The book is an interesting take on Babur, his fights and battles. It starts from 12-year-old Babur listening about his ancestor Timur from his father who is a king but is not that rich (Timur plundered Delhi and his soldiers raped and killed many during the rule of Tughlaq dynasty in 1398).
The main characters which go along with you throughout the book are:
- Esan Dwalat: Babur’s maternal grandmother
- Khanzada: Babur’s older sister
- Kutlugh Nigar: Babur’s mother
- Shibani Khan: Babur’s arch rival, leader of Uzbeks and a nemesis of Babur’s people
- Baburi: Babur’s close friends
- Wazir Khan: Milk brother to Babur’s father , guide and mentor to Babur.
- Kasim : Babur’s ambassador
- Baisanghar : Babur’s father-in-law who helped Babur capture Samakhand
- Maham: Babur’s favourite wife and mother of Humayun and daughter of Baisanghar.
Babur as such had 5 wives and many concubines, the name of his 5 wives mentioned are:
- Ayisha: 1st wife older than Babur, daughter of chief of Mangligh clan. She never accepted him and had a lover prior in her own people with whom she eventually marries after leaving Babur.
- Maham: Daughter of Baisanghar, the man who helped Babur win Samarkand. Babur marries her to show respect to Baisanghar in addition to the fact that his 1st wife abandoned him for her lover.
- Gulrukh: Mother of kamran and Askari. Grand-daughter of Bahlul Ayyub, Vazir of Kabul.
- Bibi Mubarak: Daughter of the chief of Yusufzai clan (A Pashtun clan)
- Dildar: Mother of Hindal
The author’s name Alex Rutherford is the pen name for Diana Preston and her husband Michael. Both studied at Oxford University reading History and English respectively. I believe that the act of humanizing Babur and the fact Babur is shown crying would definitely be a mind of a woman at work. Since that emotion riddled sequences are the ones which they so much like. Therefore I guess that the husband and wife duo had their work cut out, very well.
Babur is a descendent of Timur and Genghis Khan both. I however think that the book is romanticism of Babur. It shows him in humane form. Shibani Khan an Uzbek and arch rival of Timur princes is shown as barbarous man who was sexually assaulted and kept as a boy toy by an old Timur noble. This was when he was captured in a battle but Shibani Khan kills that noble and escapes, pledging to kill all Timur princes ( I think a fair deal if we look what Timur descendents did to Shibani khan and his people).
Babur is also saved many times by luck as his uncles, Rulers at Samarkand and Kabul gift him his kingdoms as they have no male heir. Shibani khan demands Babar’s sister’s hand in marriage as a price of leaving Samarkand unharmed, when he invades Samarkand (which is a tough issue for Babur). The author writes that Babur wept at being not a man/feeling impotent as he was unable to protect his sister’s honor,especially when he visualizes/imagines Shibani Khan touching the soft white skin of his sister (which is again human attempt though reality of the situation was not written or recorded in Babar’s auto-biography.Babur at that time was 19 Years old and his sister was 21 years old). His sister was returned to him by the Shah of Iran as the Persian Army killed Shibani Khan.
Babur again returns to Samarkand but as a puppet of Shah of Iran who asks him to convert to Shia Islam instead of Sunni Islam. His refusal leads to his loss of the city once and for all. During this period Baburi and Babur have differences. Therefore Baburi leaves Babur’s side and goes away. Babur is left all by himself without the men he could really trust. Baburi eventually returns after 7 years bringing Turkish canon along which he uses to conquer Hindustan (a land of infidels as he use to call it).
There he fights Sultan Ibrahim Lodi (A Pashtun Ruler). Whose armies he is able to defeat (as apparently it is full of infidels, very amusing). During this war he loses his close friend Baburi. After killing and defeating Ibrahim Lodi, Babur becomes the Emperor of India. Here too he fights of many fractions within, Namely Lodi’s mother Buwa who curses Babur.
Then there are fights with Rana sangha of Mewar, an old ruler famous for many bruises on his body along with many of his wives and concubines. This he wins by calling Jihad. There is an attempt on Babur’s life by Poisoning but Babur is able to overcome it, it was by Buwa, Ibrahim Lodi’s mother. He eventually dies praying for his son Humayun’s recovery.
I think it is a good book for fun-history purposes but the author himself/herself writes that he/she has fictionalized it. Though 70% is facts based on Babar’s auto biography.
I might read rest of the parts too but not soon, probably in a year or two.