The MughalsEarly emperors of India

The following is an extract from the travel book A River of Life: Travels through Modern India.

I take a short walk to the nearby Shah Jahan Park, which runs between the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal and affords a 1 km stroll through scenic grounds. I sit in some leafy shade and catch up on some reading, a book on Indian history. Agra, the capital under the Mughal rulers, has a seam of rich history running through it that is beginning to get under my skin. Babur and Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb: the names had kept coming up since the sites of Delhi, titillating my curiosity with intimations of their extravagant lifestyles, their barbarities, their picaresque exploits. Babur, the founder of the empire, claimed descent from Tamerlane on his father's side, Genghis Khan - some fourteen generations back - on his mother's. Hence the name, Mughal: the Persian word for Mongol. Inspired by Tamerlane's sacking of Delhi in 1398, Babur, after vainly trying to regain Samarkand, turned his attentions to India in 1513 and swiftly conquered areas of the North (although he always regretted not regaining the centre of Mongol power, Samarkand, and saw India as "a country that has few pleasures to recommend it. The people are not handsome. They have no genius, no politeness of manner"). His son, Humayun, lost much of the empire he inherited, and it was his own son, Akbar, to whom history has rightly given the epithet "the Great", who founded the Mughal empire that was to dominate India for the next one hundred years, through the so-called great emperors of Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb. Every land has an era of adventurers, buccaneers, conquerors, whose histories are fired in the forge of romantic nationalism and rewrought. For India, that age is the age of the Mughals.

Read on...

Read the next article about Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal.

For all its splendour and overarching majesty, the Taj is no more than a mausoleum. Shah Jahan himself is buried here, in a crypt beneath showy, empty tombs. It was built after the death of his favourite wife, Arjumand Bann Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal, "elect of the palace". She was buried in the crypt alongside her husband.

Go back...

Read the previous article about the Adil Shahs at Bijapur.

Bijapur, strongly Muslim in character, is billed as the Agra of the South, in deference to its Friday Mosque, one of the finest in India, and other Islamic buildings and ruins dotted about town, such as the Whispering Gallery, the walls of the citadel, Ibrahim Adil Shah's mausoleum, and the Ibrahim Rauza. Unlike other Muslim monuments in India, including those such as the Taj Mahal in Agra, that tend towards a baroque, Oriental splendour, those of Bijapur are more restrained, almost severe, impressing by virtue of their sheer size.

Available for purchase now

Sheldon's account of his overland travels around India, A River of Life, is available for purchase now. Buy the e-book from or, or the paperback from or (also available in other countries, search Amazon for more information).

The first instalment, A River of Life, Book 1: Travels in the North, is available separately (e-book format only) via or The second instalment, A River of Life, Book 2: A Tour of the South, is available via or


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