Humayun, meaning the fortunate one, was born at Kabul on 6 March 1508 from Maham Begam, Babar’s third wife who was the daughter of a Shia noble of Khurasan. Humayun’s actual name was Nasiruddin Muhammad and he was the eldest of Babar’s four sons, the other three being Kamran, Askari and Hindal. When he was only twelve years old, he was appointed as the governor of Badakhshan with his mother, an educated and accomplished lady herself, staying with him and looking after his proper training.

When Babar conquered India in 1526, Humayun distinguished himself in various engage­ments there including the battle of Panipat. Sent to Badakhshan as its governor by Babar after the battle of Khanua, he returned to Sambhal without inform­ing his father. He fell ill there and within six months after his recovery Babar died on 26 December 1530 nominating Humayun as his successor. It seems the Vazir, Nizamuddin had doubts about his abilities and tried to raise Mahdi Khwaja, Babar’s brother-iit-law to the throne. Realising subsequently the hopeless­ness of his plan, he supported Humayun. Thus, four days after the death of Babar, Humayun ascended the throne on 30 December, 1530 unopposed.

At the time of Babar’s death, Humayun was 23 and though he did not lack ability, was deficient in the sustained energy of his versatile father. Presumably, his addiction to opium explained this laxity, Anyway, he could not retain the loyalties of his nobles, who found other centres of power to support Among these, was his elder brother Kamran, gov­ernor of Kabul and Kandahar who treacherously added Punjab to his domain after Babar’s death.

In 1535, Humayun made a brilliant raid on Gujarat, storming into the strong fortress of Champaner near Baroda. But he was unable to maintain the pace and returned to Agra to take his pleasure, in consequence of which Gujarat and Malwa was lost.


Meanwhile, Sher Khan (later Sher Shah), an Afghan chief was busily consolidating his position in south Bihar. Humayun moved against him taking a long time to take Chunar. Sher Shah by then had moved to Gaur and enriched himself by looting the immense treasure there.

Humayun moved to Gaur and prolonging his stay there allowed Sher Shah to disrupt his supply lines. The hastily returning Humayun was defeated by Sher Shah at Chausa with heavy losses. A year later in May 1540 he was defeated more decisively by Sher Shah at Kanauj, Humayun was then chased by Sher Shah’s army to Lahore, but there he did not receive any help from his brothers. He had to flee again, first to Sindh, then to Marwar and then back to Sindh again.

While he was thus wandering from one place to the other, his son Akbar was born at Umrakote on November 23, 1542. Evading his brother Kamran’s forces he reached Persia in 1544 and was given asylum by Shah Tahmasp. Promising that he would give Kandahar to the Persians, he won the place with Persian military help and then treacherously retained it. Next he defeated Kamran, pardoned him for sentimental reasons, but his nobles insisted on making him blind.

At this time the throne at Delhi was the cause of conflict between four Sur Afghan claimants, after the death of Sher Shah’s son and successor Islam Shah. Humayun had no difficulty in conquering Agra and Delhi in July 1555, thus regaining his father’s capital cities. He was establishing a regular civil government when he died by falling from the stairs of his library in January 1556.