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three pairs of lovers with space


Ẓahīr-ud-dīn Muhammad, better known as Babur (14 February 1483-26 December 1530), was a Central Asian Moslem amir of Mongol descent who, through his conquests in northern India, became in 1526 the first of what are best known as the Mughal Emperors, who reigned in India for three centuries.  He wrote his autobiography or diary, the
Bāburnāma (Book of Bābur), in Chaghatai Turki. It was translated by Annette Susannah Beveridge as The Bābur-nāma in English (Memoirs of Bābur) and published in two volumes (London, 1922), from which all the extracts concerning Greek love are here presented.

Though of course reference is made to earlier events, what survives of the Bāburnāma as a memoir opens in June 1494 and finishes in September 1529.

The Christian dates in the text are all the translator’s insertions.

899 AH. – Oct. 12th 1493 to Oct. 2nd 1494 AD.

Frontispiece of the Persian translation of the Baburnama presented to Babur's grandson, the Emperor Akbar

l. Umar Shaikh Mīrzā 's Amīrs.

Shaikh Mazīd Beg was another, my first guardian, excellent in rule and method. He must have served (khidmat qīghān dūr) under Bābur Mīrzā (Shāhrukhī). There was no greater beg in ‘Umar Shaikh Mīrzā's presence. He was a vicious person and kept catamites. [p. 26]

(u. Historical narrative resumed.)

At once on hearing of his brother's death, Sl. Mahmūd Mīrzā[1] went off to Samarkand and there seated himself on the throne, without difficulty. Some of his doings soon disgusted and alienated high and low, soldier and peasant. … Yet another thing was that just as he was vicious and tyrannical, so were his begs, small and great, and his retainers and followers. The Hisārīs and in particular the followers of Khusrau Shāh … engaged themselves unceasingly with wine and fornication. Once one of them enticed and took away a certain man's wife. When her husband went to Khusrau Shāh and asked for justice, he received for answer: "She has been with you for several years; let her be a few days with him." Another thing was that the young sons of the townsmen and shopkeepers, nay! even of Turks and soldiers could not go out from their houses from fear of being taken for catamites. …

By reason of his infamous violence and vice Sl. Mahmūd Mīrzā did not rule in Samarkand more than five or six months. [pp. 41-2]

900 AH. 900 – Oct. 2nd1494 to Sep. 21st 1495 AD.

a. Death of Sl. Maḥmūd Mīrzā.)

In the month of the latter Rabī‘ (January 1495 AD.), Sl. Maḥmūd Mīrzā was confronted by violent illness and in six days, passed from the world. He was 43 (lunar) years old.

b. His birth and lineage.

He was born in 857 AH. (1453 AD.), was Sl. Abū-sa‘īd Mīrzā’s third son and the full-brother of Sl. Aḥmad Mīrzā.

c. His appearance and characteristics.

He was a short, stout, sparse-bearded and somewhat ill-shaped person. His manners and his qualities were good, his rules and methods of business excellent; he was well-versed in accounts, not a dinār or a dirhām of revenue was spent without his knowledge. The pay of his servants was never disallowed. His assemblies, his gifts, his open table, were all good. Everything of his was orderly and well-arranged; no soldier or peasant could deviate in the slightest from any plan of his. Formerly he must have been hard set (qātīrār) on hawking but latterly he very frequently hunted driven game. He carried violence and vice to frantic excess, was a constant wine-bibber and kept many catamites. If anywhere in his territory, there was a handsome boy, he used, by whatever means, to have him brought for a catamite; of his begs’ sons and of his sons’ begs’ sons he made catamites; and laid command for this service on his very foster brothers and on their own brothers. So common in his day was that vile practice, that no person was without his catamite; to keep one was thought a merit, not to keep one, a defect. Through his infamous violence and vice, his sons died in the day of their strength (tamām juwān).

He had a taste for poetry and put a dīwān together but his verse is flat and insipid,—not to compose is better than to compose verse such as his. He was not firm in the Faith and held his Highness Khwāja ‘Ubaidu’l-lāh (Arārī) in slight esteem. He had no heart (yūruk) and was somewhat scant in modesty,—several of his impudent buffoons used to do their filthy and abominable acts in his full Court, in all men’s sight. He spoke badly, there was no understanding him at first. [pp. 45-6]


h. Sl. Maḥmūd Mīrzā’s amirs.

Khusrau Shāh, the former catamite risen to greatness, swearing fealty to Babur in 1504, 16th century illustration

Khusrau Shāh was of the Turkistānī Qipchāqs. He had been in the intimate service of the Tarkhān begs, indeed had been a catamite. Later on he became a retainer of Mazīd Beg (Tarkhān) Arghūn who favoured him in all things. He was favoured by Sl. Mahmūd Mīrzā on account of services done by him when, after the 'Iraq disaster, he joined the  Mīrzā on his way to Khurāsān. He waxed very great in his latter days; his retainers, under Sl. Mahmūd Mīrzā, were a clear five or six thousand. Not only Badakhshān but the whole country from the Amū to the Hindū-kush Mountains depended on him and he devoured its whole revenue. [p. 49]


905 AH. – Aug. 8th 1499 to July 28th 1500 AD.

[The month of Sha‘bān mentioned equated to March 1500, when Babur had just reached seventeen.]

(q. Bābur’s first marriage.)

‘Āyisha-sult̤ān Begīm whom my father and hers, i.e. my uncle, Sl. Aḥmad Mīrzā had betrothed to me, came (this year) to Khujand and I took her in the month of Sha‘bān. Though I was not ill-disposed towards her, yet, this being my first marriage, out of modesty and bashfulness, I used to see her once in 10, 15 or 20 days. Later on when even my first inclination did not last, my bashfulness increased. Then my mother Khānīm used to send me, once a month or every 40 days, with driving and driving, dunnings and worryings.

(r. A personal episode and some verses by Bābur.)

In those leisurely days I discovered in myself a strange inclination, nay! as the verse says, ‘I maddened and afflicted myself’ for a boy in the camp-bazar, his very name, Bāburī, fitting in. Up till then I had had no inclination for any-one, indeed of love and desire, either by hear-say or experience, I had not heard, I had not talked. At that time I composed Persian couplets, one or two at a time; this is one of the them:—

          Babur in an illustration of ca. 1605

May none be as I, humbled and wretched and love-sick;
No beloved as thou art to me, cruel and careless.

From time to time Bāburī used to come to my presence but out of modesty and bashfulness, I could never look straight at him; how then could I make conversation (ikhtilāt̤) and recital (hikāyat)? In my joy and agitation I could not thank him (for coming); how was it possible for me to reproach him with going away? What power had I to command the duty of service to myself? One day, during that time of desire and passion when I was going with companions along a lane and suddenly met him face to face, I got into such a state of confusion that I almost went right off. To look straight at him or to put words together was impossible. With a hundred torments and shames, I went on. A (Persian) couplet of Muḥammad Ṣāliḥ’s came into my mind:—

I am abashed with shame when I see my friend;
My companions look at me, I look the other way.

That couplet suited the case wonderfully well. In that frothing-up of desire and passion, and under that stress of youthful folly, I used to wander, bare-head, bare-foot, through street and lane, orchard and vineyard. I shewed civility neither to friend nor stranger, took no care for myself or others.

Out of myself desire rushed me, unknowing
That this is so with the lover of a fairy-face.

Sometimes like the madmen, I used to wander alone over hill and plain; sometimes I betook myself to gardens and the suburbs, lane by lane. My wandering was not of my choice, not I decided whether to go or stay.

Nor power to go was mine, nor power to stay;
I was just what you made me, o thief of my heart. [pp. 120-1]

AH 907. -  July 17th. 1501 to July 7th 1502 AD.

(e. Death of Nuyān Kūkūldāsh.)

Babur and his courtiers, in an illustration of ca. 1605

Bīsh-kīnt, at that time, was held by Mullā Haidar's son, ‘Abdu'l-minān. A younger son, named Mūmin, a worthless and dissipated person, had come to my presence in Samarkand and had received all kindness from me. This sodomite, Mūmin, for what sort of quarrel between them is not known, cherished rancour against Nuyān Kūkūldāsh. At the time when we, having heard of the retirement of the Auzbegs, sent a man to The Khan and marched from Bīsh-kīnt to spend two or three days amongst the villages in the Blacksmith's-dale, Mullā Haidar's son, Mūmin invited Nuyān Kūkūldāsh and Ahmad-i- qāsim and some others in order to return them hospitality received in Samarkand. When I left Bīsh-kīnt, therefore they stayed behind. Mūmin 's entertainment to this party was given on the edge of a ravine (jar). Next day news was brought to us in Sām-sīrak, a village in the Blacksmith's-dale, that Nuyān was dead through falling when drunk into the ravine. We sent his own mother's brother, Haq-nazar and others, who searched out where he had fallen. They committed Nuyān to the earth in Bīsh-kīnt, and came back to me. They had found the body at the bottom of the ravine an arrow's flight from the place of the entertainment. Some suspected that Mūmin, nursing his trumpery rancour, had taken Nuyān 's life. None knew the truth. His death made me strangely sad; for few men have I felt such grief; I wept unceasingly for a week or ten days. The chronogram of his death was found in Nuyān is dead.[2] [pp. 155-6]

911 AH. - June 4th 1505 to May 24th 1506 AD.

(g. Sultān Husain Mīrzā 's amīrs)

Hasan of ‘Alī Jaldir was another. His original name was Husain Jalāīr … Hasan-i-'alī was Sl. Husain Mīrzā 's Qūsh-begī.[3] He made Tufailī (Uninvited-guest) his pen-name; wrote good odes and was the Master of this art in his day. He wrote odes on my name when he came to my presence at the time I took Samarkand in 917 AH. (1511 AD.). Impudent (bī bāk) and prodigal he was, a keeper of catamites, a constant dicer and draught-player. [p. 278]

912 AH. – May 24th 1506 to May 13th 1507 AD.

(n. Bābur leaves Khurāsān.)

Babur setting out with his army: an illustration of ca. 1876

On the pretext of finding winter-quarters, we got out of the town [Herī] on the 7th day of the month of Sha'ban (Dec. 24th 1506 AD.), … Of our braves who were absent on various affairs, some joined us, some followed us into Kābul 20 days or a month later, some stayed in Herī and took service with the Mīrzās. One of these last was Sayyidīm 'Alī the gate-ward, who became Badī'u'z-zamān Mīrzā's retainer. To no servant of Khusrau Shāh had I shewn so much favour as to him; he had been given Ghaznī when Jahāngīr Mīrzā abandoned it, and in it when he came away with the army, had left his younger brother Dost-i-anjū (?) Shaikh. There were in truth no better men amongst Khusrau Shāh 's retainers than this man Sayyidīm 'Alī the gate-ward and Muhibb-i-‘alī the armourer. Sayyidīm was of excellent nature and manners, a bold swordsman, a singularly competent and methodical man. His house was never without company and assembly; he was greatly generous, had wit and charm, a variety of talk and story, and was a sweet-natured, good-humoured, ingenious, fun-loving person. His fault was that he practised vice and pederasty. He may have swerved from the Faith; may also have been a hypocrite in his dealings; some of what seemed double-dealing people attributed to his jokes, but, still, there must have been a something! [p. 307]


925 AH. – Jan. 3rd to Dec. 23rd 1519 AD.

(u. Dost Beg’s death.)

[The only relevance of the following snippet is the meaning of Hīz given in the footnote.]

Again, when we were getting out of Akhsī [908 AH.], Dost Beg chopped away at Baqī Hīz[4] who, although people called him Hīz, was a mighty master of the sword. [p. 396]


[1] As stated below, he was the third son of Sl. Abū-sa‘īd Mīrzā, and thus the paternal uncle of Babur, whose father was Sl. Abū-sa‘īd Mīrzā’s fourth son.

[2] Faut shud Nuyan. The numerical value of these words is 907. [Note by the translator]

[3] The Qūsh-begī is, in Central Asia, a high official who acts for an absent ruler (Shaw). … [Note by the translator]

[4] Catamite. [Note by the translator]




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