Monday, 2 October 2017

Babur & Bibi Mubarakan "The Romantic"

The romantic

By Dr Raheal Ahmed Siddiqui

The monotone Indian history taught in our colleges and universities does not do justice to the real character of Babur.
Babar Nama, Babar's autobiography is an interesting in-depth reflection of an age of chivalry and bravery. Babur stood apart from all his contemporaries, and one wonders how much of Babur's unusual autobiography can really be believed. One answer is that he set down the facts as he remembered them -- and he had a remarkable memory.
Babur was more than just a conqueror. Not many people know that he was also the greatest naturalist of his time. His memoirs give descriptions of flora and fauna in great detail, perhaps even better than Audubon. Sadly this aspect of his character is never highlighted, and history students think of him only as the founder of Mughal dynasty in India.
Babur penned down vivid descriptions of flowers and fruits of Indian subcontinent. At that time oranges were grown in Bajaur: "about as large as a quince, very juicy and more acid than other oranges". At present oranges are not grown in Bajaur. Babur also noted, "all wine and fruit had in Bajaur comes from adjacent parts of Kafristan."
Babur was also somewhat of an anthropologist, taking interest in customs and lifestyles of people. In Bajaur he noticed a strange custom: "one seeming impossible, but told to us again and again. All through the hill country in Kunar, Nurgal, Bajaur, Swad (Swat) and thereabouts, it is commonly said that when a women dies and has been laid on a bier, she, if she has not been an ill-doer, gives the bearers such a shake when they lift the bier by its four sides, that against their will and hindrance, her corpse falls to the ground; but if she had done ill, no movement occurs. Hyder Ali Bajauri -- a Sultan who governed Bajaur well -- when his mother died, did not weep, or betake himself to lamentation, or put on black, but said, 'Go! Lay her on the bier! If she move not, I will have her burned.' They laid her on the bier; the desired movement followed; when he heard that this was so, he put on black and betook himself to lamentation."
On 21st January 1519 AD Babur marched from Bajaur towards "Swad (presently Malakand and Swat area) with the intention of attacking the Yousefzai Afghans." But by February 8th after some consultation with his advisors, the idea of attacking Yousefzais was given up. The reason quoted by Babur was simple. As it was not the harvest season, food supplies were running low and the raid would not be fruitful. So the Yousefzais were spared the traditional pillage and plunder of the Mughal hordes.
Two different incidents which happened during those 18 days also played a significant role in saving the Yousefzais. First the departure from Bajaur was delayed by a day, when Babur ate a portion of a sweetmeat offered to him by Malik Shah Mansur, the Yousefzai envoy in his court. It intoxicated him to an extent that Babur was not able to offer his evening prayers. The second was Babur's unusual marriage with Bibi Mubaraka. Babur noted in his memoirs: "In order to conciliate the Yousefzai horde, I had asked for the hand of a daughter of one of my well wishers, Malik Shah Mansur. While we were on this ground, news came that his daughter was on her way with the Yousefzai tribute." The next day, Taus Khan, the younger brother of Shah Mansur, brought the girl to Babur's camps
Mirza Mashood, a friend of mine who has done LLM in International Human Rights Law, terms this act as swara, a Pukhtoon custom akin to vani. Mashood believes that Babur's nuptial knot with Bibi Mubaraka was a marriage of convenience, and while brokering a peace deal with invading Mughals, the subdued Yousefzais surrendered a daughter of one of their chieftains.
The Yousefzais had an epic tale of their own regarding the marriage of Babur with Bibi Mubarika. This romantic Afghan legend begins with "Babur as the ruler of Kabul, professing friendship with Yousefzais, a powerful Afghan tribe. But his mind was poisoned by Dilazaks, sworn enemies of Yousefzai. Therefore Babur resolved to put to death Malik Ahmad, their chieftain, when he came to visit Kabul on Babur's invitation. But the Dilazaks warned Babur -- so says the legend of the Yousefzai -- to put Malik Ahmad to death at once, because he was so clever that, given a chance to speak, he would wring pardon from the Padshah.
On his arrival in Kabul, Ahmad immediately learned that Babur's real objective was to put him to death. Next morning, when Malik Ahmad was presented before Babur in court, he quickly unbuttoned his jerkin (surcoat). Twice Babur asked him why he did that. The third time Malik answered, saying that it had come to his ears that Babur intends to shoot him down with a bow. Therefore, said the Malik, in such a great assemblage where so many eyes were watching the Padshah, he didn't want Babur to miss his mark. Babur was pleased with his reply and began to question Malik Ahmad:
Asked he, "what sort of man is Behlol Lodhi?"
"A giver of horses," said Ahmad.
"And of what sort his son Sikandar?"
"A giver of robes"
"And what sort is Babur?"
"He," said Ahmad, "is a giver of heads".
"Then" rejoined Babur, "I give you yours."
Ahmad returned to his tribe but declined a second invitation to Kabul.
The legend continues that Babur came into their country with a large army. He devastated their lands but could make no impression on the fort. In order to spy out the strength of the fort, Babur, disguised as a qalander, went up to Mahura Hill where the fort was. Disguised as he was, Babur slipped inside the courtyard. Bibi Mubarka saw the "qalander". She sent a servant with meat folded between bread to Babur. He asked who sent it. The servant said it was Bibi Mubaraka, the daughter of Shah Mansur, who was sitting in front of the tent. Babur became entranced with her beauty and enquired from a women servant about her age and whether she was betrothed. Extracting the truth, Babur left and on the way back he hid the meat roll between two stones behind the house.
When he retuned to his camp he was much perplexed what to do next. He was ashamed of going back to Kabul without capturing the fort; moreover he had fallen in love with Bibi Mubaraka. So he wrote a friendly letter to Malik Ahmad asking for the daughter of Shah Mansur. Great objections were made and they even said that the Yousefzai chiefs have no daughter to give. Babur replied with a "beautiful royal letter", told of his visit to Shah Mansur's house in disguise, of his seeing Bibi Mubaraka, and as token of the truth of his story, asked them to search for the food he had hidden between stones behind the house. They searched and found it. Still Ahmad and Mansur were unwilling, but the tribal Jirga urged them to concede to the demands of Babur. The Maliks then said that it should be done "for the good of the tribe." The bride was escorted to the royal camp."
This legend was translated from Pushto into English by Annette Beveridge's husband and was first published in the Asian Quarterly Review of April 1901. The Yousefzai narrators had highlighted themselves as a powerful tribe which successfully defended their fort, saved Babur from embarrassment by making peace in which he surrendered his sword, and their chieftain Malik Ahmad deceived the Mughals with his wisdom. Babur became enamored with the beautiful Yousefzai girl in the normal course of life. But history judges them differently. The legend was an afterthought of the Yousefzais who tried to cover up their embarrassment of tame submission to the Mughals instead of putting up a gallant fight as envisaged in tribal traditions. According to Harold Lamp: "the Yousefzai Afghans have concocted their own fable of his advent. They have added a love interest to the tale, and coloured it with anecdotes that make a conscientious historian shudder. Yet it preserves a portrait of Babur drawn from tribal memory."
Like other details, the return journey of Babur as narrated in this legend does not coincide with historical facts. Leaving Shah Mansur's daughter in Bajaur, Babur crossed River Swat and rode towards "Maqam" (present Mardan). On 16th February 1519, he had crossed River Indus for the first time and was heading towards Bhera. Though the first battle of Panipat was fought in 1526, yet a strange incident at Bhera decided the fate of Delhi.
Gulbadan, Babur's daughter, fondly writes about the Bega Begum or Afghani Aghacha and mentions Humayun's displeasure with Kamran for not giving due respect to her. Some truth may have remained hidden in this Afghan legend of Babur and the mountain princes. Among the royal women of Kabul, Bibi Mubaraka remained somewhat apart, being younger and of tribal rather than royal Mughal descent. She lived an honoured life and died childless in Akbar's reign. Her brother Mir Jamal rose to honour under Babur, Humayun and Akbar's reigns.
Babur's memoirs do not mention the beautiful Bibi Mubaraka any further, but his epilogue remains incomplete without her.
When Babur died in December 1530 AD he was temporarily buried in Agra. But in accordance with Babur's will, his body was to be conveyed to Kabul and to be laid in a garden of his choice. Babur's body was exhumed from Agra and was taken to Kabul in 1544 accordance to his wishes.
Sher Shah Suri, true to his generous character provided escort for the Padshah, the Tiger of Fergana. The widow who performed the duty of accompanying his body from Agra was an Afghan lady. Her name was Bibi Mubaraka. (Gulbadan's narrative).
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