|Zahir Ud-Din-Muhammad Babur|
|1st Mughal Emperor|
|Reign||20 April 1526 – 26 December 1530|
|Spouse||Aisha Sultan Begum
Zainab Sultan Begum
Masuma Sultan Begum
Ishan Daulat Begum
Meher Jahan Begum
Masuma Sultan Begum
Altun Bishik (alleged)
|Father||Umar Shaikh Mirza II, ʿAmīr of Farghana|
|Mother||Qutlugh Nigar Khanum|
14 February 1483|
Andijan, Mughalistan (present-day Uzbekistan)
|Died||26 December 1530
Agra, Mughal Empire (present-day India)
Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur (14 February 1483 – 26 December 1530; sometimes also spelt Baber or Babar) was a conqueror from Central Asia who, following a series of setbacks, finally succeeded in laying the basis for the Mughal dynasty in the Indian Subcontinent and became the first Mughal emperor. He was a direct descendant of Timur, from the Barlas clan, through his father, and also a descendant of Genghis Khan through his mother. Culturally, he was greatly influenced by the Persian culture and this affected both his own actions and those of his successors, giving rise to a significant expansion of the Persianate ethos in the Indian subcontinent.
Though born as Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, he was commonly known as Babur. He was the eldest son of Umar Sheikh Mirza, through whom he has his ancestral roots to Timur. He ascended the throne of Farghana in 1495 at the age of twelve and faced rebellion from his own relatives. He conquered Samarkand two years later, only to lose Farghana soon after. In his attempt to reconquer the city, he lost control of Samarkand. In 1501, his attempt to recapture the cities went in vain as he was defeated by Muhammad Shaybani Khan. In 1504, he conquered Kabul which was under the rule of the infant heir of Ulugh Begh. Babur formed a partnership with Safavid ruler Ismail I and reconquered parts of central Asia including Samarkand only to lose again to Uzbeks.
It was only after losing the city for the third time, he drew his attention to create his empire in India. At that time, north India was ruled by Ibrahim Lodi of the Lodi dynasty. In 1524, he got an invitation from his uncle Daulat Khan Lodi to overthrow Ibrahim and establish his rule. Babur then defeated Ibrahim Lodi at the First Battle of Panipat in 1526 to establish the Mughal empire. However, he again had to face opposition, this time from Rana Sanga of Mewar who considered Babur as a foreigner. The Rana was defeated at the Battle of Khanwa.
Babur married several times and notable among his sons are Humayun, Kamran Mirza and Hindal Mirza. He died in 1530 and was succeeded by Humayun. According to Babur's wishes, he was buried in Bagh-e-Babur at Kabul in Afghanistan.
Being a patrilineal descendant of Timur, Babur considered himself as a Timurid and Turk, though Uzbek sources claim him as an ethnic Uzbek. He is also considered a national hero in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Many of his poems also have become popular folk songs. He wrote his autobiography Baburnama in Chaghatai Turkic and was later translated to Persian during Akbar's reign.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Background
- 3 Rule in Central Asia
- 4 Foreign relations
- 5 Formation of the Mughal Empire
- 6 Personal life and relationships
- 7 Death and legacy
- 8 References and sources
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
He was born as Ẓahīr-ud-Dīn Muḥammad (Arabic: ظهیرالدین محمد), but was more commonly known by his nickname, Bābur (بابر). He had the royal titles Badshah and al-ṣultānu 'l-ʿazam wa 'l-ḫāqān al-mukkarram pādshāh-e ġāzī. Ẓahīr-ud-Dīn ("Defender of the faith") Muḥammad was an Arabic name and difficult to pronounce for the Central Asian Turko-Mongols, therefore the name Babur was adopted. According to Babur's cousin, Mirzā Muḥammad Haydar:
[…] at that time the Chaghatái (successors of Chagatai Khan who was son of Genghis Khan) were very rude and uncultured (bázári), and not refined (buzurg) as they are now; thus they found Zahir-ud-Din Muhammad difficult to pronounce, and for this reason gave him the name of Bábar. In the public prayers and royal mandates he is always styled 'Zahir-ud-Din Bábar Muhammad,' but he is best known as Bábar Pádisháh.
According to Stephen Frederic Dale, the name Babur is derived from the Persian word babr, meaning "tiger", a word that repeatedly appears in Firdawsī's Shāhnāma and had also been borrowed by the Turkic languages of Central Asia. This thesis is supported by the explanation that the Turko-Mongol name Timur underwent a similar evolution, from the Sanskrit word cimara ("iron") via a modified version *čimr to the final Turkicized version timür, with -ür replacing -r due to need to provide vocalic support between m and r. The choice of vowel would nominally be restricted to one of the four front vowels (e, i, ö, ü per the Ottoman vowel harmony rule), hence babr → babür, although the rule is routinely violated for words of Persian or Arabic derivation.
Contradicting these views, W.M. Thackston argues that the name cannot be taken from babr and instead must be derived from a word that has evolved out of the Indo-European word for beaver, pointing to the fact that the name is pronounced bāh-bor in both Persian and Turkic, similar to the Russian word for beaver (бобр – bobr).
Babur wrote his memoirs and these form the main source for details of his life. They are known as the Baburnama and were written in Chaghatai Turkic, his mother-tongue, though his prose was highly Persianized in its sentence structure, morphology and vocabulary. Baburnama was translated into Persian during the rule of Babur's grandson Akbar.
Babur was born on February 14 [O.S. ] 1483 in the city of Andijan, Andijan Province, Fergana Valley, contemporary Uzbekistan. He was the eldest son of Umar Sheikh Mirza, ruler of the Fergana Valley, the son of Abū Saʿīd Mirza (and grandson of Miran Shah, who was himself son of Timur) and his wife Qutlugh Nigar Khanum, daughter of Yunus Khan, the ruler of Moghulistan (and great-great grandson of Tughlugh Timur, the son of Esen Buqa I, who was the great-great-great grandson of Chaghatai Khan, the second born son of Genghis Khan).
Although Babur hailed from the Barlas tribe which was of Mongol origin, his tribe had embraced Turkic and Persian culture, converted to Islam and resided in Turkestan and Khorasan. His mother tongue was the Chaghatai language (known to Babur as Turkī, "Turkic") and he was equally fluent in Persian, the lingua franca of the Timurid elite.
Hence Babur, though nominally a Mongol (or Moghul in Persian language), drew much of his support from the local Turkic and Iranian people of Central Asia, and his army was diverse in its ethnic makeup. It included Persians (known to Babur as "Sarts" and "Tajiks"), ethnic Afghans, Arabs, as well as Barlas and Chaghatayid Turco-Mongols from Central Asia. Babur's army also included Qizilbāsh fighters, a militant religious order of Shi'a Sufis from Safavid Persia who later became one of the most influential groups in the Mughal court.
Rule in Central Asia
As ruler of Farghana
In 1495, at twelve years of age, Babur became the ruler of Farghana, present-day Uzbekistan, after Umar Sheikh Mirza died in a freak accident. During this time, two of his uncles from the neighbouring kingdoms, who were hostile to his father, and a group of nobles who wanted his younger brother Jahangir to be the ruler, threatened his succession to the throne. His uncles were relentless in their attempts to dislodge him from this position as well as many of his other territorial possessions to come. Babur was able to secure his throne partly due to help from his maternal grandmother, Aisan Daulat Begum.
Most territories around his kingdom were ruled by his relatives, who were descendants of either Timur or Genghis Khan, and were constantly in conflict. At that time, rival princes were fighting over the city of Samarkand to the west, which was ruled by his paternal cousin. Babur had a great ambition to capture it and in 1497, he besieged Samarkand for seven months before eventually gaining control over it. He was fifteen years old and for him, this campaign was a huge achievement. Babur was able to hold it despite desertions in his army but later fell seriously ill. Meanwhile, a rebellion amongst nobles who favoured his brother, back home approximately 350 kilometres (220 mi) away robbed him of Farghana. As he was marching to recover it, he lost the Samarkand to a rival prince, leaving him with neither Farghana nor Samarkand. He had held Samarkand for 100 days and he considered this defeat as his biggest loss and would obsess over it even later in his life after his conquest of India.
In 1501, he laid siege on Samarkand once more, but was soon defeated by his most formidable rival, Muhammad Shaybani, khan of the Uzbeks. Samarkand, his lifelong obsession, was lost again. He tried to reclaim Farghana but lost it too and escaping with a small band of followers, he wandered to the mountains of central Asia and took refuge with hill tribes. Thus, during the ten years since becoming the ruler of Farghana, Babur suffered many short-lived victories and was without shelter and in exile, aided by friends and peasants. He finally stayed in Tashkent, which was ruled by his maternal uncle. Babur wrote, "During my stay in Tashkent, I endured much poverty and humiliation. No country, or hope of one!" For three years Babur concentrated on building up a strong army, recruiting widely amongst the Tajiks of Badakhshan in particular. By 1502, Babur had resigned all hopes of recovering Farghana, he was left with nothing and was forced to try his luck someplace else.
Kabul was ruled by Ulugh Begh Mirza of the Arghun Dynasty who died leaving only an infant as heir. Thus, the city was claimed by Mukin Begh, who had a strong opposition from the local populace; they wanted this usurper to be dethroned. In 1504, by using the whole situation to his own advantage, Babur was able to cross the snowy Hindu Kush mountains and capture Kabul; the remaining Arghunids were forced to retreat to Kandahar. With this move, he gained a new kingdom, re-established his fortunes and would remain its ruler until 1526. In 1505, because of the low revenue his new mountain kingdom generated, Babur undertook his first expedition to India and had written before in his memoirs, "My desire for Hindustan had been constant. It was in the month of Shaban, the Sun being in Aquarius, that we rode out of Kabul for Hindustan"; it was a brief raid across the Khyber Pass.
In the same year, Babur united with Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqarah of Herat, a fellow Timurid and distant relative, against their common enemy, the Uzbek Shaybani. However, this venture did not take place because Husayn Mirza died in 1506 and his two sons were reluctant to go to war. Babur instead stayed at Herat after being invited by the two Mirza brothers. It was then the cultural capital of the eastern Muslim world. Though he was disgusted by the vices and luxuries of the city, he marvelled at the intellectual abundance there, which he stated was "filled with learned and matched men". He became acquainted with the work of the Chagatai poet Mir Ali Shir Nava'i, who encouraged the use of Chagatai as a literary language. Nava'i's proficiency with the language, which he is credited with founding, may have influenced Babur in his decision to use it for his memoirs. He spent two months there before being forced to leave due to diminishing resources; it later was overrun by Shaybani and the Mirzas fled.
Babur became the only reigning ruler of the Timurid dynasty after the loss of Herat, and many princes sought refuge from him at Kabul because of Shaybani's invasion in the west. He thus assumed the title of Padshah (emperor) among the Timurids—though this tile was insignificant since most of his ancestral lands were taken, Kabul itself was in danger and Shaybani continued to be a threat. He prevailed during a potential rebellion in Kabul, but two years later a revolt among some of his leading generals drove him out of Kabul. Escaping with very few companions, Babur soon returned to the city, capturing Kabul again and regaining the allegiance of the rebels. Meanwhile, Shaybani was defeated and killed by Ismail I, Shah of Shia Safavid Persia, in 1510.
Babur and the remaining Timurids used this opportunity to reconquer their ancestral territories. Over the following few years, Babur and Shah Ismail would form a partnership in an attempt to take over parts of Central Asia. In return for Ismail's assistance, Babur permitted the Safavids to act as a suzerain over him and his followers. Thus, in 1513, after leaving his brother Nasir Mirza to rule Kabul, he managed to get Samarkand for the third time and Bokhara but lost both again to the Uzbeks. Shah Ismail reunited Babur with his sister Khānzāda, who had been imprisoned by and forced to marry the recently deceased Shaybani. He returned to Kabul after three years in 1514. The following 11 years of his rule mainly involved dealing with relatively insignificant rebellions from Afghan tribes, his nobles and relatives, in addition to conducting raids across the eastern mountains. Babur began to modernise and train his army despite it being, for him, relatively peaceful times.
Babur's relations with the Safavids began when Ali Mirza Safavi ventured to meet Babur at Samarqand in order to maintain good relations that would last even after the Ottoman's reached out to Babur. The Safavids army led by Najm-e Sani massacred civilians in Central Asia and then sought the assistance of Babur, who advised the Safavids to withdraw. The Safavids however, refused and were defeated during the Battle of Ghazdewan by the warlord Ubaydullah Khan.
Babur's early relations with the Ottomans were poor because the Ottoman Sultan Selim I provided his rival Ubaydullah Khan with powerful matchlocks and cannons. In the year 1507, when ordered to accept Selim I as his rightful suzerain Babur refused, and gathered Qizilbash servicemen in order to counter the forces of Ubaydullah Khan during the Battle of Ghazdewan. In the year 1513, Ottoman Sultan Selim I reconciled with Babur (fearing that he would join the Safavids), dispatched Ustad Ali Quli the artilleryman and Mustafa Rumi, the matchlock marksman, and many other Ottoman Turks, in order to assist Babur in his conquests; this particular assistance proved to be the basis of future Mughal-Ottoman relations. From them, he also adopted the tactic of using matchlocks and cannons in field (rather than only in sieges), which would give him an important advantage in India.
Formation of the Mughal Empire
Babur still wanted to escape from the Uzbeks, and finally chose India as a refuge instead of Badakhshan, which was to the north of Kabul. He wrote, "In the presence of such power and potency, we had to think of some place for ourselves and, at this crisis and in the crack of time there was, put a wider space between us and the strong foeman." After his third loss of Samarkand, Babur gave full attention on conquest of India, launching a campaign, he reached Chenab in 1519. Until 1524, his aim was to only expand his rule to Punjab, mainly to fulfil his ancestor Timur's legacy, since it used to be part of his empire. When listing the native powers of what Babur called Hindustan, Babur had placed first Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire who controlled the most extensive empire in the subcontinent. At the time parts of north India was under the rule of Ibrahim Lodi of Lodi dynasty, but the empire was crumbling and there were many defectors. He received invitations from Daulat Khan Lodi, Governor of Punjab and Ala-ud-Din, uncle of Ibrahim. He sent an ambassador to Ibrahim, claiming himself the rightful heir to the throne of the country, however the ambassador was detained at Lahore and released months later.
Babur started for Lahore, Punjab, in 1524 but found that Daulat Khan Lodi had been driven out by forces sent by Ibrahim Lodi. When Babur arrived at Lahore, the Lodi army marched out and was his army was routed. In response, Babur burned Lahore for two days, then marched to Dipalpur, placing Alam Khan, another rebel uncle of Lodi's, as governor. Alam Khan was quickly overthrown and fled to Kabul. In response, Babur supplied Alam Khan with troops who later joined up with Daulat Khan Lodi and together with about 30,000 troops, they besieged Ibrahim Lodi at Delhi. He easily defeated and drove off Alam's army and Babur realized Lodi would not allow him to occupy the Punjab.
First battle of Panipat
Babur started his campaign in November 1525, when he reached Peshawar he got the news that Daulat Khan Lodi had switched sides and drove out Ala-ud-Din. Babur then marched onto Lahore to confront Daulat Khan Lodi, only to see Daulat's army melt away at their approach. Daulat surrendered and was pardoned, thus within three weeks of crossing the Indus Babur became the master of Punjab.
Babur marched onto Delhi via Sirhind, he reached the historical field of Panipat on 20 April 1526, where he met Ibrahim Lodi along with his numerically superior army of about 100,000 soldiers and 100 elephants. The battle began on morning of 21 April 1526, Babur utilised the tactic of Tulugma, encircled the Ibrahim Lodi's army and forcing them to face artillery fire directly, and frightening the war elephants utilised by the Delhi's army.
Babur wrote in his memoirs about his victory :
"By the grace of the Almighty God, this difficult task was made easy to me and that mighty army, in the space of a half a day was laid in dust."
After the battle Babur occupied Delhi and Agra, seated himself on the throne of Lodi and laid the foundation of the Mughal Rule in India, but it was yet to be established and Babur was yet to become the ruler of India, as new contenders for the throne like, Rana Sanga, who rose to challenge his rule. However, Babur was able to take the fortress of Bayana, after sending the commander, Nizam Khan, a convincing poem in Persian:
"Strive not with the Turk, O Mir of Bayana."
Battle of Khanwa
The Battle of Khanwa was fought between Babur and Rajput ruler Rana Sanga on 17 March 1527. The motive of his battle was to overthrow Babur, whom he considered as a foreigner ruling in India, besides extending the Rajput territory by annexing Delhi and Agra. The Rana's forces were supported by Afghan chiefs who felt deceived by him as he refused to fulfill the promises made to them. Getting the news that the Rana was advancing towards Agra to fight a battle against him, he took a defensive position at Khanwa (currently in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh). Though Babur planned to fight this battle as a defensive one and also hoped to launch an offensive later, he won the battle because of his "superior generalship" as well as modern "tactics", as this battle is one of the first ever battles where cannons were used after they were introduced to India by him. Also there was "treachery" in the adversary, as a Silhadi man converted to Islam and joined Babur's army with his garrison of six thousand soldiers.
Historian KK Datta opines that the battle was "more significant" that the First Battle of Panipat. According to him, it is due to the fact that if chance Babur lost the battle, "there would have been no Mughal Empire".
Personal life and relationships
There are no descriptions about Babur's physical appearance, except the paintings from his memoirs which were made during the reign of his grandson Akbar, when he got it translated. Babur claimed to be strong and physically fit, saying to have swam across every major river he encountered, including twice across the Ganges River in North India. Unlike his father, he had ascetic tendencies and did not have any great interest in women. In his first marriage, he was "bashful" towards Aisha Sultan Begum later losing his affection for her. However, he acquired several more wives and concubines over the years, and as required for a prince, he was able to ensure the continuity of his line; Babur treated them and his other women relatives well. In his memoirs, there is a mention of his infatuation for a younger boy when Babur was 16 years old. According to Abraham Eraly, bisexuality and pederasty were common at that time among central Asian rulers.
Babur's first wife, Aisha Sultan Begum, was his cousin and daughter of Sultan Ahmad Mirza. She was betrothed to Babur when he was five years old and they married after eleven years. He had one daughter with her, Fakhr-un-Nissa, who died as an infant within a year in 1500 AD. Three years later and after his first defeat at Farghana, she left Babur. Babur then married Zaynab Sultan Begum in 1504 and Maham Begum in 1506. A year later, he married Masuma Sultan Begum, Gulrukh Begum and Dildar Begum. Zainad died childless within two years. Babur had four children with Maham, among which only Humayun survived. Maasuma died during childbirth—the year is disputed from 1508 to 1519. With Gulrukh, Babur had two sons, Kamran and Askari, and with Dildar Begum, Hindal. Babur later married Mubarika Yousefzai, who was an Afghan woman of the Yousefzai tribe. Gulnar Aghacha and Nargul Aghacha were two Circassian slaves given as gifts by Tahmasp Shah Safavi of Persia. They became "recognized ladies of the royal household."
During his rule in Kabul, when there was a relative time of peace, Babur pursued his interests in literature, art, music and gardening. Previously, he never drank alcohol and avoided it when he was in Herat. In Kabul, he first tasted it at the age of thirty. He then began to drink regularly, host wine parties and consume preparations made from opium. Though religion had a central place in his life, Babur also approvingly quoted a line of poetry by one of his contemporaries: "I am drunk, officer. Punish me when I am sober". He quit drinking for health reasons before the Battle of Khanwa, just two years before his death, and demanded that his court do the same. But he did not stop chewing narcotic preparations, and did not lose his sense of irony. He wrote, "Everyone regrets drinking and swears an oath (of abstinence); I swore the oath and regret that."
Death and legacy
After Babur fell seriously ill, Humayun, his eldest son, was summoned from his Jagir. He died at the age of 47 on January 5 [O.S. 26 December 1530] 1531, and was succeeded by Humayun. In accordance with his will, his body was moved to Kabul, Afghanistan there it lies in Bagh-e Babur (Babur Gardens).
It is generally agreed that, as a Timurid, Babur was not only significantly influenced by the Persian culture, but that his empire also gave rise to the expansion of the Persianate ethos in the Indian subcontinent.
For example, F. Lehmann states in the Encyclopædia Iranica:
His origin, milieu, training, and culture were steeped in Persian culture and so Babur was largely responsible for the fostering of this culture by his descendants, the Mughals of India, and for the expansion of Persian cultural influence in the Indian subcontinent, with brilliant literary, artistic, and historiographical results.
Since he was a patrilineal descendant of Timur, Babur regarded himself a Timurid and a Turk. Some sources therefore claim that Babur's empire was Turkic in nature. But, commenting on Babur's remarks about his father Omar Sheykh Mirzā enjoying the Persian poetry of Nezami, Rumi and especially the Shahnama of Ferdowsi, Svat Soucek points out that:
Babur's remarks illustrate the by then refined, chiefly Persian culture of the Turco-Mongol elite.
Although all applications of modern Central Asian ethnicities to people of Babur's time are anachronistic, Soviet and Uzbek sources regard Babur as an ethnic Uzbek. At the same time, during the Soviet Union Uzbek scholars were censored for idealizing and praising Babur and other historical figures such as Ali-Shir Nava'i.
Babur is considered a national hero in Uzbekistan. Many of Babur's poems have become popular Uzbek folk songs, especially by Sherali Jo‘rayev. Some sources claim that Babur is a national hero in Kyrgyzstan too. Babur is also held in high esteem in Afghanistan and Iran. In October 2005, Pakistan developed the Babur Cruise Missile, named in his honor.
Babur is popularly believed to have demolished the Rama Temple at Ayodhya and built Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, India. On 6 December 1992, Babri Masjid was demolished by Karsevaks of Ramajanmabhumi movement mobilised by the call given by organisations like VHP and Bajrang Dal. L K Advani of BJP party was a leading figure of the movement, along with several other leaders of Hindu organisations. Its destruction sparked off communal clashes around the country. resulting in the killing of thousands of Muslims and Hindus. However, from the three inscriptions which once adorned the surface of the mosque it becomes apparent that the mosque was constructed during his reign on the orders of Mir Baqi, who was one of the generals of Babur's forces sent towards this region. In 2003, The Archaeological Survey of India was asked to conduct a more in-depth study and an excavation to ascertain the type of structure that was beneath the rubble of Babri masjid. The summary of the ASI report  indicated "no mention of a temple, only of evidence of a massive structure, fragments of which speak about their association with temple architecture of the Saivite style."
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Āisha Sultan Begum, the daughter of Sultan Ahmed Mirza, to whom I had been betrothed in the lifetime of my father and uncle, having arrived in Khujand, I now married her, in the month of Shābān. In the first period of my being a married man, though I had no small affection for her, yet, from modesty and bashfulness, I went to her only once in ten, fifteen, or twenty days. My affection afterwards declined, and my shyness increased; in so much, that my mother the Khanum, used to fall upon me and scold me with great fury, sending me off like a criminal to visit her once in a month or forty days.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Babur.|
- Works by Babur at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Babur at Internet Archive
- Works by or about Babur in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- The Mughals – Babur[dead link]
BaburBorn: 14 February 1483 Died: 26 December 1530