The founder of India’s Mughal dynasty (1526-1857), Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur rose from his origins as a Central Asian princeling to become ruler of a vast empire stretching across Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Over the course of his extraordinary career, he kept a detailed account of his reign in a memoir known as the Baburnama. He wove incisive observations on art and nature into his recollections of love, war, and political alliances. Today, the Baburnama offers a unique window into a remarkable mind and an exceptional time. The Mughal emperor Akbar later commissioned the translation and illustration of his grandfather’s frank, uninhibited, and often funny memoir.
To explore the creation of the Baburnama and its themes, Persian paintings from Babur’s lifetime are exhibited with Mughal paintings from the period 1580 to 1650, when the memoir was illustrated and circulated. More than twenty manuscripts and paintings from the Freer and Sackler collections are on view. The exhibition also celebrates the gift of papers and plans of Babur’s gardens from Elizabeth Moynihan, a garden historian, to the Freer and Sackler archives.