- India had been invaded from the west/ north-west several times over the centuries, beginning with Alexander.
- Various parts of north India had been ruled by foreigners like the Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Kushans and Afghans.
- The Mughals, descended from the Mongol Chengiz Khan and the Turk Timur, founded an empire in India which lasted for more than three centuries.
- But we remember them not as rulers of foreign origin, but as an indigenous, Indian dynasty. Babur was the founder of the Mughal empire which was established in 1526 after Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi in the battle of Panipat.
- Thus a new epoch and a new empire in India began, lasting for nearly three centuries beginning from 1526 to 1857.
- Six major rulers of this dynasty, Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, known as the “Great Mughals”, left their mark on Indian history.
- The empire declined after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. The empire formally ended a century and a half later, when power passed to the British crown after the great revolt of 1857.
- At the height of its power the Mughal empire stretched from Afghanistan to Bengal and from Kashmir down to the Tamil region in the south.
- Mughal rule created a uniform, centralized administration over the entire country. The Mughals, especially Akbar, created a polity integrating Hindus and Muslims into a unified nation, forging a composite national identity.
- In addition, the Mughals left behind a heritage of great architecture, literature and art which has enriched India.
Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (1526–1530)
- The race for political supremacy in Central Asia amongst the Uzbeks (Turkic ethnic group), the Safavids (the members of the dynasty that ruled Iran patronising Shia Islam) and the Ottomans (Turkish people practicing Sunni Islam) forced Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, the ruler of Samarkand, to seek his career prospects elsewhere.
- Historically the trade conducted by countries of Central Asia through the Silk Route with India had provided the required knowledge about the country (India) they were interested in.
- Babur who dreamed of repeating what Timur had done a century and a quarter earlier, succeeded in founding the Mughal kingdom with Delhi as its capital in 1526 in the wake of the political disintegration of the Delhi Sultanate.
- Babur, a boy of eleven, inherited the throne of Samarkand (now a city in Uzbekistan) from his father. As there were enemies all round him, he lost his throne but soon reclaimed it.
- But soon he realized that, with the powerful Safavid dynasty in Iran and the Uzbeks in Central Asia, he should rather turn to the southeast towards India to build an empire of his own.
- As a Timurid, Bābur had an eye on the Punjab, part of which had been Timur’s possession. Between 1519 and 1524 when he invaded Bhera, Sialkot and Lahore, he showed his definite intention to conquer Hindustan, where the political scene also favoured his adventure.
- After conquering Kabul and Ghazni, Babur crossed the Indus to India and established a small kingdom. The time for invading India was also ripe as there was discontent among the Afghans and the Rajputs, as Sultan Ibrahim Lodi of the Lodi dynasty was trying to expand his territory.
- Babur received an embassy from Daulat Khan Lodi, a principal opponent of Ibrahim Lodi, and Rana Sangha, ruler of Mewar and the chief of Rajput Confederacy, with a plea to invade India.
- When Babur marched to India he first defeated the forces of Daulat Khan Lodi at Lahore as he had gone back on his promise to help Babur.
First Battle of Panipat, 21 April 1526
- Babur then turned towards the Lodi-governed Punjab.
- After several invasions, he defeated the formidable forces of Ibrahim Lodi with a numerically inferior army at Panipat. Babur won this battle with the help of strategic positioning of his forces and the effective use of artillery.
- Babur’s victory provided hopes for him to settle in India permanently.
- Babur had conquered Delhi and Agra, but he still had to suppress the Rajputs and the Afghans.
Battle of Khanwa, 1527
- Babur decided to take on Rana Sanga of Chittor, who as ruler of Mewar, had a strong influence over Rajasthan and Malwa.
- Babur selected Khanwa, near Agra, as a favourable site for this inevitable encounter.
- The ferocious march of Rana Sanga with a formidable force strengthened by Afghan Muslims, Mahmud Lodi, brother of Ibrahim Lodi, and Hasan Khan Mewati, ruler of Mewat, confronted the forces of Babur.
- With strategic positioning of forces and effective use of artillery, Babur defeated Rana Sanga’s forces.
- This victory was followed by the capture of forts at Gwalior and Dholpur which further strengthened Babur’s position.
Battle of Chanderi, 1528
- The next significant battle that ensured Babur’s supremacy over the Malwa region was fought against Medini Rai at Chanderi.
- Following this victory Babur turned towards the growing rebellious activities of Afghans.
Battle of Ghagra, 1529
- This was the last battle Babar fought against the Afghans.
- Sultan Ibrahim Lodi’s brother Mahmud Lodi and Sultan Nusrat Shah, son-in-law of Ibrahim Lodi, conspired against Babur.
- Realising the danger Babar marched against them.
- In the battle that ensued along the banks of Ghagra, a tributary of Ganges, Babur defeated the Afghans. But he died on his way from Agra to Lahore in 1530.
Estimate of Babur
- Babur, the founder of Mughal Empire, was a scholar of Persian and Arabic.
- Babur’s memoirs Tuziuk-i-Baburi (Baburnama) is considered a world classic.
- Babur found nothing admirable either in the Afghans who ruled India for some time or in the majority of the people they governed. But his description of India is delightful.
- What Hindustan possessed, in Babur’s view, is described as follows: ‘The chief excellence of Hindustan is that it is a large country and has abundance of gold and silver.
- Another convenience of Hindustan is that the workmen of every profession and trade are innumerable and without end.’
- Babur’s dominions were now secure from Kandahār to the borders of Bengal.
- However, in the great area that marked the Rajput desert and the forts of Ranthambhor, Gwalior and Chanderi, there was no settled administration, as the Rajput chiefs were quarrelling among themselves. So Babur left a difficult task for his son Humayun.