Mughal Emperor Humayun
|2nd Mughal Emperor|
26 December 1530 – 17 May 1540
22 February 1555 – 27 January 1556
|Coronation||29 December 1530, Agra|
|Successor||Akbar the Great|
17 March 1508|
Kabul, Mughal Empire (present-day Afghanistan)
27 January 1556
Delhi, Mughal Empire (present-day India)
|Burial||Humayun's Tomb, Nizamuddin East, Delhi, India|
Hamida Banu Begum
Mah Chuchak Begum
Bibi Gunwar Begum
Maywa Jan Aghacha
Mirza Muhammad Hakim
Ibrahim Sultan Mirza
Aqiqa Sultan Begum
Jahan Sultan Begum
Bakshi Banu Begum
Amina Banu Begum
Sakina Banu Begum
|House||House of Timur|
Humayun (Persian: نصیر الدین محمد همایون; Turkish: Hümayûn; OS 7 March 1508 – OS 27 January 1556) was the second Mughal Emperor who ruled over territory in what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India from 1531–1540 and again from 1555–1556. Like his father, Babur, he lost his kingdom early, but regained it with the aid of the Safavid dynasty of Persia, with additional territory. At the time of his death in 1556, the Mughal empire spanned almost one million square kilometers.
Humayun succeeded his father in 1531, as ruler of the Mughal territories in the Indian subcontinent. At the age of 23, Humayun was an inexperienced ruler when he came to power. His half-brother Kamran Mirza inherited Kabul and Lahore, the more northern parts of their father's empire. Mirza was to become a bitter rival of Humayun.
Humayun lost Mughal territories to the Pashtun noble, Sher Shah Suri, and, with Persian (Safavid) aid, regained them 15 years later. Humayun's return from Persia was accompanied by a large retinue of Persian noblemen and signaled an important change in Mughal court culture. The Central Asian origins of the dynasty were largely overshadowed by the influences of Persian art, architecture, language and literature. There are many stone carvings and thousands of Persian manuscripts in India dating from the time of Humayun.
Subsequently, in a very short time, Humayun was able to expand the Empire further, leaving a substantial legacy for his son, Akbar. His peaceful personality, patience and non-provocative methods of speech earned him the title ’Insān-i-Kamil (Perfect Man), among the Mughals.
- 1 Background
- 2 Early reign
- 3 Sher Shah Suri
- 4 Retreat to Kabul
- 5 Refuge in Persia
- 6 Kandahar and onwards
- 7 Restoration of the Mughal Empire
- 8 Foreign relations
- 9 Death and legacy
- 10 Full title
- 11 See also
- 12 Footnotes
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
Babur's decision to divide the territories of his empire between two of his sons was unusual in India although it had been a common Central Asian practice since the time of Genghis Khan. Unlike most monarchies which practised primogeniture, the Timurids, following Genghis Khan's example, did not leave an entire kingdom to the eldest son. Although under that system only a Chingissid could claim sovereignty and khanal authority, any male Chinggisid within a given sub-branch had an equal right to the throne. (Although the Timurids were not Chinggisid in their paternal ancestry) While Genghis Khan's Empire had been peacefully divided between his sons upon his death, almost every Chinggisid succession since had resulted in fratricide.
Timur himself had divided his territories among Pir Muhammad, Miran Shah, Khalil Sultan and Shah Rukh, which resulted in inter-family warfare. Upon Babur's death, Humayun's territories were the least secure. He had ruled only four years, and not all umarah (nobles) viewed Humayun as the rightful ruler. Indeed earlier, when Babur had become ill, some of the nobles had tried to install his uncle, Mahdi Khwaja, as ruler. Although this attempt failed, it was a sign of problems to come.
When Humayun came to the throne several of his brothers revolted against him. Another brother Khalil Mirza (1509-30) supported Humayun but was assassinated. The Emperor commenced construction of a tomb for his brother in 1540 but this was uncompleted when Humayun was forced to flee to Persia. Sher Shah destroyed the structure and no further work was done on it after Humayun's restoration.
Humayun had two major rivals for his lands — Sultan Bahadur of Gujarat to the south west and Sher Shah Suri (Sher Khan) settled along the river Ganges in Bihar to the east. Humayun’s first campaign was to confront Sher Khan Suri. Halfway through this offensive Humayun had to abandon it and concentrate on Gujarat, where a threat from Ahmed Shah had to be met. Humayun was victorious annexing Gujarat, Malwa, Champaner and the great fort of Mandu.
During the first five years of Humayun's reign, Bahadur and Sher Khan extended their rule, although Sultan Bahadur faced pressure in the east from sporadic conflicts with the Portuguese. While the Mughals had obtained firearms via the Ottoman Empire, Bahadur's Gujarat had acquired them through a series of contracts drawn up with the Portuguese, allowing the Portuguese to establish a strategic foothold in north western India.
Humayun was made aware that the Sultan of Gujarat was planning an assault on the Mughal territories with Portuguese aid. Humayun gathered an army and marched on Bahadur. Within a month he had captured the forts of Mandu and Champaner. However, instead of pressing his attack, Humayun ceased the campaign and consolidated his newly conquered territory. Sultan Bahadur, meanwhile escaped and took up refuge with the Portuguese.
Sher Shah Suri
Shortly after Humayun had marched on Gujarat, Sher Shah 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 Humayun had recently taken. A few months later, however, Bahadur was dead, killed when a botched plan to kidnap the Portuguese viceroy ended in a fire-fight which the Sultan lost.
Whilst Humayun succeeded in protecting Agra from Sher Shah, the second city of the Empire, Gaur the capital of the vilayat of Bengal, was sacked. Humayun's troops had been delayed while trying to take Chunar, a fort occupied by Sher Shah's son, in order to protect his troops from an attack from the rear. The stores of grain at Gauri, the largest in the empire, were emptied and Humayun arrived to see corpses littering the roads. The vast wealth of Bengal was depleted and brought East giving Sher Shah a substantial war chest.
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 abandoned his position and withdrew to Agra where he decreed himself acting emperor. When Humayun sent the grand Mufti, Sheikh Buhlul, to reason with him, the Sheikh was killed. Further provoking the rebellion, Hindal ordered that the Khutba or sermon in the main mosque at Agra be read in his name, a sign of assumption of sovereignty. When Hindal withdrew from protecting the rear of Humayun's troops, Sher Shah's troop quickly reclaimed these positions, leaving Humayun surrounded.
Humayun's other brother, Kamran, marched from his territories in the Punjab, ostensibly to aid Humayun. However, his return home had treacherous motives as he intended to stake a claim for Humayun's apparently collapsing empire. He brokered a deal with Hindal which provided that his brother would cease all acts of disloyalty in return for a share in the new empire which Kamran would create once Humayun was deposed.
Sher Shah met Humayun in battle on the banks of the Ganges, near Benares, in Chausa. This was to become an entrenched battle in which both sides spent a lot of time digging themselves into positions. The major part of the Mughal army, the artillery, was now immobile, and Humayun decided to engage in some diplomacy using Muhammad Aziz as ambassador. Humayun 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. 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. Thus honour would, supposedly, be satisfied.
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 reneged on 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 the Ganges using an air filled "water skin," and quietly returned to Agra. Humayun was assisted off the Ganges by Shams al-Din Muhammad.
When Humayun returned to Agra, he found that all three of his brothers were present. Humayun once again not only pardoned his brothers for plotting against him, but even forgave Hindal for his outright betrayal. With his armies travelling at a leisurely pace, 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 Humayun refused to make a quick attack on the approaching enemy, instead opting to build a larger army under his own name.
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 Kanauj on 17 May 1540. The battle once again saw Humayun make some tactical errors, and his army was soundly defeated. He and his brothers quickly retreated back to Agra, but they chose not to stay in Agra, and retreated to Lahore, since Sher Shah followed them. The founding of the short-lived Sur Dynasty (which contained only him and his son)of northern India with its capital at Delhi, resulted in Humayun's exile for 15 years in the court of Shah Tahmasp I.
The four brothers were united in Lahore, but every day they were informed that Sher Shah was getting closer and closer. When he reached Sirhind, Humayun sent an ambassador carrying the message "I have left you the whole of Hindustan (i.e. the lands to the East of Punjab, comprising most of the Ganges Valley). Leave Lahore alone, and let Sirhind be a boundary between you and me." Sher Shah, however, replied "I have left you Kabul. You should go there." Kabul was the capital of the empire of Humayun's brother Kamran Mirza, who was far from willing to hand over any of his territories to his brother. Instead, Kamran approached Sher Shah, and proposed that he actually revolt against his brother and side with Sher Shah in return for most of the Punjab. Sher Shah dismissed his help, believing it not to be required, though word soon spread to Lahore about the treacherous proposal and Humayun was urged to make an example of Kamran and kill him. Humayun refused, citing the last words of his father, Babur "Do nothing against your brothers, even though they may deserve it."
Humayun decided that it would be wise to withdraw still further, Humayun and his army rode out through and across the Thar Desert, when the Hindu ruler Rao Maldeo Rathore allied himself with Sher Shah Suri against the Mughal Empire. In many accounts Humayun mentions how he and his heavily pregnant wife, had to trace their steps through the desert at the hottest time of year. All the wells had been filled with sand by the nearby Hindu inhabitants in order to starve and exhaust the Mughals further, leaving them with nothing but berries to eat. When Hamida's horse died, no one would lend the Queen (who was now eight months pregnant) a horse, so Humayun did so himself, resulting in him riding a camel for six kilometeres (four miles), although Khaled Beg then offered him his mount. Humayun was later to describe this incident as the lowest point in his life.
He asked that his brothers join him as he fell back into Sindh. While the previously rebellious Hindal Mirza remained loyal and was ordered to join his brothers in Kandahar. Kamran Mirza and Askari Mirza instead decided to head to the relative peace of Kabul. This was to be a definitive schism in the family.
Humayun expected aid from the Emir of Sindh, Hussein Umrani, whom he had appointed and who owed him his allegiance. The Emir Hussein Umrani welcomed Humayun's presence and was loyal to Humayun just as he had been loyal to Babur against the renegade Arghuns. Whilst in the oasis garrison of Umerkot in Sindh, Hamida daughter of noble Sindhi, gave birth to Akbar on 15 October 1542, the heir-apparent to the 34-year-old Humayun. The date was special because Humayun consulted his Astronomer to utilize the astrolabe and check the location of the planets.
While in Sindh, Humayun alongside Emir Hussein Umrani, gathered horses and weapons and formed new alliances that helped regain lost territories. Until finally Humayun had gathered hundreds of Sindhi and Baloch tribesmen alongside his Mughals and then marched towards Kandahar and later Kabul, thousands more gathered by his side as Humayun continually declared himself the rightful Timurid heir of the first Mughal Emperor Babur.
Retreat to Kabul
After Humayun set out from his expedition in Sindh, along with 300 camels (mostly wild) and 2000 loads of grain, 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. Among the tribes that had sworn allegiance to Humayun were the Magsi, Rind and many others.
In Kamran Mirza's territory, Hindal Mirza had been placed under house arrest in Kabul after refusing to have the Khutba recited in Kamran Mirza's name. His other brother Askari Mirza was now ordered to gather an army and march on Humayun. When Humayun received word of the approaching hostile army he decided against facing them, and instead sought refuge elsewhere. Akbar was left behind in camp close to Kandahar for, as it was December it would have been too cold and dangerous to include the 14-month-old toddler in the forthcoming march through the dangerous and snowy mountains of the Hindu Kush. Askari Mirza found Akbar in the camp, and embraced him, and allowed his own wife to parent him, she apparently started treating him as her own.
Refuge in Persia
Humayun fled to the refuge of the Safavid Empire in Persia, marching with 40 men and his wife and her companion through mountains and valleys. Amongst other trials the Imperial party were forced to live on horse meat boiled in the soldiers' helmets. These indignities continued during the month it took them to reach Herat, however after their arrival they were reintroduced to the finer things in life. Upon entering the city his army was greeted with an armed escort, and they were treated to lavish food and clothing. They were given fine accommodations and the roads were cleared and cleaned before them. Shah Tahmasp, unlike Humayun's own family, actually welcomed the Mughal, and treated him as a royal visitor. Here Humayun went sightseeing and was amazed at the Persian artwork and architecture he saw: much of this was the work of the Timurid Sultan Husayn Bayqarah and his ancestor, princess Gauhar Shad, thus he was able to admire the work of his relatives and ancestors at first hand.
He was introduced to the work of the Persian miniaturists, and Kamaleddin Behzad had two of his pupils join Humayun in his court. Humayun was amazed at their work and asked if they would work for him if he were to regain the sovereignty of Hindustan: they agreed. With so much going on Humayun did not even meet the Shah until July, some six months after his arrival in Persia. After a lengthy journey from Herat the two met in Qazvin where a large feast and parties were held for the event. The meeting of the two monarchs is depicted in a famous wall-painting in the Chehel Sotoun (Forty Columns) palace in Esfahan.
The Shah urged that Humayun convert from Sunni to Shia Islam, and Humayun eventually and reluctantly accepted, in order to keep himself and several hundred followers alive. Although the Mughals initially disagreed to their conversion they knew that with this outward acceptance of Shi'ism, Shah Tahmasp was eventually prepared to offer Humayun more substantial support. When Humayun's brother, Kamran Mirza, offered to cede Kandahar to the Persians in exchange for Humayun, dead or alive, Shah Tahmasp refused. Instead the Shah staged a celebration for Humayun, with 300 tents, an imperial Persian carpet, 12 musical bands and "meat of all kinds". Here the Shah announced that all this, and 12,000 elite cavalry were his 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.
Kandahar and onwards
With this Persian Safavid aid Humayun took Kandahar from Askari Mirza after a two-week siege. He noted how the nobles who had served Askari Mirza quickly flocked to serve him, "in very truth the greater part of the inhabitants of the world are like a flock of sheep, wherever one goes the others immediately follow". Kandahar was, as agreed, given to the Shah of Persia who sent his infant son, Murad, as the Viceroy. However, the baby soon died and Humayun thought himself strong enough to assume power.
Humayun now prepared to take Kabul, ruled by his brother Kamran Mirza. In the end, there was no actual siege. Kamran Mirza was detested as a leader and as Humayun's Persian army approached the city hundreds of Kamran Mirza's troops changed sides, flocking to join Humayun and swelling his ranks. Kamran Mirza absconded and began building an army outside the city. In November 1545, Hamida and Humayun were reunited with their son Akbar, and held a huge feast. They also held another, larger, feast in the child's honour when he was circumcised.
However, while Humayun had a larger army than his brother and had the upper hand, on two occasions his poor military judgement allowed Kamran Mirza to retake Kabul and Kandahar, forcing Humayun to mount further campaigns for their recapture. He may have been aided in this by his reputation for leniency towards the troops who had defended the cities against him, as opposed to Kamran Mirza, whose brief periods of possession were marked by atrocities against the inhabitants who, he supposed, had helped his brother.
His youngest brother, Hindal Mirza, formerly the most disloyal of his siblings, died fighting on his behalf. His brother Askari Mirza was shackled in chains at the behest of his nobles and aides. He was allowed go on Hajj, and died en route in the desert outside Damascus.
Humayun's other brother, Kamran Mirza, had repeatedly sought to have Humayun killed. In 1552 Kamran Mirza attempted to make a pact with 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.
Restoration of the Mughal Empire
Sher Shah Suri had died in 1545; his son and successor Islam Shah died too, in 1554. These two deaths left the dynasty reeling and disintegrating. Three rivals for the throne all marched on Delhi, while in many cities leaders tried to stake a claim for independence. This was a perfect opportunity for the Mughals to march back to India.
The Mughal Emperor Humayun, gathered a vast army and attempted the challenging task of retaking the throne in Delhi. Humayun placed the army under the able leadership of Bairam Khan. This was a wise move given Humayun's own record of military ineptitude, and turned out to be prescient, as Bairam was to prove himself a great tactician.
Marriage relations with the Khanzadas
The Gazetteer of Ulwur states:
Soon after Babur's death, his successor, Humayun, was in AD 1540 supplanted by the Pathan Sher Shah, who, in AD 1545, was followed by Islam Shah. During the reign of the latter a battle was fought and lost by the Emperor's troops at Firozpur Jhirka, in Mewat, on which, however, Islam Shah did not loose his hold. Adil Shah, the third of the Pathan interlopers, who succeeded in AD 1552, had to contend for the Empire with the returned Humaiyun. In these struggles for the restoration of Babar's dynasty Khanzadas apparently do not figure at all. Humaiyun seems to have conciliated them by marrying the elder daughter of Jamal Khan, nephew of Babar's opponent, Hasan Khan, and by causing his great minister, Bairam Khan, to marry a younger daughter of the same Mewatti.
Bairam Khan led the army through the Punjab virtually unopposed. The fort of Rohtas, which was built in 1541–43 by Sher Shah Suri to crush the Gakhars who were loyal to Humayun, was surrendered without a shot by a treacherous commander. The walls of the Rohtas Fort measure up to 12.5 meters in thickness and up to 18.28 meters in height. They extend for 4 km and feature 68 semi-circular bastions. Its sandstone gates, both massive and ornate, are thought to have exerted a profound influence on Mughal military architecture.
The only major battle faced by Humayun's armies was against Sikander Suri in Sirhind, where Bairam Khan employed a tactic whereby he engaged his enemy in open battle, but then retreated quickly in apparent fear. When the enemy followed after them they were surprised by entrenched defensive positions and were easily annihilated.
From here on 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.
With all of Humayun's brothers now dead, there was no fear of another usurping his throne during his military campaigns. He was also now an established leader, and could trust his generals. With this new-found strength Humayun embarked on a series of military campaigns aimed at extending his reign over areas in eastern and western India. His sojourn in exile seems to have reduced Humayun's reliance on astrology, and his military leadership came to imitate the more effective methods that he had observed in Persia.
After defeating Bahadur Shah's confederacy in Gujarat, Humayun placed the following generals in Gujarat:
- Mirza Askurry
- Yadgar Nasir
- Kasim Hussein Sultan
- Hindu Beg
- Tardy Beg Khan
In the year 1540, the Mughal Emperor Humayun met the Ottoman Admiral Seydi Ali Reis. During their discussions in the Durbar, Humayun asked which of the two empires was bigger and Seydi Ali Reis, stated that the Ottoman Empire was "ten times bigger", Humayun was very inspired and he turned towards his nobles and remarked without resentment: "Indeed Suleiman the Magnificent, deserves to be called the only Padshah on Earth".
Death and legacy
On 27 January 1556, Humayun, with his arms full of books, 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. His body was laid to rest in Purana Quila initially, but because of attack by Hemu on Delhi and capture of Purana Qila, Humayun's body was exhumed by the fleeing army and transferred to Kalanaur in Punjab where Akbar was coronated. His tomb stands in Delhi, where he was later buried in a grand way.
His full title as Emperor of the Mughal Empire was:
- Sharaf Al-Din: "Zafar-nama".
- Nizamuddin Ahmad: "Tabaqat-i-Akbari".
- Rama Shankar Avasthy: "The Mughal Emperor Humayun".
- S.K. Banjerji: "Humayun Badshah".
- The Life and Times of Humāyūn by Ishwari Prasad, Published by Orient Longmans, 1956, p. 36
- Temples of Koh-e-Jud & Thar: Proceedings of the Seminar on Shahiya Temples of the Salt Range, Held in Lahore, Pakistan by Kamil Khan Mumtaz, Siddiq-a-Akbar, Publ Anjuman Mimaran, 1989, p. 8
- Jauhar: "Tadhkirat al-Waqiat".
- Gascoigne 1971, p. 50: "Hindal ... had been stationed ... for the purpose of securing Humayun's rear, but he had deserted his post ... another brother, Kamran, ... was also converging on Delhi from his territories in the Punjap - ostensibly to help Humayun but in reality ... to stake his own claim to his brother's crumbling empire. [Kamran] dissuaded Hindal from further open disloyalty, but ... the two brothers now disregarded Humayun's urgent appeals for help on his dangerous journey back through the territory which had been relinquished by Hindal to Sher Khan."
- Badauni: "Muntakhab al-Tawarikh".
- Gascoigne 1971, p. 50-51: "Humayun's brief advance brought his army out of its prepared defensive position, and Sher Shah, having withdrawn a few miles, returned at night to find the Mogul camp asleep and unprepared. The emperor himself escaped only because one of his water-bearers inflated his water-skin with air for Humayun to hold in his arms and float [across the Ganges] ... Humayun crept back to Agra."
- Abul-Fazel: "Akbar-nama".
- Richards 1993, p. 11: "At the Safavid court, Humayun, under extreme duress, accepted the Shia faith in order to keep himself and several hundred followers alive. After this initial test, Shah Tahmasp grew more friendly and eventually agreed to underwrite Humayun's attempt to regain power."
- ; Persian and English text
- Cambridge History of India, Vol. III & IV, "Turks and Afghan" and "The Mughal Period". (Cambridge) 1928
- Muzaffar Alam & Sanjay Subrahmanyan (Eds.) The Mughal State 1526–1750 (Delhi) 1998
- William Irvine The Army of the Indian Moghuls. (London) 1902. (Last revised 1985)
- Jos Gommans Mughal Warfare (London) 2002
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain:
HumayunBorn: 17 March 1508 Died: 27 January 1556
Sher Shah Suri
(as Shah of Delhi)
Muhammad Adil Shah
(as Shah of Delhi)