Humayun is remembered in Indian history as an indecisive king who lost his kingdom and then reclaimed it.Babur,on his deathbed, had advised Humayun:
Do nothing against your brothers even though they may deserve it
These words were to prove prophetic for Humayun since since his brothers were to prove troublesome for him.
The Dreaming King
Nasiruddin Muhammed Humayun was born in Kabul on 6th March 1508 to a Persian,Maham.At the age of twelve he was sent to Badakhsan as governor,Babur complained about Humayun's tardiness.However Humayun had fought well in Ambala in Punjab,where he routed an Afghan auxiliary force.Humayun commanded the right wing of the Mughal army at Panipat and Khanua.When Babur first arrived at Agra,Humayun presented him with a diamond which would later be known as the Koh-e Noor,Mountain of Light. However by the time Humayun was sent back to Badakhshan,he had shown a worrying lack of earnestness.
Humayun was crowned on 30th December 1530 at the age of twenty-three.Humayun inherited the lands of Hindustan,while his brother Kamran inherited Kabul and Kandahar.Humayun's name meant fortunate,however this was not to be the case for him.According to Ferishta,Humayun was:
for the most part...disposed to spend his time in social intercourse and pleasure"
Humayun was a skilled mathematician and keen on astronomy and astrology.However these talents would not help with the business of government.Humayun could not be certain of the loyalty of his own men,who had been drawn from Central Asia.There was already a looming challenge from Kamran,since he crossed the Indus and laid claim to the lands west of the Sutlej river.Humayun in the end,granted him more land than he had asked for,Kamran wrote to Humayun:
May every mist which rises on thy way
Be the dimming of the light of my own eyes
Meanwhile at around the same time,Humayun had to face a rebellion from his cousins and a resurgent Afghan presence in Bihar under Mahmud Lodhi.Humayun succeeded in subduing the Afghans and Mahmud Lodhi gave up the struggle to regain his lost lands and Humayun's cousins would never directly threaten Humayun's power again.Then trouble again arose in Gujurat which was under the rule of Bahadur Shah,he attracted Afghans,a few Mughal rebels and even Alam Khan,who had invited Babur into India earlier.Bahadhur sent armies toward Rajasthan,Punjab,Malwa and beyond.
However Bahadur Shah lost and Humayun chased him as far as Cambay.Humayun then assaulted the fort of Champanir and took a great deal of gold,silver and jewels.Soon Bahadhur Shah emerged from Diu and tried to recover his kingdom,however he was driven off by Humayun who then conquered Ahmedabad which completed the conquest of Bahadur's kingdom.Humayun left his brother Askari in charge of Gujurat,but when Humayun left,Bahadur Shah re-emerged from Diu once again and advanced on Gujurat.Askari offered him little resistance and abandoned Gujurat.Humayun was on his way to Agra to deal with rebels when his army converged with Askari's army.Humayun overlooked Askari's disaffection and together they marched to Agra,however they soon received news that Hindal had already subdued the rebels.However Bahadur Shah had reoccupied Gujurat.
A Nemesis emerges
After returning to Agra,Humayun indulged in the pleasures of the harem.However alarming news came from Bihar,there was a resurgence of power under a local Afghan chieftain,Sher Khan.In 1531,Humayun had clashed briefly with Sher Khan and made him a vassal,however this was only a pretense and Sher Khan was merely biding his time.After consolidating his power in Bihar,Sher Khan began to push into Bengal to gather strength,Humayun recognised this as a threat to Mughal suzerainty.
In mid-July 1537,Humayun set out from Agra with a grand army against Sher Khan,this campaign was to prove a disaster.Humayun's first mistake was that instead of heading directly to confront Sher Khan,he instead stopped on his journey to besiege the fort of Chunar for three months,this delay enabled Sher Khan to complete the conquest of Bengal and seize the fort of Rohtas.By the time Humayun continued his march towards Bengal,Sher Khan was on his way back to Bihar.Humayun attempted to prompt Sher Khan into submission by offering to return Chunar,to give him Jaunpur and any other place of his choice on the condition that Sher Khan give up Bengal and hand over all the treasure he taken there to Humayun.Sher Khan refused since he said that it had cost him five or six years toil and a great number of his soldiers to subdue Bengal.Sher Khan made a counterproposal,he offered to relinquish the regalia of Bengal,surrender Bihar and play an an annual tribute of one million rupees to Humayun on the condition that he could retain Bengal.
However Humayun rejected this proposal and continued to advance on Bengal since Sher Khan had left only a part of his army there.This was a turning point in both the career of Humayun and that of Sher Khan.Sher Khan returned to Gaur in Bengal and proclaimed himself Sher Shah,he would be remembered by this name.Humayun's advance to Bengal was slowed down by the monsoon rains,Sher Shah sent Jalal Khan to block the Teliyagarhi in order to hold off the Mughal army for a while.Jalal Khan found the Mughal advance forces so carelessly deployed that he was able to rout them,this was Sher Shah's first victory against Humayun.Sher Shah was able to go to Rohtas with his treasure from Bengal.When Humayun reached Bengal,he loved it,according to Mushtaqui:
When his majesty reached Gaur,he found everywhere a paradise full of fairy-faced girls and handsome maids,along with exhilarating gardens and soothing
Humayun's troops thought otherwise and when Humayun offered the governorship to one of his amirs,he deserted,protesting that the post was equivalent to a death sentence.Humayun spent nine months in Bengal,which enabled Sher Shah to seize Varanasi,Chunar and Jaunpur.Now Sher Shah blocked the passes between Bihar and Bengal so that supplies and communications to Humayun ceased.Humayun's brothers began to abandon him,and Hindal began to march on Agra to seize the throne for himself.By the time Humayun set out from Bengal,he was slowed down by the monsoon rains once again which turned the land into a quagmire.At this time Sher Shah lifted the siege of Jaunpur and withdrew to south Bihar in order to frustrate and exhaust Humayun.
Humayun made another mistake by not seeking out Sher Shah instead he continued towards Agra,passing the city of Patna and reaching Chausa where the river Karmanasa and Ganges meet.Now Sher Shah decided to seek battle with Humayun and declared to his commanders:
Now that I have overthrown his armies which were in Bihar and Jaunpur,and taken those countries,the way to peace is closed,If you agree with me,I will try my fortune
Sher Shah emerged out of southern Bihar to confront Humayun at Chausa.The two sides stood on opposite bank of the Karmanasa,with Sher Shah blocking the route to Agra.Humayun was faced with two options,either to confront Sher Shah's army directly or to fight from entrenched positions.Humayun chose the latter and engaged in occasional skirmishes which his favoured his army,at the same time,his army swelled with each passing day as stragglers from Bengal caught up with main body of the army.However despite this,Mughal moral was low and the army was battle-weary after the exhaustive campaign in Bengal.
Pretenders to the throne
Meanwhile at the same time,Humayun's brother Hindal was prodded by some amirs,to declare himself king.Hindal's mother,Dildar Begum put on mourning clothes when he ascended the throne since she deemed it an imprudent act,when asked why she had done this she said:
I am mourning for you...You have girded your loins for your own destruction
According to Abu Fazl,Hindal was undeterred by this and said:
Advice of man is wind in mine ear,
But 'tis a wind that fans my fire
Hindal advanced from Agra to capture Delhi but was repelled by Humayun's loyal officers,who were able to call Kamran from Kabul to subdue the rebel.Kamran pursued Hindal right up to Agra,where he submitted.They both joined forces and advanced to relieve Humayun's forces.
Sher Shah now faced the danger of being entrapped by two Mughal armies.However this threat was premature since Kamran and Hindal turned back to return to Agra,it appeared that they saw no future in supporting Humayun.At the same time,Sher Shah's camp was inundated with rainwater since he had not chosen his camp carefully and was forced to move his army eight kilometers away,leaving only his artillery and a covering force in his entrenchments.This unintended manoeuvre put Sher Shah in great danger,however Humayun failed to seize this golden opportunity.Humayun was more concerned in dealing with his two brothers in Agra which he deemed a greater threat than Sher Shah's rebellion.When it had seemed that there was a reconciliation between both sides,Sher Shah attacked and routed Humayun's forces.Humayun barely crossed the Ganga to return to Agra,but Sher Shah did not pursue Humayun,not wishing to force his luck.After his victory at Chausa,Sher Shah ascended the throne and assumed a new title,Sultan-ul-Adil,The Just Ruler.Sher Shah was now the undisputed master of Bengal and Bihar.
A slight change of fortunes
In Agra,Humayun forgave Hindal,however Kamran was not keen on begging for forgiveness and was more interested in returning to Kabul on the pretense that he didn't like the climate of Agra.In the end Kamran returned to Lahore with most of his men according to Mirza Haidar,this act was the cause of the rise of Sher Shah and the fall of the Mughal empire.However this isn't quite true since Humayun didn't have a problem of raising a fresh army.Sher Shah continued his advance and sent his son Qutb Khan towards Malwa,however Qutb Khan was slain and his head along with other Afghan heads were sent to Agra.It appeared that the tide was turning in Humayun's favour.Despite having lost many experienced men and amirs in Bengal and Chausa,Humayun still had an advantage since according to Mirza Haidar,he had seven hundred swivel guns,twenty-one heavy cannons and a battalion of 5000 musketeers,this was formidable firepower for that time.
One final defeat
Sher Shah retreated back across the Ganga while Humayun advanced from Agra to confront him at Kanauj.Both sides layed encamped on either side of the river for a month.This did no good for the Mughals,when desertions began which included some of Humayun's highest nobles.Humayun cross the river to confront the Afghan army,however only 17th May 1540 did Sher Shah's troops finally attacked Humayun's 40,000 strong force with a force less than 15,000 strong.However the battle was lost before it had even begun and the Mughal army was more ready to flee than to fight.Sher Shah was disappointed since he had said:
I had intended that he (Humayun) should perish,but he has escaped
The end of the Mughal empire
Humayun gathered his family and treasure from Agra while he retreated back across Hindustan,by early July,Humayun had reached Lahore in Punjab and was received by his brothers, Kamran,Hindal and Askari.However the brothers couldn't agree on a concerted plan of action,this was to prove dangerous since Sher Shah was advancing towards Punjab and when he crossed the Beas river,the Mughal princes scattered in panic.Gulbadan reported:
It was like the the day of resurrection,people left their decorated palaces and furniture just as they were,but took with them whatever money they had
Kamran and Askari went to Kabul,while Hindal and Yadgar went towards Gujurat and Mirza Haidar went to Kashmir.Humayun as always,could not make up his mind,first he thought of going to Badakhshan in Afghanistan then he changed his mind and went to Sind.Humayun was not welcome in Sind since Shah Husain Mirza,a relative of Humayun was weary of protecting a fugitive king who was looking for a new throne.It took six months for Humayun to realise that this was a waste of time,but in a way this stay in Sind was fortunate for him since it was here where he met and married Hamida Banu Begum,who in the future would give birth to Jalaluddin Muhammed Akbar.
Humayun first saw Hamida at Pat in western Sind,she was a Persian and Shiah,descended from Ahmad Jani,a celebrated Muslim sage.The king fell in love and wished to marry her,however Hindal was bitterly opposed and it was only through the persuasive powers of Dildar Begum,Hindal's mother,that Humayun was able to marry Hamida towards the end of September 1541 and she became Hazret Maryam Makani.
Dire straits in Hindustan
However by this time Humayun was reduced to the state of having to actually chase his servants in order to prevent them fleeing.During this time,Humayun took solace from astrology and blamed the stars for his misfortunes.Humayun ended up in Umarkot on the Sind border and once he set out again for Sind,he was encamped by a lake some forty kilometers away from Umarkot.It was here that Humayun received some happy news,Hamida had given birth to a son.The name,Jalaluddin Muhammed Akbar was attributed to a name which Humayun had heard in a dream.Humayun moved to Jun,northwest of the Ran of Kutch and was encamped there,briefly his fortunes improved with his army swelling to 15,000 strong,then they left Humayun after a petty squabble.However Bairam Khan,future regent of Akbar,came to join Humayun,now there was finally a plan of action,Humayun decided to leave Hindustan and he did this on 11th July 1543.
Meanwhile Sher Shah held suzerainty over Hindustan and would introduce adminstrative reforms that would form of the bedrock of Mughal government in the future.This was said of Sher Shah:
Sher Shah,he in dread of whom,
The lion and the goat drank at the same source
However on Friday,22nd May 1545, Sher Shah was killed after a rocket exploded near him,while he was besieging Kalinjar.After his death,his designated heir Islam Shah fought into a fratricidal war with Adil Khan.In the course of only two decades the dynasty of Sher Shah was extinct.
Humayun had left Hindustan and he wouldn't return for fifteen years,in the autumn of 1543 he crossed the Indus and ascended the mountains into Afghanistan.Humayun was accompanied by Hamida,their son Akbar,forty men and two men,they all made their way through the bandit-infested badlands of southern Afghanistan.Humayun decided to go to Persia to seek assistance there to recover his lost kingdom,if this failed then Humayun would go to Mecca on pilgrimage.The Safavid Shah Tahmasp,greeted Humayun in a way typical of Persian hospitality,he had the kettle-drum beaten in Qazvin for three days,the act of sheltering the Mughal Emperor would also add to Tahmasp's prestige.Shah Tahmasp sent 500 men to bear royal gifts to Humayun at the Persian border to welcome him.Humayun went sight-seeing,hunting and hawking on his way to Qazvin,then the Shah had moved to his summer retreat,which is where Humayun traveled next.The only annoyance for Humayun was that there was constant pressure from Tahmasp to become Shiah.At the end of the stay,Shah Tahmasp held a three-day farewell party near Shiraz and then he provided Humayun with 12,000 cavalry along with 300 veterans from the Shah's personal bodyguard.However despite this,Humayun was in no hurry and went sight-seeing to Tabriz and places along the Caspian Sea,When Shah Tahmasp returned to Qazvin he was amazed to see Humayun still camped nearby so he prompted him to march out immediately.Humayun set out to go to Afghanistan.
Back to Afghanistan
Humayun first aim was to besiege Kandahar,which he took from Askari after four months.However Shah Tahmasp had his eyes on Kandahar,and this bone of contention over Kandahar would outlive Humayun until the Persians finally seized it in 1649,during the reign of Shah Jahan.For a change,Humayun's fortunes began to improve and Hindal,Yadgar and several amirs ended up deserting Kamran and they joined Humayun instead,Humayun was then able to take Kabul in mid-November 1545,Kamran fled with his family to Sind.Only one of Babur's four sons would survive,Askari would be sent on pilgrimage to Mecca and died there in 1558.Hindal died in a night skirmish with Kamran.Kamran was blinded and sent to Mecca where he died in October 1557.
Return to Hindustan and restoration
In November 1554,Humayun set out from Kabul for Hindustan,he only had 5,000 men.However since the Sur empire had fragmented,the Afghan force in Punjab scattered.Humayun was able to occupy Lahore along with the whole of Punjab.On 22nd July 1555,Humayun reoccupied Delhi unopposed and Agra fell soon after.It is said that whilst in Delhi,Humayun had a premonition of his death,since he liked to tell a dream in which a voice said:
O Lord! of thine infinite goodness make me thine own;
Make me a partaker of the knowledge of thy attributes;
I am broken-hearted from the cares and sorrows of life;
O Call thee thy poor madman
O grant me release!
On Friday 24th January 1556 Humayun fell on his library steps and two days later,he was dead.A tomb was built for Humayun in 1562 on the orders of his wife Hamida Banu Begum in what is now Nizamuddin east in Delhi.