Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 11:31 PM
Artist, Sur Das
Babur describes Farghana, its principal towns, villages and rivers in Section I of the Babur Nama. Andijan was its capital, and Khujand one of its ancient towns. He thus describes Kand-e-Badam which was known for its almonds:
"Kand:e-Badam (village of almonds) is a dependency of Khujand ; though it is not a township (qasbii) it is rather a good approach to one (ciasbcacha). Its almonds are excellent, hence its name; they all go to Hormuz or to Hindustan. It is five or six yighach east of Khu-jand."
This painting is by Sur Das. In the background is Kand-e-Badam. In between the domes of mosques are date-palms, reminding us of an Indian town. On the left a man is plucking almonds and in the centre almonds are being weighed and bagged. In the foreground they are being loaded on camels and transported to their destination. There is action and movement in this painting which vividly depicts trade in almonds, and how they were brought to India from Central Asia.
Khanzada Begam was the sister of Ba.bur. When he was forced to evacuate Samarkand in 1500 A.D. he was compelled to marry her to Shaibani Khan, his enemy. Shaibani Khan was defeated by Shah Ismail of Persia, who killed him and made a drinking cup of his skull. Babur thus describes his reunion with his sister:
"Khanzada Begam was in Mery when Shah Ismail (Safavi) defeated the Auzbegs near that town (916 A.H. =1510 A.D.); for my sake he treated her well, giving her sufficient escort to Qunduz where she rejoined me. We had been apart for some ten years; when Muhammadi Kukultash and I went to see her, neither she nor those about her knew us, although I spoke. They recognized us after a time."
This painting is by Mansur, who distinguished himself in painting birds and animals. Here he depicts the reunion of brother and sister at Qunduz in Afghanistan. Seated close to Babur is his companion Kukultash. Seated in front of Babur is Khanzada Begam attended by maid-servants. Outside the kanat are soldiers armed with spears, bows and arrows guarding the tent. There is no display of emotions as the sister did not recognize her brother.
Babur's father Urnar Shaikh Mirza died at the fort of Akhsi while tending his pigeons. As Babur describes, "the fort of Akhsi is situated above a deep ravine, along this ravine stand the palace buildings, and from it on Monday, Ramzan 4, Umar Shaikh Mirzd flew, with his pigeons and their house, and became a falcon."
"At the time of Umar Shaikh Mirza's accident, I was in the Four Gardens (Char-biigh) of Andijan. The news reached Andijan on Tuesday, Ramzan 5 (June 9th); I mounted at once, with my followers and retainers, intending to go into the fort but, on our getting near the Mirza's Gate, Shirim Taghai took hold of my bridle and moved off towards the Praying Place. It had crossed his mind that if a great ruler like Si. Ahmad Mirza came in force, the Andijan Begs would make me over to him and the country, but that if he took me to Auzkint and the foothills thereabouts, I, at any rate, should not be made over and could go to one of my mother's (half-) brothers, Sl. Mahmud Khan or Sl. Ahmad Khdn."
The painting shows Babur mounted on a horse followed by his retainers going to Akhsi. In the background is the fort of Andijan. The artist has depicted Babur in a sorrowful mood. In the foreground are soldiers armed with muskets, and a courtier on horse-back praying with his hands raised.
The Mughals observed ceremonies and rules which were laid long ago by Chingiz Khan. For each clan a place was fixed in battle-array. One of their ceremonies was acclamation of nine standards which is thus described by Babur:
"The standards were acclaimed in Mughal fashion. The Khan dismounted and nine standards were set up in front of him. A Mughal 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, and their other ends were brought for the Khan to stand on one and for me and SI. Muh. Khanika to stand each one of the two others. The Mughal who had hold of the strip of cloth fastened to the cow's leg, then said something in Mughal while he looked at the standards and made signs towards them. The Khan and those present sprinkled quiniz in the direction of the standards; hautbois and drums were sounded towards them ; the army flung the war-cry out three times towards them, mounted, cried it again and rode at the gallop round them."
This incident relates to 1502 A.D. and took place at Bish-lcint on the Khujand-Tashkent road. Babur is standing on a strip of white cloth. In the foreground is an old Mughal soldier holding a piece of cloth which he has tied to the leg of a cow. In the background trumpets are being sounded and drums beaten.
Khusrau Shah, a Turkistani Qipchaq, was a noble of Mahrmad Mirth' who ruled the country from Amu to the Hindukush mountains. Babur describes him as 'black-souled and vicious, dunder-headed and senseless, disloyal, traitor, and a coward who had not the pluck to stand up to a hen!' He met Babur at Dashi near Kabul. Babur thus describes their meeting:
"Next day, one in the middle of the First Rabi (end of August, 1504 A.D.), riding light, I crossed the Andar-ãb water and took my seat under a large plane-tree near Dashi, and thither came Khusrau Shah, in pomp and splendour, with a great company of men. According to rule and custom, he dismounted some way off and then made his approach. Three times he knelt. When we saw one another, three times also on taking leave; he knelt once when asking after my welfare, once again when he offered his tribute, and he did the same with Jahangir Mirza and with Mirza Khan (Wais)."
Babur is seated under a plane-tree and the person kneeling in front of him is Khusrau Shah. In the foreground are his retainers including one holding a hawk. After receiving homage from Khusrau Shah Babur marched to Kabul.
With the capture of Kabul in 1504 begins the second phase in the career of Babur. Kabul is known for its temperate fruits, viz, the grape, pomegranate, apricot, apple, pear, peach, plum and walnut. In the hotter valleys, even sugarcane, orange and citron were cultivated. Now that he had some peace, he indulged in his favourite hobby of gardening. In 1508-9 he laid out a garden known as Bagh-i-wafa near Fort Adinapur, which he thus describes:
"The garden lies high, has running-water close at hand, and a mild winter climate. In the middle of it, a one-mill stream flows constantly past the little hill on which are the four garden-plots. In the south-west part of it there is a reservoir, 10 by 10, round which are orange-trees and a few pomegranates, the whole encircled by a trefoil-meadow. This is the best part of the garden, a most beautiful sight when the oranges take colour. Truly that garden is admir-ably situated !"
On the top of the painting is Koh-i-Safed, the snow-covered mountain, and a persian wheel for lifting water. Below is the Char-bagh divided into four plots in which oranges are growing. A plantain and two cypresses grow in one of the plots. A keord plant is in the plot on the top right. In the reservoir in the centre a pair of ducks are gambolling. A solitary gardener is digging the soil in the plot to the left.
Maur thus records a visit to Kigh-i-wafd in A.D. 1519. "We dismounted in the Bligh-i-wafd; its oranges had yellowed beautifully; its spring-bloom was well-advanced, and it was very charming."
Babur describes the pleasant villages around Kabul and their gardens. He records thirty three different varieties of tulips on the foothills of Dasht-i-Shaikh. In the ranges of Pamghan were a number of villages which grew grapes. Of these he admired Istalif as the best of the lot.
"Few villages match Istalif", wrote Babur, "with vineyards and fine orchards on both sides of its great torrent, with waters needing no ice, cold and, mostly, pure. Of its Great garden Aulugh Beg Mirza had taken forcible possession; I took it over, after paying its price to the owners. There is a pleasant halting-place outside it, under great planes, green, shady and beautiful. A one-mill stream, having trees on both banks, flows constantly through the middle of the garden; formerly its course was zig-zag and irregular; I had it made straight and orderly; so the place became very beautiful.
"I ordered that the spring should be enclosed in mortared stone-work, 10 by 10, and that a symmetrical, right-angles platform should be built on each of its sides, so as to overlook the whole field of Judas trees. In, the world over, there is a place to match this when the arghwans are in full bloom, I do not know it. The yellow arghwiin grows plentifully there also, the red and the yellow flowering at the same time.
"In order to bring water to a large round seat which I had built on the hillside and planted round with willows, I had a channel dug across the slope from a half-mill stream, constantly flowing in a valley to the south-west of Sih-ydran. The date of cutting this channel was found in jui-khush (kindly-channel)."
In this colourful painting Babur holding a hawk is standing near the reservoir, which he got constructed. In the background is his tent. On the top of the painting the artist has painted a dancing peacock, tail spread out into a gorgeous fan, admired by a pair of pea-hens. Surely it is a reminder of India, the home of the painter. On the rocks are a pair of mountain goats. In the foreground a grey-hound is drinking water from the stream. It is undoubtedly one of the most delightful paintings of the Babur.
Babur Nama is in Kohistan province of Afghanistan. Babur wrote, "More beautiful in Spring than any part even of Kabul are the openlands of Baran and the skirt of Gul-i-bahar. Many sorts of tulips bloom there.
Kabul in Spring is an Eden of verdure and blossom Matchless in Kabul the Spring of Gul-i-bahar and Baran Few places are equal to these for spring excursions for hawking or bird-shooting.
"Along the Baran people take masses of cranes (tarnii) with the cord ; masses of afiqdr, qargarii and qatan also. This method of bird catching is unique. They twist a cord as long as the arrow's flight, tie the arrow at one end and a bildfirgii at the other, and wind it up, from the arrow-end, on a piece of wood, span-long and wrist-thick, right up to the bildfirgii. They then pull out the piece of wood, leaving just the hole it was in. The bildfirgei being held fast in the hand, the arrow is shot off towards the coming flock. If the cord twist round a neck or wing, it brings the bird down. On the Baran everyone takes birds in this way." By this device Baran people catch the many herons from which they take the turban-aigrettes sent from Kabul for sale in Khurasan.
"Of bird-catchers there is also the band of slave-fowlers, two or three hundred house-holds, whom some descendant of Timm-Beg made to migrate from near Multan to the Baran. Bird-catching is their trade; they dig tanks, set decoy-birds on them, put a net over the middle, and in this way take all sorts of birds."
This painting by Bhag is one of the best studies of birds in the Babur Nama. Outside the net set by the fowler who is hiding behind a screen are a pair of hoopoes, sarus cranes, snipes and other water-birds. A sarus crane is innocently flying into the net. In the foreground is a mountain stream with lotuses among whom ducks are gambolling, providing a poetic touch to this painting.
"Whether to cross the water of Sind, or where else to go, was discussed in that camp. Baqi Chaghaniani represented that it seemed we might go, without crossing the river and with one night's halt, to a place called Kohat where were many rich tribesmen; moreover he brought Kabulis forward who represented the matter just as he had done. We had never heard of the place, but, as he, my man in great authority, saw it good to go to Kohat and had brought forward support of his recommendation."
This painting relates to a meeting between Babur and the Mirzas of Khurdsdn on 26th October, 1506, on the Murghab river. About the Mirzds, Babur comments, 'They were good enough as company and in social matters, but they were strangers to war, strategy, equipment, bold fight and encounter.' He thus describes this meeting:
"Four divans (tushuk) had been placed in the tent. Always in the Mirzd's tents one side was like a gate-way and at the edge of this gate-way he always sat. A divan was set there now on which he and Muzaffar Mirza sat together. Abu'l muhsin Mirzd and I sat on another, set in the right-hand place of honour (tur). On another, to Badiuz zamdn Mirza's left, sat Ibn-i-husain Mirza with Qasim SI. Auzbeg, a son-in-law of the late Mirza and father of Qasim-i-husain Sultan. To my right and below my divan was one on which sat Jahangir Mirza and Abdu'r-razzaq Mirza. To the left of Qdsim SI. and Ibn-i-husain Mirld, but a good deal lower, were Muh. Baranduq Beg, Zu'n-nun Beg and Qasim Beg.
Although this was not a social gathering, cooked viands were brought in, drinks were set with the food, and near them gold and silver cups."
In 1507 Babur paid a visit to Herat. Here he saw the gardens, mosques and mausolea including Gazur-gah, the tomb of Khwaja Abdullah Ansari. Here he married Masrima-Sultan Begam. The Mirzds entertained Babur at a feast.
"Bad! Uzi-zaman Mirza asked me to a party arranged in the Maqauwi-khana of the world-adorning Garden. He asked also some of my close circle, and some of our braves.
"At this party they set a roast goose before me but as I was no carver or disjointer of birds, I left it alone. 'Do you not like it?' inquired the Mirza. Said I, 'am a poor carver.' On this he at once disjointed the bird and set it again before me. In such matters he had no match. At the end of the party he gave me an enamelled waist-dagger, a char-qab, and a tipu-chaqt."
This is a beautiful painting showing a feast in a garden, under the shade of a chenart. Cooks are busy cooking in the foreground and attendants are carrying food. Babur is making a futile attempt to carve a goose, while Badi-u'z-zaman Mirza is looking on and is about to intervene.
After seeing the sights of Herat, Babur left for Kabul. Instead of travelling by the Kandahar road which though longer, was safe and easy, he took the mountain-road which was difficult and dangerous. During the night there was heavy snow-fall and a blizzard. He took shelter in a cave along with his men. Next morning while he was on the move a body of Turkman Hazards attacked his army with arrows.
"I myself collected a few of the Hazards' sheep, gave them into Yarak Taghai's charge, and went to the front. By ridge and valley, driving horses and sheep before us, we went to Timur Beg's Langar and there dismounted. Fourteen or fifteen Hazard theives had fallen into our hands; I had thought of having them put to death when we next dismounted, with various torture, as a warning to all high-waymen and robbers, but Qdsim Beg came across them on the road and, with mistimed compassion, set them free."
In this painting we see Babur on horse-back and in front of him is a flock of sheep captured from the Hazards.
While Babur was raiding the Turkman Hazards, news came that his nobles in Kabul had mutinied and had declared Miria Khan as Padshdh. They also spread a rumour that the Mirzas of Herat had captured Babur and imprisoned him in a fort. On the way to Kabul he encountered intense cold. As he describes:
"We sent on Ahmad the messenger (yasilwal) and Qara Ahmad Yuninchi to say to the Begs, 'Here we are at the time promised; be ready! behold!' After crossing Minar-hill and dismounting on its skirt, helpless with cold, we lit fires to warm ourselves. It was not time to light the signal-fire; we just lit these because we were helpless in that mighty cold." Next morning he reached Kabul and subdued the rebels.
This painting of a night scene shows Babur's qualities of leadership; his concern for his men and comradely treatment he gave them in times of adversity.
Shaibaq Khan, Uzbek captured Herat in June 1507. The Mirzas supplicated Babur for help. Babur pushed on towards Kandahar. The Uzbeks were led by Shah Beg and his younger brother Muqim. This painting shows a battle near Kandahar. Babur states:
"We mean time, after putting our adversary to flight, had crossed those same channels towards the naze of Murghan-koh (Birds'-h ill). Someone on a grey horse was going backwards and forwards irresolutely along the hill-skirt, while we were getting across; I likened him to Shah Beg; seemingly it was he.
"Our men having beaten their opponents, all went off to pursue and unhorse them. Remained with me eleven to count, `Abdu'l-lah the librarian being one. Muqim was still keeping his ground and fighting. Without a glance at the fewness of our men, we had the nagarets sounded and, putting our trust in God, moved with face set for Muqim." After this incident Babur moved on to Kandahar, and looted the treasury.
It is an excellent painting which conveys the excitement of a battle. It is packed with action, and is symbolic of the restless energy of Babur. Babur holding a naked sword is charging the enemy. Facing him is Muqim holding a shield. Drums are being lustily beaten by the drummers of both sides.
In May 1508 Babur abandoned the invasion of Hindustan. He visited Lamghanat which borders the land inhabited by Kafirs, who had resisted conversion to Islam. Here he crossed a river seated on a raft for the first time. Thus states BAbur:
"As it was not found desirable to go on into Hindustan, I sent Mulla Baba of Pashaghar back to Kabul with a few braves. Mean time I marched from near MandrAwar to Mar and Shiwa and lay there for a few days. From Atar I visited Kanar and Nurgal; from Kfinar I went back to camp on a raft; it was the first time I had sat on one; it pleased me much, and the raft came into common use thereafter."
The naked swimmers are pushing the raft with all their might. On the raft Babur is calmly seated surrounded by his body-guards.
On 6th March, 1506, Babur's first son Htunayun was born in the citadel of Kabul. A feast was arranged in the Chdr-Bagh. All the Begs brought presents, and dancers entertained the party.
This painting by Tulsi, who specializes in drawing animals, depicts a hunting scene in Afghanistan. Apart from deer of different varieties, rabbits, foxes and wild sheep are also depicted. On a rock a chakor is perching. Babur describes this event as follows:
"On Saturday (29th) we hunted the hill between 'Ali-shang and Alangair. One hunting-circle having been made on the 'Ali-shang side, another on the Alangar, the deer were driven down off the hill and many were killed. Returning from hunting, we dismounted in a garden belonging to the Maliks of Alangar and there had a party."
'Ali-shang and Alangar are mountainous districts of Afghanistan bordering the Hindu-kush, inhabited by Kafirs who retained their old religion and did not embrace Islam. Babur describes that trees cover the banks of the streams of 'Ali-Shang and Alangdr below the fort. The fort shown in the painting is probably the same. He also mentions that the valley grows grapes, green and red, all trained on trees.
As a study of fauna of Afghanistan, this painting has considerable value. It also conveys the excitement of a hunt most vividly.
This painting describes a hunting scene dated 10th December, 1526 near Bigram (Pesha-war). Babur crossed the river Siyalh-fib, and formed a hunting circle down-stream. He records.
"After a little, a person brought word that there was a rhino in a bit of jungle near Bigram, and that people had been stationed near-about it. We betook ourselves, loose rein, to the place, formed a ring round the jungle, made a noise, and brought the rhino out, when it took its way across the plain. Humdyun and those come with him from that side (Tramoun-tana), who had never seen one before, were much entertained. It was pursued for two miles; many arrows were shot at it; it was brought down without having made a good set at manor horse. Two others were killed. I had often wondered how a rhino and an elephant would be-have if brought face to face; this time one came out right in front of some elephants the mahauts were bringing along, it did not face them when the mahauts drove them towards it, but got off in another direction."
In the sixteenth century rhinos were found as far north as Peshawar and Sind. Now they are no longer to be seen in these areas. At present rhinos are preserved in the game sanctuaries of Assam and northern Bengal.
Babur invaded India for the fifth time in 1525. He defeated Daulat Khan Lodi and occupied Punjab. He marched through Jaswan dun, Rapar, Banur, Arnbala, Shahabad, and reached Panipat on 12th April, 1525. He collected seven hundred carts, which were joined togehter with ropes of raw hide. Between every two carts mantelets were fixed, behind which matchlockmen were posted. Opposing him was Ibrahim Lodi's army of 1,00,000 men and one thousand elephants. Mustafa, his commander of artillery made excellent use of his guns.
"Mustafa the commissary for his part made excellent discharge of zarb-zan shots from the left hand of the centre. Our right, left, centre and turning-parties having surrounded the enemy rained arrows down on him and fought ungrudgingly. He made one or two small charges on our right and left but under our men's arrows, fell back on his own centre. His right and left hands (qui) were massed in such a crowd that they could neither move forward against us nor force a way for flight.
"When the incitement to battle had come, the Sun was spear-high; till mid-day fighting had been in full force; noon passed, the foe was crushed in defeat, our friends rejoicing and gay. By God's mercy and kindness, this difficult affair was made easy for us!"
Ibrahim lay dead among thirty thousand of his soldiers, and Babur emerged the winner.
The painting shows the battle-scene. Between the guns, soldiers armed with bows and arrows are making sallies. It is surprising that hills are shown in the background. The battle-field of Panipat is a flat plain. Drummers are beating drums to infuse courage among the attackers. On the top of the painting is shown the town of Panipat
Babur appropriately starts his account of the birds of India with the peacock, the national bird of India.
"The peacock (Ar. Taus) is a beautifully coloured and splendid bird. Its form (andam) is not equal to its colouring and beauty. Its body may be as large as the crane's (tüawa) but it is not so tall. On the head of both cock and hen are 20 or 30 feathers rising some 2 or 3 inches high. The hen has neither colour nor beauty. The head of the cock has an iridescent collar (tauq sfisani); its neck is of a beautiful blue; below the neck, its back is painted in yellow, parrot-green, blue and violet colours. The flowers on its back are much the smaller; below the back as far as the tail-tips are larger flowers painted in the same colours. The tail of some peacocks grows to the length of a man's extended arms. It has a small red tail, under its flowered feathers, like the tail of other birds. Its flight is feebler than the pheasants; it cannot do more than one or two short flights. Hindustani call the peacock mor."
This painting is by Bhawani, who excels in painting birds and animals. On the top squirrels are playing on a tree. In the middle, a peacock and a pea-hen are shown, below a pair of sarus cranes, and in the pond a pair of fishes. It is one of the best paintings of birds and animals in this Babur Nama.
This painting depicts an incident which took place on 14th April, 1529 when Babur marched through Bihar and crossed the river Son by a bridge of boats. He had given names to the prominent boats; a large one built in Agra was named Araish (Repose). Another presented by Araish Khan was named Araish (Ornament). Another large-sized one was named Gunjaish (Capacious). In it he had another platform set up, on the top of the one already in it. To a little skiff was given the name of Farmaish (Commissioned). Babur thus narrates this incident:
"I left that ground by boat on Thursday. I had already ordered the boats to wait, and on getting up with them, I had them fastened together abreast in line. Though all were not collected there, those there were greatly exceeded the breadth of the river. They could not move on, however, so-arranged, because the water was here shallow, there deep, here swift, there still. A crocodile (gharial) shewing itself, a terrified fish leaped so high as to fall into a boat; it was caught and brought to me."
Babur is sitting on the platform of the Gunjaish, surrounded by attendants. In the fore-ground is a boat into which, a fish has leapt. Two soldiers armed with muskets are firing at the crocodile. All the on-lookers are sharing the excitement which the incident has provided.
Writer – M.S. Randhawa