The son of Mughal Emperor Babur and the father of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Humayun had a life full of struggles. Like his father he too suffered loss earlier in his life only to regain it later and continue the legacy of his father.
Early Life and Background of Mughal Emperor Humayun
Born on 6 March 1508 as Nasir-ud-Din Muḥammad in Mughal Empire Kabul, Humayun was the eldest son of Babur from his wife Maham Begum. The couple married in 1504 during Babur’s visit in Herat, Khorasan. She was the chief queen (Padshah Begum) and Babur’s favorite.
Humayun had four siblings – Barbul, Mihr Jahan, Aisan Daulat and Faruq. Unfortunately, they all died in infancy. Besides them Humayun had siblings – Hindal Mirza and Gulbadan Begum (children of Gulbadan Begum) adopted by Maham Begum in 1519 and 1525 respectively. Gulbadan Begum was the one who drafted Humayun Nama.
Besides them he had 5 half brothers including Kamran Mirza as well as Askari Mirza and 8 half sisters including Fakhr-Un-Nisa the daughter of Babur’s first wife Aisha Sultan Begum.
The Struggle To The Throne
After the death of his father, Humayun’s territories were the least secure. Besides, not all the nobles (umarah) considered him as the rightful heir. Earlier too when his father Babur was ill the nobles tried to forward the case of Mahdi Khwaja (his uncle) as a ruler. Though all their attempts failed, it indicated the problems of Humayun in his journey ahead.
Besides, fratricide being a common problem in Timurids, many of his brothers revolted against him. However, Humayun succeeded Babur and became the second Mughal Emperor on 26 December 1530 at the age of 23 in the Indian subcontinent. Kamran Mirza, his half brother inherited other areas – Kabul and Lahore of his father’s empire. Humayun was quite inexperienced when he came to power. Later even Kamran became a bitter rival of Humayun.
During his rule, Mughal Emperor Humayun had to constantly fight with two major rivals of his land – Sher Shah Suri from the Bihar region in the east and Sultan Bahadur in Gujarat. Though Humayun was successful in defeating Sultan Bahadur who later fled and too refuge with the Portuguese (whom he allowed in the western region of Indian subcontinent), he somehow couldn’t control Sher Shah Suri.
When Sher Shah saw Humayun concentrating on the west, he marched towards Agra and even captured his territories in Bengal. Meanwhile 19 year old Hindal Mirza, brother of Humayun who had promised to support Humayun turned hostile. This gave enough chance to Sher Shah Suri who then captured the Agra fort from Humayun.
Later in 1539 both fought the Battle of Chausa, it was a decisive victory for Sher Shah Suri post which he crowned himself Farīd al-Dīn Shēr Shah. A year later the two met at the Battle of Kanauj, Humayun was defeated afterwhich he retreated to Lahore, giving way to Sur dynasty. He then went to Kabul where Kamran was the ruler however Humayun’s arrival created rift between the brothers. Kamran then approached Sher Shah and offered his help to him against his own brother if he gave him Punjab. Suri however refused to help him.
The local Hindu ruler Rana Prasad of the oasis garrison of Umerkot in Sindh gave refuge to Humayun. While at Umerkot, his wife Hamida, daughter of noble Sindhi, gave birth to Akbar on 15 October 1542, the heir-apparent to the 34-year-old Humayun. The date was special because Humayun consulted his Astronomer to utilise the astrolabe and check the location of the planets.
From The Mughal Emperor Humayun To Just a Refugee
Humayun finally got aid from Hussein Umrani, the the Emir of Sindh and his alley. Emir Hussein Umrani welcomed Humayun and Rana Prasad, the local Hindu ruler of Umerkot region gave refuge to Humayun and his eight months pregnant wife Hamida Banu Begum.
This was the place when Hamida Banu Begum gave birth to Akbar on 15 October 1542, the heir-apparent to the 34-year-old Humayun.
Next, Humayun alongside Emir Hussein Umrani formed new alliances that helped him in regaining his lost territories and marched towards Kandahar and later Kabul, where many sided Humayun and even declared hims as the rightful Timurid heir of the first Mughal Emperor, Babur. However, he received no help and he had to seek refuge with the Shah of Persia.
From a Refugee to a Mughal Emperor
The Safavid helped Humayun to take over Kandahar and Kabul from his brothers Askari and Kamran Mirza. Hindal who was the most disloyal of all his siblings died fighting from Humayun’s side. Meantime, the Sur dynasty in India after the death of Sher Shah Suri had become very weak.
On 22 June 1555, at the Battle of Sirhind, the two armies met again. This time Humayun defeated Sikander Shah Suri (who succeeded after Sher Shah Suri’s son) and reestablished Mughal Empire in India.
Family Life: Wives and Sons
Humayun had 8 Wives – Bega Begum, Hamida Banu Begum, Mah Chuchak Begum, Bibi Gunwar, Khanish Agha, Maywa Jan, Shad Bibi and Chand Bibi. Akbar was the son of Hamida Begum.
Besides Akbar, he had four other sons – Al-aman Mirza (who died at the age of 7 – son of Bega Begum), Mirza Muhammad Hakim (son of Maha Chuchak Begum), Ibrahim Sultan Mirza and Farrukh Fal Mirza and 7 daughters – Bakshi Bano, Aqiqa Sultan Begum, Jahan Sultan Begun, Fakhr-Un-Nissa, Bakht-un-Nissa Begum, Amina Banu Begum and Sakina Banu Begum.
Death and Legacy
A year after he became Mughal Emperor, Humayun, with his arms full of books, was descending the staircase from his library when he heard Azaan. Trying to kneel, he caught his foot in his robe and tumbled down several steps and hit his temple on a rugged stone edge. He died three days later on 27 January 1556 at the age of 47 in Delhi, India. He was buried at the Humayun Tomb in Delhi which is a tourist place today.
Source and Reference:
Humayun-nama: The history of Humayun by Gulbadan Begum Translated by Annette S. Beveridge. Royal Asiatic Society.
Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak Akbar-namah Edited with commentary by Muhammad Sadiq Ali