TRAVELOGUE OF THE SECOND GURKANI EMPEROR, HUMAYUN.
Beginning with his exodus from Lahore after his defeat in the battle of Kannuj to his reacquisition of Din Panah in present day New Delhi, India (see Din Panah, the city of Humayun), the second Mughal emperor traveled across the four modern day countries of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Covering a likely distance of 9327 kms on a to and fro journey.
1. Lahore (present day Pakistan): After his defeat and humiliating route in the battle of Kannuj on the 17th of May, 1540, Humayun relentlessly pursued by Sur’s generals escapes to Lahore to regroup and replenish his forces for another showdown with the Afghans. He expects all Gurkani princes and loyal commanders to pit in and bolster his now completely depleted army, specially his half-brother Kamran in what Gulbadan Begum will later describe in her memoirs, the Humayun-Nama, as a mighty gathering of Timurids in one place. However, the prince Kamran, in a much stronger position than his emperor and brother, fiercely opposes Humayun’s plans and cedes over Lahore to Sher Shah Sur without contest speculated by modern day historians to be a soothing conciliatory tactic to save whatever was left of the Gurkani empire. Then thwarts Humayun’s plans to head back to his former fief of Badakshan in Afghanistan fearful by his right as emperor, Humayun may supersede the prince’s hold over Kabul – eventually forcing him to find his fortunes in the land of Sindh in modern day Pakistan. At Khushab where a road forked for Kabul and Sindh, the two brothers part, bitter and resentful.
2. Bhakkar (Pakistan, Sindh): Under pressure to find a new home for the nobles and commoners who meander behind him in his exile, Humayun heads for the realm of Husen Arghun, a powerful chieftain of another branch of Timurids his father Babur had dislodged from Kabul during his time. His plan is to besiege Husen’s fortress at Bhakkar which is said to have been in the middle of a river and open negotiations for a truce and surrender. But the bitter animosity between the two opposing sides leads to war instead with Husen retaliating with a scored earth policy and fierce resistance.
3. Sehwan (Pakistan, Sindh): As the siege of Bhakkar progresses Humayun proceeds down to Sehwan to besiege a second fortress of Husen but is driven off by the Arghun army. Here he learns his attempt to take Bhakkar has also failed.
4. Phalodi (Rajasthan, India): Unable to subdue the rival Timurid chieftain, Humayun proceeds towards the kingdom of Marwar, then on the fringes of the Sindh. The king of Marwar is the Hindu king Rana Maldeo who in the past has remained neutral to both the Afghans and Gurkanis. Humayun spends a day or two at Dirawal now modern day Pakistan, then enters the Hindu regent’s territory hoping to find sanctuary. Proceeding in the direction of Jaisalmer, he crosses Sitalmir and eventually reaches Phalodi. Here he learns of Maldeo’s and Sher Shah’s negotiations of having him captured and turns around for the borders with his band of homeless fugitives which is speculated to have included a large group of non combatants including women and children but not before spies of Maldeo have managed to kill his horse and injure his nobles. Exhausted and thirsty enroute to the borders with the native dwellers of the land covering wells with sand and leaving them with nothing to eat, the Gurkanis use force against the inhabitants to quench their parched throats leading to a military retaliation by Maldeo. In sporadic burst of pitched encounters, Maldeo’s forces evict the Gurkanis from their realm into the blistering hot sands of the Thar desert.
5. Umerkot (Pakistan): After wandering in the arid Thar for many days and losing many of his followers to exhaustion and desertion – a period that sees the Gurkanis stoop to the lowest levels including the emperor himself – Humayun reaches Umerkot, the tiny kingdom of the Hindu King, Rana Prasad. On account of bad blood between the Hindu regent and Husen (the Rana’s father is believed to have been killed by Husen), Prasad offers Humayun both sanctuary and military aid for the conquest of the Arghun territories. Here at Umerkot Humayun’s son, the 3rd Gurkani regent Akbar is born.
6. Thatta (Sindh, Pakistan): Reinforced by the forces of Rana Prasad and his Hindu allies, Humayun successfully captures the district of Jun in Arghun territory, a place that is believed to have been at a six days journey away from Thatta. However, his plans to subdue Husen fails once more over an unaddressed quarrel between a Gurkani noble and his Hindu allies – which prompts Rana Prasad to abandon the campaign.
7. Sibi (Balochistan, Pakistan): Out numbered and plagued by the repeated desertions of his nobles and soldiers, Humayun accepts a ceasefire after bloody encounters between the two opposing sides and travels on a train of wild camels to Sibi, the frontier of Husen’s lands, unmolested by the Arghun armies.
8. Quetta (Balochistan, Pakistan): Possibly at Quetta, the frontiers of Khandhar at the time, Humayun learns of Kamran and Askari’s intention of having him arrested and finding his options limited makes up his mind to escape to Persia leaving his infant son, Akbar, behind in camp – fearful the boy will not be able to survive the hard journey. Akbar is well taken care of by his uncles Kamran and Askari as Humayun with a band of forty men and women including his young wife Hamida Banu Begum traverse across the frozen mountain range in knee deep snow, surviving on horse meat boiled in helmets.
9. Garmsir (Helmand province, Afghanistan): At Garmsir, Humayun crosses the Helmand river into Persian territory.
10. Sistan (Sistan and Baluchestan province, Afghanistan): At Sistan then under Persian hold, he is warmly welcomed by the Persian governor and send on his way to Herat.
11. Herat (Herat province, Afghanistan): Humayun sees the homecity of his mother Maham, just as his father Babur once had and then proceeds on a long journey for the summer capital of Shah Tahmasp (possibly) present day Qazvin. The Shah has instructed his nobles and courtiers to offer the fugitive king every conceivable amenity and privilege.
12. Qazvin (Qazvin province, Afghanistan): At Qazvin, the summer capital of Shah Tahmasp, Humayun resides for a while both as an honored guest and prisoner. Publicly he enjoys the Shah’s hospitality and fanfare but privately Tahmasp, a devoted Shia advocate, terrorizes Humayun to relinquish his Sunni sect. On the reluctant conclusion of a treaty, he then departs for Sistan at the helm of a Persian army of 14, 000 under the command of Tahmasp’s infant son, prince Murad – not to conquer his lost realm as is commonly believed but to capture the city of Khandhar for the Persians.
13. Kandahar (Kandahar province, Afghanistan): Humayun with the Persian host eventually forces the Garrison at Kandahar to surrender and as a part of his pact with Tahmasp hands over the city to the Persians. However, here his own fortunes gradually begin to change for the better, as men and nobles flock to his banner bolstering his strength. Allowing him to expel the Persian Garrison after the death of Prince Murad and retake the city – possibly to avenge his insult at the Persian court and break his alliance with Persia.
14. Kabul (Capital city, Afghanistan): Humayun spends eight years in Kabul warring against his half brother Kamran and eventually in 1553 blinds him – a popular capital punishment reserved for traitors and political rivals in the medieval era.
15. Peshawar (Pakistan): With no political rivals left in the field to undermine his authority and having gained his strength, Humayun starts his reconquest of Hindustan in 1554. He descends on Peshawar and takes Rothas and Lahore in quick succession. During his absence from Hindustan his arch rival Sher Shah has succumbed to injuries in a freak gun powder explosion. Sher Shah’s equally competent son, Jalal Khan, is also dead – what’s left is a squabbling bunch of descendants who have fractured the Afghan empire.
16. Jalandhar (Punjab, India): After Lahore, Humayun proceeds to Jalandhar capturing the region with ease along with Diplapur and Sirhind – where his trusted general Baihram Beg defeats an Afghan army of 30,000 in the battle of Macchiwara.
17. Sirhind (Punjab, India): Occupying Sirhind, Humayun strengthens its fortifications and then in the battle of Sirhind routes Sikander Sur’s speculated army of 1, 00,000 leaving his path way open for entering his city of Din Panah, now in present day New Delhi, India.
18. Din Panah, New Delhi (Capital city, India): In 1555 Humayun renters Din Panah, ending his fifteen years of exile. He spends his days within the walls of his city, sending his generals out to dislodge the remaining Afghans from his newly reconquered realm and planning administrative improvements till his death on the 27th of January, 1556.