The Early Mughals
India’s reputation of being the only known source of diamond mines in the world and its flourishing international trade attracted many invaders. North Indian kingdoms resisted invasions by Arab-Turks for centuries but soon, small Islamic Empires or Sultanates were established in several parts of the North.
Before these invasions, Muslim trading communities who arrived from Arabia in small numbers via the Indian Ocean, were already trading in coastal South India, especially Kerela.
Arabs, Turks and Afghans invaded parts of North India and established the Delhi sultanate in the former Rajput regions during the twelfth and thirteenth century.
There was a great impact on culture with the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate. An Indo-Muslim culture evolved and this could be seen in architecture, music, literature and religion. The language of Urdu was developed at this time which is said to be a mix of Sanskrit, Persian, Turkish and Arabic. The Delhi Sultanate was the only Indo-Islamic Empire which placed Razia Sultan, a woman, on the throne.
Qutb-ud-din Aybak was responsible for establishing the Delhi Sultanate. Shams-ud-din Iltumish then later established a Turkish Kingdom in Delhi, which enabled future Sultans to conquer Kingdoms in different directions. The Delhi sultanate, over the next few centuries extended its kingdom right up to Bengal and the Deccan.
Timur, a Turkish-Mongol conqueror, launched a massive campaign to invade India. He attacked Sultan Nasir-ud-din Mehmud of the Tughlaq Dynasty in Delhi, leaving the city in ruins.
This led to the fall of the Delhi Sultanate and the emergence of Mughal rule in India.
Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur was the founder of the Mughal Empire. He was the descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan. His armies who invaded India under his leadership compromised of Turkish, Persian and Pashtun soldiers. Babur with the help of his armies defeated the last of the Sultans, Ibrahim Shah Lodhi in the First Battle of Panipat in 1526. Even though Babur’s army was smaller in size, his 12,000 men who were well trained succeeded in beating an army of more than a 100,000 men. Babur however, did have the advantage of superior cavalry tactics, firearms and guns.
Babur then went on to crush, Rana Sanga of Chittor and achieved many other military victories. However, just five years into his reign, he passed away. His biggest legacy was that he left a set of descendants who fulfilled his dream of an Islamic Empire in India.
Babur was succeeded by his son, Humayun. At the age of 12, his father appointed him as the governor of Badakshan, and this is where he proved his administrative skills and bravery.
However, after ascending the throne, his people realized that he lacked his father’s clever and crafty mind, even though he was a great soldier. He got addicted to the luxuries of the palace and did not take much action against the Rajputs and Afghans who were conspiring against him.
Even his own brothers conspired against him, but he refused to believe it and gave them positions of power. Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan general who served under Babur was one of Humayun’s biggest threats. Humayun thought that Sher Shah Suri had a small army and therefore, he chose to ignore him. But in reality, Sher Shah had gathered an impressive number of Afghan soldiers who were loyal and well trained.
After realising that there was reason for feeling threatened, Humayun marched to Chunar, Sher Shah’s territory, while the latter was away at Gaur. But in spite of the absence of their leader, his men fought fiercely and Humayun was forced to retreat.
Sher Shah in the meantime, went about capturing Bihar and Jaunpur which was under Mughal rule. Facing humiliation, Humayun clashed with Sher Shah two more times. The first battle was at Chausa where he and his men suffered a crushing defeat and Humayun barely escaped with his life. The second battle at Kannauj brought an end to Humayun’s reign. Afghan rule was established with the capture of Delhi and Agra.
Humayun fled to Persia where he lived in exile for 15 years after being betrayed by his brothers. In exile, his wife gave birth to their son, Akbar.
After the death of Sher Shah Suri, his empire began to crumble as his successor could not re-create Sher Shah’s magic.
Humayun on realizing this, put an army together with the help of a Persian King and marched towards Delhi. The following year, he managed to capture Delhi, along with Kabul and Kandahar and defeated Sikander Suri, Sher Shah’s successor, ascending the throne at Agra, thus bringing an end to his days in exile.
His years in exile changed him. After ascending the throne, Humayun devoted his time to the State. His greatest achievements lay in the field of painting. He brought several painters from Persia and they laid the foundation for Mughal art and style. From here on, there was a fusion of Persian and Indian styles.
Humayun’s reign was short-lived. He died in a tragic accident after falling off his library steps. He was succeeded by his son Akbar, who went on to become on of the greatest Mughal kings ever known.
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