Zahir-ud-din Mohammad was known as Babur, the Turkish word for "Tiger". Born on February 14, 1483, Babur was a descendant of the famed Turkish warrior Timur through his grandfather, the astronomer and Timurid Sultan Uluğ Bey, and of the all-conquering Mongolian leader Genghis Khan. Babur's father, Omar Sheikh, was king of Ferghana, a district of modern Uzbekistan. Omar died in 1495. Babur, though only twelve years of age, succeeded to the throne. An attempt made by his uncles to dislodge him proved unsuccessful, and no sooner was the young sovereign firmly settled than he began to meditate an extension of his own dominions.
In 1497, Babur attacked and gained possession of Samarkand, to which he always seems to have thought he had a natural and hereditary right. A rebellion among his nobles robbed him of his native kingdom, and while marching to recover it, his troops deserted him and he lost Samarkand. After some reverses, Babur regained both places, but in 1501 his most formidable enemy, Shaibani Mohammad, Khan of the Uzbeks, defeated him in a great engagement and again he lost Samarkand.
For three years, Babur wandered, vainly trying to recover his lost possessions. He managed to gather sufficient troops in 1504; crossing the snowy Hindu Kush, Babur besieged and captured the strong city of Kabul. By this dexterous stroke, he gained a new and wealthy kingdom and completely re-established his fortunes.
In the following year, Babur united with Hussain Mirza of Herat against Shaibani Mohammad. The death of Hussain put a stop to this expedition, but Babur spent a year at Herat, enjoying the pleasures of that capital. Babur returned to Kabul in time to quell a formidable rebellion, but two years later a revolt among some of the leading Moguls drove him from his city. He was compelled to take to flight with very few companions, but through courage and daring struck the army of his opponents with such dismay that they again returned to their allegiance and Babur regained his kingdom.
After the death of Shaybani Khan in 1510, Babur once again endeavoured to obtain possession of his ancestral Timurid territories. He received considerable aid from the Persian Safavid Empire's Shah Ismail I and in 1511 made a triumphal entry into Samarkand. However, he was utterly defeated by the Uzbeks in 1514 and only reached Kabul with great difficulty.
Babur now resigned all hopes of recovering Ferghana; although he dreaded an invasion of the Uzbeks from the West, his attention increasingly turned to India. He had made several preliminary incursions when an opportunity presented itself for a more extended expedition in 1521. Ibrahim Lodi, Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate, was detested and several of his Afghani nobles asked Babur for assistance.
Babur immediately assembled a 12000-man army, complete with limited artillery, and marched into India. Sultan Ibrahim advanced against him with 100000 soldiers and elephants. Their great battle, the First battle of Panipat, was fought on April 21, 1526. Sultan Ibrahim Lodi was slain and his army routed and Babur at once took possession of Agra.
A more formidable enemy awaited Babur. Rana Sanga of Mewar collected an enormous force of 210000 men and attacked the invaders. On all sides there was danger and revolt; even Babur's own soldiers, worn out with the heat of this new climate, longed for Kabul. Babur restored their courage though inwardly losing confidence. In distress, Babur renounced the wine to which he had been addicted. At Kanwaha, on 10 March 1527, he won a great victory and made himself absolute master of North India.
The remaining years of Babur's life he spent in arranging the affairs and revenues of his new empire and in improving his capital, Agra. He died on December 26, 1530 in his forty-eighth year. His son, Humayun, inherited his throne.
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This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica.