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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur

¤ Babur's Early Days

Babur, who was to lay the foundation of the most enduring and enriching dynasty of Indian history, was born of a family that had the great fighting blood of Timur from one side and Chingez Khan from the other. He was a stripling of 12 when his father Sultan Umar Shaikh Mirza died, leaving the kingdom of Farghana (of Samarkand fame) for him to govern. As is with most young rulers, his uncles and cousins ganged up and usurped the throne.

¤ Babur Grew As A Great Military Leader

But Babur was showing all the signs of growing up into a great military leader. It took him five years to strike back and take his kingdom. However this was not the end, but just the start of a long battle. Between the period of 1497 to 1502 after being in and out of Samarkand several times, Babur was finally forced to leave home and set up kingdom elsewhere. This had important bearings on not only Babur’s character, but filtered down into the subconscious of the entire Mughal dynasty. Right down to Shah Jahan, the Mughals never gave up the idea of a Central Asian empire.
Babur now set out for Kabul to start afresh. He was busy building a kingdom for himself when the Indian princes asked him to help them get rid of Ibrahim Lodi. Had the Rajputs and Dilawar Khan known him slightly better, they would have had second thoughts about inviting him to India. It was only when he was amongst them in Delhi and showed no signs of leaving that they woke up to their gross miscalculation.

¤ Mughal's Arrival In India

In 1526, Babur had written in his Tuzuk-i-Baburi, ‘From the time I conquered the land of Kabul till now, I had always been bent on subduing Hindustan.’ That very year he crossed over the Indus to reach Panipat, where he defeated Ibrahim Lodi in one of the most significant battles of Indian history. It was curtains now for the Delhi Sultanate. The Mughals had arrived.

In retrospect, the Delhi Sultanate was very much just that – a monarchy which ruled Delhi and its environs. Initially, the Sultans of the Slave dynasty certainly toyed with the idea of an empire which embraced all India. The biggest hurdle in this proved to be that old trouble spot – the Deccan. Ultimately, it was the Sultanate’s failure to hold the Deccan that led to their reluctantly abandoning the idea of the Great Indian Empire. But the idea was never entirely given up. It was eventually revived and given concrete shape when the Mughals came to India in the 16th century.

¤ The First Mughal's Tenure - Brief and Battle-Scarred.

Rana Sanga, who was stung by Babur’s refusal to budge from Delhi, took him to battleground in 1527 in an attempt to take over Delhi himself. In fact Rana Sanga’s first attack was so successful that he was able to repel Babur’s advance guard. Here again that curious Rajput psychology of regarding a battle won as the end of war came into play. While Babur was making an emotional appeal to his soldiers to go to battle again, Rana Sanga was already celebrating victory.

¤ Babur Firm His Feet On Indian Soil

This was one of Babur’s finest moments and he displayed his formidable ability as a leader. In a passionate appeal to his soldiers, which involved his swearing off wine for the rest of his life, he said, ‘With fame, even if I die, I am contented; Let fame be mine, since my body is death’s.’ Rana Sanga was defeated.

Many more battles followed in Chanderi, Ghagra, Kanwah and so on. By the end of it all, Babur had managed to firmly establish the Mughals in India. He died in controversial circumstances - some say he was poisoned. There is a more romantic version, however. Apparently, his son and successor Humayun had taken ill. Babur appealed to God to spare the son and take his life instead.

Miracle or poison, that was precisely what happened. Babur was undoubtedly a great man – a brave fighter, poet, scholar and visionary. No one who has read his remarkable autobiography and understood how he carved out an empire out of nothing can doubt his sagacity and his military shrewdness.

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