The Emperor Babur and Vasco da Gama

Iris Macfarlane describes how, during the early sixteenth century, two dominant cultures, Mughal and European, first began to spread on Indian soil.

Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur

'Of genius and capacity none,' Babur wrote of the people of India, inaccurately but with his usual charm. 'Of manners none; in handicraft and work there is no form or symmetry, method or quality; there are no good dogs, no grapes, musk-melons or first-rate fruits, no ice or cold water, no good bread or cooked food in the bazaars, no hot baths, no colleges, no candles, torches or candle-sticks.'

Thus, every homesick exile feels when confronted with the heat and dust of a swarming, strange sub-continent, and Babur felt it particularly after his years in Kabul, with its thirty-two varieties of tulip, its melons and snow-cocks and the forests of holm oak which he loved to bum for the smell of the hot ash. Babur, the general and conqueror of Hindustan, was also the second poet of his day, a passionate gardener, a delighted observer of birds and trees, and the author of the most touching imperial memoirs in history.

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