|Birth name:||Nasiruddin Humayun|
|Title:||Emperor of Mughal Empire|
|Birth:||March 17, 1508|
|Place of birth:||Kabul|
|Place of death:||Delhi|
Hamida Banu Begum|
Mirza Muhammad Hakim, son
Aqiqeh Begum, daughter
Bakshi Banu Begum, daughter
Bakhtunissa Begum, daughter
Humayun (full title: Al-Sultan al-'Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Jam-i-Sultanat-i-haqiqi wa Majazi, Sayyid al-Salatin, Abu'l Muzaffar Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun Padshah Ghazi, Zillu'llah ) (نصيرالدين همايون) (March 17 1508 March 4 1556) (OS March 7, 1508-OS February 22, 1556) was the second Mughal Emperor who ruled modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India from 1530–1540 and again from 1555–1556. Like his father, Babur, he lost his kingdom early, but with Persian aid, he eventually regained an even larger one. On the eve of his death in 1556, the Mughal empire spanned almost one million square kilometers.
He succeeded his father in India in 1530, while his half-brother Kamran Mirza, who was to become a rather bitter rival, obtained the sovereignty of Kabul and Lahore, the more northern parts of their father's empire. He originally ascended the throne at the age of 22 and was somewhat inexperienced when he came to power.
Humayun lost his Indian territories to the Afghan Sultan, Sher Shah Suri, and, with Persian aid, regained them fifteen years later. Humayun's return from Persia, accompanied by a large retinue of Persian noblemen, signalled an important change in Mughal Court culture, as the Central Asian origins of the dynasty were largely overshadowed by the influences of Persian art, architecture, language and literature. Subsequently, in a very short time, Humayun was able to expand the Empire further, leaving a substantial legacy for his son, Akbar the Great (Akbar-e-Azam).
Timur himself had divided his territories between 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. Babur 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 Humayun's uncle, Mahdi Khwaja, as ruler. Although this attempt failed, it was a sign of problems to come.
He was also deeply superstitious, and fascinated by Astrology and the Occult. Upon his accession as Padishah (Emperor), he began to re-organise the administration upon mystically determined principles. The public offices were divided into four distinct groups, for the four elements. The department of Earth was to be in charge of Agriculture and the agricultural sciences, Fire was to be in charge of the Military, Water was the department of the Canals and waterways while Air seemed to have responsibility for everything else. His daily routine was planned in accordance with the movements of the planets, so too was his wardrobe. He refused to enter a house with his left foot going forward, and if anyone else did they would be told to leave and re-enter.
His servant, Jauhar, records in the Tadhkirat al-Waqiat that he was known to shoot arrows to the sky marked with either his own name, or that of the Shah of Persia and, depending on how they landed, interpreted this as an indication of which of them would grow more powerful. He was a heavy drinker, and also took pellets of Opium, after which he was known to recite poetry. He was, however, not enamoured of warfare, and after winning a battle would spend months at a time indulging himself within the walls of a captured city even as a larger war was taking place outside.
During the first five years of Humayun's reign, these two rulers were quietly extending their rule, although Sultan Bahadur faced pressure in the east from sporadic conflicts with the Portuguese. While the Mughals had acquired firearms via the Ottoman Empire, Bahadur's Gujurat 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. Showing an unusual resolve, Humayun gathered an army and marched on Bahadur. His assault was spectacular and within a month he had captured the forts of Mandu and Champaner. However, instead of pressing his attack and going after the enemy, Humayun ceased the campaign and began to enjoy life in his new forts. Bahadur, meanwhile, escaped and took up refuge with the Portuguese.
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 nineteen 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 expected aid from the Amir of Sindh, whom he had appointed and who owed him his allegiance. While the Amir, Hussein, tolerated Humayun's presence, he knew that raising an army against Sher Shah would ultimately end in disaster, and he therefore politely refused all of Humayun's requests for military assistance. Whilst in Sindh Humayun met and married Hamida — who was to become the mother of Akbar — on August 21 1541. The date was selected after Humayun consulted his astrolabe to check the location of the planets.
In May 1542 the Raja of Jodhpur, Rao Maldeo Rathore, issued a request to Humayun to form an alliance against Sher Shah and so Humayun and his army rode out through the desert to meet with the Prince. As they made their way across the desert the prince became aware of how feeble Humayun's army had now become. Furthermore, Sher Shah had offered him more favourable terms and so he sent word that he no longer wanted to see Humayun, who was now less than 80 km (50 miles) from the city. Thus, Humayun and his troops, and his heavily pregnant wife, had to retrace their steps through the desert at the hottest time of year. All the wells had been filled with sand by the nearby inhabitants after Humayun's troops had killed several cows (a sacred animal to the Hindus), 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 ordered Hindal to join his brothers in Kandahar.
However, while Humayun was on his travels, Hussein, the Amir of Sindh, had killed Maldeo's father, prompting the Raja to change his mind about Humayun. He decided to ride out to meet him in Umarkot, a small town by a desert oasis. Humayun was afforded full courtesies and was given new horses and weapons as the men formed an alliance against Sindh. Umarkot was to become the centre of operations for this battle, and it was here, on October 15 1542 that the 15 year old Hamida, gave birth to her first child, a boy they called Akbar - (great), the heir-apparent to the 34 year old Humayun.
In Kamran's territory, Hindal had been placed under house arrest in Kabul after refusing to have the Khutba recited in Kamran's name. His other brother Askari 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 found Akbar in the camp, and embraced him, and allowed his own wife to rear him. She apparently treated him as her own.
Humayun fled to the refuge of the Safavid Empire in Iran, marching with forty 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, hinting that this would be the price of his support, and eventually and reluctantly Humayun did so, much to the disapproval of his biographer Jauhar. With this outward acceptance of Shi'ism the Shah was prepared to offer Humayun more substantial support. When Humayun's brother, Kamran, offered to cede Kandahar to the Persians in exchange for Humayun, dead or alive, the Shah refused. Instead the Shah threw a party for Humayun, with three hundred tents, an imperial Persian carpet, 12 musical bands and "meat of all kinds". Here the Shah announced that all this, and 12,000 choice cavalry were his to lead an attack on his brother Kamran. All that Shah asked for was that, if Humayun's forces were victorious, Kandahar would be his.
With this Persian aid Humayun took Kandahar from Askari after a two-week siege. He noted how the nobles who had served Askari 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 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. In the end, there was no actual siege. Kamran was detested as a leader and as Humayun's Persian army approached the city hundreds of Kamran's troops changed sides, flocking to join Humayun and swelling his ranks. Kamran 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 childs' 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 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, whose brief periods of possession were marked by atrocities against the inhabitants who, he supposed, had helped his brother.
His youngest brother, Hindal, formerly the most disloyal of his siblings, died fighting on his behalf. His brother Askari 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, had repeatedly sought to have Humayun killed, and when in 1552 he attempted to make a pact with Islam Shah, Sher Shah's successor, he was apprehended by a Gakhar. The Gakhars were one of only a few groups of people who had remained loyal to their oath to the Mughals. Sultan Adam of the Gakhars handed Kamran over to Humayun. Humayun was tempted to forgive his brother, however he was warned that allowing Kamran's continuous acts to go unpunished could foment rebellion within his own ranks. So, instead of killing his brother Humayun had Kamran blinded which would end any claim to the throne. He sent him on Hajj, as he hoped to see his brother absolved of sin, but he died close to Mecca in the Arabian desert in 1557.
Bairam Khan led the army through the Punjab virtually unopposed. The fort of Rohtas, which was built in 1541-43 by Sher Shah Sur 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.
His sojourn in exile seems to have reduced Humayun's reliance on astrology, and his military leadership instead imitated the methods he had observed in Persia, allowing him to win more effectively and quicker.
This also applied to the administration of the empire. Persian methods of governance were imported into North India in Humayun's reign. The system of revenue collection is held to have improved on both the Persian model and that of the Delhi Sultanate one. The Persian arts too were very influential, and Persian-style miniatures were produced at Mughal (and subsequently Rajput) courts. The Chaghatai Language, in which Babur had written his memoirs, disappeared almost entirely from the culture of the courtly elite, and Akbar could not speak it. Later in life Humayun himself is said to have spoken in Persian verse more often than not.
On March 4, 1556, Humayun, his arms full of books, was descending the staircase from his library when the muezzin announced the Adhan (the call to prayer). It was his habit, wherever he heard the summons, to bow his knee in holy reverence. Kneeling, 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, and was succeeded by the 13 year old Akbar.
Humayun loved astrology and astronomy and built observatories that lasted centuries. His life was chronicled in a slightly hagiographical work called the Humayun-nama written by his sister Gulbadan Begum at the request of his son, Akbar. His most lasting impact was the importing of Persian ideas into the Indian empire, something which was expanded on by later leaders. His support for the arts, following exposure to Safavid art, saw him recruit painters to his court who developed the celebrated Mughal style of painting. Humayun's greatest architectural creation was the Din-Panah (Refuge of Religion) citadel at Delhi which was destroyed by Sher Shah. He is best remembered today for his great Tomb, built by his widow after his death. The ultimate model for Humayun's tomb is the Gur-e Amir in Samarkand, and it is best-known as a precursor to the Taj Mahal in style. However, in its striking composition of dome and iwan, and its imaginative use of local materials, it is one of the finest Mughal monuments in India in its own right.