Bairam Khan (18 January 1501 – 31 January 1561) was a significant military commander. Later, he became commander-in-chief of the Mughal army, powerful statesman, and regent at the court of Humayun and Akbar.
Bairam Khan was the guardian, chief mentor, teacher, adviser, and the most trusted partner of Akbar. Humayun honored him as Khan-i-Khanan means “king of kings”.
Early Life and Ancestors
Bairam Khan was born in Badakhshan in Central Asia. He belonged to the Baharlu Turkoman clan of the Kara Koyunlu confederation. The Kara Koyunlu ruled Western Persia for decades till the rivals of Ak Koyunlu overthrown them.
He was originally called Bairam “Beg”. Later, he was honored as ‘Kha’ or Khan. His father Seyfali Beg Baharlu, and grandfather, Janali Beg Baharlu, had been part of Babur‘s Service. Pirali Beg Baharlu, Bairam Khan’s great-grandfather was the brother of Babur’s wife Pasha Begum and son-in-law of Qara Iskander.
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At the age of 16, Bairam entered Babur’s service. He played an active role in the early Mughal conquests of India. He later contributed greatly to the establishment of the Mughal Empire under Humayun. He was consigned with the position of muhardar (keeper of the seals). He also took part in military campaigns in Benaras, Bengal, and Gujarat.
Bairam Khan accompanied Humayun during his exile in Persia and helped conquer Kandahar before serving as its governor for nine years. He played a leading role in Humayun’s reconquest of Hindustan, as a commander in 1556.
After the death of Humayun in 1556, he was designated regent over the young monarch Akbar. When he was regent, he joined the Mughal authority in northern India. In November 1556, he led the Mughal force at the Second Battle of Panipat fought between Akbar and Hemu.
Bairam Khan married the younger daughter of Jamal Khan. Her other wife was Salima Sultan Begum. She married Akbar after the death of Bairam Khan.
Akbar gave Bairam Khan the option of staying in the court as an advisor or continuing his pilgrimage. Bairam decided to continue his pilgrimage.
He was killed while traveling through Gujarat. He was acknowledged by Lohani Pashtun, an ally of Haji Khan Mewati. Haji Khan, after learning this, planned an attack and killed him on 31 January 1561.
Haji Khan Mewati was the general of Hemu, who killed Bairam to take revenge for the death of Emperor Hemu.
Bairam Khan met his end while journeying through Gujarat when he was recognized by Lohani Pashtun, an ally of Haji Khan Mewati. Upon receiving this information, Haji Khan orchestrated an attack, which resulted in Bairam Khan’s death on 31 January 1561. Haji Khan Mewati was the general of Hemu and sought to avenge the death of Emperor Hemu by killing Bairam.
Bairam Khan was Commander in chief of Mughal Army. He worked under the Humayun and Akbar.
Bairam Khan became the guardian of Akbar after the death of Humayun.
As Bairam Khan approached the end of his life, his relationship with Akbar deteriorated. The primary cause of the rift was Bairam Khan’s tendency to make decisions without first consulting the Emperor. For instance, he unilaterally dismissed his previous favorite, Pir Muhammad Khan, a senior Mughal official.
Bairam Khan, an exceptional military leader, dedicated his service to Mughal emperors Humayun and Akbar and played a significant role in expanding their empire. He was instrumental in securing Akbar’s triumph over Hemu in the second battle of Panipat and provided valuable guidance as a capable regent during challenging times.
Akbar bestowed upon him the title “Khan-i-Khanan,” which translates to “King of Kings,” in recognition of his achievements. Although Bairam was initially referred to as Bairam “Beg,” he was later honored with the title “Kha” or “Khan.”