Early Life

Humayun was born in 6 March 1508 to Mughal Emperor Babur and Maham Begum in Kabul  Afghanistan.

He received an upbringing typical for princes of his stature. Humayun learned Turki, Arabic, and Persian. He was also interested in mathematics, philosophy, and astrology.

His father gave him military training and appointed him governor of Badakhashan at the age of 20.
He proved his bravery as a young governor and fought at Panipat and Khanwa, two decisive battles in Indian history.

When Babur had become ill, some of the nobles had tried to install his Brother-in-law, Mahdi Khwaja, as ruler. Many umarah (nobles) don’t viewed Humayun as the rightful ruler.

Empress Bega Begun and Emperor Humayun
Empress Bega Begun and Emperor Humayun

However when babur died in December 1530, Humayun at the age of 23  succeeded his father to the throne of Delhi as ruler of the Mughal territories in the Indian subcontinent.

Humayun as Emperor

Humayun had two major rivals for his lands: Sultan Bahadur of Gujarat to the southwest and Sher Shah Suri (Sher Khan) settled along the river Ganges in Bihar to the east.

In 1535, he was made aware that the Sultan of Gujarat was planning an assault on the Mughal territories with Portuguese aid.

He gathered an army and marched on Bahadur. Within a month he had captured the forts of Mandu and Champaner.

Sultan Bahadur, meanwhile escaped and took up refuge with the Portuguese.

War with Sher Shah Suri

Shortly after he had marched on Gujarat, Sher Shah Suri saw an opportunity to wrest control of Agra from the Mughals. He began to gather his army together hoping for a rapid and decisive siege of the Mughal capital.

Upon hearing this alarming news, Humayun quickly marched his troops back to Agra allowing Bahadur to easily regain control of the territories he had recently taken.

Whilst Humayun succeeded in protecting Agra from Sher Shah. However Sher Shah sacked Gaur the capital of the vilayat of Bengal. Sher Shah got the war chest by depleting the vast wealth of Bengal.

Sher Shah withdrew to the east, but Humayun did not follow: instead he “shut himself up for a considerable time in his Harem, and indulged himself in every kind of luxury.

Hindal, Humayun’s 19-year-old brother, had agreed to aid him in this battle and protect the rear from attack, but he abandoned his position and withdrew to Agra, where he decreed himself acting emperor.

Humayun’s other brother, Kamran Mirza, marched from his territories in the Punjab, ostensibly to aid him. However, his return home had treacherous motives as he intended to stake a claim for Humayun’s apparently collapsing empire.

Battle of Chausa

In June 1539 Sher Shah met Humayun in the Battle of Chausa on the banks of the Ganges, near Buxar. This was to become an entrenched battle in which both sides spent a lot of time digging themselves into positions.

The two rulers also struck a bargain in order to save face: Humayun’s troops would charge those of Sher Shah whose forces then retreat in feigned fear.

He agreed to allow Sher Shah to rule over Bengal and Bihar, but only as provinces granted to him by his Emperor, Humayun, falling short of outright sovereignty.

Once the Army of Humayun had made its charge and Sher Shah’s troops made their agreed-upon retreat, the Mughal troops relaxed their defensive preparations and returned to their entrenchments without posting a proper guard. Observing the Mughals’ vulnerability, Sher Shah broke his earlier agreement.

That very night, his army approached the Mughal camp and finding the Mughal troops unprepared with a majority asleep, they advanced and killed most of them. The Emperor survived by swimming across the Ganges using an air filled “water skin,” and quietly returned to Agra.

Sher Shah was gradually drawing closer and closer to Agra. This was a serious threat to the entire family, but Humayun and Kamran squabbled over how to proceed. Kamran withdrew after he refused to make a quick attack on the approaching enemy.

Exile From India

When Kamran returned to Lahore, his troops followed him shortly afterwards, and Humayun, with his other brothers Askari and Hindal, marched to meet Sher Shah just 240 kilometres (150 mi) east of Agra at the battle of Kannauj on 17 May 1540. He once again made some tactical errors, and his army was soundly defeated.

The four brothers were united in Lahore, but every day they were informed that Sher Shah was getting closer and closer.

He decided it would be wise to withdraw still further. He and his army rode out through and across the Thar Desert.

Rana Prasad Rao of Amarkot duly welcomed Mughals into his home and sheltered the refugees for several months. Here Humayun’s wife Hamida Bano gave birth to the future Emperor Akbar on 15 October 1542.

While in Sindh, Humayun alongside Emir Hussein Umrani, gathered horses and weapons and formed new alliances that helped regain lost territories.

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.

Kamran Mirza ordered his brother Askari Mirza to gather an army and march on Humayun. When Emperor received word of the approaching hostile army he decided against facing them, and instead sought refuge elsewhere.

Persian Help to Regain Empire

Humayun fled to the refuge of the Safavid Empire in Persia, marching with 40 men, his wife Bega Begum.

Shah Tahmasp, unlike Humayun’s own family, actually welcomed the Mughal, and treated him as a royal visitors.

Shah gave him  12,000 elite cavalry  to lead an attack on his brother Kamran. All that Shah Tahmasp asked for was that, if Humayun’s forces were victorious, Kandahar would be his.

With this Persian Safavid aid Humayun took Kandahar from Askari Mirza after a two-week siege.

Reconquest of Afganistan

Humayun now prepared to take Kabul, ruled by his brother Kamran Mirza. In the end, there was no actual siege. People detested Kamran Mirza as a leader. As Humayun’s Persian army approached the city hundreds of Kamran Mirza’s troops changed sides. 

Humayun had a larger army than his brother and had the upper hand. However, on two occasions, his poor military judgement allowed Kamran Mirza to retake Kabul and Kandahar. This forced Humayun to mount further campaigns for their recapture.

His youngest brother, Hindal Mirza, formerly the most disloyal of his siblings, died fighting on his behalf.

Nobles and Aides shakled his brother Askari Mirza was shackled in chains at the behest of his . Humayun allowed him to go on Hajj. He died en route in the desert outside Damascus.

Humayun’s other brother, Kamran Mirza, had repeatedly sought to have him killed. In 1552 Kamran Mirza was apprehended by a Gakhar.

He had Kamran Mirza blinded which would end any claim by the latter to the throne. He sent Kamran Mirza on Hajj, as he hoped to see his brother thereby absolved of his offences. However Kamran Mirza died close to Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula in 1557.

Reconquest of Northern India

Sher Shah Suri had died in 1545; his son and successor Islam Shah died in 1554. These two deaths left the dynasty reeling and disintegrating.

The Mughal Emperor Humayun gathered a vast army and attempted the challenging task of retaking the throne in Delhi. He placed the army under the leadership of Bairam Khan. He took great decision as Bairam proved himself a great tactician. At the Battle of Sirhind on 22 June 1555, He defeated the armies of Sikandar Shah Suri. The Mughal Empire was re-established in India.

Bairam Khan led the army through the Punjab virtually unopposed.

After Sirhind, 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.

On 24 January 1556, Humayun 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.

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