Babur_illness

When Humayun’s condition worsens, Babur prays that the suffering transfers to his own self. Miraculously, Humayun recovers while Babur is struck by a fever that leads to his death. Image: From a Mughal illustration showing Babur being treated for an illness.

DEFENDING TERRITORIES, acting on complaints, visiting outposts, quelling the stirrings of rebellion – Babur is back to work as usual. But this is his last chapter.

One day, he receives news that Humayun has been taken ill. Babur returns to Agra immediately and is torn to see his favourite son laid low. No medication appears to be working and his doctors are left wringing their hands and giving way to spiritual advisers. Babur sees no visitors for days – spending time in prayer and visits to his son’s chambers. When Humayun takes a turn for the worse, Babur resolves to make the highest act of intercession – to surrender what is most precious to him in return for his son’s complete recovery.

But here, Babur confounds his advisors. His counsellors believe that he will surrender the Kohinoor – that stunning diamond that came into his possession shortly after the Battle of Panipat. It had been given to them along with other jewels by Raja Bikramjit of Gwalior when confronted by the victorious Mughal forces in Agra. The diamond’s value was estimated at ‘two and a half days food for the whole world‘. While aware of its worth, Babur had never thought of it as anything more than the spoils of war.

kohinoor

When Babur makes up his mind to give up his most precious possession in return for his son’s recovery, his advisers believe he will surrender the Kohinoor.

Babur is clear. When it came to his possessions, nothing is more precious than his own life. A stone, even one as valuable as the Kohinoor, is nothing compared to life which is necessary to experience anything in the first place. Making this prayer of intercession, he circles Humayun’s bed thrice and is promptly overcome by a fever that gives him to exclaim that his intercession has been granted. Sure enough, Humayun stages a recovery almost immediately, while Babur takes ill. He names Humayun his successor and with his chiefs around him he charges them ‘to acknowledge Humayun in my stead’.

Less than five years after Babur establishes his stronghold in Hindustan, he passes from this world. He is initially buried in Aram Bagh, a garden Babur had himself commissioned in Agra, but in accordance with his wishes, his body is later reburied in Kabul in what a descendant will describe as “this light garden of an angel king”.

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