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 History and Indian History side by side, you’ll come to know that Akbar and Shakespeare are contemporary to each other. Strange? I thought they lived in different worlds, Oh! they did, but those different world were their different continents. However, they lived their lives almost during the same years.
Time for another fact. Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, Akbar died in 1605, Shakespeare lived a decade longer and died in 1616.
All this, when set out in this fashion makes me feel rather excited about information 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, East India Company and the Plymouth, but never in this way, across countries. By that same logic, the second battle of Panipat was fought in 1556. It was in 1558 that Elizabeth became the Queen of England. Here in what has become India today, a 14 year old Akbar makes a statement in the battle field against Hemu, and there, Elizabeth succeeds her sister Mary and start making statements 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, I picked up Akbar then and then Jahangir. He has written about Shah Jahan too in his latest book released this year. It so happened that while visiting a friend (and as is practice) I was attracted to her book shelf. She had just finished reading the first book in the series on Babar. She lent it to me and there I began my journey with Rutherford through one of my fav periods in Indian history. Favourite because with Mughal history in class 7 our class got an amazing history teacher. 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.
So if you ask me the question name 10 Mughal Emperors I would scratch my head, because I have only studied 7. Babar, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Aurengazeb and Bahadur Shah Zafar. William Dalrymple has made the last Mughal Ruler famous with his book, The Last Mughal, just think of that cover pic! Now who are the other 3 if I have to complete a 10 point list. This question is also borrowed. I happened to watch it on a TV Quiz show, where according to its format, each team is asked list 10 names of a topic of their choice from a list in a stipulated time. When this question came, I was genuinely puzzled. Because my school history textbook gave me only 7 prominent names, I raked my memory, avoided the enticing google to get answers.. but nothing appeared in my head from school memory. 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! “Isn’t it 7” was other counter question, 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.
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.