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12.3.2 History of India: The Tīmūrids: Bābur
(2,432 words)

In Volume 1-1: Qurʾānic Literature, History, and Biography | Section 2, History, Biography, etc.

previous chapter: 12.3.1 General

§ 698. Ẓahīr al-Dīn M. Bābur b. ʿUmar S̲h̲aik̲h̲ Mīrzā b. Sulṭān Abū Saʿīd Mīrzā b. Sulṭān-Muḥammad Mīrzā b. Mīrān-S̲h̲āh b. Tīmūr was born on 6 Muḥarram 888/14 Feb. 1483, and succeeded his father as ruler of Farg̲h̲ānah in Ramaḍān 899/June 1494, being then in his twelfth year. In 906/1501 a defeat at the hands of S̲h̲aibānī K̲h̲ān deprived him of his princedom, but in 910/1504 he occupied Kābul and made it the seat of his government. In 932/1526 he defeated Ibrāhīm Lōdī at Pānīpat, made Āgrah his capital and founded the Tīmūrid dynasty of Hindūstān. He died on 6 Jumādā i 937/26 December 1530 in his 48th year.

In addition to his Memoirs, which alone concern us here, Bābur was the author of some poetical works in Turkī (for which see The Babur-nāma in English pp. 437–8 and appendices pp. lviii–lxvii, Akbar-nāmah i pp. 118–19, F. Teufel Bâbur und Abû ’l-fażl (in zdmg. 37 (1883)) pp. 179–84, Dīvān-i-Bābur Pādishāh edited with facsimile by E.D. Ross in jasb. 1910, extra number).

(Bābur-nāmah), or (Wāqiʿāt i Bāburī1), or (Tūzuk i Bāburī), Bābur’s personal memoirs in C̲h̲ag̲h̲atāy Turkī, extant only in a mutilated form, since the existing mss., as well as ʿAbd al-Raḥīm’s translation, are marred by numerous lacunæ: Edinburgh Scottish National Library (“may have been copied during Akbar’s first decade (1556–67)”. See Mrs. Beveridge’s description in jras. 1907, pp. 131–44 (cf. 1900 pp. 451–3), and her brief account in The Bābur-nāma in English p. xliii. Formerly belonged to Elphinstone and Erskine), Rieu b.m. Turkish Cat. p. 280 (detached fragments only. ah 1039/1630. Cf. Mrs. Beveridge in jras. 1900 pp. 453–4, 470), Lindesiana p. 244 no. 151 (fragment only (71 foll.) from the beginning. Written, according to Mrs. Beveridge, by Nūr M., nephew of Abū ’l-Faḍl, who was living in 1625. See jras. 1900 pp. 465–6, 470, and The Bābur-nāma in English p. xli). Ḥaidarābād Sālār-Jang Library (circ. ad 1700. See jras. 1902 p. 655, 1905 pp. 741–62, 1906 pp. 79–93, 1908 pp. 73–6, The Bābur-nāma in English pp. xlvi–xlvii).

In addition to the above mss., which are regarded by Mrs. Beveridge as representing the genuine Turkī text of the Bābur-nāmah, there exist a number of others, which, according to her,2 resemble the text published by Ilminski from Kehr’s transcript (see p. 418 infra), and of which, therefore, the contents are partly genuine, partly retranslated from ʿAbd al-Raḥīm’s Persian, and partly spurious.3 The recorded mss. of this garbled recension are as follows: Leningrad Foreign Office Institute of Oriental Languages no. 360 (G.J. Kehr’s transcript, ad 1737. See Smirnow’s Turkish cat. pp. 142–4, jras. 1900 pp. 467–73, 1908 pp. 76–96, 828–31, 1923 pp. 75–77, The Bābur-nāma in English pp. lii–lv), Asiatic Museum No. 590bba (Senkovski’s transcript. ad 1824. See jras. 1900 pp. 474–5, The Bābur-nāma in English pp. lv–lvii), University Library no. 683 (ad 1839 (?). See jras. 1900 pp. 466–7, The Bābur-nāma in English p. lvi), Ivanow 1730 (late 12th/18th cent. See jras. 1900 pp. 461–5, The Bābur-nāma in English p. lvi), Ethé 214 (early 19th cent., probably transcribed from Ivanow 1730. Lacunæ. Incorrectly described by Ethé as complete. See jras. 1900 pp. 455–61, The Bābur-nāma in English p. lvi).

Facsimile of the Turkī text: The Babar-nama, being the autobiography of the Emperor Babar … written in Chaghatay Turkish; now reproduced in facsimile from a manuscript belonging to the late Sir Salar Jang of Hyderabad, and edited with a preface and indexes by A.S. Beveridge. Leyden and London 1905* (Gibb Memorial Series, 1).

English translation from the Turkī: The Babur-nama in English (Memoirs of Babur) by Zahiru’-d-din Muhammad Babur Padshah Ghazi. Translated from the original Turki text by A.S. Beveridge. London 1921*.

Edition of most4 of the extracts preserved in Kehr’s manuscript of the garbled recension: Baber-namè ili Zapiski Sultana Babera [these words in the Russian character], Baber-Nameh Djagataice ad fidem codicis Petropolitani edidit N. Ilminski. Kazan 1857* (cf. Zenker ii p. 64 no. 814).

French translation of Ilminski’s text: Mémoires de Baber (Zahir-ed-din Mohammed) traduites … sur le texte djagatai par A. Pavet de Courteille. Paris 1871*.

Persian translations of these memoirs, or parts of them, were made by the following persons:

S̲h̲aik̲h̲ Zain [al-Dīn] “Wafāʾī” K̲h̲wāfī, a poet who was Ṣadr in Bābur’s reign, who wrote a fatḥ-nāmah describing the Battle of Kānwah (cf. Rieu iii p. 1046b vii), which is quoted in the Memoirs, and who died in 940/1533–4 and was buried at Āgrah. [See The Bāburnāma in English pp. 448, 476, 532, 553 (bis), 559, 565, 575, 662, 683, Akbar-nāmah i p. 119, Beveridge’s trans. i p. 280; ʿAbd al-Qādir Muntak̲h̲ab al-tawārik̲h̲ i pp. 341, 471–2; Ṭabaqāt i S̲h̲āh-Jahānī; Safīnah i K̲h̲wus̲h̲gū no. 68; Mak̲h̲zan al-g̲h̲arāʾib no. 2933; Elliot and Dowson History of India iv pp. 288–9.]

An ornate paraphrase of the Memoirs,5 or perhaps only of a portion6 relating to the Indian period of Bābur’s life: Rieu iii 926b (events of ah 932 and the early part of 933. 102 foll. ah 998/1590), i 246a (Ṣafar 932–Muḥarram 933. 17th cent.), Blochet iv 2154 (from the beginning of 932 to the end of the description of Hindūstān. Early 17th cent.).7

Description and 3 pp. of translated extracts: Elliot and Dowson History of India iv pp. 288–92.

Mirzā Pāyandah Ḥasan G̲h̲aznawī and Muḥammad-Qulī Mug̲h̲ūl Ḥiṣārī, the former of whom began his translation in 994/1586 at the command of Bihrūz K̲h̲ān (afterwards Naurang K̲h̲ān, who died as Governor of Jūnāgaṛh ah 1002: see Rieu ii 799b) and dealt with the first six years and part of the seventh, while the latter continued the work to ah 935: Browne Suppt. 1351 (n.d., but presented to King’s Coll, in 1788. King’s 96), Rieu ii 799b (ah 1203/1789), Ethé 215 (n.d.), Bodleian 179 (modern).
Mirzā ʿAbd al-Raḥīm K̲h̲ān i K̲h̲ānān8 b. Bairam K̲h̲ān K̲h̲ān i K̲h̲ānān, who made his translation by order of Akbar and completed it in 998/1589–90: Rieu Suppt. 75 (late 16th cent. Fine Pictures), Rieu i 244a (late 16th cent.), 244b (16th cent. 4 Pictures), 245a (ah 1048/1638. 26 Pictures), 245a (ah 1148/1735), 245a (18th cent.), 245b (early 19th cent. 1 Picture), 245b (19th cent.), 245b (portion only. Early 19th cent.), ii 800a (ah 1203/1789), iii 926a (3 detached portions. Circ. ad 1850), 1046 (extracts only. Circ. ad 1850), Blochet i 559 (16th cent.), 560 (1st half of 17th cent.), 561 (ah 1215/1800), 562 (ad 1870), Lahore Panjāb Univ. Lib. (2 copies, one dated ah 1021/1612 and the other ah 1215/1800–1. See Oriental College Magazine, vol. ii, no. 4 (Lahore, August 1926), p. 49, and vol. x, no. 3 (May 1934), pp. 137–8), Ethé 218 (not later than ah 1051/1641), 216 (n.d.), 217 (n.d.), 2989 (“excellent, but undated”), Bānkīpūr vii 549 (ah 1082/1671–2), Suppt. 1763 (fragment, more than one-third of the work. 17th cent.), Bodleian 180 (n.d. 28 Pictures) 181–3 (three undated copies), Edinburgh 205 (old and good), 206 (ah 1303/1885), 207 (defective. 18th cent.), 76 (ah 1213 [?]/1798), Ivanow 113 (late 18th cent.), Lindesiana p. 233 no. 160 (circ. ad 1780), Āgrah College (date ? Some illustrations from this ms. are reproduced in L.F. Rushbrook Williams’s An empire builder of the sixteenth century, London 1918), Alwar State Library (date ? Some illustrations reproduced in the aforementioned work of Rushbrook Williams), Browne Pers. Cat. 86 ii (incomplete), Bombay Univ. p. 265, Eton 175 (“History of Farg̲h̲ānah” [sic], but the opening words, quoted in the catalogue, suffice to identify the work), Mehren p. 19 no. 50.

Edition of ʿAbd al-Raḥīm’s translation: Bābur-nāmah mausūm bah Tūzuk i Bāburī u Futūḥāt i Bāburī, Bombay 1308/1890*. (For a criticism of this edition see Oriental College Magazine, vol. x, no. 3 (Lahore, May 1934), p. 136.)

Extracts from ʿAbd al-Raḥīm’s translation: [biographies of poets, scholars, musicians etc. edited by M. S̲h̲afīʿ] Oriental College Magazine, vol. x, no. 3 (Lahore, May 1934), pp. 140–9.

English translation of ʿAbd al-Raḥīm’s Persian version: Memoirs of Zehir-ed-Din Muhammed Baber, Emperor of Hindustan, written by himself, in the Jaghatai Turki, and translated [mainly from the Persian version] partly by the late John Leyden, partly by William Erskine …, London 1826* (Zenker i no. 956), Life of Baber, Emperor of Hindostan, written by himself and translated from the Jaghatai Toorki [or rather, from the Persian version], by J. Leyden and W. Erskine. 2nd ed. London 1844 (Zenker ii no. 813), Memoirs of Zehīr-ed-dīn Muhammed Bābur, … written by himself, in the Chaghatāi Tūrki and translated by J. Leyden … and W. ErskineAnnotated and revised by Sir Lucas King. Oxford 1921*.

Abridgments of Leyden and Erskine’s translation: (1) Life of Baber, abridged from the Memoirs of Zehir-eddin Muhammed Baber … by R.M. Caldecott. London 1844* (Zenker ii no. 812), (2) Memoirs of Baber Emperor of India, first of the Great Moghuls; being an abridgment with an introduction, supplementary notes, and some account of his successors, by Lieut.-Colonel F.G. Talbot. London 1909*.

German translation of Leyden and Erskine’s version: Zehir-Eddin Muhammed Baber, Kaisers von Hindustan, Denkwürdigkeiten von ihm selbst im Dschagatai-Türkischen verfasst und nach der englischen Uebersetzung des J. Leyden und W. Erskine deutsch bearbeitet von A. KaiserLeipzig 1828 (Zenker i no. 957).

Description and 57 pp. of extracts from Leyden and Erskine’s translation: Elliot and Dowson History of India iv pp. 218–87.

§ 699. Mīrzā Bark̲h̲wurdār Turkmān completed in 937/1530–1 and dedicated to S̲h̲āh Ismāʿīl a work entitled Aḥsan al-siyar, which is one of the authorities used by L.F. Rushbrook Williams for An empire builder of the sixteenth century (London 1918), and which according to him (op. cit. p. viii) “recounts in great detail the relations between Babur and Shah Ismael [sic]” and is “noteworthy because the author, a Shiá [sic], who wrote with the professed object of correcting the Habib-us-Siyar, confirms it in all important respects”.

Aḥsan al-siyar, a history, of which the fourth and last volume (the only part known to be extant) is a detailed account of S̲h̲āh Ismāʿīl’s reign:9 Rāmpūr Nawwāb ʿAbd al-Salām K̲h̲ān’s library (Vol. iv (last) only).

Description: A new Persian authority on Bābur ? By L.F. Rushbrook Williams (in the j.a.s.b. N.S. Vol. xii (1916) pp. 297–8).

next chapter: 12.3.3 Humāyūn


^ Back to text1. This title is used, e.g., by ʿAbd al-Qādir Badāʾūnī, Muntak̲h̲ab al-tawārīk̲h̲ i p. 341. Bābur refers to the work as the Waqāʾiʿ.

^ Back to text2. Mrs. Beveridge’s conclusions were set forth, and from time to time modified, in a series of articles published in the jras. (1900 pp. 439–80: Notes on the Turkī text of Bābar’s Memoirs; 1902 pp. 653–9: Further notes on the [Elphinstone and Haydarabad] MSS. of the Turkī text of Bābar’s Memoirs; 1905 pp. 741–62: The Haydarabad codex of the Babar-nama …; 1906 pp. 79–93: The Haydarabad codex, etc., continued; 1907 pp. 131–44: Further notes on the Babar-nama MSS. The Elphinstone codex; 1908 pp. 73–98: The Babar-nama. The material now available for a definitive text of the book. I. The wording of the Haydarabad and Elphinstone MSS. II. General notice of the St. Petersburg Foreign Office codex (copied by Kehr) and of the pseudo-Bābar ‘Fragment’. III. Dr. Kehr’s transcript considered as text-material. IV. Summary of the results in text-material of the examination of the fifteen MSS….; 1908 pp. 828–31: The Bābar-nāma: Dr. Kehr’s Latin version and a new letter by Bābar.; 1909 pp. 452–60: Notes on the Bābar-nāma. I. Dr. J.G. Klaproth’s part translation of the book. II. On the origin and meaning of the word Tāshkand; pp. 111–28: The Babar-nama description of Farghāna [a revised translation]; 1911 pp. 65–74: The Babar-nama. A passage [concerning B.’s escape from impending death, Mémoires i p. 255] judged spurious in the Haydarabad MS.; 1914 pp. 440–51: Notes on the Babur-nama. I. Nagarahār and Nīng-nahār. II. Dara-i-nūr. III. The wines of Dara-i-nūr. IV. Of Bihbūd Beg; and of Bābur’s vassal-coinage; 1923 pp. 75–78: Further notes on Baburiana [viz. a description of Kehr’s transcript and of Ilminski’s Baber-namè]. The conclusions were summarised in the preface to The Babur-nama in English.

^ Back to text3. It has been shown by F. Teufel (Bábur und Abû ’l-fażl, zdmg. 37 (1883) pp. 141–87) that one portion is a translation from the Akbar-nāmah. For the passage discussed by Mrs. Beveridge in the jras. 1911 pp. 65–74 see also H. Beveridge’s article A passage in the Turki text of the Bābarnāmah in the asb. n.s. vi no. 4 (April 1910) pp. 221–6.

^ Back to text4. For a list of the contents of Kehr’s transcript and a specification of the parts published by Ilminski see The Bābur-nāma in English pp. lii–liii and the jras. 1923 pp. 75–8. One of the extracts (the “Hindustan Section”, as Mrs. Beveridge calls it) is actually a part of Bābur’s Turkī text, others appear to be retranslations from ʿAbd al-Raḥīm’s Persian, others are spurious and one is “a continuous passage translated from the Akbar-nama winding up Bābur’s story to his death and Court”. Mrs. Beveridge argued from the colophon of Senkovski’s transcript (Turkī text quoted in jras. 1900 p. 474) that the garbled recension was a compilation “planned to contain the histories of Bābur and Humāyūn” and entitled Waqāʾiʿ-nāmah i pāds̲h̲āhī by Mullā ‘Abd al-Wahhāb Āk̲h̲und G̲h̲ujdawānī, who completed it on 31 Aug. 1709/5 Rajab 1121. It seems probable, however, that, since Waqāʾiʿ is the term used by Bābur in speaking of his Memoirs, Waqāʾiʿ-nāmah i pāds̲h̲āhī is merely equivalent to Wāqiʿāt i Bāburī, Bābur-nāmah and the other quasi-titles given to the Memoirs.

^ Back to text5. The inappropriate title Ṭabaqāt i Bāburī, which Dowson gives to the work, is ignored by Rieu in his description of the Elliot ms. and may be presumed to have no satisfactory authority.

^ Back to text6. According to ʿAbd al-Qādir Badāʾūnī (i p. 4725–6) ū tārīk̲h̲ī nawis̲h̲tah mus̲h̲tamil bar aḥwāl i fath i Hindūstān u s̲h̲arḥ i g̲h̲arāʾib i ān u dād i suk̲h̲hun-warī dar-ān dādah. An earlier passage in the Muntak̲h̲ab al-tawārīk̲h̲ (i p. 341 17–18) says that S̲h̲. Zain Wāqiʿāt i Bāburī rā kih ān pāds̲h̲āh i mag̲h̲fūr nawis̲h̲tah ba-ʿibāratī balīgh tarjamah kard.

^ Back to text7. Cf. zdmg. 37 (1883) p. 177 n.

^ Back to text8. This celebrated general, governor and man of letters was born at Lahore in Ṣafar 964/1556 and died at Delhi in 1036/1627. He is the subject of ‘Abd al-Bāqī Nihāwandī’s Maʾāt̲h̲ir i Raḥīmī (see p. 434 infra). For other accounts of him see Āʾīn i Akbarī tr. Blochmann i pp. 334–9, Iqbāl-nāmah i Jahāngīrī iii pp. 287–8; Maʾāt̲h̲ir al-umarāʾ i pp. 693–713, Beveridge’s trans. pp. 50–65; Safīnah i K̲h̲wus̲h̲gū no. 619; Ency. Isl. under ʿAbd al-Raḥīm K̲h̲ān (A.S. Beveridge), etc.

^ Back to text9. This work would have been mentioned among the histories of S̲h̲āh Ismā‘il’s reign, if Rushbrook Williams’s article in the j.a.s.b. had come to notice earlier.

Cite this page
“12.3.2 History of India: The Tīmūrids: Bābur”, in: Storey Online, Charles Ambrose Storey. Consulted online on 29 May 2023 <>
First published online: 2021

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