The Mughal dynasty was one of the greatest dynasty to have set foot in India. Their stories of love, valour and betrayal are famous throughout the world. They contributed a lot in the field of art, architecture and literature, and their works are mentioned in many books. Their empire was so huge and their ruling period was so long that today an entire course is offered in History dedicated to the Mughal era. Researchers and writers from all over the world have shown interest in Mughal history and research is still going on. Many books have been written about individuals and societies that existed back then. Following is a list of 10 books that you must read about Mughal India.
1. The Great Mughals and Their India
The Great Mughals And Their India written by Dirk Collier is a compilation of stories ranging from the time of reign of the founder of the dynasty- Babur to the last emperor- Bahadur Shah Zafar. It gives a comprehensive account of the Mughal rulers, the politics of their time, the battles and many more. This novel is engrossing because a period of more than 500 years has been narrated in less than 500 pages. If you are an amateur reader and have no idea whatsoever about the Mughal India, this is the book you should look for.
2. Empire of the Moghul
Empire of the Moghul is a book series written by Alex Rutherford. The series is a collection of six books, each dedicated to an emperor among the first six emperors. The first six Mughal emperors; Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb, remain the most famous till date. This book series deals speaks in detail about these emperors and their lives. However, these novels fall in the very famous genre of ‘historical fiction’. Here, the writer has the liberty to narrate the story in a fairy-tale manner to make it interesting. Though most of the facts are true, many instances in these books are a figment of the writer’s imagination. This makes the books both informative and interesting.
3. The Baburnama
The Baburnama was written by Babur in Chagatai language, also known as Turki. The English translation of Babur is called The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor. The autobiography of the founder of the Mughal dynasty speaks about his life in Afghanistan, Pakistan and finally about his Invasion and the land he conquered- India. Though many fact might have been modified in the process of translation and some accounts may have been lost over the years, the book is entirely based on history and is a extremely personal rendition of Babur’s life.
4. The Crows Of Agra
The Crows of Agra is again a blend of history and fiction. Written by Sharath Komarraju, the book is set in the year 1562, when emperor Akbar is merely 20 years old. This book is very enjoyable as it revolves around the murder of an important minister and the socio-political scenario in Akbar’s reign is revealed. The book also introduces us to one of the smartest jewels of Akbar’s court- Birbal. You should definitely put this book in your reading list if you want to revisit your childhood stories of Akbar and Birbal.
5. The Twentieth Wife
Written by Indu Sundaresan, The Twentieth Wife speaks about the journey of Mehr-un-nissa from being a court noble’s daughter to being the Empress of Hindustan. The simple usage of language and the choice of words make it a very interesting read. The novel captures the second half of Akbar’s reign, Salim’s rebellion, Akbar’s death and Salim’s accession to the throne as Jahangir. Through this book, you can understand the politics in the harem during the Mughal Era and can also get a glimpse about the character of Akbar’s favourite queen Ruqaiya Begum. It is easy to distinguish between the history and fiction in this novel, and thus it makes its both enjoyable and knowledgeable.
6. Feast Of Roses
Feast of Roses is the second book in the Taj Mahal Trilogy, written by Indu Sundaresan. This is a sequel to The Twentieth Wife. This book revolves around Jahangir’s reign after his marriage with Mehr-un-nissa. This book sees Mehr-un-nissa rise to power and become the ‘power behind the veil’. If you are looking for a book which narrates about the role of women and their power during the Mughal era, you must pick up a copy of Feast of Roses and read as the story unfolds. You can see Mehr-un-nissa’s transformation here into Nur Jahan, who went on to become the most powerful queen in history. The book also mentions the story of Khurram and Arjumand (Shahjahan and Mumtaz).
7. Escape From Harem
Written by Tanushree Podder, Escape From Harem is a story of a young girl who is thrown into the Mughal harem to satisfy the lust of men. Unlike other novels which revolve around the life of Kings and Queens, this novel is based on the life of a common girl and her life. She travels from the era of Jahangir to Shahjahan’s and faces many difficulties in the imperial zenana. This book is worth reading because it is written from the perspective of a commoner.
8. The Life of a Mogul Princess Jahanara Begum: Daughter of Shahjahan
The Life of a Mogul Princess Jahanara Begum: Daughter of Shahjahan is written by Andrea Butenschon. It is said to be the autobiography of Pincess Jahanara herself, which was translated by Andrea to English. It is believed that Andrea found a handwritten copy of Persian language behind a loose marble slab in the Jasmine Tower, Agra Fort. Thus, she translated the book in 1931, 300 years after Jahanara had written it. As it is the notebook of the princess herself, there is less fiction and more history in it. This book speaks about Jahanara’s interests, her faith in religion, her love for art and literature and also about her close relationship with Shahjahan.
9. Captive Princess: Zebunissa, Daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb
This book is written by Annie Krieger Krynicki. Zebunissa, the eldest daughter of Aurangzeb is still a woman unknown to the world. Her life was a mystery and her character can be understood only by reading her ghazals and poems. This book captures Zebunissa’s life from being her father’s favourite to falling in his grace and getting imprisoned. Though the plot of the story might not be true, this book gives an insight into her character and shines light upon a princess who was hidden from the world.
10. The Last Mughal
A masterpiece and probably one of the best books written about Mughals, The Last Mughal is a biography of Bahadur Shah Zaffar written by Wiiliam Dalrymple. This book narrates the story of the Mughal empire’s fall and its end, and the start of the British rule in India. Dalrymple has put in a lot of effort and intense research to make this book a huge success. The book also contains poems and photographs of the last Mughal emperor, and one can see in his pieces of literature that he foresaw the end of his dynasty.