The History of India: Medieval History - The Secret Will of Babur The History of India: Medieval History - The Secret Will of Babur

Friday, July 13, 2012

Medieval History - The Secret Will of Babur

Babur was born in 1483 AD in Farghana, a small principality in Central Asia. He ascended its throne in 1494 at the age of twelve at a difficult time when his small empire was surrounded on all sides by enemies. And so began his career which was more full of defeats and disappointments than victories and successes, until he died, in Agra, on December 26, 1530 at an early age of 47. 

He fought dangerous battles against Uzbegs, Chaghtais, Turks and Afghans; some of which proved nearly disastrous to him. Thrice he captured Samarqand, the capital of his forefathers, but every time he was driven out. He moved to Kabul, which he captured in 1504, and then to Hindustan. On his sixth invasion, he defeated the much larger army of Ibrahim Lodhi in the first Battle of Panipat in 1526 and finally overthrew the Lodhi empire. 

We know him as a general and founder of the Great Mughal Empire in India. What we do not know is that inspite of his 36 years' ventures in war, he was essentially a man of peace: an honest and a graphic chronicler, an author, a poet, whose two diwans (collections of poems) have come down to us; an ardent lover of nature and maker of beautiful gardens; and, above all, a humanist. 

Garden-craft was his unique contribution to the art and culture of this country which he finally adopted as his home. These gardens comprised of several receding terraces with a central canal, on a charbagh (four quartered) plan, associated with such other water devices shallow canals, lotus ponds and fountains. The gardens also consisted of architectural features like pathways, parterres and tree-avenues. It was upon his legacy that his successors developed such world famous terraced gardens as the Nishat and the Shalamar in Kashmir, tomb-gardens as those of Taj Mahal and palace gardens as in Red Fort and in Agra Fort.

Babur was a devout Sunni Muslim but there was no reference to suggest he was a bigot, or even an orthodox, and that he ever indulged in any iconoclastic measures during his 26 years of military campaign from Kabul to Ganga. so free was he of any worldly greed, religious bias or any other rigidity that he earned the title 'Qalander' (recluse). Throught his life he maintained a liberal view towards fine arts: poetry, music and painting. Babur was kindly disposed towards all his non-Muslim subjects with whom he practiced and advocated a policy of peaceful co-existence, tolerance and non-interference in their religious matters. An extremely important document is on record to vouchsafe for this particular phenomenon. 

In his own secret will, which he addressed to his son and heir Humayun, on January 11, 1529,  when he was staying at 'Bag-e-Nulufar' (the Lotus Garden) at Dholpur in Rajesthan, he wrote:

"Alll praise to Allah. Secret will of Zahir'al-Din Muhammed Babur to his son Prince Nasir'al-Din Muhammed Humayun. May God prolong his life. Written for the strength of the Empire. O my son, the empire of Hindustan consists of various religions. Dominations and sovereignty where of has been bestowed on you by the grace of the Almighty. It is incumbent that religious bigotries be wiped off the tablet of the heart, and justice meted out to each religion. Specially abstain from sacrifice of cows as this would tend to win the hearts of the people of Hindustan and the  populance of the country would be loyal to the Royal favours. The temples and places of worship of whatever religion under the Royal authority may not be desecrated. Such justice may be adopted that the King may be pleased with the Rayyat (subjects) and the Rayyat with the King. Overlook the dispute between the Shias and Sunnis since such weakness still persists in Islam. Establish administration with the Rayyat of various communities in accordance with the four principal elements so that the body of the empire may be free from different diseases. The model work done by his late Majesty Timur (Tamerlane) Sahib Qiran should always be kept before the mind so that you become mature in the work of administration."

Thus did Babur lay down the policy of governance of this country based on religious tolerance which was taken forward by Humayun and later Akbar. He warned his successors not to meddle in the religious affairs of the people and to leave them free to practice their religion in accordance with their own faiths and beliefs.  

(Excerpts from the article of Mr R Nath as published in The Hindu,  June 26, 1994)

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