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South Asian Memories
the-south-asian.com December 2000
Full name – Zahiruddin Mohammad Babar
Born – 14 February 1483 in Andijan, Central Asia
Died – 26 December 1530, of fever, aged 47, in Agra, India. Buried 9 years later, as per his wishes, in a garden in Kabul. His sister Khanzada and son Hindal also buried on the same garden terrace.
Accession to power – 11 years old when he inherited Ferghana.
Length of rule in India – 4 years [1526 – 1530].
Ethnic Stock – Turko Mongol prince from Ferghana, a small kingdom east of Samarkand. Descended from Timur on father’s side and from Genghis Khan on his mother’s.
Father – Umar Shaikh, ruler of Ferghana. Died in 1497 when Babar was 11 years old.
Mother tongue – Chaghatai Turkish.
Siblings [known] – sister Khanzada, half-brother Jahangir
Children – Four sons : Humayun b 1508; Kamran b 1509; Askari b 1516; and Hindal b 1519; daughter Gulbadan
Strengths – a great soldier and a prolific writer
Passions – gardening and writing. Created many gardens - his favourite on a hillside in Kabul where his body was brought back to be buried Composed verses in Persian. Wrote his memoirs – Babar namah – in his mother tongue. Grandson Akbar had them translated into Persian and illustrated. These manuscripts were probably lost in the looting of Delhi by Nadir Shah in 1739. A naturalist too. Book lover – set up a family library.
Arrival in India – April 1526. Defeated Ibrahim Lodhi at the Battle of Panipat, marched towards Delhi and declared himself Padshah of India.
Victory due to – superior cavalry tactics and moveable artillery. Babar’s troops numbered only 12,000 compared to Ibrahim Lodhi’s 100,000 – but Babar’s strongest assets were his two Persian gunners who were skilled in the art of cannons – a piece of artillery unknown in the sub-continent at the time. The noise of the cannons terrified Ibrahim’s elephants – and the rest, as they say, is history!
Military Campaigns – defeated Rajput Confederacy led by Rana Sanga – in 1527. Defeated joint forces of Afghans and Sultan of Bengal in 1529.
Character traits – modest, simple, religious, tolerant towards non-muslims
As a ruler – liberal. He believed that " defeated enemies must be conciliated, not antagonised if they are to be ruled effectively" and that " one’s own followers must be prevented by discipline from victimising local population."
Weaknesses – Not an administrator. Was a hard drinker but said to have given up wine 2 days before the battle with the Rajputs, to obtain God’s favours.
Inherited – small kingdom of Ferghana
Extent of Kingdom at death – Consolidated and enlarged his conquered territory. His Empire in 1530 included Afghanistan, Kashmir, Punjab, Bihar and Malwa.
Capital city - Agra
Above information is compiled from various sources, prominent among them ‘India – a Country Study’, ‘Delhi’ by Khushwant Singh, ‘The Great Mughals’ by Bamber Gascoigne, ‘The Mughals – Splendours of the Peacock Throne’, and ‘The City of Djinns’
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