Biography of Bairam Khan (Mughal Military General)

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Biography of Bairam Khan (Mughal Military General)

Bairam Khan


Bairam Khan was a trusted military general of Mughal Empire in India. He served under Mughal Emperors such as Babur, Humayun and Akbar the Great.

He was born in 1501. After the death of Humayun, Bairam Khan became the guardian of Akbar.

Reign: He reigned from the period 1556 to 1561. During his reign, he won some important battles for Akbar. He strengthened the position of Mughal Empire which further helped Akbar to expand his territories.

Second Battle of Panipat: Under the tactful leadership of Bairam Khan, the Mughal army defeated the Hindu King Hemu in the Second Battle of Panipat. The battle took place on 5th Nov, 1556. This was a big victory for the Mughal army of Akbar.

Family: He was married to the daughter of Jamal Khan. After the massive success in the second battle of panipat, he married Salima Begum in 1557. He had a son, Rahim, from his first son.

Character of Bairam Khan: Bairam Khan was a man of extraordinary personality and of imperious nature. All people who were not pleased with Bairam Khan or were inimically disposed towards him, seized every opportunity to exaggerate his faults. Differences grew between Bairam and his royal ward which gradually developed in to open breach.

Differences with Akbar: In 1660, Akbar had attained the age of eighteen and began to resent the galling tutelage of Bairam Khan.

Bairam Khan had also committed certain acts of indecision by punishing a Mahaut, i.e. elephant-driver whose elephant ran through the ropes of the tents of Bairam Khan when the elephant was engaged in an elephant-fight witnessed by Akbar himself, and by dismissing Mulla Pir Muhammad, Akbar’s tutor.

Dismissal of Bairam Khan: Akbar was egged upon by harem party headed by Maham Anga which drew some of the governors to its cause. Akbar yielded to their pleadings and in a letter couched in polite language written by Abdul Latif; Akbar acknowledged the services of Bairam Khan and conveyed his intention to assume the affairs of the State into his own hands and desiring that Bairam Khan should make a pilgrimage to Mecca. A suitable assignment was made for Bairam’s maintenance, the revenue of which would be transmitted to him from time to time.

Bairam Khan, despite well-wishers’ advice, after some hesitation complied with the royal command, relinquished his office and was making arrangements to collect his treasures in the Punjab, but as he was not moving sufficiently fast as desired by those who wanted him to be finally out of India. Bairam Khan expressed this affront to his personal dignity and status held by him so long by standing up for armed resistance. He was defeated. Akbar, with his generosity and gratitude to his former guardian, granted him pardon. He was offered the governorship of Chanderi, and Kalpi, alternatively to become Akbar’s confidential adviser or leave for Mecca.

Death: Bairam Khan chose the last alternative; after all he was too high-minded and dignified a person to accept any position inferior to one that he had been occupying for long. He decided to start for Mecca. But on his way he was assassinated by an Afghan on 31st Jan, 1561.

Shelter to Bairam’s family after his death: Akbar gave shelter to the now destitute family of Bairam Khan. The widowed wife of Bairam Khan, Salima Begum, was married to Akbar. Bairam Khan’s infant son, Abdul Rahim, was brought up under Akbar’s care and in 1584 was honored by his father’s title of Khan-i-Khana.

Conclusion: Bairam was a brave military general. His contribution towards strengthening the Mughal Empire is nonparallel. However, Akbar’s generously towards him when he had revolted was not certainly commensurate with the services rendered by him in restoring the Mughals on the throne of Delhi.

(Last updated: 7th April, 2015)

  • Bairam Khan as the guardian of Akbar
  • Who was Bairam Khan?

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