Pre-Mughal India was enticingly prosperous, divided and exposed. The Muslim conqueror and first Mughal emperor, Babur, was a descendant of the Mongol ruler Timur, who established himself as a regional warlord in Kabul. Babur’s invasion came by invitation: to intervene in a dynastic struggle within the Lodi Sultanate of Delhi. When not consumed with internal dissension, Delhi was frequently pitted against the Hindu Rajput Confederacy. Gujerat was Muslim and for a time its strong links with the Ottomans insulated it from the Mughals; the Gujarati sultan annexed neighbouring Malwa in 1531. The Mughals prized wealthy Bengal, describing it as ‘paradise of the nations’. Orissa was ruled by the Hindu Ganga dynasty. Vijayanagar was also Hindu, its eponymous capital was one of the largest cities in the world at the time. Their ruler Krishnadevaraya assisted the Portuguese in their conflict with Gujarat and Bijapur, enabling their establishment of permanent trading posts on India’s western seaboard.
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