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Home Variety Culture and History Tales from the Baburnama: Babur's homosexuality and 'love' for a young child

Tales from the Baburnama: Babur’s homosexuality and ‘love’ for a young child

Babur, an Islamic invader of Turkic descent, is widely renowned as the founder of the blood-stained Mughal empire which is recorded to have oppressed native Indians under Islamic patriarchy.

Babur, an Islamic invader of Turkic descent, is widely renowned as the founder of the blood-stained Mughal empire which is recorded to have oppressed native Indians under Islamic patriarchy.

Often idolised by the radicalised and extremist section of Islamic society, Babur is assumed to be an ideal Muslim who followed all the modern day practises of Islam. However, this image of the murderous invader might be the reason why you’re going to be shocked when you know about his sexuality.

Babur was a self proclaimed bi-sexual, if not gay, Islamic ruler. According to the Baburnama (the personal memoirs of the first Mughal Emperor), a 17 year old Babur fell madly in love with a younger boy named ‘Baburi’ in Urdu Bazaar. There is some confusion over the age of the boy, most believe him to be a teenager although there are those who believe he was a pre-teen.

Babur was infatuated by Baburi, and in his memoirs describes the incident when he met him as-

“In those leisurely days I discovered in myself a strange inclination….. I am maddened and afflicted myself for a boy in the camp-bazar, his very name, Baburi, fitting in. Up till then I had had no inclination for any-one,indeed of love and desire, either by hear-say or experience, I had not heard, I had not talked. From time to time Baburi used to come to my presence but out of modesty and bashfulness, I could never look straight at him; how then could I make conversation (ikhtildt) and recital (hikdyat)? In my joy and agitation I could not thank him (for coming); how was it possible for me to reproach him with going away? What power had I to command the duty of service to myself?

One day, during that time of desire and passion when I was going with companions along a lane and suddenly met him face to face, I got into such a state of confusion that I almost went right off. To look straight at him or to put words together was impossible. With a hundred torments and shames, I went on.” (Ref: Baburnama, Vol. 1, pg 120)

The above extract from the Baburnama describes the incident when Babur met Baburi on a lane at Urdu Bazaar, where he became short of words after he saw the child.

In fact, Babur writes that he wandered everywhere while deeply thinking about young Baburi’s beauty, and authored several couplets in Turki to praise the boy’s apparent handsomeness.

“In that frothing-up of desire and passion, and under that stress of youthful folly, I used to wander, bare-head, bare-foot, through street and lane, orchard and vineyard. I shewed civility neither to friend nor stranger, took no care for myself or others. Sometimes like the madmen, I used to wander alone over hill and plain ; sometimes I betook myself to gardens and the suburbs, lane by lane. My wandering was not of my choice, not I decided whether to go or stay.” (Ref: Baburnama, Vol. 1 pg 121)

So madly in love was the Mughal emperor with the child, he regularly wrote couplets describing his love for Baburi. Such as- 

Couplet 1- Out of myself desire rushed me, unknowing, That this is so with the lover of a fairy-face.

Couplet 2- Nor power to go was mine, nor power to stay; I was just what you made me, o thief of my heart. (Source: Baburnama, Vol. 1, pg 121)

It is said that Babur had many Eunuchs in the Mughal harems under him. The Mughal soldiers usually took the women and young boys of kingdoms they invaded and sent them to the harems. The boys were usually castrated and turned into eunuchs to give sexual satisfaction to the nobles. It is believed that homosexuality was very common in Muslim empires at that time, and was fairly common for young boys to be engaged in sexual activities in harems run by the emperors.

Source: The Babur-nama in English, LUZAC & CO, 1922

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