Tradition, transplantation, transformation, Central Asia in the making of the Mughal Empire.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The Mughal empire in India (1526-1858) was founded when Babur, a Central Asian prince, defeated Sultan Ibrahim Lodi at the battle of Panipat. Through his father Babur was descended from Timur, the founder of the Timurid empire, which had existed from around 1370 until 1507. Through his mother he was descended from Chinggiz Khan. Babur and his followers transplanted their Turco-Mongolian heritage into an Indian setting. The Central Asian association with the Mughal empire did not end with the death of Babur; it continued in a multiplicity of ways. This thesis is an analysis - as wide-ranging as possible- of the role of Central Asia in the formation and ongoing functioning of the Mughal empire. The study commences with a brief chronological sketch of the period, which is followed by a discussion of the important themes of the thesis: the interaction between nomadic and sedentary institutions, the evolution of empires, and the influence of the Indian environment. The following chapters discuss these themes with reference to the key institutions of the Central Asian and the Mughal empires: the army which initially conquered and then controlled each empire's territory; the sovereign and sovereign's court which administered this territory; the religious and cultural institutions which underpinned imperial rule, and the capital city which coordinated the empire and epitomised the integral features of these institutions. This thesis argues that the Central Asian influence in the Mughal empire was evident throughout the Mughal period. It contends, however, that the Central Asian traditions which originated in a nomadic society underwent a considerable degree of transformation in India, because Central Asian institutions in their indigenous form proved unsuited to the purposes of later Mughal polities where the aim was to rule an agrarian-revenue based empire. Symbolically, the Central Asian tradition remained important, but practically it was in many respects superseded. Many Central Asian traditions became recast in a more Indian mould; Persian and indigenous Indo-Muslim influences were also significant. Nevertheless, for all the change, many aspects of Timurid tradition remained and were maintained. Historical links were reinforced by continuing contacts with Central Asia. So, ultimately, the Central Asian influence in the Mughal Empire became a more diverse amalgam of past and present Central Asian institutions. Thus Central Asia was in many respects both the creator of anda continuing contributor to Mughal rule.