Baburnama

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Illustrations in the Baburnama regarding the fauna of South Asia.
An image of Rhino hunt from Baburnama.

Bāburnāma (Chagatai/Persian: بابر نامہ‎;´, 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, written in the Chagatai language, known to Babur as "Turki" (meaning Turkic), the spoken language of the Andijan-Timurids. According to historian Stephen Frederic Dale, Babur's prose is highly Persianized in its sentence structure, morphology, and vocabulary,[1] 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).[2]

Overview[edit]

Bābur was an educated Timurid and his observations and comments in his memoirs reflect an interest in nature, society, politics and economics. His vivid account of events covers not just his life, but the history and geography of the areas he lived in and their flora and fauna, as well as the people with whom he came into contact.

Contents[edit]

The Bāburnāma begins with these plain words:[3]

After some background, Bābur describes his fluctuating fortunes as a minor ruler in Central Asia – in which he took and lost Samarkand twice – and his move to Kabul in 1504.

There is a break in the manuscript between 1508 and 1519. By the latter date Bābur is established in Kabul and from there launches an invasion into northwestern India. The final section of the Bāburnāma covers the years 1525 to 1529 and the establishment of the Mughal empire in India, which Bābur's descendants would rule for three centuries.

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[4] and later by the British orientalist scholar Annette Susannah Beveridge (née Akroyd, 1842–1929).

Praise[edit]

Babur's autobiography has received widespread acclaim from modern scholars. Quoting Henry Beveridge, Stanley Lane-pool writes:

His autobiography is one of those priceless records which are for all time, and is fit to rank with the confessions of St. Augustine and Rousseau, and the memoirs of Gibbon and Newton. In Asia it stands almost alone.[5]

Lane-pool goes on to write:

his Memoirs are no rough soldier's chronicle of marches and countermarches...they contain the personal impressions and acute reflections of a cultivated man of the world, well read in Eastern literature, a close and curious observer, quick in perception, a discerning judge of persons, and a devoted lover of nature; one, moreover, who was well able to express his thoughts and observations in clear and vigorous language.The shrewd comments and lively impressions which break in upon the narrative give Babur's reminiscences a unique and penetrating flavour. The man's own character is so fresh and buoyant, so free from convention and cant, so rich in hope, courage, resolve, and at the same time so warm and friendly, so very human, that it conquers one's admiring sympathy.The utter frankness of self-revelation, the unconscious portraiture of all his virtues and follies, his obvious truthfulness and fine sense of honour, give the Memoirs an authority which is equal to their charm. If ever there were a case when the testimony of a single historical document, unsupported by other evidence, should be accepted as sufficient proof, it is the case with Babur's memoirs. No reader of this prince of autobiographers can doubt his honesty or his competence as witness and chronicler.[5]

Writing about the time Babur came to India, the historian Bamber Gascoigne comments:

He was occupied at this time in linking in narrative form the jottings which he had made throughout his life as a rough diary, but he also found time for a magnificent and very detailed forty page account of his new acquisition—Hindustan. In it he explains the social structure and the caste system, the geographical outlines and the recent history; he marvels at such details as the Indian method of counting and time-keeping, the inadequacy of the lighting arrangements, the profusion of Indian craftsmen, or the want of good manners, decent trousers and cool streams; but his main emphasis is on the flora and fauna of the country, which he notes with the care of a born naturalist and describes with the eye of a painter...He separates and describes, for example, five types of parrots; he explains how plantain produces banana; and with astonishing scientific observation he announces that the rhinoceros 'resembles the horse more than any other animal' (according to modern zoologists, the order Perisodactyla has only two surviving sub-orders; one includes the rhinoceros, the other the horse). In other parts of the book too he goes into raptures over such images as the changing colors of a flock of geese on the horizon, or of some beautiful leaves on an apple tree.His progression with all its ups and downs from tiny Ferghana to Hindustan would in itself ensure him a minor place in the league of his great ancestors, Timur and Jenghiz Khan; but the sensitivity and integrity with which he recorded this personal odyssey, from buccaneer with royal blood in his veins revelling in each adventure to emperor eyeing in fascinated amazement every detail of his prize, gives him an added distinction which very few men of action achieve.[6]

Illustrations from the Manuscript of Baburnama (Memoirs of Babur)[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dale, Stephen Frederic (2004). The garden of the eight paradises: Bābur and the culture of Empire in Central Asia, Afghanistan and India (1483–1530). Brill. pp. 15,150. ISBN 90-04-13707-6. 
  2. ^ "Biography of Abdur Rahim Khankhana". Retrieved 2006-10-28. 
  3. ^ English translation
  4. ^ Bābur (Emperor of Hindustān) (1826). Memoirs of Zehir-Ed-Din Muhammed Baber: emperor of Hindustan. Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Lane-pool, Stanley. "Babar". p. 12–13. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  6. ^ Gascoigne, Bamber (1971). The Great Moghuls. London: Jonathan Cape; New York: Harper & Row. pp. 37–38, 42. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]