Our Very Own Baburnama

Being Babur’s biographer poses an interesting and welcome situation: the presence of an autobiography of the Mughal Emperor known as the Baburnama. This Baburnama is unique due to the fact that it is the only military memoir present in the Indian medieval tradition. Though military memoirs are found in plenty in the West, where there is an already established literary tradition of this kind (Xenophon, Julius Caesar, etc), this is the first of its kind in all of Islamic literature. The text is a lengthy one too, with 382 folio pages in the original Turkish language.

The other fascinating aspect for any Mughal biographer would be the presence of an illustrious life. Babur became a ruler at the tender age of 12. He acquired a large kingdom and died at the age of 47. The moment of his succession to the throne however was marred by bloodshed and war. Several uncles and cousins conspired covertly and overtly to overthrow his kingdom and this led to many wars.

At the age of 13, he led an army to Samarkand in what would be a defining moment in his military career. He eventually lost the region only to regain it later several times. He traced his ancestry to the famous Genghis Khan and this gave him a thirst for exploring and conquering the western part of Asia. He thus held great sympathy and curiosity for the traditions of western Asia.

After Samarkand, it is not surprising then that several other parts of Asia followed his conquest. He eventually came to what is now India. The Persianisation of the Indian sultanate can be directly attributed to this ruler. In India, among notable battles include the Battle of Panipat.

He conquered a big chunk of India and built several mosques and monuments – among them them the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya which was to become a notorious site centuries later. The only thing left for Babur perhaps to see in his military exploits was the view of the ocean. It is conjectured what would have happened if this illustrious leader had reached as far as the Indian Ocean. This is where the realm of history stops and that of the imagination begins!