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Zehir-ed-Din Muhammad Babur

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 2:27 AM
Zehir-ed-Din Muhammad Babur was born on February 14, 1483 in Andijan in Farghana. This place is in Uzbekistan, a Central Asian Republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. His father Umar Sheikh Mirza, a Turk and a descendant of Timur was the ruler of Farghana. His mother Khutlugh Nigar KhAnum was a descendant of Chingiz Khan. So both from the father's and mother's side he could claim an ancestry of unique distinction.


Babur spent the first eleven years and a quarter of his life in Farghand while his father was busy extending the frontiers of his small principality. He learnt his mother tongue Turki as well as Persian and also practised archery and horse riding. His father died in 1494 in the fort of Akshi due to the collapse of a pigeon house where he was feeding pigeons.

Babur succeeded his father as ruler of Farghana at the age of twelve. His rule of Far-ghana for twenty one years was a period of turmoil. His chief ambition in this period was to conquer the prestigious city of Samarkand built by his ancestor Timur, which was a great cultural centre of the Islamic world. This brought him into conflict with his uncles; Ahmad Miranshahi and Mahmud ChaghatAi, and later on with Shaibani Khan, the leader of Mongolo-Turkish tribe called the Uzbegs. Samarkand was a city of gardens dotted with mausoleums, including Gur-Amir, the tomb of Timur ornamented with magnificent blue tiles. It also had the observatory of Ulugh Beg, which contained a gigantic quadrant with which he compiled his famous astronomical tables.

Baur undertook two campaigns to conquer Samarkand. In 1497 after a siege of seven months he captured Samarkand. During his stay in Samarkand the nobles in Farghana taking advantage of his absence handed over a part of the state territory to his younger brother Jahangir. In February 1498 Babur left Samarkand to reconquer Farghand. He could not retrieve the lost territory and also lost Samarkand. He was forced to spend the winter in the fort of Khujand, and supported himself as well his soldiers by raiding the neighbouring villages. This was a period of great misery for him, but he kept up his courage.

 Akbar in old Age Babur won back the lost territory from Jahangir who was supported by Ahmad Tambal when he defeated them at Khuban in 1499. During this year he was married to Ayisha-Sultan Begam. She did not attract him much and he mentions that out of modesty and bashfulness, he used to see her only occasionally. In fact, his indifference to his wife was due to the fact that he was infatuated with a youth named Baburi.

In 1500 Babur again attacked Samarkand. Shaibani Khan who was then the ruler of Samarkand was camping in one of the gardens outside the city walls. Babur's soldiers scaled the city walls and with the co-operation of the inhabitants, who were disgusted with the savage rule of Shaibani Khan, occupied the city. After some months Shaibani Khan returned with a large force and besieged the city. Supplies were cut off, the garrison was starved and Baur was forced to surrender. He was also compelled to give his elder sister Khanzada in marriage to Shaibani Khan. One night accompanied by his mother and a few loyal followers he escaped from Samarkand.

This was another dark period for Babur and he sought refuge with his uncles in the area around Tashkent. Shaibani Khan not only had Samarkand, but had also captured a large slice of territory of Farghana. In 1504 Babur was in a desperate situation, and only a handful of loyal soldiers remained with him.


 Babur Enjoying Feast at Herat When in 1504 everything appeared to have been lost, Babur with his three hundred and odd followers crossed the Hindu Kush in a snow storm, stumbled into Kabul and made him-self the master of a principality named after that city. Thus began the second phase of his career. For the next twenty-two years, he was the king of Kabul which roughly corresponded to the modern Afghanistan and included Badakshan. From 1504 to 1513, with Kabul as his base, Babur again tried to conquer Samarkand. This ambition was fulfilled almost absolutely in October 1511 when he entered that city "in the midst of such pomp and splendour as no one has ever heard of before or ever since." Babur's dominions now reached their widest extent: from Tashkent and Sairam on the borders of the deserts of Tartary, to Kabul and Ghazni and the Indian frontier. It included within its boundaries Samarkand, Bokhara, Hissar, Kunduz and Farghana. But this glory was as shortlived as it was great. Uzbeg chiefs from whom Babur had snatched Samarkand in October 1511 returned to attack the city in June 1512 and inflicted a crushing defeat on Babur. Babur was forced to flee from one part of his dominions to another. He lost everywhere and finally returned to Kabul early in 1513.

The reason for Babur's discomfiture in the second half of 1512 lay in his understanding with Shah Ismael Safavi of Persia for the capture of Samarkand. For the Shah's support Babur had agreed to hold the Samarkand kingdom as his vassal, become a convert to the Shia faith, adopt all its symbols, and to impose the Shia creed on the orthodox Sunni subjects of the conquered kingdoms. This unprincipled compromise made Baur extremely unpopular with his Sunni subjects and enabled the Uzbeg chiefs to stage a come back at Samarkand.

In Kabul, Baur found time and leisure to indulge in his favourite hobby of gardening. Apart from Beigh-i-wafa ten gardens are mentioned as made by him viz., the Shahr-ãrã (Town-adorning), which contained very fine plane-trees, the Char-bagh, the Bagh-i-jalau-khanei, the Aarta-biigh (Middle-garden), the Saurat-bagh, the Bligh-i-inahtab (Moonlight-garden), the Bilgh-i-ahu-khana (Garden-of-the-deer-house), and three smaller ones. In these gardens he held his feasts and drink parties.


 Babur meeting Khanzada Begam
Babur now diverted his restless ambition to India. To be sure of success he took one of the most important steps of his life. Profiting from the example of Shah Ismael, he began building up effective artillery and sometimes between 1514 and 1519 secured the services of an Ottoman Turk. Named Ustad Ali, who became his master of ordnance.

Having, thus, strengthened his fighting machine a great deal, Babur started a probe into Hindustan. Early in 1519, he went in for what is called his first expedition in India. He stormed Bdjaur which offered a spirited resistance but was ultimately forced to accept defeat before Babur's artillery. Babur massacred the population of the city to avenge the losses he had suffered as a result of the unexpected resistance of the people of Bajaur, but more so to warn the people of other cities of the fate awaiting them if they chose to resist his army. His purpose was well served. When he reached Bhera on the Jhelum, no resistance was offered. That encouraged him to claim for the first time entire north-western India on the plea that it once formed part of Timur's empire. Perhaps he would have followed this claim with a deeper penetration in the interior of the Punjab if he was not told that back home a conspiracy was being hatched against him.

In September 1519 Babur invaded Hindustan again. This was his second expedition to Hindustan. He marched through Khyber, subdued the turbulent Yusafzai tribe and provisioned the Peshawar fort for future operations. He was forced to give up his ambition of going further at this stage because of disturbing news from Badakshan.

 Babur Supervising the Constructing Reservoir
After taking possession of Badakshan, Babur marched into India on his third expedition early in 1520. As in his first expedition, now also he first went to Bajaur and from there proceeded to Ehera. But this time he did not stop at Bhera. Subduing the recalcitrant Afghan tribes, he proceeded to Sialkot which submitted without striking a blow. When he moved on to Saiyidpur, he met a tough resistance but ultimately succeeded in subduing the place. Perhaps with the same object in view that had motivated his massacre of the people of Bajaur two years ago, he mercilessly massacred the people of Saiyidpur. That could have been a prelude to his moving into Lahore but on hearing that the ruler of Kandahar, Shah Beg Khdn was marching on Kabul, he hastily returned to Kabul.

Babur did not invade India for the next four years. Between 1520 and 1522 he was busy subduing Shdh Beg. In the following two years he strengthened his position in Kandahar. But he had by no means given up the Indian project. He further improved his artillery by securing the services of Mustafa..., another Turkish expert.

Bdbur embarked on his fourth expedition to India in 1524 on the invitation of Daulat Khan Lodi, the powerful Wazir of the Punjab. He marched into the valleys of the Jhelum and the Chenab, and became the master of both Lahore and Dipalpur. Much to the disappointment of atulat Khan, who had invited Babur to serve his political ends, Babur now proclaimed the major part of what subsequently became the Lahore and Multan subas of the Mughal Empire as part of his Kabul kingdom. He appointed his own governors over these areas and offered Daulat Khan the petty governorship of the Jullundur Doab. Little wonder that no sooner Babur went back, Daulat Khan raised a big army to fight him.

Babur invaded India again in November 1525. This was his fifth invasion of India. Because he anticipated a tough resistance from Daulat Khan and also a sharp conflict with Sultan Ibrahim Lodi, he now went to India with "the largest army he had ever led into Hindustan." Daulat Khan's army melted away at his approach but with Ibrahim, Babur had to fight the most crucial battle of his life on 21 April, 1526, the First Battle of Panipat.

 Babur Crossing the River Son over a Bridge of boat The First Battle of Panipat began the last phase of Babur's life. It is well known in all its details to the students of Indian history and may be briefly told. Babur states, "I placed my foot in the stirrup of resolution, and my hand on the reins of confidence in God, and marched against Sultan Ibrahim, the son of Sultan Sikandar, the son of Sultan Bahlol Lodi Afghan, in whose possession the throne of Delhi and the dominions of Hindustan at that time were; whose army in the field was said to amount to a hundred thousand men, and who, including those of his Amirs, had nearly a thousand elephants." For the first time in the history of India artillery was used in warfare. Ustad Kuli Khan was the master gunner of Babur. Indian elephants fled in terror on hearing the sound of artillery, trampling Ibrahim's soldiers. By mid-day the battle was over. Ibrahim Lodi, lay dead with 30,000 of his soldiers.

Soon after the battle of Panipat, Babur proclaimed himself as the Padshah of Hindustan with his headquarters at Agra. At Agra he laid a garden near the Jumna. During the heat of summer he sought refuge in this garden.

Babur defeated Rana Sangha in the battle of Khanna on 16 March, 1527, captured the fort of Chanderi on 29 January, 1528, and humbled the Afghans in the battle of Gogra on 6 May, 1529. Now he was master of northern India. He died on 26 December, 1530 at the age of forty-seven years, ten months and eleven days after an illness of more than six months. Thus ended a stormy career which culminated in the founding of Mughal dynasty which enormously enriched the cultural life of India. The Mughals gave India new architecture, terraced gardens with flowing water, and a new style of painting.

Writer – M.S. Randhawa


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