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This is an excellent translation of a most compelling book, the autobiography of the founder of the Moghul empire If you ever wondered how feudalism actually works, this is the book for you Far from leading a life soley devoted to luxury and dancing girls, Babur is busy keeping his retinue in line and ensuring that the various challenges to his power are properly responded to.The book is disarmingly honest, reporting drinking parties and drug taking as well as battles and disloyalty by those sworn to fealty. @READ E-PUB ã Vekayi ì Both An Official Chronicle And The Highly Personal Memoir Of The Emperor Babur , The Baburnama Presents A Vivid And Extraordinarily Detailed Picture Of Life In Afghanistan, Pakistan, And India During The Late Fifteenth And Early Sixteenth Centuries Babur S Honest And Intimate Chronicle Is The First Autobiography In Islamic Literature, Written At A Time When There Was No Historical Precedent For A Personal Narrative Now In A Sparkling New Translation By Islamic Scholar Wheeler ThackstonThis Modern Library Paperback Classics Edition Includes Notes, Indices, Maps, And Illustrations The Baburnama isn t something you read from beginning to end Rather, it s a book you dip into at random, slowly building up a patchwork view of life in what is today Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, as seen through the eyes of the first Mughal emperor, Babur 1483 1530 Now you read about Babur s impressions of India he hates it, apart from the gold, and mangoes now about his private life his mother has to force him to visit his wife, but he has no hesitation in declaring his love for a dashing Afghan boy Most of all you read about war, and the battles between various clans, tribes and empires in central and southern Asia A situation that hasn t changed much in 500 years. Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire, is one of the most influential figures in medieval history This journal reveals deep insights into his experiences, and his values He could be brutal and forgiving He could be poetic, and base He could abstain from wine, and throw tremendous and wild celebrations In short, his is an interesting life.Within the journal itself, there are many revealing points At various points, Babur can be quite poetic in his descriptions Providing a quick biography of Abu Said Mirza, he writes, He was very generous He was affable, eloquent and sweet spoken, and bold Outdistancing all his warriors, he got to work with his own sword twice at the Gate of Akhsi and at the Gate of Shahrukhiya A mediocre archer, he was strong in the fist not a man but fell to his blow Due to his ambition, peace was exchanged often for war, friendliness for hostility 10 A lovelier description of an agitator I cannot conceive Babur also clearly valued poetry and language He quotes extensively throughout his journal A favorite quotation of mine comes when he describes the Samarkandis and their disposition after the transition from Sultan Ahmad Mirza to His Highness the Khwaja Ahrari Beware the build up of an inward wound,For it will at last burst forth Avoid, while you can, distress to one heart,For a single moan can quake the Earth Gulistan, Part 1, Story 27 The journal is littered with such quotations, as well as what I can only assume are his own inventions Babur clearly valued wisdom and language.After the surrender of Samarkand and his escape to Dizak, he writes, I have been transported five times from toil to rest and from hardship to comfort This was the first 81 Indeed, the interesting part, for me, regarding Babur s establishment of the Mughal empire was the circuitous route that it took I had always had the impression that he swept through territories in a mass of victories, but this could not be further from the truth Multiple times Babur was reduced to almost nothing, and yet he kept returning.Babur always comments on the fruits and other agricultural qualities of the area Strange to us today, he praises the quality of the fruits in Kabul, and the wines that can be found there.Ultimately, Babur s philosophy over the territories that he conquered can be summed up by this verse he writes in his journal on the Domain of Kabul, Where one submits like a subject, treat him well But he who submits not, strike, strip, crush and force like hell 218 This is an incredibly interesting journal, and it tells a story that I think would surprise most readers. Long before Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal for his beloved, there was a Great Moghul who began it all Babur, a descendant of both Genghis Khan and Tamerlane who first established Mughal rule over India His claim to fame rests on three things the story of his death, the controversy over the mosque that he built, and the Baburnama, the first and only autobiography in Islamic literature until the 19th century It is a vast, complex narrative of an extraordinarily eventful life, full of battles and conquests, as befit his status as a Timurid prince in search of a realm, but also of moonlit drinking parties filled with poetry and music The first Mughal emperor is both a sensitive man of culture deeply versed in Persian classical literature and a ruthless Ghazi Slayer of the Infidels who reveled in erecting towers of skulls from the severed heads of his enemies He sees no contradiction whatsoever between these different aspects of his personality, and is disarmingly frank, even at times confessional, about his weaknesses, such as his fondness for wine and the narcotic ma jun, which he often indulged in between bouts of hunting and military expeditions Born as a minor prince in what is now Uzbekistan, Babur is a scion of the Timurids, a dynasty established by Tamerlane, which had ruled over much of Central Asia since the 14th century The Timurid princes were constantly engaged in territorial battles, and from his early teens, Babur had been embroiled in the complex, ever shifting intrigues between his blood relatives More than once he had succeeded in holding and losing Samarkand, and on several occasions, desperately holding on to his life after being defeated by stronger rivals Necessity turned him toward the north, to Afghanistan, which he conquered at the age of 23 Several years later, he made his first foray into Hindustan, a much larger and wealthier realm that he finally conquered than two decades later He famously loathed his new realm, complaining about its heat and dust, pining for his beloved Kabul, where he was eventually buried A man of lively curiosity, he wrote about the flora and fauna of India, its landscapes and rivers, and of its native princes and their palaces and temples He destroyed naked idols that offended his Muslim sensibility, and allegedly built a mosque in Ayodhya, which later became a bone of contention between Muslims and Hindu extremists who believed that the mosque stood on the birthplace of Rama, an avatar of Vishnu.He died at the age of 47, not long after conquering India The following is Amitav Ghosh s retelling of the legend of Babur s death Of the many stories told of Babur none is wonderful than that of his death In 1530 Humayun, Babur s beloved eldest son and heir apparent, was stricken by a fever He was brought immediately to Babur s court at Agra, but despite the best efforts of the royal physicians, his condition steadily worsened Driven to despair, Babur consulted a man of religion who told him that the remedy was to give in alms the most valuable thing one had and to seek cure from God Babur is said to have replied thus I am the most valuable thing that Humayun possesses than me he has no better thing I shall make myself a sacrifice for him May God the Creator accept it Greatly distressed, Babur s courtiers and friends tried to explain that the sage had meant that he should give away money, or gold or a piece of property Humayun possessed a priceless diamond, they said, which could be sold and the proceeds given to the poorBabur would not hear of it What value has worldly wealth Babur is quoted to have said And how can it be a redemption for Humayun I myself shall be his sacrifice He walked three times around Humayun s bed, praying O God If a life may be exchanged for a life, I who am Babur, I give my life and my being for a Humayun A few minutes later, he cried We have borne it away, we have borne it away And sure enough, from that moment Babur began to sicken, while Humayun grew slowly well Babur died near Agra on December 21, 1530 He left orders for his body to be buried in Kabul Baburnama is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a medieval warrior and emperor, especially for those with interest in Indian history, but parts of it is also a challenging read for the general reader As E.M Forster observed, the greatest difficulty in reading it is not caused by the language which had been translated into modern, even colloquial English , but is caused by the seemingly relentless onslaught of unfamiliar names of people and places. This is such a great translation It traces the Turco Persian origins of the Mughal dynasty, a sort of mirror for princes The chronology aspects of the text can be a bit tiring a lot of battles and assertion of his own legitimacy during a time when it was in question , but you get a great deal of insight into Persian kingship and the use of Persian poetry as a courtly expression of emotions. Come back, O phoenix, for without the parrot of your down the raven is about to carry away my bones quoting Hasan Ya qub Beg, 17 In taking realms and administering kingdoms, although some things appear rational on the surface, one has to consider a hundred thousand things behind every act 77 If you don t seize what is at hand you will rue it until old age citing a proverb, 87 I have no strength to go, no power to stay You have snared us in this state, my heart 90 From fear and hardship we found release new life, a new world we have found 111 For ranks already on the run, it is sufficient to say boo quoting a saying, 133 A king may take possession of an entire clime, but he will still hunger for another quoting Baqi Beg, 144 Death with friends is a feast citing a proverb, 234 The cities and provinces of Hindustan are all unpleasant There is no limit to the people 335 If I cross the Indus in safety, may my face turn black if I ever desire to see Hindustan again quoting Khwaja Khan, 358 We suffered from three things in Hindustan One was the heat, another the biting wind, and the third the dust 364 Whoever comes into the world is mortal he who remains forever is God 383 if you can avoid the parts where he names everybody he meets and their fathers and grandfathers and dogs and cats, this is an excellent read. According to translator grand old man of Persian and various other languages Wheeler Thackston, Babur s memoirs were the first and until relatively recent times, the only true autobiography in Islamic literature No one knows why this Timurid Chingisid heir from Andijan in what is now Uzbekistan s portion of the Ferghana Valley decided to write a candid history of his life Modern, especially western readers, used to centuries of self examination in print might not grasp the magnitude of what Babur did But, it is amazing to read the recollections of a 15th 16th century conqueror and see a frank and nearly complete rendering of the many facets of his life.Babur relates how he was driven out of Ferghana by the Uzbeks and his squabbling relatives, his conquest and loss of Samarqand, his flight to Afghanistan and conquest of Kabul and Kandahar after which he assumed the title of Padishah his forays into Hindustan, his conquest of the Sultanate of Delhi and other Hindustani territories, and his consolidation of these holdings That story is known to the history books, and can actually be tedious reading as Babur constantly drops names names of towns, villages, warriors, Begs, Rajas, Khans, relatives until you re not certain if your still reading about the same place or individual as your were a few moments before However, it is what he reveals about himself, his worldview, habits, attitudes toward religion, bravery, marriage, penmanship, war, etc that makes the Baburnama worth reading.Babur emerges from his memoirs as a real person, not a two dimensional fictional character He s a collection of contradictions He s a pious Muslim, but loves wine In fact he spends a lot of time describing wine parties the beautiful garden or river raft they took place on and the antics of those who attended Yet he also recounts how he forswore alcohol in later years only to regret it In one interesting anecdote on poetry, another of his favorite topics, Babur notes that he and some drinking buddies had made some vulgar risque verse while inflamed with wine He then notes that he truly regrets the incident and declares that poetry should be above such crude behavior Of course, even after swearing off demon alcohol, Babur still regularly enjoyed the narcotic ma jun whatever that is discoursing on how stoned it made him and how beautiful it made the pomegranate other trees in one of his many gardens look He also tells the tale of how he had to take opium to relieve the pain from an abcessthat, and that the beauty of the moonlight induced him to in another apparent contradiction, Babur regularly lambasts the widespread pederasty of Central Asia, but then cryptically notes his affection for a certain young man Babur comes off as a cultured Timurid, constantly laying out gardens, composing verse, chastising his grown son and heir for his poor penmanship and letter writing skills, decribing animals, fruits and flowers Yet, he also tells gory tales of violence, where rebel villages are decimated and conquered cities are marked with skull pyramids something typical of his forefather Amir Timur In telling the fate of those who plotted to assassinate him, the Padishah seems to relish in the gruesomeness of their demise I believe someone was flayed alive, while another was trod on by an elephant Of course, this killing was done under his authority as an heir to the Timurid dynasty, and given his rigid attention to proper decorum regarding the ruling hierarchy the clothes each rank should wear, how they should genuflect otherwise show respect to betters, what sort of gifts the lesser should bring to the greater it should not seem a surprise that he never considers his bloodshed excessive or criminal To expect him to do so would be to anachronistically impose 21st century values on a 15th 16th century man.