BABAR AND HUMAYUN, THE FIRST MUGHALS
Now we come to the beginning of another great age in our history. It was an age when the fame of India spread throughout the world, and her name became a byword for wealth and luxury. The rich spent lavishly on food, dress and pleasure. New cities were laid out and majestic buildings went up. There was more trade with foreign countries than there had ever been.
Six famous emperors ruled the country during this period. They were known as the Great Mughals. The first of them was Babar; Aurangzeb was the last. Babar came to India as an invader, like his ancestor Timur, but then decided to make it his home and that of his dynasty.
When he was only twelve years old, Babar became King of Farghana, a little kingdom in Central Asia. Babar means 'Lion'. This young ruler feared nothing and Babar was the proper name for him.
When Babar became older, he conguered Kabul. At Kabul he used to sit in his palace and watch camel caravans coming from India, laden with spices and cloth. His thoughts turned again and again to India and he made up his mind to conquer it.
At this time Sultan Ibrahim of the Lodi family was the ruler of Delhi. He was not a very good king. His nobles and officers were not happy. They wanted to get rid of him but were too weak to do so. They had heard of the fearless Babar, who had made many raids on the borders of India. One of the nobles invited Babar to come to Delhi. This was just the chance Babar had been waiting for.
Babar conquered the Punjab without much difficulty. Then he marched upon Delhi. Ibrahim Lodi came out with a huge army three times the size of Babar's. The two met at Panipat. But Babar had firearms and very able generals. One of them was his son Humayun. In those days the use of artillery was new. Ibrahim's elephants got frightened of the noise and turned back and trampled the soldiers on their own side. Twenty thousand men of the Lodi army including Sultan Ibrahim were slain. It was a great victory for Babar. He ordered that every man and woman in Kabul should be presented a silver coin to celebrate his triumph.
RANA SANGA OF MEWAR
Babar still had a powerful enemy in the brave Rana Sanga of Mewar. The Rajput war drums started beating, and 120 chieftains collected under Rana Sanga with all their forces. Some Lodi officers also joined them; there were 500 elephants and 80,000 horses ranged on the Indian side. There was a fearful battle at Khanwa near Agra. The Rajputs suffered a terrible defeat. Babar also defeated the Afghan nobles of Bihar. After these victories his empire stretched right from the Hindukush mountains up to the borders of Bengal.
Babar was a soldier full of courage and the spirit of adventure. But he was also a learned man. He knew Persian and Turki well, and wrote down whatever he saw and felt. All these descriptions are contained in Babar Nama, which is written in beautiful language. It tells us many things about Babar. He was so strong and hardy that he could run with a man under each arm. He could ride 80 miles a day, and swam across every river he met. He was also a kind and generous man. He never let his soldiers bully the people whom they defeated. He had great consideration for his soldiers. When he was a young man, his troops were once lost in a snow-storm in the high mountain passes of the north-west. There was a cave in which he, being a king, could have taken shelter from the biting wind. He refused because he could not bear to be comfortable while his men froze outside.
Babar spent the last year of his life in Agra, dreaming of the cool waters and musk-melons of Farghana, the home he had left behind so many years before. He loved running water and beautiful gardens. On the banks of the Jamuna, among the tamarind trees, Babar laid out many gardens for his pleasure. He planted roses, built marble pavilions, and surrounded himself with every kind of beauty and comfort that would remind him of home. And then he passed away, having laid the foundations of a great empire. His body was taken all the way to Kabul where he was buried.
You have perhaps heard of the famous story of Babar's death. His son Humayun, whom he loved very much, fell ill. A holy man came to comfort Babar and said that if he wanted to save his son's life, he must give up the most precious thing he had. Babar willingly agreed. His nobles thought that he would give up a famous diamond he had, called the Koh-i-Noor. But Babar said his own life was more precious to him than a jewel. As the old man directed, he went three times round Humayun's bed. After this Humayun got better and better. Babar fell ill and died.
Humayun was Babar's favourite son, and was chosen to be king after him. His three brothers were jealous of him. One of them, Kamran, was very selfish. All his life he tricked and deceived Humayun. Although Humayun forgave him again and again, Kamran did not change his ways.
Humayun had been left a large empire by his father. It was up to him to keep it together. But when he came to the throne he was surrounded by enemies. The Afghan chiefs of Bihar and the King of Gujarat wanted to be free of the Mughal emperor.
The first thing Humayun did was to march against the king of Gujarat. The Mughal army defeated the Gujaratis and their king had to flee to the island of Diu. Humayun was very brave in battle. He climbed the heights of the fort of Champaner and was among the first to scale the battlements. But he had one great fault. He liked to enjoy himself even when there were more important things to do. After reconquering Gujarat, he settled down to a life of pleasure.
While Humayun was spending his time drinking and listening to poetry, Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan chief of Bihar, rose in revolt against him. Humayun collected his army and hurried to meet Sher Shah. The fighting went on for two years. Although Humayun was brave himself, he was not a very good general. There was no discipline left in his army. Kamran, who was governor of the north-western territories from which the best soldiers were recruited, refused to help Humayun in his hour of need. Naturally, Humayun was defeated. Most of his army was captured or drowned. It is said that a water-carrier saved his life by letting him cross the river on his bag of skin. Sher Shah Suri became king of Delhi and Agra, while Humayun became a homeless refugee. He wandered from place to place for fifteen years.
With a few faithful followers, Humayun crossed the desert of Rajasthan. Many of them died of heat and thirst. At last he reached a place called Amarkot in Sindh. He felt he was still being pursued by his enemies. So he left his wife at Amarkot and pushed on westwards. He had not travelled far when a messenger came galloping after him with the news that a son had been born to his wife. This new born baby was Akbar, who later became the greatest of the Mughal emperors. Humayun had no money to celebrate the happy occasion. All he had was a piece of musk. This he broke and distributed among the loyal friends who had never left him in his misfortunes. None of his brothers offered him shelter. He was forced to go to Persia and beg the help of the Shah.
SHER SHAH SURI
Sher Shah, who took Humayun's place on the throne of Delhi, was a wise ruler. He was very good to his people, especially the poor peasants. He severely punished thieves, robbers and anybody who gave trouble to the poor people.
He had all the land measured and divided into parganas. Accounts were written in both Persian and Hindi, so that all his subjects could understand them. The peasant had to pay a fixed amount to the king and no officials could get more money out of him than was due.
Sher Shah built many roads and planted trees along them. One of the roads he repaired and broadened was the ancient one which ran from the Afghan border to Bengal. Because of good roads, trade also increased and merchants grew rich.
Sher Shah had been a small landowner in Bihar in the days of Babar. But when he died he was a famous emperor. After his death, there was much confusion and many nobles wanted to become king.
All these years Humayun had been away in Persia. Now was his chance to win back his father's throne. The Shah of Persia came to his help. First Humayun defeated his brother Kamran who was ruling Kabul and then became ruler of Afghanistan. Then he led an army of 15,000 horsemen to India. The Afghan who was then on the throne of Delhi was defeated and fled to the Himalayas. Humayun became once more the emperor of India.
Humayun sat on the throne of Delhi for only six months. One morning, while he was in his library, he heard the call for prayer. He was hurrying down the polished steps of the library when his foot slipped. He was badly hurt and died soon after. His young son, Akbar, became king.