Humayun – Muslim Warrior

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Humayun was the second Mughal Emperor who ruled over territory in what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India from 1531–1540 and again from 1555–1556. Like his father, Babur, he lost his kingdom early, but regained it with the aid of the Safavid dynasty of Persia, with additional territory. At the time of his death in 1556, the Mughal Empire spanned almost one million square kilometers.Humayun succeeded his father in December 1530, as ruler of the Mughal territories in the Indian subcontinent. At the age of 23, Humayun was an inexperienced ruler when he came to power. His half-brother Kamran Mirza inherited Kabul and Lahore, the northernmost parts of their father’s empire. Mirza was to become a bitter rival of Humayun.

Humayun lost Mughal territories to the Pashtun noble, Sher Shah Suri, and, with Persian (Safavid) aid, regained them 15 years later. Humayun’s return from Persia was accompanied by a large retinue of Persian noblemen and signaled an important change in Mughal court culture. The Central Asian origins of the dynasty were largely overshadowed by the influences of Persian art, architecture, language and literature. There are many stone carvings and thousands of Persian manuscripts in India dating from the time of Humayun.Subsequently, in a very short time, Humayun was able to expand the Empire further, leaving a substantial legacy for his son, Akbar. His peaceful personality, patience and non-provocative methods of speech earned him the title ’Insān-i-Kamil (Perfect Man), among the Mughals.

1.Background
Babur’s decision to divide the territories of his empire between two of his sons was unusual in India although it had been a common Central Asian practice since the time of Genghis Khan. Unlike most monarchies which practised primogeniture, the Timurids, following Genghis Khan’s example, did not leave an entire kingdom to the eldest son. Although under that system only a Chingissid could claim sovereignty and khanal authority, any male Chinggisid within a given sub-branch had an equal right to the throne. (Although the Timurids were not Chinggisid in their paternal ancestry) While Genghis Khan’s Empire had been peacefully divided between his sons upon his death, almost every Chinggisid succession since had resulted in fratricide.

Timur himself had divided his territories among Pir Muhammad, Miran Shah, Khalil Sultan and Shah Rukh, which resulted in inter-family warfare. Upon Babur’s death, Humayun’s territories were the least secure. He had ruled only four years, and not all umarah (nobles) viewed Humayun as the rightful ruler. Indeed, earlier, when Babur had become ill, some of the nobles had tried to install his uncle, Mahdi Khwaja, as ruler. Although this attempt failed, it was a sign of problems to come.

2.Early reign
When Humayun came to the throne several of his brothers revolted against him. Another brother Khalil Mirza (1509–30) supported Humayun but was assassinated. The Emperor commenced construction of a tomb for his brother in 1538 but this was uncompleted when Humayun was forced to flee to Persia. Sher Shah destroyed the structure and no further work was done on it after Humayun’s restoration.

Humayun had two major rivals for his lands — Sultan Bahadur of Gujarat to the south west and Sher Shah Suri (Sher Khan) settled along the river Ganges in Bihar to the east. Humayun’s first campaign was to confront Sher Khan Suri. Halfway through this offensive Humayun had to abandon it and concentrate on Gujarat, where a threat from Ahmed Shah had to be met. Humayun was victorious annexing Gujarat, Malwa, Champaner and the great fort of Mandu.

During the first five years of Humayun’s reign, Bahadur and Sher Khan extended their rule, although Sultan Bahadur faced pressure in the east from sporadic conflicts with the Portuguese. While the Mughals had obtained firearms via the Ottoman Empire, Bahadur’s Gujarat had acquired them through a series of contracts drawn up with the Portuguese, allowing the Portuguese to establish a strategic foothold in north western India.

Humayun was made aware that the Sultan of Gujarat was planning an assault on the Mughal territories with Portuguese aid. Humayun gathered an army and marched on Bahadur. Within a month he had captured the forts of Mandu and Champaner. However, instead of pressing his attack, Humayun ceased the campaign and consolidated his newly conquered territory. Sultan Bahadur, meanwhile escaped and took up refuge with the Portuguese.

3.Retreat to Kabul
Humayun and his Mughal Army consisting largely of Qizilbash defeats Kamran Mirza in 1553.
After Humayun set out from his expedition in Sindh, along with 300 camels (mostly wild) and 2000 loads of grain, he set off to join his brothers in Kandahar after crossing the Indus River on 11 July 1543 along with the ambition to regain the Mughal Empire and overthrow the Suri dynasty. Among the tribes that had sworn allegiance to Humayun were the Magsi, Rind and many others.

In Kamran Mirza’s territory, Hindal Mirza had been placed under house arrest in Kabul after refusing to have the Khutba recited in Kamran Mirza’s name. His other brother Askari Mirza was now ordered to gather an army and march on Humayun. When Humayun received word of the approaching hostile army he decided against facing them, and instead sought refuge elsewhere. Akbar was left behind in camp close to Kandahar for, as it was December it would have been too cold and dangerous to include the 14-month-old toddler in the forthcoming march through the dangerous and snowy mountains of the Hindu Kush. Askari Mirza found Akbar in the camp, and embraced him, and allowed his own wife to parent him, she apparently started treating him as her own.

Once again Humayun turned toward Kandahar where his brother Kamran Mirza was in power, but he received no help and had to seek refuge with the Shah of Persia.

4.Refuge in Persia
Humayun fled to the refuge of the Safavid Empire in Persia, marching with 40 men and his wife and her companion through mountains and valleys. Amongst other trials the Imperial party were forced to live on horse meat boiled in the soldiers’ helmets. These indignities continued during the month it took them to reach Herat, however after their arrival they were reintroduced to the finer things in life. Upon entering the city his army was greeted with an armed escort, and they were treated to lavish food and clothing. They were given fine accommodations and the roads were cleared and cleaned before them. Shah Tahmasp, unlike Humayun’s own family, actually welcomed the Mughal, and treated him as a royal visitor. Here Humayun went sightseeing and was amazed at the Persian artwork and architecture he saw: much of this was the work of the Timurid Sultan Husayn Bayqarah and his ancestor, princess Gauhar Shad, thus he was able to admire the work of his relatives and ancestors at first hand.

5.Marriage relations with the Khanzadas
Soon after Babur’s death, his successor, Humayun, was in AD 1540 supplanted by the Pathan Sher Shah, who, in AD 1545, was followed by Islam Shah. During the reign of the latter a battle was fought and lost by the Emperor’s troops at Firozpur Jhirka, in Mewat, on which, however, Islam Shah did not loose his hold. Adil Shah, the third of the Pathan interlopers, who succeeded in AD 1552, had to contend for the Empire with the returned Humaiyun.

In these struggles for the restoration of Babar’s dynasty Khanzadas apparently do not figure at all. Humaiyun seems to have conciliated them by marrying the elder daughter of Jamal Khan, nephew of Babar’s opponent, Hasan Khan, and by causing his great minister, Bairam Khan, to marry a younger daughter of the same Mewatti.

Bairam Khan led the army through the Punjab virtually unopposed. The fort of Rohtas, which was built in 1541–43 by Sher Shah Suri to crush the Gakhars who were loyal to Humayun, was surrendered without a shot by a treacherous commander. The  walls of the Rohtas Fort measure up to 12.5 meters in thickness and up to 18.28 meters in height. They extend for 4 km and feature 68 semi-circular bastions. Its sandstone gates, both massive and ornate, are thought to have exerted a profound influence on Mughal military architecture.

The only major battle faced by Humayun’s armies was against Sikander Suri in Sirhind, where Bairam Khan employed a tactic whereby he engaged his enemy in open battle, but then retreated quickly in apparent fear. When the enemy followed after them they were surprised by entrenched defensive positions and were easily annihilated.

From here on most towns and villages chose to welcome the invading army as it made its way to the capital. On 23 July 1555, Humayun once again sat on Babur’s throne in Delhi.

6.Ruling Kashmir
With all of Humayun’s brothers now dead, there was no fear of another usurping his throne during his military campaigns. He was also now an established leader, and could trust his generals. With this new-found strength Humayun embarked on a series of military campaigns aimed at extending his reign over areas in eastern and western India. His sojourn in exile seems to have reduced Humayun’s reliance on astrology, and his military leadership came to imitate the more effective methods that he had observed in Persia.

7.Death and legacy
On 27 January 1556, Humayun, with his arms full of books, was descending the staircase from his library when the muezzin announced the Azaan (the call to prayer). It was his habit, wherever he heard the summons, to bow his knee in holy reverence. Trying to kneel, 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. His body was laid to rest in Purana Quila initially, but because of attack by Hemu on Delhi and capture of Purana Qila, Humayun’s body was exhumed by the fleeing army and transferred to Kalanaur in Punjab where Akbar was coronated. His tomb stands in Delhi, where he was later buried in a grand way.

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