Home Bangalore The emperor’s tale

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    HISTORY text books rarely chronicle
    history. They are as selectively
    factual as government press
    releases. To develop an objective
    view of the past, one has to first
    unlearn all the ‘facts’ that were
    handed out at school. The Mughals,
    for example, were not Islamic conquerors.
    ‘Mughals’ is the Persian
    way of saying ‘Mongols’, which is
    an allusion to how the dynasty
    perceived itself as descendants
    of Tamerlane, the warlord
    from Central Asia.
    Babar, the founder of the
    Mughal Empire, was in
    f ac t an Uzbeki who
    fancied Kabul a lot more
    than Delhi. He made his
    way to Punjab on an invitation
    from Daulat Khan
    Lodi and, on realising the
    weakness of the Ibrahim
    Lodi Empire, demolished
    them in less than half a day, in the
    much touted First Battle of
    Panipat. By the way, Babar was
    born as Zahiruddin Mohammad
    and his name means ‘Tiger’.
    Babar’s son Humayun (meaning
    ‘the fortunate one’) was not a patch
    on his father when it came to military
    tactics. Driven out of India by
    Shershah Suri, he wormed his way
    back after Shershah’s demise and is
    best remembered as the bloke who
    died in a library accident after tripping
    over his skirt. Akbar (‘The
    Great’), born Abu’l Fath Jalaluddin
    Muhammad, was renowned for his
    tolerance and empire building. But
    he had a more colourful streak.
    Apart from the syncretic way of
    living he put together, he was a prolific
    inventor. His creations include
    a method to fire 17 guns simultaneously
    and a machine to clean 16
    barrels at once.
    Jehangir (‘World Conqueror’)
    was a total dopey and a sucker for
    booze in addition to being a pious
    Muslim. He stole Nur Jehan from a
    subordinate, got his first son blinded
    for rebelling against him and
    was gullible enough to let the Brits
    into our country.
    Shahjahan (‘King of the World’),
    the eternal romantic who built the
    Taj Mahal, was a ruthless brother
    killer, famous for staging a coup to
    oust his dad. But his karma boomeranged
    on him when his much
    loved son Dara Shukoh was
    beheaded by his other son
    Aurangzeb ( ‘Honour to the
    Throne’). Aurangzeb, the muchreviled
    humourless bigot, is often
    portrayed as a hater of music.
    Nothing could be further from the
    truth. He was an accomplished
    player of the rudra veena and he
    never forbade artistes from performing
    for his wives and daughters.
    Another truth rarely publicised
    is his birthplace. Like our
    Prime Minister, he was born in
    Gujarat. Wonder what the saffronwalas
    have to say about this.

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