BĀBAR, ZAHĪR UD-DĪN MUHAMMAD (1483-1530), soldier of fortune, founder of the Mu ghal dynasty in India, diarist and poet, descending in the fifth generation from Timūr, was born on 14 February 1483. In June 1494, he succeeded his father, 'Umar Shaikh, as ruler of Farghānā, whose revenues supported no more than a few hundred cavalry. With this force of helmeted, mail-clad warriors, Bābar began his career of conquest. He joined in the family struggle for power, thrice winning and thrice losing Samarkand, alternately master of a kingdom or a wanderer through the hills. In 1504, he made himself master of Kābul and so came in touch with India whose wealth was a standing temptation. In 1517 and again in 1519, he swept down the Afghān plateau into the plains of India. He entered the Punjab in 1523 on the invitation of Daulat Khān Lodhī, the governor of the province, and 'Ālam Khān, an uncle of Ibrāhīm Lodhī, the Delhi Sultān. Uzbegh pressure from Balkh, however, compelled Bābar to return so that his final invasion was not begun until November 1525.

        Even then his total force did not exceed 12, 000 men, a tiny army with which to attempt the conquest of Ibrāhīm Lodhī's realm and the vast mass of Hindu India. The hostile armies came to grips on 21 April 1526 on the plain of Pānīpat. In the fiercely contested battle, Ibrāhīm Lodhī was killed and Bābar carried the day. As a result the kingdom of Delhi and Āgrā fell into Bābar's hands. But Bābar's victory at Pānīpat did not make him the ruler of India. Rāṇā Saṅgrām Siṅgh of Mevāṛ claimed Rājpūt supremacy over India, and advanced towards Āgrā with a large army. On 16 March 1527, Bābar defeated the Rājpūts at Khānvāh. Early next year he carried the fortress of Chanderī by storm and defeated Medinī Rāo. Finally, Bābar defeated the Afghān chiefs of Bihār and Bengal in 1529 at Ghāgrā, near the junction of that river with the Gaṅgā above Paṭnā.

        The Sikh tradition strongly subscribes to a meeting in 1520 between Gurū Nānak and Bābar during the latter's invasion of Saidpur, now called Eminābād, in Gujrāṅwālā district of Pakistan. The town was taken by assault, the garrison put to the sword and the inhabitants carried into captivity. According to the Purātan Janam Sākhī, Gurū Nānak and Mardānā, also among the captives, were ordered to be taken to prison as slaves. The Gurū was given a load to carry and Mardānā a horse to lead. But Mīr Khān, says the Janam Sākhī, saw that the Gurū's bundle was carried without any support and Mardānā's horse followed him without the reins. He reported this to Sultān Bābar who remarked, "If there was such a holy man here, the town should not have been destroyed. " The Janam Sākhī continues, "Bābar kissed his (Gurū Nānak's) feet. He said, 'On the face of this faqīr one sees God Himself. ' Then all the people, Hindus and Musalmāns, began to make their salutations. The king spoke again, 'O dervish, accept something'. The Gurū answered, 'I take nothing, but you must release all the prisoners of Saidpur and restore their property to them'. King Bābar ordered, 'Those who are in detention be released and their property be returned to them'. All the prisoners of Saidpur were set at liberty. "

        Though Bābar's Tuzk, or Memoirs, a work of high literary quality, gives many interesting details of the campaigns and the events he was involved in and also describes the Indian life and customs very minutely, there is no mention in these recollections that he met Gurū Nānak. Nevertheless, the possibility of such a meeting having taken place cannot be ruled out. There are references in Gurū Nānak's bāṇī to Bābar's invasions. An open tragedy like the one that struck Saidpur moved him profoundly and he described the sorrows of Indians-Hindus and Muslims alike-in words of intense power and suffering. Bābar's army, in the words of Gurū Nānak, was "the bridal procession of sin. " In fact, Indian literature of that period records no more virile protest against the invading hordes than do Gurū Nānak's four hymns of Bābarvāṇī in the Gurū Granth Sāhib.

        Bābar died on 26 December 1530 at Āgrā. Several years later his body was moved to its present grave in one of the gardens of Kābul.


  1. Beveridge, Annette Susannah, trans. , Babur-nama. Delhi, 1989
  2. Smith, Vincent A. , The Oxford History of India. Oxford, 1958
  3. Jaffar, S. M. , The Mughal Empire. Delhi, 1974
  4. Harbans Singh, Guru Nanak and Origins of the Sikh Faith. Bombay, 1969

Srī Rām Sharma