BABUR, CLIVE and KOHINOOR
India a land of seductive riches, land of the Kohinoor diamond a priceless gem which legend says was given by the god Krishna to test mankind's greed. Possessed of such wealth and beauty, thought Krishna, would men behave like beasts? or would they think and achieve wisdom? This is the story of India and its conquerors. One stormed south across the mountains, one came from across the seas, both were hungry for wealth and dominion. Each would become his own answer to Krishna's question wise man or beast? For three hundred years the Mughal empire dominated India. It was a Mughal emperor who created the radiant mountain of white marble called the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world. The wealth and sophistication of the Mughal court were legendary. Here, Mughal kings ruled from the famous peacock throne made of gold, rubies and sapphires. All these treasures of the Mughal empire were the legacy of one remarkable man, a poet, a killer, a wild nomad who was not from India at all. His name was Babur. Babur's life began in 1483 in Fergana, a small kingdom in the highlands of central Asia. Fergana was one square of a bloodstained checkerboard of competing dynasties, each struggling to expand its little empire. But a little empire wasn't what Babur had in mind. Babur's dynasty was part Turk and part Mongol Mughals as the Persians called them. Babur was a direct descendant of the two greatest conquerors of Central Asian history, Genghis Khan and Timur or Tamerlane. He wanted something that would be worthy of their memory. From the very beginning, Babur tried to take inspiration from Genghis and Timur. These were his two heroes. And it was probably this reason which had, at times, goaded him to think of India as his final destination. Born to nobility, at 11 Babur inherited Fergana. Almost immediately other warlords tried to take it away from him. Not surprisingly for one so young, the fortunes of war started to turn against him. Before long, he had lost much of his kingdom and his men deserted in droves to hitch their fortunes to more promising leaders. All seven or eight hundred of my lords and warriors deserted me. It was a terrible blow. I remember, I couldn't help crying. He was only fifteen. It was a harsh education which made young Babur's heart ache. But his early failures toughened him. If you desire to rule and conquer, you don't just fold your hands when things go wrong you act. Action meant war. And with whichever followers he could muster, he started to wage guerrilla warfare against his more powerful neighbors. He and his men seesawed between victory and defeat. Allies deserted him; enemies became allies. One day in 1501, he laughed when he realized a sword he had given to an ally as a token of loyalty one year, was the same one that almost split his skull in battle the next. My own soul is my most faithful friend. My own heart, my truest confidant. Always, Babur's ambition was to found a great dynasty like his ancestors. He needed children who would be his heirs. He admitted he was so shy as a young man, his mother and sisters had to bully him into sleeping with his first wife.
But before long he had more wives, and a son, Humayun, on whom the weight of Babur's dreams would fall. With his succession assured, the question that now dogged him was: what would he leave his sons? He had lost his kingdom and was being shut out of Central Asia. So where was the land in which his dynasty could flourish? Slowly, Babur's reputation as a warlord was growing and with it the perception that he might be a future ruler after all. Lured by the promise of conquest and booty, warriors of other dynasties began to join him. In 1504, Babur's fortunes took a decisive turn for the better. He caught wind of tumult in the Afghan kingdom of Kabul to the south. Here, he thought, was a chance. At the age of 21, Babur rode out of the mountains with his small band of men and raced toward Kabul. Warriors...
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