In the fourteenth century, the disintegration of the Mongol empire led Timur to unite Iran and Turan under one rule. Timur’s empire was spread from the lower Volga to the river Indus, including Iran,
Asia Minor (modern Turkey), Trans-Oxiana, Afghanistan, and some part of Punjab.
In 1404, Timur died and Shahrukh Mirza, his grandson, succeeded his empire.
Timur gave patronage to arts and letters and he promoted Samarqand and Herat as the cultural centers of West Asia.
During the second half of the fifteenth century, the power of Timurids declined, largely because of the Timurid practice of partitioning of the empire.
The various Timund territories that developed during his time, were kept fighting and backbiting to each other. Their conflicting acts gave an opportunity to two new powers to come to the forefront:
a) The Uzbeks: In the north, the Uzbeks thrust into Trans-Oxiana. Though the Uzbeks had become Muslims, but Timurids looked them down because they (Timurids) considered them to be uncultured barbarians.
b) Safavid Dynasty: In the west (i.e. Iran), the Safavid dynasty appeared. They were descended from an order of saints who traced their ancestry to the Prophet.
Safavids dynasty promoted the Shi’ite sect among the Muslims, and persecuted to all those who were not ready to accept the Shia views.
The Uzbeks, on the other hand, were Sunnis. Thus, the political conflict between these two elements was estranged on the basis of sectarian views.
The power of the Ottoman Turks had escalated in the west of Iran and they wanted to rule Eastern Europe as well as Iran and Iraq.
Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur
Babur born on 14 February 1483 at Andijan in Mughalistan (present day Uzbekistan).
Babur had the prestige of being a descendant of two of the most legendary warriors of Asia namely Changez, and Timur.
Babur groomed himself to his begs by his personal qualities. He was always prepared to share the hardships with his soldiers.
Babur was fond of wine and good company and was a good and cheerful companion. At the same time, he was a strict disciplinarian and a hard taskmaster.
Babur took good care of his army and other employees, and was prepared to excuse many of their faults as long as they were not disloyal.
Though Babur was an orthodox Sunni, but he was not prejudiced or led by the religious divines. Once, there was a bitter sectarian conflict between the Shias and the Sunnis in Iran and Turan; however, in such a condition, Babur’s court was free from theological and sectarian conflicts.
Though Babur declared the battle against Rana Sanga a jihad and assumed the title of ‘ghazi’ after the victory, but the reasons were noticeably political.
Babur was master of Persian and Arabic languages, and is regarded as one of the most famous writers in the Turkish language (which was his mother tongue).
Babur’s famous memoirs, the Tuzuk-i-Baburi is considered as one of the classics of world literature. His other popular works are masnavi and the Turkish translation of a well-known Sufi work.
Babur was a keen naturalist, as he described the flora and fauna of India in considerable details.
Babur introduced a new concept of the state, which was to be based on:
a) The strength and prestige of the Crown;
b) The absence of religious and sectarian bigotry; and
c) The careful fostering of culture and the fine arts.
Babur, with all these three features provided a precedent and a direction for his successors
In 1494, Babur, at the young age of merely 14, succeeded to Farghana. Farghana was a small state in Trans-Oxiana.
Shaibani Khan, the Uzbek chief, defeated Babur and conquered Samarqand.
In 1504, Babur conquered Kabul; at that time, Kabul was under the rule of the infant heir of Ulugh Begh.
Almost 15 years, Babur struggled hard and kept attempting to re-conquest his homeland from the Uzbeks. He approached the ruler of Herat (who was also his uncle) for the help, but he did not receive any positive response.
Shaibani Khan defeated Herat, which led to a direct conflict between the Uzbeks and the Safavids because Safavids was also claiming Herat and its surrounding area, namely Khorasan.
In the battle of 1510, Shaibani Khan defeated and killed by Kasim Khan.
By taking the help of Iranian power, Babur attempted to recover Samarqand. As a result of this, the Iranian generals wanted to treat Babur as the governor of an Iran rather than as an independent ruler.
After the massive defeat, the Uzbeks swiftly recovered; resultantly, Babur had been overthrown again from Samarqand and he had to return back to Kabul.
Shah Ismail (Shah of Iran) was defeated in a battle by the Ottoman sultan; the changes in geo-political scenario forced Babur to move towards India.
Once Babur said that from the time he won Kabul (i.e. in 1504) to his victory of Panipat, he had never ceased to think of the conquest of Hindustan.
Timur, the ancestor of Babur, had carried away a vast treasure along with many skilful artisans from India. The artisans helped Timur to consolidate his Asian empire and beautify the capital. They (the artisans) also helped Timur to annex some areas of Punjab.
Reasons of India Conquest
Abul Fazl, the contemporary historian said that “Babur ruled over Badakhshan, Qandhar, and Kabul which did not yield sufficient income for the requirements of his army; in fact, in some of the border territories, the expense on controlling the armies and administration was greater than the income”.
Babur was also always remained apprehensive about an Uzbek attack on his territory Kabul, and hence, considered India to be a safe place of refuge, as well as a suitable base for operations against the Uzbeks.
By the time, the political scenario of north-west India was much suitable for Babur’s entry (into India).
In 1517, Sikandar Lodi had died and Ibrahim Lodi (his son) had succeeded him.
Ibrahim Lodi was an ambitious emperor whose efforts to build a large centralized empire had alarmed the Afghan chief as well as the Rajputs.
Daulat Khan Lodi was one of the most powerful chiefs of his time. Though, he was the governor of Punjab, but he was almost an Independent ruler.
Daulat Khan wanted to conciliate with Ibrahim Lodi; therefore, he sent his son to his (Ibrahim’s) court to pay homage. However, he was also intended to strengthen his power by annexing the frontier tracts of Bhira.
In 1518-19, Babur seized the powerful fort of Bhira and sent letters as well as verbal messages to Ibrahim Lodi and Daulat Khan. Babur asked them for the cession of all those areas, which had belonged to the Turks.
Daulat Khan detained Babur’s envoy at Lahore, neither granted him audience nor allowed him to go and meet Ibrahim Lodi. Daulat Khan expelled Babur’s agent from Bhira.
Once again in 1520-21, Babur crossed the Indus, and easily clutched Bhira and Sialkot (popular as the twin gateways to Hindustan) and then, Lahore was also surrendered to him.
After capturing Bhira and Sialkot, Babur planned to proceed further, but because of the revolt in Qandhar, he returned back.
Babur recaptured Qandhar after almost one and half years. His political stability again encouraged him to move towards India.
Daulat Khan sent Dilawar Khan (his son) to Babur’s court and invited Babur to come India. Daulat Khan suggested Babur to replace Ibrahim Lodi, as he (Ibrahim Lodi) was a tyrant ruler.
Rana Sanga (Rana of Mewar), most likely at the same time, also sent a message to Babur inviting him to attack India. Two embassies from the powerful kingdom convinced Babur to conquest India again.
In 1525, when Babur was in Peshawar, he received a message that Daulat Khan Lodi had changed the sides.
Daulat Khan had collected an army of 30,000-40,000 men and ousted Babur’s soldiers from Sialkot, and tried to advance towards Lahore. However, as Babur came, Daulat Khan’s army ran away; resultantly, Daulat Khan got surrendered and was pardoned. Babur became the ruler of Punjab.
First Battle of Panipat
On 20th April 1526, the First Battle of Panipat, was fought between Babur and the Ibrahim Lodi Empire (ruler of Delhi). The battle took place in north India (Panipat) and marked as the beginning of the Mughal Empire.
The first battle of Panipat was one of the earliest battles in which gunpowder firearms and field artillery were used. However, Babur said that he used it for the first time in his attack on the Bhira fortress.
Ibrahim Lodi met Babur at Panipat with the force estimated at 100,000 men and 1,000 elephants.
Babur had crossed the Indus with a force of merely 12,000; however, in India, a large number of Hindustani nobles and soldiers joined Babur in Punjab. In spite of Indian army support, Babur’s army was numerically inferior.
Babur made a master plan and strengthened his position. He ordered one of his army wings to rest in the city of Panipat, which had a large number of houses. Further, he protected another wing by means of a ditch filled with branches of trees.
On the front side, Babur lashed with a large number of cans, to act as a defending wall. Between two carts, breastworks were erected so that soldiers could rest their guns and fire.
Babur used the Ottoman (Rumi) device technique, which had been used by the Ottomans in their well-known battle against Shah Ismail of Iran.
Babur had also invited two Ottoman master-gunners namely Ustad Ali and Mustafa.
Ibrahim Lodi, however, with huge army men, could not assume the strongly defended position of Babur.
Ibrahim Lodi had apparently expected Babur to fight a mobile mode of warfare, which was common with the Central Asians.
Babur’s gunners used their guns strategically with good effect from the front; however, Babur gave a large part of the credit of his victory to his bowmen.
After the seven or eight days fight, Ibrahim Lodi realized Babur’s strong position. Further, Lodi’s forces were also hesitant to fight with Babur’s modern technological warfare.
Ibrahim Lodi battled to the last with a group of 5,000 to 6,000 forces, but he (Lodi) had been killed in the battle field.
It is estimated that more than 15,000 men (of Lodi kingdom) were killed in the first battle of Panipat.
Battle of Khanwa
On March 17, 1527, the Battle of Khanwa was fought near the village of Khanwa (about 60 km west of Agra). It was fought between the first Mughal Emperor Babur and Rajput ruler Rana Sanga.
The Rajput ruler, Rana Sanga, was the great threat for Babur to establish a strong Mughal empire in the Indo-Gangetic Valley, as Sanga planned to expel Babur from India or else confined him at Punjab.
Babur had an authentic reason to accuse Rana Sanga i.e. of breach of an agreement. In fact, Sanga invited him (Babur) to India with a promise to fight with him against Ibrahim Lodi, but he (Rana) refused.
The battle of Khanwa was aggressively fought. As Babur reported, Sanga had more than 200,000 men including 10,000 Afghan cavalrymen, supported with an equal force fielded by Hasan Khan Mewati.
Babur’s strategy, in the battle ground, was highly technical; he ordered his soldiers (who had been sheltering behind their tripods) to attack in the center. Thus Sanga’s forces were hemmed in, and finally defeated.
Rana Sanga escaped from the battle field. Later he (Rana) wanted to renew the conflict with Babur, but he was poisoned by his own nobles.
The battle of Khanwa strengthened Babur’s position in the Delhi-Agra region. Later, Babur conquered the chain of forts including Gwalior, Dholpur, east of Agra, etc.
Babur also conquered Alwar from Hasan Khan Mewati and Chanderi (Malwa) from Medini Rai. Chanderi was captured after killing almost all the Rajput defenders men and their women performed jauhar (it was the custom of self-immolation of queens and royal female of the Rajput kingdoms).
Eastern Uttar Pradesh, which was under the domination of the Afghan chiefs had submitted their allegiance to Babur, but internally planned to throw it off at any time.
Nusrat Shah, the ruler of Bengal, who had married a daughter of Ibrahim Lodi, had supported the Afghan sardars.
The Afghans had ousted the Mughal officials in eastern Uttar Pradesh and reached up to Kanauj many times, but their major weakness was the lack of a competent leader.
Afghan leaders invited Mahmud Lodi. He (Mahmud Lodi) was a brother of Ibrahim Lodi and also had fought against Babur at Khanwa. The Afghan leaders welcomed him as their ruler, and congregated strength under his leadership.
The Afghans, under Mahmud Lodi’s leadership, was a great threat for Babur, which he (Babur) could not ignore. At the beginning of 1529, Babur left Agra for the east and he faced the combined forces of the Afghans and Nusrat Shah of Bengal at the crossing of the Ghagra River.
While Babur was fighting with the Afghans (in the east), he received a message i.e. crisis situation in Central Asia. Thus Babur decided to conclude the war with an agreement with the Afghans. He made a vague claim for the suzerainty over Bihar, and left the large parts in the Afghan’s hands.
On 26 December, 1530, when Babur was returning to Kabul (Afghanistan) died near Lahore.
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