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Baber

Baber

 

 

BaberMacaulay who spent ten years in India, gives the following graphic picture of the people and the government which the British overthrew in order to establish their own power in the East. "The people of India were ten times as numerous as the Americans whom the Spaniards vanquished, and ·were, at the same time, quite as highly civilized as the victorious Spaniards. They had raised cities larger and fairer than Saragossa or Toledo, and buildings more beautiful and costly than Seville. They could show bankers richer than the richest firms of Barcelona or Cadiz, viceroys whose splendor far surpassed that of Ferdinand the Catholic, myriads of cavalry and long trains of artillery which would have astonished the Great Captain.

 

The empire which Baber and his Moguls reared in the sixteenth century was long one of the most extensive and splendid in the world. In no European kingdom was so large a population subject to a single prince, or so large a revenue poured into the treasury. The beauty and magnificence of the buildings erected by the sovereigns of Hindostan amazed even travelers who had seen St. Peter's. The innumerable retinues and gorgeous decorations which surrounded the throne of Delhi dazzled even eyes which were accustomed to the pomp of Versailles. Some of the great viceroys, who held their posts by virtue of commission from the Mogul, ruled as many subjects as the King of France or the Emperor of Germany. Even the deputies of these deputies might well rank, as to extent of territory and amount of revenue, with the Grand Duke of Tuscany or the Elector of Saxony.

 

Baber Mohammed, the founder of this magnificent empire, was perhaps the most singular personage in Oriental history. He may be said to have spent his life in winning and losing kingdoms. He was a great-great-grandson of Timur, or Tamerlane, and became the first of the Great Moguls. He professed to be a Mohammedan, yet he did not allow his religion to prevent him from drinking wine. He possessed great bodily strength and agility, and was equally distinguished by courage and generosity.

 

Baber was born in February, 1483, and was a son of Omar, King of Ferghana, a valley drained by the Upper Jaxartes. On the death of his father, in 1495, he succeeded to the throne at the age of twelve. His uncles then made an unsuccessful attempt to usurp the royal power. From this time his career was marked by a series of extraordinary vicissitudes. In I497 this brave boy attacked and took the important city of Sumarcand. While at a distance from his capital, He was expelled from the kingdom of Ferghana by a rebellion of Mogul chiefs. While be was marching to recover it, his troops deserted and he lost Samarcand. With a band of 240 men he attacked that city, then one of the strongest in Asia, and defended by a well-trained army. Scaling the walls in the night, he produced such a panic in the army that the king, Subiani, fled and abandoned his kingdom without a battle. But the prize did not remain long in the conqueror's grasp. In 1501 the Khan of the Usbeks defeated Baber in battle and expelled him from Samarcand. For three years the dethroned monarch wandered about with a few followers, trying to recover his possessions. Then he crossed the mountain range of Hindoo-Kush, captured Cabul and acquired a new kingdom. The state of anarchy to which that fertile region had been reduced made the people welcome a ruler of vigorous character and high reputation.

 

A few years later his own Moguls raised a formidable insurrection against him at Cabul. The dauntless warrior challenged successively. and killed in single combat, five of his leading opponents i and then the hostile army, moved by admiration or fear, submitted to him. Aided by Shah Ismael of Persia, he recovered Samarcand in 1511. Having been again defeated in battle by the warlike Usbeks, he retreated to Cabul. Thenceforth he turned his arms against the richer and less vigorous tribes of the south, and conducted several expeditions to the frontier of Hindostan. Finally he invaded India with an army of 13,000 horse, and marched against Delhi, the capital. Ibrahim, King of Delhi, who opposed him with 100,000 men, was defeated and killed at the battle of Paniput, in April, 1526. Ibrahim was the last monarch of the Gaurian or Patan dynasty.

 

Baber was now seated on the throne of Delhi, renowned in the annals of India hut his possession was not secure. His enemies raised an army of about 150,000 men, while Baber had no reliable troops but the small army he had brought with him into India. In this critical condition his bravest captains advised him to retreat but his indomitable spirit repelled the idea of renouncing without a struggle so great an empire. He required his soldiers to swear on the Koran to conquer or die. The enemy had great superiority in cavalry; Baber's chief strength consisted in a body of musketeers and a train of artillery. He was attacked at Kanweh, in March, 1527, and gained a decisive victory, which rendered him absolute master of India. He lived but a few years to enjoy his power, dying in December, 1530. He was succeeded by his son Humayoon.

 

Baber left interesting commentaries on the events of his own life, and is considered the most accomplished prince that ever ruled over Hindostan. He was a master in the arts of music and poetry. His strength and dexterity in sports and in warlike exercises are described as almost preternatural. Many stories are told of his clemency and humanity to his inveterate enemies. He was almost as often defeated as victorious; but his exploits are considered to be equal to the most heroic of those achieved by his ancestor, Tamerlane.

 

THE FOUNDING OF THE MOGUL EMPIRE.

 

Established in the capital of Hindostan Baber had nothing to dread from either Afghans or Hindoos singly; but his advent and conquest more or less dispossessed them both, and common interest in their territory and revenues induced them to make common cause against him. Singly, their opposition was of no importance, but united it became serious all that was required, apparently to ensure his destruction was a leader who should be able to unite the two great parties. Such a man was not long wanting. Rallo. Sankal head of the Rajpoot principality of Cheetore was the leader on whom the eyes of the inhabitants of Hindostan- Hindoos and Mussuhuans alike-were turned in their extremity.

 

Born of the most ancient lineage of Hindostan, bred to battles and bloodshed, despising alike Afghans and Turks and glorying in the chivalrous race who owned him as chief and who looked forward to the time when he should regain the empire of his ancestors and be seated on the throne of Nushirwan the Just, Rana Sanka was a warrior after Babers own heart, a foeman in every respect worthy of his steel. His person bore unmistakable signs of his valor and his delight in war. He was of middle stature, great muscular strength, and exhibited an unusual amount of wounds; he had lost an eye and an arm, had a leg broken with a cannon ball, and counted eighty wounds from lance and sword in various parts of his body : 80,000 horse, seven rajas of the highest rank, nine rajas of lesser rank, and 104 chieftains with 500 war elephants followed the standard of the Rajpoot prince.

 

For more than forty years he had been exercising his warrior subjects with predatory incursions into the neighboring kingdom of Malwa or Guzerat, or in more formidable warfare with the Afghan sovereigns of Hindostan. He had defeated in battle Sultan Mahmoud, the great king of Malwa, and had annexed some of his most valuable provinces twice he had made war on Ibrahim, and twice he had defeated him in pitched battle.

 

Constantly intent on restoring Rajpoot supremacy in Hindostan, Rana Sanka saw in the invasion of Baber an opportunity of destroying the Afghan dynasty that once accomplished, he had little fear of disposing of the handful of strangers who hoped to rise on their ruin.

 

He opened communications with Baber at Sealkote, prior to the calamitous defeat of Alim Khan, in which it was arranged that whilst Baber attacked Ibrahim by marching on Delhi, the Rana was to attack him on the side of Agra; this latter part of the compact, however, he entirely neglected to perform, for, whilst Baber advanced and secured these two capitals, the Rana made no sign whatever.

 

The battle of Palliput, that fulfilled the first part of the programme by shattering the Afghan power, made it imperative on him at once to strike the blow that was to destroy the new race of invaders and establish himself in the ancient seats of Rajpoot supremacy.

 

In the mean time, north, south, east and west, the flame of disturbance and discontent spread like wildfire amongst a host of discontented nobles and princes. Everywhere the Hindoos and Afghans uuited against the interlopers, till Rana Sanka found himself at the head of 100,000 of the picked warriors of Hindostan.

 

This imposing array was at first successful, and the vanguard of Baber's army defeated with loss. But these moments of temporary disaster and waning confidence were those best suited to the genius of Baber. Like Marshal Massena, he was careless and heedless in all his preparations for a campaign guiltless of forethought, but in time of action unequalled in history for energy and startling deeds of daring. The tactics of Baber were rather those of a successful partisan than of a great conqueror he would, at some particular crisis or emergency, rouse himself to extraordinary action, and probably for the time eclipse the greatest conqueror that had ever lived; but the success attained, or the crisis averted, he would sink again into indolence and indifference; his nature was that of the giant, confident in his strength, but unwilling to rouse himself until compelled to do so.

 

The energy of the conqueror never rests; it is always on full stretch, striving onward and allowing no circumstance to stay its progress. With him battles are merely the means towards the great end of conquest Baber liked fighting for fighting's sake, and saw in a battle not so much the means of gratifying his ambition as the actual object of his delight. He would invariably rouse himself with fury for the fight that was unavoidable, and was always successful but once victorious, he relaxed in his endeavors and, like Hannibal and many great generals, was slow to take advantage of success. Finding his chiefs discouraged he called a council of war, but it was like that of Clive at Plassy, or of Nelson before the battle of the Nile, not to elicit from them an excuse for avoiding the contest, but to express to all his unflinching determination to conquer or die.

 

The splendid chivalry of such a man as Baber could not fail to inspirit men so impulsive and warlike as the Moguls. He urged them as soldiers to prefer death to defeat, and as true believers to prefer a crown of martyrdom to a life of infamy. The inspiring fanaticism of the Moslem creed worked its effect and when, watching his opportunity, he seized t.he Koran, and proposed that all in his camp, serf and noble, squire and knight, should swear on the Holy Book to die rather than desert the field, not one man of the whole army held back. The success of an army so animated could never be doubtful; the green standard of the Prophet unfurled to the " Alla il alla" of such a host was sure to wave in victory. Baber could rely with the greatest confidence on his Mogul soldiery; but of his Hindoo levies he still entertained considerable mistrust. Like those of our own day, they were apt to waver in their allegiance the moment any power entered the field strong enough to threaten the fall of their existing masters.

 

Although the forethought of Baber, in suffering so formidable an army to assemble without opposition, may be open to criticism, his dispositions in the field were those of a practiced soldier; he was everywhere animating his troops and instructing his generals and wherever the contest raged the fiercest, and the war-cry of his chiefs waxed the faintest, there was the calpac or lofty turban of Baber seen towering above the battle. But he was fighting against fearful odds, and for many hours his army, completely outnumbered, was compressed into a circle, and hemmed in on every side by the superior forces of his assailants. Finding at length, however, that the enemy gained nothing, whilst his phalanx was as firm as at the first, Baber determined to change his tactics; and, placing himself at the head of the gallant tribes Timour and Allum, he rushed with the fury of a baited lion on the foe. "Then," says Baber himself, in his memoirs, that wonder of our age, Mustafa Rumi, charged with great slaughter, and made the heads of the Hindoos fall from their bodies like stars from the sky; and victory, whose countenance bedecked with waving tresses had been concealed beneath a veil, as the bride of futurity, came to greet the present;" the Heathens were scattered like teased wool and broken like bubbles of wine.

 

The army of the Hindoos and Afghans, exhausted with repeated onslaughts, and shaken by as many repulses, was soon completely broken. Baber, glorying in his might, charged through and through the now panic-stricken ranks, and in the evening not a cohort remained of the magnificent army that in the morning threatened his very existence.

 

Mohammed Baber was forty-four years of age, when, by the overthrow of the allied Afghan and Hindoo forces, he seated himself on the throne of Del hi, and finally established the Mogul dynasty in Hindostan.-SIR E. SULLIVAN.

 

Baber

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