Babur was descended from Tamerlane on his father’s side and Genghis Khan on his mother’s. Son of a petty ruler of Ferghana in Central Asia, he conquered Afghanistan, then northern India, founding the long-lived mughal (Mogul, or Moghul, the different versions of the spelling all derive from Mongol) dynasty in India.
His body was returned to Kabul, Afghanistan, where hewas buried. He wrote an autobiography of great literary merit called Baburnama (Memoirs of Babur) in his native Turki that recorded his battles, plans for ruling India, his dealings with friends and foes, the flora and fauna of India, and much more.
Zahir ud-din Babur was the son of a petty prince in Ferghana in Central Asia. His father died when he was young and Babur had a difficult youth battling for his patrimony. He left Ferghana for good in 1504 and gained control of Kabul in Afghanistan, then an important stopping place along the trade route between India and Central Asia. In 1526, Babur led 12,000 soldiers into India and at the Battle of Panipat defeated and killed Ibrahim Lodi, a Muslim ruler of northern India who led a huge army of 100,000 horses and 100 elephants. The victory opened his way to Lodi’s capitals Delhi and Agra on the shores of the Jumna River. Babur rewarded his men by distributing the huge quantities of loot that came with victory, and allowed those of his followers who wanted to return to Afghanistan to do so, escorting more booty to reward his people who had stayed behind.
Babur then took the titles Badshah, which means great ruler, and ghazi which means “fighter of the, (Muslim) faith.” Agra and Delhi became his capitals, where he built forts, palaces, and gardens with fountains and running water to alleviate the heat of northern Indian summers. Babur spent the next three years campaigning against both Hindu and Muslim states in northern India, including Bengal; in organizing the administration of the provinces that he had conquered; and in parceling out the land among his supporters in a feudal arrangement. He also began to build a road that would link Delhi and Agra to Kabul. In 1529, when his favorite son and heir, Humayun, became ill Babur performed a ceremony to cure his son by taking on the son’s illness himself. He died shortly later, his health undermined by hard campaigning and India’s hot climate, at age 46.
Babur was a many faceted man. A brilliant military leader, he founded a great empire in India that would last for two and half centuries, laying the foundations for unity in a politically fractured land. He was a builder who personally designed gardens and fountains, a patron of the arts, a poet, and a memoirist. Europeans who came to India during the early Mughal dynasty were so impressed with the splendor of the court that they called the rulers Great Mughals.
Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur