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The Poetry and Autobiography of the Bâbur-nâma

Stephen F. Dale
The Journal of Asian Studies
Vol. 55, No. 3 (Aug., 1996), pp. 635-664
DOI: 10.2307/2646449
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2646449
Page Count: 30
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The Poetry and Autobiography of the Bâbur-nâma
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Abstract

Stephen F. Dale explores the art and life of Babur, the early sixteenth-century founder of the Timurid (Mughul) Empire of India, by reading his poetry autobiographically. Text and context for this portrait are drawn from Babur's remarkable prose memoir, the Bâbur-nâma, which includes some of his verses, and his diwan or volume of Turki poetry. From this extraordinary collection of writings, which include 118 ghazals or short poems and more than 200 ruba'i or quatrains, the author especially foregrounds Babur's "existential" poems "where the force of his life and personality broke through conventional norms." From these revealing literary fragments, the author sketches a picture of a man who became emperor; an emperor whose road to power led him through years of exile in Ferghana, Samarqand, and Kabul; and an unusual individual who presented himself through his poetic writings. The result is a valuable portrait of "vivid personality" as well as of the literary and cultural milieu in which he developed as a poet and which spanned premodern Central Asia, the Islamic world, and India.

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