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A Mughal named Humayun

By Mohammad Shoaib Baloch


HUMAYUN, the eldest son of Babur, was born in March 1508, at Kabul. From an early age, he was associated with his father and was appointed as the governor of Badakshan at the age of 20. He also participated in the battle of Panipat and Kanwah.

He was given the jagir of Sambal and afterwards, in 1527, he was sent to Badakshan. Thenceforth he came back to Agra in 1529 and was ordered to manage his jagir of Sambal. But in Sambal he fell seriously ill and was brought to Agra. There is an anecdote regarding his recovery and the death of his father. It is said that the illness of Humayun was very serious and every physician told Babur that there was no hope for the recovery of Humayun. But Babur did not lose heart and went to the bedside of Humayun. Babur walked three times round the bed of Humayun and prayed to God for the health of his son and that the illness be transferred to him instead. It is said that thereafter Babar fell ill and eventually died, while Humayun recovered.

After the death of Babur, an attempt was made to place Mahdi Khawaja on the throne, who was the brother-in-law of Babur. But Humayun successfully got the throne on the December 1530. It was not a simple task to run the empire which Humayun had inherited. Babur had passed on an ill-organized empire, which had no treasures and unity. Even though he was kind to his brothers and gave Sambal to Askari, Alwar to Hindal and Kamran was given Kabul and Qandar. That division of country was a mistake, which made Kamran to take the army and control the whole of Punjab. As Humayun did not want to fight with his brother, he gave the Punjab, along with district of Hissar Firoz, to Kamran. Humayun was only left with the regions newly incorporated in the Mughal empire, and the empire which was ruled by his father for a long time was given to the brother.

Humayun lacked tact and will power, and this was the reason that he could not overcome his initial difficulties. In 1531, Humayun besieged the fort of Kalinjar but he failed to get it even after a long siege. The Kalinjar expedition is said to be one of the mistakes of Humayun. He gave up the siege because he had to face the Afghans, who were marching to the province of Jaunpur. The Afghans advanced up to Brabanki and Humayun defeated them in Dourah in August 1532. Afterwards, Humayun went on to conquer Chunar, which was under Sher Khan. The siege lasted for three months and eventually Humayun gave in. It was a mistake because Sher Khan was a rising star and he should have been crushed then.

Humayun, after defeating Bahadur Shah and capturing the fort of Mandu and Champanir, wasted a lot of time in merrymaking. He spent the treasure, which he had got as booty from Champanir, and did not try to consolidate his position.

In 1540, Sher Khan captured Humayun’s territory and left him with almost no land. And during these homeless years, Akbar was born to him in Umarkot. After the death of Sher Khan (who was popularly known as Sher Shah) in 1545, Humayun struggled to get back his lost territory. He occupied Peshawar in 1554, whereas Lahore was occupied in February 1555. Dipalpur was also taken and after fighting many battles, Humayun reached Delhi in July 1555.

Over all, it is said that Humayun was a gentleman, kindhearted and sensitive. As a son, husband, father and brother, he was an ideal one. He was a thoroughly cultured man.

When talking about the Mughal reign, there is a need to look into the socio-economic conditions of the region and the people they invaded. The Mughals were not the natives of the subcontinent. They had come from Afghanistan and got this land by sheer power, and they ended up being considered as heroes. On the other hand, the natives of the land were treated as the villains.

History is interpreted in strange ways. The invader is remembered in glorified terms while those who defend their land, trying to protect what has been theirs for centuries, are considered as rebels. So was the case with the Mughals, the natives who lived there for thousands of years were described unfavourably, while the invaders, who by dint of power got the land, were termed as peace-loving. People of this land had always been economically sound but these wars brought rainy days for them. The reason was that the losses that occurred in war were recovered from the poor natives in the form of tax.

Foreign rule also brought much social disturbance. A local king was always merciful to his fellow men, but an outsider treated them in an inhuman way. Though Islam advocates equality, it was not properly established by these Muslim rulers.

When Humayun lost his territory to Sher Shah, he turned towards Sindh and during his stay there he forcefully married a young woman who attracted him. That young woman gave birth to Akbar. It’s always accepted that a king made a historian write about the events of his times in his presence and it may be possible that Humayun tried to show himself as kindhearted and a gentleman. Prior to the period of Humayun, Sikism started to flourish but the founder of Sikism died in the reign of Humayun in 1539. Angad the second Guru died when Humayun lost his territory. And the third Guru, Amar Das was alive when Humayun’s period ended.

Humayun is known as ‘the fortunate one’ because he managed to get back his territory from Sher Shah. He was fortunate to get a son like Akbar, who expanded and consolidated the empire to become the greatest of the Mughals.

During Humayun’s reign when the people of the subcontinent were engaged in wars, Europe was making rapid progress in science. But one of the most disheartening things is that these rulers thought that they were more powerful than the rest of the world. And this pride was the cause of their backwardness and fall.

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