The Mughal or the “mongol” dynasty represent one of the most glorious, illustrious empires our country has seen second only to perhaps the Mauryas who reigned many centuries ago. There’s a certain fascination with this period (atleast with me) mostly cause of the sheer aura, the grandeur and opulence the dynasty came to signify- The Mughal impact is evident in its contribution towards our art and architecture,music, literature, basically anything related to aesthetics. They fostered elegance, high life, a kind of nazakat-tehzeeb in our way of living and conduct.
The early foundation of the empire was laid by Babur as we all know so well from our history books. He invaded India in 1526, captured Delhi by defeating Ibrahim Lodi, thereby topping their empire and giving birth to his own. Not much is known about Babur mostly because he died after ruling India for only 5 years and that too was embroiled in serious conflicts with the existing Afghans,Pathans and other factious clans trying to gain prominence at the time. The story of Babur before his Indian conquest is actually very interesting, by the time he invaded India he was in his 40s and capturing India was actually his last resort of ruling any country in his lifetime.
Born Zahir-ud-din Mohammad nickname Babur was christened king of a small province called Ferghana at a tender age of 12. From there on began his arduous journey to set up his rule westwards towards Samarkand and beyond. Babur was obsessed with capturing Samarkand mostly because from there he wished to start setting up his empire in line with his ancestors -Timur and Chengiz khan before him. However that was not to be, he tried his best to capture the country, he briefly succeeded even but only to be toppled again by his bitter Uzbeg enemy Shaibani Khan. After losing Samarkand, Shaibani Khan pretty much drove out Babur from the entire region and for many years he was a wandering brigand- A king without a kingdom. Finally he got a lucky break at Kabul where he ruled for some years but he was restless. Although Kabul was a rich and prosperous center, it was not quite the grand kingdom he has hoped to build. So after all his failings he looked eastwards -towards India. He had heard about the riches and the immense wealth that awaited him, however neither he nor his army were keen on settling here owning to the extreme weather conditions India was prone towards. Nonetheless, he wanted to rule over a big kingdom and India was his only chance left- so off he went.
THE INDIAN CONQUEST
Babur had a relatively easy conquest at the Battle of Panipat where he faced the existing Lodi ruler- Ibrahim. Despite being outnumbered by at least an half in army size of the Lodis, the Mughals were able to secure a victory owing to their strong unity and innovative war tactics. Ibrahim’s army although big was deeply divided and fragmented, Ibrahim himself was not a popular or even an able ruler and this is where the scales started tipping in Baburs favour. After few days of incursion Ibrahim was killed and his army was disabled completely. Babur spearheaded his way to Delhi, secured the treasury there and subsequently captured Agra as well. From here on Babur had laid his supremacy.
An interesting event occurred during these times- The famous Koh-i-noor diamond is believed to have emerged for the first time here. During the conquest the Raja of Gwalior presented the enormous luminous stone to Babur’s son Humayun in return for his and his family’s safety. It is believed that diamond was so beautiful and mindbogglingly big that Babur christened it as Koh-i-Noor (meaning Mountain light) The diamond itself has changed several hands and there’s a legend behind this as well (maybe a short subject for my next post)
After the conquest of Delhi and Agra, Babur started his campaign to capture Mewar. However this was short lived as he passed away very soon after due to illness. Even his death is surrounded with an interesting story. It is believed that his favourite son Humayun fell ill due to some unknown reason and was on verge of dying. Babur left his campaign midway to rush to his sons care and it is then believed he prayed to God that he takes his life and saves his sons instead. He recited this by circumambulating his sons sick bed praying over and over for his safety. Very soon after this incident Humayun recovered quickly while Baburs health started to deteriorate and he finally passed away at 47
Babur was extremely fond of flaura and fauna. he carefully documented all types he came across from his journey in Central Asia to India. His personal memoir- Tazuk-i-Babiri holds a vivid account of this, along with details of conquests his views and feelings about the Indian people. He was never pleased with the extreme weather, he also had a slight aversion towards the idol worshiping Hindus. Sometimes he used to label them as infidels other times he was fascinated by the practices and rituals. He is also responsible of laying down several gardens similar to ones in Kabul across his palaces in India. Most of these are however non existent today.
His most significant and only contribution towards architecture was building the Babri Mosque- the much contentious mosque believed to be built over Hindu lord Rams birth place, which was recently demolished and had caused much stir. Not many know this but Babri masjid was not built after him but his gay lover- Babri. Bi-sexuality was common practice among Mughals, Babur however was believed to be a homosexual (its still a debated issue). The story goes back when Bebur met the young Babri while traveling through a local bazaar, he was believed to have fallen madly in love with him at the first sight and he immediately took him as part of his key entourage. After a long lived dalliance he build this mosque in his memory.
This is pretty much it about the first Mughal ruler of India. Next post will be on son the 2nd Mughal emperor- Humayun