The city of Karnal is said to have been founded by Raja Karna, a central character in the Mahabharata war. The original name is Karnalaya (home of Karna). This is the same Karna, who was the eldest son of Kunti and thus Karnal is called the city of Daanvir Karna. Karnal sprang into prominence in 1739 when Persian emperor Nadir Shah defeated and captured the Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah in the Battle of Karnal. Raja Gopal Singh of Jind seized Karnal in 1763, and the Marathas established themselves at Karnal in 1785. Skirmishes followed between the Marathas and the Sikhs and in 1795, the Marathas finally wrested the city from Raja Bhag Singh of Jind and made it over to the British-Irish military commander George Thomas, who took part in the fight. The British established a cantonment in 1811 but abandoned it after 30 years due to an outbreak of malaria. The fort which had been built by Raja Gajpat Singh of Jind, was taken over by the British and converted into a residence for Dost Mohammad Khan, Amir of Kabul.
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