About The Book
Babur was the founder of the mughal dynasty. An empire of wealth and splendor, sumptuous palaces and cities, exotic flower gardens and elaborate ceremonies, They were known for their love of learning and science, their munificent patronage of the arts- and of ruthless family struggles for succession.
Babur the son of Umar Sheikh was born in 1483 and as this well researched biography traces, he was an ambitious prince turned adventure. Babur was not only a remarkable soldier but also a fine poet.
This book is an entertainingly written history of the aggressive genius of Babur – of his progression from the tiny Ferghana to Hindustan and the wealth of knowledge he left behind when he passed away in 1530, by when he had conquered all of Hindustan and controlled an empire that extended from Deccan to Turkestan.
Once again, Harold Lamb does justice to an exemplary figure in history, a man who laid down the laws of ideal governance for the generations that succeeded him.
Though Harold Lamb had been a financial writer for the New York Times, he launched his full-writing career after World War I, in which he had served as an Infantryman.
Lamb’s first fiction successes came in the pages of Adventure magazine, immediately following World War I, Though his craft of constructing is characters remains unmatched, Lamb is one of the unsung fathers of modern fantasy.
After publishing his first bestselling book, a biography of Genghis Khan, Lamb turned more to writing history. Lamb turned more to writing history. Lamb wrote many fine biographies detailing the lives of world leaders like Tamber Lane, Babur the Tiger, Alexander the Great, Hanibal, and others. His two volume history of the crusaders is said to be particularly excellent and garnered him an award from the Persian Government in 1935.
BABUR WAS BORN in the year 1483 of the Christian calendar, in an obscure upland valley of central Asia. Except for that valley, his family possessed nothing but a twofold tradition of power. For, on his mother's side, the boy was descended remotely from Genghis Khan, master of the Mongol Ulus, and for a brief space of most of the known world. On his father's side he was descended more directly from Timur-i-lang, the Iron Limper, known to Europeans as Tamerlane, the Turkish conqueror. In his blood there was, accordingly. a tincture of the sagacious savagery of the Mongol race, and. much more forcibly, the energy of the Turks. This dual Turko-Mongol heritage derived, however, from a still more remote way of life-that of the nomads.
For uncounted ages the nomadic tribes of north-central Asia had sustained themselves by their animal herds, aided by their peculiar skill at hunting en masse. Their roads had been the thin watercourses; their land tenure, the good pasturages in the deserts; their refuge, the forested mountains. They had migrated over snow passes with all their possessions of sheep, horses, and collapsible, felt-covered yurts, seeking such refuge or better pasturages. At times, under an inspired leader, these moving clans federated to form a destructive army of all able-bodied men mounted on the enduring steppe ponies, armed chiefly with the double curved saddle bows, with chain mail or quilted leather jackets for protection. At times these nomad hosts would be driven out of their desert limbos by drought, by the pressure of stronger tribal entities, or simply by lust for the wealth of the outlying town-dwelling civilizations. This emergence of the predatory nomads occurred with something of the regularity of a natural law. In isolated western Europe the appearance of waves of Huns, Avars, Bulgars, Turks, and Mongols had been accepted as the visitation of the anger of God, or the breakout of the pent-up tribes of "Gog and Magog".
In Babur's case this ancestral way of life was much more than a memory. The nomadic instinct might be vestigial in him, yet living nomads became his lifelong enemies.
For these migrants of central Asia had developed peculiar abilities. Their unceasing struggle against a hard climate on bleak lands developed hardihood and initiative in meeting dangers; the necessity of protecting weaklings of the families, and the habitations and herds, at all times made them skilled organizers. It is no more than a cliche to say that often in war the hardened horse bowman of mid-Asia proved to be the master of the softened city dweller. It is seldom observed that this mastery came from a sharpened intelligence and adaptability to circumstances. One of the earliest missionaries from Rome remarked that in war the "Tartars" were less barbaric than the men-at-arms of Christian Europe. Hardly more than a generation before Babur, the far-wandering Othmanli Turks had captured almost impregnable Constantinople less by physical hardihood than by superior strategy in bridging the waters of the Bosphorus, in fortifying their bridgeheads, and using superior siege artillery.
Nor is it easily realized that the early victorious khans and sultans of central Asia proved to be highly effective organizers of their con- quests. Within two generations of the vast outward sweep under Genghis Khan, the demolition of the outer cities gave way to re- building. In China, which the Mongols called the Great Yurt, Kubilai Khan, its ruler, hardly decreed a "stately pleasure dome", but he did build a residence within a hunting preserve, and restore the trade routes, as Messer Marco Polo testified. Skilled organizers, the Mongol khans had a sense of world responsibility. Their Yuan dynasty in China headed an expanding empire; the ilkhans in Persia governed lands hitherto highly disorganized, by scientific measures, from their progressive city centre of Tabriz. Later on, the Othmanlis established a solid dominion-the "Ottoman Empire"-centred upon Constantinople, which had stagnated before their coming. At the same time Kambalu and Tabriz and Constantinople, which had been isolated from each other in the previous age, gained touch in trade as well as diplomacy. The ensuing peace, sometimes called the Mongol peace, was the result of able government more than increased military power. So had' been the pax Romana a thousand years before the coming of the Mongols.
While the iron rule of Rome had been based on a rigid system of laws, the rule of the Mongol khans had at first only the law of Yasa, or nomad code, articulated by Genghis Khan. The great conqueror envisioned the supremacy of his nomad aristocracy-"all those who dwell in felt yurts"-over the subjected agricultural populations. The force of this aristocracy of the steppe dwellers would lie, as he conceived, in the invincible army of the ordus, or hordes; the control would reside in his own descendants, the Altyn Uruk. The sole advisers of this ruling Golden Clan would be the noyons, the battle- wise commanders. But the great conqueror had not foreseen that his descendants would become educated by the outer world.
Within two generations many of them had made their last migration-to the outer cities of wealth. It is aptly said that before Kubilai Khan, his grandson, had finally conquered China of the degenerating Sung Dynasty, China had conquered Kubilai. Religion also played a part in the cleavage of the Golden Clan. At the time of their conquests, the Turko-Mongols had been pagans; tolerant of, or in- different to, the religions of the outer world. By degrees the Yuan monarchs became converted to Buddhism and the ilkhans of Persia to Islam. In fact, by Babur's day the strict Law of Islam had replaced the Vasa throughout the vast region from the icebound plateau of Tibet to the far waters of the Volga. There the commandment of Muhammad had defeated the rule of Genghis Khan.
So in the outer civilizations the heirs of the conqueror became isolated from each other, and the steppe aristocracy of Mongol noyons and Turkish tarkhans slowly disintegrated within the cultured society of settled landowners, merchants, and their philosophers and religious mentors. Again the natural law of conflict of surviving nomads against agricultural societies resumed its course. Because two of the areas of Eurasia given as appanages by Genghis Khan to his sons remained nomadic, holding more or less to the Yasa.
For the sweep of Turko-Mongol conquests had wrought great changes in the outer kingdoms, even as far as the cities of Kievan Russia, and the borderland of feudal Poland-Lithuania to the waters of the Danube. But it brought about little change within the Turko-Mongol homelands. There the inhabitants remained nomadic, destroying town settlements-but not the caravan cities-s-and resuming the endemic conflict of one tribal group against another for mastery.
Far to the northwest of Babur's valley, the desolate steppes from the Ural River to the Irtish had been the appanage of Juchi, eldest and most errant of the conqueror's sons. Under Batu, son of Juchi, this remote ordu had become known to Europeans as the Golden Horde, perhaps from the splendour of its pavilions in the encampment moving along the east bank of the Volga, when Chaucer wrote:
Its khans of the House of Juchi remained isolated from the other khanates, remote from outer civilizations except that of the rude Russian stockaded towns. Islamization of these dark steppes proceeded only slowly. When the Golden Horde broke apart in centrifugal strife, portions retreated east from the Volga, becoming known as the Kipchak, or desert folk. About the time the Othmanlis took Constantinople. However, a new hard core formed among the Kipchak people, calling itself the Uzbek, an old Turkish word signifying Self-Chieftains. The word is somewhat obscure. But the host of the Uzoek mounted bowmen pressed hard upon the lands of the House of Chagatai.
Chagatai had been the second son of Genghis Khan. His appanage had been the heart of central Asia, above the Tibetan plateau. It consisted of steppe and deserts rising to the spine of Asia, where the Th'ian Chan joined the Hindu Kush at the cloudy Pamirs. And it had remained virtually as nomadic as the steppes of the Uzbeks. Yet islets of culture endured where the continental trade routes met, especially around shrines, whether Nestorian Christian or Islamic. Town centres like Kashgar, Almalyk, and Bishbalik (The Five Cities), overrun during the first Mongol conquest.,were being reoccupied by the descendants of Chagatai. By so doing they went against the ancestral rule of the Yasa. While they guarded their personal treasures in the walled cities, they still migrated with their tribes from winter grazing along the rivers to summer pasturage on the mountains. These surviving Chagataian khans formed a rude nobility, ruling more from horseback than from any throne. They moved in a deep obscurity, having no literature of their own. They became locked in mutual conflict. To the east of the great mountain spine, their chief city was Kashgar, now within the sphere of Chinese influence. There the country was known as Moghulistan-Land of the Mongols-who, in the estimation of the Chinese, were no better than bandits.
To the west of the barrier mountains, the khans held themselves to be the true descendants of Chagatai; they had their citadel in walled Tashkent, the Stone City, out in the rolling prairies over which the caravans followed the Great North Road to China where the silk came from. They held their grazing lands with difficulty against the intrusion of pagan Kirghiz and nomadic Kazaks, and they were fairly in the path of the great Uzbek move to the south. From this branch of the House of Chagatai, Babur descended through the hardy grandsire, who although master of the Stone City, could not pronounce Babur's given name.
Now, the southwest corner of the appanage of Chagatai differed in startling fashion from the rest of it. Here fertile upland valleys dipped to the great plain between two rivers that flowed into the Aral Sea. And here two ancient cities formed islands of culture against the nomadic inundation. Bokhara was renowned for its shrines and academies of Islam; Samarkand, for its palatial spleen-dour and trade. Around them an agricultural society survived on irrigated fields. Along this valley chain between the rivers Amu and Syr, the Law of Islam had almost replaced the Yasa. And precisely here the single brilliant Turk, Timur-i-lang, had arisen at the end of the fourteenth century. Timur had made Sam ark and his citadel and enriched it with the spoils of his campaigns. This Iron Limper, raising high the standards of Islam, had led his counterattack against the nomad forces, scattering the remnants of the Golden Horde of Batu, and the Chagataian khans with those of Moghulistan. In his last years Timur had made Samarkand illustrious, had scourged the plain of northern India, crushed the victorious army of the Othmanli sultans, and made the name of "Tamerlane" dreaded in far-off Europe. He died in 1405 on his way to invade China, where the Yuan Dynasty had yielded to the glory of the Ming.
Although centred in Samarkand, his brief state had been based on the culture of the Persian plateau to the west. Persian artisans had laid the tiles of its palaces among gardens, and Persian writers had immortalized the great conqueror who took no greater title than Amir, or Lord. Nor was Timur a true descendant of Genghis Khan, whose name was carved on his tombstone merely to add to his repute.
After the wars of Timur came the century-long Timurid renaissance, the most glorious age in the arts of central Asia. Under a son in Samarkand mid a grandson in Herat, within Khorasan, the brightness held, and artists laboured as in Florence in the west. For nearly forty years of uneasy peace the Timurid heirs held to the heart of the political dominion. As late as 1465 a Timurid ruler, Abu Sayyid, claimed sovereignty from the foothills of the Caucasus to Kashgar, beyond the mountains. By then the Uzbeks, heirs of the House of Juchi, had risen to their power as revenants holding to the Vasa, which the enlightened heirs of Timur had discarded.
After 1465 the rule of the Timurids disintegrated in strife among contenders, and the holder of Samarkand, with its throne, strove weakly to keep a truce between himself and his brothers. To the southwest, one brother occupied Herat, where the artists thronged; to the southeast, another brother held the highlands by the Hindu Kush whence sprang the great rivers Amu and Syr; to the south, a third brother seized Kabul in the Afghan lands beyond the barrier of the Hindu Kush. To the east, a fourth brother, the most feckless of all, held the farthest valley, Farghana. He was Babur's father.
It seemed as if fate, in this downfall of the Timurid princes, had dealt most unkindly with Babur in that remote valley, beneath the snow of the great ranges, yet easily approached from the Stone City, the abode of the heir of the Mongol Chagatais. Fairly snowed in for most of the year, the Valley of Farghana had the solitary life line of the caravan track running from Samarkand to the guarded out- posts of the Chinese Empire. It was, in fact, the frontier between the migrating nomads and the still illustrious city of Samarkand, between the farmer and the hunter, between the scholar and the barbarian. Remote and unheeded, its story seemed destined to be lost.
Yet Babur used a pen. He wrote in his little-known native Chagatai Turkish the story of Farghana and his own life. In the silence of that time he made his voice heard.
For, although written, his story comes to us after nearly five hundred years as if it were told in the evenings where he dismounted from the saddle by the fire before his tent, after pursuing or-as more often happened-being pursued by his enemies. And as he tells his story of daily happenings we begin to see the picture of an age, the last before the coming of the Europeans to "hold the gorgeous East in fee".
In Europe just then, in the obscure island of England, a nobleman of power laid his plans to be crowned as Richard III over the boy ruler, Edward; across the stormy Channel, the ten-year-old Bayard served his apprenticeship in the tilt yard, his thoughts not so much on the rank of chevalier as on the glory of the fleur-de-lis of France. Farther east, the monk Savonarola preached to growing crowds against the peril of their souls, unheeding as they were of the wrath of God. Europe itself at that time hardly extended farther east than the citadels of the Teutonic Knights, who confined their crusading to the slaying of pagans on the dark Baltic shore. True, out at sea, caravels of Portugal searched the western coast of Africa for a passage eastward to the legendary land ruled by Prester John. One stubborn mariner who had voyaged with them argued at Lisbon that it was possible to sail, instead, due west across the Ocean Sea to reach Asia. But the request of Christopher Columbus for caravels to be given him as captain of the Ocean Sea was not granted in those years.
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