We all know that the Mughal dynasty was founded by Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur in 1526 which would go on to rule majority of the Indian subcontinent for the next two centuries. Many believe Babur turned his attention towards India only after he was sent an invitation by Rana Sangram Singh (Rana Sanga) of Mewar. But this long-held belief is nothing more than a claim, let alone being anywhere close to the truth. Here are five reasons.
The first and foremost point is if we set aside the lone reference of Baburnama (Babur’s memoirs), we will find numerous references of Daulat Khan Lodi, Governor of Punjab in the Lodi empire, as having invited Babur to India. He wanted to take advantage of the weak leadership in the Lodi dynasty and usurp power with the help of Babur’s army. Later, growing ambition resulted in a fall out between Babur and Daulat Khan which has also been well documented by historians. It is interesting to note that the lone mention in Baburnama occurs after the Battle of Panipat (1526), that too at a time when Babur was planning a war with Rana Sanga and not before his advance towards India.
Secondly, many eminent historians like like GN Sharma and Gaurishankar Hirachand Ojha claim it was Babur who had extended the invitation to Rana Sanga seeking help. Babur had already decided to move towards India and asked the Rajput chieftain for a helping hand to defeat the common enemy – Ibrahim Lodi. It was quite possible that the Rana himself was open to helping Babur but backed out after the generals and ministers of the Mewar confederacy advised him against it.
Thirdly, Rana Sanga had tasted success in most battles and the Mewar confederacy was at the height of its power defeating the Sultan of Gujarat at that time. This was perhaps the last time so many Rajput kings had united under the leadership of Rana Sanga. The Rajputs had defeated Ibrahim Lodi in Khatoli (1517) and Dholpur (1518) and there was no reason for them to seek an outsider’s help to take on an enemy which had already been defeated. At best, Rana Sanga would have liked to take advantage of the two adversaries to further his efforts to establish a Hindu empire in India.
Fourthly, if Rana Sanga had extended the invitation to Babur to help defeat Ibrahim Lodi, then why didn’t he join Babur in the first battle of Panipat (1526)? Why did Rana Sanga fight a pitched battle against Babur at Bayana later that year? Even though Babur had tasted success against Lodi in Panipat, his army was soundly routed by the Rajputs at Bayana. Such was the crushing loss that Babur gave up alcohol and could only fire the imagination of his troops with the battle cry of ‘Jihad’. Babur also knew he had the surprise element of guns and cannon powder in military expeditions which gave him success despite having a smaller but well-trained army in crucial battles.
The fifth and most important point is Babur didn’t need any invitation as he had already decided on invading India. In fact, Babur’s first attempt was made as early as 1519 in Punjab without much success. He would taste victory against Lodi only in his fifth attempt at Panipat in 1526. The reason for this is because Babur was left with very few options after being soundly beaten in his bid to recapture Samarkand (1511-12) by the Uzbeks and was lucky to escape from the Fergana Valley (parts of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan). He knew his only chance of survival was to take on the weakening Lodi empire and there was no going back once he entered the Indian subcontinent. It is only later when Rana Sanga realised that Babur had no plans of going back, like his predecessors, that the Mewar confederacy was pitched in a do-or-die battle at Khanwa (1527).
Our history books have given more significance to the battle of Panipat (1526) despite knowing that the Lodi empire was a spent force and was long crumbling before this. At that time, there were two superior forces which wanted to stake claim to Delhi’s throne – the Mewar confederacy and the Mughals. It is the battle of Khanwa (1527) which sealed the fate of India rather than the battle of Panipat. A win for Rana Sanga would have laid the foundations of a Hindu empire. Babur’s win at Khanwa had a double impact on India’s geopolitics – the fragmentation of Rajput unity while the Mughals consolidated their empire with tactical alliances and religious fervour.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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