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humayun

HUMAYUN’S GENERAL ARRIVES BREATHLESS with news that Sultan Bahadur has made an attack on Bayana. This is a city of some strategic importance. Humayun does not find this development unexpected and wastes no time in sending over a troop division headed by some trusted generals to repel the movement. They defeat Bahadur’s men with ease. With that behind him, Humayun leaves for Gujarat where he sets up camp at the Gold-scattering Garden.

Here Humayun gathers his thoughts and reflects on strategy. He is fully aware that there have been revolts in just about every jagir of significance ever since he has come to the throne. In Humayun, the restless and the ambitious have quickly sensed a certain weakness, a clear opportunity for claiming greatness. What concerns Humayun right now is the stance of his brothers – quarrelsome Kamran, impetuous Askari, moody Hindal. 

hindal

Hindal, meaning Conqueror of India, has his own set of grudges against his brother Humayun. Image: From a 16th Century painting, Celebrations for Akbar’s Circumcision

Acting on his father’s advice and his own desire for amity, Humayun gives Kabul and Kandahar to Kamran when he asks for it. Later he even concedes to the demand for Lahore and Multan. To Askari he concedes Gujarat and Malwa. Hindal who was given Alwar, is a completely different game all together. Hindal is keenly aware that he is the Court’s favorite to succeed Humayun; Babur certainly had something on his mind when he named him Hindal, meaning Conqueror of India. Hindal is ambitious yet at the same time his tantrums take the form of cutting himself off from the world and retreating to a hermitage. Worrisome as his fractious brothers are, Humayun knows he can appeal to blood ties in an emergency. His advisers don’t think so.

The dark horse in Humayun’s story is the figure of Sher Khan – a distinguished commander who once served under Babur. In the next few years, as Humayun cherry-picks his battles to gain maximum leverage with minimum effort, Sher Khan, with the help of the Afghans, gains control of Bihar and even makes a daring attempt to take Bengal. Humayun, always at his best when he is taken by surprise, repels Sher Shah’s ingress.

But with Bahadur on his right, Sher Khan on his left and brothers and discontents all around him, it seems only a matter of time before the forces ranged against Humayun succeed in de-throning him.

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