The Forgotten Bairam Khan

History has deliberately tried to forget Bairam Khan

Is it owing to later years differences between Akbar and Bairam Khan?


A representation

Bairam Khan-a Persian Turk. He was a powerful statesman and regent at the courts of the Mughal emperors Humayun and Akbar. He was designated as an important military commander, among top generals, thereafter, commander in chief of the Mughal army.

Bairam Khan’s father and grandfather had previously taken part in Babur’s service. Bairam entered Babur’s service at the age of 16 and played an active role in the early Mughal conquests of India

He had accompanied Humayun in his wanderings and gone to Persia with him. Mughal era might have ended when Emperor Humayun was defeated by Sur Shah Suri and fled to Iran, disappearing from the Indian scene for a number of years, were it not for Bairam Khan, who inspired and assisted Humayun in reconquering the subcontinent and re-establishing Mughal rule, which lasted up to 1274/1857.

Humayun was so much pleased with his wisdom and loyalty that he regarded him as his most trustworthy follower and used to say, “There is no other so luminous a star in our family as you are.”

Bairam Khan aka Moḥammad Ḵhan(-e) Ḵhanan, was the most trusted person of Humayun. Humayun honored him as Khan Khanan, meaning king of kings. Bairam was originally called Bairam “Beg” but later however The Shah of Iran, Tamasp, honored him as ‘Kha’ or Khan. Bairam Khan had played a promiment role in Humayun’s restoration of Delhi’s throne.

Bairam’s high status at the Mughal court is borne out by the titles bestowed on him: “Yar-e Wafadar” (loyal friend), “Baradar-e niku-siar” (good-natured brother), “Farzand-e sa-adatmand” (fortunate son), and Khan-e Khanan (khan of khans; Majer al-omara”ʾ I, pp. 370-71).

Humayun had married the elder daughter of Mewatti Jamal Khan, nephew of Babar’s opponent, Hasan Khan, and his great minister, Bairam Khan, had married a younger daughter of the same Mewatti.

images (2)

Humayun’s Tomb-Delhi

Later, after Humayuns death in 1556, he was appointed guardian, chief mentor, advisor, teacher to Akbar. Bairam Khan’s services as the guardian and tutor of Akbar are praiseworthy.


Prince Akbar and Noblemen Hawking

Probably Accompanied by His Guardian Bairam Khan

He guided the affairs of the state for four years i.e. 556 to 1560 when Akbar was still a minor. Bairam Khan was a great commander and it was because of him that Akbar could defeat Hemu and capture the throne of Delhi and Agra.

Battel of Panipat 2

 Bairam Khan (Akbar’s guardian) marched towards Delhi. On November 5 both the armies met at Panipat.

Emperor Akbar, for whom Bayram Khan served as ataliq (tutor) addressed him as “Khan Baba” and raised him to the post of Wakil-al-salṭana” (prime minister).

At Jalandar, Akbar publicly gave evidence of his regard for his guardian by permitting Bairam Khan to marry his cousin, Salima Begum (daughter of Humayun’s sister, Gulrukh).


 Salima Sulṭan Begam-Different Moods

Bayram Khan was married to Salima Sulṭan Begam, a daughter of Humayun’s sister, who composed Persian poetry under the pen name Maḵfī (Nehavandī, I, p. 658; Jahangir p. 132; Ḥasan-Alī Khan, p. 394).

Salima Sultan was the daughter of Humayuns sister Gulrang/Gulrukh Begum and her husband, the Viceroy of Kanauj, Nur-ud-din Muhammad Mirza.  Salima’s maternal grandfather was Emperor Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire and the first Mughal Emperor.


Young prince Akbar, who was, fourteen years old, had under the tutelage of Bairam Khan won the battle of Panipat, and had marched from the field directly, without a halt, upon Delhi. Few, if any, of those about him knew then the strength of his character or the resources of his intellect. Certainly, his Atalik, Bairam, did not understand him, or he would neither have assassinated Tardi Beg in his tent at Sirhind, nor have suggested to the young prince to plunge his sword into the body of the captured Hemu.

But both Bairam and the other nobles of the court and army were not long kept in ignorance of the fact that in the son of Humayun they had, not a boy who might be managed, but a master who would be obeyed.

Akbar had now become major. He desired to be the king not only in name but in reality also. Hence owing to the differences between him and Bairam Khan, as Akbar relieved Bairam Khan of his duties and gave him a jagir for his maintenance.


 The Submission of Bairam Khan [right half] from an Akbarnama

South Asian and Himalayan Art

Bairam Khan revolted but was defeated bu Akbar pardoned him Akbar had told Bairam Khan that either he could stay in the palace, but not as a minister, or go for a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Bairam Khan, after his submission (1560), appeared before Akbar with tied hands and a sword hanging around his neck. The young emperor untied his hands personally.

In Ain-i-Akbari (Blochmann’s Edition), pp. 324–5. The Akbar’s message ran: “As I was fully assured of your honesty and fidelity I left all important affairs of State to your charge, and thought only of my own pleasures. I have now determined to take the reins of government into my own hands, and it is desirable that you should now make the pilgrimage to Mekka, upon which you have been so long intent. A suitable jagir out of the parganas of Hindustan shall be assigned to your maintenance, the revenues of which shall be transmitted to you by your agents.” Elliot, vol. v. p. 264.

Bairam was loyal to the Mughal Empire until Akbar came close to his nurse Mahan Anga’s that developed differences between the two. Akbar’s wet nurse Mahan Anga had other ideas. She, along with his son Adham Khan hoped to rule herself. She forced Akbar to remove Bairam who in any way had grown old.

The end of Bairam Khan

While travelling through Gujarat, he was assassinated by Haji Khan Mewati of Alwar, who was the General and close confidant of Hindu Kings of North India Hemu, and was staying at Patan after Akbar’s forces captured Alwar Sarkar in 1559.

One day when Bairam Khan was at Sahastralinga Tank, a religious site near Anhilwad Patan, he was recognised by Lohani Pashtun, an associate of Haji Khan Mewati. Haji Khan attacked and killed Bairam Khan, to take the revenge for Hemu’s or his Father’s, death.

It is also reported that Haji Khan attacked and killed Bairam Khan, to take the revenge of his father’s death (whose father had been killed in Second Battle of Panipat -1556, five years ago) and due to jealousy towards him, being a Shia muslim.

(They say Bairam Khan’s Tomb is opposite Sahastraling Talab in Patan. There does exist a cluster of ruined Mughal Tombs near Sahastraling Talab!)

Bairam Khan died on 31 January 1561.


This illustration to the Akbarnama (Book of Akbar) depicts the assassination of Bairam Khan by Afghans beside the lake at Patan, north-west India, in 1561.

The designer of the composition of this painting was the Mughal court artist Tulsi, and Tiriyya painted the details.

The Akbarnama was commissioned by Akbar as the official chronicle of his reign. It was written in Persian by his court historian and biographer, Abu’l Fazl, between 1590 and 1596.

The V&A purchased the manuscript in 1896 from Frances Clarke, the widow of Major General John Clarke, who bought it in India while serving as Commissioner of Oudh between 1858 and 1862.

The motive attributed to the assassin was simply revenge. Bairam was stabbed in the back so that the point of the long dagger came out at his breast. ‘With an Allahu Akbar’ (God is great) ‘on his lips he died,’ writes Blochmann in his Ain-i-Akbari.


Just a representation !

His son was provided for by Akbar.

Bairam Khan’s son and wife were set free and sent to north India. Bairam Khan’s wife, who was also the cousin of Akbar, married Akbar after Bairam Khan’s death.

Later on, Bairam’s son, Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, got an important assignment in Akbar’s administration and was one of the ‘Nau-rattans’ (Nine Gems) of Akbar.



Tomb of Abdul Rahim Kan i Khana-son of Bairam Khan

The regency of Bairam Khan lasted for 40 years. Though very loyal and successful administrator and guardian, Bairam Khan was not very popular with the other members of the Mughal Court.

Fall of Bairam Khan and its causes

In 1560, fall of Bairam Khan began. The unbridled power made him arrogant. Unpopularity of the Bairam Khan among Muslim nobility. He was a Shia and a majority of the Mughal nobles followed Sunni faith.

Vanity and haughtiness of Bairam Khan:

i) Showing favors to some nobles. He showered favors on his friends and relatives.

ii) Execution of Governor Tardi Beg who had failed to defend Delhi against Hemu.*


The Tomb of Humayun’s Vizier

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

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.

iii) Akbar’s own ambition to work as an independent ruler without any interference.

iv) Conspiracy of royal household against Bairam Khan.

v) Bairam Khan’s revolt against the emperor Akbar.


i) * Tardi Beg Khan

ii) Internet



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