

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