Babur, the lion-hearted

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Babur, the lion-hearted

By Mohammad Shoaib Baloch

Dawn

Babur, the descendent of two great bloodlines — that of Changiz Khan and Taimur — was born on February 15, 1483. Sultan Umar Sheikh, the father of Babur, died when Babur was only 12 years old. Thus at this early age Babur became the king of Farghana. Umar Sheikh (a descendent of Taimur) had five wives. Babur was from Kutlak Nigar Khanum (whose ancestor was Changiz Khan). Umar Sheikh had three sons and five daughters.

After the accession of Babur to throne, his uncle and cousins took advantage of his young age and attacked him. Ahmed Mirza (uncle of Babur), in AD1490, attacked Babur but failed and died in the same year. Babur decided to revenge this sudden attack, so in November 1497 he captured Samarkand, where Ahmed Mirza ruled. Unfortunately, Babur fell ill in Samarkand and the news spread that he was dead. The ministers also put Jahangir (the younger brother of Babur) on the throne.

When Babur was ill, many proposals from different rulers came to Babur asking him to add his territory to theirs. When Babur refused to give his territory, two powerful nobles Auzum Hasan and Tambal laid siege to Andejan (the territory of Babur). As soon as Babur recovered his health, he marched to Andejan but was surprised to hear that it had fallen into the hands of the rebels. Interestingly, when Babur left Samarkand, Sultan Ali of Bukhara captured Samarkand. Both Samarkand and Andejan were snatched from Babur and he was left with only 300 followers.

Along with his followers, Babur spent the winter as a guest of Muhammad Husain Doghlat at Aurtippa. Finally Babur succeeded in getting back Farghan but the nobles insisted on its division. Babur took Andejan and Jahangir was given Akhshi. This was accepted on the condition that as soon as Babur will get Samarkand, he then will leave all of Farghan to Jahangir.

Though Babur got Samarkand in 1500, he was again defeated in 1501 and was compelled to live with his maternal uncle, Mahmud Khan. Both Mahmud Khan and Babur tried to get Farghan back but failed in the first attempt and were made prisoners in the second attempt. Later on Babur though it was useless to fight in Central Asia, so he tried his luck in Afghanistan where the government was unpopular and unstable. In this way Babur captured Kabul in October in 1504 and also assigned Ghazni and Ninghahar respectively, to his two brothers Jahangir and Nasir Mirza. In 1505 AD, Babur led an expedition against the Hazaras and Bangash tribes and reconnoitred the country to the west of the Indus River, as far as Jamrud, Kohat and Dera Ismail Khan. Afterwards Nasir Mirza left Babur and Jahangir rebelled.

After many failed attempts to get Samarkand, Babur turned his attention towards the Subcontinent. After making a deal with Daulat Khan, he proceeded to Delhi. And after hearing the news of Babur’s approach, Ibrahim lodhi left Delhi to face Babur and their armies met on the plains of Panipat in 1526. Babur won this battle and established the Mughal Empire in the Subcontinent. The battle of Panipat ranks amongst the classical battles in the military history of the Subcontinent. Armies were now sent to capture Delhi and Agra. On 27th April, 1526, the Khutba was read in the principal mosque of Delhi in the name of Zahir-ud-Din Mohammed Babur.

Thenceforth Babur was faced with certain difficulties. The Rajputs were not friendly to him. There were many Afghan chiefs who were against him too and Babur’s own followers began to desert him on account of the hot climate of the country. It was the powerful will of Babur that saved the situation. He made it clear to his followers that he was determined to stay on in the Subcontinent and who wanted to go back to Kabul might do so happily. Except for a few, most of his followers decided to remain with him.

However, Babur was not the ruler of the whole of the Subcontinent. So he had to also fight a strong foe, Rana Sanga (the head of the Rajput principality of Chitor). Rana Sanga wanted to capture the throne of Delhi and he advanced with a large army to Bira. Babur advanced to Fateh Pur Sikiri but his advanced guard was defeated by the Rajputs. Here the followers of Babur got disheartened. At this critical junction Babur decided to capitalize on the religious fervour of his army as well as reform himself. Babur ordered the breaking of the wine cups. He repented of his past sins and promised to give up wine for rest of his life. He made a moving speech before his soldiers, imploring them to fight a holy war.

His words affected the soldiers and the Rajputs were defeated. This defeat deprived the Rajputs of the opportunity to regain political ascendancy in the country forever. This battle also firmly established the Mughal rule. Afterwards, Babur marched against Canderi, which was a stronghold of the Rajputs under Medini Rai. Babur reached Chanderi in January 20, 1528. After the siege of nine days at Chanderi, Babur became successful in capturing it on January 29, 1528. The Rajput fought till the end and their women burnt themselves rather than be taken alive. Almost all the Rajput lost their lives and after this no other Rajput chief could challenge the authority of Babur.

Thenceforth Babur had to fight a battle with Afghans, who were also defeated. The death of Babur took place in December 1530 under curious circumstances. It is said that his son Humayun fell sick and it was declared that there was no possibility of his survival. At that time Babur walked three times round the bed of Humayun and prayed God to transfer the illness of his son to him. It is said that as Humayun began to recover and Babur started falling ill and his condition went from bad to worse and ultimately he breathed his last. Prior to leaving this world Babur said these words to Humayun: “I commit to God’s keeping you and your brothers and all my kins and your people and my people, and all of these I confine to you”.

However, there is another version of his death, according to S.R Sharma, the death of Babur was due to poison given to him by the mother of Ibrahim Lodhi.

Babur was 48 years at the time of his death. His body was taken to Kabul and buried there. Overall Babur is one of the most interesting figure in Asian history. He was not only a warrior but also a great scholar and poet. He loved poetry and drinking. He was an orthodox Sunni but not a fanatic. Physically he was stout and faced difficulties with cheerfulness.

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