Babar’s Invasions of India

Akbar and the Rise of the Mughal Empire: G. B. Malleson-1896

Chapter 4

 Babar’s Invasions of India

Into the first period of Indian history, that extending from the earliest times to the invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni, in the beginning of the eleventh century, I do not propose to enter. The world, indeed, possesses little detailed knowledge of that period. It is known that from the Indus to Cape Comorin the country was peopled by several distinct races, speaking a variety of languages; that the prevailing religions were those of the Mailman, the Buddhist, and the Jain; and that the wars periodically occurring between the several kings of the several provinces or divisions were mostly religious wars.

The invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni came first, in the year Tool, to disturb the existing system. But although Mahmud, and his successors of the Ghazni dynasty, penetrated to Delhi, to Rajputana, and to the furthest extremities of Gujarat, they did not practically extend their permanent rule beyond the Punjab. The territories to the south-east of the Sutlej still remained subject to Hindu sovereigns. But in 1186, the dynasty of the Ghaznivis was destroyed by the dynasty of Ghor or Ghur, founded by an Afghan of Ghur, a district in Western Afghanistan, a hundred and twenty miles to the south-east of the city of Herat, on the road to Kabul. The Ghuri dynasty was, in its turn, supplanted, in 1288, by that of the Khilji or Ghilji. The princes of this House, after reigning with great renown for thirty-three years over Delhi and a portion of the territories now known as the North-west Provinces, and, pushing their conquests beyond the Narbada, and the Deccan, made way, in 1321, for the Tughlak dynasty, descended from Turki slaves. The Tughlaks did not possess the art of consolidation. During the ninety-one years of their rule the provinces ruled by their predecessors gradually separated from the central authority at Delhi. The invasion of Taimur (1388–9) dealt a fatal blow to an authority already crumbling. The chief authority lingered indeed for twelve years in the hands of the then representative, Sultan Mahmud. It then passed for a time into the hands of a family which did not claim the royal title. This family, known in history as the Saiyid dynasty, ruled nominally in Northern India for about thirty-three years, but the rule had no coherence, and a powerful Afghan of the Lodi family took the opportunity to endeavour to concentrate power in his own hands.

The Muhammadan rule in India had indeed become by this time the rule of several disjointed chiefs over several disjointed provinces, subject in point of fact to no common head. Thus, in 1450, Delhi, with a small territory around it, was hold by the representative of the Saiyid family. Within fourteen miles of the capital, Ahmad Khan ruled independently in Mewat. Sambhal, or the province now known as Rohilkhand, extending to the very walls of Delhi, was occupied by Darya Khan Lodi. Jalesar, now the Itah district, by Isa, Khan Turk: the district now known as Farukhabad by Raja Partab Singh: Biana by Daud Khan Lodi: and Lahore, Dipalpur, and Sirhind, as far south as Panipat, by Behlul Lodi. Jaunpur, Bengal, Malwa, and Gujarat, each had its separate king.

Over most of these districts, and as far eastward as the country immediately to the north of Western Bihar, Behlul Lodi, known as Sultan Behlul, succeeded on the disappearance of the Saiyids in asserting his sole authority, 1450–88. His son and successor, Sultan Sikandar Lodi, subdued Behar, invaded Bengal, which, however, he subsequently agreed to yield to Allah-u- din, its sovereign, and not to invade it again; and overran a great portion of Central India. On his death, in 1518, he had concentrated under his own rule the territories now known as the Punjab; the North-western Provinces, including Jaunpur; a great part of Central India; and Western Bihar. But, in point of fact, the concentration was little more than nominal. The Afghan nobles, to whom from necessity the Lodi Sultan committed the charge of the several districts, were indeed bound to their sovereign by a kind of feudal tenure, but within the circle of his own charge each of them made his own will  absolute, and insisted on obedience to his decrees alone.

The result of this arrangement was that when Sultan Sikandar died the several important nobles, impatient even of nominal obedience, resolved, acting in concert, to assign to his son, Ibrahim, the kingdom of Delhi only, and to divide the rest of the deceased Sultan’s dominions amongst themselves, Jaunpur alone excepted. This province was to be assigned to the younger brother of Ibrahim, as a separate kingdom, in subordination to Delhi. It would appear that when the proposal was first made to him, Ibrahim, probably seeing no remedy, assented. Upon the remonstrances of his kinsmen, Khan Jahan Lodi, however, he withdrew his assent and recalled his brother, who had already set out for Jaunpur. The brother refused to return. A civil war ensued in which Ibrahim was victorious. On the death of his brother, in 1518, Ibrahim endeavoured to assert his authority over his ambitious nobles. They rebelled. He quelled the rebellion. But the cruel use he made of his victory, far from quenching the discontent, caused fresh revolts. The nobles of Behar, of Oudh, of Jaunpur, flew to arms: the Punjab followed the example. The civil war was conducted with great fury and with varying fortunes on both sides. It was when the crisis was extreme that Allah-u-din, uncle of Sultan Ibrahim, fled to the camp of Babar, then engaged in the pacification of the Kandahar districts, and implored him to place him on the throne of Delhi Almost simultaneously there came to the King of Kabul a still more tempting offer from Daolat Khan, Governor of Lahore, and who was hard pressed by Ibrahim’s general, begging for assistance, and offering in return to acknowledge him as his sovereign. Babar agreed, and marched at once in the direction of Lahore.

The foregoing sketch of the internal condition of India during the five centuries which had elapsed since the invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni will explain, I hope sufficiently clearly, how it was that none of the successive dynasties had taken root in the soil. Whether that dynasty were Ghaznivi, or Ghuri, or Tughlak, or Saiyid, or Lodi, the representative had fought merely for his own hand and his own advantage. The nobles of the ruling sovereign had in this respect followed the example of their master. Hindustan had thus been overrun and partly occupied by the feudal followers of chiefs, who in turn owed feudal allegiance which they would or would not render, according to the power and capacity of the supreme lord. There had been no welding of the interest of the conquerors and the conquered such as took place in England after the Conquest. The Muhammadans sat as despotic rulers of an alien people, who obeyed them because they could not resist. There was no thought of attaching that people to the ruling dynasty either by sympathy or by closer union. The conquerors had come as aliens, and as aliens they remained. Their hold on the country was thus superficial: it had no root in the affections of the people, and it could be maintained only by the sword. It was in this respect that it differed so widely from the Mughal dynasty, as represented by Akbar, that was to succeed it.

The first invasion of India by Babar, not reckoning the hasty visit spoken of on page 18, occurred in 1519. Some historians assert that there was a second invasion the same year. But Ferishta is probably correct when he says that this so-called invasion amounted simply to an expedition against the Yusufzais, in the course of which Babar advanced as far as Peshawar, but did not cross the Indus. There is no doubt, however, that he made an expedition, called the third, in 1520. On this occasion he crossed the Indus, marched into the part known now as the Rawal Pindi division, crossed the Jehlam, reached Sialkot, which he spared, and then marched on Saiyidpur, which he plundered. He was called from this place to Kabul to meet a threatened attack upon that capital.

The abortive result of this third expedition more than ever convinced Babar that no invasion of Hindustan could with certainty succeed unless he could secure his base at Kandahar. He spent, therefore, the next two or three years in securing that stronghold and the territory between Ghazni and Khorasan. He had just succeeded in settling these districts on an efficient basis when he received the messages from Allah-u-din Lodi and Daolat Khan of Lahore, the latter of which decided him to undertake his fourth expedition to India. Once more did he cross the Indus, the Jehlam, and the Chenab, and advanced within ten miles of Lahore. There he was met by, and there he defeated, the army of the adherents of the House of Lodi. Lahore fell a prize to his troops. But he halted there but four days; then pushing on, reached and stormed Dipalpur.4 Here he was joined by Daolat Khan and his sons. These, however, dissatisfied with the rewards meted out to them, began to intrigue against their new master. Babar was approaching Sirhind, on his way to Delhi, when he discovered their machinations. He determined, then, to renounce for the moment his forward movement, and to return to Kabul. This he did after having parcelled out the Punjab among chiefs upon whom he hoped he could depend.

Scarcely had he crossed the Indus when the Punjab became the scene of a renewed struggle. Allah-u-din Lodi, to whom the district of Dipalpur had been consigned, fled in despair to Kabul, hoping that Mbar would himself undertake the invasion of India. At the moment Babar could not comply, for the Uzbeks were laying siege to Balkh. However he supplied Allah-u-din with troops and ordered his generals in the Punjab to support him. But again did the expedition of this prince fail, and he fled from Delhi in confusion to the Punjab. At the time that he entered it, a fugitive, Babar was preparing for his fifth and last invasion of India.

Of that invasion I must be content to give the barest outline. Accompanied by his son, Humayun, Babar descended the Khaibar Pass to Peshawar, halted there two days, crossed the Indus the 16th of December, and pushed on rapidly to Sialkot. On his arrival there, December 29th, he heard of the defeat and flight of Allah-u-din.5 Undismayed, he marched the following morning to Parsaror, midway between Sialkot and Kalanaur on the Ravi; thence to Kalanaur, where he crossed the Ravi; thence to the Bias, which he crossed, and thence to the strong fortress of Milwat, in which his former adherent Daolat Khan, bad taken refuge. Milwat soon fell. Babar then marched through the Jalandhar Dual) to the Sutlej, placing, as he writes, ‘his foot in the stirrup of resolution, and his hand on the reins of confidence-in-God,’ crossed it near Rupar, then by way of Ambala, to the Jumna, opposite Sirsawa.6 Thence he held down the river for two marches. Two more brought him to Panipat, fifty-three miles to the north-west of Delhi. There he halted and fortified his camp. The date was April 12, 1526.

Nine days later Ibrahim Lodi, at the head of an army computed by Babar to have been a hundred thousand strong, attacked the invader in his intrenched camp. ‘The sun had mounted spear-high,’ writes Babar, ‘when the onset of the battle began, and the combat lasted till midday, when the enemy were completely broken and routed.’ The victory was in all respects decisive. Ibrahim Lodi was killed, bravely fighting, and Hindustan lay at the feet of the victor. That very day Babar despatched troops to occupy Delhi and Agra. These results were accomplished on the 24th of April and 4th of May respectively.7

4. Dipalpur is a town in the Montgomery district to the southwest of Lahore and forty miles from it. In Babar’s time it was a place of great importance.

  1. Of this march there is a detailed and most interesting account given by Babar in his Memoirs, page 290, and the pages following.

  2. Sirsawa lies on the south bank of the Jumna, ten miles west-north-west of Saharanpur.

  3. In his Memoirs, Babar, after recounting how, from comparatively small beginnings, he had become conqueror ‘of the noble country of Hindustan,’ adds: ‘This success I do not ascribe to my own strength, nor did this good fortune flow from my own efforts, but from the fountain of the favour and mercy of God.’

Categories: CIVIL