...the Mughal dynasty
The citadels of glory the prince is destined to inherit...
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Shah Jahan's ancestry was no ordinary birthright. He was descended from the merciless Mongol invader, Ghengis Khan, on his mother's side and on his father's side the infamous Amir Timur, known as Tamberlane to the Western world. Scarcely less notorious for his barbarism than the Mongols, the Turkish ruler had invaded Hindustan in 1398, massacred its inhabitants and brought back riches beyond his wildest dreams: trays of gold and carved ivory and mounds of jewels – rubies, pearls, emeralds, turquoise, topaz and cat's eye, and diamonds said to be so valuable they might have fed the world for a day.

map of Mughal Empire
By the 15th century, the wealthy Persian empire stretched thousands of miles, from eastern Syria to points near China, and the nomadic invaders who had caused such widespread slaughter and destruction throughout Central Asia had become devout Muslims and fervent patrons of scholarship and the arts. In Timur's fabled city of Samarkand, academics and intellectuals taught great literature, poetry, languages, history and painting at the many colleges; artists thrived and merchants filled the bazaars with luxurious treasure from around the world. Timur's subjects led lives of great refinement, and the Persian empire was counted among the most civilized in the world.

According to Timurid custom, when the head of a clan died, his lands were parceled out among the sons. But by the early 1500s, struggles for succession had divided the mighty Central Asian empire (what is now Uzbekistan) into small warring kingdoms. One young prince, driven from his rightful kingdom and drawn by the memory of his ancestor's success, looked south into Hindustan for a dominion of his own. The land was not well defended, and Babur the Tiger soon conquered what is now northern India.
Babur in battle
Though the opposing forces had ten times the troops, Babur was more skilled in the arts of war. In 1526, he defeated the Afghani Muslim ruler in a brutal battle on the plains of Panipat and put an end to the 300-year-old Sultanate of Delhi.

"Babur was the first in a series of emperors of north India called Mughals," says Beach. "They were men of enormous physical activity, especially the first three emperors. They were out defeating rebels, building their power, building up the empire, establishing the wealth of the dynasty. (The term "Mughal" is derived from "Mongol," although Babur preferred to think of himself as Timurid.)

The Timurid rulers brandished the sword and the pen with equal ability and were themselves accomplished poets of the loftiest form. It is from their memoirs that we have come to know of their illustrious history. Prince Kurrham loved to hear the stories of his famous ancestors. His favorite books were the Baburnama (Memoirs of Babur), the Akbarnama (Memoirs of Akbar) and volumes of poetry.

Babur the Tiger

Babur's son, Humayun, became the second Mughal emperor. A gentle man who preferred aesthetics to battle, he almost lost the new dominion to rebellious local rulers. But the kingdom survived and passed into the capable hands of his son, and Babur's grandson, Akbar the Great.
Akbar the Lion

Third in the line of Mughal rulers, Akbar defeated the Afghans and firmly established Mughal supremacy in northern India, bringing the empire to the height of its power and wealth. He was the Grand Mughal, renowned even in the most distant corners of the civilized world.

Akbar the Great
Akbar the Lion

Having inherited a stable and prosperous empire, Shah Jahan's father, Jahangir, pursued his delight in the more refined art of miniature painting, bringing about a golden age of painting at the Mughal court.

Jahangir - Seizer of the World
The Mughal emperors used the arts and architecture to express their imperial prestige. "This was the first time you had wealth at that level interested in commissioning the arts, and in particular, the arts embodying and confirming wealth," says Milo Beach. "And I think nowhere was that more true than in India, simply because of the tremendous resources of the country, the access to jewels, the access to a kind of internationalism, so many people passing through the court. The idea of 'the grand Mughal' spawned all kinds of myths of unfathomable, unimaginable wealth that Europeans associated with the east. They gave the term 'mogul' to the English world. A mogul is someone of tremendous wealth and tremendous power. Hollywood moguls. Wall Street moguls. They set the standard which in many ways people have been trying to achieve ever since."

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young lovers | the Mughal dynasty | Shah Jahan | architectural antecedents
building the Taj | visiting the Taj | fall of an empire | timeline

Mona Lisa
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Lilies of the Valley Faberge Egg
Hope Diamond
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