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THE ANCIENT MOGUL EMPIRE

The ancient Mogul Empire embraced almost all of India and extended westward into Europe as far as Moscow and Constantinople. It was founded by a young warrior known as Timour the Tartar, or Tamerlane, as he is more frequently called in historical works. He was a native of Kesh, a small town fifty miles south of Samarkand, the capital of Bokhara, which was known as Tartary in those days. This young man conquered more nations, ruled over a wider territory and a larger number of people submitted to his authority than to any other man who ever lived, before or since. His expansion policy was more successful than that of Alexander the Great or Julius Csar or Charles V. or Napoleon, and he may properly be estimated as one of the greatest if not the very greatest and most successful soldier in all history. Yet he was not born to a throne. He was a self-made man. His father was a modest merchant, without wealth or fame. His grandfather was a scholar of repute and conspicuous as the first convert to Mohammedanism in the country in which he lived. Timour went into the army when he was a mere boy. There were great doings in those days, and he took an active part in them. From the start he seems to have been cast for a prominent role in the military dramas and tragedies being enacted upon the world's wide stage. He inherited a love of learning from his grandfather and a love of war as well as military genius from some savage ancestor. He rose rapidly. Other men acknowledged his superiority, and before he was 30 years old he found himself upon a throne and acknowledged to be the greatest soldier of his time. He came into India in 1398 and set up one of his sons on a throne at Delhi, where his descendants ruled until the great Indian mutiny of 1857--460 years. He died of fever in 1405, and was buried at Samarkand, where a splendid shrine was erected over his tomb.  

Babar, sixth in descent from Timour, consolidated the states of India under a central government. His memoirs make one of the most fascinating books ever written. He lived a stirring and a strenuous life, and the world bowed down before him. His death was strangely pathetic, and illustrates the faith and the superstition of men mighty in material affairs but impotent before gods of their own creation. His son and the heir to his throne, Humayon, being mortally ill of fever, was given up to die by the doctors, whereupon the affectionate father went to the nearest temple and offered what he called his own worthless soul as a substitute for his son. The gods accepted the sacrifice. The dying prince began to recover and the old man sank slowly into his grave.  

The empire increased in wealth, glory and power, and among the Mogul dynasty were several of the most extraordinary men that have ever influenced the destinies of nations. Yet it seems strange that from the beginning each successive emperor should be allowed to obtain the throne by treachery, by the wholesale slaughter of his kindred and almost always by those most shameful of sins--parricide and ingratitude to the authors of their being. Rebellious children have always been the curse of oriental countries, and when we read the histories of the Mogul dynasty and the Ottoman Empire and of the tragedies that have occurred under the shadows of the thrones of China, India and other eastern countries, we cannot but sympathize with the feelings of King Thebaw of Burma, who immediately after his coronation ordered the assassination of every relative he had in the world and succeeded in "removing" seventy-eight causes of anxiety.  

Babar, the "Lion," as they called him, was buried at Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and was succeeded by Humayon, the son for whom he gave his life. The latter, on Sunday, Dec. 14, 1517, the day that Martin Luther delivered his great speech against the pope and caused the new word "Protestant"--one who protests--to be coined, drove Sikandar, the last of the Afghan dynasty, from India. When they found the body of that strenuous person upon the battle field, the historians say, "five or six thousand of the enemy were lying dead in heaps within a small space around him;" as if he had killed them all. The wives and slaves of Sikandar were captured. Humayon behaved generously to them, considering the fashion of those times, but took the liberty to detain their luggage, which included their jewels and other negotiable assets. In one of their jewel boxes was found a diamond which Sikandar had acquired from the sultan Alaeddin, one of his ancestors, and local historians, writing of it at the time, declared that "it is so valuable that a judge of diamonds valued it at half the daily expenses of the entire world." This was the first public appearance in good society of the famous Kohinoor, which, as everybody knows, is now the chief ornament in the crown of Edward VII., King of Great. Queen Victoria never wore it. She had it taken from the crown and replaced by a paste substitute. This jewel thus became one of the heirlooms of the Moguls, who lived in such splendor as has never been seen since or elsewhere and could not be duplicated in modern times.  

In the winter of 1555 Humayon was descending a stairway when his foot slipped and he fell headlong to the bottom. He was carried into his palace and died a few days later, being succeeded by his son, a boy of 13, who in many respects was the noblest of the Moguls, and is called in history Akbar the Great. He came to the throne in 1556 and his reign lasted until 1605 

You must remember Akbar, because so many of the glories of Indian architecture, which culminate at Agra and Delhi, are due to his refined taste and appreciation for the beautiful, and I shall have a good deal to say about him, because he was one of the best men that ever wore a crown. He was great in every respect; he was great as a soldier, great as a jurist, great as an executive, broad-minded, generous, benevolent, tolerant and wise, an almost perfect type of a ruler, if we are to believe what the historians of his time tell us about him. He was the handsomest man in his empire; he excelled all his subjects in athletic exercises, in endurance and in physical strength and skill. He was the best swordsman and the best horseman and his power over animals was as complete as over men. And as an architect he stands unrivaled except by his grandson, who inherited his taste.  


 

History of India - Part 1 History of India - Part 2
History of India - Part 3 History of India - Part 4
 
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