Siege of Bajaur, 4-7 January 1519

The siege of Bajaur of January 1519 was an early success during Babur's preparations for the invasion of Hindustan, and was notable for an early use of gunpowder weapons.

Bajaur is located in the mountains on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border, to the east of Chaghansarai, which had fallen into Babur's hands in the previous year. Its capture was part of Babur's preparations for his planned invasion of Hindustan, which he claimed as a descendant of Tamerlane, who had devastatingly invaded the area just over a century earlier.

The siege of Bajaur came just after Babur's memoirs resumed, and so we have his own account of the action. On 3 January 1519 Babur's camp was shaken by an earthquake. Despite this, on the following day his army left camp at dawn and advanced towards the fortress, which was then held by Haider-i-'ali, although he may not have been present during the siege. On the same day Babur sent a messenger to the fort ordering the defenders to surrender, but they refused. On 5 January Babur's men prepared to assault the fort, building mantlets and ladders.

On 6 January Babur's army advanced towards Bajaur in three columns, preparing to take up positions to the north, north-west and west of the fort. As they approached 100 to 150 of the defenders came out to attack them, armed with bows. Babur had recently acquired gunpowder weapons, and some of his men were now armed with matchlocks. Under fire from the new weapon the defenders were forced back to the shelter of the ramparts, and only a lack of available ladders prevented Babur from attempting to attack the fortress that night. Although Babur emphasised the important of the matchlocks in this fight, he also admits that only between 7 and 10 of the defenders were killed by the guns.

On 7 January the attack was resumed. Babur's left wing attacked the north-eastern tower of the fort, with some men attempting to undermine it while others kept the defenders pinned down with gun fire. There is also a mention of an artillery piece, or firingi, which was fired twice.

Babur's men soon reached the top of the walls in a number of places, before the north-eastern tower was breached. Within three hours of the start of the battle the fort was in Babur's hands. Somewhat unusually for Babur the fall of the fort was followed by a massacre of the male inhabitants and the enslaving of the women and children. According to Babur this was done because the inhabitants were both rebels against him, and heathens who had abandoned Islam. 

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (11 May 2010), Siege of Bajaur, 4-7 January 1519 ,

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