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A Royal Chronicle

Meena Bhargava

Translated by Annette Susannah Beveridge Abridged, edited and introduced by Dilip Hiro
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2006, pp. xxxiii 385, Rs. 350.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 10 October 2006

Babur Nama is an autobiography of Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, which he established in 1526 after defeating Sultan Ibrahim Lodi in the first battle of Panipat. More appropriately, Babur Nama is a memoir and a diary kept by Babur since he was ten years old until a year before his death in December 1530. Babur began chronicling events soon after he became the governor of Andijan (now in Uzbekistan) at the age of ten following the assassination of his father Omar Shaikh Mirza in 1493. Babur not only wrote daily events but also the personal and filial information about his contemporaries. He wrote himself till he stabilized himself as the Emperor in 1527, after which he dictated his memoirs. The fact that he wrote himself, or dictated what he wished to be penned down, makes Babur Nama a personal, coherent and a lucid chronicle.   Babur had written the chronicle in Chaghatai Turkish. Annette Susannah Beveridge (1842-1929) translated it into English1 . The original Babur Nama is in two volumes and runs into 906 pages with expansive, exhaustive footnotes by Beveridge. Dilip Hiro has done a remarkable job by abridging this huge chronicle and “transforming a book of sumo wrestler proportions to those of a tennis champion” (p. xix). Needless to say, while abridging and editing it, Hiro has retained the essence and spirit of the chronicle. However, contrary to Hiro’s observation that “dedicated scholars are known to shy away from perusing the book from cover to cover”, I believe and recommend that for the true flavour of the chronicle, abridged version notwithstanding, the entire Babur Nama in both its volumes should be read.   The importance of the abridged text, nonetheless, cannot be countered. Its value has been enhanced by the three distinct maps which show the movement of Babur from Central Asia to Hindustan; the matrilineal (descendants of Chingez Khan) and patrimonial branch (from Timur Beg) of Babur’s family tree and the list of individuals who played a dominant role in Babur’s life. Hiro has retained the original dating by Islamic calendar, styled AH (After Hijra i.e. Migration of the Prophet). He observes that the division of the book into three parts – Fergana and Samarkand (Uzbekistan) AH 899 – AH 909 (14 February 1483-7 to July 1502); The Domain of Kabul (Afghanistan) AH 910 – AH 931 (14 JUNE 1504 to 12 December 1520); Hindustan (India and Pakistan) AH 932-5 Jumada Awal AH 937 (18 October 1525 to 12 August 1530) – has ...

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