Tardi Beg Khan

Tardi Beg Khan was a military commander in the 16th century in Mughal India. He served under the Mughal Emperors Humayun and Akbar. He was part of Humayun’s forces when they retreated from India after the siege by Sher Shah. He remained with his leader throughout his exile in Persia.

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The Tomb of Humayun’s Vizier

Artist: Wilson, Horace H, Medium: Lithograph; Date: 1841

British Library

This is plate 11 of HH Wilson’s ‘The Oriental Portfolio’. Describing the plate, Wilson wrote: “The edifice of which a representation is here given, in one of the numerous handsome mausolea, observable in the vicinity of Dehli …

The building in question is said by the natives of Delhi to be the tomb of one of the ministers of the Emperor Hoomayoon-Tardi Beg Khan.

He was Governor of Delhi at the date of Hoomayoon’s death, AD 1556. Although Hoomayoon had regained the sovereignty of which Sher Shah had deprived him; he had not annihilated the power of Sher Shah’s descendants; and one of them, Mohammed Shah Adil, disputed with Akbar the dominions of the Mogul …

The tomb stands about a quarter of a mile west of that of Hoomayoon. It is built chiefly of brick, but is faced with sandstone, and ornamented with white marble mouldings. The interior is coated with chunam of a coarser than usual description. The edifice is of a single style of architecture than is common in similar buildings, especially in those of a later era.”

Tardy fate of Tardi Khan Beg

It is reported that he was disliked by both the troops and generals and was eventually killed for cowardice by Bairam Khan.

Beg is said to have refused to give up his horse for the heavily pregnant Hamida, wife of Humayun, when she was eight months pregnant with her son Akbar. He is also said to have charged Humayun 20% interest on a loan. Beg was further accused of deserting the city of Agra as soon as Hemu‘s forces approached.

The truth of these allegations is difficult to gauge as most were written after his death and following the great successes of Bairam Khan, his executor. The allegations therefore may have been created to justify the action taken by Bairam.

Second Battle of Panipat

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Second Battle of Panipat

Akbar’s earliest conflict was with Hemu, a general of Adil Shah. Hemu proceeded to Delhi with the Mugul Governor, Tardi Beg Khan, offered a feeble resistance and suffered defeat (1526). On receipt of the News of the all of the Agra and Delhi, Bairam Khan marched to meet Hemu. The two armies met at Panipat (fifth of November 1556). Hemu bought bravely but was defeated and Akbar reoccupied Delhi and Agra.

Sir Jadunath Sarkar writes in detail about the Battle for Delhi at Tughlaqabad:

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The Mughal army was thus drawn up. Abdullah Uzbeg commanded the Van, Haider Muhammad the right wing, Iskander Beg the left and Tardi Beg himself the centre. The choice Turki Cavalry in the van and left wing attacked and drove back the enemy forces before them and followed far in pursuit. In this assault the victors captured 400 elephants and slew 3000 men of the Afghan army. Imagining victory already gained, many of Tardi Beg’s followers dispersed to plunder the enemy camp and he was left in the field thinly guarded. All this time Hemu had been holding 300 choice elephants and a force of select horsemen as a reserve in the centre. He promptly seized the opportunity and made a sudden charge upon Tardi Beg with this reserve.

Confusion ensued, resulting in a defeat for the Mughals. Hemu was helped by reinforcements from Alwar with a contingent commanded by Hazi Khan. The desertion of various Mughal commanders with Pir Muhhammad Khan, who fled the battlefield, to Tardi Beg’s chagrin and surprise, forced the Mughal commander to withdraw.

Hem Chandra won Delhi after a day’s battle on 6 October 1556. Some 3000 soldiers died in this battle. However, Mughal forces led by Tardi Beg Khan vacated Delhi after a day’s fight and Hemu Chandra entered Delhi, victorious under a royal canopy.

Compiled with citations.

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