At the time when Humayun entered Persia the throne was occupied by Shah Tahmasp, the second of the Safavi (or Sophi) kings. His father was descended from a family of dervises, which had derived importance and influence from its sanctity, and was still principally supported by the enthusiasm of the nation for the Shia religion, which had been widely disseminated by the family, and formally established in Persia by Shah Ismael, the first king of the race. Though the Shias and Sunnis differ less than Catholics and Protestants, their mutual animosity is much more bitter; and the attachment of the Persians to their sect is national as well as religious; the Shia faith being professed in no great kingdom but theirs. Coming so early in the succession to its founder, Shah Tahmasp was not only a devout adherent but an ardent apostle of this new religion; and it was by his feelings in that respect that he was, in a great measure, actuated in his conduct to Humayun. The intercourse between those princes was highly characteristic of Asiatic despots.
Humayun’s reception was marked with every circumstance of hospitality and magnificence. The governor of every province received him with the highest honour, and the people of
every city came in a body to meet him; he was lodged in the king’s palaces, and entertained with regal splendour; but in the midst of this studied respect, he was treated with little delicacy, and all semblance of generosity disappeared as often as he disputed the will of the Persian monarch, or became in any way obnoxious to his pride or caprice.
Though welcomed from the moment of his arrival, he was not allowed to approach the capital; and many months elapsed before he was admitted to an interview with the king. During this interval, he sent his most confidential officer, Behram Khan, on a mission to Shah Tahmasp; and it was through a circumstance in the treatment of his envoy that he was first reminded how completely he was in the power of another.
More effectually to unite his followers by some visible symbol, the first Safavi had made them wear a particular description of cap; from which the Persians took the name they now bear. This sectarian distinction was an object of as much aversion to the other Mahometans as a rosary and crucifix would have been to a Calvinist of the seventeenth century78.
On one occasion of Behram’s attendance at
court, the king desired him to wear the cap; and on Behram’s representing that he was the servant of another prince, and was not at liberty to act without orders, Tahmasp told him “he might do as he pleased,” but gave evident signs of great displeasure; and, sending for some offenders, ordered them to be beheaded on the spot, with a view to strike a terror into the refractory ambassador.
Shah Tahmasp’s meeting with Humayun was on terms of perfect equality, and in every way suitable to his own grandeur and the dignity of his guest. Yet the two kings were scarcely seated, when Tahmasp told the king of India that he must adopt the disputed cap; and Humayun, to whom the demand was not unexpected, at once consented with an appropriate compliment. His assuming it was announced by a triumphal flourish from the king of Persia’s band, and welcomed by a general salutation to both monarchs by the Persian courtiers. Some more private conversation probably passed on the subject of religion, in which Humayun was not so compliant; for next day, when Tahmasp was passing Humayun’s palace on a journey, the latter prince went to the gate to salute him, but the Persian passed on without noticing him, and left Humayun mortified and humiliated. Some days after, when a large supply of firewood was sent to Humayun, it was accompanied by a message that it should serve for his funeral pile if he refused to embrace the Shia
religion. To this the exiled prince replied with humility, but with firmness, and requested leave to proceed on his pilgrimage; but Tahmasp was inexorable, declaring that he was determined to extirpate the Sunnis, and that Humayun must adopt the religion of the country he had voluntarily entered, or take the consequences.
After all this intimidation, a cazi deputed by Shah Tahmasp to confer with him presented Humayun with three papers, and told him he might take his choice which he would sign. Humayun rejected them in succession, with indignation, and at one time started up to call his attendants. His anger was composed by the cazi, who conducted his negotiation with kindness as well as with address, and succeeded in convincing him that, although he might give up his own life for his religion, he had no right to sacrifice those of his adherents; and that his duty as well as his interest called on him to comply with a demand which he had no means of effectually resisting.
The memoir writer does not mention, and may not have known, the contents of the paper; and Abul Fazl, with courtly dexterity, passes over the whole subject of religion, and scarcely hints at a temporary misunderstanding between the kings; but it seems clear that it must have contained a profession of the Shia religion, and a promise to introduce it into India, as well as an engagement to cede the frontier province or kingdom of Candahar. This last article was carried into effect;
and it was probably a sense of the impossibility of fulfilling the other that made Humayun so indifferent to a rupture with Persia, when the period of performance drew near. That Humayun himself professed to have been converted appears from a pilgrimage which he made to the tomb of Shekh Safi at Ardebil, a mark of respect not very consistent with the character of a professed Sunni79.
After the contest about this paper, Humayun was neglected for two months; and when Tahmasp renewed his attentions, they were not unmixed with ebullitions of an overbearing temper on points unconnected with the favourite topic of religion. Tahmasp had heard from some of Humayun’s enemies, that, during that monarch’s prosperity, on some practice of divination to discover the destiny of reigning princes, he had placed the king of Persia in a class inferior to that in which he ranked himself. Tahmasp now took him to task for this assumption, and, on Humayun’s endeavouring to explain his reasons, told him that it was through such arrogance that he came to be driven out of his kingdom by peasants, and to leave his women and his child in the hands of his enemies.
Nevertheless the public conduct of the king of
Persia continued to be as cordial and as generous as ever. He gave great hunting and drinking parties in honour of Humayun; and, when the time of that prince’s departure approached, he loaded him with attentions, and on one occasion laid his hand on his heart and entreated his guest to forgive him if he had ever failed in what was due to him. He then dismissed Humayun, with a promise that 12,000-horse should be ready to join him in Sistan. But the two kings were not destined to part without one more explosion of temper from the king of Persia. Instead of marching straight to the frontier, Humayun loitered about different places which he wished to visit, until he was overtaken by Tahmasp who was moving on some business through his dominions. He no sooner saw Humayun’s tents than he exclaimed, “What! has he not yet left this country?” and sent a messenger to direct him to make a march of twelve farsakhs (upwards of forty miles) without a moment’s delay.
In Sistan, Humayun found 14,000 horse (instead of the 12,000 promised), under the command of the king’s son, Morad Mirza. Carman was still in possession of Cabul. Candahar had been surprised by Hindal, but retaken; and that prince had been forgiven by his brother, and was now governor of Ghazni, the government of Candahar being intrusted to Mirza Asked. Camran had also taken Badakhshan from his relation, Soliman, who had been placed there by Baer: it comprehended
the south of Bactria; the northern part of that province, including Balkh, was in the hands of the Uzbegs. Shir Shah was still alive, and there was little to be hoped from an invasion of Hindostan.
Humayun’s own troops, while in Persia, only amounted to 700 men, and they were probably not more numerous when he marched with the Persian force against the fort of Bost, on the river Helmand. That place soon surrendered, and the force advanced unobstructed to Candahar (March, 1545).
The eagerness of the Persians, and their fear that Mirza Askeri might escape with his treasures, led them at first to a tumultuary attack, which was repelled by the garrison, and the siege was then opened in form. It lasted for more than five months, during which time Humayun sent Behram Khan to Cabul to endeavour to bring Camran to terms. His mission was unsuccessful; and as for a long time none of the chiefs or inhabitants of the country joined Humayun, the Persians began to be disheartened, and to talk of returning to their own country. At length things took a favourable turn: deserters of different ranks came in from Cabul; and the garrison of Candahar being reduced to distress for subsistence, many of the troops composing it escaped to their own homes, while others let themselves down from the walls and came over to the besiegers.
Mirza Askeri was now obliged to surrender;
and, by the intervention of his aunt, the sister of Baber, he obtained a promise of pardon from his brother (September, 1545). But Humayun’s heart seems to have been hardened by his long misfortunes and disappointments; and his proceedings, which formerly were chiefly to be blamed for weakness, began to assume a darker character. Askeri was compelled to make his appearance before the conqueror with his sword hung naked from his neck, and to display his submission in the most humiliating forms. When this was over, Humayun with seeming generosity placed him by his side, and showed him every mark of forgiveness and returning kindness. A great entertainment was given to celebrate the reconciliation; but when the festivity was at its height, and all fears and suspicions had been laid aside, some orders which Askeri had written to the Beloch chiefs for apprehending Humayun during his flight to Persia were produced; and, on pretext of this long past act of enmity, he was made prisoner, and kept in chains for nearly three years.
The fort and treasures were made over to the Persians, on which the greater part of their troops returned home; and the garrison which was left under Morad Mirza began, according to Abul Fazl, to oppress the inhabitants. Abul Fazl enters on a long apologetical narrative of the events that followed; which, for its own cant and hypocrisy, as well as the perfidy of the acts it defends, is not surpassed by any thing even in the Memoirs of
Tamerlane. The sum is, that the Persian prince having suddenly died, Humayun, still professing the most fervent attachment to Shah Tahmasp, obtained admission on friendly terms into the city, slaughtered many of the garrison, and made an extraordinary merit of allowing the rest to return to their own country80.
It is probable that the sophistical pretexts of Abul Fazl are not chargeable to Humayun, who might plead that he was not bound to observe an
engagement wrung from him by force. This argument, however, if admissible, as far as relates to his conversion, does not apply to the cession of Candahar. That was the price of the assistance of the king of Persia; and by availing himself of that assistance, after he was free from restraint, he ratified his engagement anew; and his infraction of it, especially with the concomitant circumstances, must leave him under the stigma of treachery, though not, perhaps, of ingratitude.
After the occupation of Candahar, Humayun marched for Cabul, although the winter had already set in with extraordinary severity. As he advanced, he was joined by his brother Hindal; and afterwards by other deserters, in such numbers that, when he reached Cabul, Camran found it impossible to resist, and fled to Bakkar on the Indus, where he threw himself on the protection of Husen Arghun, prince of Sind. Humayun entered Cabul, and recovered his son Akber, now between two and three years of age.
After remaining for some months at Cabul, Humayun set out to recover Badakhshan, which was again in the hands of Mirza Soliman. Before his departure, he thought it prudent to put his cousin, Yadgar Mirza, who had just joined him, and was suspected of fresh intrigues, to death. What is remarkable in this event is, that the governor of Cabul flatly refused to carry the order into execution, and that Humayun directed another person to perform it without inflicting any punishment on the governor.
While Humayun was at Badakhshan, where he remained for many months, Camran returned from Sind and surprised Calm’. Humayun marched against him in the dead of winter, defeated his troops, and drove him within the walls. On this and all subsequent occasions during the siege, Humayun put his prisoners to death in cold blood, which Camran retaliated by still greater cruelties, and even threatened to expose young Akber, who had again fallen into his hands, to the fire of the cannon, if they continued to batter the town81.
At length Camran was compelled to quit Cabul (April, 1547). He made his escape in the night, and fled to Geri, in the south of Bactria. Being, after some time, dislodged from thence by a detachment of Humayun’s, he had recourse to the Uzbeks at Balkh, and by their aid he recovered Badakhshan. During these operations, the summer passed, and Humayun was constrained by the snow to defer his march from Cabul until the next spring. He then set out for Badakhshan, where
Camran was defeated, driven into Talekan, and, being disappointed of the assistance he expected from the Uzbeks, reduced to surrender (August, 154,8). On this occasion, Humayun behaved with perfect good faith and humanity: he treated Camran with great kindness; and three of the brothers being now together, he released the fourth, Mirza Askeri, and they all assembled at a feast, where they ate salt together, and were, for the time, entirely reconciled.
After this Humayun returned to Cabul. Next spring (1549), he set out to attack the Uzbeks in Balkh; and he appears at last to have acquired a sufficient spirit of enterprise; for, having taken the small fort of Eibak, he immediately began to hold consultations about the conquest of Transoxiana:
but, at the moment of his reaching Balkh, where he had beat off a sally of the garrison, he received intelligence that Camran had rebelled, and was threatening Cabul;
and, on commencing his march on his return to his capital, he was so pressed by the Uzbeks that his retreat soon became a flight, and it was with difficulty that his troops made their way, in total confusion and disorder, to a place of safety.
This calamity shook the fidelity of his remaining adherents; and, in a battle which took place soon after, some of his greatest chiefs deserted him; and he had nearly lost his life in the defeat which followed. On this occasion, he was wounded by a soldier of Camran, who was about to repeat the blow, when Humayun called out, “You
wretch! how dare you?” and the man was so confounded by the stern look of the king, that he dropped his arm, and allowed his wounded antagonist to retire (middle of 1550). Humayun now fled with only eleven attendants, among whom was Jouher, the author of the Memoirs. He underwent many hardships, and for some time suffered from his wound: in the end he reached Badakhshan, where Mirza Soliman, for the first time, zealously supported him. On his flight, Camran again took Cabul, and Akber once more fell into his hands.
But in a subsequent battle, fortune proved favourable to Humayun; Camran was obliged to take refuge with an Afghan tribe in the mountains of Kheiber; Cabul was taken, and all the open country restored to obedience (1551).
The king soon after marched against the Khalils, the tribe that had harboured Camran. He was attacked in the night by those mountaineers: his brother Hindal was killed, and he was obliged to take refuge in Besut, a small fort in the pass between Peshawer and Cabul. The Afghans did not follow up their advantage; and while Camran was feasted in turn by successive tribes, Humayun again took the field, defeated the Afghans, and compelled Camran to fly to India; where he sought an asylum with Sultan Selim, the successor of Shir Shah (1552). Receiving no encouragement in that quarter, he fled to the Sultan of the Gakkars, and was ultimately betrayed by him to Humayun,
three years after his last expulsion from Cabul82 (September, 1553).
Though Camran’s repeated offences would have justified his immediate execution, they do not in the least reconcile us to the treatment he received when given up.
Humayun had come into the Gakkar territory to receive the prisoner; and Camran, when brought before him, advanced with great humility; but Humayun received him graciously, seated him on his right hand, and soon after, some water melon being handed round, he gave half of the piece he had taken to his brother. In the evening there was an entertainment, with singers, and the “night was passed” in “jollity and carousing83.” Next day passed in the same manner: during the course of it, some of his counsellors asked Humayun what he intended to do with his brother? and he answered, “Let us first satisfy the Gakkar chief, and then I will do what is thought proper.”
On the third day the Gakkar chief was satisfied; and it was determined that Camran should be blinded. The author of the Memoirs, having been ordered to attend on the prince, describes the particulars of his misfortune. At first, no person was willing to undertake the duty, and the king had given the order just as he was setting off on his march. One officer rode after him, and told him in Turki the difficulty that had arisen; on which the king reviled him, and asked why he had not done
it himself? On the officer’s return, the order was made known to Camran with many expressions of sorrow, and the operation was performed by piercing his eyes repeatedly with a lancet. Camran bore the torture without a groan, until lemon juice and salt were squeezed into his eyes, when he called out, “O Lord, my God! whatever sins I have committed have been amply punished in this world; have compassion on me in the next.”
After witnessing this part of the scene, the author could no longer remain: he went on to the camp, and sat down in his tent in a very melancholy mood. On this the king sent for him, and asked why he had come away without orders? The author replied that the business was completed, and the king told him he need not go back; and immediately gave him an order about some trifling business, without further noticing what had passed. He probably felt more shame than pleasure at the intelligence; and, indeed, the circumstances are important, rather as showing the effects of his situation than his own disposition, of which they are not otherwise characteristic than in the indecision and the wish to go on smoothly to the last. He was not naturally either cunning or cruel; and if he had been a limited monarch in Europe, he would most likely not have been more treacherous or bloody than Charles II.
Camran, now no longer dangerous, was permitted to go to Mecca, where he soon after died. After this transaction, Humayun was desirous of
proceeding to Cashmir; but, hearing of the advance of Selim Shah, he retreated to Cabul, and spent the next year at that place and Candahar.
In the mean time, Selim Shah had died; and the misgovernment of his successor had broken up his territories into five portions, in each of which there was a separate king.
Secander Shah, to whose share the Panjab had fallen, had since attacked Ibrahim, the usurper of Delhi and Agra, and had driven him from his territories, while Adili, the real sovereign, was carrying on operations against both. Circumstances could not, therefore, have been more favourable to Humayun; but the recollection of former misfortunes seems to have excited gloomy forebodings about India; and it was not till he was encouraged by omens as well as arguments, that Humayun could make up his mind to the enterprise.
When he had undertaken it, he executed it with alacrity: he set out from Cabul with 15,000 horse (January, 1555): he invaded the Panjab, defeated Secander’s governor, and took possession of Lahor, where he remained for some time to settle the province.
At Sirhind he engaged Secander, who had advanced to meet him at the head of a large army.
Humayun gained a decided victory, and immediately took possession of Delhi and Agra, while Secander fled to the mountains under Hemalaya.
The latter prince, not long after, again issued from his retreat, and Behram Khan was sent along with Prince Akber to the Panjab to oppose him.
Humayun, though thus restored to his capital, had recovered but a small portion of his original dominions, and even that he did not live to enjoy. In less than six months after his return to Delhi, he met with an accident which occasioned his almost immediate death. He had been walking on the terrace of his library, and was descending the stairs (which, in such situations, are narrow steps on the outside of the building, and only guarded by an ornamental parapet about a foot high). Hearing the call to prayers from the minarets, he stopped, as is usual on such occasions, repeated the creed, and sat down on the steps till the crier had done. He then endeavoured to rise, supporting himself on his staff; the staff slipped on the polished marble of the steps, and the king fell headlong over the parapet. He was stunned at the time; and, although he soon recovered his senses, the injury he had received was beyond cure. On the fourth day after his accident be expired, in the forty-ninth year of his age, and twenty-sixth of his reign, including the sixteen years of his banishment from his capital.
His unsettled reign left little time for internal improvements; and it is marked by no domestic event of importance, except the death of the celebrated Persian historian, Khondemir, who had come to Baber’s court soon after his invasion of India, and died in the camp of Humayun during his expedition to Guzerat.
78. The Persians generally call themselves Kazlbash, or Redhead, from the colour of this cap. Baer attempted to introduce it among his troops at a time when he depended on the good will of the Persians; but the measure, though unaccompanied with any religious innovation, was so unpopular as to produce a dangerous disaffection to his government. (See Erskine’s Baber, p. 244.)
79. The “Muntakhib ul Tawarikh” states that the paper contained the Shia confession of faith, and that Humayun complied with the demand for his accepting it by reading it aloud without any other sign of assent or dissent. The same book adds, that he adopted the Shia mode of reciting a portion of the public prayers, which is the most contested point between the two sects.
80. The following is a specimen of Abul Fazl’s manner of relating a story like the present. It is from Col. Price’s version, and, though not literal, gives the spirit of the original. After enlarging on the complaints of the people of Candahar (who had never been subject to Humayun) against the officers of their present sovereign the king of Persia, he goes on: “The generous monarch felt himself under considerable embarrassment, lest, in satisfying the demands of justice by inflicting punishment on the oppressors, he might give offence to his good ally, the king of Persia; or by suffering the guilty to escape entirely unpunished, they might be encouraged to extend their malpractices a hundred fold against the unfortunates still subject to their authority, his conscience pretty distinctly reminding him that by this latter course he should most surely incur the just vengeance of an offended God.” On mature consideration of the risks of a quarrel, Humayun stifled the reproaches of his conscience, until Morad Mirza’s death afforded an opportunity for executing his design. Even then he absolutely refused to endanger the lives of the shah’s troops by giving them any notice of his hostile intentions, and only consented to lull them into security, and surprise them when they were off their guard. He begged permission of the governor to send Mirza Askeri, under an escort, to be kept prisoner in Candahar. The Persian gave his consent without hesitation; and the escort being secretly supported by other detachments, seized one of the gates, on which a conflict ensued, and many of the garrison were put to the sword. (Price, vol. iv. p. 89.)
81. Abul Fazl states that Camran did actually expose Akber without giving the least notice; and that it was only by the direct interposition of Providence, shown in miracles, of which he relates the particulars, that the destruction of the royal infant was averted. The account given in the text of this one fact is from the memoir writer; that author passes over most of the other atrocities on both sides; but on that subject I am afraid there is no reason for distrusting Abul Fazl. The memoir writer mentions that Cabul was given up to plunder, after the flight of Camran, as a punishment for the infidelity of the inhabitants; which is not noticed by Abut Fazl.
82. Memoirs, p. 105.
83. Ibid. p. 101.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage