The Wars and Campaigns of Babur, First Mughul Emperor of India, 1494-1530
v.1.0 February 10, 2005
Amrit Pal Singh & Ravi Rikhye
1494-1503: Many defeats
Babur father, Umar Sheikh Mirza died on June 8, 1494, when Babur was eleven years and four months old child. He succeeded his father and became the King of Farghana. His enemies surrounded him on all sides. Everyone wanted to take advantage of his childhood and inexperience.
His uncle Ahmad Mirza, the ruler of Samarkand, attacked him. Babur saved his kingdom successfully. When Ahmad Mirza died in 1495, Babur decided to have his revenge. He took full advantage of the confusion that prevailed in Samarkand after the death of Ahmad Mirza. He attacked on Samarkand and besieged it. The besiege of Samarkand lasted for seven months and in November, 1497 he captured it.
When Babur was celebrating his victory in Samarkand, he fell ill. His enemies in Farghana took advantage of his sickness. His ministers gave out that he was dead and put on the throne the younger brother of Babur, Jahangir.
When Babur recovered from his sickness; he marched from Samarkand to recover Farghana. He could not capture Farghana. When he returned to Samarkand, he came to know that even Samarkand was occupied in his absence by Ali, his cousin. Now, Babur was not the king of any place. It was the year of 1498.
Babur wandered for more than a year. In June 1499, he recaptured the capital of Farghana.
Now, Babur decided to capture Samarkand again. He conquered Samarkand for the second time, but the Uzbek chief, Shaibani Khan, then defeated him. He lost Farghana too for the second time in the same year. After these ups and downs of life, Babur was left with nothing in 1502. Resolving to try his luck somewhere else, he left his native land.
1504: Babur Conquers Kabul
In 1504 Babur capture the small principality of Kabul, and from there attacked Samarkand for a third time.
1510: Samarkand, Babur’s 3rd attempt
Incredibly, he won Samarkand for a third time, only to lose it yet again to the Uzbegs.
EXPEDITIONS TO INDIA
1519: First Expedition
In 1519, Babur gathered an army and marched onto Bajour. He defeated the Yusufzais, an Afghan clan. He captured Bajour and Swat. Then he advanced to Bhera on the west of the Jhelum. River and captured it without any problem.
Babur reached as far as the Chenab. His ministers advised him to send an ambassador to Ibrahim Lodhi, the King of Delhi, demanding the restoration of the country, which belonged to the Turks. So, acting on the advice, he sent an ambassador to Ibrahim. His ambassador was detained at Lahore by Daulat Khan Lodhi and came back empty handed after many months.
Babur came to know about a revolt in his own kingdom, so he went back to Kabul.
1519: Second Expedition
In September 1519, Babur again attacked India. This time, he could reach Peshawar and then had to turn back.
15??: Third Expedition
During his third expedition, Babur occupied Sialkot in Punjab. Then he had to go back to Kandhar to suppress a revolt.
1524: Fourth Expedition
In 1524, Babur attacked India again. He was invited by Daulat Khan Lodhi, the Governor of Punjab. When Babur reached Lahore, he found that the Delhi army had already turned out Daulat Khan Lodhi. The Delhi army tried to stop Babur, but was defeated. Thus, Babur captured Lahore. Then he marched forward and occupied Jallundhar and Dipalpur. Daulat Khan Lodhi helped him. Babur gave Jallundhar and Sultanpur to Daulat Khan Lodhi and Lahore to Alam Khan. Daulat Khan Lodhi was not happy with this. He started to make plans against Babur. His own son, Dilawar Khan, told this to Babur. Now, Babur took away Sultanpur from Daulat Khan and gave to Dilawar Khan. After making all arrangements, Babur went back to Kabul.
As soon as Babur went back, Daulat Khan Lodhi captured Sultanpur and Lahore.
1526: Fifth Expedition, First Panipat
The Afghan dynasty of the Lodhis ruled Hindustan at this time. The Sultan Ibrahim however, was not popular with his nobles due to his insolence and harshness. The governor of the Punjab sought aid from Babur to overthrow Ibrahim Lodhi, and in late 1525, set out for India.
Ironically, his first encounter came not with the Sultan Ibrahim, but the very same governor of Punjab who had switched sides – again – and was Babur’s opponent. Babur, however, easily brushed the governor aside, captured Lahore, and with 12,000 men, advanced to meet Sultan Ibrahim in 1526 at Panipat, the northwestern gateway to Delhi.
First Panipat easily counts as one of the ten most decisive battles for India. Babur faced a brave and disciplined force of about 100,000 men. Yet, even at odds of 1-8 he defeated the Sultan. Babur’s incredible personal bravery and qualities as a general were undoubtedly key to his victory, but without his Turkish-manned artillery, he would likely have been defeated.
The dominant Rajput king, Rana Sangha, had offered to aid Babur should the latter attack India. Ishwiri Prasad, author of the first post-colonial standard school history of India, says that the Rana had his own purposes in mind. He thought after the usual looting and pillaging, Babur would return to Kabul, and he, Rana Sangha, would declare himself emperor at Delhi.
The Rana did not, in the event, come to Babur’s help at Panipat. Perhaps he wanted to see which way the wind blew. And the Rana did not like what he saw when Babur himself claimed emperorship.
The Rana gathered huge armies of Rajputs and Afghans to him, and met Babur outside Agra in 1527. Again, as at Panipat, by rights Babur should have lost, because again he was vastly outnumbered. But using the same tactics as at Panipat, Babur defeated Rana Sangha to consolidate his hold on Northern India.
The Afghan Lodhis had fled to eastern India after the fall of Delhi, and Babur decided he had to defeat the remnants. He had one task to clear up before he marched against the Lodhis at Ghagra: to undercut Rajput power even more, Babur stormed their stronghold of Chanderi.
In 1529 he fought and won his last battle, Ghagra.
Babur’s Death, 1530
Babur died in 1530. Though a fantastically strong man – he is said to have swum every river he met in India, could ride 120 kilometers a day, and, picking up two men, one under each arm, run the length of his ramparts – he was physically exhausted after 35 years of campaigning and hardship. It is said he was finally overcome by the serious illness of his beloved son, Humanyun. The story says – and may well be true because Babur’s period is, unusually for an Indian king, well documented – that he swore to take his son’s fatal illness on himself; as a consequence, his son lived but he died.
To us today it may seem incredible that just by conquering Lahore, Delhi, and Agra, he laid the foundations of the great Mughul Empire. But he who held these three cities held northern India, and he who held northern India could take the east whenever he wanted, and if he was diligent enough, eventually take the centre and the south. And that his descendents did.
· Prasad, Ishwiri . A New History of India. The Indian Press Pvt. Ltd., Allahabad, India.