Siege of Chanderi, 22-29 January, 1528

The siege of Chanderi (22-29 January 1528) was to have been the first stage in a campaign that Babur hoped would take him to Chitor, the capital of the defeated Rana Sangha, but a rebellion forced him to abandon this plan after the fall of the place.

According to Babur Chanderi had been held by a series of Muslim rulers before being captured by Rana Sanga during one of his wars with Ibrahim Lodi. It was then entrusted to Medini Rao, a Hindu who had served one of the former Muslim rulers as prime minister, and who had been present at the battle of Khanua. After the battle he returned to Chanderi, which was now defended by 4,000-5,000 men.

Babur decided to make Chanderi his next objective, and on 9 December 1527 departed from Agra, reaching Chanderi on 21 January. While on the march rumours reached him that Shaikh Baiazid was planning to revolt against him, and so a force was detached from the army, with orders to go to Kanauj. If the rumours were false then they were to attack the un-subdued Afghan nobles in the east, if they were true then they were to attack Baiazid.

The siege began on 22 January when Babur rode around the walled town allocated positions to his men as he went. According to Babur Chandiri was a walled town. The citadel was built on a hill above the town, with an outer-fort below the hill. The citadel's water supply was lower down the hill, and was protected by a double line of walls that ran from the citadel down to the outer fort. 

The town's location made Babur's artillery less effective than normal. Ustad 'Ali-quli, his chief of ordnance, was unable to find a position above the height of the walls, and so work began on building a mound for the mortar. The rest of the army was ordered to build ladders and mantlets. Babur's next move was to send Araish Khan to meet with Medini Rao with a peace offer - if Medini Rao would surrender Chanderi then he would be rewarded with Shamsabad. This offer was refused.

On 28 January Babur advanced from his camp intending to attack the fort, but this first attack was cancelled when bad news arrived from Kanauj. As feared Baiazid had proved to be hostile. Babur's men had advanced against him, but had been defeated, and forced back to Kanauj, which was itself threatened. Babur kept this news from his men, and prepared to resume the attack that evening.

On the night of 28-29 January Babur's men attacked the outer fort, but discovered that it was only held by small parties of two or three men, presumably posted as watchmen, who fled into the citadel.

On the morning of 29 January Babur ordered his men to prepare for an assault, and then watched his artillery bombard the walls. His guns were having to fire up a 240ft high hill at strong stone walls, and were entirely ineffective. After this failed Babur ordered his men to assault the citadel from all sides, concentrating his main effort against the double walls protecting the water supply.

Eventually one of Babur's men managed to reach the top of these walls where they met with the walls of the outer fort. Others followed his lead, and swarmed up these walls towards the citadel. Much to their surprise the defenders retreated from the walls, and took refuge further inside the citadel.

With the fall of the water walls and the outer walls of the citadel it became clear to the defenders of Chanderi that the end of the siege was close. At this point they performed the ritual of jauhar, killing their women before making one final desperate attack on Babur's men. According to Babur the defenders fought naked during this final fight. Inevitably this attack failed, and the surviving defenders fled into Medini Rao's house, where they committed suicide. The fall of the town had happened so quickly that Babur had not needed to take part in the battle himself.

Having captured Chanderi Babur was now free to move against Shaikh Baiazid, arriving just in time to prevent a more serious defeat of his eastern army.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (20 May 2010), Siege of Chanderi, 22-29 January, 1528 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_chanderi.html

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