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Humayun, also known as Nasiruddin Muhammad Humayun, was a renowned Mughal ruler. He was born on March 6, 1508 AD in Kabul to ‘Maham Begum,’ the wife of Babur. Among Babur’s four sons, Humayun was the eldest, followed by Kamran, Askari, and Hindal. Babur designated Humayun as his successor. At the tender age of 12, in 1520 AD, Humayun was appointed as the governor of Badakhshan even before his coronation in India. During his tenure as the governor of Badakhshan, Humayun actively participated in all of Babur’s military campaigns in India.

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Humayun Life and Struggles: Early Life, Conquest and Exile and Recovery of Power

Humayun-Early Life & Education

Humayun, born on March 6, 1508, in Kabul, Afghanistan, was the eldest son of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire, and his wife Maham Begum. He belonged to the Timurid dynasty, which had a rich heritage in Central Asia.

During his early years, Humayun received a comprehensive education befitting a future ruler. He studied various subjects, including literature, history, art, mathematics, and astronomy. His education also encompassed military training, equipping him with the skills necessary to lead armies and engage in warfare.

Humayun’s childhood was shaped by the turbulent political environment in which his father operated. Babur faced numerous challenges in establishing and maintaining his rule over the newly founded Mughal Empire. As a result, Humayun witnessed firsthand the intricacies of politics and military strategies from an early age.

In 1526, at the age of 18, Humayun accompanied his father in the battle of Panipat, where Babur emerged victorious and established the Mughal Empire in India. This pivotal moment further exposed Humayun to the art of governance and the complexities of ruling a vast empire.

After Babur’s death in 1530, Humayun ascended to the throne at the age of 22, becoming the second Mughal emperor. However, his early years as ruler were marked by challenges and opposition. He faced rebellions from various regional powers and rivals who sought to undermine his authority and seize power for themselves.

Despite these obstacles, Humayun displayed diplomatic acumen and military prowess in his efforts to consolidate his rule. He successfully defended his empire against internal and external threats, securing his position as the ruler of a vast and diverse empire.

Humayun’s early reign also saw his marriage to Hamida Banu Begum, who would later become the mother of his renowned son and successor, Akbar the Great.

However, Humayun’s rule was interrupted in 1540 when Sher Shah Suri, a prominent Afghan noble, defeated him in the Battle of Kanauj. As a result, Humayun was forced into exile, leading to a fifteen-year period of struggle and wanderings.

During his exile, Humayun faced numerous hardships and setbacks but also gained valuable experiences and allies. He sought refuge in Persia, where he formed alliances with the Safavid dynasty and received military assistance.

Humayun’s early life was characterized by a combination of princely education, exposure to the intricacies of power, and the challenges of ruling an empire. These experiences would shape his character and leadership style as he embarked on a remarkable journey to reclaim his throne and restore the Mughal Empire.

Name Humayun
Full Name Naseeruddin Muhammad Humayun
Date of Birth March 6, 1508 AD
Place of Birth Kabul Afganistan
Father Babur
Mother Maham Begum
Spouse Hamida Banu Begum, Bega Begum, Bigeh Begum, Chand Bibi, Haji Begum, Mah-Chuchak, Miweh-Jan, Shahzadi Khanum
Children Sons – Akbar, Mirza Muhammad Hakim; Daughters – Akikh Begum, Bakshi Banu Begum, Bakhtunnisa Begum
State boundaries North and Central India
Reign December 26, 1530 – May 17, 1540 AD and February 22, 1555 – January 27, 1556 AD
Reign About 11 years
Coronation December 30, 1530 at Agra
Religious Belief Islam(Sunni)
War Invasion of India in 1554 AD
Predecessor Babur
Successor Akbar
Royal Family Mughal
Tomb Humayun’s Tomb Delhi
Date of Death January 27, 1555 AD
Place of Death Delhi India
Related article Mughal period


The coronation of Humayun:

Following the passing of Babur on December 26, 1530, Humayun, aged 23, ascended to the throne on December 30, 1530. Even before his demise, Babur had declared Humayun as his chosen successor. Alongside bestowing the throne upon Humayun, Babur had also instructed the division of the vast empire among his brothers. Consequently, Askari received Sambhal, Hindal was granted Mewat, and Kamran obtained Punjab.

Regrettably, the division of the empire in such a manner proved to be one of Humayun’s gravest mistakes. It resulted in numerous internal challenges and a lack of support from his brothers. The haphazard division of the empire proved detrimental to Humayun’s long-term prospects. While his most formidable adversaries were the Afghans, the absence of cooperation from his brothers, combined with certain personal weaknesses of Humayun, contributed to his eventual downfall.

Humayun’s military campaigns:

During his reign, Humayun launched several successful military operations, expanding his territorial acquisitions. The notable campaigns undertaken by Humayun include:

Invasion of Kalinjar (1531 AD):

Humayun embarked on the Kalinjar campaign to curb the increasing influence of Bahadur Shah, the ruler of Gujarat. This marked Humayun’s first major offensive. While besieging the fortress of Kalinjar, news reached him that Afghan Sardar Mahmud Lodi was advancing from Bihar toward Jaunpur. Consequently, Humayun decided to temporarily suspend the siege, receiving financial support from King Prataparudra Dev of Kalinjar and redirected his forces back to Jaunpur.

The Battle of Dauharia (1532 AD):

In August 1532 AD, as Humayun’s army advanced towards Jaunpur, they encountered Mahmud Lodi’s forces in a clash at Dauharia. Mahmud Lodi, leading the Afghan army, was defeated in this battle, securing a victory for Humayun.

The Siege of Chunar (1532 AD):

During the attack on the Chunar fortress, it was under the control of Sher Shah (Sher Khan), a renowned Afghan hero. After a continuous four-month-long siege, an agreement was reached between Sher Khan and Humayun.

According to the agreement, Sher Khan accepted Humayun’s authority and sent his son, Qutb Khan, along with an Afghan contingent to join Humayun’s army. In return, the Chunar fortress remained under Sher Khan’s control. However, Humayun’s decision to leave Sher Khan undefeated proved to be a significant mistake. Seizing this opportunity, Sher Khan increased his power and resources, while Humayun squandered his resources. In 1533 AD, Humayun commissioned the construction of a grand fortress called ‘Dinpanah’ in Delhi, aiming to impress both friends and foes.

Additionally, in 1534 AD, Humayun successfully quelled the rebellion of Muhammad Zaman Mirza and Muhammad Sultan Mirza in Bihar.

The War with Bahadur Shah (1535-1536 AD):

Bahadur Shah, the ruler of Gujarat, had already seized Malwa in 1531 and the Raisin Fort in 1532. In 1534 AD, he launched an attack on Chittor and compelled its ruler to enter into a treaty. Bahadur Shah enlisted the assistance of skilled gunner Rumi Khan from Turkey, resulting in the development of superior artillery.

Meanwhile, Sher Khan earned great renown by defeating Bengal in the ‘Raj of Surajgarh.’ His increasing power became a cause of concern for Humayun. However, Humayun’s primary challenge at the time was Bahadur Shah. In 1535 AD, a fierce struggle erupted between Bahadur Shah and Humayun at Sarangpur. Eventually, Bahadur Shah was defeated and forced to flee to Mandu. Consequently, Humayun’s triumph over Mandu and Champaner brought Malwa and Gujarat under his authority. Subsequently, Bahadur Shah laid siege to Chittor.

Karnavati, the mother of Chittor’s ruler, Vikramajit, sent a rakhi to Humayun on this occasion, seeking his assistance against Bahadur Shah. However, Humayun accepted Bahadur Shah’s request not to aid a non-Muslim state. A year later, with the support of the Portuguese, Bahadur Shah regained control over Gujarat and Malwa in 1536 AD. Unfortunately, Bahadur Shah passed away in February 1537 AD.

Conflict with Sher Shah (1537 AD-1540 AD):

In October 1537, Humayun laid a second siege on the fort of Chunar. Sher Khan’s son Qutb Khan prevented Humayun from capturing the fort for about six months. Ultimately, Humayun used a combination of diplomacy and artillery to capture the fort. During this period, Sher Khan achieved success in the Bengal campaign and obtained a significant portion of Gaur’s treasury at Rohtas Fort.

After the conquest of Chunar, Humayun proceeded to conquer Bengal, establishing his presence in Gaur by 1539 CE. On August 15, 1538, when Humayun entered the Gour region of Bengal, he saw widespread devastation and a multitude of corpses. Humayun rebuilt this area and named it ‘Jannatabad’.

Battle of Chausa:

On June 26, 1539 AD, there was a clash between the armies of Humayun and Sher Khan at a place called ‘Chausa’ situated on the northern bank of the river Ganges. Due to some tactical errors, Humayun was defeated in this battle in which the Mughal army suffered significant losses.

Humayun was able to escape from the battlefield by crossing the Ganges with the help of Bhishti (a water carrier). Bhishti, who saved Humayun’s life during the Battle of Chausa, was rewarded by being appointed as the king of Delhi for a day.

After his victory at the Battle of Chausa, Sher Khan assumed the title ‘Sher Shah’ during his coronation and ordered the engraving and minting of coins in his name, cementing his authority.

Battle of Bilgram (May 17, 1540 AD)

During the Battle of Bilgram, fought at Bilgram and Kannauj, Humayun was accompanied by his brothers Hindal and Askari. However, victory eluded Humayun once again. Following this victory, Sher Shah easily gained control of Agra and Delhi, restoring Afghan rule over India.

After his defeat, Humayun took refuge in Sindh, where he lived as an exile and a wanderer for about 15 years. During his exile, Humayun married Hamida Begum, daughter of the Persian Shia Mir Baba Dost, also known as Mir Ali Akbarzami, who was Hindal’s spiritual teacher. On August 29, 1541, Hamida Begum gave birth to a great emperor named Akbar.

Re-conquest of Humayun:

Humayun spent about 14 years in Kabul. In 1545 AD, he recaptured Kandahar and Kabul. After Islam Shah’s death, Sher Shah’s son, Humayun saw an opportunity to reclaim India. On September 5, 1554, Humayun reached Peshawar with his army and in February 1555 he successfully captured Lahore.

Battle of Machhiwada (May 15, 1555 AD)

A clash took place between Humayun and the Afghan chieftains Naseeb Khan and Tatar Khan at Machhiwada, situated on the banks of the Sutlej River, about 19 miles east of Ludhiana. Humayun was victorious in this struggle and Punjab came under the authority of the Mughals.

Battle of Sirhind (June 22, 1555 AD)

Sultan Sikandar Sur led the Afghan army in this battle, while Bairam Khan commanded the Mughal army. The Afghans were defeated in this struggle. On the auspicious day of July 23, 1555, Humayun once again ascended the throne of Delhi, regaining his position as ruler.

Death of Humayun:

Despite sitting on the throne of Delhi, Humayun’s reign came to an end. He met an unfortunate end in January 1556 AD due to a fall from the stairs of the library at Dinpanah Bhavan. Historian Lenpool remarked, “Humayun tottered through life and went from this world tottering, as he had stumbled through his life.” Abul Fazl called Humayun ‘Insan-e-Kamil’ (Ideal Man). It is known that Humayun was fond of eating opium.

Because of his belief in astrology, Humayun followed the practice of wearing clothes of different colors according to each day of the week. For example, he wore yellow on Sunday, black on Saturday, and white on Monday.

Establishment of the Mughal Empire:

At the time of Humayun’s death, his son Akbar was a young boy of 13 or 14 years. Akbar was declared his successor and Bairam Khan was appointed his guardian. However, Hemchandra (Hemu) reached Delhi with an army and drove out the Mughals.

Nevertheless, Hemchandra was defeated in the Battle of Panipat on 6 November 1556. From that day the dream of establishing an independent Hindu state in India was shattered and the Mughal rule was firmly established under the leadership of young Akbar.

Unknown Facts about Humayun:

1-Unforeseen Demise: On January 24, 1556, Humayun’s unexpected death left people astonished. Contrary to battle or illness, the emperor met his demise due to a tragic accident. While responding to the call for evening prayers from a nearby mosque, he slipped and fell while descending the staircase from his library. As was his custom, he would bow in reverence whenever he heard the summons. However, this time, his foot got entangled in his robe, causing him to slip down several steps and strike his skull on a jagged stone edge.

After the fall, Humayun was carried to the palace, where he regained consciousness only to discover the severity of his condition. Realizing his impending death, he promptly communicated with his son, Akbar, informing him of the situation and designating him as his successor. Humayun passed away two days later on January 26, 1556.

2-Exile and Struggles: Following his defeat and failure to establish peace with his arch-nemesis Sher Khan, Humayun found himself compelled to flee in order to preserve his own life. Initially seeking refuge with his brother Kamran Mirza in Kandahar, he received no assistance and decided to escape to the Shah of Persia.

Accompanied by a mere 40 men and his beloved wife Bega Begum, Humayun embarked on a treacherous journey through the desert, enduring numerous hardships. He survived on meager sustenance, resorting to boiled horse meat in soldiers’ helmets, and managed to evade capture multiple times, including an attempt by his own brother.

Once he arrived in Persia, he was warmly welcomed and treated with opulent food and clothing befitting his royal status. Humayun endured exile for nearly 15 years before reclaiming his throne with the aid of the Persian King.

3-Merciful Disposition: Descriptions of Humayun’s biography depict him as extraordinarily lenient, frequently pardoning deliberate acts aimed at provoking his anger. In a remarkable instance, his youngest brother took the life of his most trusted advisor, yet Humayun chose forgiveness over punishment, embracing his brother and welcoming him back into the fold.

Similarly, when he discovered the betrayal of all his brothers, he refrained from seeking vengeance and forgave their transgressions, assuring them of his lack of animosity. While his acts of mercy align with the gentleness and compassion of his time, some historians argue that his leniency arose from a position of weakness, suggesting he was unable to administer appropriate punishments to his brothers.

4-Religious Tolerance: Despite being a devout Sunni Muslim, Humayun harbored an absence of religious intolerance, setting him apart from neighboring kingdoms characterized by religious bigotry. Although deeply committed to the Sunni doctrine, he demonstrated a remarkable ability to tolerate and support other faiths.

During his exile, he enjoyed an amicable relationship with a Shia Muslim king, exemplifying his religious impartiality. In gratitude for the Persian king’s friendship and aid, Humayun even adopted traditional Shia attire as a sign of respect for his benefactor’s religion.

5-A Believer in Astrology: Despite his devout religious beliefs, Humayun held a strong fascination with astrology. He was deeply superstitious and intrigued by celestial bodies. Upon ascending the throne, he reorganized the administration based on mystical principles. He structured his daily routine and wardrobe according to planetary movements.

Humayun even had a peculiar habit of not entering a house with his left foot first, insisting that anyone doing so exit and re-enter using their right leg. It is also reported that he would shoot arrows marked with his own name or that of the Persian Shah into the sky, interpreting their landing as a sign of future power dynamics.

6-Persian Architectural Influence: One lasting legacy of Emperor Humayun was his introduction of Persian architecture to India, a trend that continued under subsequent rulers. An early example of this influence is seen in Humayun’s Tomb, commissioned by his widow immediately after his death.

The tomb, designed by Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, showcases Persian elements. It stands 47 meters tall and spans 91 meters in width, featuring the first Persian double dome in India. Additionally, it was the first garden-tomb constructed on the Indian subcontinent.

7-Opium Addiction: During his reign, Humayun developed a dependence on opium, which persisted throughout his life. The exact effects of this addiction remain unclear, but some historians speculate that it may have contributed to his subpar performance as an emperor. Some theories propose that the long-term use of opium weakened his leg, ultimately leading to his fatal fall down the stairs. However, opposing viewpoints argue that Humayun was physically fit and mentally sound at the time of his death, attributing his fall solely to accident.

8-Father of Akbar the Great: A significant milestone in Humayun’s life was the birth of his eldest son, Akbar, to his wife Hamida Banu Begum when he himself was a fugitive. Akbar was born on October 25, 1542, in present-day Sindh. Due to Humayun’s prolonged exile, Akbar was raised in Kabul by his paternal uncles and aunts, particularly the family of Kamran Mirza. Akbar would later ascend to the throne and become the third Mughal emperor, ruling from 1556 to 1605. He is widely regarded as the greatest Mughal emperor in Indian history.

9-Restoration of the Mughal Empire: One of Humayun’s most significant achievements was the restoration of the Mughal Empire in 1555 AD. After losing the empire 15 years earlier following the Battle of Kanauj in 1540 AD, Humayun spent over a decade in exile. With the assistance of the Safavid dynasty of Persia, he reclaimed his throne, expanding the empire’s territory. At the time of his death in 1556, the Mughal Empire spanned almost one million square kilometers.

10-The Fortunate Emperor: Ironically, despite his name meaning “the fortunate,” Humayun’s life was often marked by adversity. Yet, upon closer examination, it becomes evident that he possessed a remarkable resilience. On numerous occasions when his destruction seemed inevitable, he managed to find a way to survive. For instance, when his fort was surrounded by enemies seeking to kill him, he ingeniously escaped by floating across the river on an inflated goat skin. While many of his soldiers were not as fortunate and perished, Humayun’s resourcefulness allowed him to persevere.

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