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Babur
Mughal Emperor
(1483-1530)


Other names: Zahir ud-din Muhammad


Titles

Ruler of Transoxiana, 1497; 1500

Lord of Kabul, 1504-30

Lord of Kandahar, 1504-30

Lord of Ghazni, 1504-30

Lord of Uzkand, 1494-97

Lord of Farghana, 1494-97

Biographical

Founder of the Mughal dynasty, Babur
('the tiger') was sixth in descent from Tamerlane. He succeeded his father in the government of Farghana in 1494. An attempt made by his uncles to dislodge him proved unsuccessful, and no sooner was the young sovereign firmly settled than he began to meditate an extension of his own dominions. In 1497 he attacked and gained possession of Samarkand, to which he always seems to have thought he had a natural and hereditary right. A rebellion among his nobles robbed him of his native kingdom, and while marching to recover it his troops deserted him, and he lost Samarkand also. After some reverses he regained both these places, but in 1501 his most formidable enemy, Shaibani (Sheibani) Khan, ruler of the Uzbeks, defeated him in a great engagement and drove him from Samarkand. For three years he wandered about trying in vain to recover his lost possessions; at last, in 1504, he gathered some troops, and crossing the snowy Hindu Kush besieged and captured the strong city of Kabul. By this dexterous stroke he gained a new and wealthy kingdom, and completely re-established his fortunes. In the following year he united with Hussain Mirza of Herat against Shaibani. The death of Hussain put a stop to this expedition, but Babur spent a year at Herat, enjoying the pleasures of that capital.

He returned to Kabul in time to quell a formidable rebellion, but two years later a revolt among some of the leading Mughals drove him from his city. He was compelled to take to flight with very few companions, but his great personal courage and daring struck the army of his opponents with such dismay that they again returned to their allegiance and Babur regained his kingdom. Once again, in 1510, after the death of Shaibani, he endeavoured to obtain possession of his native country. He received considerable aid from Shah Ismael of Persia, and in 1511 made a triumphal entry into Samarkand. But in 1514 he was utterly defeated by the Uzbeks and with difficulty reached Kabul. He seems now to have resigned all hopes of recovering Farghana, and as he at the same time dreaded an invasion of the Uzbeks from the west, his attention was more and more drawn towards India. Several preliminary incursions had been already made, when in 1521 an opportunity presented itself for a more extended expedition. Ibrahim, emperor of Delhi, had made himself detested, even by his Afghan nobles, several of whom called upon Babur for assistance. He at once assembled his forces, 12,000 strong, with some pieces of artillery and marched into India. Ibrahim, with 100,000 soldiers and numerous elephants, advanced against him. The great battle was fought at Panipat on the 21st of April 1526, when Ibrahim was slain and his army routed. Babur at once took possession of Agra.


A still more formidable enemy awaited him; the Rana Sanga of Mewar collected the enormous force of 210,000 men, with which he moved against the invaders. On all sides there was danger and revolt, even Babur's own soldiers, worn out with the heat of this new climate, longed for Kabul. By vigorous measures and inspiriting speeches he restored their courage, though his own heart was nearly failing him, and in his distress he abjured the use of wine, to which he had been addicted. At Kanwaha, on the 10th of March 1527, he won a great victory and made himself absolute master of northern India,
establishing the Mughal dynasty there which lasted until 1857.

The remaining years of his life he spent in arranging the affairs and revenues of his new empire and in improving his capital, Agra. He died on the 26th of December 1530 in his forty-eighth year. Babur was above the middle height, of great strength and an admirable archer and swordsman. His mind was as well cultivated as his bodily powers; he wrote well, and his observations are generally acute and accurate; he was brave, kindly and generous.
He wrote his own life—Tuzak-i-Baburi—in Turkish, with elegance and truth, that the work was universally admired.  His great-great-grandson, the emperor Shah Jahan, built his mausoleum in 1646. The chronogram of the year of his death was found to consist in the words 'Bahisht-rozibad' (May heaven be his lot). After his death, he received the title of Firdaus-Makani'. It was said that Babar, who was much addicted to women and wine, on occasions when he was inclined to make merry, used to fill a reservoir in a garden in the neighbourhood of Kabul with wine, over which was inscribed a verse to this purpose:

Bright Spring blooms here, from day to day,
Young girls stand by, old wine to pour;
Enjoy them, Babar, while you may—
Your Spring, once gone, returns no more.



Place of birth: Farghana

Place of first marriage: Sha'ban
Place of marriage to Ma'sumah: Kabul
Place of marriage to Maham Begum: Herat
Place of burial: Kabul
Place of death: Akbarabad

 



 

Sources

1. H.G. Keene. An Oriental Biographical Dictionary Founded on Materials Collected by Thomas William Beale. London: W. H. Allen & Co., Limited, 1894.
2. Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, 11th edn, vol. 1. New York: Encyclopaedia Britannica Co., 1911.
3. P.J. Bearman; Th. Bianquis, et al, eds. The Encyclopaedia of Islam, vol. 10. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2000.
4. A. Relia. The Indian Portrait-IV: Muraqqa - An Anthological Journey of the Mughal Empire. Archer: Ahmedabad, 2014.
5. G. Begam; A.S. Beveridge. The History of Humayun (Humayun-Nama). (A. S. Beveridge. Trans.). London: The Royal Asiatic society, 1902.
6. Babur. Memoirs of Zehir-Ed-Din Muhammed Babur, Emperor of Hindustan, vol. 1 [J. Leyden and W. Erskine. Trans.]. London, etc.; Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1921.
 

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