“May the reader excuse me; may the listener take me not to task.” —Babur
In 1526, Babur wrested Delhi from the Lodi Sultans to found the Mughal empire. He continued writing his memoirs (which he began at the age of twelve) until the year before his death in 1530. Babur’s grandson, the emperor Akbar, massively expanded the empire. To unite this vast territory, Akbar created an identity for the Mughals that asserted their right to rule. As part of this project, he sponsored the writing of new imperial histories and ordered that the Baburnama, which Babur had written in his native Turkish dialect (Chagatai), be translated into Persian, the language of the Mughal court.
In the 1580s and 1590s, artists produced at least five Baburnama manuscripts, each with over 180 paintings. The most complete Baburnama is in the National Museum of India; others were largely dispersed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Today, they are in museum and private collections around the world. This exhibition features eight folios from different copies of the Baburnama produced in Akbar’s royal workshop.