THE MEMOIRS OF BABUR
The "Memoirs of Babur" or Baburnama are the work of the great-great-great-grandson of Timur (Tamerlane), Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (1483-1530). As their most recent translator declares, "said to 'rank with the Confessions of St. Augustine and Rousseau, and the memoirs of Gibbon and Newton,' Babur's memoirs are the first--and until relatively recent times, the only--true autobiography in Islamic literature." The Baburnama tells the tale of the prince's struggle first to assert and defend his claim to the throne of Samarkand and the region of the Fergana Valley. After being driven out of Samarkand in 1501 by the Uzbek Shaibanids, he ultimately sought greener pastures, first in Kabul and then in northern India, where his descendants were the Moghul (Mughal) dynasty ruling in Delhi until 1858.
The memoirs offer a highly educated Central Asian Muslim's observations of the world in which he moved. There is much on the political and military struggles of his time but also extensive descriptive sections on the physical and human geography, the flora and fauna, nomads in their pastures and urban environments enriched by the architecture, music and Persian and Turkic literature patronized by the Timurids. The selections here--all taken from his material on Fergana--have been chosen to provide a range of such observations from the material he recorded at the end of the 1490s and in the first years of the sixteenth century. It should be of some interest to compare his description of Samarkand with that of the outsider, Clavijo, from a century earlier.
This translation is based on that by Annette Beveridge, The Babur-nama in English, 2 v. (London, 1921), but with substantial stylistic revision to eliminate the worst of her awkward syntax. I have chosen to use Beveridge's indications of distances in miles rather than confuse the reader with the variable measure of distance provided in the original. An elegantly produced modern translation is that by Wheeler M. Thackston, The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor (Washington, D. C., etc., The Smithsonian Institution and Oxford University Press, 1996). I have consulted Thackston and occasionally used his readings and renderings of the place names where the Beveridge translation was obscure. I would warn readers that my editing of the text has been done in some haste; further work would be needed to improve the style and standardize usages.
Interspersed in the text are illustrations, some being contemporary views of places Babur describes; the others (which may be enlarged by clicking on the thumbnails) taken from the miniatures of an illustrated copy of the Baburnama prepared for the author's grandson, the Mughal Emperor Akbar. (The title page is here on the right.) It is worth remembering that the miniatures reflect the culture of the court at Delhi; hence, for example, the architecture of Central Asian cities resembles the architecture of Mughal India. Nonetheless, these illustrations are important as evidence of the tradition of exquisite miniature painting which developed at the court of Timur and his successors. Timurid miniatures are among the greatest artistic achievements of the Islamic world in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The main sections of what follows may be accessed directly by clicking on them in the Table of Contents. At the end of each section, clicking on the symbol [� ] returns one to the Table of Contents.
1. Description of Fergana.
2. Description of Samarkand.
3. Babur leaves Kesh and crosses the Mura Pass.
4. Babur takes Samarkand by surprise, July 28, 1500.
5. Babur in Samarkand.
6. Ali-Sher Nawa'i, the famous poet.
7. Babur leaves Samarkand, July 1501.
8. Babur in Dikhkat.
9. Shabaq (Shaibani) Khan's campaigns; winter conditions and mountain springs.
10. The acclaiming of the military standards according to Mongol tradition.
11. Babur's poverty in Tashkent.
SECTION I. FERGANA.
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
In the month of Ramzan of the year 899 (June 1494) and in the twelfth year of my age, I became ruler in the country of Fergana. [The miniature shows his enthronement.]
Fergana is situated in the fifth climate and at the limit of settled habitation. On the east it has Kashghar; on the west, Samarkand; on the south, the mountains of the Badakhshan border; on the north, though in former times there must have been towns such as Almaligh, Almatu and Yangi which in books they write Taraz, at the present time all is desolate, no settled population whatever remaining, because of the Moghuls and the Uzbeks.
Fergana is a small country, abounding in grain and fruits. It is girt round by mountains except on the west, i.e. towards Khujand and Samarkand, and in winter an enemy can enter only on that side.
The Saihun River commonly known as the Water of Khujand, comes into the country from the northeast, flows westward through it and after passing along the north of Khujand and the south of Fanakat, now known as Shahrukhiya, turns directly north and goes to Turkistan. It does not join any sea but sinks into the sands, a considerable distance below [the town of] Turkistan.
Fergana has seven separate townships, five on the south and two on the north of the Saihun.
One of those on the south is Andijan, which has a central position and is the capital of the Fergana country. It produces much grain, fruits in abundance, excellent grapes and melons. In the melon season, it is not customary to sell them out at the fields. There are no pears better than those of Andijan. After Samarkand and Kesh, the fort of Andijan is the largest in Mawara'u'n-nahr (Transoxiana). It has three gates. Its citadel (ark) is on its south side. Water flows into it by nine channels, but, oddly, flows out by none. Round the outer edge of the ditch runs a gravelled highway; the width of this highway divides the fort from the suburbs surrounding it. [The miniature illustrates Babur's siege of Andijan in 1499.]
Andijan has good hunting and fowling; its pheasants grow so surprisingly fat that rumour has it four people could not finish one they were eating with its stew.
Andijanis are all Turks; everyone in town or bazar knows Turki. The speech of the people resembles the literary language; hence the writings of Mir 'Ali-sher Nawa'i, though he was bred and grew up in Hin (Herat), are one with their dialect. Good looks are common amongst them. The famous musician, Khwaja Yusuf, was an Andijani. The climate is malarious; in autumn people generally get fever.
Osh is southeast-by-east of Andijan and about 33 miles from it by road. It has a fine climate, an abundance of running waters and a most beautiful spring season. Many traditions have their rise in its excellencies. To the southeast of the walled town lies a symmetrical mountain, known as the Bara Koh. On the top of this, Sultan Mahmud Khan built a retreat and lower down on its shoulder, in 902 AH (1496), I built another with a porch. Though his lies the higher, mine is the better placed, the whole of the town and the suburbs being at its foot.
The Andijan torrent goes to Andijan after having traversed the suburbs of Osh. Orchards lie along both its banks; all the Osh gardens overlook it. Their violets are very fine; they have running waters and in spring are most beautiful with the blossoming of many tulips and roses.
On the flank of the Bara-koh is a mosque called the Jauza Masjid (Twin Mosque). Between this mosque and the town, a great main canal flows from the direction of the hill. Below the outer court of the mosque lies a shady and delightful clover-meadow where every passing traveller takes a rest. It is the joke of the ragamuffins of Osh to let out water from the canal on anyone happening to fall asleep in the meadow. A very beautiful stone, with wavy red and white patterns, was found in the Bara Koh in 'Umar Shaikh Mirza's latter days. Knife handles, clasps for belts and many other things are made from it. For climate and for pleasantness, no township in all Farghana equals Osh. [Osh and its region were open to invasion through the mountains from Kashgar. The miniature shows Abubekr Duglat, the ruler of Kashgar and Khotan, attempting unsuccessfully to take Uzgend, northeast of Osh, in 1494.]
Some 47 miles by road to the west of Andijan is Marghilan, a fine township full of good things. Its apricots and pomegranates are most excellent. One sort of pomegranate, they call the Great Seed; its sweetness has a little of the pleasant flavour of an overripe apricot and it may be thought better than the Semnan pomegranate. They dry another kind of apricot and after stoning, stuff it with almonds. They call it subhani, and it is very palatable. The hunting and fowling of Marghilan are good: white deer [sheep?] are had close by. Its people are Sarts, boxers who are noisy and turbulent. Most of the noted bullies of Samarkand and Bukhara are Marghilanis. The author of the Hidayat was from Rashdin, one of the villages of Marghilan.
Another town is Isfara, in the hill-country more than 65 miles by road southwest of Marghilan. It has running waters, beautiful little gardens and many fruit-trees although for the most part, its orchards produce almonds. Its people are all Persian-speaking Sarts. In the hills some two miles to the south of the town, is a piece of rock, known as the Mirror Stone. It is some 10 arm-lengths long, as high as a man in parts, up to his waist in others. Everything is reflected by it as by a mirror. The hill country of Isfara district has four subdivisions--one Isfara, one Vorukh, one Sokh and one Uchyar. When Muhammad Shaibani Khan defeated Sultan Mahmud Khan and Alacha Khan and took Tashkent and Shahrukhiya, I went into the Sokh and Uchyar hill-country and from there, after about a year spent in great misery, I set out for Kabul.
Another town is Khujand, 187 miles by road to the west of Andijan and 154 miles east of Samarkand. Khujand is one of the ancient towns among whose sons were Shaikh Maslahat and Khwaja Kamal. Fruit grows well there; its pomegranates are renowned for their excellence. People talk of a Khujand pomegranate as they do of a Samarkand apple; just now however, Marghilan pomegranates are the ones in much demand. The walled town of Khujand stands on high ground; the Syr Darya (Saihun) River flows past it on the north at the distance of about an arrow's flight. To the north of both the town and the river lies a mountain range called Manoghal. where it is said there are turquoise and other mines and many snakes. The hunting and fowling-grounds of Khujand are first-rate; white deer, buck and doe, pheasant and hare are all very plentiful. The climate is very malarious; in autumn there is much fever. People rumour it about that the very sparrows get fever and say that the cause of the malaria is the mountain range on the north (i.e. Manoghal).
Kand-i-badam (Village of the Almond) is a dependency of Khujand; though it is not a full-fledged township, it is close to one. Its almonds are excellent, hence its name; they all are exported to Hormuz or to Hindustan. It is 18 miles east of Khujand.
Between Kand-i-badam and Khujand lies the waste known as Ha Darwesh which is always very windy. Its violent, whirling winds continually strike Marghilan to the east and Khujand on its west. People say that some dervishes, encountering a whirlwind in this desert, lost one another and kept crying, "Hay Darwesh! Hay Darwesh!" till all had perished, and that the waste has been called Ha Darwesh ever since.
One of the townships on the north of the Syr-Darya is Akhsi. In books they write it Akhsikit, and for this reason the poet Asiruddin is known as Akhsikiti. After Andijan, no township in Fergana is larger than Akhsi, which is about 50 miles by road to the west of Andijan. 'Umar Shaikh Mirza made it his capital. The Syr-Darya flows below its walled town, which stands above a great ravine and uses the deep ravines in place of a moat. When 'Umar Shaikh Mirza made it his capital, he once or twice ordered other ravines be dug beyond the outer ones. In all Fergana no fort is so strong as Akhsi. Its suburbs extend some two miles further than the walled town. People say of Akhsi, "Where is the village? Where are the trees?" Its melons are excellent; one variety of them is known as Mir Timuri and may have no equal in the world. The melons of Bukhara are famous. When I took Samarkand, I had some brought from there and some from Akhsi. They were cut up at an entertainment and those from Bukhara could not compare with those from Akhsi. The fowling and hunting of Akhsi are very good indeed; white deer abound in the waste on the Akhsi side of the Syr-Darya; in the jungle on the Andijan side, abundant and well-fed bucks and does, pheasant and hare are had.
To the north of Akhsi is the rather small township of Kasan. Kasan's water comes from Akhsi in the same way that Andijan's water comes from Osh. Kasan has excellent air and beautiful little gardens. As these gardens all lie along the bed of the river people call them the "fine front of the coat." Kasanis and the people of Osh have a rivalry about whose town is more beautiful and has a better climate.
In the mountains round Fergana are excellent summer pastures. There and nowhere else grows the tabalghu [a variety of willow], a tree with red bark. They make staves and bird-cages of it; they scrape it into arrows. It is an excellent wood and because of its rarity is carried to distant places. Some books write that the mandrake [belladonna] is found in these mountains, but for this long time past nothing has been heard of it. A plant called Ayiq oti and having the qualities of the mandrake is known in Yeti-kent...There are turquoise and iron mines in these mountains.
With care, three or four thousand men may be maintained by the revenues of Fergana.
One of the tribes of the wilds of Andijan is the Jigrak [Chakrak], a numerous people of five or six thousand households, dwelling in the mountains between Kashghar and Fergana. They have many horses and sheep and also numbers of yaks, which such hill-people keep instead of common cattle. As their mountains are border-fastnesses, they avoid paying tribute. An army was now sent against them under (Sayyid) Qasim Beg in order that out of the tribute taken from them something might reach the soldiers. He took about 20,000 of their sheep and between 1000 and 1500 of their horses and shared all out to the men. [� ]
Few towns in the whole habitable world are so pleasant as Samarkand. It is of the Fifth Climate and situated in lat. 40� 6' and long. 99� . The name of the town is Samarkand; people used to call its country Mawara'u'n-nahr (Transoxania). They used to call it Baldat-i-mahfuza [Protected Town] because no foe had managed to storm and sack it. It must have become Muslim in the time of the Commander of the Faithful, his Highness Uthman. Kusam ibn 'Abbas, one of the Companions [of Muhammad] must have gone there; his burial-place, known as the Tomb Shah-i-zinda (The Living Shah) is outside the Iron Gate. [Photo of entrance to his tomb on left and the tomb itself on right.] Iskandar [Alexander the Great] must have founded Samarkand. The Turk and Moghul hordes call it Simiz-kint. Timur Beg made it his capital; no ruler so great ever made it a capital before. I ordered people to pace round the ramparts of the walled-town; the distance measured 10,000 steps. Samarkandis are all orthodox (Sunni), pure-in the Faith, law-abiding and religious. It is said that more leaders of Islam have arisen in Mawara'u'n-nahr, since the days of his Highness the Prophet, than in any other country. From the Matarid suburb of Samarkand came Shaikh Abu'l-mansur [d. 944 CE], one of the Expositors of the Word. Of the two sects of Expositors, the Mataridiyah and the Ash'ariyah, the first is named from this Shaikh Abu'l-mansur. Another native of Mawara'u'n-nahr was Khwaja Isma'il Khartank [810-870 CE], the author of the Shahih-i-bukhari. The author of the Hidayat, one of the most revered books on jurisprudence among the followers of Abu Hanifa, came from Marghilan in Ferghana, which, although at the limit of settled habitation, is part of Mawara'u'n-nahr.
On the east of Samarkand are Fergana and Kashghar; on the west, Bukhara and Khwarizm; on the north, Tashkent and Shahrukhiya (known in books as Shash and Banakat); and on the south, Balkh and Termez.
The Kohik River [i.e., Zerafshan] flows along the north of Samarkand, at the distance of some 4 miles; it is so-called because it comes out from under the upland of the Little Hill (Kohik) lying between it and the town. The Dar-i-gham canal flows along the south, at the distance of some two miles. This is a large and swift torrent, indeed it is like a large river, branching off from the Kohik River. All the gardens and suburbs and some of the subdistricts of Samarkand are irrigated by it. The Kohik River makes habitable and cultivated a stretch of from 150 to 200 miles by road, as far as Bukhara and Qara-kul. Large as the river is, it is not too large for its dwellings and its culture; during three or four months of the year, indeed, its waters do not reach Bukhara. Grapes, melons, apples and pomegranates--all fruits indeed--are good in Samarkand; two are famous, its apple and its sahibi (grapes). Its winter is mightily cold; snow falls but not so much as in Kabul; in the hot weather its climate is good but not so good as Kabul's.
In the town and suburbs of Samarkand are many fine buildings and gardens of Timur Beg and Ulugh Beg Mirza.
In the citadel, Timur Beg erected a very fine building, the great four-storeyed kiosk, known as the Kok Sarai. In the walled town, again, near the Iron Gate, he built a Friday Mosque of stone [the Bibi-hanim] using the labor of many stone-cutters brought from Hindustan. Round its frontal arch is inscribed in letters large enough to be read two miles away, the Qu'ran verse, Wa az yerfa' Ibrahim al Qawa'id al akhara ["And Abraham and Ismail raised the foundations of this house"]. This also is a very fine building. He also laid out two gardens, on the east of the town, one, the more distant, the Bagh-i-bulandi, the other and nearer, the Bagh-i-dilkusha. From Dilkusha to the Turquoise Gate, he planted an Avenue of white poplar, and in the garden itself erected a great kiosque, painted inside with pictures of his battles in Hindustan. He made another garden, known as the Naqsh-i-jahan (World's Picture), on the bank of the Kohik, above the Kara-su or, as people also call it, the Ab-i-rahmat (Water-of-mercy) of Kan-i-gil. It had gone to ruin when I saw it; nothing remaining of it except its name. His also are the Bagh-i-chanar, near the walls and below the town on the south, also the Bagh-i-shamal (North Garden) and the Bagh-i-bihisht (Garden of Paradise). His own tomb and those of his descendants who have ruled in Samarkand are in a college [madrasa], built at the exit from the walled town, by Muhammad Sultan Mirza, the son of Timur Beg's son, Jahangir Mirza. [Gardens were an important aspect of Persian court culture which the Timurids cultivated. The miniature on the left depicts one of the royal gardens laid out at Adinapur in India by Babur; on the right is a detail of the celebration in the Charbagh garden of Kabul on the occasion of the birth of his son, Humayun in 1508.]
Amongst Ulugh Beg Mirza's buildings inside the town are a college and a monastery (Khanqah). The dome of the monastery is very large, few so large can be seen anywhere in the world. Near these two buildings, he constructed an excellent Hot Bath known as the Mirza's Bath; he had the pavements in this made of all sorts of stone (? mosaic); no other such bath is known in Samarkand or in all of Khurasan. To the south of the college is his mosque, known as the Masjid-i-maqata' (Carved Mosque) because its ceiling and its walls are all covered with carved ornamentation and "Chinese" pictures formed of segments of wood. There is great discrepancy [in the orientation vis-a-vis Mecca] between the qibla of this mosque and that of the college; that of the mosque seems to have been fixed by astronomical observation.
Another of Ulugh Beg Mirza's fine buildings is an observatory [photo of foundatins, left], that is, a building with instruments for writing astronomical tables. This stands three storeys high, on the edge of the Kohik upland. The Mirza used it to work out the Kurkani Tables, now the most widely used ones anywhere in the world. Before these were made, people used the Ailkhani Tables, compiled at Maragha by Khwaja Nasir Tusi, in the time of Hulegu Khan, the Ilkhanid ruler [in the Middle East]. Not more than seven or eight observatories seem to have been constructed in the world. Caliph Mamum built one in which the Mamumi Tables were compiled. Batalmus (Ptolemy) constructed another. In the time of Raja Vikramaditya Hindu, another was built in Hindustan in Ujjain and Dhar, that is, the MaIwa country, now known as Mandu. The Hindus of Hindustan use the tables of this observatory. They were put together 1,584 years ago. Compared with others, they are somewhat defective.
Ulugh Beg Mirza built the garden known as the Bagh-i-maidan (Garden of the Plain), on the edge of the Kohik upland. In the middle of it he erected a fine building they call Chihil Situn (Forty Pillars). On both storeys are pillars, all of stone. Four turrets, like minarets, stand on its four corner-towers, the way up into them being through the towers. Everywhere there are stone pillars, some fluted, some twisted, some many-sided. On the four sides of the upper storey are open galleries enclosing a four-doored hall. Their pillars also are all of stone. The raised floor of the building is all paved with stone.
He made a smaller garden with a building in it out beyond Chihil Situn and towards the Kohik. In the open gallery of this building he placed a great stone throne, some 14 or 15 yards long, some 8 yards wide and perhaps a yard high. They brought such a large stone in from distant quarries. There is a crack in the middle of it which people say must developed after it was brought here. In the same garden he also built a four-doored hall, know as the Chini-khana (Porcelain House) because its surfaces are all of porcelain; he sent to China for the porcelain used in it. Inside the walls is an old building of his, known as the Masjid-i-laqlaqa (Mosque of the Echo). If anyone stamps on the ground under the middle of the dome of this mosque, the sound echoes back from the whole dome; it is a curious matter of which none know the secret.
In the time of Sultan Ahmad Mirza the great and lesser begs laid out many gardens, large and small. For beauty, and air, and view, few will have equalled Darwesh Muhammad Tarkhan's Char-bagh (Four Gardens). It lies overlooking the whole of Qulba Meadow, on the slope below the Bagh-i-maidan. Moreover it is arranged symmetrically, terrace above terrace, and is planted with beautiful ornamental trees, cypresses and white poplar. A most agreeable sojourning place, its one defect is the want of a large stream.
Samarkand is a wonderfully beautified town. One of its specialities, perhaps found in few other places, is that the different trades are not mixed up together in it. Each has its own bazar, which makes a lot of sense. Its bakers and its cooks are good. The best paper in the world is made there; the water for the paper-mortars all comes from Kan-i-gil, a meadow on the banks of the Kara-su (Blackwater) or Ab-i-rahmat (Water of Mercy). Another article of Samarkand trade, exported everywhere, is red velvet.
Excellent meadows lie round Samarkand. One is the famous Kan-i-gil, some 2 miles east and a little north of the town. The Qara-su or Ab-i-rahmat flows through it, a stream (with driving power) for perhaps seven or eight mills. Some say the original name of the meadow must have been Kan-i-abgir (Mine of Quagmire) because the river is bordered by quagmire, but the bistories all write Kan-i-gil (Mine of Clay). It is an excellent meadow. The Samarkand sultans always made it their reserve, going out to camp in it each year for a month or two. [On right, meadows of Kohik upland east of Observatory.]
Higher up (on the river) than Kan-i-gil and to the southeast of it is a meadow some 4 miles east of the town, known as Khan Yurti (Khan's Camping-ground). The Kara-su flows through this meadow before entering Kan-i-gil. When it comes to Khan Yurti it curves back so far that it encloses, with a very narrow outlet, enough ground for a camp. Having noticed these advantages, we camped there for a time during the siege of Samarkand.
Another meadow is the Biudana Qurugh (Quail Reserve), lying between Dil-kusha and the town. Another is the Kul-i-maghak (Meadow of the Deep Pool) at some 4 miles from the town. This also is a round meadow. People call it Kul-i-maghak meadow because there is a large pool on one side of it. Sultan 'Ali Mirza camped here during the siege, when I was in Khan Yurti. Another and smaller meadow is Qulba (Plough); it has Qulba Village and the Kohik River on the north, the Bagh-i-maidan and Darwesh Muhammad Tarkhan's Char-bagh on the south, and the Kohik upland on the west.
Samarkand has good districts and subdistricts. Its largest district, and one that is its equal, is Bukhara, 162 miles to the west. Bukhara in its turn, has several subdistricts; it is a fine town. Its fruits are many and good, its melons excellent, none in Mawara'u'n-nahr matching them for quality and quantity. Although the Mir Timuri- melon of Akhsi is sweeter and more delicate than any Bukhara melon, still in Bukhara many kinds of melon are good and plentiful. The Bukhara plum is famous; no other equals it. They skin it, dry it and export it from land to land with other rarities; it is an excellent laxative. Fowls and geese are bred in abundance in Bukhara. Bukhara wine is the strongest made in Mawara'u'n-nahr; that was what I drank while in Samarkand.
Kesh is another district of Samarkand, 48 miles by road to the south of the town. The Aitmak Range lies between Samarkand and Kesh; from these mountains are taken all the stones for building. Kesh is called also Shahr-i-sabz (Green-town) because its barren waste and roofs and walls become beautifully green in spring. As it was Timur Beg's birth-place, he tried hard to make it his capital. He erected noble buildings in it. To seat his own court, he built a great arched hall and in this seated his commander-begs and his diwan-begs, on his right and on his left. For those attending the court, he built two smaller halls, and to seat petitioners to his court, built quite small recesses on the four sides of the meeting-hall. Few arches so fine can be seen in the world. It is said to be higher than the Chosroes' Arch [at Ctesiphon]. Timur Beg also built in Kesh a college and a mausoleum, in which are the tombs of [his son] Jahangir Mirza and others of his descendants. As Kesh did not offer the same facilities as Samarkand for becoming a major city and a capital, he at last made clear choice of Samarkand.
Another district is Karshi, known also as Nashaf and Nakhshab. Karshi is a Moghul name. In the Moghul tongue they call a tomb Karshi. The name must have come in after the rule of Chingiz Khan. Karshi is somewhat scantily supplied with water; in spring it is very beautiful and its grain and melons are good. It lies 94 miles by road south and a little inclined to the west of Samarkand. In the district a small bird, known as the qil-quyirugh and resembling the sand grouse, is found in such countless numbers that it goes by the name of the Karshi birdie....
Samarkand has good sub-districts. One is Soghd with its dependencies. From its head Yar-yilaq, to its foot Bukhara, there may be not one single mile of earth without its village and its cultivated lands. So famous is it that the saying attributed to Timur Beg, 'I have a garden a hundred miles long,' must have been spoken of Soghd. Another sub-district is Shavdar, an excellent suburb of Samarkand. On one side it bounded by the Aitmak Range, lying between Samarkand and Shahr-i-sabz, bordering which are many of its villages. On the other side is the Kohik River. You should see it!--an excellent sub-district with fine air, full of beauty, abundantly watered, its good things cheap. It has no equal in Egypt and Syria....
Timur Beg gave the government of Samarkand to his eldest son, Jahangir Mirza [in 1375 CE]; when Jahangir Mirza died, he gave it to the Mirza's eldest son, Muhammad Sultan-i-jahangir; when Muhammad Sultan Mirza died, it went to Shah-rukh Mirza, Timur Beg's youngest son. Shah-rukh Mirza gave the whole of Mawara'u'n-nahr (in 1447 CE) to his eldest son, Ulugh Beg Mirza. His own son, Abdul-latif Mirza, martyred his father, so full of years and knowledge, and for the sake of the transitory pleasures of this world seized the throne [in 1449 CE].... [� ]
Since the Uzbeks [under Shaibani Khan] were in possession of Samarkand, we left Kesh and went in the direction of Hisar. At the start, Muhammad Mazid Tarkhan and the Samarkand begs under his command, together with their wives and families and people, were with us, but when we dismounted in the Chultu meadow of Chaghanian, they parted from us, went to Khusrau Shah and became his retainers. [The fate of Babur and his foes very much depended on the making and unmaking of alliances with the local families. The miniature at right shows one of the important local leaders Baqi Beg Chaghaniani--from the same region referred to in this passage--paying homage to Babur in 1504 or 1505 just before he set out for Kabul. The picture gives a good idea of the tent pavilion of the ruler.]
Cut off from our own home and country, not knowing where (else) to go or where to stay, we were obliged to traverse the very heart of Khusrau Shah's districts, spite of what measure of misery he had inflicted on the men of our dynasty.
One of our plans had been to go to my younger Khan dada, i.e., Alacha Khan, by way of Qara-tigin and the Alai, but we failed to do this. Next we were for going up the valley of the Kam River and over the Sara-taq pass. When we were near Nundak, a servant of Khusrau Shah brought me a gift nine horses and nine pieces of cloth. When we dismounted at the mouth of the Kam valley, Sher-ali, the page, deserted to Khusrau Shah's brother, Wali and, next day, Quch Beg parted from us and went to Hisar. [Photo of typical village in mountain valley near Samarkand.]
We entered the valley and made our way up it. Many horses and camels were left on its steep and narrow roads and at its sharp and precipitous saddles. Before we covered the 25 miles to Sara-taq pass we had to make three or four night-halts. A pass! and what a pass! Never has such a steep and narrow pass been seen; never have such ravines and precipices been traversed. We got through those dangerous narrow passages and abrupt drops, those perilous heights and knife-edge saddles, with much difficulty and suffering, with countless hardships and miseries. Amongst the Fan mountains is a large lake (Iskandar); it is 2 miles in circumference, a beautiful lake and not devoid of marvels...
[Babur then attacked Samarkand.] Just at that time I had a wonderful dream: His Highness Khwaja 'Ubaid'l-lah (Ahrari) appeared to me; I went out to give him an honourable welcome; he entered and seated himself. People laid a table-cloth before him, apparently without sufficient care and, on account of this, something seemed to come into his Highness Khwaja's mind. Mulla Baba (?Pashaghari) made me a sign; I signed back, 'Don't blame me! The table-layer is at fault!' The Khwaja understood and accepted the excuse. When he rose, I escorted him out. In the hall of that house he took hold of either my right or left arm and lifted me up till one of my feet was off the ground, saying, in Turki, 'Shaikh Maslahat has given (Samarkand).' I actually took Samakand a few days later. [� ]
In two or three days move was made from Fort Asfidik to Fort Wasmand. Although by our first approach, we had let our plan be known, we put our trust in God and made another expedition to Samarkand. It was after the Mid-day Prayer that we rode out of Fort Wasmand, Khwaja Abu'l-makaram accompanying us. By midnight we reached the Mughak bridge in the Avenue. From there we sent forward a detachment of 70 or 80 good men who were to set up ladders opposite the Lovers'-cave, mount them and get inside, storm those in the Turquoise Gate, get possession of it and send a man to me. Those brave men went, set their ladders up opposite the Lovers'-cave, entered unseen, went to the Gate, attacked Fazil Tarkhn and his few retainers, killed them, broke the lock with an axe and opened the Gate. At that moment I came up and went in.
[Author's note on Fazil Tarkhan:] He was not one of those (Samarkand) Tarkhans; he was a merchant-tarkhan of Turkistan. He had served Shaibini Khan in Turkistan and had found favour with him. Abu'l-qasim Kohbur himself had not come with us but had sent 30 or 40 of his retainers under his younger brother, Ahmad-i-qasim. No man of Ibrahim Tarkhan's was with us; his younger brother, Ahmad Tarkhan came with a few retainers after I had entered the town and taken post in the Monastery. The townspeople were still slumbering; a few traders peeped out of their shops, recognized me and prayed for our success. When, a little later, the news spread through the town, there was rare delight and satisfaction for our men and the townsfolk. They killed the Uzbeks in the lanes and gullies with clubs and stones like mad dogs; four or five hundred were killed in this fashion. Jan-wafa, the governor, was living in Khwaja Yahya's house; he fled and got away to Shaibaq Khan.
On entering the Turquoise Gate I went straight to the college and took post over the arch of the Monastery. There was a hubbub and shouting of 'Down! down!' till daybreak. Some of the notables and traders, hearing what was happening, came joyfully to see me, bringing what food was ready and praying for me. At daylight we had news that the Uzbeks were fighting in the Iron Gate where they had blockaded themselves between the (outer and inner) doors. With 10, 15 or 20 men, I at once set off for the Gate but before I came up, the town-rabble, busy ransacking every corner of the newly-taken town for loot, had driven the Uzbeks out through it. On hearing what was happening, Shaibaq Khan hurried at sunrise to the Iron Gate with 100 or 140 men. His coming was a wonderful opportunity. but, as has been said, my men were very few. Seeing that he could do nothing, he rode off at once. From the Iron Gate I went to the citadel and there dismounted, at the Bu-stan palace. Men of rank and consequence and various headmen came to me there, saw me and invoked blessings on me.
For nearly 140 years Samarkand had been the capital of our dynasty. An alien foe of unknown origins, the Uzbeks, had taken possession of it! It had slipped from our hands; but God gave it back! Plundered and ravaged, our own was returned to us.
Sultan Husain Mirza took Herat as we took Samarkand, by surprise, but to the experienced, discerning and just, it will be clear that his accomplishment and mine are worlds apart, [mine being the more remarkable feat...]
Samarkand having fallen, Shavdar and Soghd and the sub-districts and nearer forts began, one after another, to return to us. Their Uzbek commandants fled from some in fear and escaped; from others the inhabitants drove them out and came over to us; in some they made them prisoner, and held the forts for us.
Just then the wives and families of Shaibaq Khan and his Uzbeks arrived from Turkistan. He was camped near Khwaja Didar and 'All-abad , but when he saw the forts and people returning to me, marched off towards Bukhara. By God's grace, all the forts of Soghd and Miyan-kal returned to me within three or four months. In addition, Baqi Tarkhan seized this opportunity to occupy Karshi; Khuzir and Karshi (? Kesh) both left Uzbek hands. Kara-kul also was taken from them by people of Abu'l-muhsin Mirza (Bai-qara), coming up from Merv. My affairs were going very well..... [� ]
After our capture of Samarkand, envoys and summoners were sent off repeatedly with requests for aid and reinforcement to the khans and sultans and border begs on every side. Some, though experienced men, foolishly refused; others whose relations towards our family had been discourteous and unpleasant, were afraid for themselves and took no notice; yet others, though they sent help, sent too little. Each such case will be duly mentioned. [At one point while in Samarkand, Babur took seriously ill, as the miniature illustrates.]
When Samarkand was taken this second time, 'Ali-sher [Nawa'i] Beg was alive. We exchanged letters; on the back of mine to him I wrote one of my Turki couplets. Before his reply reached me, we were separated by the political disorders. Mulla Bina'i had been taken into Shaibaq Khan's service when the latter took possession of Samarkand; he stayed with him until a few days after I took the place, when he came into the town to me. Qasim Beg had his suspicions about him and consequently dismissed him towards Shahr-i-sabz but, as he was a man of parts, and as no fault of his came to light, I had him fetched back. He constantly presented me with odes. He brought me a song in the Nawa mode composed to my name and at the same time the following quatrain .... [� ]
'Ali-sher Nawa'i was another of Sultan Husayn Mirza's amirs, a friend rather than his beg. They had been learners together in childhood and even then are said to have been close friends. It is not known for what offence Sultan Abu-sa'id Mirza drove 'Ali-sher Beg from Heri; he then went to Samarkand where he was protected and supported by Ahmad Haji Beg during the several years of his stay. He was noted for his refinement of manner; people fancied this was due to the pride of enjoying high fortune, but the quality may in fact have been innate, since it was equally noticeable in Samarkand. 'Ali-sher Beg had no equal. For as long as verse has been written in the Turki tongue, no one has written so much or so well as he. He wrote six books of poems (masnawi), five of them in imitation of the Khamsah; the sixth, entitled the Lisanu't-tair (Tongue of the birds), was in the same metre as the Mantiqu't-tair (Speech of the birds). He put together four diwans (collections) of odes, bearing the names, Curiosities of Childhood, Marvels of Youth, Wonders of Manhood and Advantages of Age. There are good quatrains of his also. Some others of his compositions rank below those mentioned ; amongst them is a collection of his letters, imitating that of Maulana 'Abdu'r-rahman Jami and aiming at gathering together every letter on any topic he had ever written to any person. He wrote also the Mizanu'l-auzan (Measure of measures) on prosody, but it is quite worthless: he has made mistake in it about the metres of four out of twenty-four quatrains, while about other measures he has made the kind of mistakes anyone who has given attention to prosody will understand. He put a Persian diwan together also, Fani (transitory) being his pen-name for Persian verse. Some couplets in it are not bad but for the most part it is flat and poor. In music also he composed good things, some excellent airs and preludes. No other such patron and protector of men of parts and accomplishments has ever been known. It was through his instruction and support that Master Qul-i-muhammad the lutanist, Shaikhl the flautist, and Husain the lutanist, famous performers all, rose to eminence and renown. It was through his effort and supervision that Master Bih-zad and Shah Muzaffar became so distinguished in painting. Few are heard of as having helped to lay the good foundation for future excellence he helped to lay. He had neither son nor daughter, wife or family; he lived out his years alone and unencumbered. At first he was Keeper of the Seal; in middle-life he became a beg and for a time was Commandant in Astarabad; later on he forsook soldiering. He took nothing from the Mirza, on the contrary, each year he offered considerable gifts. When the Mirza was returning from the Astarabad campaign, 'Ali-sher Beg went out to greet him; they saw one another, but before 'Ali-sher Beg could leave, his condition became such that he could not rise. He was lifted up and carried away. The doctors could not tell what was wrong; he went to God's mercy next day, one of his own couplets suiting his case:
I was felled by a stroke beyond their ken and mine;
What, in such misfortune, can doctors avail? [� ]
The siege drew on to great length; no provisions and supplies came in from any quarter, no succour and reinforcement from any side. The soldiers and peasantry lost hope and, by ones and twos, began to let themselves down outside the walls and flee. When Shaibaq Khan heard of the distress in the town, he came and dismounted near the Lovers'-cave. In turn, I took a stand opposite him in Malik-muhammad Mirza's dwellings in the Lower Lane. On one of those days, Khwaja Husain's brother, Uzun Hasan came into the town with 10 or 15 of his men--he who, as has been told, had been the cause of Jahingir Mirza's rebellion, of my exodus from Samarkand (in March 1498 CE) and, again! of what an amount of sedition and disloyalty! That entry of his was a very bold act.
The soldiery and townspeople became more and more distressed. Trusted men of my close circle began to let themselves down from the ramparts and get away; begs of known name and old family servants were amongst them, such as Pir Wais, Shaikh Wais and Wais Laghari. We utterly despaired of help from any side; no hope was left in any quarter; our supplies and provisions were wretched, what there was was running out; no more came in. Meantime Shaibaq Khan proposed to talk peace. Little attention would have been given to his overtures if there had been hope or food from any side. But there was no choice--a sort of peace was made and we took our departure from the town, by the Shaikh-zada's Gate, some-where about midnight.
[Babur leaves Samarkand.]
I took my mother Khanim out with me; two other women-folk went too, one was Bishka-i-Khalila, the other, Minglik Kukuldash. At this exodus, my elder sister, Khan-zada Begim fell into Shaibaq Khan's hands. In the darkness of that night we lost our way and wandered about amongst the main irrigation channels of Soghd. At daybreak, after a hundred difficulties, we got past Khwaja Didar. At the Sunnat Prayer we scrambled up the rising-ground of Qara-bugh. From the north slope of Qara-bugh we hurried on past the foot
of Juduk village and dropped down into Yilan-auti. On the road I raced with Qasim Beg and Qanibar-'ali (the Skinner); my horse was leading when I, thinking to look back at theirs, twisted myself round; the girth may have slackened, for my saddle turned and I was thrown on my head to the ground. Although I at once got up and remounted, my brain did not steady till the evening; until that point, this world and what went on appeared to me like things felt and seen in a dream or fancy. Towards afternoon we dismounted in Yilan-auti, there killed a horse, spitted and roasted its flesh, rested our horses awhile and rode on. Very weary, we reached Khalila-village before the dawn and dismounted. From there the route went to Dizak.
In Dizak just then was Hafiz Muhammad Duldai's son, Tahir. There, in Dizak, were fat meats, loaves of fine flour, plenty of sweet melons and an abundance of excellent grapes. From what privation we came to such plenty! From what stress to what repose! [Verses]...
Never in all our lives had we felt such relief! Never in the whole course of them have we appreciated security and plenty so highly. Joy is best and more delightful when it follows sorrow, ease after toil. I have been transported four or five times from toil to rest and from hardship to ease. This was the first. We were set free from the affliction of such a foe and from the pangs of hunger and had reached the repose of security and the relief of abundance.
After three or four days of rest in Dizak, we set out for Ura-Tyube. Pishaghar is a little off the road but, as we had occupied it at one time, we made an excursion to it in passing by. In Pashaghar we chanced on one of Khanim's old servants, a teacher who had been left behind in Samarkand from want of a mount. We saw one another and on questioning her, I found she had come there on foot.
Khub Nigar Khanim, my mother Khanim's younger sister, already must have bidden this transitory world farewell; for they let Khanim and me know of it in Ura-Tyube. My father's mother also must have died in Andijin; this too they let us know in Ura-Tyube. Since the death of my grandfather, Yunas Khan, Khanim had not seen her (step-)mother or her younger brother and sisters, that is to say, Shah Begim, Sultan Mahmud Khan, Sultan Nigar Khanim and Daulat Sultan Khanim. The separation had lasted 13 or 14 years. To see these relations she now started for Tashkent.
After consulting with Muhammad Husain Mirza, we decided to winter in a place called Dikhkat, one of Ura-Tyube's villages. I deposited my belongings there, and then set out to visit Shah Begim, my uncle the khan and various relatives. I spent a few days in Tashkent and waited on Shah Begim and my uncle. My mother's elder full-sister, Mihr Nigar Khanim had come from Samarkand and was in Tashkent. There my mother Khanim fell very ill; it was such a serious illness that her life was at risk.
Having managed to get out of Samarkand, His Highness Khwalaka Khwaja had settled down in Far-kat where I visited him. I had hoped my uncle the khan would show me affection and kindness and would give me a country or a district. He had promised me Ura-Tyube, but Muhammad Husain Mirza would not turn it over. Whether he acted on his own account or whether upon a hint from above is not known. After spending a few days with him (in Ura-Tyube), I went on to Dikhkat.
Dikhkat is in the Ura-Tyube hills, below the range on the other side of which is the Matcha country. Its people, though Sarts settled in a village, are, like Turks, herdsmen and shepherds. Their sheep number some 40,000. We took up residence at the houses of the peasants in the village; I stayed in a head-man's house. He was old, 70 or 80, but his mother was still alive. She was a woman on whom much life had been bestowed for she was 111 years old. Some relation of hers may have gone (as was said) with Timur Beg's army to Hindustan; she recalled this and used to tell the tale. In Dikhkat alone were 96 of her descendants, hers and her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and grandchildren's grandchildren. Counting the dead, her descendants numbered more than 200. Her grandchild's grandson was a strong young man of 25 or 26, with full black beard. While in Dikhkat, I constantly made excursions amongst the mountains round about. Generally I went barefoot and, from doing this so much, my feet became so that rock and stone made no difference to them. Once in one of these wanderings between the afternoon and evening prayers, I saw a cow going down a narrow, ill-defined road. I said, 'I wonder which way that road will lead. Keep your eye on that cow; don't lose the cow till you know where the road comes out.' Khwaja Asadu'l-lah would joke, 'If the cow loses her way, what becomes of us?'
In the winter several of our soldiers asked for leave to Andijan because they could make no raids with us. Qasim Beg said, with much insistence, 'As these men are going, send with them to Jahangir Mirza something special of your own clothing.' I sent my ermine cap. Again he urged, 'What harm would there be if you sent something for Tambal also?' Though I was very unwilling, since he urged it, I sent Tambal a large broad-sword which Nuyan Kukuldash had had made for himself in Samarkand. This was the very sword which, as will be told with the events of next year, came down on my own head!
A few days later, my grandmother, Aisan-daulat Begim, who had stayed behind when I left Samarkand, arrived in Dikhkat with our families and baggage and a few lean and hungry followers. [� ]
That winter Shaibaq Khan crossed the Khujand river on the ice and plundered near Shahrukhiya and Bishkent. On hearing news of this, we galloped off, despite our small numbers, and made for the villages below Khujand opposite Hasht-yak. The cold was mightily bitter, a wind as strong as that from the Ha-darwesh raged violently the whole time. It was so cold that during the two or three days we were in those parts, several men died of it. When I needed to perform my ablutions, I went into an irrigation-channel frozen along both banks but because of its swift current not ice-bound in the middle, and bathed, dipping under 16 times. The cold of the water went quite through me. Next day we crossed the river on the ice from opposite Khaslar and went on through the dark to Bishkint. Shaibaq Khan, however, must have gone straight back after plundering the neighbourhood of Shahrukhiya....
With the hot weather came the news that Shaibaq Khan was coming up into Ura-Tyube. Consequently, as the land is level about Dikhkat, we crossed the Ab-burdan pass into the Matcha hill-country. Ab-burdan is the last village of Matcha; just below it a spring sends its water down (to the Zarafshan); the area above the stream is part of Matcha; below it a dependency of Palghar. There is a tomb at the spring. I had a rock at the side of the spring shaped and these three couplets inscribed on it:
I have heard that Jamshid, the magnificent,
Inscribed on a rock at a spring.
Many men like us have taken breath at this spring,
And have passed away in the twinkling of an eye;
We took the world by courage and might,
But we could not take it with us to the grave.
There is a custom in that hill-country of carving verses and objects on the rocks.... [The miniature shows another such "sacred spring" near Kabul.]
It occurred to me that to wander from mountain to mountain, homeless and houseless, without country or abiding-place, had nothing to recommend it. 'Take yourself off to The Khan,' I said to myself. Qasim Beg recommended against this move, apparently being uneasy because, as has been told, The Khan had made an example of the Moghuls by executing them at Qara-bulaq. Despite our urging, he headed off for Hisar with all his brothers and his whole following. We for our part crossed the Ab-burdan pass and set out to The Khan in Tashkent.... [� ]
When The Khan heard a few days later that Tambal had gone up into Ura-Tyube, he mustered his army and rode out from Tashkent. Between Bishkent and Samsirak he formed up the right and left divisions and enumerated his men. This done, the standards were acclaimed in Moghul fashion [miniature, left]. The Khan dismounted and nine standards were set up in front of him. A Moghul tied a long strip of white cloth to the thigh-bone of a cow and took the other end in his hand. Three other long strips of white cloth were tied to the staves of three of the (nine) standards, just below the yak-tails. Their other ends were brought, one for The Khan to stand on, and the other two respectively for me and Sultan Muhammad Khanika to stand on. The Moghul who had hold of the strip of cloth fastened to the cow's leg then said something in Mughul while he looked at the standards and made signs towards them. The Khan and those present sprinkled kumis [fermented mare's milk] in the direction of the standards [detail of miniature, right]. Horns and drums were sounded towards them; the army thrice shouted its war-cry towards them, mounted, yelled it again and rode at the gallop round them.
Precisely as Chingiz Khan laid down his rules, so the Moghuls still observe them. Each man has his place, just where his ancestors had it: right, right,--left, left,--center, center. The most reliable men go to the extreme flanks of the right and left. The Chiras and Begchik clans always demand to go to the right flank. At that time the Beg of the Chiras tumen was a very bold warrior Qashka (Mole-marked) Mahmud and the beg of the renowned Begchik tumen was Ayub Begchik. Disputing which should go out to the flank, these two drew swords on one another. At last it seems to have been settled that one should take the highest place in the hunting.circle, the other, in the battle-array.
Next day after making the circle, The Khan hunted near Samsirak... [The miniatures give an idea of the royal hunt: on the left, we see Babur hunting mountain goats or ibex and on the right rhinos. Both illustrations are from his later life in India, which contrasts dramatically with the low point of his fortunes in Tashkent.] [� ]
This move of The Khan's brought little benefit--he took no fort and beat no foe; he went out and went back.
During my stay in Tashkent, I endured much poverty and humiliation. I had no country or hope of one! Most of my retainers dispersed; those who remained were unable to move about with me because of their destitution. If I went to my uncle The Khan's gate, I went sometimes with one man, sometimes with two. It was well he was no stranger but one of my own blood. After showing myself in his presence, I used to go to Shah Begim's, entering her house bareheaded and barefoot just as if it were my own.
This uncertainty and want of house and home drove me at last to despair. I thought, 'It would be better to go off by myself than live in such misery; better to go as far as my feet can carry me than for others to see me in such poverty and humiliation. Having settled on going to China, I resolved to head off on my own. From my childhood up I had wished to visit China but had not been able to manage it because of the responsibilities of ruling and other obligations. Now sovereignty itself was gone, and my mother, for her part, was re-united with her (step)-mother and her younger brother. The hindrances to my journey had been removed; my anxiety for my mother was dispelled.... Once in Moghulistan and Turfan my reins would be in my own hands, without check or anxiety. I confided my scheme in no one. Why not? Because it was impossible for me to mention such a scheme to my mother, and also because it was with other expectations of me that my few companions in exile and privation had sacrificed all for me and endured a like change of fortune. To speak to them of such a scheme would be no pleasure either....
At this crisis a man came from Kichik Khan to say that he was actually on his way [to Tashkent]. This brought my scheme to naught. ...We all went out to greet him with appropriate ceremony. ...
Next day, my uncle Kichik Khan bestowed on me arms of his own, a saddled horse from his private stable, a full suit of Moghul attire, a Moghul cap, a long embroidered coat of Chinese satin, and Chinese armour. In the old fashion, they had hung on the left side, a haversack and an outer bag, and three or four things such as women usually hang on their collars--perfume-holders and various receptacles; in the same way, three or four things were hung on the right side.
From there we went to Tashkent. My uncle Ulugh Khan also had come out for the meeting, some 12 to 15 miles along the road. He had had an awning set up in a chosen spot and was seated there. Kichik Khan went up directly in front of him; as he approached, he rode in a circle, from right to left, round him; then dismounted before him. After advancing to the place of interview, he nine times bent the knee; that done, he approached. Ulugh Khan, in his turn, had risen when Kichik Khan drew near. They looked long at one another and long stood in close embrace. The Younger Khan again bent the knee nine times when retiring, many times also on offering his gift; after that, he went and sat down.
All his men had adorned themselves in Moghul fashion. There they were in Moghul caps, long coats of embroidered Chinese satin, and had Moghul quivers and saddles of green shagreen-leather, and Moghul horses adorned in a their distinctive fashion. He had brought rather few men, probably somewhere between 1000 and 2000. He was a man of singular manners, a mighty master of the sword, and brave. His preferred weapon was the sword. He used to say that arms include the shash-par (six-flanged mace), the pyazi (rugged mace), the kistin, the tabar-zin (saddle-hatchet) and the baltu (battle-axe), all of which leave a mark only from the point with which they make contact. The sword, however, works from point to hilt. He never parted with his keen-edged sword; it was either at his waist or in his hand. He was a little rustic and rough-of-speech, through having grown up in an out-of-the-way place.... [� ]
� 1999 Daniel C. Waugh