Let me start with a question, list 10 Mughal Emperors in Indian History? Write them down somewhere.. I’ll come back to that later, but before that I need to share with you my excitement about the title of the post.
If you put British and Indian History side by side, you’ll realize that Akbar and Shakespeare are contemporary to each other. Strange? I thought they lived in different worlds. Of course they did but those different world were their different continents separated by oceans and landmasses, and their books. However, they lived their lives almost during the same years.
Yet another just like that trivia: Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, Akbar died in 1605, Shakespeare lived a decade longer and died in 1616.
All this information when laid out in this fashion makes me feel rather excited about it in general and about these people in particular. I have never put Shakespeare and Akbar together before. I knew their dates, works and their years individually within their context, and the context of say, the East India Company and the Plymouth, but never in this way, across countries. By that same logic, two years after the second battle of Panipat was fought in 1556 Elizabeth became the Queen of England. About the same time when a 14 year old Akbar makes a statement in the battle field against Hemu. Elizabeth become Queen, and begins to consolidate her English territory, and tries to bring peace!
I’ve been reading Alex Rutherford for quite a while now. I read his first two books on Babar and Humayun, subsequently, picked up Akbar and later Jahangir. I met Rutherford while visiting a friend on her bookshelf. He appeals because Mughals are one of my favourite parts in the school history textbooks. More so because, our class 7 got an amazing history teacher that year. She made us or rather me love history (I can speak for myself and not my classmates as such) and since it all began with the Mughals, it is a special love.
Back to the question I began with. If you ask me the question name 10 Mughal Emperors I would scratch my head, because I have only studied about 7. Babar, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Aurengazeb and Bahadur Shah Zafar. Now who are the other 3 if I have to complete a 10 point list. The question is not mine, but borrowed from a Quiz show held on tv. When the quiz master revealed the answers I was taken aback to see the names!
To test if I was the only one who was taken aback and puzzled by this question and ignorant about the remaining rulers, I put forth this question to an assorted group of my friends, this is a varied group who studied in different schools in different parts of India, under different school boards. I was wishing at least one of them would give me at least an 8th name. One of the first counter questions most of them asked was “how come 10, is it a list of Mughal Emperors of India or in Mughal History as a whole starting with Timur! “Aren’t they 7” and they all listed the names they knew in chronological order.
The problem seems to lie in the way history is taught in our schools. Between Aurangazeb and Bahadur Shah Zafar there are many Mughal Emperors, but the textbooks we studied consolidated all their names into either one or two paragraphs or to a page, when these seven were given dedicated chapters. Google and you’ll find a list. I guess we need to be a little more curious, and run with history even after school is over and done with.
Coming back to excitement about the contemporaneity, that bit of information still excites me, sharing it with you, if you too like me is beginning to see the connection.