History of India
June 9, 2017
BABAR, THE FOUNDER OF THE MUGHAL DYNASTY
- Padma Mohan Kumar, freelance writer
The year 1526 was a very decisive one in Indian history as it marked
the overthrow of the Lodi dynasty and the dawn of the Mughal dynasty.
Babar, the founder of the new empire was a descendant of the Mongol
conqueror Genghis Khan from his motherís side and of Timur, the Turkish
invader, from his fatherís side. He was the son of the ruler of the
principality of Fergana in present day Uzbekistan. Born in
February 1483, he inherited his fatherís kingdom at the age of eleven.
It was his ambition to capture Samarkand and to rule Central Asia but he
was thwarted in his attempts by the Persians and the Afghans. Hence he
turned his ambitions towards the plains of Hindustan.
North India, at that time was under the rule of the Lodi dynasty which
was Afghan in origin. Babar launched a series of attacks on the Lodi
province of Punjab which culminated in his victory. It was in 1526 at
Panipat that he met a much larger force under the command of Sultan
Ibrahim Lodi. Babarís superior military strategies involving the
use of heavy artillery and cannons earned for him a decisive victory
against Sultan Ibrahimís forces. It was for the first time that
artillery and cannons were used in India.
However Babar was still in an extremely challenging situation. His
forces were unused to the oppressive Indian weather and their base at
Kabul was located about 800 miles away. Moreover they had to deal with
formidable enemies, such as the Afghan chiefs who were a force to reckon
with despite the lack of unity among them. No less intimidating were
the kingdoms of Malwa and Gujarat which boasted of well-equipped armies
and resources. Babar also had to match swords with a powerful
confederation of Rajput kings under the leadership of Rana Sanga of
Babar rallied his disheartened forces by means of threats and promises
and he managed to put heart into them. His forces responded to his
stirring exhortations and rallied behind him. His first conflict was
with the Rajput confederation. Babar had to contend against an army
which was numerically far superior to his. The two forces met at Khanua
which was 37 miles west of Agra on March 16th 1527. The Rajputs,
despite their superior numbers found that they were no match for Babarís
military strategy. His artillery charges created panic among the
elephants of the Rajputs and many of the Rajput soldiers were crushed to
death by the frightened animals. Babarís forces won a decisive victory
after a conflict lasting for ten hours.
However the Afghans and the Rajputs were not completely suppressed. The
Afghans who were in power in the east had captured Lucknow while Babar
was engaged in the conflict with the Rajputs at Khanua in the west of
Agra. Meanwhile, Mahmud Lodi, the brother of Ibrahim Lodi, had taken
Bihar with the support of other groups of Afghans.
The Rajputs were no less persistent in their defiance. Chief among these
was the ruler of Chanderi. Babar marched against him and captured his
fort in 1528. He now turned his attention towards the Afghans. He
marched towards the east, crossed the Ganges and retook Lucknow from the
Afghans who were forced to flee towards Bengal. Babarís next conflict
was with those Afghans who had united under the leadership of Mahmud
Lodi the brother of Ibrahim Lodi. The two forces met near the Ghaghara, a
tributary of the Ganges, on May 6th 1529. Once again Babarís superior
military strategies came to his aid and he was able to inflict a
resounding defeat on his adversaries in the struggle.
Thus, Babar was able to establish his base in North India. His sway
extended over some Central Asian territories, Kabul, the Punjab, Delhi
and other parts of North India extending up to Gwalior, and Bihar in the
east. Nevertheless his empire had to be consolidated with a sound
administration and the warring chiefs within the empire had to be
pacified. In 1530, he nominated his eldest son Humayun as his successor.
There is a very touching story about how Babar had offered his life in
exchange for the life of his son Humayun. Humayun had fallen
seriously ill in 1530. Babar prayed to God asking Him to spare Humayunís
life and to take his own life instead. It is said that he had walked
seven times around Humayunís cot in order to complete a vow that he had
undertaken. After that Humayunís health improved while Babar fell
seriously ill. His condition deteriorated and on December 30th, 1530 he
passed away at the age of 48.
Babar is considered as the founder of the Mughal Empire. His military
genius and love for adventure earned for him this recognition. However
he did not live long enough to consolidate his empire. This task was
achieved by his grandson Akbar. During Babarís time considerable parts
of his empire were ruled by his ministers with absolute authority.
Not only was this conqueror a soldier of note but he was gifted poet and writer too. His famous autobiography, the Babarnama
written in his mother tongue Turki depict him as a generous ruler who
was far ahead of his times in his outlook. This masterpiece was later
translated into Persian during the reign of his grandson Akbar. He had
mastered Persian too. His other passions were architecture and music. He
had an eye for natural beauty and constructed gardens wherever he went.
He was among the most magnanimous personalities in history.