Babur (14 Feb 1483 – 26 Dec 1530), born Zahīr ud-Dīn Muhammad, was the ultimate founder and first Emperor of the Mughal dynasty in the Indian subcontinent. He was a direct descendant of Emperor Tamerlane the Great (Timur) and Genghis Khan himself.
Ẓahīr-ud-Dīn is Arabic for “Defender of the Faith” (of Islam), and Muhammad honours the Islamic prophet. The difficulty of pronouncing the name for his Central Asian Turco-Mongol army may have been responsible for the greater popularity of his nickname Babur,The name is generally taken in reference to the Persian babr, meaning “tiger”
Babur bore the royal titles Badshah and al-ṣultānu ‘l-ʿazam wa ‘l-ḫāqān al-mukkarram pādshāh-e ġāzī. He and later Mughal emperors used the title of mirza and gurkhan as regalia.
Babur was born in Andijan, today in Uzbekistan and ruled the Fergana Valley from nearby Osh . He pondered his future on Salaiman Mountain atop which he constructed a mosque and concluded that the confines of the Fergana would cramp his aspirations as a descendant of famous conquering warrior princes. He wrote of the Osh:
“There are many sayings about the excellence of Osh. On the southeastern side of the Osh fortress is a well-proportioned mountain called Bara-Koh, where, on its summit, Sultan Mahmud Khan built a pavilion. Farther down, on a spur of the same mountain, I had a porticoed pavilion built in 902 (1496-7)
Babur was born in Andijan, in the Fergana Valley, in modern Uzbekistan. Babur ruled from nearby Osh in Fergana Valley, located in modern Kyrgyzstan, pondered his future on Sulayman Mountain and even constructed a mosque atop of the mountain. Babur somehow concludes that the confines of the Fergana would cramp his aspirations as a descendant of famous conquering warrior princes. He wrote of the city:
“There are many sayings about the excellence of Osh. On the southeastern side of the Osh fortress is a well-proportioned mountain called Bara-Koh, where, on its summit, Sultan Mahmud Khan built a pavilion. Farther down, on a spur of the same mountain, I had a porticoed pavilion built in 902 (1496-7)”
Babur is renown for the “Memoirs of Babur” or Baburnama. As their most recent translator declares, “said to ‘rank with the Confessions of St. Augustine and Rousseau, and the memoirs of Gibbon and Newton,’ Babur’s memoirs are the first–and until relatively recent times, the only–true autobiography in Islamic literature.”
The Baburnama tells the tale of the prince’s struggle first to assert and defend his claim to the throne of Samarkand and the region of the Fergana Valley. After being driven out of Samarkand in 1501 by the Uzbek Shaibanids, he ultimately sought greener pastures, first in Kabul and then in northern India, where his descendants were the Moghul (Mughal) Dynasty ruling in Delhi until 1858.
Babur was the eldest son of Umar Sheikh Mirza, governor of Fargana and great grandson of Timberlane the Great (Timor). Genghis Khan gave the territory known as Turkestan to his son, Chagataia nd the area became the Chagatai Khanate. Timurtook over the western portion of Turkestan in 1369 and the area became part of the Timurid Empire. Eastern portion of Turkestan was also called Mogulistan, and continued to be ruled by descendants of Genghis Khan.
Babur ascended the throne of Farghana in its capital Akhsikent in 1494 at the age of twelve and faced rebellion. He conquered Samarkand two years later, only to lose the vilayat of Fergana soon after. In his attempt to reconquer Fergana, he lost control of Samarkand.
In 1501, his attempt to recapture both vilayats went in vain as he was defeated by Muhammad Shaybani Khan. In 1504, he conquered Kabul, which was under the rule of the infant heir of Ulugh Begh. Babur formed a partnership with Safavid ruler Ismail I and reconquered parts of Turkistan, including Samarkand, only to again lose it and the other newly conquered lands to the Sheybanids.
After losing Samarkand for the third time, Babur turned his attention to the South. At that time, the Indo-Gangetic Plain of the northern Indian Subcontinent was ruled by Ibrahim Lodi of the Afghan Lodi dynasty, whereas Rajputana was ruled by a Hindu Rajput Confederacy, led by Rana Sanga of Mewar. According to historical records and Baburnama (autobiography written by Babur himself) Daulat Khan Lodi invited him to attack on Delhi where Ibrahim Lodi was ruling at that time. He sent his ambassador to him to support him in his attack on Delhi.
Also in 1524, Daulat Khan Lodi, a rebel of the Lodhi dynasty, invited Babur to overthrow Ibrahim and become ruler. Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi at the First Battle of Panipat in 1526 CE and founded the Mughal Empire.
However, he again faced opposition, this time from Rana Sanga of Mewar and Medini Rai,another rajput ruler in the battle of Chanderi who considered Babur a foreigner. The Rana was defeated in the Battle of Khanwa.
Babur married several times. Notable among his sons are Humayun, Kamran Mirza and Hindal Mirza. Babur died in 1530 and was succeeded by Humayun. According to Babur’s wishes, he was buried in the gardens of Bagh-e-Babur in Kabul. Being a patrilineal descendant of Timur, Babur considered himself a Timurid and Chagatai Turkic. He is considered a national hero in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Many of his poems also have become popular folk songs. He wrote his autobiography, Baburnama (Here), in Chaghatai Turkic and this was translated into Persian and annoated with fine drawings during the reign of Akbar the Great
Beware if you see these drawings of Central Asian cities on the internet. They were made in Dehli and show an Indian view of Central Asia. (See my post Mughul Dynasty for what happens next.