How Did Humayun Regain His Empire?

Nasir-ud-din Muhammad Humayun (r: 1530-1540 & 1555-1556), son of Babur, was the second ruler of the Mughal empire. Followed by his defeat in the battle of Kannauj in 1540, Humayun lost his kingdom to Sher Shah Suri (r: 1540-1545), the Afghan, who had determined to oust the Mughals from Hind and re-establish the Afghan regime.

Humayum and his wife Hamida Banu

Humayun's Hardship After His Dethronement (1540-1554):

When Sher Shah Suri occupied Agra, Humayun fled towards Lahore with his family and followers. He remained inactive in the palace of Lahore not knowing where to go. Meanwhile, Sher Shah's forces had reached Sirhind pursuing Humayun. Humayun sent an envoy to Sher Shah with a message, "What justice is there in this? I have left you the whole of Hindustan. Leave Lahore alone and let Sirhind, where you are, be a boundary between you and me". But, Sher Shah replied, "I have left you Kabul. You should go there". Lahore was afterwards occupied by Sher Shah Suri. Humayun crossed the river Ravi and halted a few days on the river's bank. [It was at this time Bakshi Banu Begum was born.] Humayun sent Mirza Hyder to take Kashmir, but news arrived that Sher Shah was there. So Humayun planned to go to Kabul.

Mirza Kamran refused to allow his brother to take refuge in Kabul. Humayun was advised by his counsel to murder Kamran since he was suspected of intriguing with the troops of Sher Shah for deposing him. Humayun, however, remembered the dying words of their father Babur, who had advised him not quarrel with his brothers nor ever form any evil intentions towards them. Humayun marched along the banks of the Indus towards Multan and Bhakkar, while his brothers Kamran and Askari proceeded to Kabul. Sher Shah sent his general Khawas Khan towards Multan to pursue Humayun. He instructed them not to engage Humayun, but to drive him beyond the borders of the kingdom, and then to return.

After few days Humayun reached Bhakkar. He sent his brother Mirza Hindal to Pat in Sehwan and his cousin Yadgar Nasir Mirza to Behil. He then dispatched ambassadors to Shah Husayn Arghun, the ruler of Thatta, to request his assistance in conquering Gujarat. But Shah Husayn didn't provide him any assistance. "By tricks and wiles, Shah Husayn kept his Majesty as much as five months in Samandar", writes Gulbadan Begum. When grain became scarce at Bhakkar, Humayun moved to Pat where Hindal was encamped.

Meets and Marries Hamida Banu (1541): During Humayun's stay in Hindal's camp at Pat, the latter's mother Dildar Begum gave a grand entertainment to the ladies; among them was Hamida Banu, who afterwards became the mother of Akbar. Hamida Banu was the daughter of Hindal's preceptor Ali Akbar. She was at that time fourteen years old. Humayun was much pleased with her and inquired if she was betrothed. He was informed that she had been asked but that the ceremony had not taken place. Humayun wished to marry her. Hearing this Hindal became angry and said, "I thought you came here to do me honour, not to look out for a young bride: if you commit this ridiculous action, I will leave you". Dildar Begum somehow made up the quarrel between Humayun and her son. It is said that Hamida Banu at first rejected Humayun's proposal. Dildar Begum advised her, "After all you will marry someone. Better than a king, who is there?". But she replied, "I shall marry someone; but he shall be a man whose collar my hand can touch and not one whose skirt it does not reach". According to Humayun-nama, for forty days Hmida Banu resisted and disagreed, but finally agreed to the proposal. She was married to Humayun in September 1541. After the marriage the royal couple proceeded towards Bhakkar. At that time, Hindal started off to Kandahar at the invitation of Qaracha Khan (ruler of Kandahar).

From Bhakkar to Jodhpur (1542): As Shah Husayn Arghun showed no signs of friendship, Humayun turned his attention towards the conquest of Thatta. After leaving a large body of men under Yadgar Mirza at Bhakkar, he went towards Sehwan, and laid siege to the fortress. Learning this, Shah Husayn advanced with a force from Thatta, and prevented supplies to Humayun's army. The Mughals suffered very much. Humayun summoned Yadgar Mirza, but the latter did not go for the king's help. In the meanwhile, Shah Husayn sent envoys to Yadgar Mirza and made [false] promises of allegiances to him; of giving him his daughter in marriage and to confirm him as governor of Bhakkar. Deceived by all these, Yadgar Mirza became hostile to Humayun. "Yadgar Mirza sent persons to entice the King's followers to desert to him, and even made use of severe threats to those who refused to abandon their unfortunate master", writes Jauhar. Humayun was thus compelled to raise the siege after seven months and returned to Bhakkar.

Being surrounded by misfortunes and disappointments, Humayun at first thought of going to Mecca. At last he decided to seek assistance of Rao Maldev, the ruler of Jodhpur, who had sent invitations promising his allegiance. Humayun somehow transported his troops to the opposite bank of the Indus and proceeded towards Jodhpur. When they reached Jaisalmer, Rai Lankaran, the ruler of that place, sent his forces to attack Humayun; the Mughal army fought with them and routed them. Humayun halted at the boundary of Ajmer and sent an envoy to Rao Maldev. Sher Shah had also sent an envoy to Rao Maldev offering Nagaur and Alwar, if he made Humayun a prisoner. One of Humayun's librarians, who at the time of his defeat had entered the service of Maldev, wrote to him about the Rao's intentions and advised him to get out of his country as soon as possible. As soon as he got the message, Humayun marched off and rode towards Umerkot, which is about 100 kilometers distant from Thatta.

Journey to Umerkot (now in Pakistan): About this time, two spies of Maldev, who had fallen into the hands of the Mughal troops, made their escape and wounded some men and killed Humayun's riding horse. There was no horse fit of Hamida Banu. "Let the camel of Jauhar, the ewer-bearer, be got ready for me. I will ride it, and the begum may have my horse", said Humayun. He then mounted a camel. Nadim Koka [Humayun's foster-brother and the husband of Maham Anaga, Akbar's wet-nurse] was walking on foot, while his mother was riding his horse. When Nadim saw Humayun seated on the camel, he made his mother dismount, presented the horse to Humayun, and made her ride on the camel which he had used. During the journey to Umerkot, the Mughals suffered heavily; many of them died from thirst. It was extremely hot. Many men and women were on foot. To add to their misery, Maldev's forces were pursuing them. Humayun's small body of men, however, defeated and routed them. On marching forward, there was no water for three days. On the fourth they reached a well: a drum was beaten when the bucket reached the surface of the earth, to give the bullock-driver notice to stop; for the well was so deep that a call would not reach him. As each bucket came out of the well into reach, people flung themselves on it; the ropes broke, and few people fell into the well with the buckets. Many deliberately threw themselves into the well. In this way, a large number of people perished from thirst. Next day they reached a brook, and most of the horses and camels who had not drunk water for many days, died of drinking excess of water. With extreme struggle, Humayun reached Umerkot with only a few attendants.

Birth of Akbar (1542): Humayun reached Umerkot on August 22, 1542. Rana Prasad of Umerkot, honourably received Humayun and assigned him excellent quarters. Humayun stayed there for about seven weeks at Umerkot. Shah Husayn Arghun had slain the father of Rana Prasad. So he collected his troops and himself proceeded with Humayun to Bhakkar. At the fort of Umerkot, Humayun left his family and relations, under the guardianship of Khwaja Muazzam, the brother of Hamida Banu Begum. At this time, the Begum was pregnant. On October 15, 1542, the child was born. Humayun was some thirty miles away when a messenger delivered this happy news to him. He was much delighted and gave the child the name he had heard in his dream at Lahore, Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar. He then called for a China plate, broke a pod of musk, and distributed it among the principal persons. He then said, "This is all the present I can afford to make you on the birth of my son, whose fame will I trust be one day expanded all over the world, as the perfume of the musk now fills this apartment".

Bairam Khan Returns: On the way to Bhakkar, Humayun encamped at Jun. Humayun had as many as 10,000 men with him, including troops of the Rana and some of the outlying tribes. With this force, he captured Jun; built a fort there and brought his family and relations to Jun. Unfortunately, during Humayun's stay at Jun, a quarrel took place between a Mughal chief and the Rana, who left the camp with his troops saying that 'any attempt to assist the Mughals was a loss of labour and time'. Thus Humayun was left alone, as before, with his own people. Getting intelligence of this, Shah Husain advanced from Thatta and arrived near Jun; and there were often fights between them. At this time news arrived that Bairam Khan, who had fled from Kannauj, was on his way to join Humayun from Gujarat (1543). Shortly he reached the camp and joined Humayun. Meanwhile Shaikh Ali, Humayun's brave commander, was slain by Shah Husain's troops. Humayun's soldiers now began to desert him one by one. At last Humayun made peace with Shah Husain and agreed to quit Sindh for Kandahar. Shah Husain assisted him with thirty boats and three-hundred camels to cross the river, but at the same time sent a messenger to Kamran and Askari informing them of Humayun's journey to Kandahar.

[When Mirza Hindal arrived Kandahar, Qaracha Khan welcomed him and handed the city over to him. On receiving this news Kamran marched to Kandahar and laid siege to it for four months. At last Hindal in great distress, made terms of peace. Kamran gave Kandahar to Askari and brought Hindal to Ghazni. After some time Ghazni was also taken from him. Kamran was now established himself in Kandahar, Kabul and Ghazni.]

As Humayun approached Kandahar, he heard news that Askari was marching with numerous troops to seize him. Unable to oppose Askari, Humayun was compelled to leave the young Akbar behind in the camp and took the road to Persia with about twenty-two followers. Nizam-ud-Din Ahmad says that the prince was left in the camp on account of the heat. Askari reached the camp sometime after Humayun left; he carried the young Akbar to Kandahar and gave him to the charge of his wife.

Humayun in Persia:

I have a separate detailed post on Humayun in Persia. In Persia, Humayun was welcomed by Shah Tahmasp, the King of Persia, on a condition that he must accept Shia faith. Shah assisted Humayun with financial aid and troops to regain his empire. In the following year, Humayun captured Kandahar and Kabul from his disloyal brothers.
Humayun Recaptures Hindustan (1554-1555): Meanwhile in Hind, Salim Shah Suri died in November 1554. His cousin Adali (r: 1555) seized the throne after assassinating Salim Shah's son Firoz Shah (r: November - December 1554). Soon Adali was overthrown by Sikandar Suri. About this time, Humayun received letters from some of the faithful inhabitants of Delhi and Agra, informing him of the death of Salim Shah and the subsequent civil war among the Afghans. Humayun found this a favourable opportunity to take possession of his kingdom. He marched to India, accompanied by his trusted general Bairam Khan in December 1554. He captured Lahore by February 1555. Sikandar Suri, the then ruler of Delhi & Agra, was defeated and fled. Thus Humayun became the King of Hindustan the second time.


Dildar Begum was the mother of Hindal and Gulbadan. Kamran and Askari were the sons of Gulrukh Begum.

Kabul, Kandahar and Badakhshan were now in Afghanistan.


The Tezkereh al Vakiat or Private Memoirs of the Emperor Humayun by Jauhar, trans. by Charles Stewart

The Humayun-nama of Begum Gulbadan


  1. I happened to reach this site while checking out some story. And since then, I have been browsing through the many posts which Anjana has written. One must complement her for the excruciating details that she has been able to dig out from the annals of history and present them to her readers. She has really done a tremendous job , though at times, one feels that the story could be shortened and made more concise and compact. One will then be able to remember the details much easily.

  2. Hi Navneet

    Thank you very much for your valuable comments and suggestions.

  3. Thanks for your efforts.