How Did Humayun Regain His Empire?

We have learned that after defeating Humayun in two successive battles, Sher Shah Suri occupied the throne of Delhi and Agra and established the Sur Dynasty (1540-1555) in India.

Shah Tahmasp receiving Humayun

Humayun's Life After His Defeat in the Battle of Kannauj (1540-1554):

When Sher Shah Suri reached Agra followed by his victory, Humayun fled towards Lahore along with his family and followers. Sher Shah sent a large Afghan force to pursue Humayun. The Mughals were defeated and Lahore was afterwards occupied by Sher Shah. Humayun sent an envoy to Sher Shah with a message, "I have left you the whole of Hindustan. Leave Lahore alone and let Sirhind be a boundary between you and me". Sher Shah replied, "I have left you Kabul. You should go there". But Mirza Kamran (Humayun's half-brother) 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. But Humayun 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 quit Lahore and marched along the banks of the river Indus towards Multan, while Kamran and Askari (Humayun's half-brother) proceeded to Kabul. Meanwhile, Sher Shah sent his army 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. When Humayun reached Bhakkar, he dispatched his Ambassadors to Shah Husain Arghun, the ruler of Tatta (Sind), to request his aid in recovering Gujarat. But Shah Husain didn't provide him any assistance. Humayun sent Mirza Hindal (Humayun's half-brother) to Pat to secure provisions. When grain becoming scarce at Bhakkar, Humayun moved to Pat where Hindal was encamped with his family and followers.

Meets and Marries Hamida Banu (1541): During Humayun's stay at the camp of Hindal, Dildar Begum (the mother of Gulbadan and Hindal) gave a grand entertainment to the ladies of the court; among them was Hamida Banu, 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 wanted to marry her, but 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 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 she resisted and disagreed. Finally she agreed to the proposal and was married to Humayun in Sep 1541. After the marriage the royal couple proceeded towards Bhakkar. At that time, Hindal left Humayun and went towards Kandahar.

From Bhakkar to Jodhpur (1542): Humayun decided to capture Bhakkar and with his small army laid siege to the district of Sehwana (in Sind). Shah Husain advanced with a force from Thatta, who prevented supplies to Humayun's army. Thus Humayun's army suffered very much. Humayun's cousin Yadgar Nasir Mirza also deserted him at this time as the Shah offered his daughter in marriage to him. Thus after a siege of seven months, Humayun was compelled to return to Bhakkar. Being surrounded by misfortunes and disappointments, Humayun thought of going to Mecca. At that time, he got an invitation from Raja Maldeo of Jodhpur offering assistance. Humayun raised some sunken rafts and transported his troops to the opposite bank of the Indus and proceeded towards Jodhpur. He marched towards Jodhpur by the way of Jaisalmer. The Rana of Jaisalmer, sent his forces to attack Humayun, but were defeated. Humayun halted at the boundary of Ajmir and sent an envoy to Raja Maldeo. Gulbadan says that, Sher Shah had already sent an envoy to Raja Maldeo offering Nagor and Alwar, if he made Humayun a prisoner. One of Humayun's librarians, who at the time of his defeat had fled to Maldeo, wrote to him about Maldeo'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. Humayun had at that time, no horse fit for Hamida Banu. He gave his own horse to her and decided to ride a camel. When Nadim Beg (the husband of Maham Anga, Akbar's wet nurse) heard it, he mounted his own mother on a camel and gave her horse to Humayun.

Humayum and his wife Hamida Banu

Journey to Umerkot (now in Pakistan): During the journey to Umerkot, people suffered heavily and many of them died from thirst. It was extremely hot. Many men and women were on foot. To add to their misery, Maldeo's forces were still pursuing them. Humayun's forces finally defeated them. 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 wells into reach, people flung themselves on it; the ropes broke, and five or six persons fell into the wells with the buckets. Many perished from thirst. Next day they reached a brook, and the horses and camels who had not drunk water for several days, died of drinking excess of water. With extreme struggle, Humayun reached Umerkot with only few attendants.

The Birth of Akbar (1542): Humayun reached Umerkot on Aug 22, 1542. Rana Parsad of Umerkot, honourably received Humayun. Shah Husain had killed the Rana's father. The Rana collected his troops and himself proceeded with Humayun to Bhakkar. At the fort of Umerkot, Humayun left his family and relations. Hamida Banu was with child and on Oct 15, 1542, the child was born. Humayun was some thirty miles away when a messenger took the 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, and having broken the pod of musk, distributed it among all the principal persons and 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, they encamped at Jun. Humayun then got possession of Jun and brought the young Prince and his mother to Jun. Unfortunately, during Humayun's stay at Jun, a quarrel took place between a Mughal chief and the Rana, who then left the camp with all his followers. Getting intelligence of this, Shah Husain advanced from Thatta to attack the Mughals; and there were often fights between them. At this time Bairam Khan (the future guardian of Akbar) joined Humayun from Gujarat (1543). When Humayun's army was dispersed after the battle of Kannauj, Bairam Khan had fled to Gujarat. Upon hearing the news of the death of his brave commander, Shaikh Ali, by the troops of Shah Husain, Humayun's soldiers began to desert him one by one. Humayun finally made peace with Shah Husain and agreed to leave Sind for Kandahar, which was then held by Mirza Askari for Kamran. Askari attacked Humayun as he approached Kandahar. Thus Humayun was compelled to go to Persia leaving Prince Akbar. When Askari reached the camp, he saw the young Prince there. He carried the Prince to Kandahar and gave him into the charge of his wife.

Humayun at Persia (1544): Gulbadan Begum says, "They were all night in the snow and at first there was neither wood for fire nor food to eat. They grew very hungry and feeble. The Emperor gave orders to kill a horse. There was no cooking-pot, so they boiled some of the flesh in a helmet, and some they roasted. They made fires on all four sides, and with his own blessed hand the Emperor roasted some meat which he ate". After a journey of many days, Humayun reached Garmsir and then Sistan, where he was honourably received by its governor on the part of Shah Tahmasp, King of Persia. Under the Shah's order every governor on the route supplied Humayun with all things he required. Finally he reached the Shah's camp at Kazwin. In the course of conversation, the Shah asked Humayun what was the reason of his defeat. He replied that it was the rivalry and faithlessness of his brothers. The Shah said that he would assist Humayun to recover his empire if he embrace the Shia faith. The Shah assisted him with a large force to expel his brothers out of Kabul, Kandahar and Badakhshan.

Humayun and Kamran: On hearing the approach of Humayun, Askari sent Prince Akbar to Mirza Kamran in Kabul, who gave him into the care of Khandaza Begum. Humayun marched to Kandahar and laid siege to the fort. Askari finally surrendered and thus Humayun got the possession of Kandahar (Sep 1545). After appointing Bairam Khan in charge of Kandahar, Humayun marched for conquering Kabul, where he was joined by Hindal Mirza and Yadgar Nasir Mirza. Kamran fled and took refugee at Bhakkar with Shah Husain Arghun. Humayun entered Kabul (Nov 1545) and reunited with his son Akbar. Humayun marched towards Badakhshan after leaving Akbar at Kabul. Seizing that opportunity, Kamran raised an army and recovered Kabul in 1546. Upon hearing this, Humayun returned to Kabul and besieged the place again. Unable to resist, Kamran fled to the mountains (Apr 1547). Kamran went to Badakhshan and subdued the place with the help of Askari. Humayun also started for Badakhshan and besieged the place; and this time Mirza Kamran made his submission. In 1549, when Humayun was attacking Balkh, he received news that Kamran had rebelled and was marching on Kabul. After defeating Humayun's forces Kamran obtained the possession of Kabul for the third time (1551). Kamran was soon defeated and Kabul was reoccupied by Humayun.

Death of Hindal and Marriage of Akbar (1551): Kamran continued to raise troops among the Afghans. He made a night attack in Humayun's camp and on this occasion, Hindal lost his life in defense of Humayun. Out of affection to the memory of Hindal, Humayun gave the daughter of Hindal, Ruqaiya Begum, in marriage to his son Akbar.

Kamran Takes Refugee at India (1552): When Humayun marched against Kamran, he fled to Hindustan (India) and took refugee with Salim Shah Suri (1545-1554), son of Sher Shah Suri. However, due to Salim Shah's cold treatment, Kamran escaped and took refugee with Sultan Adam Ghakkar. Humayun crossed the Indus and marched towards India. On this occasion, Sultan Adam, who had been a faithful companion of Humayun, surrendered Kamran to him. All the Mughal chiefs demanded that Kamran should be put to death. But Humayun, in extreme grief, only blinded his brother. Kamran eventually got permission to go to Mecca and there he died in 1557.

Humayun now turned towards Kashmir, but when Salim Shah learned this, he marched against him. Humayun was compelled to return to Kabul.

Humayun Recaptures Hindustan (1554-1555): Humayun received letters from some of the inhabitants of Delhi and Agra, informing about the death of Salim Shah and the civil war among the Afghans. Humayun found a favourable opportunity to take possession of his kingdom and accordingly marched to India in the year 1554. Sikandar Sur (successor of Sher Shah) was defeated and fled to the mountains of Punjab. Huayun appointed Prince Akbar and Bairam Khan to command the army against Sikandar Sur. Thus Humayun became the King of Hindustan a second time.

Death of Humayun (1556): On the evening of 21 Jan 1556, Humayun was walking in the terrace of his library at Sher Mandal. While descending the steps, he heard the announcement for the evening prayer. He stood still upon the occasion and sat down on the second step till the proclamation was ended. When he was going to rise, he supported himself on a staff, which unfortunately slipped upon the marble, and he fell headlong from the top to the bottom of the stair. He was taken up insensible and laid upon his bed. Humayun died on 24 Jan, at the age of fifty-one after a reign of twenty-five years, in Kabul and India.


Kamran and Askari were the sons of Babur by Gulrukh Begum.


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

The Humayun-nama written by Begum Gulbadan, Sister of Humayun

The History of the Rise of Mahommedan Power in India by Ferishta, trans. by John Briggs


  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.


Post a Comment