Babar was soldier of fortune, founder of the Mughal dynasty in India, diarist and poet, descending in the fifth generation from Timur, was born on 14 February 1483. In June 1494, he succeeded his father, ‘Umar Shaik , as ruler of Farghana, whose revenues supported no more than a few hundred cavalry. With this force of helmeted, mailclad warriors, Babar began his career of conquest. He joined in the family struggle for power, thrice winning and thrice losing Samarkand, alternately master of a kingdom or a wanderer through the hills. In 1504, he made himself master of Kabul and so came in touch with India whose wealth was a standing temptation. In 1517 and again in 1519, he swept down the Afghan plateau into the plains of India. He entered the Punjab in 1523 on the invitation of Daulat Khan Lodhi, the governor of the province, and ‘Alam Khan, an uncle of Ibrahim Lodhi, the Delhi Sultan. But, wars in his home country however, compelled Babar to return so that his final invasion was not begun until November 1525.
Babar’s army of 12,000 men was mostly undisciplined group of men who wanted to loot the riches of India. These 12,000 men, a tiny army with which to attempt the conquest of Ibrahim Lodhi’s realm, first devasted Punjab. Guru Nanak in his famous epic named “Babarvani” describes the atrocities of Babar and his men in Punjab. Babarvani (Babar’s command or sway) is how the four hymns by Guru Nanak alluding to the invasions by Babar (1483-1530), are collectively known in Sikh literature. The name is derived from the use of the term in one of these hymns “Babarvani phiri gal kuiru na rot khai -Babar’s command or sway has spread; even the princes go without food” (GG, 417). Three of these hymns are in Asa measure at pages 360 and 417-18 of the standard recension of Guru Granth Sahib and the fourth is in Tilang measure on pages 722-23.
In his first invasion, Babar came as far as Peshawar. The following year he crossed the Indus and, conquering Sialkot without resistance, marched on Saidpur (now Eminabad, 15 km southeast of Gujranwala in Pakistan) which suffered the worst fury of the invading host. The town was taken by assault, the garrison put to the sword and the inhabitants carried into captivity. During his next invasion in 1524, Babar ransacked Lahore. His final invasion was launched during the winter of 1525-26 and he became master of Delhi after his Victory at Panipat on 21 April 1526.
Guru Nanak was an eye-witness to the havoc created during these invasions. Janam Sakhis mention that he himself was taken captive at Saidpur. A little of his, outside of Babarwani hymns, indicates that he may have been present in Lahore when the city was given up to plunder. In six pithy words this line conveys, “For a pahar and a quarter, i.e. for nearly four hours, the city of Lahore remained subject to death and fury” (GG,1412). The mention in one of the Babalvani hymns of the use of guns by the Mughals against the Afghan defence relying mainly upon their war – elephants may well be a reference to the historic battle of Panipat which sealed the fate of the Afghan king, Ibrahim Lodhi.
The Sikh tradition strongly subscribes to a meeting in 1520 between Guru Nanak and Babar during the latter’s invasion of Saidpur, now called Eminabad, in Gujranwala district of Pakistan. The town was taken by assault, the garrison put to the sword and the inhabitants carried into captivity. According to the Puratan Janam Sakhi, Guru Nanak and Mardana, also among the captives, were ordered to be taken to prison as slaves. The Guru was given a load to carry and Mardana a horse to lead. But Mir Khan, says the Janam Sakhi, saw that the Guru’s bundle was carried without any support and Mardana’s horse followed him without the reins. He reported this to Sultan Babar who remarked, “If there was such a holy man here, the town should not have been destroyed.” The Janam Sakhi continues, “Babar kissed his (Guru Nanak’s) feet. He said, ‘On the face of this fair one sees God himself.’ Then all the people, Hindus and Musalmans, began to make their salutations. The king spoke again, ‘O dervish, accept something’. The Guru answered, ‘I take nothing, but you must release all the prisoners of Saidpur and restore their property to them’. King Babar ordered, ‘Those who are in detention be released and their property be returned to them’. All the prisoners of Saidpur were set at liberty”
Babarvani hymns are not a narrative of historical events like Guru Gobind Singh’s Bachitra Natak, nor are they an indictment of Babar as his Zafarnamah was that of Aurangzab. They are the outpourings of a compassionate soul touched by scenes of human misery and by the cruelty perpetrated by the invaders. The sufferings of the people are rendered here in accents of intense power and protest. The events are placed in the larger social and historical perspective decline in moral standards must lead to chaos. A corrupt political system must end in dissolution. Lure of power divides men and violence unresisted tends to flourish It could not be wished away by magic or sorcery Guru Nanak reiterated his faith in the Almighty and in His justice. Yet so acute was his realization of the distress of the people that he could not resist making the complaint: “When there was such suffering, such killing, such shrieking in pain, did not Thou, O God, feel pity? Creator, Thou art the same for all!”
The people for Guru Nanak were the people as a whole, the Hindus and the Muslims, the high-caste and the low-caste, soldiers and civilians, men and women. These hymns are remarkable for their moral structurs and poetical eloquence. Nowhere else in contemporary literature are the issues in medieval Indian situation comprehended with such clarity or presented in tones of greater urgency. In spite of his destructive role Babar is seen by Guru Nanak to have been an unwitting instrument of the divine Will. Because the Lodhi’s had violated God’s laws, they had to pay the penalty. Babar descended from Kabul as God’s chosen agent, demonstrating the absolute authority of God and the retribution which must follow defiance of His laws. Guru Nanak’s commentary on the events which he actually witnessed thus becomes a part of the same universal message. God is absolute and no man may disobey. His commands with impunity. Obey Him and receive freedom. Disobey him and the result must inevitably be retribution, a dire reckoning which brings suffering in this present life and continued transmigration in the hereafter. The hymn rendered in free English verse reads:
Lord, Thou takest Khurasan under Thy wing,
but yielded India to the invader’s wrath.
Yet thou takest no blame;
And sendest the Mughal as the messenger of death.
When there was such suffering, killing,
such shrieking in pain,
Didst not Thou, O God, feel pity ?
The fourth Babarvani hymn is probably addressed to Bhal Lalo, one of Guru Nanak’s devotees living at Saidpur itself. It ends on a prophetic note, alluding perhaps to the rise of Sher Khan, an Afghan of Sur clan, who had already captured Bengal and Bihar, defeated Babar’s son and successor, Humayun, at Chausa on the Ganga in June 1539 (during the lifetime of Guru Nanak), and who finally drove the Mughal king out of India in the following year. The hymn in Tilang measure is, like the other three, an expression of Guru Nanak’s feeling of distress at the moral degradation of the people at the imposition by the mighty. It is a statement also of his belief in God’s justice and in the ultimate victory of good over evil. In an English rendering:
As descendeth the Lord’s word to me, so do I deliver
it unto you, O Lalo:
[Babar] leading a wedding-array of sin
hath descended from Kabul and
demandeth by force the bride, O Lalo.
decency and righteousness have vanished,
and falsehood struts abroad, O
Gone are the days of Qazis and Brahmans,
Satan now conducts the nuptials, O Lalo.
The Muslim women recite the Qur’an and
in distress remember their God, O Lalo.
Similar is the fate of Hindu women of
castes high and low, O Lalo.
They sing paeans of blood, O Nanak,
and by blood, not saffron, ointment is made, O Lalo.
In this city of corpses, Nanak
proclaimeth God’s praises, and uttereth this true saying:
The Lord who created men and put them
to their tasks watcheth them from
True is that Lord, true His verdict,
and true is the justice He dealeth.
As her body’s vesture is torn to shreds,
India shall remember my words.
In seventy-eight they come, in ninety
seven shall depart; another man of destiny shall arise.
Nanak pronounceth words of truth,
Truth he uttereth; truth the time calls for.”
The words Seventy-eight and ninetyseven” in the penultimate line are interpreted as 1578 and 1597 of the Indian calendar, corresponding respectively with 1521 and 1540 which are the dates of Babar’s invasion and Humayun’s dethronement by Sher Khan/Shah. Though Babar’s Tuzk, or Memoirs, a work of high literary quality, gives many interesting details of the campaigns and the events he was involved in and also describes the Indian life and customs very minutely there is no mention in these recollections that he met Guru Nanak. Nevertheless, the possibility of such a meeting having taken place cannot be ruled out. There are references in Guru Nanak’s bans to Babars’s invasions. An open tragedy like the one that struck Saidpur moved him profoundly and he described the sorrows of Indians-Hindus and Muslims alike-in words of intense power and suffering. Babar’s army, in the words of Guru Nanak, was “the bridal procession of sin.” In fact, Indian literature of that period records no more virile protest against the invading hordes than do Guru Nanak’s four hymns of Babarvani in the Guru Granth Sahib.
Babar died on 26 December 1530 at Agra. Several years later his body was moved to its present grave in one of the gardens of Kabul.
Babar’s ivasion and occupation of India impacted the life in India in all aspects. His generals forced people to be converted to Islam, his Zamindar’s and other influential people bestowed lands and property on the newly converted Muslims. Babar himself became a Ghazi which in Islamic terminology is a positive epitecht and it means “a muslim who has killed a non-muslim”, such a person is guaranteed heaven with “beautiful women, wine and rivers of honey.” Another thing to note is that Babar destroyed several Hindu temples all over Punjab, and UP. Reason being is because founder of islam, Mohammad had done the same thing when he attacked Meeca and destroyed its temple and idolized Kaba. He made a pathway to kaaba using destroyed debree of the old temple, this tradition was continued by all the Mughal kings who invaded Indian, including Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurungzeb, they destroyed temples and converted them to mosques, even though it is not allowed in islam as muslims claim but Mohammad himself had done it so they followed their leader.
The clash between Sikh and Islamic culture was inevitable and resulted in first small hostilities between Guru’s followers starting with the Sixth Guru Guru Hargobind and later into full scale with Tenth Guru Guru Gobind Singh.
Excerpts taken from
The Encyclopedia of Sikhism Edited by Harbans Singh ji.
Published by Punjabi University, Patiala
Beveridge, Annettee Suannah, trans. Babaur-nama. Delhi 1989
Smith, Vincent A., The Oxford History of India., Oxford 1958
Jaffar, S.M., The Mughal Empire. Delhi, 1974
Harbans Singh, Guru Nanak and Origins of the Sikh Faith, Bombay, 1969