BABAR, ZAHIR UD-DIN MUHAMMAD
BABAR, ZAHIR UD-DIN MUHAMMAD (1483-1530), soldier of fortune, founder of the Mughal dynasty in India, diarist and poet, descending in the fifth generation from Timur, was born on 14 February 1483. In June 1494, he succeeded his father, \’Umar Shaikh\’, as ruler of Farghana, whose revenues supported no more than a few hundred cavalry. With this force of helmeted, mailclad warriors, Babar began his career of conquest. He joined in the family struggle for power, thrice winning and thrice losing Samarkand, alternately master of a kingdom or a wanderer through the hills.
In 1504, he made himself master of Kabul and so came in touch with India whose wealth was a standing temptation. In 1517 and again in 1519, he swept down the Afghan plateau into the plains of India. He entered the Punjab in 1523 on the invitation of Daulat Khan Lodhi, the governor of the province, and \’Alam Khan\’, an uncle of lbrahim Lodhi, the Delhi Sultan.Uzbegh pressure from Baikh, however, compelled Babar to return so that his final invasion was not begun until November 1525.
Even then his total force did not exceed 12,000 men, a tiny army with which to attempt the conquest of lbrahim Lodhi\’s realm and the vast mass of Hindu India. The hostile armies came to grips on 21 April 1526 on the plain of Panipat. In the fiercely contested battle, Ibrahim Lodhi was killed and Babar carried the day. As a result the kingdom of Delhi and Agra fell into Babar\’s hands.
But Babar\’s victory at Panipat did not make him the ruler of India. Rana Sarigram Singh of Mevar claimed Rajput supremacy over India, and advanced towards Agra with a large army. On 16 March 1527, Babar defeated the Rajputs at Khanvah. Early next year he carried the fortress of Chanderi by storm and defeated Medini Rao.
Finally, Babar defeated the Afghan chiefs of Bihar and Bengal in 1529 at Ghagra, near the junction of that river with the Ganga above Patna. The Sikh tradition strongly subscribes to a meeting in 1520 between Guru Nanak and Babar during the latter\’s invasion of Saidpur, now called Eminabad, in Gujranwala district of Pakistan. The town was taken by assault, the garrison put to the sword and the inhabitants carried into captivity. According to the Puratan Janam Sakhi, Guru Nanak and Mardana, also among the captives, were ordered to be taken to prison as slaves.
The Guru was given a load to carry and Mardana a horse to lead. But Mir Khan, says the Janam Sakhi, saw that the Guru\’s bundle was carried without any support and Mardana\’s horse followed him without the reins. He reported this to Sultan Babar who remarked, “If there was such a holy man here, the town should not have been destroyed.” The Janam Sakhi continues, “Babar kissed his (Guru Nanak`s) feet. He said, \’On the face of this faqir one sees God himself.\’ Then all the people, Hindus and Musalmans, began to make their salutations.
The king spoke again, \’0 dervish, accept something\’. The Guru answered, \’I take nothing, but you must release all the prisoners of Saidpur and restore their property to them\’. King Babar ordered, \’Those who are in detention be released and their property be returned to them\’. All the prisoners of Saidpur were set at liberty.” Though Babar\’s Tuzk, or Memoirs, a work of high literary quality, gives many interesting details of the campaigns and the events he was involved in and also describes the Indian life and customs very minutely, there is no mention in these recollections that he met Guru Nanak.
Nevertheless, the possibility of such a meeting having taken place cannot be ruled out. There are references in Guru Nanak\’s bani to Babar\’s invasions. An open tragedy like the one that struck Saidpur moved him profoundly and he described the sorrows of Indians Hindus and Muslims alike in words of intense power and suffering. Babar\’s army, in the words of Guru Nanak, was “the bridal procession of sin.” In fact, Indian literature of that period records no more virile protest against the invading hordes than do Guru Nanak\’s four hymns of Babarvani\’m the Guru Granth Sahib. Babar died on 26 December 1530 at Agra. Several years later his body was moved to its present grave in one of the gardens of Kabul.
1. Beveridge, Annette Susannah, trans., Babur-nama. Delhi, 1989
2. Smith, Vincent A., The Oxford History of India. Oxford, 1958
3. Jaffar, S.M.. The Mughal Empire. Delhi, 1974
4. Harbans Singh, Guru Nanak and Origins of the Sikh Faith. Bombay, 1969