Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur was the founder of the Mughal Empire in India. He was born on 14th February A.D. 1483 in Foreghana.
His father Umar Shaikh Mirza was the ruler of Forghana.
He descended from two Central Asian warriors; Timur, The Turkish hero from his father’s side and Changiz Khan, the great Mongol hero from his mother’s side.
Therefore the blood of two great Hero’s of Central Asia was flowing in his veins. That made Babur bold and courageous. He had the proud feeling of being the successor of his two great ancestors. Hence he had the ferocity of a Mongol and the courage and ability of a Turk. His family belonged to the Chagatai section of the Turkish race, but he was commonly known as “Mughal”.
Forghana was a small state in Transoxiana (now a part of Turkistan). There was constant danger to Forghana as his father was not in good terms with his brother Ahmad Mirza, the ruler of Samarkand and Bukhara and his brothers-in-law, Mahmoud Khan and Ahmed, the rulers of Tashkent Sairemns Shahrukhin. In 1494, his father died in an accident & Babur at the young age of 11 years succeeded to Forghana. This was in-fact a critical situation for him as the Timurid Princes were busy fighting one another.
Babur thought was a small boy could understand the Central Asian politics better than any young boy of his age as above. He also had adequate military training and acquired experience of administration, war and diplomacy. In between 1494 and 1504 he had to struggle hard to strengthen his position in Central Asia. He, too, made a bid to conquer Samarkand from his uncle. He won the city twice but lost it in no time on both the occasions.
The second time the Uzbek Chief; Sahabani Khan defeated Babur and conquered Samarkand. This forced Babur to move towards Kabul which he conquered in 1504. For the next 14 years, Babur kept himself busy for the conquest of the homeland from the Uzbeks. In 1511 he won Samarkand third time by defeating Sahabani khan. But within a year Shahabani’s nephew Ubaidullah Khan defeated Babur and forced him to leave Samarkand. Babur returned to Kabul leaving all hopes on Central Asia. These developments finally forced Babur to look towards India.
Conquest of India:
Babur says that from the time he Captured Kabul (1504) to his victory at Panipat, “I had never ceased to think of the conquest of Hindustan”. But he had never found a suitable opportunity for undertaking it. Like other earlier invaders of Central Asia, Babur was attracted to India by the force of its fabulous wealth. India was the Land of gold and riches. Babur’s ancestor, Timur had not only carried away a vast treasure and many skillful artisans, but also annexed some areas of the Punjab. These areas remained in the possession of Timur’s successors for several generations. When Babur conquered Afghanistan, he felt that he had a legitimate right to these areas.
Another reason for Babur’s conquest of India was insufficient income of Kabul. According to the Historian Abul Fazl, Babur ruled over Badakhshah, Kandhar and Kabul which did not yield sufficient income for the requirements of the army. In-fact the expenses on controlling the armies and administration were greater than the income. With these measure resources Babur could not provide well for his Kingdom and Kingsmen. He was also apprehensive of an Uzbek attack on Kabul and considered India to be a good place of refuge, and a suitable base for operations against the Uzbeks.
Further the Political situation in the north-west Kingdoms of India was suitable for Babur. Their relation was so bitter that they could not be united against any foreign aggression. Ibrahim Lodi, the Sultan of Delhi was not liked by his own Afghan Chiefs and nobles. Further his efforts to establish a large centralized empire had alarmed not only the Afghan Chiefs but also the Rajput’s. Daulat Khan Lodi, a powerful Afghan Chief and the Governor of Punjab, was an ardent enemy of Ibrahim Lodi.
He was ruling Punjab like an independent ruler. Other important enemies of Ibrahim Lodi were Alam Khan Lodi and Rana Sangram Singh, the king of Mewar and head of the Rajput confederacy. It is said that all of them most probably invited Babur against Ibrahim Lodi. However before the battle of Panipat, Babur had conducted five expeditions to India between 1519 and 1525 A.D. In 1519 Babur established his control over Bayour. In his first expedition, Babur tried to avoid war against Ibrahim Lodi of Delhi and Daulat Khan Lodi of Punjab and asked them to surrender but he failed in this mission. In 1520 Babur proceeded to Sialkot and established his authority there by suppressing the rebellious Afghan tribes.
In 1524 Babur made the fourth expedition against India. On the initiation of Daulat Khan Lodi, the Governor of Punjab who wanted to dethrone Ibrahim Lodi in favour of his uncle Alam Khan. Babur took this opportunity and proceeded to India. In the mean while Ibrahim Lodi had summoned Daulat Khan Lodi to Delhi but he did not go there in person and sent his son Dilawar Khan. Therefore the relations between the two had become quite tense. Ibrahim defeated Daulat Khan and expelled him from Punjab. By the time Babur realized and captured Lahore. Dault Khan helped Babur to occupy Dipalpur which was given to Alam Khan. Daulat Khan has expected that Babur would return Punjab to him. But he gave him Jalandhar and Sultanpur.
It disappointed Dault Khan. He tried to play treachery with Babur but was caught by his ambitious son Dilwar Khan. Babur rewarded Dilwar by offering him Sultanpur and imprisoned Daulat Khan for his treachery. Later he released Dault Khan and gave him Jalandhar only. He did not accept the charge of Jalandhar and fled to the hills.
Then Babur left for Kabul after keeping a small contingent at Lahore and Sialkot. After Babur’s departure, Daulat Khan Lodi came back from the hills and conquered Sultanpur, Sialkot and Dipalpur. Alam Khan Lodi fled away to Kabul and Dilawar Khan apologised before his father. On hearing this news Babur made his fifth expedition in 1525 and defeated Daulat Khan and his son Dilwar Khan who beg apology for their misconduct.
Daulat Khan was sent to Bwerea for imprisonment but he breathed his last on the way. Babur established his full control over Punjab. The army and officials of Daulat Khan also extended their whole hearted co-operation to him. Alam continued his support to Babur till the battle of Panipat. Now after destroying the powers of Afghans and establishing his control over Punjab, Babur decided to move against his greatest enemy Ibrahim Lodi, the Sultan of Delhi.
It is said that Babur had received an better assistance from Rana Sangha of Mewar for his move against Ibrahim. But his accusation against Rana Sanga has been refuted by some scholars. But it was a fact that the officials and some nobles of Delhi had sent secret invitation to Babur against their Sultan. Babur was very much pleased to receive such invitations on the eve of the battle of Panipat. This had made him more bold and courageous.
The Battle of Panipat (April 20 A.D. 1526):
Now a war between Ibrahim Lodi and Babur become inevitable. Both the forces went to Panipat to test their luck. Ibrahim Lodi’s force was estimated at 100.000 men and 1000 elephants. Though his force was a vast one but the number of fighting men was far less as most of them were recruited hastily on the eve of the war.
But in comparison to Lodi’s army that of Babur was much less in number but they were well trained and well equipped. Their war technique was superb and their fighting spirit was tremendous. Though the strength of Babur’s army had increased due to addition of some Indian troops on his way to Panipat, but still the number was far less than that of Lodi. In April 1526 Babur reached Panipat through Sirhind and Ambala.
He made a division of his army and posted one wing of it in the right side of the city of Panipat and another wing in left side by preparing a ditch. He made his centre secured and safe by a rent of some seven hundred carts. Between two carts, earthworks were erected on which soldiers could rest their guns and fire. Sultan Ibrahim also reached Panipat with a large army. The main difference between the two armies was not the strength but the technique. Babur was in an advantageous position from this point of view.
Both armies remained stationed face to face for eight days from 12th of April to 19th of April, 1526. At last Babur started the war and with a small number of about five thousand soldiers he made a night attack on 20th April but it failed. As a result, the army of Ibrahim Lodi also moved in battle array but in the process they came much nearer to the army of Babur.
As his army had reached quite near the army of Babur, they failed to escape from the reach of their guns. The army of Babur within no time wheeled round and attacked the enemy from both sides and rear simultaneously. No doubt Ibrahim Lodi’s Afghan forces fought valiantly but Babur was master of war strategy and his artillery was quite superior. He also used his Tulugham in the nick of time.
Within a few hours Ibrahim Lodi was defeated and killed with a large number of his soldiers and Babur won the battle. Babur writes in his memories about the end of the battle. “The sun had mounted speak high when the onset began and the battle lasted till mid-day, when the enemy were completely broken and routed and my people were victorious and triumphant. By the grace of almighty God, this difficult affair was made easy to me, in the course of half a day, the enemy was laid in the dust.” Commenting on the results of the battle of Panipat. Dr. R.P. Tripathy writes that the battle of Panipat sealed the fate of Lodi dynasty as effectively as his ancestor Timur had done of the Tughluqs”.
Keene observes, “The Land simply changed masters after supreme efforts. Lane-people writes, “To the Afghans of Delhi, the battle of Panipat was their canne. It was the ruin of their dominions, the end of their power”. Thus the battle of Panipat marks the end of the second stage in Babur’s conquests of Hindustan. It also laid the foundation of the Mughal Empire and led to dissolution of Lodi dynasty.
After the victory of Panipat, Babur immediately sent his son Humayun to Agra and Mehdi Khweja and others to Delhi in order to take charge of the fort and the treasure of Delhi. On 27th of April, 1526, Khutba was read in Delhi in the name of Babur and the citizens welcomed him with great rejoicing. Meanwhile Humayun had made all arrangements at Agra to welcome his father. When Babur reached Agra, Humayun and the citizens of Agra gave a warm welcome to him. Humayun presented a Dimond Koh-i-noor to his father on this accession.
After the occupation of Delhi and Agra, Babur made his intentions clear to stay in India. He knew that the resources in India alone would enable him to found a strong empire and satisfy his ambitions. “Not for us the poverty of Kabul again”, he records in his diary. He thus took a firm stand, and proclaimed to stay in India and granted leave to a number of his followers who wanted to go back to Kabul. This immediately cleared the air. But this initiated hostility with Rana Sanga.
The Battle of Khanwa:
The establishment of an empire in the Indo-Gangetic Valley by Babur was a threat to Rana Sangha. He hoped that Babur like an invader would plunder health and leave India. But the situation was different now. Therefore Rana Sangha decided either to drive Babur out of the country or to confine him to the Punjab. Babur on the other hand accused Rana Sangha of breach of agreement. He said that Sangha had invited him to India and promised to join him against Ibrahim Lodi, but made no move while we conquered Delhi and Agra.
Another battle was inevitable in the history and that was the battle of Khanwa. Many Afghans, including Mahmud Lodi, a younger brother of Ibrahim Lodi joined with Rana Sangha in the hope of regaining the throne of Delhi in case Sangha won. Sangha had also the support of many Rajput’s as he was the chief of the Rajputana confederation. Rana Sangha himself bore the title of the hero of hundred fights. The reputation of Rana Sangha and his early success against some of the outlying Mughal posts such as Bayana, demoralised Babur’s soldiers. Babur on the other-hand was not the man to retreat at this stage of his progress in India.
He infused a fighting spirit in his soldiers by declaring Jihad on the eve of the war. Both the forces met at Khanwa, a place nearly 40 km. away from Agra. According to Babur, Sangha’s forces exceeded 200,000 including 10,000 Afghan cavalry men. Babur’s forces were undoubtedly inferior in number. The battle of Khanwa (1527) was fiercely contested battle. Rana Sangha made ferocious attacks on Babur’s right and almost breached it.
However, the Mughal artillery took a heavy toll of life, and slowly, Sangha’s forces were pushed back. At this juncture, Babur ordered his soldiers in the centre to launch an attack which drove the backbone of Sang’s army. Rana Sangha was badly wounded and was taken to a place of safety. But he came back after a short while and renewed the war. It is said that apprehending the war to be dangerous and suicidal, one of Rana’s associates poisoned him to death.
However ended the battle of Khanwa with the defeat of Rana Sangha. The battle of Khanwa was decisive and significant. It proved the superiority of Mughal weapons upon Rajput’s. According to Rush Brooke Williams, “Hithereto the occupation of Hindustan might have been looked upon as a mere episode in Babur’s career of adventure, but from hence forth, it became the keynote of the activities, the remainder of his life.” Babur assumed the title of Ghari or victor in holy war. He also won the battle of Chander in 1528 A.D. over Rajput’s.
The next battle, a less important for Babur, was the battle of Ghaghra in which he met the combined forces of Mahmud Lodi, a younger brother of Ibrahim Lodi and Nusrat Shah who was a son- in-law of Ibrahim Lodi had marched up to Kanauja by defeating and ousting some Mughal officials in Uttar Pradesh.
However, Babur defeated the combined forces of Mahmud Lodi and Nusrat Shah in the battle of Ghaghra in 1529. This was perhaps the last battle of his life. Babur had made his position safe and secured in India.But Babur did not live long to enjoy his empire. He fell ill and died in 1530 A.D. Just a few months, before his death Babur had nominated his eldest son Humanyu as his successor and had asked him to be liberal to his brothers.
Babur’s Place in History:
All modern historians have assigned a highly respectable place to Babur in history. V.A. Smith wrote, “Babur was the most brilliant Asiatic prince of the age and worthy of a high place among the reigns of any age and country”. Havell described him as “the most attractive figure in the history of Islam”. Ereskine described, “We shall probably find no Asiatic prince who can just be placed beside him”.
The character and personality of Babur, no doubt, deserves all these praises. But, Babur could not get his rightful place in history if he would have failed to conquer a large, part of northern India. He did not fare well in the politics of Asia and his conquest of Afghanistan was not glorious. It was only his success in India which assigned him the place of an important ruler.
Babur fought three important battles in India viz, the battles of Panipat, Khanwa and Ghaghara and won all of them. He thus succeeded in laying down the foundation of the Mughal rule in India. Babur, of course, himself failed to provide stability to his empire and also failed to make it an all India empire. Yet by breaking the power of the Afghans and the Rajput’s, he laid down the foundation of such an empire which the Rajputs and the Afghans had failed to create during the course of nearly one hundred and fifty years.
Though Akbar had stabilized the Mughal empire and was known as the real founder of the Mughal empire, but in no sense Babur could be ignored. No doubt Akbar was the greatest Mughal ruler but Babur alone can be regarded as its founder. However, in the history of the world, Babur occupies a significant place as a great king. His writings, particularly, his autobiography, ranks among the best writings of the world written by kings.