Map showing the territory of the Afghan Empire, the kingdom of the Lodhi dynasty.
Bahlul Khan Lodi (r.1451–89) was the nephew and son-in-law of Malik Sultan Shah Lodi, the governor of Sirhind in (Punjab), India and succeeded him as the governor of Sirhind during the reign of Sayyid dynasty ruler Muhammad Shah (Muhammad-bin-Farid). Muhammad Shah raised him to the status of an Emir. He was the most powerful of the Punjab chiefs and a vigorous leader, holding together a loose confederacy of Afghan and Turkish chiefs with his strong personality. He reduced the turbulent chiefs of the provinces to submission and infused some vigour into the government. After the last Sayyid ruler of Delhi, Ala-ud-Din Alam Shah voluntarily abdicated in favour of him, Bahlul Khan Lodi ascended the throne of the Delhi sultanate on April 19, 1451. The most important event of his reign was the conquest of Jaunpur. Bahlul spent most of his time in fighting against the Sharqi dynasty and ultimately annexed it. He placed his eldest surviving son Barbak on the throne of Jaunpur in 1486.
Sikandar Lodi (r.1489–1517) (born Nizam Khan), the second son of Bahlul, succeeded him after his death on July 17, 1489 and took up the title Sikandar Shah. He was nominated by his father to succeed him and was crowned sultan on July 15, 1489. He founded Agra in 1504 and constructed mosques. He shifted the capital from Delhi to Agra. He abolished corn duties and patronized trade and commerce. He was a poet of repute. He composed under the pen-name of Gulruk. He was also patron of learning and ordered Sanskrit work in medicine to be translated into Persian. He curbed the individualistic tendencies of his Afghan nobles and compelled them to submit their accounts to state audit. He was, thus, able to infuse vigor and discipline in the administration. His greatest achievement was the conquest and annexation of Bihar.
Sultan Ibrahim Khan Lodi (1517–1526), the youngest son of Sikandar, was the last Lodi Sultan of Delhi. Sultan Ibrahim had the qualities of an excellent warrior, but he was rash and impolitic in his decisions and actions. His attempt at royal absolutism was premature and his policy of sheer repression unaccompanied by measures to strengthen the administration and increase the military resources was sure to prove a failure. Sultan Ibrahim (r.1517–26) faced numerous rebellions and kept out the opposition for almost a decade. He was engaged in warfare with the Afghans and the Mughals for most of his reign and died trying to keep the Lodi Dynasty from annihilation. Sultan Ibrahim was defeated in 1526 at the Battle of Panipat. This marked the end of the Lodi Dynasty and the rise of the Mughal Empire in India led by Babur (r. 1526–1530).
Fall of the empire
By the time Ibrahim ascended the throne, the political structure in the Lodi Dynasty had dissolved due to abandoned trade routes and the depleted treasury. The Deccan was a coastal trade route, but in the late fifteenth century the supply lines had collapsed. The decline and eventual failure of this specific trade route resulted in cutting off supplies from the coast to the interior, where the Lodi empire resided. The Lodi Dynasty was not able to protect itself if warfare were to break out on the trade route roads; therefore, they didn’t use those trade routes, thus their trade declined and so did their treasury leaving them vulnerable to internal political problems. In order to take revenge of the insults done by Ibrahim, the governor of Lahore, Daulat Khan Lodi asked the ruler of Kabul, Babur to invade his kingdom. Ibrahim Lodi was thus killed in a battle with Babur. With the death of Ibrahim Lodi, the Lodi dynasty also came to an end.
Another problem Ibrahim Lodhi had when he ascended the throne in 1517 were the Afghan nobles. Some nobles backed Ibrahim’s older brother, Jalaluddin, to take up arms against his brother in the area in the east at Jaunpur. Ibrahim gathered military support and defeated his brother by the end of the year. After this incident, he arrested Afghan nobles who opposed him. He then proceeded by appointing new administrators, who were his own men. Other Afghan nobles supported the governor of Bihar, Dariya Khan against Sultan Ibrahim.
Babur claimed to be the true and rightful Monarch of the lands of the Lodi dynasty. He believed himself the rightful heir to the throne of Timur, and it was Timur who had originally left Khizr Khan in charge of his vassal in the India, who became the leader, or Sultan, of the Delhi Sultanate, founding the Sayyid dynasty. The Sayyid dynasty, however, had been ousted by Ibrahim Lodi, a Ghilzai Afghan, and Babur wanted it returned to the Timurids. Indeed, while actively building up the troop numbers for an invasion of the India he sent a Memo to Ibrahim; "I sent him a goshawk and asked for the countries which from old had depended on the Turk," the 'countries' referred to were the lands of the Delhi Sultanate.
Following the unsurprising reluctance of Ibrahim to accept the terms of this "offer," and though in no hurry to launch an actual invasion, Babur made several preliminary incursions and also seized Kandahar — a strategic city if he was to fight off attacks on Kabul from the west while he was occupied in India - from the Arghunids. The siege of Kandahar, however, lasted far longer than anticipated, and it was only almost three years later that Kandahar and its Citadel (backed by enormous natural features) were taken, and that minor assaults in India recommenced. During this series of skirmishes and battles an opportunity for a more extended expedition presented itself.
Rajput invasions and internal rebellions
Rana Sanga, the Hindu Rajput leader of Mewar (1509–1526) rose to be the greatest king of Rajputana. During his rule Mewar reached the pinnacle of its glory. He extended his kingdom, defeated the Lodi king of Delhi and was acknowledged by all the Rajput clans as the leading prince of Rajputana. Daulat Khan, the governor of Punjab region asked Babur to invade Lodi kingdom, with the thought of taking revenge from Ibrahim Lodi. Rana Sanga also offered his support to Babur to defeat Ibrahim Lodi. The Sultanate of Jaunpur located in modern-day Uttar Pradesh also surrounded the Lodi Dynasty.
Battle of Panipat, 1526
After being assured of the cooperation of Alam Khan (Ibrahim’s uncle) and Daulat Khan,Governor of the Punjab, Babur gathered his army. Upon entering the Punjab plains, Babur's chief allies, namely Langar Khan Niazi advised Babur to engage the powerful Janjua Rajputs to join his conquest. The tribe's rebellious stance to the throne of Delhi was well known. Upon meeting their chiefs, Malik Hast (Asad) and Raja Sanghar Khan, Babur made mention of the Janjua's popularity as traditional rulers of their kingdom and their ancestral support for his patriarch Emir Timur during his conquest of Hind. Babur aided them in defeating their enemies, the Gakhars in 1521, thus cementing their alliance. Babur employed them as Generals in his campaign for Delhi, the conquest of Rana Sanga and the conquest of India.
The section of Babur's memoirs covering the period between 1508 and 1519 is missing. During these years Shah Ismail I suffered a large defeat when his large cavalry-based army was obliterated at the Battle of Chaldiran by the Ottoman Empire's new weapon, the matchlock musket. Both Shah Ismail and Babur, it appears, were swift in acquiring this new technology for themselves. Somewhere during these years Babur introduced matchlocks into his army, and allowed an Ottoman, Ustad Ali, to train his troops, who were then known as Matchlockmen, in their use. Babur's memoirs give accounts of battles where the opposition forces mocked his troops, never having seen a gun before, because of the noise they made and the way no arrows, spears, etc. appeared to come from the weapon when fired.
These guns allowed small armies to make large gains on enemy territory. Small parties of skirmishers who had been dispatched simply to test enemy positions and tactics, were making inroads into India. Babur, however, had survived two revolts, one in Kandahar and another in Kabul, and was careful to pacify the local population after victories, following local traditions and aiding widows and orphans.
Babur wanted to fight Sultan Ibrahim because he wanted Sultan Ibrahim’s power and territory. They did not fight against each other because of religious affairs. Babur and Sultan Ibrahim were both Sunni Muslims. Babur and his army of 24,000 men marched to the battlefield armed with muskets and artillery. Sultan Ibrahim prepared to fight by gathering 100,000 men (well armed but with no guns) and 1,000 elephants. This is known as the Battle of Panipat in 1526.
Sultan Ibrahim was at a disadvantage, not only because of his out-moded infantry, but also the inter-necine rivalries. Even though he had more men, Sultan Ibrahim had never fought in a war against gunpowder weapons. Strategically, Sultan Ibrahim didn’t know what to do militarily. Babur had the advantage right from the start. Sultan Ibrahim perished on the battlefield along with 20,000 of his men in April 1526.
Accession of Babur and the Mughals
After Sultan Ibrahim's tragic death on the battle field, Babur named himself emperor over Sultan Ibrahim’s territory, instead of placing Alam Khan (Ibrahim’s uncle) on the throne. Sultan Ibrahim’s death lead to the establishment of the Mughal Empire in India. He was the last emperor of the Lodi Dynasty. What was left of his empire was absorbed into the new Mughal Empire. Babur continued to engage in more military campaigns.
Ibrahim Lodi's brother , Mahmud Lodi declared himself Sultan and continued to resist Mughal forces. He provided 10,000 Afghan soldiers to Rana Sanga in battle of Khanwa. After the defeat, Mahmud Lodi fled eastwards and again posed a challenge to Babur two years later at the Battle of Ghaghra.
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