The foundation of the Mughal empire in India was laid by Babur, who was a Chaghtai Turk. He descended from his father’s side from Timur and was connected on his mother’s side with Chingez Khan.
In 1494, at the age of 11 years, Babur inherited the small principality of Farghana, now a province of Chinese Turkistan.
Babur was later deprived of his own patrimony of Farghana and had to spend his days as homeless wanderer for about a year. During this time, while staying with a village headman, he heard the story of Timur’s exploits in India from a old lady and this inspired him to begin preparations to conquer India.
Babur occupied Kabul in 1504 and after this it took him 12 years to advance into the heart of India.
Daulat Khan, the most powerful noble of Punjab, who was discontended with Ibrahim Lodhi, invited Babur to invade India.
Babur occupied Lahore in 1524 but had to retreat to Kabul after Daulat Khan turned against him once he realised that Babur had no desire to give up his Indian conquests.
Babur attacked and occupied Punjab again in November 1525.
On April 21, 1526, Babur proceeded against Ibrahim Lodhi and met him at Panipat (First Battle of Panipat). Although Ibrahim Lodhi’s troops were vastly superior, Babur managed a victory by superior strategy and use of artillery, and quickly occupied Delhi and Agra.
The first battle of Panipat marked the foundation of Mughal dominion in India.
Babur faced the toughest resistance to his expansion plans from the Rajput king Rana Sangha.
Rana Sangha, along with rulers of Marwar, Amber, Gwalior, Ajmer and Chanderi, as also Sultan Mahmood Lodi, whom Rana Sangha had acknowledged as ruler of Delhi, met Babur in a decisive contest at Kanhwa, a village near Agra, on March 16, 1527. The aim was to prevent the imposition of another foreign yoke on India. Babur triumphed over them by using similar tactics as in Panipat. Another major reason for defeat of Indian forces was non-joining of several Afghan chiefs.
While the battle of Panipat marked the defeat of titular Sultan of Delhi, the battle of Kanhwa resulted in defeat of the powerful Rajput confederacy.
Babur met the allied Afghans of Bihar and Bengal on the banks of Gogra, near Patna, and inflicted a crushing defeat on them on May 6, 1529. This battle led to a considerable portion of northern India submitting to him.
Babur died at Agra, at the age of 47, on December 26, 1530. His body was first laid at Arambagh in Agra, but was later taken to Kabul, where it was buried in one of his favourite gardens.
During his four-year stay in India, Punjab, territory covered by United Provinces, and North Bihar were conquered by Babur. Rajput State of Mewar also submitted to him.
Babur’s Memoirs were translated into Persian by Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khananni at the time of Akbar in 1590.
Babur’s son Humayun ascended the throne of India three days after Babur’s death.
Humayun was devoid of wisdom and discretion, as well as strong determination and perseverance of his father. Thus, as a king he was a failure.
Six months after his accession, Humayun besieged the fortress of Kalinjar in Bundelkhand, gained a decisive victory over Afghans at Douhrua and drove out Sultan Mahmood Lodhi from Jaunpur, and even defeated Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. His victories, however, were short-lived due to weakness of his character.
Humayun’s forces were defeated by Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri at Chaunsa near Buxar in June 1539.
On May 17, 1540, the Mughals and the Afghans met again opposite Kannauj. Humayun’s hopelessly demoralised army was defeated at the battle, commonly known as battle of Kannauj—also known as battle of the Ganges or Bilgram. Thus, the sovereignty of India once more passed to the Afghans. Humayun had to leave the life of a wanderer for 15 years.
The intense rivalry of Humayun’s brothers—Kamran, Askari and Hindal— also made it difficult for Humayun to pool all his resources and fight back.
During his wanderings in deserts of Sindh in 1952, Humayun married Hamida Banu Begum, daughter of Sheikh Ali Amber Jaini, who had been a preceptor of Humayun’s brother Hindal.
On November 23, 1542, Humayun was blessed with a son, Akbar, at Amarkot.
Amarkot’s Hindu chief Rana Prasad promised Humayun help to conquer Thatta and Bhakker.
Humayun, however, could not conquer Bhakker, nor could he secure asylum. He, thus, left India and threw himself on the generosity of Shah Tahmashp of Persia.
Shah of Persia helped Humayun with a force of 14,000 men on his promising to confirm to Shia creed, to have the Shah’s name proclaimed in his Khutba and to cede Kandhar to him on his success.
With Persian help Humayun captured Kandhar and Kabul in 1545 but refused to cede Kandhar to Persia.
Civil war among the Suris, after the death of Sher Shah Suri, gave Humayun an excellent opportunity to reclaim the throne of Delhi. In February 1555, he captured Lahore, and after a few months captured Delhi and Agra also.
On January 24, 1556, Humayun died following an accidental fall from the staircase of his library in Delhi.
On February 14, 1556, at the age of 13, Akbar was proclaimed as the successor of Humayun.
At the time when Akbar ascended to the thrown, the country had ceased to enjoy the benefits of reforms of Sher Shah Suri, through the follies and quarrels of his successors, and was also effected by a terrible famine.
At the time when Humayun died, Potuguese were in possession of Goa and Diu. The Suris were still in occupation of the Sher Shah’s dominion. From Agra to Malwa, and the confines of Jaunpur, owned the sovereignty of Adil Shah. Delhi to the smaller Rohtas on the road to Kabul was in hands of Shah Sikander. The borders of the hills to the boundaries of Gujarat belonged to Ibrahim Khan. Sind and Multan had become independent from the imperial control. Orissa, Malwa, Gujarat and the local chieftains of Gondwana had also became independent. South of the Vindhyas lay the extensive Vijayanagar empire and the Muslim Sultanates of Khandesh, Berar, Bidar, Ahmadnagar and Golkunda expressed no interest in northern politics.
Hemu, general and minister of Adil Shah Suri opposed the Mughals soon after accession of Akbar.
Hemu occupied Agra and Delhi by defeating Tardi Beg, the Mughal governor of Delhi.
Hemu assumed the title of Raja Vikramjit or Vikramaditya after his victory in Delhi.
Akbar, alongwith his trusted guardian Bairam Khan, challenged Hemu at Panipat, resulting in the second battle of Panipat. A chance arrow hit in the eye resulted in Hemu falling unconscious, which led to his soldiers dispersing in confusion. The battle marked the real beginning of the Mughal rule in India and set it on the path of expansion.
Sikander Suri surrendered to Akbar in 1557 and was granted a fief in the eastern province. He was later expelled by Akbar and died as a fugitive.
Ibrahim Suri, after wandering from place to place, found asylum in Orissa, where he was killed about 10 years later. With his death there remained no one from the Suri clan to challenge Akbar’s claim to sovereignty.
Sher Shah Suri effected the revival of Afghan power and established a glorious, though short, regime in India by ousting the newly established Mughal authority.
Originally, Sher Shah’s name was Farid. His grandfather, Ibrahim, was an Afghan of Suri tribe and lived near Peshawar. His father’s name was Hassan.
Farid was conferred the title of Sher Khan by Bahar Khan Lohani, independent ruler of Bihar, for having shown gallantry by killing a tiger single-handed.
Sher Shah joined the Babur’s camp in April 1527 and remained in it till June 1528. In return for his services, Babur restored the jagir of Sasaram to him.
The war against allied troops of Bengal Sultan and the Lohanis of Surajgarh, on the banks of Kiul river was a turning-point in the career of Sher Shah. It made him the undisputed ruler of Bihar.
The victory in battle with the Mughal forces led by Humayun, at Chaunsa near Buxar, led to Sher Shah becoming de facto ruler of the territories ruled by the Mughals.
On May 17, 1540, in the Battle of Kannauj, Sher Shah’s forces gave a crushing defeat to Humayun’s forces and the sovereignity of India once again passed to the Afghans.
Sher Shah died on May 22, 1545 from an accidental explosion of gun-powder.
Sher Shah divided his empire into 47 units (sarkars), each of which was sub-divided into several paraganas.
The paragana had one Amin, one Shiqdar, one treasurer, one Hindi text writer and one Perisan writer to keep accounts.
Shiqdar-i-Shiqdaran and Munsif-i-Munsifan supervised the works of the paragana officers.
Sher Shah’s land revenue reforms have unique importance in the adminis-trative history of India. They served as the model for future agrarian systems.
Sher Shah settled the land revenue directly with the cultivators, the State demand being fixed at one-fourth or one-third of the average produce, payable in either kind or cash.
For actual collection of revenue the services of officers like Amins, Muqadams, Shiqdars, Qanungos and the Patwaris were taken.
The rights of tenants were recognised and the liabilities of each were clearly defined in the kabuliyat (deed of agreement) and the patta (title-deed).
Sher Shah connected the impor-tant places by a chain of excellent roads. The longest of these was the Grand Trunk Road, which still survives and extended from Sonargaon in East Bengal to the Indus. One road ran from Agra to Burhanpur, another from Agra to Jodhpur and a fourth from Lahore to Multan.
Sarais or rest-houses were set-up at different places along the roads. These also served the purpose of post-houses.
Sher Shah re-organised the army, borrowing largely the main principles of Ala-ud-din Khilji’s military system.
After Sher Shah’s death, his son Jalal Khan was proclaimed king under the title of Sultan Islam Shah, commonly known as Salim Shah.
Salim Shah was a strong and efficient ruler but he died young in November 1554 and disorder soon followed.