To begin with, Humayun had negotiations with Sher Khan to arrive at some amicable settlement. He asked Sher Khan to surrender all his territory and accept a small Jagir for himself. When this offer was rejected by Sher Khan, Humayun asked him surrender Bihar and keep Bengal and pay an annual tribute of Rs. 10 lakhs, for the same. Sher Khan accepted the proposal and there seemed to be an end of the matter, but later on Humayun made up his mind to conquer Bengal. Sher Khan condemned Humayun for the breach of promise.
As Humayun advanced to capture Gaur, Sher Khan hurried to transfer his treasure from Gaur to Rohtasgarh. When that was done, Sher Khan allowed Humayun to go into Bengal without any let or hindrance. Humayun occupied Gaur and busied himself for many months in merry-making.
During this interval, Sher Khan was able to establish his control over the territory between Bihar and Delhi. He was also able to cut off all the lines of communication between Delhi and Bengal. Humayun had foolishly wasted 8 months at Gaur in frivolities. He ought to have withdrawn from Bengal as early as possible and gone back to Agra. His long stay in Bengal and the nearing of the rainy season were in the interest of Sher Khan.
In June 1539 was fought the Battle of Chausa in which Humayun was defeated and he managed to escape his life with difficulty. Before this battle was fought, Humayun had wasted a lot of time in futile negotiations and kept his troops idle for a pretty long-time. Sher Khan won this battle leading a surprise attack on the Mughals who were sleeping in their camps at midnight. The victory of Chausa was of very great importance. It brought a radical change in the life of Sher Khan. The scope of his “ambition was immensely widened.”
According to Dr. Qanungo, “In 1538, Sher Khan would have contented himself with the position of a Mughal Vassal. Now he won, by this single stroke, Jaunpur in addition to Bengal and Bihar in independent sovereignty and could legitimately claim equality with the Emperor.” After the Battle of Chausa, Sher Khan began to dream of sitting on the throne of Delhi. The victory of Chausa made Sher Khan the de facto Ruler of Bengal and Bihar. Sher Khan declared himself as the King of Bengal and Bihar in 1539.
According to Dr. Ishwari Prasad, “The defeat of Chausa was due to causes which can be analysed with precision. That treachery played a great part in deciding the issue of the battle cannot be denied. Even Afghan Historians admit that Sher Khan had acted in violation of his plighted faith and attacked the Mughals when they were least prepared for action. So great was the confusion caused in the army by Khawas Khan’s sudden appearance that the Emperor, who was having his ablutions, had scarcely time to remove his harem to a place of safety.
The officer who was guilty of culpable negligence on that fateful night was Mohammad Zaman Mirza who did not keep watch as directed and went away to sleep, leaving the Camp in an unguarded position. The imperial troops were not well- organized. The malarious climate of Bengal had sapped their strength and they did not feel the same enthusiasm for fighting as their opponents. Their arrogance too did them serious harm. They held the Afghans in contempt and underestimated the strength of Sher Khan’s army.
The Emperor, though a valiant soldier, was out-generalled by his antagonist. The latter’s superior tactics, his organization of the army, his correct estimate of Mughal strength, his ability to command the resources of the country, and, above all, his confidence in his cause secured an easy victory for him.
The Afghan Historian’s remark that he knew well the devices and stratagems of war and that he could adapt himself to a crisis without difficulty is not wholly without justification. But to these causes of victory we must also add his utter lack of scruples. He felt no qualms of conscience in breaking his word and sanctioning arrangements which were contrary to his declared intentions. Matched against a foe of this kind, Humayun, who was used to act even in critical situations with fairness and generosity, was thrown off his guard and easily overpowered.
After his coronation, Sher Shah sent an army to Gaur with a view to turn out the Mughal Garrison. This was carried out. Humayun was pursued, but allowed to escape to Delhi.
In May 1540 was fought the Battle of Kanauj between Humayun and Sher Shah. Here also Humayun repeated the same folly which was responsible for his defeat in the Battle of Chausa. For full one month, the Mughal Armies did nothing. It was Sher Khan who chose his time to attack the Mughals. The Mughals Artillery could not be used at all.
Mirza Haider, Babur’s cousin, has given the following account of the Battle of Kanauj: “The Imperial army reached the Banks of the Ganges in the best way that it could. There it encamped and lay for about a month, the Emperor being on one side of the river, and Sher Shah on the other, facing each other. The armies may have amounted to more than 200,000 men. Muhammad Sultan Mirza, who had several times revolted against Humayun, but being unsuccessful, had sought forgiveness and had been pardoned, now having colluded with Sher Shah deserted.”
A new way was thus opened. Everybody began to desert, and the most surprising part of it was that many of those who deserted did not go over to Sher Shah, and could expect no favour from him. A heated feeling ran through the army, and the cry was, ‘Let us go and rest in our own homes.’ A number also of Kamran’s auxiliary forces deserted and fled to Lahore…
As the army had taken to desert, it was judged better to risk a battle, than to see it go to ruin without fighting. If the result as unfavourable, in that case, we could not at least be accused of having abandoned the Empire without striking a blow. We therefore crossed the river. Both armies entrenched themselves. Everybody skirmishes occurred between the adventurous swaggering spirits of both sides.
These proceedings were put an end to by the monsoon rains, which came on and flooded the ground rendering it unfit for camp. To move was indispensable. Opinions were expressed that another such a deluge would sink the whole army in the abyss of despair, and it was decided to move to a rising ground, which the inundation could not reach, and which lay in front of the enemy. I went to reconnoitre, and found a place suitable for the purpose….
Between me and the river there was a force of 27 Amirs, all of whom carried the tugh banner
…. On the day of battle, when Sher Shah, having formed his divisions, marched out, of all these
27 tugh banners, not one was to be seen, for the great nobles had hidden them in the apprehension that the enemy might advance towards them. The bravery of these Amirs may be conceived from this exhibition of courage. Sher Shah came out in five divisions of 1,000 men each, and in advance of him were 3,000 men.
I estimated the whole as being less than 15,000, but I calculated the Chaghatai force as about 40,000 all mounted on tipchak horses, and clad in iron armour. They surged like the waves of the sea, but the courage of the Amirs and officers of the army was such as I have described.
“Every Amir and Wazir in the Chagharai Army, whether he be rich or poor, has his ghulams. An Amir of note with his 100 retainers and followers has 500 servants and ghulams who on the day of battle render no assistance to their master and have no control over themselves. So in whatsoever place there was conflicts, the ghulams were entirely ungovernable. When they lost their master, they were seized with panic and blindly rushed about in terror. In shurt, it was impossible to hold our ground. They so pressed upon us in the rear that they drove the centre upon the chains stretched between the gun-carriages, and they and the soldiers dashed each other upon them. Such was the stage of the centre.”
“On the right, Sher Shah advanced in battle array; but before an arrow was discharged, the camp-followers fled like chaff before the wind, and breaking the line, they all pressed towards the centre.”
“The Chaghatais were defeated in this battle-field where not a man, either friend to foe, was wounded; not a gun was fired; and the chariots were useless. The Emperor fled to Agra; and when the enemy approached that city, he made no delay but went to Lahore.”
Professor Qanungo prefers to call the Battle of Kannauj as the Battle of Bilgram and observes that it is futile to find fault with the array of the Mughal army or with its captains and generals. If there was any single factor responsible for Humayun’s defeat, it was not his incapacity as a soldier or the low morale of his army which was exaggerated by Mirza Haidar. It was the ill- luck of the Emperor in the shape of an untimely shower that flooded his camp in mid-summer.
But for this accident, Humayun would not have chosen to shift from his invulnerable entrenched camp. If Sher Shah had led his own army for attack from a similar position, and had fought with similar handicaps, the fate of Humayun would surely have overtaken him. The Mughal array was best suited to receive and repulse an attack from a stationary position. It could not catch and attack an elusive enemy.
Any movement of such a multitude from its original position always affords a vigilant opponent many points of attack and surprise. Throughout the course of Medieval History, it was only Aurangzeb who successfully led such an array over a considerable distance to fight Dara at Samugarh. The defeat of Humayun was a triumph for Sher Shah’s flexible strategy over the rigid technique of the Mughals.
This battle wiped out the stigma of the many defeats the Indian people had suffered at the hands of the Mughals since Panipat. The result of the battle led to the eclipse of the labours of Babar and his sons on this side of the Indus for a period of 14 years. The Timurid rule floated for a time like oil on the stormy surface of the disintegrating Pathan regime without being assimilated by the body politic of India.
The triumph for Sher Shah did not mean either revival of the orthodox intolerant regime of the Turks or a return to the clannish character of the days of Bahlul and Sikander. It signified the birth of an Indian Empire. (Sher Shah and His Times, pp. 237, 245).
According to Dr. Iswari Prasad, “The Battle of the Ganges turned out a greater disaster than the rout of Chausa and shattered for the time being, at any rate, the hopes of a Mughal revival. It appears from Mirza Haider’s account of the conference among the brothers which preceded the campaign, that to discerning eyes the issue of the battle was a foregone conclusions;. Abul Fazl’s remarks also convey the impression that Humayun did not feel sure of victory in this campaign.
Lack of unity among the brothers marred the enterprise from the very outset and Kamran’s intransigence must have greatly encouraged the hopes of Sher Shah. Humayun’s choice of the river line was a blunder. He ought to have remained on the western side of the stream and ought not to have crossed it for by doing so he did not only put his troops in peril but placed himself deliberately in a position in which a defeat was bound to prove disastrous to him.
Having made the mistake of crossing the river, the camping ground was not judiciously chosen, and the transfer to an elevated spot in the midst of a heavy rain drenched the baggage which became too heavy to carry and disorganised the army. Nizamud-Din Ahmad rightly observes that “the heavy rain was the chief cause of the defeat of imperial army. The Afghans chose their minute well and began their attack while the Mughals were still removing their baggage to the new camping ground.”
“The contrast between the discipline and efficiency of the two armies explains the defeat of the Mughals. The Afghans had rallied under a national banner and the example and .courage of their leader filled them with determination and hope. Humayun, who had bravely maintained himself in the thick of the fight at Panipat and Kanauj, had deteriorated and most of Babur’s Generals had either died in the natural course or left for their homes.
The climate of India must have told on the health of the troops, and the soft life of Bengal must have enervated them to a considerable extent. The improvised levies that had been hastily collected in eastern country were no match to the sturdy Afghans who were well-drilled and disciplined for the arduous duties of the battle-field.” 4
The Army of Sher Khan pursued Humayun who had some rest at Lahore but was made to vacate the same. Kamran was not prepared to risk a conflict with Sher Shah. He felt that he might be able to keep his possessions by being considerate towards him.
Sher Khan received the submission of the Baloch chiefs. He also undertook an expedition for the conquest of the Gakkhar country lying between the upper courses of the Jhelum and the Indus.