Bagh e Babur: First Mughal’s final resting place

Syed Zafar Mehdi

The first Mughal emperor who ruled Kabul for many years and built ten gardens in the city had expressed a wish to be buried in one of them, which is famous today as Bagh e Babur

Bagh e Babur (Babur’s garden), the final resting place of the first Mughal emperor Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur, is one of the prime attractions in Kabul, located on the high slopes of Kuh-e-Sher Darwaza, southwest of the old city. Born in Ferghana in present-day Uzbekistan, where he is considered a national hero, Babur made inroads into this landlocked country in 1504 through Hindu Kush Mountains and captured Kabul, at a time when there was a wave of rebellion against the ruling Arghun dynasty from local populace and they were forced to retreat to Kandahar. Martin Ewans in Afghanistan: A Short History of Its People and Politics writes that Babur took advantage of the situation and established his new kingdom and ruled over it until 1526.

In 1505, writes VD Mahajan in History of Medieval India, Babur led his first expedition to India because of the insufficient income his new kingdom was generating, which he mentions in his memoirs Baburnama. “My desire for Hindustan had been constant. It was in the month of Shaban, the Sun being in Aquarius, that we rode out of Kabul for Hindustan”. He died on January 5 1530 in Agra, and as per his wish, his body was moved to Kabul and buried in Bagh e Babur.

Spread over 11 hectares, Bagh e Babur is the largest public green space in the city, which was decimated into rubble during war

The garden remained a revered site of pilgrimage for Babur’s successors. Jehangir, the fourth Mughal Emperor who ruled from 1605 until his death in 1627, visited the site in 1607 and constructed a prayer platform with headstone facing the grave of Babur. His son and fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan came on a visit in 1638 and ordered the construction of tombs and a mosque in the garden. Over the years, it became a famous historical site for tourists coming to Kabul.

Spread over 11 hectares, Bagh e Babur is the largest public green space in the city, which was decimated into rubble during the years of war. After the ouster of Taliban, the restoration work was done by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) and UNCHS Habitat. They redeveloped the gardens and restored the buildings after conducting an archaeological survey.

The garden is covered by high walls and a beautiful caravanserai greets visitors at the entrance. From the caravanserai, the terraces and white marble watercourse give a magnificent look. Both sides of the ground are dotted by herbaceous beds and saplings, some of which have special mention in Babur’s memoir. From the top 14th terrace, overlooking the garden is Babur’s tomb. It was his favorite garden among the 10 gardens he built in Kabul city.

He was buried in Agra initially and was reburied in this garden a few years later. According to legend, he had expressed his wish to be buried under open sky, so his grave is open, encircled by a marble screen. On the headstone, the inscription reads “the tomb was erected for the light-garden of the God-forgiven angel king whose rest is in the garden of Heaven”. Babur’s grand-daughter, Ruqaiya Sultan Begum is also buried there.

The garden has seen a steady increase in number of visitors in recent years since the new management body under the Bagh e Babur Trust was formed, with support from Kabul Municipality, the Ministry of Information and Culture and AKTC. Kabul without Bagh e Babur will be incomplete, a desolation.

(First published in Afghan Zariza)


About Zafar Mehdi
Maverick journalist, irreverent rebel, travel freak, cricket junkie, reluctant fundamentalist, student of life, dreamer, believer.

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