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Bajaur massacre

Bajaur massacre
Part of Campaigns of Babur
Date6–7 January 1519
Result Timurid victory, followed by a massacre
Timurids Bajauri Pashtuns
Commanders and leaders


Muhammad Khwaja
Sultan Haidar Ali
1,500 Unknown
Casualties and losses
Low 3,000+

The Bajaur massacre or Battle of Bajaur was a military conflict waged by Babur against the tribes inhibiting Bajaur region, on 6–7 January 1519. Babur, a Timurid (and later Mughal) ruler from Fergana (in present-day Uzbekistan) who captured Kabul in 1504, launched this assault with the purpose of solidifying his authority in the Kabulistan. It took place in Bajaur, located in present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan. After capturing the Fort of Bajaur, Babur massacred at least 3,000 Bajauri Pashtuns, and set up a tower of their skulls, charging them of being "false to Islam."


Babur crossing the Kunar River on a raft, west of Bajaur

From 1515-19, Babur enjoyed a relatively calm period when he returned to Kabul in the aftermath of his defeat at the Battle of Ghazdewan and loss of Transoxiana to the Khanate of Bukhara. But all that came to an end, when he had reached the eastern-end of Kabulistan region. He had to conciliate and give autonomy to Yusufzai in order to maintain peace.[1]

According to Babur's Baburnama, the people of Bajaur, Kunar, Nur Gal, and Swat were following pagan customs, although they were Muslims. Babur claimed that the people of these areas commonly said that when a woman died and was laid on a bier, then if she had not been a wrongdoer, she would give the bearers of the bier a sudden shake, resulting in her corpse falling to the ground; but if she had been a wrongdoer, the bier would not move. Babur further claimed that Haidar Ali Gaberi, the Swati Jahangiri Sultan of Bajaur, did not weep or lament when his mother died, but instead said: "Go! lay her on the bier! if she move not, I will have her burned." When she was lad on the bier, the desired movement occurred, and only then Haidar Ali Bajauri put on black and lamented for his mother.[2]


On 7 January 1519, Babur wrote: "As the Bajauris were rebels and at enmity with the people of Islam, and as, by reason of the heathenish and hostile customs prevailing in their midst, the very name of Islam was rooted out from their tribe, they were put to general massacre and their wives and children were made captive. At a guess more than 3,000 men went to their death; as the fight did not reach to the eastern side of the fort, a few got away there.

"The fort taken, we entered and inspected it. On the walls, in houses, streets and alleys, the dead lay, in what numbers! Comers and goers to and fro were passing over the bodies. Returning from our inspection, we sat down in the Bajaur sultan’s [Sultan Haidar Ali Bajauri] residence. The country of Bajaur we bestowed on Khwāja Kalān, assigning a large number of braves to reinforce him. At the Evening Prayer we went back to camp." On 8 January, Babur wrote: "Marching at dawn, we dismounted by the spring of Bābā Qarā in the valley of Bajaur. At Khwāja Kalān’s request the prisoners remaining were pardoned their offences, reunited to their wives and children, and given leave to go, but several sultans and of the most stubborn were made to reach their doom of death. Some heads of sultans and of others were sent to Kabul with the news of success; some also to Badakhshan, Qunduz (Kunduz), and Balkh with the letters-of-victory. Shah Mansur Yusufzai,—he was with us as an envoy from his tribe,— was an eye-witness of the victory and general massacre. We allowed him to leave after putting a coat (tūn) on him and after writing orders with threats to the Yusufzai."

On 11 January, Babur wrote: "With mind easy about the important affairs of the Bajaur fort, we marched, on Tuesday, one kuroh (2 m.) down the valley of Bajaur and ordered that a tower of heads should be set up on the rising-ground."[2]


As part of a peace treaty with Yusufzai Pashtuns, Babur married Bibi Mubarika, daughter of Yusufzai chief Shah Mansur, on 30 January 1519.[3] Mubarika played an important role in the establishment of friendly relations of Yusufzai Pashtun chiefs with Babur, who later founded the Mughal Empire after defeating Pashtun Sultan Ibrahim Lodi at the Battle of Panipat in 1526.[4]


  1. ^ A History of India Under the Two First Sovereigns of the House of Taimur, Báber and Humáyun By William Erskine;Published by Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans,1854; Public Domain
  2. ^ a b Beveridge, Annette Susannah (7 January 2014). The Bābur-nāma in English, Memoirs of Bābur. Project Gutenberg.
  3. ^ Shyam, Radhey (1978). Babur. Janaki Prakashan. p. 263.
  4. ^ Aftab, Tahera; edited; Hiro, introduced by Dilip (2008). Inscribing South Asian Muslim women : an annotated bibliography & research guide ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). Leiden: Brill. p. 46. ISBN 9789004158498. ((cite book)): |last2= has generic name (help)

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Bajaur massacre
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