Military Wiki
A portrait of Babur, from an early illustrated manuscript of the Baburnama
figure 1 of Babur
Succeeded by Humayun
Personal details
Born (1483-02-14)February 14, 1483
Andijan, Mughalistan
Died December 26, 1530(1530-12-26) (aged 47) (age 47)
Agra, Mughal Empire
Religion Islam

Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur (14 February 1483 – December 1530; sometimes also spelt Baber or Babar) was a conqueror from Central Asia who, following a series of setbacks, succeeded in laying the basis for the Mughal dynasty in the Indian Subcontinent and became the first Mughal emperor. He was a direct descendant of Timur through his father and a descendant of Genghis Khan through his mother.

Babur was also a poet and a writer. He wrote both in Persian and his mother-tongue Chaghatai Turkic.[1][2] His memoirs Baburnama, which were originally written in Turkic,[3] have been translated into many languages.

Babur is regarded as a great leader and is held in high esteem both in the Turkic- and Persian-speaking worlds. While some sources claim that Babur was mostly influenced by and spread the Persian culture,[4][5] others hold that his empire was Turkic in nature and that he mainly contributed to the expansion of the Turkic culture.[2][6] Soviet and Uzbek sources regard Babur as an ethnic Uzbek, but most scholars refute this view, saying that Babur actually considered Uzbeks as his enemies.[6][7]


Ẓahīr ad-Dīn Muḥammad (Persian: ﻇﻬﻴﺮﺍﻟﺪﻳﻦ محمد‎, also known by his royal titles as al-ṣultānu 'l-ʿazam wa 'l-ḫāqān al-mukkarram bādshāh-e ġāzī), is more commonly known by his nickname, Bābur (بابر). He used the royal title of Padshah.[8]

According to Stephen Frederic Dale, the name Babur is derived from the Persian word babr, meaning "tiger", a word that repeatedly appears in Firdawsī's Shāhnāma[1] and had also been borrowed by the Turkic languages of Central Asia.[9][10] This thesis is supported by the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, explaining that the Turko-Mongol name Timur underwent a similar evolution, from the Sanskrit word cimara ("iron") via a modified version *čimr to the final Turkicized version timür, with -ür replacing -r due to the Turkish vowel harmony (hence babrbabür).[11]

Contradicting these views, W.M. Thackston argues that the name cannot be taken from babr and instead must be derived from a word that has evolved out of the Indo-European word for beaver, pointing to the fact that the name is pronounced bāh-bor[12] in both Persian and Turkic, similar to the Russian word for beaver (бобр – bobr). Babur's cousin, Mirzā Muḥammad Haydar, said that

At that time the Chaghatái (descendants of Genghis Khan) were very rude and uncultured (bázári), and not refined (buzurg) as they are now; thus they found Zahir-ud-Din Muhammad difficult to pronounce, and for this reason gave him the name of Bábar. In the public prayers (khutba) and in royal mandates he is always styled 'Zahir-ud-Din Bábar Muhammad,' but he is best known as Bábar Pádisháh.[13]

Babur on his throne


Babur wrote his memoirs and these form the main source for details of his life. They are known as the Baburnama and were written in Chaghatai Turkic, his mother-tongue,[3] though his prose was highly Persianized in its sentence structure, morphology and vocabulary.[1] Baburnama was translated in Persian during the rule of Babur's grandson Akbar.[3]

Early life

Umar Sheikh Mirza – Father of Babur, ca.1875–1900

Babur was born on February 14 [O.S. ] 1483[14] in the city of Andijan, in Andijan Province in Fergana Valley in contemporary Uzbekistan. He was the eldest son of Omar Sheykh Mirzā,[15] ruler of the Fergana Valley, the son of Abū Saʿīd Mirza (and grandson of Miran Shah, who was himself son of Timur) and his wife Qutlugh Nigar Khanum, daughter of Yunus Khan, the ruler of Moghulistan (and great-great grandson of Tughlugh Timur, the son of Esen Buqa I, who was the great-great-great grandson of Chaghatai Khan, the second born son of Genghis Khan).[12][16][page needed]

The family tree of Babur

Although Babur hailed from the Barlas tribe which was of Mongol origin, his tribe had embraced Turkic[17] and Persian culture,[18][19] converted to Islam and resided in Turkestan and Khorasan. His mother tongue was the Chaghatai language (known to Babur as Turkī, "Turkic") and he was equally at home in Persian, the lingua franca of the Timurid elite.[20]

Hence Babur, though nominally a Mongol (or Moghul in Persian language), drew much of his support from the local Turkic and Iranian people of Central Asia, and his army was diverse in its ethnic makeup. It included Persians (known to Babur as "Sarts" and "Tajiks"), ethnic Afghans, Arabs, as well as Barlas and Chaghatayid Turco-Mongols from Central Asia.[21] Babur's army also included Qizilbāsh fighters, a militant religious order of Shi'a Sufis from Safavid Persia who later became one of the most influential groups in the Mughal court.

Babur claimed in his memoir to be strong and physically fit; claiming to have swam across every major river he encountered, including twice across the Ganges River in North India.[22] His passions could be equally strong. In his first marriage he was "bashful" towards Aisha Sultan Begum, later losing his affection for her.[23] Babur also had a great passion to kill people, cut heads off people and create pillars out of the cut off heads. He claimed to have created several such pillars in his autobiography.[24]

Though religion had a central place in his life, Babur also approvingly quoted a line of poetry by one of his contemporaries: "I am drunk, officer. Punish me when I am sober". He quit drinking alcohol before the Battle of Khanwa, only two years before his death for health reasons, and demanded that his court do the same. But he did not stop chewing narcotic preparations, and did not lose his sense of irony. He wrote, "Everyone regrets drinking and swears an oath (of abstinence); I swore the oath and regret that."[25]

Origins of the Mughal Empire

Foreign Relations

Babur's early relations with the Ottomans were very troubling because the Ottoman Sultan Selim I provided his arch rival Ubaydullah Khan with powerful matchlocks and cannons.[26] In the year 1507, when ordered to accept Selim I as his rightful suzerain Babur refused, and gathered Qizilbash servicemen in order to counter the forces of Ubaydullah Khan during the Battle of Ghazdewan. In the year 1513, Ottoman Sultan Selim I reconciled with Babur (probably fearing that he would join the Safavids), dispatched Ustad Ali Quli the artilleryman and Mustafa Rumi the Matchlock marksman and many other Ottoman Turks, in order to assist Babur in his conquests. Thenceforth this particular assistance proved to be the basis of future Mughal-Ottoman relations.[27]

Military career

Babur and his Mughal Army saluting the Nine Standards introduced by Genghis Khan.

In 1495, at twelve years of age, Babur succeeded his father as ruler of Farghana, in present-day Uzbekistan.[28] His uncles were relentless in their attempts to dislodge him from this position as well as many of his other territorial possessions to come.[29] Thus, Babur spent a large portion of his life without shelter and in exile, aided by friends and peasants. In 1497, he besieged the city of Samarkand for seven months before eventually gaining control of it.[30] Meanwhile, a rebellion amongst nobles back home approximately 350 kilometres (220 mi) away robbed him of Farghana.[30] As he was marching to recover it, Babur's troops deserted in Samarkand, leaving him with neither Samarkand nor Fergana.[citation needed]

A scene from the Baburnama.

In 1501, he laid siege on Samarkand once more, but was soon after defeated by his most formidable rival, Muhammad Shaybani, khan of the Uzbeks.[30][31] Samarkand, his lifelong obsession, was lost again. Escaping with a small band of followers from Fergana, for three years Babur concentrated on building up a strong army, recruiting widely amongst the Tajiks of Badakhshan in particular. In 1504, he was able to cross the snowy Hindu Kush mountains and captured Kabul[30] from the Arghunids, who were forced to retreat to Kandahar. With this move, he gained a wealthy new kingdom and re-established his fortunes and assumed the title of Padshah. In the following year, Babur united with Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqarah of Herat, a fellow Timurid and distant relative, against the usurper Muhammad Shaybani.[32] However, the death of Sultan Husayn Mirza in 1506 delayed that venture. Babur instead stayed at Herat, spending just two months there before being forced to leave due to diminishing resources.[32] Nevertheless, he marvelled at the intellectual abundance in Herat, which he stated was "filled with learned and matched men.",[33] and became acquainted with the work of the Uzbek poet Mir Ali Shir Nava'i, who encouraged the use of Chagatai as a literary language. Nava'i's proficiency with the language, which he is credited with founding,[34] may have influenced Babur in his decision to use it for his memoirs.

A brewing rebellion finally induced him to return to Kabul from Herat, Khorasan. He prevailed on that occasion, but two years later a revolt among some of his leading generals drove him out of Kabul. Escaping with very few companions, Babur soon returned to the city, capturing Kabul again and regaining the allegiance of the rebels. Meanwhile, Muhammad Shaybani was defeated and killed by Ismail I, Shah of Shia Safavid Persia, in 1510,[35] and Babur used this opportunity to attempt to reconquer his ancestral Timurid territories. Over the following few years, Babur and Shah Ismail would form a partnership in an attempt to take over parts of Central Asia. In return for Ismail's assistance, Babur permitted the Safavids to act as a suzerain over him and his followers.[36] Conversely, Shah Ismail reunited Babur with his sister Khānzāda, who had been imprisoned by and forced to marry the recently deceased Shaybani.[citation needed]

Formation Of Mughal Empire

Timurid conqueror Babur crossing the Son River.[37]

By 1502, Babur had resigned all hopes of recovering Farghana, he was left with nothing and was forced to try his luck someplace else.[38] Opportunity came in 1504 when son of his uncle, Mirza Ulugh Beg who had died in 1501, Abdul Razzak, was ousted by usurper Mukin Beg from the seat of Kabul.[38] The strong current of opposition arose amongst the populace, which wanted to the usurper to be dethroned, Babur managed the whole situation to his own advantage and occupied Kabul in 1504 and will remain the ruler untill 1526.[38]

Mustafa Rumi, leading Babur's forces armed with early Matchlocks.

Babur, even though being the ruler of Kabul, didn't gave up the dream of reclaiming Samarkand, in 1513 he tried reclaiming it after death of Shaibani.[38] Entering alliance with Shah of Persia, Babur was successful in capturing Bokhara and Samarkand, but his success was shortlived, as he was driven out a year later.[38] After this defeat Babur gave full attention on conquest of India, launching a campaign he reached Chenab in 1519.[38] At the time India was under the rule of Ibrahim Lodi of Lodi dynasty, but the empire was crumbling and there were many defectors, to note he received invitations from Daulat Khan Lodi, Governor of Punjab and Ala-ud-Din, uncle of Ibrahim.[39] He sent an ambassador to Ibrahim, claiming himself the rightful heir to the throne of the country, however the ambassador was detained at Lahore and released months later.[38] Babur started for Lahore in 1524 and found that Daulat Khan Lodi has been turned out by an Afghan Chief, Babur defeated the Chief and installed Ala-ud-Din as Governor of Lahore and returned to Kabul.[39] But Ala-ud-Din was later driven out by Daulat Khan Lodi and he fled to Kabul.[38] Meanwhile Babur was busy making preparations for his coming campaign, included artillery and other technological mechanisms(like Matchlocks etc.) and refined his strategies.

First battle of Panipat

Mughal artillery and troops in action during the Battle of Panipat (1526) .

Babur started his campaign in November 1525, when he reached Peshawar he got the news that Daulat Khan Lodi had switched sides and drove out Ala-ud-Din. Babur then marched onto Lahore to confront Daulat Khan Lodi, only to see Daulat's army melt away at their approach.[38] Daulat surrendered and was pardoned, thus within three weeks of crossing the Indus Babur became the master of Punjab.

Babur marched onto Delhi via Sirhind, he reached the historical field of Panipat on 20 April 1526, where he met Ibrahim Lodi along with his numerically superior army of about 100,000 soldiers and 100 elephants.[38][39] The battle began on morning of 21 April 1526, Babur utilised the tactic of Tulugma, encircled the Ibrahim Lodi's army and forcing them to face artillery fire directly, and frightening the war elephants utilised by the Delhi's army.[39][40]

Babur and the Mughal Army at the Urvah valley in Gwalior.

Ibrahim Lodi died during the battle thus ending the Lodi Dynasty.[38][40] Babur wrote in his memoirs about his victory :

By the grace of the Almighty God, this difficult task was made easy to me and that might army, in the space of a half a day was laid in dust.[38][39][41]

After the battle Babur occupied Delhi and Agra, seated himself on the throne of Lodi and laid the foundation of the Mughal Rule in India, but it was yet to be established and Babur was yet to become the ruler of India, as new contenders for the throne like, Rana Sanga, who rose to challenge his rule[42]

Battles with the Rajputs

Khusrau Shah Kokultash pays homage and fealty to Babur, prior to the Battle of Khanwa.

Although master of Delhi and Agra, Babur records in his memoirs that he had sleepless nights because of continuing worries over Raja Hasan Khan, Mewatpatti (title, Lord of Mewat), the Khanzada ruler of Mewat, Rana Sanga, the Rajput ruler of Mewar.

In A.D. 1526 a new power appeared in India. Babur, who claimed to be the representative of Timur Lang, after winning the battle of Panipat, took possession of Delhi and Agra ; and determined that his enterprise should not be a mere raid like Timur's, but the foundation of a new and lasting empire. Then it was that the Rajputs made their last great struggle for independence. They were led by Rana Sanga, a chief of Mewar, who invited the Mewatti chief, Hasan Khan, to aid the nation from which he had sprung in resisting the new horde of Musalmans from the north.[43][full citation needed]

The political position of Hasan Khan at this time was a very important one. Babur, in his autobiography, speaks of him as the prime mover in all the confusions and insurrections of the period. He had, he states, vainly shown Hasan Khan distinguished marks of favour, but the affections of the infidel lay all on the side of the natives i.e., the Hindus ( Indians ) ; and the propinquity of his country to Delhi, no doubt, made his opposition especially dangerous. Hasan Khan's seat at this time was at Ulwur, but local tradition says that he was originally established at Bahadarpur, eight miles from Ulwur.[citation needed]

Babur says that the ancestors of his opponent Hasan Khan had governed Mewat in uninterrupted succession for nearly 200 years, and that Tejara was their capital.[44] In another place he calls him Raja Hasan Khan Mewati, an infidel, who was the prime mover and agitator in the insurrection against the Mughals.[45] The title of Raja and the term " infidel " show that Babur was aware of Hasan Khan's Hindu descent, and the period of '* nearly 200 years" most probably refers to the date when his ancestor became a Muslim in the reign of Firoz Shah between A.H. 752 and 790.[46][full citation needed]

The Rajput lords had, prior to Babur's intervention, succeeded in conquering some of the Sultanate's territory. They ruled an area directly to the southwest of Babur's new dominions, commonly known as Rajputana as well as fortified dominions in other parts of northern India. It was not a unified kingdom, but rather a confederacy of principalities, under the informal suzerainty of Rana Sanga, head of the senior Rajput dynasty.[citation needed]

The Rajputs had possibly heard word of the heavy casualties inflicted by Lodi on Babur's forces, and believed that they could capture Delhi, and possibly all Hindustan. They hoped to bring it back into Hindu Rajput hands for the first time in almost three hundred and fifty years since Sultan Shah-al Din Muhammad of Ghor defeated the Rajput Chauhan King Prithviraj III in 1192.[citation needed]

Furthermore, the Rajputs were well aware that there was dissent within the ranks of Babur's army. The hot Indian summer was upon them, and many troops wanted to return home to the cooler climes of Central Asia. The Rajputs' reputation for courage preceded them, and their superior numbers no doubt further contributed to the desire of Babur's army to retreat.According to Babur's own calculations the potential strength of the Rajput army was much larger than that deployed by the Lodis at Panipat. Babur resolved to make this an extended battle, and decided to push further into India, into lands never previously claimed by the Timurids. He needed his troops to defeat the Rajputs.[citation needed]

Despite the unwillingness of his troops to engage in further warfare, Babur was convinced he could overcome the Rajputs and gain complete control over Hindustan. He made great propaganda of the fact that for the first time he was to battle non-Muslims, the Kafir, to the extent of taking a vow to abstain from drinking (a common fraction among his people) for the rest of his life to win divine favour, and declared the war against Rana Sanga.[citation needed]


After Babur fell seriously ill, Humayun was summoned from his Jagir, but eventually fell sick himself[47]

Babur died at the age of 47 on January 5 [O.S. 26 December 1530] 1531, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Humayun. In accordance to his will, his body was moved to Kabul,Afghanistan there it lies in Bagh-e Babur (Babur Gardens).[47]


Mughal Emperor Babur supervising the construction of an Imperial Garden.

Some sources claim that Babur was influenced by the Persian culture and gave rise to the expansion of the Persianate ethos in the Indian subcontinent.[4][5] For example, F. Lehmann has written:

His origin, milieu, training, and culture were steeped in Persian culture and so Babur was largely responsible for the fostering of this culture by his descendants, the Mughals of India, and for the expansion of Persian cultural influence in the Indian subcontinent, with brilliant literary, artistic, and historiographical results.[18]

Other sources hold that Babur mostly contributed to the growth of the Turkic culture.[2][48] Although all applications of modern Central Asian ethnonyms to people of Babur's time are anachronistic, Soviet and Uzbek sources regard Babur as an ethnic Uzbek.[49][50][51][52] At the same time, during the Soviet Union Uzbek scholars were censored for idealizing and praising Babur and other historical figures such as Ali-Shir Nava'i.[53] According to Dilip Hiro, Babur considered Uzbeks as his enemies and regarded himself a "Timuri Turk."[6]

Babur is considered a national hero in Uzbekistan.[54][55] Many of Babur's poems have become popular Uzbek folk songs, especially by Sherali Jo‘rayev.[56] Some sources claim that Babur is a national hero in Kyrgyzstan too.[57] Babur is also held in high esteem in Afghanistan and Iran. In October 2005, Pakistan developed the Babur Cruise Missile, named in his honor.

Babri mosque

Babur is popularly believed to have demolished the Rama Temple at Ayodhya and built Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. However, from the three inscriptions which once adorned the surface of the mosque it becomes apparent that the mosque was constructed during his reign on the orders of Mir Baqi, who was one of the generals of Babur's forces sent towards this region. In 2003, The Archaeological Survey of India was asked to conduct a more in-depth study and an excavation to ascertain the type of structure that was beneath the rubble of Babri masjid.[58] The summary of the ASI report [59] indicated "no mention of a temple, only of evidence of a massive structure, fragments of which speak about their association with temple architecture of the Saivite style."[60] It was destroyed in 1992 sparking off communal clashes around the country.[61] resulting in the killing of thousands of Muslims and Hindus.[62] Demolition of the Babri structure revealed remnants of prior Hindu construction within the walls of Babri. On 6 December 1992, Babri Masjid was demolished by Karsevaks of Ramajanmabhumi movement mobilised by the call given by organisations like VHP and Bajrangdal. LK Advani of BJP was a leading figure of the movement, along with several other leaders of Hindu organisations.[63][64]


See also

References and sources

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  4. 4.0 4.1 F. Lehmann: Ẓahīr-al-Dīn Moḥammad Bābor. In Encyclopaedia Iranica. Online Ed. December 1988 (updated August 2011). "BĀBOR, ẒAHĪR-AL-DĪN MOḤAMMAD (6 Moḥarram 886-6 Jomādā I 937/14 February 1483-26 December 1530), Timurid prince, military genius, and literary craftsman who escaped the bloody political arena of his Central Asian birthplace to found the Mughal Empire in India. His origin, milieu, training, and education were steeped in Persian culture and so Bābor was largely responsible for the fostering of this culture by his descendants, the Mughals of India, and for the expansion of Persian cultural influence in the Indian subcontinent, with brilliant literary, artistic, and historiographical results."
  5. 5.0 5.1 Robert L. Canfield, Robert L. (1991). Turko-Persia in historical perspective, Cambridge University Press, p.20. "The Mughals-Persianized Turks who invaded from Central Asia and claimed descent from both Timur and Genghis – strengthened the Persianate culture of Muslim India".
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  22. Elliot, Henry Miers (1867–1877). "The Muhammadan Period". The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. John Dowson (ed.). London: Trubner. Retrieved 2008-04-02. "...and on the same journey, he swam twice across the Ganges, as he said he had done with every other river he had met with." 
  23. "The Memoirs of Babur, Volume 1, chpt. 71". Memoirs of Zehīr-ed-Dīn Muhammed Bābur Emperor of Hindustan, Written by himself, in the Chaghatāi Tūrki. Translated by John Leyden and William Erskine, Annotated and Revised by Lucas King. Oxford University Press. 1921. "Āisha Sultan Begum, the daughter of Sultan Ahmed Mirza, to whom I had been betrothed in the lifetime of my father and uncle, having arrived in Khujand, I now married her, in the month of Shābān. In the first period of my being a married man, though I had no small affection for her, yet, from modesty and bashfulness, I went to her only once in ten, fifteen, or twenty days. My affection afterwards declined, and my shyness increased; in so much, that my mother the Khanum, used to fall upon me and scold me with great fury, sending me off like a criminal to visit her once in a month or forty days." 
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Further reading

  • Balabanlilar, Lisa (2012). Imperial Identity in the Mughal Empire: Memory and Dynastic Politics in Early Modern South and Central Asia. London: I. B. Taurus. 

External links

Timurid Dynasty
Born: 14 February 1483 Died: 26 December 1530
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Mughal Emperor
Succeeded by

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