Categories Medieval India



Problems for Humayun

  • Humayun who succeeded Babur at the young age of 23, had to grapple with a number of serious problems, some of them having been left behind by Babur, and some which had arisen following his death in December, 1530.
  1. A major problem was the unsettled state of the administration, and the ambitions of the begs who wanted to assert themselves.
  2. The Afghans had been weakened, but continued to nurse the ambition of setting up independent Afghan kingdoms which could help in expelling the Mughals from India.
  3. Humayun’s younger brothers, and many Timurid princes who had found shelter under Babur, were looking for an opportunity to strike out on their own.
  4. There was Bahadur Shah, the ruler of Gujarat, who had brought Malwa under his control, and wanted to dominate Rajasthan thereby posing a challenge to the nascent Mughal empire.
  5. Babur had little inclination, at any rate no time to plan and set up a new system of administration in India. Both in Afghanistan and India he tried to continue the established system of administration. This implied leaving the task of day to day administration largely in the hands of his begs who were given large tracts in assignment (wajh). In these tracts, the task of administration and collection of land revenue, and maintenance of troops for the service of the state was left largely in the hands of the begs. Although certain tracts or share of the revenue was reserved for the crown, Babur, having exhausted the treasures accumulated by the Lodis, was faced with financial difficulties at the end of his reign. Hence, he ordered that everyone should pay thirty per cent of the income of their wajh into the imperial treasury. It suggest that at the time of his accession, Humayun’s finances were stretched.
  • The desire of the begs to re-assert themselves is hinted at by a strange type of a conspiracy or intrigue which is said to have taken place towards the end of Babur’s reign. Two of the leading historians of Akbar’s reign, Abul Fazl and Nizamuddin, assert that Babur’s wakil, Khalifa Nizamuddin, who was a great favourite of Babur, wanted to set aside Humayun and his brothers, and put on the throne Mehdi Khwaja who came from a distinguished family and was married to Babur’s elder sister, Khanazadah Begum.
  • The scheme could hardly hope to succeed because Mehdi Khwaja was not a Timurid, and there was little chance of the begs accepting a non-Timurid. Some says that it was Babur himself who had suggested such a step because he was dissatisfied with Humayun for his failure in the last Samarqand campaign, and leaving Badakhshan for Agra without notice. Even if Babur was dissatisfied with Humayun, he would hardly have agreed to the super-session of all of his other sons. Soon after his return, Humayun was reconciled with Babur who posted him to Sambhal, and then nominated him as his successor.
  • Anyhow, Khalifa Nizamuddin remained high in favour with Humayun after his accession.
  • More serious than this was the desire of some of Babur’s brothers and Timurid princes to re-assert in India the Central Asian Timurid tradition of the partitioning of the empire. Babur himself had to face this problem when after his conquest of Samarqand, his begs had assigned Farghana to his half-brother, Jahangir Mirza, so that when Babur lost Samarqand, he was without a kingdom. At the time of Babur’s death, Humayun’s younger brother, Kamran, was in-charge of Kabul and Qandahar, while Badakhshan was under Sulaiman Mirza. It was only natural that Kamran should remain in-charge of these areas when Humayun succeeded at Agra. However, not satisfied with Kabul and Qandahar, Kamran advanced on Lahore, occupied the fort and established his control over Punjab upto the river Sutlej.
  • Kamran then sent an embassy to Humayun, praying to be confirmed in the territories he had seized. Humayun was in a difficult position. The Afghans of eastern U.P. had already become active, and Bahadur Shah of Gujarat was displaying far reaching ambitions which could pose a problem. Hence, he graciously confirmed Kamran’s possession of the Punjab, and also granted him Hissar-Firuza in jagir. On his part, Kamran observed outer forms and allowed the khutba and sikka to remain in Humayun’s name. Abul Fazl ascribes Humayun’s action to his spirit of benevolence, and keenness to observe Babur’s advice to be kind to his brothers.
  • In a letter to Humayun, Babur had told him, “As thou(you) knowest, the rule has always been that when thou hadst six parts, Kamran had five.” This did not mean that Babur had postulated partition of the empire among his sons. Babur’s letter was written in the context of allotment of jagirs among the various princes. In the same letter, he advices Humayun to summon his younger brothers and the begs twice daily to his presence. Thus, no special favours were to be shown to the brothers, and they were expected to be as loyal to the sovereign as the begs.
  • It has been argued that by leaving the recruiting grounds of Afghanistan and Punjab in Kamran’s hands, Humayun cut himself off from the hardy and loyal soldiers of the area. However,in those days no state put any restriction on the movement of soldiers and people. Till his defeat by Sher Shah at Chausa in 1539, Humayun did not have any shortage of trained soldiers. On the other hand, as a result of Kamran’s control over Afghanistan and Punjab, Humayun was saved from addressing himself to the problems of West and Central Asia, specifically those of Qandahar and Badakhshan. Thus, Qandahar was threatened twice by the Iranian Shah, and on both occasions Kamran took effective action and saved the situation.
  • Despite all these considerations, the fact remains that Kamran’s action amounted to a de facto partition of the empire, and Humayun’s response towards it was seen to be based on weakness rather than generosity, and lack of boldness and self-confidence on his part. This encouraged the expectation that Humayun’s other two brothers, Askari and Hindal, who had been allotted Sambhal and Mewat in Jagir could also justifiably stake claims for suzerainty whenever an occasion arose. It also encouraged some of the other Timurids who had joined Babur after their expulsion by the Uzbeks to defy Humayun, and press their own claims for dominion.
  • The most formidable among these were Muhammad Zaman Mirza and his cousin, Muhammad Sultan Mirza, grandsons of Sultan Husain Baiqara. They served Babur in various fields and had held important military commands, including governorship of Bihar. Babur had married a daughter to each of the two. The efforts of these Timurids to carve out a separate empire for themselves provided an opportunity to the nobles to assert themselves against Humayun.
  • The situation was compounded by the fact that till then the Mughals had struck no roots in the soil, and adventurous people of all types could easily collect various elements in opposition to them.
  • Along with these internal difficulties, the most serious external problem Humayun faced was that of the Afghans of the east U.P. and Bihar, and that of Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. If Humayun could tackle these two effectively, he would be in a strong position to deal with the various internal problems mentioned above.
Interpreting Humayun’s Reign:
  • These has been a sharp difference of opinion among historians regarding the manner in which Humayun tried to tackle the difficulties we have mentioned above. Part of the difficulty arises from the fact that there is no reliable chronology about the events that took place, and Humayun’s own movements. In consequence, there are long periods when Humayun appears to be inactive, and unresponsive to the demands of administration.
  • This led some historians, to paint Humayun as being an opium addict so that he remained in an opium induced stupor for long periods. Support to this was lent by Mirza Haider Dughlat, a noble from a respected family in Mughalistan who had been appointed governor of Lahore by Kamran when he had gone to Qandahar following an Iranian investment. In his work, Tarikh-i-Rashidi, he says that due to the influence of some evil and profligate persons, Humayun had contracted some bad habits, one of them being eating opium, and that this was the cause of his downfall.
  • One may disagree with this assessment. Opium eating and wine drinking was widespread in Central Asia at the time, and Babur freely mentions that both he and many of his begs ate opium or drank wine. That did not prevent Babur or his begs, or later Humayun from sustained campaigning. However, Humayun had not been schooled in adversity like Babur, and was prone to spells of merry-making in between campaigns.
  • A critical study of the chronology of events show that the so called periods of inactivity were much briefer than have been visualized. This largely depended on whether the chronology was the one adopted by Abul Fazl, or the one put forward by his contemporary, Nizamuddin Ahmad who has been copied by Ferishta. Others fall in between.
  • Nizamuddin Ahmad, whose father held important positions at court from the time of Babur, completed his work, Tabaqat-i-Akbari, after Abul Fazl had completed his work Akbar Nama and, in fact, was able to draw upon Abul Fazl’s book for his work. His account should, therefore, have been more reliable than Abul Fazl’s. But Nizamuddin Ahmad’s account is not only much briefer than Abul Fazl’s, but is deficient in chronology. In his 32nd year, Akbar had ordered everyone who had lived through the times of Babur and Humayun and the early years of his reign to write down their memoirs. These were carefully utilized by Abul Fazl, but were perhaps not available to Nizamuddin Ahmad. Hence, in the present work, the chronology adopted by Abul Fazl has generally been preferred.

Early activities of Humayun, and the Tussle with Bahadur Shah:

Siege of Kalinjar

  • Six months after his accession, Humayun besieged the powerful fort of Kalinjar in Bundelkhand. This fort, along with Bayana, Gwaliyar and Dholpur, formed the chain of forts protecting Agra from the south. As such, it had been invested a number of times by the earlier rulers of Delhi, and been occupied by them on occasions.
  • The Chandela ruler had a reputation for bravery, but he surrendered Kalinjar to Humayun after a siege. He was allowed to keep the fort in return for accepting Humayun’s suzerainty. This enhanced Humayun’s reputation.
  • The conquest of Kalinjar, may also have been meant to counter the growing influence of Bahadur Shah of Gujarat who had captured Mandu at this time.

Siege of Chunar

  • The main problem facing Humayun at that time was that posed by the Afghans of east U.P. and Bihar. Humayun learnt that an Afghan sardar, Sher Khan, who had once been in the service of Babur, but had defected, had recently been able to lay his hands on the powerful fort of Chunar. This fort which was considered the gateway to Bihar, had earlier been in the possession of the Lodis. To reassert his claim on the legacy of the Lodis, Humayun marched from Kalinjar to Chunar and invested it. However, Sher Khan had slipped away and left the fort under his son, Jalal Khan (later known as Islam Khan). After some time, negotiations began. Sher Khan offered to serve the Emperor with a contingent of 500 troops under his son, Qutb Khan. He also offered to pay gold as peshkash and promised to be loyal to the Emperor. Humayun accepted the offer, largely because at the moment he did not contemplate an attack on Bihar, and did not consider Sher Khan to be a danger to him. Events proved him wrong, but the future rise of Sher Khan could hardly have been foreseen at the time. Another advantage for Humayun in this agreement was that Sher Khan did not side with Biban and Bayazid who were steadily regaining their position in east U.P.
  • Whatever may have been the circumstances, Humayun’s willingness to compromise both when Kamran conquered Lahore, and in the east, with Sher Khan at Chunar, gave an impression of lack of grit and determination on his part. This encouraged Bahadur Shah in his ambitions and in his forthcoming contest with the Mughals.

Activities at Agra

  • After Chunar, Humayun spent almost a year at Agra, watching the situation. During the period, he also tried to organize government and court society on a somewhat fanciful model. He divided court society broadly into administrative, ecclesiastical and cultural sections. Arrows of different quality and numbers were awarded to different sections in order to form grades. Various rewards and titles were given to the nobles and others to attach them more closely to the new regime.
  • The Emperor also found time for planning some buildings, and approving new inventions. His instituting a drum of justice (tabl-i-adl) to enable grievances to be brought to the notice of the king may be considered a first step to earn a measure of public support for the new Mughal state.
  • He tried to relieve the burden on the village folk and the cultivators, and artisans and merchants, and tried to help foreign traders by remitting tamgha (the emblem of a particular tribe) and some other cesses. Thus, in the words of Abul Fazl, he “unfurled the banner of protection for the people.” This was indicative of an attitude but a long time was needed for the effects of these measures to be felt.

Battle of Dadrah

  • Meanwhile, under Biban and Bayazid, the Afghans had been able to re-establish themselves in Jaunpur, expelling the Mughal governor, Junaid Barlas. At the head of a large army, Humayun crossed the Ganges. He met the Afghans at Dadrah (battle of Dadrah or Daurah) on the river Gomti, and inflicted a crushing defeat on them. Shaikh Bayazid was killed, and the back of Afghan opposition broken.
  • The Afghan king, Sultan Mahmud, returned to Bhatta (Rewa). Sher Khan did not join the Afghans of east U.P., and has been accused of “betrayal”. Seeing little hope of success against the Mughals, some of the Afghan sardars fled to the court of Bahadur Shah, and found refuge there. This was in 1532.

Bahadur Shah

  • Humayun spent the first two years of his reign consolidating his position. He was now free to give his full attention to the problem of Malwa, eastern Rajasthan and Gujarat where Bahadur Shah was emerging as a challenge.
  • Bahadur Shah, son of Muzaffar Shah II of Gujarat, who was of almost the same age as Humayun, had ascended the throne of Malwa in 1526 after wandering about for a couple of years during which he had, in turn, approached Ibrahim Lodi and Babur.
  • After the battle of Panipat, he had even been approached by some Afghans to become the king of Jaunpur. The death of his father in Ahmadabad, followed by the assassination of his successor, Sikandar, by his wazir, Imadul Mulk, threw the affairs of Gujarat into confusion, and a leading group of nobles invited Bahadur Shah to ascend the throne. Bahadur Shah soon showed himself to be a ruthless but capable and ambitious ruler. He killed, one by one, all his six surviving brothers, except one who had taken shelter with the ruler of Malwa. This gave him the excuse to attack and conquer Malwa. Earlier, he had conquered Ahmadnagar, and forced the Nizam Shahi ruler to accept his suzerainty, and read khutba (primary formal occasion for public preaching in the Islamic tradition) in his name.

Why conflict between Bahadur Shah and Humayun inevitable?

  • Having witnessed Babur’s resounding victories at Panipat and Khanua, Bahadur Shah was, at first, of the opinion that a conflict with the Mughals should be avoided at all costs. But his views on the subject gradually changed, partly because of his successes, and partly because of the Afghan sardars and Timurid princes who had taken shelter as his court, and who tried to convince him that the Mughals were not the same formidable force as they had been earlier, having become soft and ease-loving. Also he had taken into his service two Ottomon master gunners, Amir Mustafa or Rumi Khan, and Khwaja Safar. With their help, he had been able to gather together a powerful park of artillery. They had also taught him Ottoman method of defence viz; stringing together carts behind which cannons and match-locks could be fired.
  • Bahadur Shah was, apparently, convinced that with the help of these devices, and with the help of his Afghan and Timurid allies, he would be able to prevail over Humayun whom he considered to be inexperienced and ineffective. In one of his letters to Humayun later on, he said that Humayun had no achievements as compared to his, and had only faced a few Afghan sardars.
  • Even if Bahadur Shah had not convinced himself that he was in a position to challenge the Mughals, a conflict between the Mughals and a power based in western India was in the logic of things. The entire experience of the Sultanat showed that a power which had been able to consolidate its position in the Indo-Gangetic plains was bound to try to bring under its control the rich and fertile tracts of Malwa, and the flourishing sea-ports and hoarded treasures of Gujarat. Rajasthan was the essential link between Malwa and Gujarat, and the rich, alluvial plains of north India. As we have seen, a conflict for the control of Malwa and eastern Rajasthan had started even under the Lodis once they had been able to defeat Jaunpur, and consolidate their position in the Ganga valley.

Precusor of conflict between Bahadur Shah and Humayun

  • However, it seems that Humayun was not keen for a conflict with Bahadur Shah at this stage, and that it was the latter who virtually goaded Humayun into doing so. The first provocative act was Bahadur Shah’s siege of Chittor in 1532, to “punish” the Rana who had been his ally, but had annoyed him by helping Salhadi, one of the powerful sardars in eastern Malwa.
  • Humayun was aware that control of eastern Rajasthan by Bahadur Shah would pose an immediate danger to the Mughal position at Agra and Delhi. Therefore, as a warning to Bahadur Shah, he moved to Gwaliyar (Feb. 1533). According to a mid-seventeenth century Rajasthani account, Rani Karnavati, the Rana’s mother, sent a rakhi to Humayun who gallantly responded and helped. Since none of the contemporary sources mention this, little credit can be given to this story.
  • However, Humayun’s presence at Gwaliyar made Bahadur Shah nervous, and he hastily patched up a treaty with the Rana. The Rana was compelled to cede the portions of Malwa which he had received from Bahadur Shah earlier as a price of Mewar’s support to him in his campaign against the ruler of Malwa. The Rana had also to pay a heavy indemnity, including the jewelled crown and belt captured from the Khalji ruler by Rana Sanga, and which had high prestige value.
  • Although this treaty increased Bahadur Shah’s power and prestige, Humayun was apparently satisfied by Bahadur Shah’s failure to capture Chittor. He, therefore, repaired to Delhi, and spent a year there, constructing a new capital called Din Panah on the banks of the Jamuna.
  • Considering that Agra was virtually the capital of an Afghan dynasty, and that Delhi had been the seat of Imperial power for centuries, and any one who ruled from Delhi enjoyed immense prestige as well as acquiring the aura of legitimacy, Humayun’s decision to build a capital there can hardly be termed the result of a “fevered imagination” as many had thought. Nor was it meant to be a second line of defence in case Agra fell to Bahadur Shah since Humayun had little fear of Bahadur Shah at that time. In fact, Bahadur Shah congratulated him a year later for the completion of Din Panah. Humayun reciprocated Bahadur Shah’s friendly gesture, and in a return embassy, only requested that no shelter should be given to refugees from Delhi in view of the friendly relations between the two kingdoms. This was a reference to the Afghan refugees, including Alam Khan, a brother Sikandar Lodi, whom Babur had patronized, but who had taken shelter with Bahadur Shah some time back.
  • From the correspondence, and the exchange of embassies which followed, it seems that Humayun was prepared to approve all that Bahadur Shah had conquered in Malwa, provided he expelled the elements hostile to the Mughals. It seems that Humayun’s willingness for a compromise was interpreted by Bahadur Shah as a sign of weakness. Bahadur Shah now took a number of measures which made conflict with the Mughals inevitable.
  • Towards the end of 1534, he marched on Chittor a second time Worse, he honoured and assigned important jagirs to the Timurid prince Muhammed Zaman Mirza who has been high in Babur’s favour but had intrigued against Humayun from the beginning. Fearing a rebellion from him, Humayun had moved swiftly, defeated him, and sent him to prison in Bayana. He had been ordered to be blinded but, in collusion with his jailor, he had been saved from this fate and escaped from the prison. Bahadur Shah welcomed him at Chittor, looking upon him as a weapon to divide and confuse the Mughals.
  • Bahadur Shah also tried to prop up Sher Khan against the Mughals by sending him large sums of money.
  • Finally, at the instance of some hot-heads, Bahadur Shah launched a three pronged attack on the Mughals. The leader of this enterprise was Tatar Khan, son of Alam Khan, who was famous for his bravery. Bahadur Shah gave him twenty crores to recruit a mercenary army. He was to attack Agra, while another force was to attack Kalinjar in Bundelkhand, and a third one was to move against Delhi and create disturbances in the Punjab.
  • Tatar Khan captured Bayana. But with the advance of a Mughal force under Mirza Askari and Hindal, the Afghan forces melted away. Tatar Khan fought and was killed. The other two prongs also proved ineffective. Tatar Khan had been asked not to engage with the Mughals, but to await Bahadur Shah’s arrival. It was hardly possible for Bahadur Shah to repudiate all these hostile steps.
  • Humayun now decided to undertake a campaign against Bahadur Shah and to conquer Gujarat.

The Gujarat Campaign:

  • After making due military preparations, Humayun marched out of Agra in early 1535. However, instead of marching on Chittor which was being besieged by Bahadur Shah, Humayun marched via Raisen and Sarangpur to Ujjain. He thus brought eastern Malwa under his control, and also placed himself in a strategically advantageous position for intercepting Bahadur Shah if he tried to retreat to Mandu in Malwa or to his capital, Ahmadabad.

Defeat of bahadur Shah at Chittor

  • Humayun’s movement created nervousness in Bahadur Shah’s camp but his master-gunner, Rumi Khan, was confident that with his powerful guns he would be able to force the commanders of Chittor to surrender soon. Some of Bahadur Shah’s advisers also argued that since he was engaged in a holy war against a kafir, it would be contrary to rules for a Muslim king to attack him. But if he did, Bahadur Shah would be justified in engaging in a jihad against him.
  • Some of the contemporary Mughal historians, not perceiving the strategic significance of the position Humayun had adopted, ascribe his stay at Ujjain to his reluctance to engage Bahadur Shah while he was waging a jihad against a kafir.
  • The stout resistance of the Rajputs who were now unified against an aggressor prolonged Rumi Khan’s operations much more than he had expected. When the fort fell after two months, (March, 1534), Bahadur Shah advanced, and came face to face the Humayun at Mandsor, 80 miles north of Ujjain.
  • Some of his nobles advised him that since his soldiers were flushed with success, he should immediately attack Humayun. But Rumi Khan, who was very proud of his artillery, argued that it was no use resorting to swords and spears when he was in possession of a superior weapon, cannons. At his advice, Bahadur Shah adopted the Ottoman devise of guarding his front and side with the help of carts and ditches so that the artillery could work from behind its protection. There was a large lake on the other side. Thus, the defence was remarkably similar to that adopted by Babur at Panipat.
  • However, Rumi Khan forgot that Humayun was not an Afghan military leader. Unlike Ibrihim Lodi, he did not oblige Bahadur Shah by launching a frontal attack on his strongly defended camp. After a preliminary attack in which Humayun’s forces suffered severely, Humayun ordered his forces not to venture near, but to cut off all food supplies to Bahadur Shah’s camp. This was enforced so strictly that within two weeks his soldiers faced a severe food shortage. Thus, Rumi Khan’s defensive offensive strategy was turned against itself.
  • In distress, Bahadur Shah now decided to spike his most powerful guns, and with a few followers, left secretly for Mandu by a circuitous route. Bahadur Shah’s rich camp fell in to Humayun’s hands, and most of his soldiers were dispersed (April 58 1535).

Sacking of Mandu

  • A body of 30,000 lightly equipped troops of Bahadur Shah also entered Mandu by a direct route, hotly pursued by Humayun. Humayun took into his service some of the prominent nobles of Bahadur Shah, such as Khudawand Khan who, in course of time, became one of his principal adviser in the Gujarat campaign. Rumi Khan also joined Humayun. Although Rumi Khan was a mercenary, and was prepared to join anyone who offered him better terms, and had been disappointed with Bahadur Shah for not appointing him to the command of Chittor after its capture, the charge that Bahadur Shah’s failure against Humayun was due to Rumi Khan’s treachery seems to be one of the usual ploys to explain away failure.
  • Reaching Mandu after some time, Bahadur Shah opened negotiations with Humayun, offering to surrender Malwa if he was allowed to keep Gujarat and Chittor.The proposals were “tentatively accepted, but no regular engagement was entered into.” However, the garrison rashly relaxed its vigilance, and taking advantage of it, a body of Mughal troops scaled the walls of the city and opened the gate to the troops outside. Bahadur Shah escaped with a few attendants. Humayun allowed his troops to sack Mandu for three days before he started for Champanir where Bahadur Shah had taken refuge.

Bahadur Shah expelled from Gujarat

  • Champanir was reputed to be a strong fort, surrounded by a jungle. It was one place where Bahadur Shah could have withstood Humayun for a long time. But Bahadur Shah had no heart left for fighting Humayun. Hence, he sent members of his family and some of the treasures stored in the fort to Diu, and left the fort under the command of some trusted men.Humayun pursued him up to Cambay.
  • Bahadur Shah now left for Diu which was dominated by the Portuguese navy. Thus, Humayun completed the task of expelling Bahadur Shah from Gujarat.

Conquest of Champaner

  • From Cambay, Humayun returned to Champanir and began a strict investment of the fort. After some time (August,1535) fort war captured and yielded immense riches. As earlier, Humayun treated the defending Gujarati nobles well, and some of them joined the Mughal service. The conquest of Champanir completed the Mughal conquest of southern Gujarat.

Conquest of north Gujarat

  • North Gujarat, including Ahmadabad and Patan remained under the control of Bahadur Shah’s men. After resting at Champaner for a couple of months during the monsoon season, which was also used for many festivities, Humayun turned his attention towards the conquest of north Gujarat.
  • In the meantime, the Mughals had not even bothered to collect land-revenue. Bahadur Shah deputed Imad-ul-Mulk, one of his slaves, the task of collecting land-revenue from Gujarat, especially from north Gujarat. With the help of the money he collected, and the prevailing general anti-Mughal sentiment, Imad-ul-Mulk gathered a band force. Imad-ul-Mulk’s forces clashed with the Mughal forces which were led by Humayun at Mahmudabad near Ahmadabad. In a fiercely contested battle, the Mughals triumphed. Ahmadabad was now open to them, and was occupied soon (October 1535).
  • Thus, within a space of ten month of leaving Agra, Humayun had over run both Malwa and Gujarat. In the process, Humayun displayed great drive, determination and personal courage, and he must be given full credit for this achievement.

Arrangements in Gujarat

  • Humayun had yet to decide what to do with Gujarat. On this point the nobles were not united. Many of them had shifted from Afghanistan to the Agra-Delhi region when Babur had decided to make Hindustan his permanent home. They had their families there, and did not want to be uprooted a second time if they were asked to stay on in Gujarat. Also, with the flight of Bahadur Shah, and the conquest and distribution of his hoarded treasures, they felt that the basic objectives of the expedition had been attained.
  • It was in this context that Hindu Beg and some of the other leading nobles suggested that after paying the soldiers one or two years advance salary, and keeping some treasures, the kingdom should be returned to Bahadur Shah who had no capacity to fight Humayun anymore. According to Jauhar, Humayun’s ewer-bearer, Humayun became angry at this suggestion. Like Babur earlier after the victory at Panipat, Humayun argued that “the empire which was been conquered with the strength of the sword is not to be thrown away like this. The kingdom must be properly organized and arrangements made for its direct administration under the control of Delhi”. Hence, Humayun made Askari over-all incharge of Gujarat. Hindu Beg was to assist him.
  • The rest of Gujarat was divided into five divisions, each under a prominent noble. This arrangement was on the model of Babur’s administration of the Doab where large areas or iqtas were placed in charge of a beg who was to establish law and order and collect land-revenue. A part of the money collected by them was to be sent to the Imperial treasury. May be this was the reason why Humayun did not reserve any territory as khalisa in Gujarat.
  • After making these arrangements, Humayun slowly travelled to Mandu. He fixed Mandu as his headquarters because of its salubrious climate, and because it was centrally located so that he could keep a watch both on Gujarat and north India. He planned a long stay there because he asked the inmates of his haram to join him.

Collapse of arrangement

  • However, within months of his leaving Gujarat, the arrangements he had made for its administration collapsed. Askari was apparently not equal to the responsibility placed on his shoulders, and was not able to establish a coordination between himself and the nobles in charge of the various divisions. But a basic cause was the unwillingness of the nobles to stay on in Gujarat which they perceived as a foreign land, and where they were perceived as foreigners. Simultaneously, there was a reassertion of the spirit of regional independence in Gujarat and a revival of Bahadur Shah’s power.
  • In desperation, Hindu Beg suggested that Askari should declare himself independent so that he could rally the nobles and the soldiers, and get local support. To Askari’s credit, he rejected this suggestion, but the rumours of such a move on his part gained currency. While in his cups he had declared that he was the king. This led to further disarray in the ranks of the Mughal nobility. Only vigorous intervention from Humayun’s part could have saved the situation. However, he showed no initiative and issued no orders, either because of self confidence in his arrangements, or a sense of fatigue.
  • Meanwhile, from his base of operations at Surat, Bahadur Shah recovered Cambay and Broach and advanced on Ahmadabad. It should have been possible for Askari and Hindu Beg to meet this challenge because Bahadur Shah had only a small force at his disposal. However, divided counsel and lack of nerve made Askari to retreat to Champaner. If the Mughals had remained united, Champanir could also have been used as a base to launch a counterattack.
  • However, the commandant of Champanir, Tardi Beg, afraid that Askari contemplated independence, refused him permission to enter the fort, or to give him any financial assistance unless he received direct orders from Humayun.
  • Hence, Askari moved off in a huff towards Agra. Most of the Mughals withdrew from Gujarat, and followed him. Humayun, afraid that Askari planned to declare himself independent at Agra, hastened after him. The two met at Chittor, and were reconciled.
  • Meanwhile Malwa also was lost. (Feb. 1537).

Evaluation of Gujarat compaign

  • Despite this setback, which adversely effected Humayun’s prestige, the Gujarat expedition cannot be written off as being a total waste. This campaign not only showed Humayun as a vigorous leader and intrepid commander, but destroyed the threat to the Mughals from the side of Bahadur Shah. Whatever danger remained was removed when, shortly afterwards, Bahadur Shah was killed in a fracas with the Portuguese. It also left Humayun free to give his full attention to the problem posed by Sher Khan, the Afghan leader of Bihar.
  • In retrospect, we may say that once Humayun had rejected a proffered compromise with Bahadur Shah, and decided upon the direct Mughal administration of Gujarat, it would have been more politic for him to stay on at Ahmadabad for a sufficient time to settle the administration, and to win over the local elements. He could have done so because neither the situation in Malwa, nor in the east where Sher Khan was active, was so serious as to need Humayun’s immediate attention.
  • That the danger from the side of Sher Khan was not as acute as it has been made out to be is borne out by the fact that after his return from Mandu, Humayun remained at Agra for almost a year before he ventured out to the east against Sher Khan.
  • Humayun failed to understand the tactical situation and ground reality in Gujarat after its conquest. He also failed to understand the motivation of his leading nobles, and was, in turn, over confident of the capacity of Askari, and too suspicious of him later on.
  • We should not, however, confuse a sense of regional pride and separatism with popular reaction. There was hardly any popular reaction to the Mughal conquest of Gujarat. The uprising of the Kolis and the villagers (gawaran) against Humayun at Cambay was more a lure for plunder than anything else. But Humayun’s sacking of Cambay in reprisal was uncalled for.
  • Thus, once again the clash between the forces of imperial unity and regional independence which were abiding features of Indian history came to the fore.

The Bengal Campaign, and Struggle with Sher Khan

  • Humayun was uncertain about his future course of action after his return from the Gujarat campaign. According to Abul Fazl, he had resolved to undertake another campaign against Gujarat, entrust its management to men who could be relied upon for steadiness in administration. He would return “after his mind was at ease with regard to the settlement of the province.”
  • However, while arrangements for the Gujarat campaign were under way, he heard of the growing assertiveness of Sher Khan, and his activities in the east, and he resolved to capture Bengal. This was a project which he had started before the Gujarat campaign, and had advanced upto Kalpi, but he had to return to Agra on account of the danger from the side of Bahadur Shah and had to be given up. Hence, “It was decided that Sher Khan should be put down and the territories of Bengal subdued”, asserts Abul Fazl.
  • It would appear that the primary motive of Humayun’s eastern campaign was not the punishment of Sher Khan but the conquest of Bengal. If we accept this, it would explain many of the subsequent actions of Humayun which have been a subject of controversy.
  • Thus, leaving Agra in July 1537 in the height of the rainy season, Humayun marched leisurely till he arrived at the outskirts of the powerful fort of Chunar. After staying for some time at Banaras, Humayun decided to invest Chunar because it was too powerful a fort to be left in hostile hands, and would have threatened his communications in his movement to Bengal. However, the capture of the fort took much longer than expected, despite the best efforts of Humayun’s master-gunner, Rumi Khan.
  • By the time the fort fell (June 1538), Sher Khan had captured Gaur, the capital of Bengal. After the conquest of Chunar, Humayun offered to grant Sher Khan any jagir he desired, in Chunar, Jaunpur or elsewhere if he submitted to him, gave up his resolve to capture Bengal, and surrendered the royal umbrella and other royal symbols he had captured from the ruler of Bengal. In other words, even after Sher Khan’s conquest of Bengal, he was, for Humayun, merely a leading Afghan sardar who could be appeased by the grant of an appropriate jagir. This shows how little Humayun understood the nature of the Afghan challenge facing him. Sher Khan had already resolved to expel the Mughals from India, and was seeking means to unify the Afghans under his banner in order to do so.
  • It seems that it was not Chunar or even Bihar, but Bengal which was the main bone of contention between Sher Khan and Humayun. Sher Khan’s resolve of conquering Bengal was understandable. There had been a constant clash between Bihar and the rulers of Bengal. As has seen earlier, Nusrat Shah, the ruler of Bengal had at one time dominated Bihar and some parts of eastern U.P. before Babur intervened. After establishing his virtual domination over Bihar, Sher Khan had to fight off a number of Bengali invasions of Bihar. Following the death of Nusrat Shah, and the virtual usurpation of the throne by Sultan Ahmad Shah, Sher Khan carried the fight into Bengal. He thus planned to augment his power and wealth without incurring direct Mughal hostility.
  • Humayun’s demand for Bengal surprised Sher Khan, and he replied that he had not spent all his sweat and blood for the conquest of Bengal to give it up now. Hence, he offered to leave Bihar to Humayun, and to pay him an annual peshkash of ten lakh of rupees out of Bengal if his possession of Bengal was confirmed.
  • From the tone of these negotiations, it is clear that Sher Khan did not consider himself to be a subordinate of Humayun any longer, but an independent ruler. Interestingly, following his victory at Surajgarh (1534) against Nusrat Shah who had sent an army to oust Sher Khan from Bihar, Sher Khan had begun to be calledHazrat-i-Ala(His High Majesty). Nor was Sher Khan in a subordinate relationship with Humayun because his son, Qutb Khan, who had been deputed to serve Humayun with 500 horsemen had left when Humayun undertook the Gujarat campaign.
  • Evidently, Sher Khan considered that the agreement he had made with Humayun at Chunar earlier had lapsed.
  • Humayun had accepted Sher Khan’s offer of Bihar but resiled from it because the defeated king of Bengal, Mahmud Shah, appeared before Humayun, and appealed to him to continue his Bengal campaign because although Gaur had fallen, resistance to Sher Khan was still continuing. Abul Fazl says that this was “an additional reason” for the conquest of Bengal. The Bengal King is also said to have told Humayun that Bengal had immense hoarded treasures.
  • The treasurees it may be added, were an added reason for displacing the Bengal king, not a reason for reinstating him. In any case, the Bengal king died before Humayun entered Bengal.
  • It should also be remembered that Mahmud Shah had assumed the crown after killing his nephew, the son of Nusrat Shah, and was therefore considered a usurper by many. This may account for the absence of any local resistance to Humayun at his conquest of Bengal.
  • The question is why was Humayun so keen to conquer Bengal, specially when Bengal had an independent king and had been a separate kingdom for a long time? Apart from the lure of treasure, the only speculative answer which can be vouchsafed is that consciously or unconsciously, Humayun was trying to re-create the Sultanat of Delhi which at its height extended from Bengal to the north-west, and westward upto the Arabian Sea. There is little doubt that if Humayun had succeeded in his Bengal expedition, he would have had little difficulty in reconquering Gujarat and Malwa, and achieving this objective.
  • Thus, the clash between Humayun and Sher Khan was the clash between two highly ambitious individuals who had the vision of an India north of the Vindhyas being united under one political aegis. The question was under whom — the Mughals or the Afghans?

Conquest and stay of Humayun in bengal

  • Sher Khan detained Humayun at Sikrigalli at the entrance of Bengal only till he had been able to take the bulk of the Bengal treasures to his new place of refuge, fort Rohtas. Thereafter Humayun had an easy passage to Gaur. But that was only the beginning of his difficulties. Like Gujarat earlier, he was at a loss how to manage its governance. Unlike Gujarat, he decided that the only way a measure of stability could be provided to the Bengal administration would be if he stayed in Bengal for some time. The likelihood is that he reached Gaur after the rainy season, in September 1538, and left early next year.
  • But he was not totally inactive as has been alleged. Thus, he had time to receive foreign envoys, and sent Shaikh Bahlol to Hindal to intercede with him when Humayun heard of his rebellion at Agra. Part of the time was spent in festivities of various kinds. Unlike Gujarat, there was no local regional reaction to Mughal rule. But Humayun’s stay in Bengal could not, resolve the basic problem he had faced in Gujarat: viz., that the Mughal nobles were not prepared to stay so far away from what they now considered their home. They looked upon Bengal as a foreign land, and had little interest in its administration. According to Abul Fazl, the great officers who had obtained large territories in fief, gathered the materials of enjoyment and pleasure, and “opened the doors of negligence in the front of their lives. The pillars of sovereignty paid less attention to administration….”.Either because of his easy character or his desire not to displease, Humayun did not pull them up.

Hindal’s rebellion in Agra and Humayun leaves Bengal

  • Matters reached such a pass that when Humayun, hearing of the extension of Hindal’s rebellion at Agra, decided to leave Bengal, he asked Zahid Beg, an old servant, to accept the governorship of Bengal. The latter replied sarcastically, “Was there no better way for my assassination than to be given Bengal?” Humayun was angry and ordered his execution, where upon Zahid Beg fled to Agra, along with Haji Muhammad and Dindar Beg who had been ordered to assist him in Bengal.
  • After patching up a government in Bengal, Humayun started his return journey under adverse circumstances because many of his horses had died in the climate of Bengal. While Humayun was in Bengal, Sher Khan had captured Banaras, besieged Chunar and Jaunpur, and devastated the Mughal possessions upto Kannauj and Sambhal.
  • Sher Khan had also captured Mongyr, so that communications between Humayun and Agra had been largely disrupted.
  • Humayun’s absence from Agra brought to the surface the internal rivalries between Humayun and his brothers, Askari and Hindal who had served Humayun loyally so far.
  • Before entering Bengal, Humayun had asked Hindal who had been given Tirhut and Purnia in jagir, to go there and bring provisions for the army. However, without permission, Hindal repaired to Agra. Meanwhile, many dissatisfied Mughal nobles also left Bengal and joined Hindal at Agra. At their instance, Hindal declared himself anindependent king, and had the khutba read in his name. He even marched on Delhi, but the Mughal commander of the fort refused him admission, forcing him to return to Agra.
  • On hearing news of Hindal’s rebellion, Kamran advanced from Lahore, and succeeded in persuading Hindal to give up his dreams of independence.
  • Meanwhile, Humayun had succeeded in reaching Chausa on the boundary of Bihar and modern U.P. That he was able to bring his army almost intact out of Bengal and Bihar despite the harassing Afghan attacks, and the demoralization in his army, was an achievement for which Humayun deserves credit.

Evaluation of Bengal compaign

  • It is clear from all accounts that the Bengal campaign of Humayun was totally ill -conceived. He should have adhered to Babur’s settlement of the east, and not gone beyond Chunar or, at the most, the town, Bihar, because the Mughals in India were not yet cohesive enough, and their nobility disciplined enough to rule and administer areas far away from Delhi, and obey the Emperor implicitly. Nor had they struck roots in the country, and were neither able nor concerned about gathering local support.
  • The best thing that Humayun could have done in these circumstances was to allow distant regions, such as Gujarat, Malwa, Bengal etc. to be ruled by local rulers who accepted broad Mughal suzerainty and promised loyalty and support.
  • However, Humayun was so obsessed with Mughal superiority, and underestimated his Afghan opponents so much even after his disorganized army had managed to reach Chausa that he was confident of defeating the Afghans, and planned to do so rather than falling back on Agra. That is why it appears unlikely that he would have accepted Sher Khan’s offer of peace said to have been made at this time which implied granting Sher Khan Bengal, the fortress of Chunar, and other jagirs in return for Bihar and promise of loyalty.
  • Having conquered Bengal, to give it up at this juncture would have been tantamount to Humayun’s accepting defeat.

Battle of Chausa

  • In his fight with Sher Khan at Chausa (Battle of Chausa, 26 June, 1539), Humayun followed a faulty strategy, placing the river Karmansa at his back so that a retreat became difficult. He placed his soldiers badly and allowed Sher Khan to take him unawares. After the defeat, Humayun retreated to Agra.
  • Kamran had 10,000 hardened troops at his disposal, but he refused to place them under Humayun’s command since he had lost confidence in Humayun’s military capacities. Earlier, he had ignored Humayun’s urgent missive asking for reinforcements at Chausa, on the ground that if Humayun succeeded it would be harmful to him, that is, that he would try to throw him out from Lahore after defeating the Afghans.
  • Shortly afterwards, Kamran withdrew from Agra to Lahore, ostensibly on the ground of illness. This foredoomed the efforts of Humayun to face Sher Khan again.

Battle of Kannuaj

  • The battle of Kannuaj (17 May, 1540) was fought bitterly, but the outcome was hardly in doubt. Afghans were able to scatter the Mughal army, which mere by panic, fled in confusion. Humayun again escaped from the battle field and from that day , for next 15 years he lived like a wanderer.
  • Sher Khan was now in a position to fulfil his ambition of expelling the Mughals from India. He was also in a better position to carry through Humayun’s half-formulated project of unifying northern India under a single aegis.

Evaluation of Humayun’s Afghan policy

  • It is clear that Humayun never understood the nature of the Afghan challenge, and grossly underestimated Sher Khan. Due to the existence of large numbers of warlike Afghan tribesmen all over north India, the Afghans could always unite under a capable leader and pose a serious challenge.
  • The Mughal nobility was fractious, and its members were not inclined to serve in areas far away from the Agra-Delhi region which was their new home. These were the two most important factors for the failure of Humayun in Gujarat, and against Sher Khan.
  • The opposition of Humayun’s brothers, and Humayun’s fault of character have been generally over emphasised. Despite differences, Humayun was, on the whole, loyally served by Askari and Hindal till his Bengal expedition. Kamran also did not offer any opposition till then, in fact, he helped to quell Hindal’s rebellion. It was only after his defeat at Chausa that his brothers lost faith in him and drifted away, or opposed him, or even tried to get him killed.
  • Despite periods of slothfulness, Humayun proved himself to be a vigorous ruler and a competent general till he came face to face with Sher Khan who showed himself to be a better tactician and a more skillful general.
  • In some ways, Humayun was in advance of his times. His vague ambition of unifying north India under one aegis was not realisable, given the limitations of the Mughal ruling class, and its inability to strike roots in India’s soil in such a short time.


  • After their retreat from Agra to Lahore, Humayun and his brothers were totally unable to decide upon a strategy of how to deal with Sher Khan. Kamran was reconciled to the loss of Punjab to Sher Khan, but was determined to hold on to Kabul. Humayun therefore decided to go to Sindh and to try to conquer Gujarat, and renew his fight with Sher Khan from there.
  • Humayun wandered about in Sindh for two and a half years (Here, he fell in love with Hamida, who was daughter of a sheikh of his brother. In 1542, on October 15, Hamida gave birth to Akbar), but neither the rulers of Sindh, nor Maldeo, the powerful ruler of Marwar, were prepared to stick their necks out to help Humayun in this enterprise. Maldeo invited him, but seeing the small size of his following, set his face against him.
  • Finally, after many adventures, Humayun took shelter at the court of the Iranian king, Shah Tahmasp and with his help, recaptured Qandhar, and then Kabul.

Impact of Humayun’s Persian exile

  • Humayun returned from exile in Persia with thousands of Persians soldiers and nobles. This influx increased the cultural and political influences of the Persians in Mughal Empire. It also applied to the administration of the empire. Persian methods of governance were imported into Kashmir during the remainder of Humayun’s reign. The system of revenue collection was improved by following both the Persian model and that of the Delhi Sultanate.
  • The Persian arts became very influential, and Persian-style miniatures were produced at Mughal (and subsequently Rajput) courts.
  • The Chaghatai language, in which Babur had written his memoirs, disappeared almost entirely from use by of the courtly elite, and Akbar could not speak it. Later in life, Humayun himself is said to have frequently used quotations from Persian verse.
  • It was during this period of wandering about without a kingdom that the best in Humayun’s character came out. Even during his rule over Afghanistan, he showed no rancour against his brothers, and was almost forced by his nobility to take the action of blinding Kamran after his repeated rebellions.

Restoration of the Mughal Empire:

  • Sher Shah Suri had died in 1545; his son and successor Islam Shah died too, in 1554. These two deaths left the dynasty reeling and disintegrating. Three rivals for the throne all marched on Delhi, while in many cities leaders tried to stake a claim for independence. This was a perfect opportunity for the Mughals to march back to India.
  • Humayun, gathered a vast army under the able leadership of Bairam Khan and attempted the challenging task of retaking the throne in Delhi. This was a wise move given Humayun’s own record of military ineptitude, and Bairam was to prove himself a great tactician.
  • But he did hot live long after it, falling from the top floor of his library. Humayun, with his arms full of books, was descending the staircase from his library when the muezzin announced the Adhan (the call to prayer). It was his habit, wherever he heard the summons, to bow his knee in holy reverence. Kneeling, he caught his foot in his robe, tumbled down several steps and hit his temple on a rugged stone edge. He died three days later. They say ‘he tumbled in life and finally tumbled out of it too‘. His death marked the end of one phase, and the beginning of another one in Mughal history.
TOMB OF HUMAYUN in DelhiI commissioned by Humayun’s first wife Bega Begum (Haji Begum)
  • Accession of Humayun 30 Dec. 1530
  • Bahadur Shah annexes Malwa March 1531
  • Humayun besieges Kalinjar July 1531
  • Humayun’s first siege of Chunar Aug. – Sep. 1531
  • Humayun at Agra Oct. 1531-Sep. 1532
  • Battle of Dadrah Oct. 1532
  • Bahadur Shah’s first attack on Chittor Nov. – Dec. 1532
  • Humayun at Gwaliyar Feb. – March 1532
  • Bahadur raises siege of Chittor March 1533
  • Humayun at Delhi—Foundation of Din Panah July 1533 – July 1534
  • Humayun leaves for Kalpi Sep. 1534
  • Humayun returns to Agra Nov. 1534
  • Bahadur Shah’s 2nd attack on Chittor Nov. 1534
  • Defeat of Tatar Khan Nov. 1534
  • Humayun leaves Agra for Sarangpur in Malwa Jan. 1534
  • Fall of Chittor March 1535
  • Defeat of Bahadur at Mandsor Apr. 1535
  • Fall of Mandu June 1535
  • Capture of Champanir Aug. 1535
  • Capture of Ahmadabad Oct. 1535
  • Humayun reaches Mandu mid – 1536
  • Anti-Mughal revolt in Gujarat Nov. 1536
  • Humayun returns to Agra Feb. 1537
  • Humayun leaves for the East July 1537
  • Siege of Chunar Jan. – June 1538
  • Humayun at Gaur Oct. 1538
  • Humayun leaves Gaur Jan. 1539
  • Battle of Chausa June 1539
  • Battle of Kannauj May 1540


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