How Did Humayun Regain His Empire?

Nasir-ud-din Muhammad Humayun, the son of Babur, was the second ruler of the Mughal empire from 1530 to 1540 and then again from 1555 to 1556. After suffering defeat in the battle of Kannauj in 1540, Humayun lost his kingdom to Sher Shah Suri (r: 1540-1545), an Afghan leader, who was determined to oust the Mughals from Hind and restore Afghan rule.

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

Following his dethronement in 1540, Humayun faced numerous hardships. When Sher Shah Suri took control of Agra, Humayun fled towards Lahore with his family and followers, including his three brothers - Kamran, Askari, and Hindal. Sher Shah's troops pursued him and eventually reached Sirhind.

Humayun attempted to negotiate with Sher Shah, offering him control of Hindustan in exchange for leaving Lahore alone and establishing Sirhind as a boundary between them. However, Sher Shah rejected the offer, insisting that Humayun should go to Kabul instead. Subsequently, Lahore fell under Sher Shah's control.

Humayun crossed the river Ravi and stayed on its banks for a few days, during which time his daughter Bakshi Banu Begum was born. Initially planning to go to Kashmir, he changed his mind upon learning that Sher Shah was there and decided to head towards Kabul.

Kamran refused to allow his brother to seek refuge in Kabul, the capital of his own empire. Humayun, on the other hand, was advised by his counsel to murder Kamran, as he was suspected of conspiring with Sher Shah's troops to overthrow him. However, Humayun chose to heed the dying words of his father, Babur, who had warned him against quarreling with his brothers or harboring any ill intentions towards them.

Humayun then led his forces along the banks of the Indus towards Multan, while his brothers Kamran and Askari headed towards Kabul. Sher Shah sent his general Khawas Khan to Multan to pursue Humayun, with orders to drive him out of the kingdom's borders.

After reaching Bhakkar, Humayun dispatched ambassadors to Shah Husayn Arghun, the ruler of Thatta, seeking assistance in conquering Gujarat. However, "By tricks and wiles, Shah Husayn kept his Majesty as much as five months in Samandar", writes Gulbadan Begum. When supplies ran low in Bhakkar, Humayun moved to Patar where Hindal was encamped.

Meets and Marries Hamida Banu (1541):

During Humayun's stay in Hindal's camp at Patar, Dildar Begum (the mother of Hindal and Gulbadan), hosted a grand entertainment for the ladies. Among them was Hamida Banu, a fourteen-year-old girl and the daughter of Hindal's preceptor, Ali Akbar. Humayun was captivated by her and inquired about her betrothal status. He learned that she had been asked but the ceremony had not yet taken place. Humayun expressed his desire to marry her, much to the displeasure of Hindal. Dildar Begum managed to resolve the quarrel between Humayun and her son Hindal.

It is said that Hamida Banu initially rejected Humayun's proposal. However, Dildar Begum advised her, "After all you will marry someone. Better than a king, who is there?" Hamida Banu replied, "Oh yes, 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, Hamida Banu resisted and disagreed for forty days before finally agreeing to the proposal. She was married to Humayun in September 1541, and the royal couple proceeded to Bhakkar. Meanwhile, Hindal departed for Kandahar at the invitation of Qaracha Khan, the ruler of Kandahar.

From Bhakkar to Jodhpur (1542):

Shah Husayn Arghun's lack of friendliness prompted Humayun to turn his attention towards conquering Thatta. Leaving a significant number of men under Yadgar Mirza at Bhakkar, Humayun proceeded to Sehwan and laid siege to the fortress. Learning this, Shah Husayn advanced with a force from Thatta to cut off supplies to Humayun's army, causing significant hardships for the Mughals. Despite summoning Yadgar Mirza for assistance, he did not aid the king.

Deceived by Shah Husayn's envoys and promises of marriage to his daughter and governorship of Bhakkar, Yadgar Mirza turned against 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. After seven months, Humayun was forced to lift the siege and retreated to Bhakkar.

Surrounded by misfortunes and disappointments, Humayun at first thought of going to Mecca but ultimately decided to seek help from Rao Maldev, the ruler of Jodhpur, who had extended invitations promising his allegiance. Despite the challenges, Humayun managed to transport his troops across the Indus river and set out on his journey towards Jodhpur. Along the way, he encountered resistance from Rai Lankaran of Jaisalmer, whom the Mughal army defeated. Halting at the border of Ajmer, Humayun dispatched an envoy to Rao Maldev.

Meanwhile, Sher Shah had also sent an envoy to Rao Maldev offering Nagaur and Alwar in exchange for capturing Humayun. A librarian who had joined Maldev's service after Humayun's defeat, wrote to him of the Rao's intentions and advised him to leave immediately. Upon receiving the message, Humayun marched towards Umerkot, approximately 100 kilometers from Thatta.

Journey to Umerkot:

During the journey to Umerkot (now in Pakistan), Hamida Banu had no suitable horse, so Humayun decided to ride the camel of Jauhar, the ewer-bearer. Nadim Koka, Humayun's foster-brother and husband of Maham Anaga, was walking on foot while his mother rode his horse. Nadim then assisted his mother to mount a camel and generously offered his horse to Humayun.

The journey to Umerkot was arduous, with many Mughals succumbing to thirst due to extreme heat. Many men and women were on foot. Despite being pursued by Maldev's forces, Humayun's small group managed to defeat and scattered them. After three days without water, they finally reached a well on the fourth day. A drum was beaten to signal the bullock-driver to stop when the bucket reached the surface, as the well was deep. People eagerly rushed to each bucket, causing some ropes to break and a few individuals to fall into the well, with some even deliberately throwing themselves in. The next day they reached a brook, but most of the horses and camels, who had not drunk water for days, died from drinking too much. With great difficulty, Humayun reached Umerkot with only a few attendants.

Birth of Akbar (1542):

Upon reaching Umerkot on August 22, 1542, Rana Prasad honourably received Humayun and provided him with excellent quarters. Humayun stayed in Umerkot for about seven weeks. Rana Prasad's father had been killed by Shah Husayn Arghun, prompting the Rana to gather his troops and accompany Humayun to Bhakkar.

At the Rana's palace, Humayun entrusted his family and relatives to the care of Khwaja Muazzam, the brother of Hamida Banu Begum. During this period, Hamida Banu Begum was expecting a child.

On October 15, 1542, Humayun received the joyful news of his son's birth, while he was thirty miles away. Delighted, he named the child Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar, as he had heard in his dream at Lahore. He then broke a pod of musk on a China plate and distributed it among the guests, saying, "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 (1543):

While traveling to Bhakkar, Humayun encamped at Jun. Humayun had as many as 10,000 men with him, including troops of the Rana and various tribes. He successfully captured Jun, built a fort, and brought his family and relatives there. However, tensions arose when a dispute between a Mughal chief and the Rana led to the Rana leaving with his troops, leaving Humayun isolated with his own people.

Upon learning of this, Shah Husain advanced from Thatta and engaged in frequent skirmishes near Jun. Around the same time, Bairam Khan, who had fled from Kannauj, arrived at Humayun's camp and was joyfully reunited with him.

Meanwhile, Shaikh Ali, Humayun's commander, was slain by Shah Husain's troops, causing Humayun's soldiers to gradually desert him. Eventually, Humayun made peace with Shah Husain and agreed to leave Sindh for Kandahar. Shah Husain provided thirty boats and three hundred camels to assist Humayun in crossing the river, while also sending a messenger to Kamran and Askari to inform them of Humayun's journey to Kandahar. In the meantime, Kamran had firmly established his rule in Kabul, Kandahar, and Ghazni.

As Humayun neared Kandahar, he learned that Kamran had sent Askari with a large army to seize him. As the enemy was approaching, Humayun was compelled to leave prince Akbar behind in the camp and set out for Persia with his few followers. Historian Nizam-ud-Din Ahmad mentioned that the decision to leave the prince behind was due to the extreme heat. Askari arrived at the camp after Humayun's departure, took Akbar to Kandahar, and entrusted him to his wife's care.

Humayun in Persia (1544-1554):

In Persia (Iran), Humayun was welcomed by Shah Tahmasp, the King of Persia, and offered assistance to Humayun to recover his empire under the condition that he embrace the Shia faith. Shah Tahmasp assisted Humayun with financial aid and troops to regain his empire. In the subsequent year, Humayun successfully recaptured Kandahar and Kabul from his brothers.

Humayun Recaptures Hindustan (1554-1555):

Meanwhile, in Hindustan, Salim Shah Suri died in November 1554. His cousin Adali (r: 1555) seized the throne by assassinating Salim Shah's son Firoz Shah, who reigned for only one month. Soon Adali was overthrown by Sikandar Suri.

During this time, Humayun received letters from loyal subjects in Delhi and Agra, informing him of Salim Shah's death and the subsequent civil war among the Afghans. Seeing a favourable opportunity, Humayun, accompanied by Bairam Khan, set out for India in December 1554. He captured Lahore by February 1555. Sikandar Suri was defeated and forced to flee. Thus, Humayun ascended to the throne of Hindustan for the second time.


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.