Baber the Tiger

There was a Moghul boy-king, who fought his first battle when he was twelve years of age, and he won it, as he says himself, “thanks to the distinguished valour of my young soldiers”.

But like the boys in fairy tales, he had wicked uncles, who made trouble for him; and before he was seventeen years old, he had won and lost two of his kingdoms.

This is the boy whom all the world knows by his nickname of “Baber the Tiger”. And the most wonderful thing we know about him is his great spirit, which nothing could subdue. Success could not spoil him, and defeat could not make him hang his head.

Always did he find something in which to take pleasure.

Driven away from one of his early attempts to take Delhi, he has a race with two of his officers; and he writes of the first meal which he ate in hiding as of a royal banquet—“such peace and plenty, nice fat meat, bread of fine flour well baked, sweet melons, excellent grapes”.

Again: “I could not, on account of one or two defeats, sit down and look idly around me”, he tells us; and we find him getting to work again immediately.

Many years of wandering were before him. He had only two tents and less than three hundred followers. They had to bear thirst and hunger, pain and poverty; but the joyous spirit of the Tiger-boy carried them through all. And his tenderness and love and thoughtfulness were as his courage and good cheer.

He gave his own tent to his mother, who shared his wanderings; and for her, as for his followers, he gathered brightness from every smallest thing—from tulips and grasses, from animals and birds and insects.

Kabul fell to him when he was eighteen; and here for ten years he lived peacefully, caring for his mother and grandmother, his aunts and sisters, and all his people who had been faithful to him. Here also he married the lady whom he called “Maham”—“my Moon”—of whom we know only because of Baber’s great love for her. It was the “Moon-Lady” who was the mother of Humayun.

But the land beyond the hills was calling Baber; and soon there came a chance to try once more for the throne of Delhi.

The people of Hindustan were fighting among themselves, and asked Baber’s help. Of the great battle that Baber won on the field of Paniput near Delhi, there are many stories.

Baber’s Vow

Baber’s Vow

“Battle was joined at the time of early morning prayers”; and by midday Baber the Tiger was lord of Delhi and Agra. There are wonderful tales of the presents which he sent after this victory, to his family and people in Kabul—forgetting no one. Ladies and nurses of the zenana, officers, clerks, traders, even “all who pray for me”, were remembered; and so great was the list, that it was three days before the presents were divided. To his daughters and aunts and the princesses of the zenana were given gold plates full of gems, trays of coins, and nine different kinds of stuff chosen for each lady by Baber himself—“uplifting us with pride”, says his daughter.

His last great campaign was against the Rajputs; and that was a fight worthy of the warrior who was now about forty-four years of age, and who had begun fighting when he was twelve. It was before this fight that he made “the Great Repentance”.

When Baber was in Kabul he had learnt to drink wine, and had grown to be fond of this indulgence. Walking round his outposts, however, before the Rajput battle, the thought came to Baber that it would be good to mend his life now in this matter, so that he might have something to give in penitence to God.

And he sent immediately for his great goblets of gold and silver studded with precious stones; and there on the battle-field he had them broken to pieces and given to the poor, vowing that he would never drink wine again.

That night and the next, three hundred of his nobles did likewise, pouring upon the ground the wine which they had brought with them. So, “having knocked on the door of Penitence”, did they join battle. And once more victory was theirs.

The last tale which the books tell of Baber is beautiful.

He loved Humayun, the son of his Moon-Lady, as we know, with all his heart. And Humayun was ill.

Everything that the doctors could do, was done; but Humayun was sick unto death. Then a holy man said to Baber: “If some precious thing were given to God in exchange for Humayun, God might let him live.”

And the holy man talked of the Kohinor, which Baber had got from Gwalior, and which is now in the crown of our King-Emperor of Britain.

But Baber, who more than anyone we know had loved being alive, said: “No, that is not the most precious thing I have to give. There is my life.”

And he walked three times round Humayun’s bed, saying: “Oh, God! if a life may be given for a life, I, who am Baber, I give my life and my being for Humayun.” And he went away and prayed and fasted, saying many times: “I have borne it away. I have prevailed.”

That night Baber fell ill, and Humayun began to get better. Then Baber called his nobles together, and charged them to serve Humayun faithfully, for he himself would rule no more.

And three days later he did indeed pass out from the life which he had loved so well, and had laid down so lovingly.

The Water-carrier claims his reward

The Water-carrier claims his reward

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