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BarburAFTER A WEEK OF MEDICATION, Babur stages a steady recovery. The whole incident gives him pause. He thinks of how far he has come, how much he has achieved. To some however, it may seem he has not taken the time to relish any of his victories. As he walks down his garden, planned like those geometric masterpieces of Samarkhand and Herat, he thinks of his victories, his territories and the men he has entrusted them to. He thinks of his son, Humayun, his favourite, named after Huma, the bird of legend. Humayun was grown up and now a father, but ever so often Babur wondered whether he had not yoked him with responsibilities too early.


Hazrat Nizammudin Auliya of the Chisthi Silsila, won the hearts of Delhiites for centuries to come. Shown here in an 18th Century painting with his disciple, the poet Amir Khusrow (L).

Babur turns his mind again to the garden, not far from the sarai on a wide thoroughfare. It gives Babur respite from the roil of concerns at the court. But maybe there is more to the peaceful emanations of this setting. Little known to him, these very grounds he now paces had more than two centuries earlier been blessed by the movements of the Chisthi Saint Nizamuddin Auliya, of whom he has heard much. And although it has been more than century since Khwaja Auliya walked this earth, he still attracts considerable devotion in the city of Delhi. His kanqah gives delicious meals for free to all who came at any time.

Babur is well aware of this powerful saint and his mystical presence through the fortunes of Delhi’s erstwhile Sultans. It is hard to ignore the love of the people for this holy man. Yet Babur cannot have imagined that Delhi’s special affection for Nizamuddin Auliya would extend for countless centuries to come. Babur’s own legacy in this domain of public opinion, as he suspects, will remain under a cloud. Yet if the future could speak to him in this moment, he could take some comfort in what it would foretell for his line. For in spite of short-term upheavals, the Mughals would come to be seen as bold architects of Delhi’s most defining eras.

If anyone knows the importance of reaching out, it is Babur. Though a patron of the more politically engaged Naqshbandi order of Sufis, he decides to pay a visit to this the shrine of the reigning saint of the hearts of the people of this ageless city. He makes his way inconspicuously to the dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya. Here he bows and donates a gold leaf.