Humayun and the Gujarat Sultanate

Flight of Sultan Bahadur During Humayun’s Campaign in Gujarat, 1535, Folio from an Akbarnama (History of Akbar), Dharamdas, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Soon after the defeat of the Lodis at the hands of Babur, Bahadurshah, , the Muzaffarid ruler of Gujarat, who had participated in the battle of Panipat along with Ibrahim Lodi, left Delhi for Gujarat where he gained the Gujarat throne a second time. His brother, Chand Khan was expelled and he fled to take shelter with the Malwa ruler, Sultan Mahmud Khalji.

Bahadurshah soon busied himself in consolidating his rule and started putting pressure against the Ahmadnagar Kingdom. As a result of two expeditions which he led against Ahmadnagar, he forced them to accept his overlordship. This naturally not only boasted his morale but added to his prestige as well.

It was only after adding to his prestige and impressing his neighbours, he started making a demand upon Mahmud Khalji to return Chand Khan to him as a prisoner or at least expel him from Malwa. The demand was made in such an aggressive manner that the Malwa ruler had no option but to turn it down.

It is borne out by subsequent evidence that Bahadurshah was not so much interested in gaining the custody of Chand Khan but to find some suitable pretext for invading and annexing Malwa.

In fact the history of Gujarat’s relations with Malwa is full of instances of Gujarati aggression against that state: But at no occasion are we able to discern a desire on the part of Gujarati rulers to annex the Malwa territory.

But Bahadurshah’s subsequent behaviour (i.e., 1531 onwards) is clearly indicative of his real aim: annex Malwa to his empire.

The only explanation for this basic change in policy was that perhaps the Gujarati assessment of the total political situation of the sub-continent had a basic transformation after the establishment of the Timurid rule in North Indian plains.

Apparently the Gujarati rulers feared that as soon as the Mughals would succeed in consolidating their position in North India after having suppressed the Afghan resistance against them, which was still active in Bihar and certain parts of Jaunpur and Awadh, they would turn their attention towards Malwa, Gujarat as well as territories of the Deccan plateau.

In other words, the assessment was that the security of the kingdom of Gujarat was dependent on the de-stabilized state of the Mughal control in North India. The Gujaratis felt that it was their task to do everything possible to frustrate Humayun’s hectic military moves for consolidating his position in the territory which he had inherited from his father.

For this purpose, Bahadurshah had no option but to try to gain a foothold in Malwa. He could hope to create military diversion for thwarting Humayun’s measures against Afghans only if he would be controlling the territory on two fronts, viz.

The southern flanks of the Empire – i.e., Malwa

The Western flanks of the Empire – Eastern Rajasthan, with its military and political headquarters at Ranthambhore.

This was necessitated due to the nature of the terrain: The difference between the terrain between Malwa and Gujarat was such that it made it difficult to rapidly move large number of troops from one region to another.

As a matter of fact, as one enters the confines of Malwa, there is a sudden rise in the altitude. The terrain on the Malwa side, represented by the Vindhyan hills served as a natural barrier between the two regions, thwarting easy military penetration of Malwa from the Gujarat side.

Some idea of this can be had if one keeps in mind that the altitudes of the Malwa plain was in the range of 15ft from sea level. But then the change takes place suddenly: From Champaner to Mandu it rises to 300 – 400 ft.

This nature of the range made it obligatory on Gujaratis to take Malwa. It was imperative for them to firmly establish themselves there, i.e., annex it.

This topographic and strategic reason explains Bahadurshah’s decision in 1531 to annex Malwa on the pretext of imprisoning Chand Khan.

Humayun’s accession to the throne coincided with Bahadurshah’s invasion of Malwa. Bahadurshah actually entered Malwa in January 1531 and at this time he was careful enough to make a temporary military alliance with the ruler of Chitor, Ratan Singh and other Rajput chieftains allied with Chitor, e.g., the rulers of Raisen, Bhilsa and Gagraon.

Salhadi was one chieftain with whom Bahadurshah made an alliance. This was an indication that Bahadurshah was deviating from the policy of Gujarati rulers of never making alliance with Mewar and other Rajput states. In fact a treaty in 1442 with Malwa laid down that the two powers would co-operate with each other in putting down Mewar etc. It was stated in this treaty that each power would have the right to annex the territory of Mewar. And down to 1530 Gujarat and Malwa abided by this treaty even while they fought elsewhere. They never allowed their conflict to come in any way to co-operate against Mewar. But in 1531, the Gujaratis, although briefly, are found making a common cause against Malwa.

The invasion started in January 1531. Humayun came to the throne in the end of December.

This expedition progressed in the next 3 months culminating in the total annexation of Malwa in March 1531. Mahmud Khalji was taken prisoner and sent to Champaner under guard of Gujarati officers who killed him on the way. Malwa ruling dynasty was thus extinguished and Malwa came under Gujarat. Bahadurshah now decided to stay back at Mandu.

Thus from Jan 1531, a new situation developed in Malwa to which Humayun could not remain indifferent in spite of his other occupations. And thus the relations between Humayun and Bahadurshah were activated. From now on both were constantly keeping an eye on each other’s military moves. This exchange of information included diplomatic exchanges. Humayun had reasons to be particularly perturbed by the Gujarati occupation of Malwa:

There appears to exist at least some evidence indicating that soon after coming to Mandu, Bahadurshah had started making moves for establishing contacts with Humayun’s adversaries in the east – namely Sher Khan resisting Mughal penetration of Bihar; and Nusrat Shah, the ruler of Bengal.

Evidence which we have on this count is such that it can’t be ignored. A passage given by Abul Fazl speaks for itself:

“In a short space of time he (Sher Khan) by craft and un-righteousness surpassed the rebels of the age. Accordingly Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat sent him a subsidy by the hands of merchants and summoned him to his side. Farid made the money into capital for sedition, and sent excuses for going”.

Exact timing of this episode is not mentioned. Abul Fazl writes this after he has reported Hasan Khan Sur’s death and Sher Khan’s gaining control of Sahsaram and other territories from Nauhani Afghan chiefs.

This in turn creates an impression that most probably this exchange took place sometimes in 1531 or 1532.

In any case it is obvious that Bahadurshah made this move only after coming over to Mandu and at a time when the Afghan groups in Bihar were trying to mobilise themselves around Sultan Mahmud Lodi for making yet another bid to out the Mughals from the Gangetic plain – the Battle of Dadra we know took place in 1533.

Another very significant inference which can be drawn is the exact nature of message which these merchants brought: put pressure your side and I from mine!

It is also clear that Bahadurshah also made considerable funds available to Sher Khan: this would bolster Sher Khan against Humayun.

This would explain Humayun’s tension and anxiety to come to Gujarat.

Then there is another piece of evidence: This is an information furnished by Nizamuddin Ahmad Bakhshi.

In the volume III of Tabaqat-i Akbari while dealing with Bengal, he informs us that in 939 AH / August 1532 to September 1533, Sultan Nusrat Shah of Bengal sent an embassy to Bahadurshah. This reached Bahadurshah when he was in Mandu. It was headed by a confidant khwajasara, Malik Marjan who also brought costly presents for Bahadurshah. He was received very cordially.

Implication of this arrival of Bengali embassy at Mandu is a clear indication of contact between the two – the Gujaratis and the Bengalis. The real aim of this naturally was to make a concerted military moves against the Mughals.

Then we find that Bahadurshah continued to stay at Mandu continually for the next 2 1/2 years – from jan 1531 to mid-1533: He left Mandu only for 2 or 3 months in 1532 when he led a minor expedition in the direction of Asirgarh.

After his brief expedition against Asirgarh, he returned to Mandu and picked up a quarrel with some Rajputs of Raisen, Gagron, Bhilsa & Chanderi in a very deliberate manner. The pretext to start against Salahdi was that Salahdi was having a number of Muslim women in his haram. This was not the real reason – it was a mere pretext. The real reason was to bring under control the vital territory which lay on the southern border of the Mughal control.

After Gagron he could further penetrate in a north-easterly direction and bring in the North-eastern Rajputana as well, i.e., Ranthambore which was controlled by the Mughals. And once he would occupy Ajmer and Nagore in eastern Rajputana, his plan would be complete. His forces on the southern flank of the empire would also be at Ajmer to put pressure on Bayana and Agra.

This was perhaps Bahadurshah’s only aim when he picked quarrel with the Rajput chieftains. Subsequent developments show that he was successful in achieving his aim for which he had started against Raisen, Gagron, Bhilsa & Chanderi. In a very short time, within the first half of 1533, he controlled all these places and had established in the region from where he could put pressure on Kalinjar and Gwalior.

Naturally Humayun would feel concerned at these developments – (a) coming of Bahadurshah to Malwa and annexing it and not only annexing it but also staying at Mandu. (b) He would still be more concerned by the fact that at Malwa he was contacting Humayun’s adversaries like Sher Khan and Nusrat Shah. (c) The Final provocation came in 3 – 4 months with the over throw of Rajput provinces which were a buffer between Malwa and the Mughal Empire.

It was in these circumstances that either towards the end of 1532 or in 1533 Humayun decided to move to Gwalior with his entire army.

This is borne out by a very cryptic evidence furnished by Khwandmir who says that it was in March-April 1533 that the King decided to return from Gwalior to Agra.

This is the only information we have. But it is from a contemporary source. Most modern historians have ignored it on the plea that according to some other information gleaned from later sources like Ain, and Jauhar Aftabchi, Humayun was busy elsewhere.

The information given by a contemporary should be taken at face-value, unless contradicted by some significant source.

Then there is evidence that something else happened during the period Humayun’s counter move had an impact on Bahadurshah who promptly sent an envoy to Humayun with a proposal for settlement of the dispute that was arising between them. Bahadurshah had taken Humayun’s move as an aggressive gesture. Evidence for this comes from Abul Fazl:

“As the echo of HM’s victories and conquests was high sounding in various kingdoms, Sultan Bahadur, the ruler of Gujarat, sent in 940 (=July’33 – July’34) experienced ambassadors bearing valuable presents to him and set in motion the process of friendship. HM received Bahadur’s overtures with Imperial kindness and set his heart at rest by sending him diplomas of amity.”

This indicates that between July 1533-34 Bahadurshah sent an embassy which resulted in a Treaty of Friendship. This could not have happened in 1534 as in that year there was open hostility. In fact this is not even after Nov’33. Hostilities between the two powers had begun in a way. So it is obvious that this is a reference to what happened between July & November 1533.

This impression of amity is also re-inforced by the subsequent correspondence that took place between Humayun and Bahadurshah in 1534.

In fact in the first letter of Humayun to Bahadurshah around March-April 1534, demanding that he should not give shelter to Mughal fugitives, particularly Muhammad Zaman Mirza, contains a  clear reference to a same kind of understanding that had been arrived between the two earlier. This cannot but be treated as the understanding hinted in Abul Fazl’s passage.

Again, we find that one of the histories written by a Gujarati official, Abu Turab Wali, during Akbar’s reign, specifically refers to an embassy sent by Bahadurshah to Humayun sometime before 1534 in which a Gujarati officer, Khurasan Khan and a theologian, Qazi Abdul Qadir were included. At the occasion of the visit, Humayun had taken a vow on the holy Book that he did not have hostile intentions regarding Bahadurshah.

This is apparently a reference to the same treaty.

Then there are references to this treaty in letters written by Bahadurshah to Humayun after March-April 1534.

This establishes well that some kind of understanding had been arrived towards mid-1533 when Humayun was persuaded to withdraw from Gwalior.

What were the terms of this treaty to which reference is made? Some idea can be had from a letter written by Bahadurshah from Chitor in April 1534:

“In these days, as the necessity of uprooting the foundation of the firangis (Portuguese) appeared pressing, I had to go to Dieu. Your Majesty hearing of this immediately took opportunity to push on as far as Gwalior, dismissing from your mind the Quranic precept: ‘Break not your agreements, after their ratification’.”

This letter is dated March-April 1534. Reference being made, is not the previous visit to Gwalior but of March 1533.

We know that after Bahadurshah withdrew from Mandu in 1533, immediately had to rush as Portuguese were besieging Dieu in October 1533. The siege commenced in September as, we are informed by the Portuguese sources. When he went to Dieu, Humayun again came to Gwalior violating the agreement.

Thus one condition was that Humayun won’t return to Gwalior in the absence of Bahadurshah from Malwa.

Perhaps the other part of the treaty was that if Humayun abides on this obligation, Bahadurshah would also withdraw from Mandu which was treated as a provocation by the Mughals.

It seems that the first phase of Humayun’s relations was over by the middle of 1533, when the treaty to which reference was made, had been concluded.

The overall characterization of the developments of this phase would be that this is the phase of the initial tensions resulting from Bahadurshah’s actions and then of comparative cordiality rsulting from successful negotiations and the conclusion of the Peace Treaty.

The next phase would roughly cover the period from the middle of 1533 down to March-April 1534. The general nature of development of this period seems to be the growing tension which very soon resulted in hostility. Thus the beginning of the conflict which manifested in the invasion of Gujarat.

In March 1535 Chittor fell into the hands of the Gujarát king but near Mandsore his army was shortly afterwards routed by Humáyún. According to one account, the failure of the Gujarát army was due to Bahádur and his nobles being spell-bound by looking at a heap of salt and some cloth soaked in indigo which were mysteriously left before Bahádur’s tent by an unknown elephant. The usual and probably true explanation is that Rúmi Khán the Turk, head of the Gujarát artillery, betrayed Bahádur’s interest. Still though Rúmi Khán’s treachery may have had a share in Bahádur’s defeat it seems probable that in valour, discipline, and tactics the Gujarát army was inferior to the Mughals. Bahádur Sháh, unaccustomed to defeat, lost heart and fled to Mandu, which fortress was speedily taken by Humáyún. From Mándu the king fled to Chámpáner, and finally took refuge in Diu. Chámpáner fell to Humáyún, and the whole of Gujarát, except Sorath, came under his rule.

When Gujarat had fallen to the Mughal Empire, Bahadur Shah was forced to court the Portuguese. On 23 December 1534 while on board the galleon St. Mattheus he signed the Treaty of Bassein. Based on the terms of the agreement, the Portuguese Empire gained control of the city of Bassein (Vasai), as well as its territories, islands, and seas which included Daman and Bombay islands too. He had granted them leave to erect a factory in Diu. Instead of a factory the Portuguese built a Dieu Fort.

When he recovered his kingdom, Bahádur, repenting of his alliance with the Portuguese, went to Sorath to persuade an army of Portuguese, whom he had asked to come to his assistance, to return to Goa. In February 1537, when the Portuguese arrived at Diu, five or six thousand strong, the sultan hoping to get rid of them by stratagem, went to Diu and endeavored to get the viceroy into his power. The viceroy excused himself, and in return invited the king to visit his ship anchored off the coast of Gujarat. Bahádur agreed, and on his way back was attacked and killed by the Portuguese and his body was dumped into the Arabian Sea. He was then thirty one years old and in the eleventh year of his reign. According to the author of the Mirăt-i-Sikandari the reason of Bahádur’s assassination was that a paper from him to the kings of the Deccan, inviting them to join him in an alliance against the Portuguese, had fallen into the hands of the Portuguese viceroy. Whatever may have been the provocation or the intention, the result seems to show that while both sides had treacherous designs neither party was able to carry out his original plan, and the end was unpremeditated, hurried on by mutual suspicions. These events were followed by the 1538 Siege of Diu which resulted in the permanent occupation of Diu by Portuguese which lasted till 1961.

• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi