Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, popularly known as “Babur”, meaning lion, was the founder of Mughal Empire in India. He was born in Farghana, now in Uzbekistan, on February 14, 1483. The Mughal Empire founded by him lasted for 331 years.

Babur was a descendant of Timur on his father’s side and of Chengez Khan on his mother’s side. When Babur’s father Umar Sheikh Mirza died in 1494, he inherited the ancestral kingdom of Farghana. He was only 14 years old at that time. Babur faced many hardships during this period of his life. He was driven out of his father’s state and for two years became a wanderer. In 1504, he came to Afghanistan and occupied Kabul. Here he assumed the title of Padshah.

On account of his precarious position in Central Asia, after crossing the Indus, he invaded India five times. The fifth expedition resulted in the death of Ibrahim Lodhi in the first battle of Panipat, in April 1526. Panipat was merely the beginning of the Mughal rule; Akbar laid its real foundation in 1556. At the time of the battle of Panipat, the political power in India was shared by the Afghans and the Rajputs. In the battle of Kanwaha, Babur defeated the Rajput leader Rana Sanga of Mewar. In 1528, he captured Chanderi from the Rajput chief, Medini Rao and a year later he defeated the Afghan chiefs under Mahmud Lodhi in the battle of Ghagra in Bihar. These conquests made Babur the “Master of Hindustan”, and the founder of Mughal Empire in the Sub-continent.

Babur did not live long to rule his Kingdom. Towards the end of Babur’s life, his eldest son Humayun fell seriously ill. It is said that in a religious ceremony, he transferred his son’s illness to himself and sacrificed himself in order to save Humayun. As Humayun recovered, the former became worse and after two or three months Babur died at Agra on December 26, 1530. Babur was buried at Kabul, in accordance with his own wishes.

Babur’s personality can be judged by his own memoirs Tuzk-i-Baburi, also known as Babur Namah, written in Turkish, personally transcribed by his son Humayun, and afterwards translated into Persian during the reign of Akbar. It is considered among the most enthralling and romantic literary works of all times. Babur possessed in him the qualities of a born leader. He was not only a brilliant general but also a great swordsman who had the quality of correctly gauging the strength and the weakness of the commanders and armies opposed to him. Babur was a man of extraordinary energy and strength. He had been known to take up a man under each arm and run with them round the battlements of a fortress. He swam and crossed all the rivers of the Indian Sub-continent. He was perpetually in saddle, riding 80 miles a day. Babur was pre-eminently a man of faith. “Nothing happens” he used to say, “but by the will of God”.

During his brief period of absolute rule over India, Babur did not have the time, or indeed the opportunity, to set the affairs of state in permanent manner. Babur on his death left an empire barely held by force of arms, and lacking any consolidated civil administration. After him his 23 years old son Humayun came to power to rule an empire set up by his father.

This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003