1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Baber

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BABER, or Babar (1483-1530), a famous conqueror of India and founder of the so-called Mogul dynasty. His name was Zahir ud-din-Mahomet, and he was given the surname of Baber, meaning the tiger. Born on the 14th of February 1483, he was a descendant of Timur, and his father, Omar Sheik, was king of Ferghana, a district of what is now Russian Turkestan. Omar died in 1495, and Baber, 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 he 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 also. After some reverses he regained both these places, but in 1501 his most formidable enemy, Shaibani (Sheibani) Khan, ruler of the Uzbegs, defeated him in a great engagement and drove him from Samarkand. For three years he wandered about trying in vain to recover his lost possessions; at last, in 1504, he gathered some troops, and crossing the snowy Hindu Kush 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 he united with Hussain Mirza of Herat against Shaibani. The death of Hussain put a stop to this expedition, but Baber spent a year at Herat, enjoying the pleasures of that capital. He 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 his great personal courage and daring struck the army of his opponents with such dismay that they again returned to their allegiance and Baber regained his kingdom. Once again, in 1510, after the death of Shaibani, he endeavoured to obtain possession of his native country. He received considerable aid from Shah Ismael of Persia, and in 1511 made a triumphal entry into Samarkand. But in 1514 he was utterly defeated by the Uzbegs and with difficulty reached Kabul. He seems now to have resigned all hopes of recovering Ferghana, and as he at the same time dreaded an invasion of the Uzbegs from the west, his attention was more and more drawn towards India. Several preliminary incursions had been already made, when in 1521 an opportunity presented itself for a more extended expedition. Ibrahim, emperor of Delhi, had made himself detested, even by his Afghan nobles, several of whom called upon Baber for assistance. He at once assembled his forces, 12,000 strong, with some pieces of artillery and marched into India. Ibrahim, with 100,000 soldiers and numerous elephants, advanced against him. The great battle was fought at Panipat on the 21st of April 1526, when Ibrahim was slain and his army routed. Baber at once took possession of Agra. A still more formidable enemy awaited him; the Rana Sanga of Mewar collected the enormous force of 210,000 men, with which he moved against the invaders. On all sides there was danger and revolt, even Baber's own soldiers, worn out with the heat of this new climate, longed for Kabul. By vigorous measures and inspiriting speeches he restored their courage, though his own heart was nearly failing him, and in his distress he abjured the use of wine, to which he had been addicted. At Kanwaha, on the 10th of March 1527, he won a great victory and made himself absolute master of northern India. The remaining years of his life he spent in arranging the affairs and revenues of his new empire and in improving his capital, Agra. He died on the 26th of December 1530 in his forty-eighth year. Baber was above the middle height, of great strength and an admirable archer and swordsman. His mind was as well cultivated as his bodily powers; he wrote well, and his observations are generally acute and accurate; he was brave, kindly and generous.

Full materials for his life are found in his Memoirs, written by himself (translated into English by Leyden and Erskine (London, 1826); abridged in Caldecott, Life of Baber (London, 1844). See also Lane-Poole, Baber (Rulers of India Series), 1899.