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Both an official chronicle and the highly personal memoir of the emperor Babur (1483–1530), 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 the Both an official chronicle and the highly personal memoir of the emperor Babur (1483–1530), 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 Thackston. This Modern Library Paperback Classics edition includes notes, indices, maps, and illustrations.


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Both an official chronicle and the highly personal memoir of the emperor Babur (1483–1530), 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 the Both an official chronicle and the highly personal memoir of the emperor Babur (1483–1530), 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 Thackston. This Modern Library Paperback Classics edition includes notes, indices, maps, and illustrations.

30 review for The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor

  1. 5 out of 5

    7jane

    This was a good read, although if you really hate having loads and loads of names that seem too similar, this might be tough-going, especially at first - but if you stick to it, it becomes really enjoyable around the middle. This is the memoirs of Babur (late 15th and early 16th century), founder of the Mughal Empire in India, and one of the first Islamic autobiographies existing. It shows both the good and the bad sides of him honestly: he was both cultured and a warlord. The story (which is not This was a good read, although if you really hate having loads and loads of names that seem too similar, this might be tough-going, especially at first - but if you stick to it, it becomes really enjoyable around the middle. This is the memoirs of Babur (late 15th and early 16th century), founder of the Mughal Empire in India, and one of the first Islamic autobiographies existing. It shows both the good and the bad sides of him honestly: he was both cultured and a warlord. The story (which is not properly finished) starts when he was about 12, from Transoxiana to Samarkand to Kabul and endsing in India; but I think his heart remained in Afghansitan, which was given for his oldest son to govern, as Babur had to stay in India. The introduction is by Salman Rushdie, and there are notes, maps and pictures (art, objects) included, plus some background explanation. The story is in three parts: 1) Fergana and Transoxiana (his beginnings which show youth and inexperience), 2) Kabul and 3) Hindustan (first desire of visit recorded in 1505, real visit 1519 (with some culture shock), then finally going there for good from 1525 on). The text is 2/3 edited (which shows in that some measurements are shown in Indian kind when the text still remains outside it), last part is rough draft. There are gaps in the story, some last a few years, and the ends is unfinished though he doesn't die until some years later. There are some biographies of certain people, of different length (including his father's), and descriptions of towns and places (incl. Samarkand, Herat, Kabul and Hindustan). There are plenty of sieges, battles, conquests, forays, plottings, rebellions. Battles including matchlock guns among weapons, and in India elephants. Descriptions of nature, of food (like grapes and melons), parties, hunting (incl. with falcons) and fishing. Some poetry is included, which was much valued. Nature shows in surprising deep snows, floods and monsoon rains. Two earthquakes are mentioned. It's a slight surprise to notice that Babur isn't quite completely straight: his first real sexual desire and a crush is on a boy with almost the same name (although this person is never mentioned again, nor does Babur give any sign for further same-sex desire later). His bloody side shows in often-mentioned beheadings, which sometimes are piled together. There are sometimes also severe punishments and executions, though always for a reason. Babur refrains from drink until midpoint, when also some light drug-taking starts appearing. He does give up drinking in 1527 with a pledge of temperance, and later expresses the difficulty of sticking to it at first. He builds things: the controversail Babri Masjid mosque's building is not mentioned in the text - it's in one of the missing gaps - so the true circumstances of it being built cannot be told. Anyway, he builds a lot of things (gardens, buildings etc.) and establishes a post system between Kabul and Agra. In the end, after all the facts and names and actions, which grow clearer to read and enjoy, as I've said, it is a really great read and interesting. So if you have any interest in reading this, I do recommend it. :)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    In this History I have held firmly to it that the truth should be reached in every matter, and that every act should be recorded precisely as it occurred. I do not think I ever would have read this book, had it not been gifted to me last Christmas. It is quite a beautiful volume—hefty but compact, the pages thin but not fragile, the font and layout quite attractive—and yet, I still felt daunted by the prospect of reading an autobiography from a time and place that I knew so little about. It In this History I have held firmly to it that the truth should be reached in every matter, and that every act should be recorded precisely as it occurred. I do not think I ever would have read this book, had it not been gifted to me last Christmas. It is quite a beautiful volume—hefty but compact, the pages thin but not fragile, the font and layout quite attractive—and yet, I still felt daunted by the prospect of reading an autobiography from a time and place that I knew so little about. It was a kind of miniature adventure. By any standard, the Baburnama is an extraordinary book. The memoirs of Babur, founder of the mighty Mughal Empire, the book covers his life (with notable lacunae) from his early years to a short time before his death. It was written in Chaghatai, an extinct Turkic language that was Babur’s mother tongue. This edition, by the way, was translated by Annette Beveridge, who was something of an extraordinary figure herself, having completed this translation at her English home for linguistic amusement. It was no easy task, as the mountains of footnotes—almost all comments on a particular Chaghatai word or phrase—attest. Babur’s life was nothing if not eventful. The story begins in Central Asia where, at the tender age of 11, Babur first becomes a ruler. From this moment he is thrown into the thick of politics and war, conquering and losing territories, fleeing for his life, gathering forces again, and repeating the process. Eventually his changing fortunes force him southward, to India (or Hindustan, as he calls it), where he conquers vast territories in a series of massive battles, thus setting the groundwork for the Mughal Empire that would dominate for centuries to come. And yet this thumbnail sketch does not really capture the experience of reading this book. For one, it reads a lot more like a diary than a polished autobiography, full of short entries of quite quotidian details. One senses that Babur wrote this either for himself or for a small circle, as he does not take many pains to explain who people are. In any case, there must be well over 200 individuals mentioned in this book, which can make for a pretty frustrating reading experience—especially when you are also unfamiliar with the geography of the region. (I do wish Beveridge’s footnotes added historical context rather than expanding upon linguistic puzzles.) In most professional reviews I have read of this book, the writer dwells upon Babur’s virtues. There is, indeed, much to admire in the man. His prose is plain and unadorned, cutting straight to the point with no unnecessary flourish. Even more important, Babur is frank to quite a surprising extent. He admits, for example, that his first feelings of love were for a boy (even if he did not go after men, women did not seem to excite him all that much). He can be disarmingly sensitive; at one point he cries after a melon reminds him of his lost homeland. And he is consistently honest and fair-minded, neither magnifying his victories nor minimizing his defeats. Babur also boasts many intellectual virtues. He was clearly quite cultured and literate. This book is scattered with poems, many his own. Clearly, he cared deeply for the written word; near the end, he even takes the time to chastise his adult son for sending him a badly-written letter. And in the section on the flora and fauna of Hindustan, Babur reveals a penetrating eye for nature. He divines, for example, that the closest living relative of the rhinoceros is the horse—a brilliant deduction, considering how superficially different the two animals appear. He consistently dwells on his love for beautiful natural spots and well-made gardens. So much can be said for Babur. But not enough is said—either in those reviews, or the introduction to this edition—of the river of violence that courses through these pages. True, Babur does not dwell on this violence; he usually mentions it as a passing detail to a more interesting story. But it is never far off, and I always found it disturbing. Babur speaks quite casually about executing prisoners and, indeed, putting whole cities to the sword. Probably I should not be shocked by this. After all, Babur was one of history’s great conquerors; and it is obvious from his own narrative that he lived his entire life under threat of violence. Even so, I could not bring myself to admire the amateur naturalist knowing that he had, some time before, been strolling through the streets of a conquered city, stepping over the bodies of hundreds of massacred civilians. And I think that this considerably diminished my enjoyment of the book, as I found it far more difficult to savor the quieter, more human moments of the text. This, along with the preponderance of names and the diary-like brevity, made the book a bit of a slog at times. However, if you have any historical interest at all in this time or place, then the Baburnama is obligatory. It is full of so much valuable detail that a historian could easily spend a decade on this book alone, parsing out all of the references, piecing together the wider story. And even if you are a complete amateur, like myself, this book is still quite an educational experience.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bubba

    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 w 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 abcess...that, 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 more 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jairam Ranganathan

    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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    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 da 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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Omama.

    In the month of Ramadan in the year 899 [June 1494], in the province of Fergana, in my 12th year, I became king . Zaheer-ud-Din Muhammad Babur, the first Mughal Emperor, who built this great dynasty to rule for 300 years in Hindustan. Baburnama, essentially known as Tuzk-i-Baburi, is most probably considered the first ever Autobiography to be written by a Muslim Emperor. His diaries explores what it was like to live life in 16th century central Asia; it captures who Babur was in real life, what In the month of Ramadan in the year 899 [June 1494], in the province of Fergana, in my 12th year, I became king . Zaheer-ud-Din Muhammad Babur, the first Mughal Emperor, who built this great dynasty to rule for 300 years in Hindustan. Baburnama, essentially known as Tuzk-i-Baburi, is most probably considered the first ever Autobiography to be written by a Muslim Emperor. His diaries explores what it was like to live life in 16th century central Asia; it captures who Babur was in real life, what were his aims and objectives, where did he come from, how much further he wanted to go, how his senses were sharpened by his amazing ancestry and background (His father came from Amir Timur's son Miran Shah's line, and his mother from Genghis Khan), and his ability to fluently speak Turk and Persian. This book captures how horribly violent life was in Babur's era, how he fought wars with armies much in number from his mere thousands. His narrative is introspective, a look at his own life, his shortcomings, his downfalls, his triumphs and tragedies. He wasn't just ferocious as a warrior, Babur's humbleness is touching, his sensitivity towards some of the most simplest of things, his love and care for the women of his family, and his sense of awe and appreciation of beauty in the world. The last part of Baburnama gets more melancholic. Babur is a sole ruler of Hindustan now, a great Sultanat; but it's cities are unpleasant for Babur. A melon sent from Kabul made him weep at the thought of all that he had lost: the cities of Kabul and Samarkand, and his youth. His love for Kabul is reminiscent throughout the book, where he firstly established his rule, all his children were born there. This book is a treasure and a source of immense nostalgia for anyone who's interested in knowing more about the original Mughal – Babur. This translation was amazing because it had a lot of explanations, pictures and marginal notes to help understand better, as it gets tricky at some places, with all the names and new people Babur keeps mentioning. To encounter the private thoughts of a great Emperor like Babur is a unique experience, and I am so delving into it, right now. My nostalgia for the original Mughals is unending for some unknown reason. Ps: His description of the animals and fruits of Hindustan is just mouth-watering.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    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 s 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.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Grace Tjan

    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 a 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 more 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 more 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 poor... Babur 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    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 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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chandar

    Our impressions of the lives of emperors and royalty is deeply influenced by television and movie portrayals. When one reads this book, the first thing that strikes you is the surprisingly simple and sparse lives they led. Their concerns were also quite mundane. Babur's journal is candid (including his fondness for maajun or opioid candy, and other weak moments in his life) almost totally devoid of any delusions of grandeur. His eye for detail and observations of flora and fauna, besides the lif Our impressions of the lives of emperors and royalty is deeply influenced by television and movie portrayals. When one reads this book, the first thing that strikes you is the surprisingly simple and sparse lives they led. Their concerns were also quite mundane. Babur's journal is candid (including his fondness for maajun or opioid candy, and other weak moments in his life) almost totally devoid of any delusions of grandeur. His eye for detail and observations of flora and fauna, besides the lifestyle and habits of people in this strange, new land of Hindustan are quite fascinating. He comes across as quite an endearing character, in spite of the frequent and savage wars and retributions exacted from enemies! And yes, there is no mention of construction of Babri Masjid!!!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Arin Goswami

    What an incredible read, Babur's impact on India is unquestionable and the nonchalance with which he outlines his incredible ambition and campaigns really speak to his strength as a leader. I found myself trying to slow down and savour every detail outlined in this book. What an incredible read, Babur's impact on India is unquestionable and the nonchalance with which he outlines his incredible ambition and campaigns really speak to his strength as a leader. I found myself trying to slow down and savour every detail outlined in this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peter Crofts

    A review of the Beveridge translation, recently republished in hardcover by Everyman Library. Avoid it, it's awful. If you pick it up pretty soon you'll have Indian "braves" and other "desperadoes" riding around in your head. That's because of the translator, who seems to think drawing an analogy between a Native American culture and 16th century central Asia is a good idea. It isn't, it's historically ignorant and distracting. It's also rather silly. E.M. Forster, in an essay published in the 19 A review of the Beveridge translation, recently republished in hardcover by Everyman Library. Avoid it, it's awful. If you pick it up pretty soon you'll have Indian "braves" and other "desperadoes" riding around in your head. That's because of the translator, who seems to think drawing an analogy between a Native American culture and 16th century central Asia is a good idea. It isn't, it's historically ignorant and distracting. It's also rather silly. E.M. Forster, in an essay published in the 1920s, likened Babur, and the world he lived in, to the world of the Renaissance Italy. Small principalities, avaricious strong men and Machiavellian politics. There's some merit to such a comparison, there's none for Beveridge's ignorant cultural leveling. "Pointiff" pops up, from time to time, as well...don't even ask. Lots of "corn" as well, even though the crop would not have been grown at the time anywhere other than the Americas. Such nonsense, and there's more, lots more, ruined the translation for me, as I lost confidence in the translator. And then there's the footnotes! Which are bloated, meandering and usually of little to no use. If you're looking for guidance through the bewildering cultural mix of the place and time, don't look to Beveridge for any assistance. But, if you want to read about whether Babur hunted white tailed or white arsed deer, you're in luck. At times she actually refers to her husband [her words, not mine] as a source for her notes. The formatting is visually awful, with several lines of text and lots of gaseous commentary. It's just plain ugly, in both look and content. Someone should have cleaned up the text, with, at the very least, a flame thrower taken to the moldy, suffocating footnotes. Beveridge's creaky, stiff English, and it would have read as out of date when published, should be modernized, for instance, there's all sorts of weird hyphenated terms, which are nothing but an irritant and distraction. A detailed map, or maps, rather than the one provided, which is of little to no use, would be of great help as well. All told this edition of Babur's memoirs is a cynical rip off. If you don't mind an ereader you can access it online for free anyhow [http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/44608]. There's a reason this translation disappeared, that's what it deserves. E.L. has simply taken a text in the public domain, it was first published in 1920 [reads like it was 1820], and spruced it up with a new introduction. A massive colonial belch, to be used as a door stopper, or to throw at small rodents, rather than something to actually read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Westward Woess

    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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lloyd Earickson

    Well, I did it again1. When I consulted my reading list to pick a new book to read after finishing Meditations With Cows, instead of picking a new or well-known or at least commonly approachable book2 that people actually would search for3 and by extension perhaps find my site4, I picked another ancient text5 that only a few people have heard of and fewer decide to read. Let it never be said that I am a slave to the search engine algorithms6. That being said, it does continue my tour of historic Well, I did it again1. When I consulted my reading list to pick a new book to read after finishing Meditations With Cows, instead of picking a new or well-known or at least commonly approachable book2 that people actually would search for3 and by extension perhaps find my site4, I picked another ancient text5 that only a few people have heard of and fewer decide to read. Let it never be said that I am a slave to the search engine algorithms6. That being said, it does continue my tour of historic pieces of world literature (we recently reviewed The Bhagavad Gita, and The Story of Burnt Njal, checking off (roughly) India and Iceland, plus the Middle East7 with the Babur-Nama), and I have legitimately been interested in reading this for awhile, it being one of the few historical autobiographies from that region of the world. In truth, doing a sort of world-tour of ancient literature is proving a very fascinating exercise, and one that I would wholly recommend (as long as you have some patience8). The Babur-Nama is part memoir and part diary9 of Babur, who came from the region modernly known as the Middle East around the year 1500 CE10. It chronicles much of his life, and as such is a fascinating insight into the mindset of a ruler of that time and region11, as well as the peoples and cultures that populate the pages. If you have some knowledge of the modern Middle East, this text will give you a lot of insight into how some of those situations came to be, and from whom the modern peoples are descended from and what those ancestors were like. Some knowledge of the modern Middle East will also help you keep track of and contextualize the place names, many of which have lasted into the present in some form or another. Although geographically much of the story's action centers around Kabul, the focus is mostly on Hindustan (which is a region that seems to compose most of the northwestern parts of modern Pakistan and India). Five times Babur made expeditions into Hindustan before finally conquering it12. He also has to take and retake Kabul several times, takes and loses Samarkand on various occasions, fights repeatedly over modern Kandahar province, defends a region called Farghana13, and wages various campaigns with and against a multitude of Afghan tribes. Yet for all that fighting, some of it detailed quite thoroughly (like in The Story of Burnt Njal, there are some very oddly minute moments, like once when someone's index finger is smote off), what keeps this book interesting (and it really was interesting, at least to me) is just how unique and different14 the view that is presented is from most anything with which I was previously familiar. I hate to call it world-building, or compare it to invented cultures in alternative world fantasy, because that seems rather derogatory towards these real-life cultures, but truly this real-world tale felt at times far more unique and alien than a science fiction novel with a non-human viewpoint, and in the most fascinating ways (it also had far, far less pronounceable names). It is a masterclass in immersive15 "world-building," because to Babur there was nothing alien or out of the ordinary about chopping someone to pieces16 if they did something wrong, mustering an army to go conquer some new lands, having multiple wives, or being completely assured of your divine right to suzerainty, and so he simply reports these things as matter-of-factually as he reports when he happens to "eat a confection17." Actually, he probably makes a bigger deal about deciding to eat a confection than he does about deciding to chop off someone's head. I think this is what really makes it so fascinating. Since part of it is written as a memoir (this part can be quite slow at times, but is still interesting), and part as a diary, we sometimes get detailed, day-by-day insight into Babur's thoughts and actions as he goes about his daily life. Like anyone today who keeps a diary, some days are shorter than others - there is one entry on which he simply says he dismounted in such and such a place and "had a violent discharge18." Before you judge a man for what he wrote five hundred years ago, think how you may be judged five hundred years from now for what you posted on social media19. The internet is forever... For as fascinating as I did find it, it was not an easy piece to read. First of all, it has a lot of footnotes20. Almost three thousand of them, in fact. Some of the footnotes were referencing other notes, or the appendices (of which there are also many21), or completely different books. Some of the footnotes were in different languages, with no English translation. Even some of the footnotes had footnotes. I found that I was spending so much time flipping back and forth that I wasn't gleaning anything from the text - my progress got much smoother and more engaging when I started reading blocks of twenty footnotes at a time22, switching back to the text until I'd read through those twenty footnotes, and then reading the next twenty footnotes, going back to the text, and so on. However, I would not recommend skipping the footnotes, as a fair number of them offer useful information23 or insights into the context of the diary, or the choices of the translator. By the way, as usual, my standard translation disclaimer applies here: I did no special research into what translations of the Babur-Nama are best, but I did learn a great deal about the translation process and the differences that can arise between translations from...the footnotes24. There is in fact more supplemental material than there is actual text, by a ratio of almost 2:1. The second challenge to reading this book is how disjointed it can be, because there is often little context for a modern reader25. Plus, there are apparently large gaps where text has been lost, destroyed, or was never written (Babur apparently died before he could finish the memoir, and did not always keep his diary26). Had the translator not provided bridges for these gaps, explaining what historians think may have been happening during those times and helping set up the next batch of translated text, I would have become completely lost. As it was, it could still be jarring, because in some cases historians simply don't know what Babur was doing for extended periods of time. Keeping track of all of the names and places and relationships27 and cultural norms and historical contexts could also get confusing at times, but I read The Wheel of Time, which has over two thousand named characters, so I think I was well-prepared to handle that part. Aside from insight into history and culture, this also gave insight into the Muslim religion and its various denominations28, which to me has always seemed the most distinct of the Abrahamic faiths. Particularly notable are the ways in which Babur's faith influences his interactions with those not of the same faith, and the varying degrees and ways in which people who do share the faith follow its precepts and Laws29. I took awhile to get through this book30, which is okay because I'm still well ahead in my book reviews31, but I genuinely am glad that I took the time to read it, because I really do think I learned a great deal and gained many new insights from making my way through it. So yes, while this is a difficult read, I do recommend that you consider reading the Babur-Nama soon32. [1] This is a sample of a footnote. You will find them throughout this post, just like the nearly three thousand of them that populate the pages of the Babur Nama [2] Like, for instance, Rhythm of War, although I suppose there's an argument to be made that a 1400 page epic fantasy that is the fourth book in a series is not entirely "approachable" [3] By search, I here refer to the ability of people in the early 21st century to input text into a tool called a search engine and be then provided with results [4] IGCPublishing.com [5] Whether the Babur Nama counts as ancient could also be a matter of debate, since it's only about five hundred years old [6] This is, of course, a literary device to express a tendency to make choices based on what will be most likely to boost a site's ranking in the mysterious search engine results (see [3]) [7] I say the Middle East, but a significant amount of the book also takes place in India [8] Like the patience to read nearly three thousand footnotes [9] The earliest parts are what Babur completed as an intentional memoir before he died, while the parts describing the rest of his life are diary entries that it is supposed he intended to eventually convert into memoir form. The diary entries are actually much more interesting and less ponderous than the memoir portions [10] The book gives dates in AD, which have in turn been translated from a system called AH, in which Babur originally wrote [11] For instance, the idea, very foreign to a modern American audience, that some people are born with the right to rule, and others are not [12] Well, sort of. He hadn't entirely brought it under control by the time he died, and his son apparently lost it, and so it had to be retaken later on by Emperor Akbar (no relation to the Admiral), who also has a memoir. I'm not sure I'll bother to read that one, too [13] It is worth noting that all of the spellings I've included here are approximate, because I don't know how to include the variety of accent and modifying marks that the text itself uses through my site editor [14] Phrases like "for the sake of this five-days fleeting world," and references to the "seven climes" are fantastic examples [15] By this I mean the idea of not intentionally explaining the "alien" components of a world to the reader, but rather simply using the terms and ideas as if they were normal and letting the reader pick up on them by context [16] Or flayed alive, or any number of other lovely punishments. It was not what you might call a rigorous criminal justice system. They also had a tendency to have approximately zero respect for the concept of private property [17] Granted, there is some basis to suggest that these confections were laden with opium [18] That's an actual diary entry in the book [19] Posting every single day about what you had for dinner for all the world to see is probably even more egotistical than writing in your diary that you ate a confection. Just saying [20] Kind of like this post [21] A through V, I believe [22] Sometimes more, depending on how densely packed they were [23] Unlike this one [24] Are you enjoying all of these footnotes yet? [25] You know, I wonder about using the term "modern." If this is the modern age, when will we know we are in the age that comes next, and what will it be? It's like the question of what comes after the "Common Era." The Uncommon Era? [26] Still, he kept it much more consistently than the handful of times that I've tried to start a diary, which has typically lasted for now more than four days [27] In the memoir portions, Babur subjects his readers to extensive (and very judgmental) biographies of almost everyone who is ever mentioned. With how similar all of the names are, this can be very intimidating, but I found that, like in most books, if you just read along and remember the names that are repeated often you'll be able to follow the action well enough [28] This book comes significantly after the major splits in the Islamic faith occurred, so does not go into those origins, but it does provide some insight into how those groups interacted, and continue to interact to this day - a grasp of these denomination differences is a key component of understanding the peoples, cultures, and situation of the modern Middle East [29] For instance, it is against the Law to imbibe intoxicating beverages. Babur follows this law until he's almost thirty, then spends a decade going to wine parties and getting drunk seemingly every day (he mentions it often in his diary, alongside eating possibly opium-laden confections), and then has this big moment where he renounces alcohol and orders all of his wine glasses destroyed and the pieces given away [30] About two and a half weeks [31] I'm writing this one in early March, despite that it won't be posted until May [32] Well, that's the last of the footnotes, and the end of the post. You may just find it confusing or annoying now, but once you have experienced the footnote extravaganza that is the Babur Nama, I think you will understand why including all of these footnotes in the review is amusing

  15. 5 out of 5

    Liam

    "'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 "'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)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sami

    This is a real life game of thrones... Told from the first hand perspective of a man who would go from being a small chieftain of a tribe to the founder of one of the greatest dynasties in the last thousand years - the intrigue, compromises, change of fortunes make up for excellent reading - there is enough material here for dozens of movies and TV series It's also remarkable and unique in the sense that it's a first hand perspective, unlike anything else ever found in recorded history and is ver This is a real life game of thrones... Told from the first hand perspective of a man who would go from being a small chieftain of a tribe to the founder of one of the greatest dynasties in the last thousand years - the intrigue, compromises, change of fortunes make up for excellent reading - there is enough material here for dozens of movies and TV series It's also remarkable and unique in the sense that it's a first hand perspective, unlike anything else ever found in recorded history and is very frank and honest - from my perspective I enjoyed reading even the intricate details of all his acquaintances and the flora and fauna and demography of all the places he visit, truly unique and insightful

  17. 4 out of 5

    Abdaali

    This book will take you back in time and make you wanna quit your day job and travel to central asia from samarkand to dilli . Truman said : In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves... self-discipline with all of them came first. This book is for anyone who is interested in a great adventure,which this book is nothing short of , the life of Babur the founder of mughal empire his struggles. A very good read indeed.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bryn Hammond

    An appreciation by Amitav Ghosh: http://www.amitavghosh.com/essays/lov... An appreciation by Amitav Ghosh: http://www.amitavghosh.com/essays/lov...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robert Sheppard

    WORLD LITERATURE CLASSICS FROM MUGHAL DYNASTY INDIA---GHALIB--MASTER OF THE LOVE GHAZAL, SAUDA--MASTER SATIRIST, KABIR--POET SAINT OF RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE, MIR TAQI MIR, BANARASIDAS, BABUR, JAHANGIR AND AKBAR THE GREAT---FROM THE WORLD LITERATURE FORUM RECOMMENDED CLASSICS AND MASTERPIECES SERIES VIA GOODREADS—-ROBERT SHEPPARD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF THE MUGHAL EMPIRE IN INDIA (1526-1857) In the 1500's the Mughals under their leader Babur made their way into India, expanding under Akbar the Great, and bui WORLD LITERATURE CLASSICS FROM MUGHAL DYNASTY INDIA---GHALIB--MASTER OF THE LOVE GHAZAL, SAUDA--MASTER SATIRIST, KABIR--POET SAINT OF RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE, MIR TAQI MIR, BANARASIDAS, BABUR, JAHANGIR AND AKBAR THE GREAT---FROM THE WORLD LITERATURE FORUM RECOMMENDED CLASSICS AND MASTERPIECES SERIES VIA GOODREADS—-ROBERT SHEPPARD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF THE MUGHAL EMPIRE IN INDIA (1526-1857) In the 1500's the Mughals under their leader Babur made their way into India, expanding under Akbar the Great, and built one of the most remarkable empires in history before being suceeded by the rule of the British Empire. They extended their sway over the greater part of South Asia bringing an era of peace and stability that allowed the economy and society to flourish. The Mughal Empire ruled over 150 million people at a time when Britain had fewer than 10 million, France less than 20 and even the comparable Ottoman Empire less than 30 million. They stimulated a wide range of cultural interactions and transformations that were to enrich the Indian world in remarkable ways,, from miniature painting, to calligraphy and the growth of the Urdu language and script to the splendor of the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of world architecture. Equally important if less well appreciated in the West is the magnificent literature the Mughals produced and patronized, first in the imperial language of the court, Persian, and from the early eighteenth century, in Urdu, a north Indian language closely related to Hindi but using the Mughal Persian script and adding a large vocabulary of loan-words and cultural allusions, genres and aesthetics from Persian and Muslim Arabic. Writers of global significance from this period include such renown figues as Ghalib, master of the ghazal love poem, Sauda the great prose satirist, the Jain writer Banarasidas, Mir Taqi Mir, the great poet of religious tolerance Kabir, and even the journals and lagacies of the Mughal Emperors themselves, such as Babur, Jahangir and Akbar the Great. Though geographically the sub-continent of India is somewhat isolated from its Eurasian surroundings by the barrier of the Himalayas, it has nonetheless remained a significant "crossroads of the world" in which movements of peoples and cultures have brought great cross-fertilization from the time of the arrival of the Vedic Aryans onward to include the movements of Greeks and Persians, Kushans and Scythians, Buddhist monks from China and Japan, Mongols and Timurids, Muslims, the Portugese, French and the global British Empire. As such it has also been renown as a cradle of spirituality, the origin of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and other religions, as well as bearing the influence of other religious traditions such as Christianity and Islam. The Moghal Empire was one of the three Muslim empires which arose following the Mongol destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 13th century, which were often referred to as the "Gunpowder Empires" as part of their power and consolidation arose from the use of firearms and cannon, as exemplified in the Ottoman Janissary Corps. Thus the Ottoman Empire (1300-1922), the Safavid Persian Empire (1501-1736)which institutionalized the Shi'a religion in Iran, and the Mughal Empire (1526-1857) bridged the era from the fall of the Caliphate to the Mongols to the rise of global Western Imperialism. At the early stages they dwarfed the European states and their relative demise was anything but a foregone conclusion, the Ottomans almost taking Vienna; if America had not been discovered global history might have turned out quite otherwise. As the West ascended to supremacy reinforced by the Renaissance, Reformation, Scientific Revolution and Industrial Revolution their empires gradually dismembered and absorbed their relatively stagnant Islamic rivals, particularly the modernizing Russian Empire (1547-1917) to the north and the economically, scientifically and culturally dynamic British Empire (1497-1970), which was destined to supplant all three as the largest and most powerful empire in all of world history, ruling over more than one-fourth of all global land area and human population. Nonetheless, for centuries the three Islamic empires constructively competed and also learned from each other cultually, sharing the Arabic language,Islamic religion and sharia law in the religious domain, as well as the Persian language for administration, diplomacy and culture in the royal courts, forming an impressive era of Islamic civilization. The mission of the World Literature Forum is to introduce to readers coming from their own national literary traditions such as the West, to the great writers of all the world's literary traditions whose contribution and influence beyond their own borders have had an influence on the formation of our emerging World Literature in our age of globalization, unprecedented travel and interaction of cultures including the instantaneous global communications of the Age of the Internet and the cross-border e-Book. The contributions of India and the Muslim world including those of the Mughal Dynasty in India form a rich part of this common heritage of mankind. KABIR, RENOWN POET OF RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE AND SPIRITUALITY An early figure in the mixing of the Vedic and Muslim traditions was that of the poet Kabir (1440-1518) born as an illegitimate child of a Brahmin mother in Varanasi who was raised by a Muslim family, then became a desciple of the Vaisnava Saint Ramananda. As such he turned away from the intolerance of sectarian religion on all sides and strove for the unification of all spiritual traditions in an ecumenical mysticism, Muslim, Sufi, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist, seeking after a simple "oneness" with God in all manifestations. He was also a staunch champion of the poor and oppressed and a devoted opponent of social injustice in all forms. Persecuted at times by all sides in the collision of faiths, Kabir's legend describes his victory in trials by a Sultan, a Brahmin, a Qazi, a merchant and god, and he became the subject of folk legends that still inspire tolerance in sectarian strife between Muslims and Hindus down to the present. His greatest work is the "Bijak" (the "Seedling"), an idea of the fundamental oneness of man, and the oneness of man and God. He often advocated leaving aside the Qur'an and Vedas and simply following the Sahaja path, or the Simple/Natural Way to Oneness in God. He believed in the Vedantic concept of atman, but unlike earlier orthodox Vedantins, he spurned the Hindu societal caste system and murti-pujan (idol worship), showing clear belief in both bhakti and Sufi ideas. The major part of Kabir's work was collected as a bhagat by the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev, and incorporated into the Sikh scripture, "Guru Granth Sahib." An example of his poetry showing openess and tolerance is "Saints, I See the World is Mad:" Saints, I See the World Is Mad Saints, I see the world is mad. If I tell the truth they rush to beat me, If I lie they trust me. I've seen the pious Hindus, rule-followers, early morning bath-takers--- killing souls, they worship rocks. They know nothing. I've seen plenty of Muslim teachers, holy men reading their holy books and teaching their pupils techniques. They know just as much. And posturing yogis, hypocrites, hearts crammed with pride, praying to brass, to stones, reeling with pride in their pilgrimage, fixing their caps and their prayer-beads, painting their brow-marks and arm-marks, braying their hymns and their couplets, reeling. The never heard of soul. The Hindu says Ram is the Beloved, The Turk says Rahim. Then they kill each other. No one knows the secret. They buzz their mantras from house to house, puffed with pride. The pupils drown along with their gurus. In the end they're sorry. Kabir says, listen saints: They're all deluded! Whatever I say, nobody gets it. It's too simple. THE MUGHAL EMPERORS AS AUTHORS---BABUR, AKBAR THE GREAT AND JAHANGIR BABUR The first Moghul Emperor, Babur (1483-1530) laid the foundations of the later empire by leading his army from the steppes and highlands of Samarkand and Afghanistan down into the plains of India. In addition to being a conqueror he was also a keen writer, and his autobiography, the "Baburnama" or "Memoirs of Babur" has been compared to the "Meditations" of Marcus Aurelius and the "Confessions" of Augustine and Rousseau, for its uncommon candor in the presentation of self. It is sometimes regarded as the first autobiography in the entire Muslim world, establishing the genre. His personality emerges from such small details as his correcting the spelling errors in the letters of his son and successor as Emperor, Humayun, and his catalogue of his likes and dislikes. He liked gardens with flowing water; he disliked India. Having conquered it, he writes of India: "It is a strange country. Compared to ours, it is another world, this unpleasant and inharmonious India." He did not stay long after the conquest but returned to the highlands; but his sons and successors did, making the Mughal Dynasty. AKBAR THE GREAT---EMPEROR OF RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE AND REASON Akbar the Great (1542-16050 was great in more ways than one, being not only a conquering general who extended the Mughal Empire southwards to take in nearly all of India, but also like Kabir a seeker after tolerance, peaceful coexistence and unity within the Empire across the divide of Hindu-Muslim sectarianism. He abolished the Muslim tax on other religious communities and encouraged intermarriage between Muslim and Hindu princes and princesses and royal courts. He was fond of literature, and created a library of over 24,000 volumes written in Sanskrit, Hindustani, Persian, Greek, Latin, Arabic and Kashmiri, staffed by many scholars, translators, artists, calligraphers, scribes, bookbinders and readers. Holy men of many faiths, poets, architects and artisans adorned his court from all over the world for study and discussion. He encouraged open and free debate and intercourse at the royal court between all the religions, even including atheists, first shifting his personal belief from orthodox Islam to the mystic Muslim interpretations of the Sufis, then reacting against the too prominent bigotry within his own Muslim faith to found a short-lived unsuccessful rationalist-syncretistic religion to unite all religions within India, termed Din-i-Ilahi, or Universal Peace. Needless to say, such efforts at religious tolerance and rationalism outraged fundamentalists within his own Muslim and other faiths, and ultimately his efforts, like those of Akhnaton in Egypt to found a more rationalist monotheism, were defeated by the reactionary clerics who after his death termed his policies heresy and returned to the traditions of orthodoxy and intolerance. JAHANGIR Jahangir, son of Akbar the Great and a Rajasthani Princess, was fluent in Hindi, though he composed his "Autobiography" in the court Persian of the royal family. While not so penetrating as that of Babur, it is strikingly modern in revealing his personality in modern dilemmas such as his struggle with substance abuse---addiction to wine and opium, his search for spirituality from both Hindu and Muslim sources, and his almost childlike fascination with the natural world, including a passion for exotic things such as American Turkeys, pineapples, and African zebras. SAUDA----THE GREAT MUGHAL SATIRIST Sauda is the penname of Mirza Muhammad Rafi (1713-1781) one of the greates prose writers, poets and satirists of the Urdu language. Urdu and Hindi, those peculiar twin languages of the Indian subcontinent are essentially the same language, yet divided into two by the usage of two different scripts for writing, Persian and Devangari, and the differing religions and cultures of their respective communities, being largely though not exclusively, Muslim and Hindu respectively. Urdu is also distinguished by the heavy influence of court Persian and of Arabic from the mosque. While Urdu literary culture was generally conservative, Sauda was anything but tradition-bound. With fierce independence of mind and an acid tongue, little around him escaped his wit and caustic laceration, including the Mughal Emperor himself. The Emperor fancied himself a good poet and often summoned literary men to hear him recite his works. Being thus called into the presence of the emperor, he remarked that his Royal Highness had composed a great many poems, asking him: "How many poems do you compose a day?" "Three or four couplets a day, if I am inspired......" answered the Emperor, then adding a boast, "........I can even compose four whole poems sitting in the bathroom!" "They smell like it," replied Sauda. Escerpt from Sauda's Satires---"How to Earn a Living in Hindustan" "Better to keep silent than try to answer such a question, for even the tongues of angels cannot do justice to the answer. There are many professions which you could adopt, but let us see what difficulties will beset you in each of them these days. You could buy a horse and offer yourself in service in some noble's army. But never in this world will you see your pay, and you will rarely have both a sword and a shield by you, for you must pawn one or the other each day to buy fodder for your horse; and unless the moneylender is kind to you, you or your wife must go hungry, for you will not get enough to feed you both. You could minister to the needs of the faithful in a mosque, but you would find asses tethered there and men young and old sitting there idle and unwilling to be disturbed. Let the muezzin give the call to prayer and they will stop his mouth, for no one cares for Islam these days.....You could become a courtier of some great man, but your life would not be worth living. If he does not feel like sleeping at night, you too must wake with him, though you are ready to drop, and until he feels inclined to dine, you may not, though you are faint with hunger and your belly is rumbling. Or you could become his physician; but if you did, your life would be passed in constant apprehension, for should the Nabob sneeze, he will glare at you as though you ought to have given him a sword and buckler to keep off the cold wind. You will live through torture as you watch him feed. He will stuff himself with sweet melon and cream and then fish, and then cow's tongue, and with it all fancy breads of all kinds; and if at any stage he feels the slightest pain in his stomach, then you, ignorant fool are to blame, though you were Bu Ali Sina himself......Here there is nothing but the struggle to live; there, nothing but the tumult of the Judgment Day." BANARASIDAS----JAIN MASTER OF AUTOBIOGRAPHY Banarasidas was a merchant member of the Jain religious community in the mid-1600's who left behind in his "Half a Tale" one of the remarkable autobiographies of World Literature. It tells of his sorrow as a young man at the death of Emperor Akbar the Great in 1605, and the main occupations of his life, the quest for merchant success and the greater quest for spiritual fulfillment. It is not a mere succession of years, as the autobiography of Babur tends to be, but an inner dialogue of spiritual questioning and search. In Banarasidas, the writer conveys a more vivid sense of himself as self in his world than in the case of Jahangir. As a merchant, the archetypal "self made man," he explores the unique consciousness of such a process of "self-making." If the transition to Modernity turns on new forms of self-awareness, then Banarasidas begins this process in South Asia even as writers such as Montaigne began it in Europe. MIR TAQI MIR & GHALIB, MASTERS OF THE URDU GHAZAL AND LOVE POETRY The Ghazal love poem, or "Conversation with the Beloved" is one of the great traditions in Urdu and Indian tradition, being sung at weddings and celebrations as a living tradition. Mir Muhammad Taqi Mir (1723-1810) along with Ghalib (1797-1869) were two of the grandmasters of the genre, living in the days of the final decline and dismemberment of the Mughal Empire and the rise of the British Raj. Mir's love poems became classics of the genre, enjoyed by both Hindus and Muslims for their supple grace and lyrical expressiveness. He also left behind an autobiography, written in Persian, which relates his obsessions, his private life with his father, an eccentric Sufi mystic, and the misery of public life in Dehli where the Emperor was reduced to an impotent figurehead hardly even in command of one city, his own capital. Ghalib was one of the greatest poets in two languages, Urdu and Persian, and was, like Byron, an aristocratic rebel, religious sceptic and outsider who was difficult for either his friends or enemies to understand or deal with. Also like Byron, Ghalib made himself a leading figure in his poems, assuming the stature of a kind of "Byronic Hero." Ghazals usually ended with some personal reference to the poet, but Ghalib built this tradition up to Byronic proportions, fashioning his persona into a witty, sophisticated and melancholy commentator on his own life and the crumbling and corrupt world of society and the Mughal court around him. Though he wrote for the Emperor and the court, Ghalib was never a sychophant, and like Sauda, did not hesitate to express his dislike for the Emperor's own poetry and the claims of Muslim orthodoxy. Interrogated by the British during the 1857 Mutiny, he was asked by the British commander: "Are you a Muslim?" He curtly replied: "Half a Muslim: I drink wine but I don't eat pork." Ghalib is now considered as the greatest poet of the Urdu ghazal of any period. SPIRITUS MUNDI AND ISLAMIC LITERATURE My own work, Spiritus Mundi the contemporary and futurist epic, is also influenced by Islamic and Sufi literary traditions. It features one major character, Mohammad ala Rushdie who is a Sufi novice in the Mevlevi order who is also a modern social activists in the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly for global democracy. He in the course of the novel is taken hostage by terrorists and meets the Supreme Leader of Iran, urging him to "Open the Gates of Ijtihad," or reinvigorate Islamic tradition with creative reasoning and openness rather than binding it to blind precedent and unthinking tradition--much in the tradition of Kabir and Akbar the Great. Another historical chapter, "Neptune's Fury" features the sojourn of Admiral Sir George Rose Sartorius in the Maldive Islands where he encounters the "Sultan of the Sea of Stories" and during which he must, like the Schehereqade of the One Thousand and One Nights, tell a story each day to avoid execution by the Sultan. World Literature Forum invites you to check out the great writers of World Literature from the Mughal Age in India, and also the contemporary epic novel Spiritus Mundi, by Robert Sheppard. For a fuller discussion of the concept of World Literature you are invited to look into the extended discussion in the new book Spiritus Mundi, by Robert Sheppard, one of the principal themes of which is the emergence and evolution of World Literature: For Discussions on World Literature and n Literary Criticism in Spiritus Mundi: http://worldliteratureandliterarycrit... Robert Sheppard Editor-in-Chief World Literature Forum Author, Spiritus Mundi Novel Author’s Blog: http://robertalexandersheppard.wordpr... Spiritus Mundi on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17... Spiritus Mundi on Amazon, Book I: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CIGJFGO Spiritus Mundi, Book II: The Romance http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CGM8BZG Copyright Robert Sheppard 2013 All Rights Reserved

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nephilim

    Boy this took a long time to finish, partly since I didn't have the motivation to finish this, being an abridged version and all. Well that's that I suppose. Without boring you further with my rambling, let’s get in to the actual review. As mentioned in the synopsis, Baburnama is the autobiography of the emperor Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in India. The work is based on the journal that Babur diligently maintained throughout his life. One finds that the work to be concise, frank and t Boy this took a long time to finish, partly since I didn't have the motivation to finish this, being an abridged version and all. Well that's that I suppose. Without boring you further with my rambling, let’s get in to the actual review. As mentioned in the synopsis, Baburnama is the autobiography of the emperor Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in India. The work is based on the journal that Babur diligently maintained throughout his life. One finds that the work to be concise, frank and to the point. It’s a miracle as to how he found the time to do this daily, considering the political conditions prevalent in Central Asia at that time. Central Asia was in flux at that time, with the land changing hands between the existing nobility almost every other day.( That modern India, due to our good neighbour and friend finds itself unable to access Central Asia via land routes, is rather sad, seeing as the cultural linkages both regions share stretch back to antiquity.) But enough of that rant and back to the review. Not only does Babur highlight the prevalent political conditions of the region, but goes further beyond, describing the lay of the land, the climate and the people living there. Omitting his love for muskmelons would be criminal on my part, as he frequently reserves his highest praise for the aforementioned fruit. He was a poet par excellence, fluent in several languages. The work only serves to cement his erudition in the reader's mind, with several wonderful poems showing his prowess. He was a loyal friend, a great master and a doting father. He was most certainly a party animal, proof of which is amply available and present throughout the autobiography. Having said that, it should not be forgotten that he was equally ruthless (being the descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan), frequently raising pyramids of human skulls to daunt and subjugate his enemies. He was orthodox in outlook, though realistic enough to keep it in check when realpolitik took precedence. To criticize him for these faults would be shortsighted, seeing as he was but a product of his times. He was a capable strategist and tactician, employing artillery and Turkish tactics of using covered wagons, enabling him to establish an Empire in India. His description of battles is so marvelously written, that at times, the reader IS transported to the location being described. Moving on to the parts which actually motivated me to pick up the work in the first place, ie his conquest of India. His curiosity for the land and its people is clearly visible. He talked and described the flora, fauna, geography and culture of the land. He did not hold a high opinion of the people at the start. Whether this changed with time is not known, as there is no mention of such a change in attitude, if it did happen. Yet, his entries towards the end of his life (or might be the translations) do highlight a softening of attitude towards the people, with increasing mention of Hindu nobles being involved in his campaigns. The introduction of artillery especially would also change the nature of warfare in India, allowing the Mughals to create one of the largest and arguably the richest Empire the world had seen. While reading the works, my mind was frequently drawn to Machiavelli's Prince, a work that I read back in 2016. The qualities that Machiavelli's so highly regarded as important for a ruler can be clearly seen being manifested in Babur. It should therefore come as no surprise as to what Babur achieved in his life. A tyrant and benevolent; Ruthless yet cultured; A fox and a lion; Babur was able to balance these seemingly opposite dispositions sans difficulties. Readers paying close attention to the work will also notice the minimal to almost non-existent presence of women in his life. Baring his mother and grandmother, women played almost no role in his life. He did however speak highly of his grandmother and mother who drilled in the cultural and poetic capabilities that he was so proud of. Another peeve of mine would be the fact that I was bombarded with similar sounding names, which was another reason why I did take so much time to finish the damn work. But then again, the guy had to administer a large empire. It’s impressive that he did remember the name of his retainers. Definitely a better memory than mine. Last but not least, kudos to Dilip Haro, who does a great job with this translation, succeeding in bringing out the personality and mindset of Babur. I would recommend the book for both casual readers as well as students of history who look to deepen their knowledge on various topics of that time period.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Priyam Roy

    Essentially the diary of Babur, filled with his observations, intuitions, and details from his life. It's interesting to unravel the medieval way of thinking. One think that stuck out with me is the amount of stress Babur had to undergo, often it is thought that royalty and power lead to a relaxed and lavish life, but that notion does not hold true for Babur, as the pages largely tell the story of one battle after another until the day he dies. Essentially the diary of Babur, filled with his observations, intuitions, and details from his life. It's interesting to unravel the medieval way of thinking. One think that stuck out with me is the amount of stress Babur had to undergo, often it is thought that royalty and power lead to a relaxed and lavish life, but that notion does not hold true for Babur, as the pages largely tell the story of one battle after another until the day he dies.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    Written by a medieval Central Asian emperor, this book tells the history of the region via his memories. It was a little hard to follow for someone who wasn't already knowledgeable about the period and region, but it provided a good introduction. The book also included illustrations and photos from the region. Written by a medieval Central Asian emperor, this book tells the history of the region via his memories. It was a little hard to follow for someone who wasn't already knowledgeable about the period and region, but it provided a good introduction. The book also included illustrations and photos from the region.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Arun

    Very interesting memoir from one of the important persons in the history. The memoir is astonishing for babur's varied interests in life and the attention to detail he gives for matters like housing structure in India, fruits and flowers in India etc. Interesting read. Very interesting memoir from one of the important persons in the history. The memoir is astonishing for babur's varied interests in life and the attention to detail he gives for matters like housing structure in India, fruits and flowers in India etc. Interesting read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    An interesting read, but there are a lot of names to keep track of. This was worth reading and explains a lot of why that area of the world has always seemed unstable.

  25. 4 out of 5

    M Zishan

    I love this book...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Farida Ali

    Excellent autobiography of a troubled conqueror who through a series of gains and losses finally established an Empire.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sagar Khan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. very nice

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    That was tedious, but stars because it's a useful bit of history and I enjoy 16th century drunken horseback adventures That was tedious, but stars because it's a useful bit of history and I enjoy 16th century drunken horseback adventures

  29. 4 out of 5

    PTS Books Club

    Bāburnāma, literally: "Book of Babur" or "Letters of Babur"; alternatively known as Tuzk-e Babri; is the name given to the memoirs of Ẓahīr ud-Dīn Muḥammad Bābur (1483-1530), founder of the Mughal Empire and a great-great-great-grandson of Timur. It is an autobiographical work, originally written in the Chagatai language, known to Babur as "Turki" (meaning Turkic), the spoken language of the Andijan-Timurids. Because of Babur's cultural origin, his prose is highly Persianized in its sentence str Bāburnāma, literally: "Book of Babur" or "Letters of Babur"; alternatively known as Tuzk-e Babri; is the name given to the memoirs of Ẓahīr ud-Dīn Muḥammad Bābur (1483-1530), founder of the Mughal Empire and a great-great-great-grandson of Timur. It is an autobiographical work, originally written in the Chagatai language, known to Babur as "Turki" (meaning Turkic), the spoken language of the Andijan-Timurids. Because of Babur's cultural origin, his prose is highly Persianized in its sentence structure, morphology, and vocabulary,and also contains many phrases and smaller poems in Persian. During Emperor Akbar's reign, the work was completely translated to Persian by a Mughal courtier, Abdul Rahīm, in AH 998 (1589-90). The Bāburnāma is widely translated and is part of text books in no less than 25 countries mostly in Central, Western, and Southern Asia. It was first translated into English by John Leyden and William Erskine as "Memoirs of Zehir-Ed-Din Muhammed Baber: Emperor of Hindustan" and later by the British orientalist scholar Annette Akroyd. [Dilip Hiro is a playwright, political writer, journalist, historian and analyst specializing in South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Islamic affairs. He was born to Hindu parents in Larkana, British India, who migrated to independent India after partition in 1947. Hiro received a masters degree from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He currently lives in London, where he settled in the mid-1960s. Hiro is the author of 32 titles, the most recent being After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World (2010). His last but one title, Inside Central Asia: A Political and Cultural History of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Iran was listed as one of the best history books of the year by the Financial Times. His 30th book, Blood of the Earth: The Global Battle for Vanishing Oil Resources (2008), was described by Steven Poole in the Guardian as "encyclopaedic yet racily readable account of the economy, science and geopolitics of oil over the past century."]

  30. 4 out of 5

    Osama Siddique

    Even the early chapters - that deal with a boy orphaned at twelve and anxious to hold on to his idyllic and beloved Ferghana as he faces rebellion - Babur comes across as one with multifarious talents. There is the aesthete in him, lovingly describing the wonderful fruits, vistas and springs of his domain and then there is the psychologist, master-strategist and judge of character describing the strengths, failings and idiosyncrasies of his father's deputies and his allies as well as foes. This Even the early chapters - that deal with a boy orphaned at twelve and anxious to hold on to his idyllic and beloved Ferghana as he faces rebellion - Babur comes across as one with multifarious talents. There is the aesthete in him, lovingly describing the wonderful fruits, vistas and springs of his domain and then there is the psychologist, master-strategist and judge of character describing the strengths, failings and idiosyncrasies of his father's deputies and his allies as well as foes. This is a violent world (though which world isn't?) of men of voracious appetites, great physical prowess and frequent early and brutal demises. Babur survives all the instability (which means either the throne or a violent death) and vicious unpredictability of his early years of rule and yet also has the delicacy and pathos to refer to his father's accidental death while tending to his doves on the parapet of his fort in words to the effect: "Umar Shaikh Mirza flew, with his pigeons and their house, and became a falcon." Here is a warrior-poet if there ever was one.

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