Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (1526–1530)


The race for political supremacy in Central Asia amongst the Uzbeks (Turkic ethnic group), the Safavids (the members of the dynasty that ruled Iran patronising Shia Islam) and the Ottomans (Turkish people practicing Sunni Islam) forced Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, the ruler of Samarkand, to seek his career prospects elsewhere. Historically the trade conducted by countries of Central Asia through the Silk Route with India had provided the required knowledge about the country (India) they were interested in. Babur who dreamed of repeating what Timur had done a century and a quarter earlier, succeeded in founding the Mughal kingdom with Delhi as its capital in 1526 in the wake of the political disintegration of the Delhi Sultanate.

Babur, a boy of eleven, inherited the throne of Samarkand (now a city in Uzbekistan) from his father. As there were enemies all round him, he lost his throne but soon reclaimed it. But soon he realized that, with the powerful Safavid dynasty in Iran and the Uzbeks in Central Asia, he should rather turn to the southeast towards India to build an empire of his own. As a Timurid, Babur had an eye on the Punjab, part of which had been Timur’s possession. Between 1519 and 1524 when he invaded Bhera, Sialkot and Lahore, he showed his definite intention to conquer Hindustan, where the political scene also favoured his adventure. After conquering Kabul and Ghazni, Babur crossed the Indus to India and established a small kingdom. The time for invading India was also ripe as there was discontent among the Afghans and the Rajputs, as Sultan Ibrahim Lodi of the Lodi dynasty was trying to expand his territory. Babur received an embassy from Daulat Khan Lodi, a principal opponent of Ibrahim Lodi, and Rana Sangha, ruler of Mewar and the chief of Rajput Confederacy, with a plea to invade India. When Babur marched to India he first defeated the forces of Daulat Khan Lodi at Lahore as he had gone back on his promise to help Babur.

First Battle of Panipat, 21 April 1526

Babur then turned towards the Lodigoverned Punjab. After several invasions, he defeated the formidable forces of Ibrahim Lodi with a numerically inferior army at Panipat. Babur won this battle with the help of strategic positioning of his forces and the effective use of artillery. Babur’s victory provided hopes for him to settle in India permanently. Babur had conquered Delhi and Agra, but he still had to suppress the Rajputs and the Afghans.

Battle of Khanwa, 1527

Babur decided to take on Rana Sanga of Chittor, who as ruler of Mewar, had a strong influence over Rajasthan and Malwa. Babur selected Khanwa, near Agra, as a favourable site for this inevitable encounter. The ferocious march of Rana Sanga with a formidable force strengthened by Afghan Muslims, Mahmud Lodi, brother of Ibrahim Lodi, and Hasan Khan Mewati, ruler of Mewat, confronted the forces of Babur. With strategic positioning of forces and effective use of artillery, Babur defeated Rana Sanga’s forces. This victory was followed by the capture of forts at Gwalior and Dholpur which further strengthened Babur’s position

Battle of Chanderi, 1528

The next significant battle that ensured Babur’s supremacy over the Malwa region was fought against Medini Rai at Chanderi. Following this victory Babur turned towards the growing rebellious activities of Afghans.

Battle of Ghagra, 1529

This was the last battle Babar fought against the Afghans. Sultan Ibrahim Lodi’s brother Mahmud Lodi and Sultan Nusrat Shah, son-in-law of Ibrahim Lodi, conspired against Babur. Realising the danger Babar marched against them. In the battle that ensued along the banks of Ghagra, a tributary of Ganges, Babur defeated the Afghans. But he died on his way from Agra to Lahore in 1530 T here is a story about Babur’s death. His son Humayun was ill and Babur in his love for him is said to have prayed, offering his own life if his son got well. Humayun recovered.

Estimate of Babur

Babur, the founder of Mughal Empire, was a scholar of Persian and Arabic. Babur’s memoirs Tuziuk-i-Baburi (Baburnama) is considered a world classic. Babur found nothing admirable either in the Afghans who ruled India for some time or in the majority of the people they governed. But his description of India is delightful. What Hindustan possessed, in Babur’s view, is described as follows: ‘The chief excellence of Hindustan is that it is a large country and has abundance of gold and silver. Another convenience of Hindustan is that the workmen of every profession and trade are innumerable and without end.’ Babur’s dominions were now secure from Kandahar to the borders of Bengal. However, in the great area that marked the Rajput desert and the forts of Ranthambhor, Gwalior and Chanderi, there was no settled administration, as the Rajput chiefs were quarrelling among themselves. So Babur left a difficult task for his son Humayun.

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