A Strange Country, A Strange Sultan: Bâbürnâme's India
Bâbür (1483-1530) pioneered the autobiographical writing in Islamic literature. Babur's autobiography has several names: Bâbürnâme, Vekâyî, Vâkı'ât-ı Bâbürî, Vâkı'ât-ı Bâbür and Tüzük-i Bâbürî. We have preferred the widespread usage, Bâbürnâme, which was written by Bâbür in Chaghatay Turkish. Bâbürnâme does not encompass Bâbür's whole life. It has three chapters: Ferghana (1494-1503), Kâbil (1504-1520) and Hindustan (1525-1529). Bâbür tries to be objective in his autobiography but he can not escape from value judgements about his archenemy, Uzbek Şeybânî Han. Bâbür's main source of information about Timur and Timurid rule in India is Şerefüddin Yezdî's Zafernâme. In his autobiography Bâbür also mentions other works such as Habîb el-Siyer of Hând-Emîr and Tabaqât-ı Nâsırî of Mevlânâ Minhâcüddîn. He also mentions a few famous poets such as Firdevsî, Sâdî, Hâce Ubeydullah Ahrar, Molla Câmî and Ali Şir Nevâî, with whom he exchanged letters. Bâbür descended from both Timur and Chengis Khan. He claimed to be heir to the Mongol and Timurid legacy. Nevertheless, with respect to India he attached more importance to the Timurid legacy than the Mongol legacy. After his unsuccessful attempts at reviving Timurid rule in Semerqand, he succeeded in establishing Timurid rule in Delhi in 1526. Indian art and culture flourished under the patronage of Baburid rulers for more than two centuries, until mid-eighteenth century. Babür views himself as the third conqueror of India from the beginning of the Hegira calendar. The first conqueror, according to Babür, is Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna and the second one is Sultan Şehâbüddin Ghûrî. Bâbür views India as “a strange country” in terms of its people, its language, its climate and its nature. Striking analogies can be drawn between Bâbür's view of India and Bîrûnî's view of India. Bâbür tried to build “gateways to Paradise” from this strange country through his marvellous gardens.
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