(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains History (Optional) Study Kit "Mughal Empire"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit

Subject: History (Optional)

Topic: Mughal Empire

Mughal rule is regarded as a time when contentious issues of religion and politics were placed on the back-burner and the splendour of monarchy took centre-stage.

Babur (1484-1530)

Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur descended from his father’s side in the 5th generation from Timur, and through his mother in the 15th generation from Chenghiz Khan. Reasons for his Indian expedition were that the Ottomans defeated the Safavids and the Uzbeks controlled Transoxiana forcing Babur’s imperial impulses towards India. Meagre income of Kabul, Desire to emulate Timur was the cause of Babur’s invasion to India. He was invited to attack India by Daulat Khan Lodi, Subedar of Punjab; Ibrahim Lodi’s Uncle Alamkhan Lodi and Rana Sanga.

He was successful in his 5th expedition. In the Battle of Panipat 20th April 1526. he finally defeated Ibrahim Lodhi. Babur was the first one to entitle himself as the ‘Padshah’. Some important wars by Babur are as following:-

Battle of Panipat (1526)- Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi
Battle of Khanwa (1527)- Babur defeated Rana Sanga
Battle of Chanderi(1528)- Babur defeated Medini Rai

After the Kushans, he was the first to bring Kabul and Kandahar into the Indian empire, which provided stability since it was the staging post of invasions of India. This helped in promoting trade since these towns were the starting points of caravans meant for China in the east & Mediterranean in the west. Babur. Babur’s effective use of field cannon and matchlockmen ensured the success of his much smaller force. The Lodi Sultan had failed to integrate firearms into his military machine, and thus proved unable to meet the Mughal challenge. Ibrahim Lodi along with over fifteen thousand soldiers, perished on the battlefield. Babur, like his men, was also not too enthused about India.

This can be discerned from his autobiography, the Tuzuk-i-Baburi, in which he notes that Hindustan was “a country of few charms”. But Babur was equally certain that his destiny did not lie in poverty-stricken Kabul. Babur now solemnly declared that they were engaged in a religious war, jihad, to keep afloat the banner of Islam in a pagan land. In a dramatic gesture, he broke wine vessels and renounced drinking before the assembled troops. He also abolished tamgha (stamp duty) for Muslims.

He had left written instructions that he be buried in Kabul. For a while his body was entombed in the Aram Bagh in Agra, opposite the present site of the Taj Mahal. Sometimes between 1539 and 1544, however, his remains were transported to his final resting place in Kabul, at a site he himself had chosen. The char baghs, the symmetrically laid out gardens with flowing waters and fountains, were introduced into India by Babur. He was also a writer of great elegance, proficient in Persian, Arabic as well as his native Turkish. The Tuzuk-i-Baburi, besides being a refined piece of prose writing, is an invaluable source material for understanding the times in which he lived. Babur died in 1530.

Humayun (1530-40 & 1555-56)

Upon the death of Babur, Humayun succeeded his father, but as per the Timurid tradition, was forced to share power with his brothers. Thus, Mirza Sulaiman was given Badakshan. Mirza Kamaran inherited Kabul and Qandahar, while Askari and Hindal received territories to administer within India. Humayun exhibited considerable military skills and personal valour in the campaign against Bahadur Shah and even managed to defeat him. Yet the Mughal forces withdrew without either deposing the ruler or annexing the kingdom. In 1537, Sher Khan invaded Bengal and besieged the ruler, Mahmud Shah, at his capital, Gaur.

Humayun marched to the aid of the Bengal ruler. But instead of relieving Gaur, he laid seige to the Chunar fort, which had recently come into Sher Khan’s possession. This faulty strategy facilitated Sher Khan’s eventual takeover of Bengal. Sher Khan further enhanced his prestige and position in the Afghan­Mughal battle at Chausa in 1539, where Humayun’s forces were completely routed and Humayun himself narrowly escaped alive. Sher Khan now assumed the title of Sher Shah. A final battle between the two forces near Kanuaj in 1540 could not tilt the scales in favour of the Mughals. The Afghans had triumphed politically once again and Sher Shah emerged as the new ruler of north India.

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He expanded the frontiers of the empire, but lost it to the Afghan leader Sher Shah Sur. who drove him into exile. Humayun tool: refuge in the court of the Safavid ruler of Iran. In 1555 Humayun defeated the Surs, but died a year later. Humayun spent the next fifteen years in exile, in search of allies to reclaim his throne. Disillusioned, he finally left India in 1544 for the Safavid court in Persia, where further troubles awaited him. The ruler Shah Tahmasp, forced him and his followers to recant Sunni Islam and accept the Shi’i faith as the price for shelter and help.

Sur Empire (1540-55)

Sher Shah (1540-45)

The original name of Sher Shah, the founder of Sur empire, was Farid. He began his career with the administration of his father Hasan’s iqta at Sahasram in south Bihar. Later he moved to the court of the Afghan ruler of Bihar, Sultan Muhammad Nuhani, who gave Urn the title ‘Sher Khan’ for his bravery. After expelling Humayun from India, Sher Shah captured the chain efforts from Malwa to Marwar, but the ruler of Kalinjar, who sympathised with Humayun, remained defiant. So Sher Shah decided to capture this fort and launched the attack. But he was very badly burnt and died due to a freak accident in 1545.

Sher Shah was particularly perturbed by the activities of Raja Maldeo of Marwar. Sher Shah got the better of him in the battle of Samel in 1544. As a consequence of his defeat, the neighbouring Rana at Mewar felt constrained to surrender Chittor to Sher Shah. He also realised jaziya from the Hindus. He maintained tight control over the administration, delegatng no real powers to his ministers and officers, and in fact set up an efficient espionage system to keep himself informed of their activities. He divided the army into three segments, the sawars, the elephants, and the footmen, with the sawars serving as the linchpin of the entire organisation.

His personal force, known as the royal Khasa Khail, consisted of one lakh fifty thousand sawars. He also revived the system of dagh and chehra which Alauddin Khilji had successfully introduced some centuries ago. Sher Shah also improved communications within his empire. He restored the Grand Trunk Road, the Uttarapatha of ancient times which ran from Tamralipti (Bengal) to Purushpur (modern Peshawar) and beyond. He built a road running from Agra to Jodhpur and Chittor and another from Lahore to Multan. The medieval historian Badauni states that Sher Shah issued a public proclamation that from Bengal to western Rohtas which was a four-month journey, as also from Agra to Mandu, a sarai, a well, and a mosque be established at every kroh and an imam (prayer leader) appointed. A Muslim and an Hindu were also to be recruited to provide water to members of their respective communities. Sher Shah died in 1545 after a brief rule of five years.


After Sher Shah’s death, his second son, Jalal Khan, was crowned, adopting the title Islam Shah. Islam concentrated on breaking the clique of Afghan leaders whom his father had tamed and trained. But he died early in 1552. Before Humayun reconquered Delhi in 1555, three different rulers were crowned. In 1555, just a decade after Sher Shah’s death, Humayun defeated Sikandar, the Sur ruler of Punjab, reoccupied Delhi and revived the moribund Mughal reign. During this time the real power lay in the hands of a Brahmin general, named Hemu.

Sur Administration

He continued the central machinery of administration which had developed during the Sultanate period. A number of villages comprised of Pargana, which was under the charge of Shiqdar, who looked after the law and order and general administration. As before, the village (mauza) was the lowest unit of revenue. The hereditary chiefs of the villages were responsible for tax collection in their areas and functioned as intermediaries between the state and the peasants. A group of villages, varying between fifty and hundred or more than hundred formed a pargana, which was headed by a shiqdar. The latter discharged both civil and military duties and also helped revenue officers (amils) in the realisation of land revenue.

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