Baburnama, Babur’s capture and loss of Samarkand (1501)


Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (1483-1530), born prince of Fergana in Transoxiana (modern Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), was  scion of the dynasty of Tamerlane, which ruled throughout eastern Iran and Central Asia.  By the age of twelve, Babur had become the ruler of Samarkand, but would then lose it amidst the various conflicts for control of this region.  Babur would go on to win and lose several kingdoms, gradually moving south to Afghanistan and then the Indian subcontinent.  The section below gives an account of one Babur’s earliest military encounters, where he was able to gain control of the city of Samarkand for a short time, before having to abandon it during a siege.  For more information on Babur, see this biography of him.


Shaybani Khan responded to that woman’s promise and camped in the Bagh-i-Maydan. At noon Sultan-Ali Mirza, without informing any of his begs or warriors, and without consulting anyone, went out through the Charraha Gate with an insignificant few of his immediate retinue, headed for Shaybani Khan in the Bagh-i-Maydan. He was not well received by Shaybani Khan, who seated him in a less honorable place than himself after the interview. When Khwaja Yahya learned that the prince had gone out, he was upset. There was nothing he could do but go out too. Shaybani Khan received him without rising and spoke somewhat reproachfully. However, when Khwaja Yahya rose to leave, Shaybani Khan rose respectfully.

Jan-Ali, Khwaja Ali Bay’s son, was in Rabat-i-Khwaja. When he learned that his prince had gone out to Shaybani Khan, he went too. In her lust to get a husband, that wretched, feebleminded woman brought destruction on her son.  Shaybani Khan paid her not the slightest attention and regarded her as less than a concubine.

Sultan-Ali Mirza was at a loss and regretted having gone out. Some of his retinue understood what was up and thought they could get the prince out. Sultan-Ali Mirza refused to consent. Since his time had come, nothing could save him. He stayed with Temur Sultan, and four or five days later they executed him in the Qolba meadow. For the sake of this transitory life he departed with a bad name. By listening to the words of women, he removed himself from the circle of those of good repute. Of such a person no more can be written; of such horrible acts no more need be heard.

After Sultan-Ali Mirza was killed Jan-Ali too was dispatched after his prince. Since Shaybani Khan was in some fear of Khwaja Yahya, he dismissed him and his two sons, Khwaja Muhammad Zakariya and Khwaja Bagi, to Khurasan. A few Uzbeks followed behind them, and in the vicinity of Khwaja Kardzan they martyred the khwaja and the two young boys. Even worse, Shaybani Khan claimed that the affair of the khwaja was not his doing, that it had been done by Qambar Bey and Kopak Bey. As the saying goes, “The excuse is worse than the crime.”  If begs have free rein to engage in such acts without the knowledge of their khan or padishah, what is the use of khanate or kingship?

We set out from Kish for Hissar as soon as the Uzbeks took Samarkand. The Samarkand begs under Muhammad Mazid Tarkhan moved out with their kith and kin along with us. While camped at Chaltu meadow in Chaghanian, the Samarkand begs under Muhammad Mazid Tarkhan left and joined Khusrawshah’s retinue.

There we were, deprived of city and province, not knowing where to go or where to stay. Although Khusrawshah had inflicted untold misery upon our dynasty, we had no choice but to pass through his territory.

I had had one thought, and that was to go through the Karategin and Alay mountains to my uncle Alacha Khan. Since that was not possible, we proceeded instead up the Kumrud and went through the Sary-Tag pass. When we reached the vicinity of Nawandak, Khusrawshah’s servant brought a toguz of horses and fabric. While camped at the mouth of the Kumrud, Sher-Ali Chuhra deserted and went to Wall, Khusrawshah’s brother. The next morning Qoch Beg deserted and went to Hissar.

We entered the Kumrud valley and headed up. In the narrows, precipi­tous roads, and treacherous defiles many horses and camels were lost. After stopping to camp three or four times we reached the Sary Tag defile. A defile, and what a defile! Never had such a high and narrow defile been seen. Never had such narrow and precipitous roads been met with. With much difficulty and hardship we got through the dangerous narrows and cliffs, passing through the mortal danger of the high and narrow defiles, and came to the Fan region. In the midst of the Fan Mountains is a large lake, approximately a league in circumference. It is a fabulous place and not a little strange.

Word was received that Ibrahim Tarkhan had made fast the Shiraz fortress and was sitting tight. In the fortresses of Yar Yaylagh were holed up Qambar-Ali and Abu’l-Qasim Kohbur, who had been in Khwaja Didar but, unable to remain there when the Uzbeks took Samarkand, had gone to the lower fortresses of Yar Yaylagh and made there fast.

We put Fan to our right and proceeded toward Kishtud. The headman of Fan was renowned far and wide for his generosity and hospitality.  When Sultan-Husayn Mirza attacked Hissar, Sultan-Mas’ud Mirza took this way to go to his brother Baysunghur Mirza in Samarkand, and the headman of Fan presented him with seventy or eighty horses and performed other services of equal value. To me he sent a second-rate horse without even coming himself. When it came to us, these people so renowned for their generosity had turned stingy, a folk so known for their cooperativeness had forgotten how to be so. It has been mentioned what services Khusrawshah, also known for his beneficence and graciousness, performed for Badi’uzzaman Mirza. Baqi Tarkhan and other begs too he received with the greatest of kindness. However, the two times we passed through his territory, despite the reception he gave our peers, he did not show us the consideration one would show to the least of our ser­vants. Indeed he treated us less well than he did them.

Who has seen, O heart, good of the people of the world?
Expect no good of him in whom there is no good.

After passing through Fan we hurried to Kishtud, thinking that the Uzbeks were in the fortress there. We found the Kishtud fort was in ruins, however, and with no signs that anyone had been there recently. On leaving, we camped on the banks of the Kohak River, which we then crossed by the bridge opposite Yort. The begs under Qasim Beg were sent to take the Rabat-i-Khwaja fortress by stealth. We went through Yori, down Shunqarkhana Mountain, and reached Yar Yaylagh. When the begs who had gone to Rabat-i-Khwaja put up their ladders, the defenders either discovered them or had been tipped off in advance. Unable to take the fortress, they withdrew.

Babur Renews His Attack on Samarkand

Qambar-All was in Sanzar. He came and had an interview with me. Abu’1­Qasim Kohbur and Ibrahim Tarkhan sent their brave warriors to pay homage and show their servitude and obeisance. We went to Isfedak Fort, a village in Yar Yaylagh. Shaybani Khan was then in the vicinity of Khwaja Didar with three or four thousand Uzbeks. That many more too had gathered from other places. The prefecture of Samarkand had been given to Jan-Wafa Mirza, who was inside the Samarkand fortress with five or six hundred men. Hamza Sultan and Mahdi Sultan were camped with their followers in Bodana field near Samarkand. Our men, all told, were two hundred and forty in number.

In consultation with all the begs and warriors, we decided that since Shaybani Khan had only recently taken Samarkand, neither were the people yet attached to him nor was he to them. If we could take action now we would accomplish something. If we could get ladders up against the Samarkand walls and take them by stealth, the people of Samarkand would be with us. What choice did they have? Even if they did not assist us, they would not fight for the Uzbeks. After we got hold of Samarkand, what would be would be.

Having made this decision, we rode out of Yar Yaylagh in the afternoon and continued all through the evening, reaching Khan Yurti at midnight. Thinking that the people had been warned of our approach, we returned to Khan Yurti without coming nearer the fortress. It was morning when we crossed the Kohak below Rabat-i-Khwaja and came again to Yar Yaylagh. One day a group of ichkis-Dost Nasir, Noyan Kukaldash, Qasim Kukaldash, Khan-Quh, Karimdad, Shaykh Darwesh, Khusraw Kukakdash, and Mirim Nasir-were present and sitting with me in Isfedak Fort. On all sides everyone was asking when, God willing, we would take Samarkand. Some said by summer (it was then late autumn), some said a month, some said forty days, some said twenty days. Noyan Kukaldash said, “We’ll take it in four­teen days.” Through the grace of God, in exactly fourteen days we took Samarkand.

About that time I had a strange dream. I dreamed that Khwaja Ubay­dullah had arrived and I had gone out to greet him. He came and sat down. The tablecloth must have been laid somewhat unceremoniously before him, for it seemed that he was offended. Mulla Baba looked at me and motioned. I motioned back as if to say, “It’s not my fault. The steward is to blame.” The khwaja understood and accepted this apology. Then he rose, and I rose to escort him, In the entryway he took me by the arm, the right or the left, I don’t remember which, and lifted me so that one of my feet was off the ground. In Turkish he said, “Shaykh Maslahat berdi.A few days later I took Samarkand.

Samarkand Is Taken by Surprise

A day or two later we moved from Isfedak Fort to Wasmand Fort. Although we had already been to Samarkand, let ourselves be discovered, and returned, once again we put our trust in God and, with that same plan in mind, charged from Wasmand after noon. Khwaja Abu’l-Makarim was along too. At midnight, when we reached the Mughak bridge on the Khiaban, we sent ahead a detachment of seventy or eighty brave warriors to put ladders opposite Lovers’ Cave, attack and take control of the Turquoise Gate, and send some­one to inform us. The warriors went, set their ladders opposite the cave, and got up. No one was aware. From there they made it to the gate and attacked

Fazil Tarkhan, who was not one of those other Tarkhans but a Turkistani merchant Tarkhan who had served Shaybani Khan in Turkistan and been promoted.  They fought with Fazil Tarkhan and a few of his men, killed them, broke the lock with am ax, and opened the gate. I arrived just at that time and entered through the Turquoise Gate.

Abu’l-Qasim Kohbur did not come himself but sent his younger broth­er Ahmad Qasim with thirty or forty servants. None of Ibrahim Tarkhan’s men was there. After I entered the city and took up my station in the khanaqah, his younger brother Ahmad Tarkhan came with a few liege men.

The people of the city were still asleep. Shopkeepers looked out of their shops, recognized us, and called down blessings upon us. A little while later the people got wind, and a strange joy and jubilation came over our people and the people of the city. Like mad dogs they stoned and clubbed the Uzbeks to death in the gutters. Somewhere between forty and a hundred Uzbeks were killed in this fashion. The city prefect Jan Wafa was in Khwaja Yahya’s quar­ters. He got out and fled to Wormwood Khan.

Entering through the gate, I proceeded straight to the madrasa and khanagah and sat down under the khanaqah arch. Dawn broke to alarms and chaos on all sides. Some of the lords and shopkeepers came as soon as they received word, joyfully bringing us what food they had on hand and pouring blessings upon our head. After dawn word came that the Uzbeks had fortified themselves between the outer and inner gates at the Iron Gate and were putting up a fight. I immediately got to horse and set out for the Iron Gate. With me were ten, fifteen, twenty men. The wretches were ransacking the new city, everyone occupied in some spot out of curiosity. By the time I arrived they had driven the Uzbeks out of the Iron Gate. When Wormwood Khan learned of this he came in alarm, reaching the Iron Gate with a hundred, a hundred and fifty men just as the sun was rising. He arrived at an odd moment, and I had only a few men with me, as has been mentioned. Wormwood Khan saw that he could do nothing, so he turned and got out fast. I went to the Bustan Saray in the citadel. The lords, notables, and headmen of the city came to see me and offer congratulations.

For nearly one hundred and forty years the capital Samarkand had been in our family. Then came the Uzbeks, the foreign foe from God knows where, and took over. Now the property that had slipped from our hands had been restored by God. The plundered and pillaged kingdom once again entered our domain.

Sultan-Husayn’s Seizure of Herat Compared to Babur’s Seizure of Samarkand

Sultan-Husayn Mirza also took Herat by surprise, However, it is obvious to knowledgeable persons and clear to people of discernment that between his seizure of Herat and my seizure of Samarkand lies a vast difference, First, Sultan-Husayn Mirza was a padishah who had seen and experienced much, and was great in years. Second, his opponent was Yadgar-Mul-hammad Nasir Mirza, a youth seventeen or eighteen years old with no experience.  Third, someone with inside knowledge of the foe, Mir-Ali Mirakhur, sent people to the prince and let them take their opponent by surprise. Fourth, his opponent was not in the fortress but was in the Bagh-i-Zaghan.  The night Sultan-Husayn Mirza took Herat, Yadgar-Muhatnmad Mirza and his retainers were so besotted with drink that they stationed only three men at the gate, and they were drunk too. Fifth, he came and took Herat by surprise.

When I took Samarkand, I was nineteen years old. Neither had I seen many things nor experienced much. Second, my opponent was a seasoned and elderly person like Wormwood Khan. Third, no one let us into Samarkand. Although the people of the city were for us in heart, they were unable to think of actually doing anything out of fear of Wormwood. Fourth, my opponent was in the fortress: the fortress was taken and the opponent was driven out. Fifth, we had gone once to attack Samarkand but were dis­covered by the enemy and had to come a second time, when God brought it about and Samarkand. was conquered..

I do not say this to denigrate anyone else. What I have said is all fact. I do not intend to aggrandize myself with what I have written. What I have written is the truth.

For this conquest the poets composed chronograms. Among them this line sticks in my mind:

Wisdom spake and said, “Know that the chronogram is `the conquest of Babur Bahadur.’”

After the conquest of Samarkand the fortresses in the nearby districts of Shavdar and Sughd began to come over to me one by one, In terror the Uzbek prefects threw up some of the fortresses and left. The men in some of them chased the Uzbeks out and opted for us. Others imprisoned the prefects and made fast the fortresses.

That time Wormwood Khan and his Uzbeks’ kith and kin had come from Turkistan. Wormwood was in Khwaja Didar and Aliabad. When he saw the fortresses coming over to us and the people returning to us like that, he left the place he was staying and decamped toward Bukhara. Through God’s favor most of the Sughd and Mian Kal fortresses returned to us in three or four months. Bagi Tarkhan took the opportunity to enter the Karshi fortress. Both Khuzar and Karshi slipped from the Uzbeks’ control. Abu’l-Mulisin Mirza’s man came from Merv and took Karakul. Things were looking up for us.

After I had left Andizhan, my mother and her people had gone with great difficulty to Ura Tyube. Someone was sent to bring them to Samarkand. Within a few days a daughter was born to Sultan-Ahmad Mirza’s daughter Avisha Sultan Begim, the first to enter marriage with me. The girl was named Fakhrunnisa. She was my firstborn, and I was then nineteen years old, but within a month to forty days she died.

After the conquest of Samarkand, emissaries and commissars were con­stantly sent to request aid from the rulers and princes of the surrounding areas and the borders. Some, prior experience notwithstanding, took it lightly. Others, who had suffered insults and unpleasantness from these people, hid their heads in the sand in fear. Others who did send assistance sent nothing of substance, as each will be recorded in its proper place.

In these winter quarters things were looking up for us, while Wormwood Khan’s fortune was on the wane. One or two untoward affairs, however, took place during that time. The men who had come from Merv and overcome Karakul were unable to hold it, and Karakul reverted to the Uzbeks. Then Ibrahim Tarkhan’s brother, Ahmad Tarkhan, who was in Dabusi fort, was besieged by Wormwood. By the time we gathered our forces and were pre­pared, he had taken it by force and massacred the people.

When I took Samarkand, I had two hundred and forty men.  Within five or six months, thanks to God’s great favor, there were enough to engage in battle someone like Wormwood Khan at Sar-i-Pul, as will be mentioned. From the surrounding areas and from the khan, Ayyub Begchik, Qashqa Mahmud, and the Barins four or five hundred men came to help. From Jahangir Mirza came Tambal’s brother Khalil with a hundred or two. From an experienced padishah like Sultan-Husayn Mirza, who knew Wormwood’s ways better than anyone, came no assistance. No one came from Badi’uzzaman Mirza either. In his fear Khusrawshah sent no one; since our family had suffered untold evil at his hands, as has been mentioned, his fear of us was rather great.

The Battle of Sar-i-Pul

In the month of Shawwal [April-May 1501], I moved out for the Bagh-i-Naw, intent upon fighting Wormwood Khan. We stayed in the Bagh-i-Naw for five or six days to gather our forces and make ready. Riding from there we proceeded, march by march, and camped past Sar-i-Pul. We fortified the perimeter of the camp with pylons and trenches.  From the other side Wormwood Khan approached and camped in the vicinity of Khwaja Kardzan, with about a league between us. For four or five days we sat where we were. During the day our men and his would ride from their respective sides against each other and do combat.  One day rather many of the enemy came forward, and there was a large battle, but neither side gained a great advantage. Somebody from our side bearing a standard made a hasty retreat and entered the trenches. Some said, “That was Sidi Qara Beg’s standard.” Sidi Qara was a man of strong bark, but his sword lacked bite. One night Wormwood Khan staged a surprise attack, but the perimeter of the camp was well fortified with pylons and trenches and he was unable to do anything. They shouted from outside the trenches, shot a few arrows, and retreated.

I exerted myself for the coming battle. So did Qambar-Ali. Baqi Tarkhan was camped in Kish with one or two thousand men and would join us in two days. Sayyid-Muhammad Mirza Dughlat came as reinforcement from my uncle the khan with a thousand or fifteen hundred men and camped in Diyul, four leagues away. They would join us the next morning. At such a time we hastened the battle.

Who reaches hastily for the sword will bite the back of his hand in regret.

The reason for my anxiousness was so that on the day of battle the Pleiades would be between the two armies. If the day had passed, the Pleiades would have been behind the enemy for thirteen or fourteen days.  Such considera­tions were futile, and I hastened the battle for naught.

That morning we put on our mail for battle, armored the horses, and set forth with right and left wings, center and vanguard arrayed. In the right wing were Ibrahim Saru, Ibrahim Jani, Abu’l-Qasim Kohbur, and some other begs. The left wing was Muhammad Mazid Tarkhan, Ibrahim Tarkhan, and the Samarkand begs Sultan-Husayn Arghun, Qara Barlas, Pir-Ahmad, and Khwaja Husayn. The center was Qasim Beg and some other close ichkis. The vanguard was Qambar-All Sallakh, Banda-AIi Khwaja Ali, Mir Shah Qauchin, Sayyid-Qasim Eshik-aqa, Banda-Ali’s brother Khaldar, Haydar Qasim Beg’s son Qoch. All the great warriors and ichkis were assigned to the vanguard.

As we set out in battle formation, the enemy appeared arrayed for battle directly opposite.  In the right wing were Mahmud Sultan, Jani-Beg Sultan, and Temur Sultan. In the left wing were Hamza Sultan, Mahdi Sultan, and some other princes. As the formations drew near each other, the point of the foe’s right wing advanced toward our rear. I turned to face them. Our vanguard, to which had been assigned all the warriors we had who were expe­rienced in wielding the sword, was left to my right. No one was left in our fore; nonetheless, we fought those who advanced and drove them back to their center. Things had gone this far when some of Wormwood Khan’s aged chiefs said, “We must move. The battle is past making a stand.” However, he main­tained his stand. The foe’s right wing broke our left wing and went on toward our rear. Since our vanguard was left to our right, our front was exposed. From front and rear the enemy attacked and began to shoot. The Moghul troops who had come as reinforcements had no endurance for battle. They left the battle and began to unhorse and plunder our own men. It was not just here they did this: these wretched Moghuls always do this. If they win they take booty; if they lose they unhorse their own people and plunder them for booty. A few times we pressed hard on those who were in front of us and fought them back. Those who were forward did the sane. But the enemy who had circled around behind came up and rained arrows down on our standard. They pressed from front and rear, causing our men to move off.

One great merit of the Uzbeks in battle is the flank assault. They never do battle without using it. Another is that they all, officers and ordinary soldiers alike, from front to rear, charge at a gallop shooting arrows. In retreat they do not go off pell-mell but withdraw orderly.

Ten or twelve men were left with me. The Kohak River was near. The tip of my right wing was pressed against the river. We went straight for the river. It was the time of the river’s flood. Reaching the river, we plunged right in with mail and horse armor. A bit more than halfway across, the horses could reach the bottom, but after that it was too deep, and for an arrow shot we in full mail had to make the armored horses swim. Once across we cut off the horses’ armor and ditched it. Having crossed to the north of the river, we were free of the enemy, but these damn Moghuls were all over unhorsing my friends one by one and stripping them bare. Ibrahim Tarkhan and many other great warriors were unhorsed, plundered, and killed. Moving along the north shore of the Kohak, we then recrossed the water in the vicinity of Qolba. It was after­noon when we entered by the Shaykhzada Gate and went to the citadel.

Some great begs and superb warriors, such as Ibrahim Tarkhan, Ibrahim Sartz, and Ibrahim Jani, were lost in this battle. It is strange that in one battle three great begs named Ibrahim were lost. Also lost in this battle were Haydar Qasim Beg’s eldest son, Abu’l-Qasim Kohbur, Khudaberdi Tughchi, and Sultan-Ahmad Tambal’s brother Khalil, who has been mentioned several times.  Others scattered in all directions. Among them was Muhammad Mazid Tarkhan, who went to Khusrawshah in Hissar and Konduz. Another was Qambar-All Sallakh Moghul, who was our greatly favored beg and had received such patronage but who at such a time refused to cooperate and took his family out of Samarkand and went to Khusrawshah.  Other ichkis and warriors like Karimdad Khudadad the Turcoman, Janka Kukaldash, and Mulla Baba of Pishagar went to Ura-Tyube. Mulla Baba was not then a liege man but rode as a guest. Others were like Sherim Taghayi and his band: although he had entered Samarkand at my side and had been at the consultations when we decided to make the Samarkand fortress fast and defend it to the last, when my mother and sisters stayed in the fortress, he sent his family and retainers out to Ura-Tyube and stayed by himself with a few of his people in the fortress. This was not the only time he did this. Every time circumstances got rough he displayed just such unreliability and uncooperativeness.

Babur Is Besieged in Samarkand

The next morning Khwaja Abu’l-Makarim, Qasim Beg, and all the begs, ichkis, and warriors who were admitted to council were convoked. In deliberation we decided to make fast the fortress and get ready to defend it to the teeth. Qasim Beg, my immediate ichkis and warriors, and I were to be reserves. To facilitate this, I had a tent set up on the roof of Ulughbeg Mirza’s madrasa in the middle of the city, and there I stayed.  Positions were distributed among the other begs and warriors at the gates and along the ramparts encir­cling the city.

Two or three days later Wormwood Khan camped close to the city wall. The rabble of Samarkand, district by district and lane by lane, gathered in throngs and came to the madrasa gate shouting prayers before going out to fight. When Wormwood Khan mounted for battle, he was unable to get near the walls. Several days passed in this fashion. The rabble, who had not experienced sword and arrow wounds and had not seen battle in the field, grew bold from the encounters and began to sortie farther. If warriors who had seen action tried to prevent these worthless sorties, they were reviled.

One day Wormwood Khan directed his attack at the Iron Gate. The mob, having grown bold, went far out as usual in their daring way. Some cavalrymen were sent out behind them. Some of our kukaldashes and close ichkis, such as Noyan Kukdldash, Qul-Nazar, Taghayi Mazid, and some others, went out toward Shutur-Gardan. Two or three Uzbeks charged them.  They exchanged sword blows with Qul-Nazar, The Uzbeks dismounted and pressed hard, making the city mob move back and jamming them against the Iron Gate. Qoch Beg and Mir Shah Qauchin dismounted and stood beside the Khwaja Khizr Mosque. As the people on foot were moved back, the forward horsemen were pressed toward the mosque. Qoch Beg moved out and fought well with the advancing Uzbeks. He really did an outstanding job. All the people stood and watched. Those escaping below were occupied with making their escape. The affair was beyond shooting arrows and standing to fight. I was shooting with a slur bow from atop the gate. Some others near me were shoot­ing too. The enemy retreated, unable to advance past the mosque because of our fire from above.

Every night during the siege we made the rounds of the top of the fortress rampart. Sometimes I, sometimes Qasim Beg, sometimes other begs and ichkis made the rounds. From the Turquoise Gate to the Shaykhzada Gate it was pos­sible to go on horseback atop the ramparts. In other places we had to go on foot.  By the time one made an entire round on foot, dawn would be breaking.

One day Wormwood Khan directed his attack between the Iron Gate and the Shaykhzada Gate. I, who was reserve, went there as soon as the fight­ing broke out, unconcerned about the side between the Gazaristan Gate and the Needlemakers’ Gate. That day I made a good shot with my slur bow from atop the Shaykhzada Gate at a horseman’s gray horse. It died instantly. Just then they mounted such an attack that they made it to the bottom of the rampart in the vicinity of Shutur-Gardan. While we were thus occupied with the battle and completely heedless of the other side, they had made ready twenty-five or twenty-six ladders wide enough for two or three men to go up side by side. Seven or eight hundred brave warriors with their ladders ambushed the area between the Gazaristan and the Needlemakers’ gates and began to do battle from that side. When all our men were occupied with the battle and their posts vacated, they emerged from their ambush and quickly set up their ladders against the ramparts between the two gates oppo­site Muhammad Mazid Tarkhan’s quarters. That was the post of Qoch Beg and Muhammad-Quli Qauchin and another band of warriors who were stay­ing in Muhammad Mazid Tarkhan’s quarters. The Needlemakers’ Gate was Qara Barlas’ post. The Gazaristan Gate was the post of Sherim Taghayi and his brothers, Qilsaq and Qutlugh Khwaja Kukdldash. Since the fighting had broken out on the other side, the men at this post were unaware and they and their servants had gone off to their houses or the market on business. The begs of the post were left with one or two tough civilians. Qoch Beg, Muhammad-Quli Qauchin, Shah Sufi, and another warrior fought bravely and valiantly. Some of the enemy made it to the top of the rampart. Others were getting up. These four men ran and fought hard and, chopping away with their swords, fought them back and put them to flight. Qoch Beg made the best showing. This was certainly one of his outstanding shows. He got into the fray twice during this siege. Qara Barlas was also left alone at his post, and he too held out well. Qutlugh Khwaja Mikaldash and Qul­Nazar Mirza were at their posts at the Gazaristan Gate. They too held out well with few men and made good attacks on the enemy’s rear.

Another time, Qasim Beg led his warriors out of the Needlemakers’ Gate in pursuit of the Uzbeks as far as Khwaja Kafshir, unhorsed a few, and brought back their severed heads.

The grain was now ripe, but no one was bringing any new grain into town. The days of siege wore on. The people were in want. The situation got so bad that the poor and unfortunate began to eat dogs and donkeys. Feed for horses was in such short supply that they fed them leaves. Experience taught that mulberry and elm leaves agreed with horses the best. Some shred­ded dry wood, wet the chips, and fed that to the horses.

For three or four months Wormwood Khan kept moving around the city walls from fairly far out without ever coming close in. Once around mid­night, while the people were off guard, they came to the Turquoise Gate side and beat drums and let out whoops. I was in the madrasa.  There was much apprehension and trepidation. After that they came every night beating drums and shouting to create confusion.

No matter how many emissaries and envoys were sent in every direction, aid and assistance came from no one. They had not sent help or assistance when we were strong and had not experienced defeat or need. In a situation such as this with what expectation should they send assistance? It was useless to remain besieged in hopes of help from anyone. Our predecessors have said that to hold a fortress under siege, a head, two arms, and two legs are necessary. The head is the commander, the two arms are reinforcements coming from two directions, and the two legs are the water and provisions of the fortress. We were looking for help from those around us, while they were each and all of a different opinion. A brave and experienced padishah like Sultan-Husayn Mirza not only gave us no assistance and sent no envoy with a word of encour­agement but also actually dispatched Kamaluddin Husayn of Gazargah on an embassy to Wormwood Khan during the siege.

Tambal went from Andizhan to the vicinity of Beshkent. The khan, Ahmad Beg, and a party went out to face him. In the vicinity of Laklakan and Turak Charbagh they faced each other but parted without fighting. Sultan-Mahmud Khan was not a fighting man and was devoid of any ability to command.  When he faced Tambal cowardly words and actions were manifested by the khan.  Ahmad Beg was a simple, rustic man, but he was brave and a good supporter.  In his very coarse way he said, “How much of a man is this Tambal for you to be so scared?  If your eyes are afraid, shut them and let’s go face him.”

The siege dragged on for a long time.  No supplies or provisions were coming from any direction.  No help or reinforcement arrived from any side.  Soldier and civilian alike left the fortress in desperation one by one and two by two.  Wormwood Khan, realizing that the people inside walls were distressed, camped in the vicinity of Lover’s Cave.  I moved directly opposite him in Malik Muhammad Mizra’s quarters in the Kuy-i-Payan.  Just about that time Khwaja Husayn’s [brother] Uzun Hasan, who caused Jahangir Mizra’s rebellion and forced us to quit Samarkand before, as has been mentioned, entered the fortress with ten or fifteen liegemen.  To make such an entrance was a brave thing to do.

Want and deprivation became grave for soldier and civilian.  Members of my immediate circle and important people began to desert over the walls.   Begs of renown like Ways Shaykh and old retainers like Ways Laghari escaped and fled.  We gave up all hope from any quarter.  No hope was left from anywhere.  Provisions and supplies had been scant to begin with.  What there was came to an end.  No provisions or supplies came from anywhere.  At just this point Wormwood Khan initiated truce talks.  Had there been any hope from any direction, or had there been any supplies, who would have listened to any offer of terms?  There was nothing to be done.  We arranged a cease-fire, and around the second watch of the night we left through the Shaykhzada.


This text is from Zahirddin Muhammad Babur Mirza, Baburnama, Part One: Fergana and Transoxiana, trans. W.M. Thackston (Harvard University: Sources of Oriental Languages and Literatures 18, 1993).  We thank Professor Thackston and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of Harvard University for their permission to republish this section.


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