Humayun battles Bahadur Shah of Gujarat in a Mughal era painting speculated to have been created in 1590 for the Akbarnama compiled during the reign of his son the 3rd Gurkani emperor, Akbar. Image sourced Wikipedia.

Humayun the Merciful.

1. Battle of Hissar Firoza (26 February, 1526): An eighteen year old Humayun makes his debut in the theater of war with a decisive win over his Afghan opponent Hamid Khan in the region of Hisar Firoza (now in present day Haryana , India). Babur later gifts the region to Humayun and he on his own coronation to Kamran, his younger half-brother. The region held immense strategic value during the time of the early Gurkhani regents for the road it possessed connecting Delhi to Afghanistan – from where the Gurkanis recruited their primary manpower.

2. First Battle of Panipat (12 April, 1526): A month later in the battle that paved the way for Gurkani supremacy in Hindustan, Humayuan supported by his father’s trusted generals forms the inner right wing of the army. The battle is recorded to have been won by noon, inspite the Afghans outnumbering the Gurkhanis by 1 to 10. Babur’s use of firearms is said to be have been one of the vital factors in the decisive outcome.

3. Siege of Agra (4 May, 1526): In the same year, on the orders of his father, Babur, Humayun proceeds to the region of Agra, the second capital of the Afghans and lays siege to the fort awaiting his father’s arrival. The prince remains outside the town, guarding the roads and preventing his troops from plundering the inhabitants. During the siege he defeats the forces of the King of Gwalior Bikramjit (an ally of the Afghans). The family of the vanquished offers him the fabled Kohinoor diamond in gratitude for sparing their lives. Humayun presents the diamond to his father, but the regent in his generosity allows him to retain it.

4. Battle of Kanpur (1526): To ease his father’s burdens, Humayun volunteers to go east to the region of Kanpur to crush Afghan opposition. Terrified of their opponents, the Afghans of Kanpur flee at the sight of the Gurkani forces allowing Humayun to pursue them for close to 200 kms. Humayun remains in Kanpur for a while capturing the region of Janpura and begins conciliatory negotiations hoping to win over as many Afghan nobles as possible. He is partially successful.

5. Battle of Khanwah (17 March, 1527): Recalled back by Babur to reinforce the main army in the battle against the valiant Rajput king, Rana Sunga, Humayun once again forms Babur’s right wing. The battle of Khanwah is noted for Babur’s famous act of breaking the wine cups and pledge to abstain from alcohol in return for a fortunate victory. Rana Sunga initially defeats the Gurkani vanguard but in the preceding hard fought encounter, the Gurkanis win the day – shattering the image of the martial prowess of the Rajputs, hitherto considered invincible.

6. Conquest of Hisar and Qabadian (1529): The unwillingness of Humayun’s Badakhshani troops to stay in India prompts Babur to transfer Humayun, their commander, to Badakhshan (Afghanistan). Another reason for Babur’s decision in transferring Humayun to the remote outpost is suspected to be Babur’s master plan for the conquest of Central Asia specially Samarkand (his cherished dream). A plan that he hoped to accomplish by positioning Humayun in Badakhshan and his step brother Kamran in Kabul for mounting offensives. Attesting to the fact is Humayun’s conquest of Hisar and Qabadian on the north of the Amu Darya (Oxus river), Afghanistan. Dr. S.K. Banerjee (author of Humayun Badshah) believed Humayun was the only regent among the five noted emperors of his dynasty to have successfully expanded the borders this far west and his endevours far superseded that of his successors. Humayun had accomplished the feat in alliance with the local tribes.

7.Siege of Kalinjar (1531): The fortress of Kalinjar was a stronghold of the Hindu Chandel kings and over the centuries remained an impregnable obstacle to many invaders. Humayun first besieges the fortress in 1529, a few days after recovering from his life threatening fever, possibly to please his father and honor the older regent’s gesture of staking his own life in the rite that was the transfer of illness. However, Babur’s deteriorating health and eventually critical condition forces him to withdraw midway. In 1531, a year after his coronation, with a mind to take care of this unfinished business, Humayun besieges the fortress once more and although the fortress remains unoccupied, the siege results in the submission of a powerful and ancient Rajput family, gaining the second Gurkani emperor wealth, political mileage and prestige. Kalinjar henceforth becomes a grandee of the Gurkhani realm with the Chandel king, speculated to have paid 6,720 tolas of gold as a part of the treaty.

8. Battle of Dadhra (August, 1532): Mahmud Lodi a relative of the disposed Afghan king Ibrahim Lodi and a powerful Afghan warlord stationed in what is now the present day Indian state of Bihar desirous of evicting the Gurkani from Hindustan and bringing back the supremacy of the Pashutan Afghans launches a surprise invasion penetrating some extent into Gurkhani territory – under his command a large and powerful Afghan confederacy of nobles and soldiers called to arms in the name of national honor. Humayun rapidly moves to counter the threat and decisively squashes Mahumud’s ambitions at the battle of Dadhra. Defeated once before by Babur in the battle of Ghagra, this is Mahumud’s second and final defeat – this point onward one ceases to hear much of Mahmud Lodi.

9. Siege of Chunar (September-December 1532): Known during the time of Humayun as the key to Bengal and Bihar, the fortress of Chunar is believed to have been a somewhat unconquerable stronghold situated as it was on a steep hill with excellent vantage point in all directions. In 1532, shortly after the victory of Dadhra, and possibly due to the Afghan Sher Shah’s ties with Mahumud of Bihar, Humayun besieges the fortress for a period of four months, then upon learning of an eminent invasion of his territories, this time from Gujarat, hastily concludes a peace treaty: Sher Shah is to be a vassal and supply the imperial army with a contingent of 500 soldiers under the command of a son.

10. Battle of Bhojpur (1534): Humayun’s brother in law, Muhammad Zaman Mirza, a Timurid noble and commander along with Muhammad Sultan Mirza, said to be a cousin of his, rebels against his government and creates unrest in the empire but Humayun quickly deals with the situation. He defeats Zaman Mirza in the battle of Bhojpur then imprisons the culprits and sentences them to be blinded. Zaman Mirza, however, escapes and joins Bhadur Shah of Gujarat. Humayun had pardoned his relatives on their first rebellion.

11. Conquest of Malwa and Gujarat (1535-36): For a long while Humayun dabbles in diplomatic maneuvers to prevent a full scale war between his Gurkani realm and the Sultanate of Gujarat under the rule of Bahadur Shah. He does his best to maintain friendly ties with the regent of Gujarat and in the process overlooks a minor invasion which is quickly and effectively dealt with by his bothers Hindal and Askari in the battle of Mandrayal, specially the involvement of Tartar Khan (a son of Allaudin Lodi, a brother of Ibrahim Lodi, and a dangerous pretender to the throne of Delhi) and as a sign of his goodwill demands the return of the rebellious Zaman Mirza, a political exile in the court of Bhadur. However, the Gujarati Sultan’s refusal to comply prompts Humayun in 1535 to launch a full scale war. The successful military campaign wins the Gurkani large tracts of territories in present day central Gujarat but Humayun’s use of brute force and mismanagement of administrative affairs by Askari leads to their loss shortly a year after.

12. Second siege of Chunar and invasion of Bengal (1537-38): Concerned over his vassal Sher Shah’s ambitious expansion policies and growing threat to the Gurkani realm, Humayun besieges and conquers the fort of Chunar within a span of six months. The acquisition is a commendable achievement of his career, even though Humayun does not gain much in terms of wealth as the willy Sur has already transferred his treasury out of the fortress. Then a year later in an attempt to reinstate Bengal’s disposed ruler, Sultan Ghiyasuddin Mahmud, and crush the Afghan threat of Sher Shah, Humayun embarks on the invasion of Bengal, occupying her capital city, Gaur, without much effort. He spends eight months in the region possibly to prevent Sur from reclaiming back the territory, during which  time disease and sickness devastates his army. Close to 1539 learning of his half-brother Hindal’s desertion and rebellion, Humayun orders a general retreat for his capital in Agra, garrisoning Gaur with a hand picked contingent of 5,000 soldiers. Sher Shah has each one executed on retaking Gaur after his victory at Chausa.

13. Battle of Chausa (26 June, 1539): Aware of the weakened state of the Gurkani army and Hindal’s rebellion, the ever cautious Afghan Sher Shah finally musters the courage to block Humayun’s return to Agra at the region of Chausa in present day Bihar – hitherto Sher Shah has relied on guerrilla and defensive tactics. The Gurkanis and Afghans face off for three months both unwilling to initiate a full scale attack. The Afghans weary of another defeat and the Gurkanis depleted in strength and sapped in vigor by the heat and malarial climate. They have already lost a considerable number from sickness during their occupation of Gaur.

Conscious of the deplorable state of his army, Humayun attempts to negotiate a truce with Sher Shah who now in a stronger position toys with his diplomats and proposals. The deadlock ends three months after at mid night with a three pronged surprise attack Sur launches on the unprepared Gurkanis, massacring them in their sleep. The surprise attack and overpowering often stated to be due to the negligence and desertion of Zaman Mirza, Humayun’s rebellious brother-in-law who is believed to have abandoned his post as the commander of the night watch. Humayun had pardoned the rebellious commander a third time, possibly at the behest of his sister.

14. Battle of Kannuj (17 May, 1540): Back in Agra, eager to avenge his defeat at Chausa and well aware practically nothing much remains of his own veteran forces, Humayun pleads with his brother Kamran to lease him his army of 20,000 battle hardened soldiers. Kamran initial accepts but on the condition he is to be the supreme commander. Humayun rejects Kamran’s proposal on the grounds of lost prestige. The negotiations continue for seven months bearing no results till Kamran weakened from a mysterious illness of the intestine finally cedes 3,000 of his auxiliaries before returning back to Kabul but not before accusing Humayun of plotting to have him poisoned. Forced to built-up a combatable number to counter Sher Shah’s battle tested Afghans, Humayun hastily manages to scrape up men from an inexperienced stock and marches for Kannuj, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Reaching the banks of the Ganges in the region of Kannuj in May, 1540, the Gurkanis cross the river and pitch their tents opposite the Afghan encampment. But unexpected rains flood their camp on 15th May, 1540, and forces them to consider relocating to higher grounds. However with Sur’s forces close by, Haider Mirza (Humayun’s cousin and commander-in-chief of the Gurkani army on this occasion) suggests staging military demonstrations (troop movements) to test Sur’s reaction and masking the migration.

On May 17th 1540, with the commencement of the first demonstration both armies are quickly drawn into battle. The Afghans begin their assault in broad day light with coordinated attacks on the Gurkani center, left and right flanks, gradually pushing them back and eventually encompassing them from all sides leading to massive reverses and ultimately their route. The supreme commander of the Gurkani army on the day is recorded to be Haider Mirza (Humayun is believed to not have actively participated, incapacitated by hallucinations). The Afghans eventually win the day by applying the Tulghama formation – a military offensive invented by Babur fourteen years ago.

15. Siege of Bhakkar and Sewan, Sindh (1541): After his defeat at Kannuj and expulsion from power Humayun flees to Lahore with plans of making his way to Badakhshan his former fief. But his brother Kamran opposes his move in fear that by his right as emperor he may supersede his hold over Kabul. In a much stronger position than Humayun at the stage, Kamran bars Humayun from venturing anywhere near Kabul or its vicinity forcing him to find a new home in the region of Sindh, present day Pakistan. Leading to his invasion of Husen Arghun’s lands –the chief of a second clan of Timurids (ousted by Babur from Kabul in the past). Humayun’s plan is to make Husen submit by besieging his fortress at Bhakkar and Sewan (Sindh, Pakistan), however, Husen’s scorched earth policy, mass desertions and fierce resistance from the Arghun armies forces Humayun to withdraw from Sewan and lose Bhakkar within days of its capture. Also at this time he comes to know of Husen’s alliance with Kamran (Husen weds his daughter to Kamran thus the two becomes in-laws).

16. Capture of Jun, Sindh (1542): Reinforced by the Rajput Rana Prasad of Umerkot (Sindh, Pakistan) and his Hindu allies, (a king he meets during his exile and from whom receives both sanctuary and military aid), Humayun attempts to once again bring Husen Arghun under his sovereignty and is successful in capturing the district of Jun, a place that is stated to have existed on the Indus Delta, at a six days march away from the city of Thatta (Sindh, Pakistan). However, dissensions break out in the camp with Rana Prasad and his Hindu allies deserting over an unaddressed quarrel with a Gurkani noble.

17. Battle of Haji-Khan, Sindh, (1542): Commencing shortly after the desertion of the Rana and his Hindu allies, the battle of Haji-Khan is speculated to have been a hard fought contest between Humayun’s remaining forces and the army of Husen Arghun – attested by the death of one Ali beg who is said to have perished with his entire contingent. The lost battle is followed again by a second attack by Husen in the district of Jun, this time with gun boats in which both sides suffer heavy casualties but demoralizes Humayun’s nobles more, who begin to defect to Husen. Ultimately a cease fire comes about in which Husen urges Humayun to leave his territory for Khandhar, as his case is a lost one. Humayun probably broken at this time for his continuing string of misfortunes since Chausa, accepts and leaves Sindh, unharassed by the enemy.

18. Siege of Khandar (1545): Returning from Persia accompanied with a 14,000 strong Persian army under the command of Prince Murad, son of Shah Tahmasp, (the army is in essence for the capture of Khandhar) Humayun besieges the fortified city of Khandhar for a period of forty days, forcing the garrison inside to subsequently submit. He then imprisons his second brother Askari (governor of Khandhar) for plotting to have him arrested during his exile.

19. Battle of Guzargh (October 1545): In the first encounter between Humayun and Kamran, once bonded as brothers now bitter enemies, Humayun’s pious clemency and his act of forgiving both grave and menial offences wins him the day. Nobles and soldiers loyal to Kamran desert their prince for Humayun who prudently pardons them, incorporates them into the imperial army and promotes them. Kamran flees Kabul in the cover of night learning of Humayun’s bloodless victory, allowing him to acquire Kabul.

20. Siege of Qila-i-zafar, Badakshan (1546): Humayun possibly besieges Qila-i-zafar, a stronghold in the region of Badakhshan to make its hereditary ruler Suleiman Mirza, accept his sovereignty and pledge his allegiance. The show of strength likely intended to make him submit. Sulaiman was Humayun’s cousin, and instated as ruler of Badakhshan by Babur after Humayun as a prince had refused to return to the lonely outpost. Humayun too, during his coronation, had allowed Suleiman to remain ruler of the region, and continued the same policy after his return from Persia.

21. Siege of Kabul (1546): Humayun suffers an illness of two months during which time his half-brother Kamran manages to sneak inside the city of Kabul and assassinate its aged governor Muhammad Ali, (Maham’s brother and Humayun’s maternal uncle). Taking control of Kabul once more, Kamran embarks on a spree of murders and commits atrocities against the families of the nobles who deserted him for Humayun in the battle of Guzargh. Recovering from his illness, Humayun besieges the city of Kabul at the end of winter. During the siege occurs the incident of Kamran exposing Humayun’s son Akbar on the battlements to prevent his father’s artillery fire. Humayun ultimately takes the city after several bloody encounters.

22. Battle against the Uzbeks (1549): During his reign in Kabul. Humayun leads an expedition to conquer the hardy tribes of Uzbeks of nearby regions but is forced to abandon the conquest and instead suffer heavy causalities at the hands of the Uzbeks – the failure arising from instability in the royal family, one of his brother in law, an Uzbek noble, takes to deserting him upon realizing the war is directed against his people, while Kamran’s (pardoned by Humayun few months before) absence in the campaign persuades many of the nobles to head back for Kabul, in fear the prince may again have gained control of the city and was punishing their families.

23. Conflict at the Qibchag defile(1550): Essentially a pitched engagement between Humayun and Kamran, somewhere in the neighborhood of probably Kabul in which Humayun receives a nasty head wound that later leaves him amazed. The blade of his opponent, a soldier of Kamran, had struck his forehead making it bleed without (in any way) slicing his cap and turban. The wound is said to have been similar to the one Babur had once received. Both Humayun and Babur may likely have worn a chain mail coif.

24. Battle of Charikaran (1550): Humayun reinforced by the Badakhshani forces of Suleiman Mirza, prepped up and put in his service in short time by Haram begum (Suleiman’s wife and a formidable lady known her military capabilities) defeats the forces of Kamran in a pitched battle – depleting the prince’s forces of many experienced officers and soldiers.

25. Battle of Tangayha Pass (1551): In the final battle fought between Kamran and Humayun, Kamran leads a night assault but after initial success is defeated by the imperial forces. However, for the Gurkani family the outcome is a black day for the death of Hindal, Humayun’s youngest and most beloved brother – the same rebellious prince who had been instrumental for Humayun’s defeat at Chausa with his rebellion and desertion yet thereafter had remained loyal to the very end. Hindal is said to have been severed from the armpit by the blade of a soldier of Kamran – who also is also known to have expressed his grief. Two years later (1553) Kamran is finally captured and blinded, a common punishment for treason in the medieval age.

26. Battle of Machiwara (1555): With his position now secure and his forces strong to contest the Afghans of Hindustan, Humayun embarks on his reconquest of Hindustan on the 15th of November, 1554. He rapidly descends on Punjab conquering Peshawar, Rothas and Lahore in present day Pakistan and Jallandhar and Dibalpur in present day Punjab, India in the year 1555. Then sends a military detachment under his loyal sword arm Baihram Beg to capture Sirhind (Punjab, India). Baihram arrives near sunset and finds a 30,000 Afghan army blocking his path. Inspite of being heavily outnumbered the Gurkani detachment gives battle and successfully routes the larger Afghan army at a fishermen’s village on the banks of the river Sutlej known as Machiwara and captures Sirhind – the battle is said to have been won by the use of incendiary projectiles that accidentally set fire to the village illuminating the gathered Afghans in the dark.

27. Battle of Sirhind (22 June, 1555): Sikander Sur, successor and nephew of Sher Shah Sur confronts the Gurkani garrison at Sirhind with an army of 1,00,000. Humayun arrives in June to reinforce the garrison with all available units at hand and takes to strengthen Sirhind’s defenses for a month while sporadic combats occur between the Gurkhanis and the Afghans. On 22nd June, one such combat accidentally develops into a full scale battle leading to the defeat and route of the Afghans who suffer even greater losses during their retreat. Sikander Sur flees for the Himalayas abandoning Delhi – allowing Humayun to reenter his city of Din-Panah (See Farbound.Net story: Din Panah, city of Humayun) on the 23rd of July, 1555, ending his fifteen years of exile.

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