Friday, August 31, 2018

Founders: Who was Babur of the Mughal Dynasty?

He founded the Mughal Empire and reigned as its emperor from 1526 to 1530. The root from which the richest empire in the world emerged and blossomed. From his dynasty erected the most beautiful monuments that the world has ever seen.


Early Life

Born in February 15, 1483 as Zahir al-din Muhammad, Babur came from the Central Asian country of Fergana. Son of the Emir of Fergana, Umar Sheikh Mirza, he came from a group of Mongols called Barlas - Mongols who moved to Central Asia and adopted Turkic culture. He also had the distinction of being an offspring of 2 of the most feared and notorious Mongol conquerors, Genghis Khan from his maternal side, and Timur or Tamerlane from his paternal side.

Babur grew up in an atmosphere of conflict that toughened up the future founder. His father claimed the wealth and territories that Timur had forged during his lifetime. The situation then came as a result of absence of rule of succession in the Mongol culture. When Timur passed away, his descendants fought with each other for their inheritance. Babur’s father waged war to capture the prized capital of Timur – Samarkand. In this chaotic situation, Babur emerged as a soldier and a leader.
Emir of Fergana

In 1494 Umar Sheikh Mirza passed away leaving Babur the new ruler of Fergana. Though a minor during his father’s passing, he fought with rivals and stood victorious. To honor his father and cement his position, he continued the objective of capturing Samarkand. And for a decade, he fought to capture the city and became regarded as a courageous and charismatic leader. His followers dubbed him Babur or Tiger, for his bravery in battle.

Despite his bravery, his campaign for Samarkand ended in failure. He captured the city twice: 1497 and 1501. However, in both situation, he failed to consolidate his hold over the city. His 1501 attempt suffered a failure when he met in battle an equally charismatic and valiant commander with the name of Muhammad Shaybani who led the Uzbeks and another descendant of Genghis Khan. Shaybani remained as a thorn in Babur’s ambitions for years to come.
Mohammad Shaybani
Babur continued to face humiliation in the hands of Shaybani. He lost the Battle of Sar-e-pol in 1501. 3 years later, he suffered worst when his homeland Fergana fell to Shaybani’s horde. Homeless and humiliated, he fled to Kabul and took it as his new capital. During this time, Babur showed resilience as a leader, though homeless, he rebuilt himself in his new base and plotted his revenge.

His rebuilding, however, took him another decade. He gathered allies, which he acquired in the form of the Saffavid Empire in his west. He waited for an opportune time, which eventually came in 1511. On that year, Shaybani, his dreaded opponent, passed away. Seeing the transitions as a sign of weakness, the Saffavid backed Babur swooped in to retake Fergana and Samarkand. However, his decision to promote Saffavid Shia belief to the Sunni dominated populace led to rebellions. Uzbeks eventually regrouped and drove Babur back to Kabul. The defeat broke Babur’s will to retake his homeland and Samarkand.

Conquest of India

Still having the nomadic nature within himself, Babur searched for a greener pasture to settle and raise his heard. That greener pasture came in form of India. Stories from raids to India showed Babur the wealth of the subcontinent. Moreover, as a descendant of Timur, stories of the exploits of the great conqueror came to him during his childhood. Timur once raided India and ransacked the subcontinent’s richest city – Delhi. The destruction of the city mortally weakened the ruling Sultanate of Delhi. Moreover, the Sultanate descended to factionalism and infighting as request to Babur for assistance creating signs of an easy conquest. With these factors, India seemed a good place to reestablish his reputation as a military leader.
Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi
In 1519 Babur made incursions to India. He advanced to Kandahar region and Punjab became the initial victim of his raids. By 1522, Babur felt confident and advanced to the Sindh region. The easy conquest turned out to be difficult brought by once again Babur’s ignorance of local politics. Babur remained a nuisance to the Delhi Sultanate, but never a threat until 1524.

On that year, Babur received request for assistance from 2 prominent figures within the Delhi Sultanate contacted him. Punjab Governor Dawlat Khan and the Delhi Sultan’s uncle Alam Khan requested his intervention. The request gave Babur insight on the state of local politics within the sultanate. Unpopular Delhi Sultan Ibrahim Lodi ruled in the midst of division between ambitious regions and factions within the realm. The Governor and Uncle wanted to topple Lodi’s rule and sought Babur’s assistance. Babur obliged and he marched for Delhi with an army of 12,000.

Battle of Panipat

As Babur moved his forces in 1525 and 1526, he received news of Lodi’s response. His army of 12,000 men had to face a numerically superior army standing at around 100,000 accompanied with 100 war elephants. The odds stacked tremendously against him, yet he proceeded with faith in his secret weapons.

Babur equipped his men with the best weaponry. The famous reversed bow gave Babur powerful light cavalry units. He also had in his disposal gun power weapons. Guns and cannons from the Saffavid and Ottoman Empires gave his troops deadly range advantage against their counterparts. Most importantly, Babur believed that the gargantuan host he would face suffered from low morale and lack of loyalty to Sultan Ibrahim. Indeed, some of Lodi’s men came from disloyal regions and some men pressed only to fight for the Sultan.

The 2 sides finally met in battle on the faithful day of April 21, 1526, the battle that made or broke Babur’s dream of a new realm. Babur lured Lodi to a narrow area and trapped his forces where their numerical superiority disabled. The kill zone which Babur set up led to the slaughter of many of Lodi’s men. The elephants went on stampede killing more of their allies than enemies. In the end, Lodi fell in battle and Babur stood victorious. After Panipat, Babur pressed on towards Delhi. His entry to the capital set the sun of the Delhi Sultanate and dawned the age of the new Timurid Empire, or Mughal, as called by the west.

Consolidation of Power

The saga of Babur from a failed Central Asian ruler to a conqueror and founder of a great Indian empire did not end with the victory in the Battle of Panipat. In fact, Panipat only began a series of campaign to stamp out rivals and secure a dynasty. Babur had to fight enemies surrounding his newly conquered domain.

After the fall of Delhi, Babur advanced westward and captured Agra. To commemorate his victories, he had a garden built which later became known as Ram Bagh.

His construction, however, signaled to many Indians a change of view towards Babur. Many Indian leaders believed Babur, like Timur, only attacked India for spoil and would leave. The construction of the garden and Babur settling in Delhi showed his willingness to stay and rule. Immediately, many turned against Babur, including those who invited him to come.

Babur faced enemies everywhere. Afghan chiefs formerly part of the Lodi Sultanate of Delhi resisted the newcomers. To the west, highly militarized and ferocious Rajputs led by Rana Sanga of Mewar threated the upstart Mughal dynasty. The condition seemed overwhelming, especially for Babur’s troops.
Rana Sanga
Babur’s forces also thought of the intervention in India as temporary. Many already had a huge amount of booty and despised the hot climate of Northern India. Worst, they faced hostilities everywhere. Babur shock of the opposition within his own forces used his charisma to change opinions. He promised, threatened, and inspired his men. His most remarkable gesture came in form of abstinence from his well-beloved vice of drinking in hope of having divine favor for victory. He furthered his commitment by ordering wine jars broken. His actions made his soldiers to rethink and in the end to fight for Babur onwards.

Battle of Khanua

With an army devoted to him, Babur then moved on to fight his enemies. In 1527, he marched against Rana Sanga and deal with the Rajputs. On March 16, 1527, Babur’s army engaged the Rajput army in a 10 hour bloodbath for supremacy over Northern India. In the end, Babur’s sophisticated military won the day and Rana Sanga fled. The ruler of Mewar passed away 2 years later a broken man, another victim of defeat at the hands of Babur.

While fighting the Rajputs, Babur lose sight of the Afghan who had advanced against him. He received reports of the fall of Lucknow to the Afghans. Worst, Afghan chiefs regrouped and rallied towards the brother of Ibrahim Lodi, Mahmoud Lodi. The situation became dire as Lodi captured Bihar. Babur had to launch a counterstrike or he would remain in a precarious situation.

Battle of Ghaghara

After the battle of Khanua, Babur launched a campaign to push back the Afghans. For 2 years, the war raged and he succeeded driving the Afghans west of the Ganges towards Bengal. Babur then established his based of operation in the stronghold of Chanderi.

From Chanderi, Babur advanced until he faced Mahmoud Lodi in a decisive battle in the field of Ghaghara. Babur exhibited innovation and adaptability by placing his artillery in river barges. His gunboats maintained the firepower advantage of the early Mughal army. In Ghaghara, Babur destroyed Mahmoud Lodi’s forces. With this victory, Babur concluded his military campaign with confidence his new dynasty secured.

Death of Babur

Babur, however, never enjoyed the fruits of his labor or take on the task of organizing the administration of his new empire. In 1530, his son and heir designate Humayun fell gravely ill. According to legend, Babur offered his life in exchange for his son’s. Indeed, his desire came true. Humayun recovered and he fell ill. He finally succumbed on December 26, 1530. He left an empire to his successors and left for the world his life story contained in the Baburnama or Letters of Babur.

Summing Up

Babur had a colorful life full of ups and downs. He lose his homeland, yet rebuild his composure to retake it. When he failed to retake his homeland, instead of dying in obscurity and a broken man, he relied on his nomadic heritage, showed flexibility and resilience and searched for a greener pasture to settle in. When he set his eyes on India, he placed his faith in his strengths and overcame vast armies. Though surrounded by opponents, he never backed down and determined his destiny to stay in India. However, Babur never showed the true extent of his leadership and skills as an organizer as his death disrupted it. Babur might not have organized the Mughal Empire, but he was indeed a conqueror, a man who laid the foundations from which a glorious empire went up.

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