Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I was wondering if anyone else was interested in the references to Chagatai lineage/familial connections that his character Akbar mentions in the new Rushdie. Chagatai Khan was evidently one of two sons of Genghis Khan, and there are several slightly confusing articles on the Wikipedia pages, but I kind of like this one on Chugtai culture, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chughtai ...

(this is supposed to be a painting of his brother Ögedei, but I am hoping they looked similar- apparently Ögedei was a bigger badass..in this case not necessarily meant as a compliment..)

3 comments:

Narayan said...

Amitav Ghosh has a review of the Babarnama that goes into the lineage of the Moguls from Jenghis and Taimur
http://www.amitavghosh.com/essays/essayfull.php?essayNo=54

Narayan said...

From the link to Amitav Ghosh :

"The idea of conquering of empires was a part of Babar's family heritage: he traced his descent not just to Tamerlane, but also to Jenghis Khan. The story of his kingdom-seeking adolesence and youth has its genesis ultimately in that epochal churning of peoples and cultures that was set in motion by Jenghis Khan in the 13th century.

Jenghis Khan's descendants evidently inherited his remarkable cultural and social adaptability. In the course of his life, the old man had become increasingly Sinicised, and had developed an interest in Buddhism and Confucianism. He seems to have had little empathy for the cultures and traditions of western Asia: certainly the Muslims and Christians of those regions never encountered a more determined enemy. Yet within a generation or two Jenghis Khan's descendants took on the cultural and religious (if not linguistic) colourings of the regions they ruled. One of his grandsons, Kubilai Khan, became emperor of China and a cornerstone of the Confucian order, while another became the Sultan of Persia and a devout and fervent Muslim.

Babar traced his lineage to Jenghis Khan's second son, Chagatay. When the worlds that Jenghis Khan conquered came to be divided amongst his progeny Chagatay inherited Central Asia, a region in which Islam was the principal religion and Persian the language of cultural prestige. Chagatay's inheritance soon fragmented into a number of warring principalities, but he bequeathed his name not just to a realm but also to a lineage and a language - eastern Turkish, the tongue whose greatest literary exponent Babar was to become.

Central Asia was again briefly re-united by Amir Timur (Tamerlane), an extra-dynastic usurper who nonetheless thought it politic to lay claim to the legacy of the Great Khan by marrying a Jenghisid princess. His descendants, however, fought each other with the usual courtly relish of medieval princelings. By the time of Babar's birth the valleys and steppes of central Asia teemed with Timurid princes in search of realms to rule.

Such was the magic of the Timurid-Jenghisid pedigree, that nobody who owned it ever seems to have forfeited the right to a throne. From the age of twelve onward Babar (like his innumerable cousins and uncles) took it for granted that he was born to rule. Ruling was in a sense a job, a calling, the only thing he knew how to do and could conceive of doing. Even at times when he possessed little more than his horse and the clothes on his back, he and the members of his tiny entourage, took it for granted that a kingdom would somehow transpire, if not in this district then perhaps the next. It was thus, half-reluctantly that Babar came to be pushed into eastern Afghanistan and eventually, northern India. These were not his realms of choice, but they were better than the prospect of being an unemployed king.

The instrument of Babar's misery in his early kingdom-seeking years was a chief called Shaybani ('Wormwood') Khan, an Uzbek and a hereditary enemy. The wheel that Jenghis Khan had put in motion had now come full circle: just as the his armies had displaced other Turco-Mongol groups, pushing them further and further to the south and the west, so now Babar and his cousins found themselves facing a peoples who had decided to create their own moment of destiny. With the methodical precision of a cherry-picker, Shaybani Khan picked Babar and his fellow Timurids off, one by one, driving them steadily before him. "For nearly 140 years the capital Samarkand had been in our family," writes Babar. "Then came the Uzbeks, the foreign foe from God knows where, and took over."

Babar was too close to the events to notice of course, but there were some marvellous symmetries to these centuries-long processes of migration in Central Asia; these patterns of encroachment and displacement, of the sudden ascendancy of a nation or a dynasty, of the meteoric rise and decline of glittering cities like Bukhara and Samarkand, Ghazni and Herat. Some of these symmetries even seeped into Babar's own life. In much the same way as Shaybani Khan, the Uzbeg, was harrying Babar , Jenghis Khan had once pursued a young warrior-poet, one whose life was perhaps even more colourful than Babar’s.

The name of the Great Khan's prey was Jalal ad-din, and he was the heir presumptive of the great kingdom of Khwarizm, centred in the region between the Caspian and the Aral seas. Jenghis Khan had a special grudge against the king of Khwarizm and after seizing the kingdom, he sent a detachment of his swiftest riders to hunt down its ruling family. In what must count as one of the most amazing escapes in history, the fourteen year-old Jalal al-din rode without a break for forty days, circling through the deserts, steppes and mountains of Iran and Afghanistan, managing somehow to stay ahead of the great Mongol general, Jebe - known even among his fast-riding peoples as 'The Arrow'. Jenghis Khan finally hunted Jalal al-din to a place from which no escape seemed possible: a gorge above the upper Indus. But here again Jalal-al din succeeded in evading the Khan: he spurred his horse over the cliff and into the river, more than a hundred feet below. Legend has it that in calling off the chase, Jenghis Khan summoned his entourage and pointed to the young prince swimming in the torrent below.

'There' said Jenghis Khan, who knew about these things, 'goes a brave man.' "

Narayan said...

From the link to Amitav Ghosh :

"The idea of conquering of empires was a part of Babar's family heritage: he traced his descent not just to Tamerlane, but also to Jenghis Khan. The story of his kingdom-seeking adolesence and youth has its genesis ultimately in that epochal churning of peoples and cultures that was set in motion by Jenghis Khan in the 13th century.

Jenghis Khan's descendants evidently inherited his remarkable cultural and social adaptability. In the course of his life, the old man had become increasingly Sinicised, and had developed an interest in Buddhism and Confucianism. He seems to have had little empathy for the cultures and traditions of western Asia: certainly the Muslims and Christians of those regions never encountered a more determined enemy. Yet within a generation or two Jenghis Khan's descendants took on the cultural and religious (if not linguistic) colourings of the regions they ruled. One of his grandsons, Kubilai Khan, became emperor of China and a cornerstone of the Confucian order, while another became the Sultan of Persia and a devout and fervent Muslim.

Babar traced his lineage to Jenghis Khan's second son, Chagatay. When the worlds that Jenghis Khan conquered came to be divided amongst his progeny Chagatay inherited Central Asia, a region in which Islam was the principal religion and Persian the language of cultural prestige. Chagatay's inheritance soon fragmented into a number of warring principalities, but he bequeathed his name not just to a realm but also to a lineage and a language - eastern Turkish, the tongue whose greatest literary exponent Babar was to become.

Central Asia was again briefly re-united by Amir Timur (Tamerlane), an extra-dynastic usurper who nonetheless thought it politic to lay claim to the legacy of the Great Khan by marrying a Jenghisid princess. His descendants, however, fought each other with the usual courtly relish of medieval princelings. By the time of Babar's birth the valleys and steppes of central Asia teemed with Timurid princes in search of realms to rule.

Such was the magic of the Timurid-Jenghisid pedigree, that nobody who owned it ever seems to have forfeited the right to a throne. From the age of twelve onward Babar (like his innumerable cousins and uncles) took it for granted that he was born to rule. Ruling was in a sense a job, a calling, the only thing he knew how to do and could conceive of doing. Even at times when he possessed little more than his horse and the clothes on his back, he and the members of his tiny entourage, took it for granted that a kingdom would somehow transpire, if not in this district then perhaps the next. It was thus, half-reluctantly that Babar came to be pushed into eastern Afghanistan and eventually, northern India. These were not his realms of choice, but they were better than the prospect of being an unemployed king.

The instrument of Babar's misery in his early kingdom-seeking years was a chief called Shaybani ('Wormwood') Khan, an Uzbek and a hereditary enemy. The wheel that Jenghis Khan had put in motion had now come full circle: just as the his armies had displaced other Turco-Mongol groups, pushing them further and further to the south and the west, so now Babar and his cousins found themselves facing a peoples who had decided to create their own moment of destiny. With the methodical precision of a cherry-picker, Shaybani Khan picked Babar and his fellow Timurids off, one by one, driving them steadily before him. "For nearly 140 years the capital Samarkand had been in our family," writes Babar. "Then came the Uzbeks, the foreign foe from God knows where, and took over."

Babar was too close to the events to notice of course, but there were some marvellous symmetries to these centuries-long processes of migration in Central Asia; these patterns of encroachment and displacement, of the sudden ascendancy of a nation or a dynasty, of the meteoric rise and decline of glittering cities like Bukhara and Samarkand, Ghazni and Herat. Some of these symmetries even seeped into Babar's own life. In much the same way as Shaybani Khan, the Uzbeg, was harrying Babar , Jenghis Khan had once pursued a young warrior-poet, one whose life was perhaps even more colourful than Babar’s.

The name of the Great Khan's prey was Jalal ad-din, and he was the heir presumptive of the great kingdom of Khwarizm, centred in the region between the Caspian and the Aral seas. Jenghis Khan had a special grudge against the king of Khwarizm and after seizing the kingdom, he sent a detachment of his swiftest riders to hunt down its ruling family. In what must count as one of the most amazing escapes in history, the fourteen year-old Jalal al-din rode without a break for forty days, circling through the deserts, steppes and mountains of Iran and Afghanistan, managing somehow to stay ahead of the great Mongol general, Jebe - known even among his fast-riding peoples as 'The Arrow'. Jenghis Khan finally hunted Jalal al-din to a place from which no escape seemed possible: a gorge above the upper Indus. But here again Jalal-al din succeeded in evading the Khan: he spurred his horse over the cliff and into the river, more than a hundred feet below. Legend has it that in calling off the chase, Jenghis Khan summoned his entourage and pointed to the young prince swimming in the torrent below.

'There' said Jenghis Khan, who knew about these things, 'goes a brave man.' "