Babur, who laid down the foundation of the rule of a new dynasty in India in 1526 A.D., belonged to the family of Chaghatai Turks. However, in Indian History, his family has been called the Mughul. The Mughul dynasty produced capable rulers, one after another, from Babur to Aurangzeb, provided political unity to a large part of India for quite good time, administered it well, and, thereby, brought peace and prosperity within the empire.
The Mughuls, in no way, accepted Khalifa as their overlord. They ruled as sovereign emperors. They improved means and methods of warfare and introduced gunpowder artillery in India. They patronized literature and fine arts which led to their growth practically in all fields.
Above all, a serious attempt was made to pursue a policy of religious toleration with a view to gain the loyalty and support of the Hindus who constituted the majority in the country. Thus, the Mughuls tried and succeeded in finishing several past traditions which had persisted during the period of the Delhi Sultanate. Therefore, the history of the Mughuls occupies an important or rather a glorious place in Indian history.
Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur, the founder of the rule of the Mughul dynasty in India, was born on 14 February 1483 A.D. The blood of two great conquerors flowed in his veins. He was the fifth descendant of Timur from the side of his father and the fourteenth of Chengiz Khan from the side of his mother.
He inherited the petty kingdom of Farghana from his father, Umar Sheikh Mirza in 1494 A.D. in a precarious position when his kingdom was under attack from two sides by his own relatives. However, Babur succeeded in thwarting their attempts.
The next ten years proved to be the years of trials in the life of Babur. Babur had to face the challenge of his relatives and also that of internal conspiracies during these years. But more than that, his own ambitions were responsible for his troubled career.
Fascinated by the conquests of his ancestor Timur, he longed to capture his capital, Samarqand. But, he was stoutly resisted there mostly by the rising power of the Uzbegs under their leader Shaibani Khan. The first attempt of Babur to conquer Samarqand (1494 A.D.) failed.
He succeeded in capturing it in 1497 A.D. but could keep it under his control only for one hundred days. In 1501 A.D., he again captured it but had to leave it after eight months. These attempts to conquer Samarqand heavily taxed the resources and energy of Babur. During this period, he lost twice even his hereditary kingdom Farghana and had to lead the life of a fugitive.
But then fortune, ultimately, smiled on Babur and he got an opportunity to interfere in the politics of Kabul where, in 1501 A.D., a minor boy Abdur Razzaq was soon displaced from the throne by one of his nobles, Muqim, the Arghun. But Muqim failed to gain the confidence of other nobles and his subjects which created confusion in Afghanistan. Babur attacked Kabul in 1504 A.D. and captured it almost without any opposition.
He soon captured Ghazni as well and, thus, became the master of Afghanistan without much fighting. In 1507 A.D., Babur assumed the title of Padishah (Emperor) and, thus, asserted the headship of the Timurids.
In 1510 A.D. Shaibani Khan Uzbeg was defeated and killed in the battle of Marv by the Persian ruler, Shah Ismail. The removal of Shaibani Khan from the political scene once again inflamed Babur’s desire to conquer Samarqand. He entered into a treaty with Shah Ismail and succeeded in capturing not only Samarqand but Bukhara and Khurasan as well in 1511 A.D. But, Babur could not enjoy his conquests for long.
His relations with Shah Ismail were spoiled as he could not enforce Shia sect on his Sunni subjects while his Sunni subjects became dissatisfied with him because they felt that he had become a stooge in the hands of a Shia ruler. The Uzbegs took advantage of it, attacked Samarqand under their new leader Ubaid Ullah Khan and occupied it in 1512 A.D. Thus Babur lost Samarqand for the third time and returned to Kabul.
The Conquest of Northern India:
A. Contest against Ibrahim Lodi:
1. The Causes of the First Battle of Panipat:
Babur was an ambitious ruler. He desired to create an extensive empire. He attempted to create one in Central Asia and conquered Samarqand. But the Uzbegs foiled his plans in Central Asia. Therefore, he decided to move towards India. The story of the attack of Timur on India, which he heard from an old lady, inspired him to try his luck here.
The politics of West Asia also favoured his plan. The Uzbegs and the Persians fought among themselves but failed to subdue each other and thus maintained a balance of power in West Asia. Therefore, none of them was in a position of threatening the position of Babur in Kabul and he could freely engage himself in the task of conquering India.
Babur was a capable man. He had a long experience of fighting against the Turks, the Mongols, the Uzbegs, the Persians and the Afghans. He improved his fighting tactics and arms. He learned the Tulghuma tactic of warfare from the Uzbegs, that of ambuscade from the Mongols, from the Afghans the use of fire-arms, from the Persians the use of artillery and the effective use of mobile cavalry from the Turks.
Babur built up a strong artillery with the help of his two Turkish officers, Ustad Ali and Mustafa. Besides, Babur possessed virtues like endurance, patience, courage, contempt of death, hopefulness and faith in his destiny which made him a leader of men. Thus, his enhanced power and personal qualities also aspired him to take his chances in India.
Babur was not a greedy man. But the wealth of India was definitely alluring to him and his followers which also was one of the causes of his attack on India.
The weak political condition of India, certainly, tempted Babur to attack India. Ibrahim Lodi, the Afghan ruler of Delhi, was facing revolts from his own kinsmen and nobles. He was opposed by his nobles in Bihar, his uncle Alam Khan Lodi claimed the throne of Delhi and the Governor of Punjab, Daulat Khan Lodi was behaving as an independent ruler.
Besides, the Afghan rulers of Bengal, Malwa and Gujarat were also his opponents. Thus, the Afghans were divided among themselves and were in no position to unite themselves against a foreign enemy.
“In the beginning of the 16th century, India was simply a congregation of states and, therefore, could easily be conquered by an aggressor. In absence of a sovereign power, petty rulers swayed over the land and the writ of the Sultan had no meaning.”
There were independent kingdoms in Sindh, Kashmir and Orissa but none of them was powerful. The most powerful state of northern India was Mewar. Its ruler Sangram Singh alias Rana Sanga had united all Rajput rulers of Rajputana under him either by wars or by diplomacy. He was trying to weaken not only the neighbouring kingdoms of Malwa and Gujarat but was desirous to capture Agra and Delhi from Ibrahim Lodi. But he was not yet completely free from internal dissensions.
The most powerful state of south India was Vijayanagara which was ruled by its most illustrious ruler, Krishnadeva Rai. Besides, there were the kingdoms of the Berar, the Ahmadnagar, the Bijapur, the Golkunda and the Bidar which had sprung up after the division of the Bahmani kingdom. These states fought among themselves as well as against Vijayanagara. Thus, the states of southern India had neither interest nor the capacity to look after the politics of northern India.
Thus, India lacked political unity and stability at that time. The different rulers were fighting against each other yet, none of them succeeded in creating a powerful empire which could face the challenge of a foreign invader. Instead, some among them encouraged Babur to attack India. Alam Khan Lodi invited Babur to attack India so that he could capture Delhi with his help. Daulat Khan Lodi invited Babur so that he could keep Punjab for himself.
Probably, Rana Sanga also assured Babur of his help against Ibrahim Lodi once he entered Punjab. All these circumstances encouraged Babur to attack India.
Babur invaded India five times. But the first four invasions were more or less exploratory raids. In his first invasion (1519 A.D.) he simply conquered Bajaur and Bhera and returned. Both the places were lost by him as soon as he was back. He again came back to India the same year but turned back from Peshawar.
During the course of his third invasion in 1520 A.D., he entered Punjab and conquered Sialkot and Sayyidpur. He attacked for the fourth time in 1524 A.D. and captured territory as far as Lahore and Dipalpur.
But he left Punjab under the care of Alam Khan Lodi and Dilawar Khan Lodi, son of Daulat Khan Lodi and returned to Kabul. After his departure, however, Punjab was again captured by Daulat Khan Lodi. It was in 1525 A.D. that Babur attacked India for the fifth time with a view to conquer it.
2. The First Battle of Panipat (21 April 1526 A.D.):
Daulat Khan was soon forced to surrender by Babur. He was imprisoned and sent to Bhera but he died on the way. Punjab, thus, being occupied, Babur proceeded towards Delhi. He was then challenged by Ibrahim Lodi on the field of Panipat. Babur wrote in his Memoirs that he defeated Ibrahim Lodi with twelve thousand soldiers while Rushbrooke Williams described that his army consisted of only eight thousand soldiers.
Probably, Babur started from Kabul with twelve thousand soldiers. But the strength of his army increased after his conquest of Punjab. Dr A.L. Srivastava has described that the strength of the army was nearly twenty-five thousand soldiers. The number of Ibrahim’s army has been exaggerated by certain historians.
It has been said that there were nearly one thousand elephants and one lakh soldiers in his army. But the fact seems to be that he had an effective strength of nearly forty thousand soldiers only. For about a week, both the armies faced each other and engaged in skirmishes. The real battle started on the morning of 21 April 1526 A.D. and by noon it was over. Ibrahim Lodi lay dead on the field and his army was destroyed.
The battle of Panipat sealed the fate of Lodi dynasty in India. It was wiped out of Indian politics. The power of the Afghans was weakened in India though not completely destroyed. Babur soon occupied Delhi and Agra and, thus, laid down the foundation of the rule of the Mughul dynasty in India though he had yet to fight more battles to safeguard his claim over his Indian possessions.
3. The causes of the success of Babur:
The artillery, the Tulghuma method of warfare and superior generalship of Babur, on the one hand, and weaknesses, of Ibrahim Lodi, on the other, were responsible for the success of Babur in this battle.
Babur was an experienced and more capable commander than Ibrahim whom he described in his Memoirs as “as inexperienced young man, careless in his movements who marched without order, halted or retired without method, and engaged without foresight.”
Babur had a fine artillery, a more effective mobile cavalry and he used better war-tactics while Ibrahim had no artillery and fought in a traditional way depending on his war-elephants which having no experience of facing fire-arms destroyed their own army in panic.
Ibrahim’s army was not well-organised. He had lost the sympathy of the Afghan nobility as well as the loyalty of his subjects. Mostly his army consisted of hastily collected mercenary soldiers. Therefore, though the Afghans fought bravely, they proved no match to the well-trained army of Babur.
B. After the Battle of Panipat:
Babur had to face many difficulties after the battle of Panipat. The Afghan nobles declared their independence at several places after the defeat of Ibrahim. Mahmud Lodi, the younger brother of Ibrahim Lodi, who had fled away from the battle of Panipat, tried to organise the Afghans to settle his score against Babur.
The Afghan rulers at Bengal and Gujarat could support him or could try to capture Delhi themselves. Rana Sanga of Mewar was another powerful challenger to the position of Babur in northern India. The people of India, fearing Babur as a foreign invader, vacated their villages and prepared themselves to safeguard their property and honour.
Babur himself wrote that ‘the citizens hated the Mughuls; neither cereals were available for the soldiers nor fodder for the horses; every city was fortified except Agra and Delhi, and nobody was prepared to obey the orders.’ Besides, nobles and soldiers of Babur were desirous to go back to Kabul as they could not tolerate the heat of the plains of India.
Babur, however, decided to stay in India. That finished the hesitancy of his nobles and soldiers because they knew that they had to stay with their king. The confidence of the people was restored and they began to settle down because they knew that Babur had not come to plunder but to settle down in India.
Many Afghan nobles also decided to surrender to him and were gracefully forgiven by Babur. Babur then tried to restore order within the territory which he had captured in India. He divided the plains of northern India among his nobles and gave them the responsibility to conquer it.
The policy succeeded and very soon a larger part of the plains of north India was captured by Babur. But before he could firmly establish himself here, he faced a serious challenge to his power from Rana Sanga of Mewar.
C. The Battle of Khanua (17 March 1527 A.D.):
The primary cause of the battle of Khanua was the decision of Babur to remain in India as the king of Delhi. Rana Sanga had agreed to support Babur against Ibrahim Lodi. He thought that Babur would leave India after plundering it as was done by some previous invaders. In that case, he could capture Delhi for himself. But the decision of Babur to remain in India foiled his plans and therefore, he preferred to support the Afghans against the foreigners, the Mughuls.
He gave shelter to fugitive Alam Khan Lodi, accepted Mahmud Lodi as the ruler of Delhi and sought the support of Hasan Khan Mewati and other Afghan nobles against Babur. Therefore, the battle between the Rajputs and the Mughuls became inevitable. Rest of the causes of the battle were simply pretexts for it. Babur blamed Rana Sanga for not helping him against Ibrahim while Rana Sanga challenged the capture of Bayana, Dholpur and Kalpi by Babur.
The Rajput army took the offensive and proceeded ahead with a view to capture Bayana and Agra. Mahmud Lodi and Hasan Khan Mewati joined their ranks. The two advanced parties of Babur were defeated by the Rajputs. Babur realised that he had to face a more serious challenge from the Rajputs than what he had faced at Panipat from the Afghans.
The Rajput valour was praiseworthy and their leader Rana Sanga was an experienced general who had fought nearly one hundred battles in life. An astrologer at Kabul declared that the ensuing battle would go against the Mughuls. All this demoralised the soldiers of Babur. But then, Babur proved himself a judge of human character, a leader of a group of people and the commander of an army.
He dramatically renounced drinking of wine before a gathering of his troops, appealed to them to fight till death for the safety of their honour and religion, abolished tamgha (stamp duty) from all Muslims and declared Jihad (holy war) against the ‘infidels’ (Hindus). It brought about the desired effect and the Mughul soldiers and nobles swore before him to fight till death.
The two armies met at Khanua, a place ten miles ahead of Fatehpur Sikri. Babur described the number of the Rajput army as two lakhs and Rushbrooke Williams described that the Rajputs outnumbered the Mughuls by 7 or 8 to 1. But, there is no justification for these facts. Dr A.L. Srivastava is nearer the truth when he describes that the odds were 2:1.
While the Rajput army consisted of nearly eighty thousand soldiers the Mughuls numbered nearly forty thousand. The battle started at nearly 9 a.m. on 17 March 1527 A.D. and continued for ten hours. Rana Sanga was badly wounded and taken away from the battlefield and the Rajput army was routed. The victory went to the Mughuls.
Once again, the Mughuls succeeded in the battle because of their superior tactics, commandership and artillery. The Rana was wounded during the course of the battle and failed to provide leadership to his soldiers at the critical moment. It also demoralised his soldiers. However this can be counted only as a subsidiary cause of the defeat of the Rajputs.
The battle of Khanua proved to be a more decisive battle as compared to the battle of Panipat. It proved the superiority of the arms and military tactics of the Mughuls against the natives. It weakened the Rajput power.
Rana Sanga died in 1528 A.D. and that finished the dream of the Rajputs to conquer Delhi forever. It also reduced the power of resistance of the Afghans against the Mughuls. The position of Babur was now secure in India.
Of course, he had to fight more battles in India but none of them was for the safety of the Mughuls in India but for the consolidation of their power. Babur, now, was firmly established in India and his centre of power shifted from Kabul to Delhi.
D. The Conquest of Chanderi (1528 A.D.):
Chanderi was situated on the border of Malwa and Bundelkhand and therefore, was important both politically and economically. Its occupation could help in the conquest of Malwa and provide safety to trade route towards western India. Besides, it was now in the hands of a Rajput chief, Medini Rai who had freed himself from the sovereignty of the ruler of Malwa, subordinated himself to Rana Sanga and fought against Babur in the battle of Khanua.
Babur decided to destroy his power and therefore, demanded Chanderi in exchange of Shamsabad. It was refused and Babur attacked Chanderi on 29 January 1528 A.D. Medini Rai was killed in the battle and the tort of Chanderi was captured by Babur. However, it was handed over to Ahmad Shah, a descendant of the ruling dynasty of Malwa.
E. The Battle of Ghaghara (6 May 1529 A.D.):
The Afghans attempted once more to recapture Delhi. They had assembled in Bihar, were led by Mahmud Lodi and, probably, were supported by Nusrat Shah, the Afghan ruler of Bengal. They moved as far as Kannauj.
Babur proceeded towards the east to subdue them. The Afghans began to withdraw when they received the news of the approach of Babur and many of them surrendered. But, Babur was determined to finish their menace for once and all.
He pardoned all those who asked for it but went on proceeding towards Bihar. However, as he did not desire to engage Nusrat Shah of Bengal in the battle, he assured him of his non-interference in Bengal on the condition that the fugitive and revolting Afghans would not get support from Bengal.
The Afghans under Mahmud Lodi were forced to fight at the banks of Ghaghara on 6 May 1529 A.D. and completely defeated. Mahmud Lodi fled away to Bengal and many Afghan rebels surrendered to Babur. Nusrat Shah agreed for peace with the Mughuls on condition of mutual respect for each other’s border. Babur kept a part of Bihar to himself. The rest was restored to the Afghans on condition of acceptance of his suzerainty.
F. Last Days and Death of Babur:
The battle of Ghaghara was the last battle of Babur in India. He had succeeded in establishing the Mughul empire in India and there was nobody to challenge his power in northern India. But, now he was near his death. It has been expressed by several historians that Humayun, the eldest son of Babur fell ill and when showed no sign of improvement Babur offered his own life to God in return of his son.
Then Humayun recovered and Babur fell ill which, ultimately, took his life. But Dr S.R. Sharma has contradicted this story. He has written that the illness of Babur had no relation with the illness of Humayun who had recovered from illness six months earlier to Babur’s illness. The majority of historians have now accepted the view of Dr S.R. Sharma.
Babur died due to his own illness. Dr R.P. Tripathi has also expressed that extremely tiresome life of Babur, his indulgence in liquor and opium and the hot climate of India were responsible for his illness and death.
Babur nominated his son Humayun as his successor and died on 26 December 1530 A.D. He was buried at Aram Bagh in Agra but later on was removed and buried in Kabul at the place chosen by himself during his lifetime.