Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red ‘ Photo by PH Morton
Poppy falls Photo by JMorton
Recently, Jean & I visited the Tower of London to see the amazing poppy field created in the dry verdant green grass covered moat surrounding the Tower.
Nearly 900,000 hand-made ceramic red poppies have been planted by volunteers in the moat to commemorate each of the British and Commonwealth soldier and serviceman who fell (died) fighting & defending freedom in World War One (WW1).
The poppy exhibition known as ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ will see 888,246 poppies planted.
The last poppy will be planted on Armistice Day on 11th November.
The poppies will remain in place for Armistice Day as 2014 is the centenary marking the start of WW1 also known as the Great War.
In mid-November, the poppies will be collected up by volunteers again.
Like many others, we are one of lucky ones to have bought one of the displayed ceramic poppies on-line at £25 per stem +PP . They are now sold out. We are assured that the majority of sales raised approximately £15+ million will be shared among six service charities, including Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion.
A quantity of the poppies will also go on an exhibition tour across the country.
We will keep the poppy as our own reminder to those fallen. We hope to hand it down to our son and grandson as a memorial too.
Each year around October /November we buy & wear charity poppy pin badges to remember WW1, WW2, and later wars & conflicts in which our troops and service personnel, (Army Navy, RAF & Merchant Seamen) fought were injured and perished.
My late Maternal Grandfather fought in World War One and was seriously injured.
My late Father fought as a soldier (Desert Rat) in World War Two (WW2). Luckily he survived uninjured. Up to his passing away in the 1980s, Dad would regularly attend and enjoy the yearly reunion in London (normally at the Union Jack Club), of his wartime comrades and friends.
The poppy symbolises the red poppy flowers that were growing in some of the WW1 battlefields in France, where many soldiers fell. Sadly the red of the poppy matched the blood of those fallen on the battlefields. A potent symbol…
Apparently the expression, warts and all originated from Oliver Cromwell when he commissioned Sir Peter Lely to paint his portrait. Cromwell apparently abhor personal vanity with a passion that he instructed that his portrait should be painted with warts and all
Warts & All
Common beliefs and superstitions about warts:
Do not touch a toad or else you’ll get warts.
Do not touch a wart or the blood from a wart.
This one is really strange: rub a piece of bread on the wart and then bury the bread; once the bread has decomposed, the wart will fall off and disappear.
Find a witch to sell your wart to for a pin or a coin.
Jean paying homage to Boadicea, Photo by PH Morton
England and Great Britain have had some amazing historical famous female characters being brave, indomitable and true leaders in their own right. Queen Elizabeth 1, Queen Victoria, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. One such powerful Queen, going back over 1400 years further in our history, is Boudicca of the Iceni people.
Boudica, Boudicca (also spelled Boudicea)e was a true warrior queen. In AD 60-61, she inspired and led the largest revolt against Roman rule in Britain
What we mainly know of her life derives from two Roman writers, Publius Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 56-117) and Cassius Dio (A.D. 150-235) Boudicca is still celebrated as someone who stood up against foreign oppression, she took on the might of the Roman empire
From around 65 BC, the Iceni people of East Anglia had grown prosperous by trading with Romans on the Continent. When the forces of Emperor Claudius conquered Britain in AD 43, the Iceni were able to negotiate for themselves an arrangement that allowed them to exist as a client kingdom loyal to Rome. But trouble was on the way. When the Iceni King, Prasutagas, died, he bequeathed his kingdom jointly to his two teenage daughters and the Roman Emperor Nero. This was perceived as an insult by Rome, which believed it had a right to inherit and subjugate the entire Iceni kingdom. A brutal crackdown on the Iceni began.
Queen Boudicca was the widow of Prasutagus. In an attempt to quash the Iceni, Roman officials had her publicly flogged and allowed the empire’s soldiers to rape her daughters. But Rome had misjudged Boudicca and the Iceni. Instead of submitting humbly, Boudicca raised a huge army and led them against Rome’s forces in Britain. The Roman historian, Cassius Dio, writes that Boudicca was “most tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh.” She was an effective, brutal commander and her Celtic fighters soon overran the capital of Roman Britain, Camulodunum (modern-day Colchester).
THE SACKING OF LONDON Boudicca’s timing was good. The majority of Rome’s legions were tied up in Wales, fighting the Druids. There was little effective opposition as Boudicca and her army swept into the commercial centre of Londinium (London) on the Thames. The Iceni were merciless as they tore through the town, razing most of it to the ground and butchering any civilians left behind by Rome’s retreating forces. Inspired by the crushing victory at Londinium, Boudicca turned north and headed for Verulamium, known today as St Albans. Another vicious sacking followed.
The Roman military governor, Suetonius Paulinus, had refused to commit his forces to the defence of Londiunium or Verulamium. Instead, he lured Boudicca and her warriors north of Verulanium to a site somewhere in the Midlands. Contemporary historians never identified where the crucial battle between Rome and the Iceni was fought but the outcome was decisive. Paulinus had just 10,000 men. Estimates of the Iceni strength vary between 100,000 and 250,000 but they were no match for the disciplined troops of Paulinus. Rome routed the Britons in one of the ancient world’s most bloody massacres.
The attacking hordes of spear-wielding Britons, many daubed with blue war paint derived from the woad plant, must have been a terrifying sight as they charged at the Roman lines but Paulinus had chosen his battleground carefully. The Roman historian, Tacitus, describes it as an area with a narrow approach, backed by woodland. This meant that the Britons could not use their superior numbers to outflank Paulinus and encircle him. Instead, they were forced to hurl themselves at the Roman front lines, in wave after desperate wave. The well-trained Roman soldiers advanced with their large shields, stabbing at the Britons with their easily manoeuvrable short swords. Boudicca’s best warriors had no room to swing their long swords and were trapped between the deadly Roman advance and their own advancing hordes. Around 80,000 Britons died as Paulinus took his revenge. Roman casualties were around 400 dead and a similar number of wounded. Boudicca and her daughters survived the battle but are believed to have taken poison to avoid capture and ritual humiliation at the hands of the Romans.
An interesting local London legend has it that Boudicca is buried beneath Track 10 at King’s Cross Station (Kings Cross is famous from the Harry Potter stories). Her final battle is believed to have taken place in the area.
Being interested in the great game as all things espionage is known, I read about this particular method for sending coded secret signals to spies in the field. Those clandestine operatives that are hidden among us tune in at certain times to certain shortwave radio frequencies. A sequence of spoken numbers is broadcast automatically to the target agents who could be anywhere in the known world. The agents copy and transcribe the numbers using deciphering methods such as ‘one time pads’ to decode the numbers into a meaningful message. One time pads are unbreakable if used correctly and as the name stated, the encryption is used only once then disposed of.
Number Stations Still Going For The Spy Audience
Those radio amateurs (HAMS) that ‘surf’ shortwave channels are fascinated by these mysterious emanations from the ether. Anyone with a decent shortwave receiver should be able to pick them up. Thought to be a relic of the Cold War, this means of covert communication is still a valued tool to contact secret agents anywhere!
We recently watched a good action thriller movie called ‘The Numbers Station’ (2013) starring excellent actors John Cusack and Liam Cunningham with Malin Akerman. I was pleasantly surprised as the movie managed to make the unglamourous and probably monotonous subject to non-spy enthusiasts quite exciting 😉
Where the transmitting stations are located is a mystery, and of course spy agencies deny that they exist. A British number station is rumoured to be based in Cyprus? The best known of the number stations was the “Lincolnshire Poacher”, which is thought to have been run by the British Secret Intelligence Service.
I was not born yet during the second world war, thank God, but my mother was a young girl then. She remembered that all they had in the world was contained in a baol, a wooden chest, that my Lolo – grandfather – used to cart around. Apparently the baol was full of money but it got caught in the fire or something and was lost.
Below is an anecdotal account from my good friend Fred Natividad, who is also a bit of a history buff, of his own experience during the war.
The Battle of Midway and the Days of Hopelessness
In June of 1942, World War II was just six months old but we already had a feeling of hopelessness because we were not aware of an American naval victory at some place called Midway. Just as soon as the Japanese got in control of the Philippines they promptly committed incredible atrocities not just on American and Filipino prisoners of war but also on the general civilian population. On top of that we began to suffer shortages of food, medicines and everything else we normally needed.
That June of 1942 was a few weeks away from my ninth birthday but I do not remember looking forward to some happy celebration. Birthday celebrations were the least of our concerns. And yet I was aware, though vaguely, that anti-Japanese guerrillas were promptly active all over the country. They appeared audacious in the face of the tight grip of Japanese occupation.
Until after the war I did not know about an American army major who was a guerrilla leader in Northern Luzon. He escaped Bataan when it fell to the enemy. This American named Volckman was second in command to U.S. General Brougher when both commanded the Philippine Army’s 11th Division in Bataan. My father was a corporal in that outfit although he never had any personal contact with either officers.
I did not know, too, that while the general population suffered, guerrillas in their secret hideouts might have been optimistic of the eventual return of the Americans. Guerrillas defied the Japanese with sabotage and abduction of suspected and openly declared collaborators. Unfortunately, sometimes guerrilla activities were at the deadly expense of innocent, albeit anti-Japanese, civilians.
It was after the war that I read about positive news of American military activities right after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor and about the escape of General Macarthur to Australia on orders of President Roosevelt even while the Japanese relentlessly besieged Bataan and Corregidor. From postwar readings I learned about subsequent radio contact between guerrillas in the Philippines and General Macarthur’s intelligence service and about American spies getting smuggled into the Philippines by submarine.
One such spy was Colonel Jesus Villamor, a pilot in what awfully passed for a Philippine airforce. He earned military decorations for his exploits over the skies of Manila and environs at the beginning of the war. He escaped from the Philippines but he secretly returned with some Americans by submarine, carrying some limited supplies to guerrillas, many of whom were led by Americans.
I presume now, so many years after the war, that while constantly on guard, or on the run, from the Japanese and their Filipino collaborators, guerrillas were aware of American campaigns led by Admiral Nimitz in the Central Pacific and by General Macarthur in the Southwest Pacific.
Presumably, guerrillas must have been aware of the Army’s Doolittle Raid on Japan itself or the Navy’s Battle of the Coral Sea. They must have been inspired by the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942, just a mere six months after the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At Midway the Japanese lost 3,000-odd lives. American casualties were only about 10 percent of that. This U.S. naval victory appeared to be the beginning of the end of the once formidable Japanese Navy.
Presumably, guerrillas in the Philippines may have been aware of what happened at Midway and elsewhere – at New Guinea, Tarawa, Guadalcanal… Their radio communication with the outside world may have contributed to their stubborn audacity while the generally uninformed population languished in seeming hopelessness. After all it will still be another three years after the Battle of Midway before the Americans came to liberate the Philippines.
Japanese occupation began to fall apart on October 20, 1944, when General MacArthur announced his triumphant return to the Philippines on the shores of Leyte Gulf while Admiral Nimitz and his Navy continued to decimate what was once an invincible Japanese Navy.
Napoleon Bonaparte, was so famous he became known simply as Napoleon. History marks him as one of the greatest military leaders of all times.
During his reign as the Emperor of France, he conquered most of Europe (but not Great Britain)
Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes
Do you know what is more hard to bear than the reverses of fortune? It is the baseness, the hideous ingratitude, of man. —Napoleon. … Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets. – Napoleon Bonaparte …… ‘‘ If I had to choose a religion, the sun as the universal giver of life would be my god.’’ – Napoleon Bonaparte
If they want peace, nations should avoid the pin-pricks that precede cannon shots. ~Napoleon Bonaparte
……… Imagination rules the world. – Napoleon Bonaparte …….. Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools. – Napoleon Bonaparte … Let France have good mothers, and she will have good sons. ~Napoleon Bonaparte ……… Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. -Napoleon Bonaparte … Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide. – Napoleon Bonaparte …. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich. – Napoleon Bonaparte
Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in. – Napoleon Bonaparte
There are only two forces that unite men – fear and interest. – Napoleon Bonaparte
Earliest surviving portrait of Ricahrd III painted circa-1520
Having an interest in history, particularly of medieval & Early English/British eras, I found this recent announcement and news item particularly noteworthy.
Our royalty spanning over a thousand years has produced some interesting and colourful characters. One such monarch is King Richard III 1452-1485 (his reign as King 1483-1485).
He was vilified as a cruel King, Shakespeare portrayed Richard III as a hunchbacked tyrant and murderer of rivals but modern historians argue that the king was the victim of Tudor propaganda. He lived in violent uncertain times.
King Richard III – Revealed
His brief reign from 1483 saw liberal reforms, including the introduction of the right to bail and the lifting of restrictions on books and printing presses.
Now Richard III is revealed at last after the remains of a near complete skeleton, excavated in September 2012, by archeologists from underneath a social services car park in Leicester.
The car park was built on part of the remains of Greyfriars Church. Researchers said they had concluded “beyond reasonable doubt” that the skeleton, which showed evidence of an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine, was the monarch King Richard III.
The skeleton, with severe trauma to the skull, was unearthed on the first day of a three-week dig at the site of what is believed to have been the choir of the church.
Historical records show the long-lost church was the burial site of the monarch, following his brutal death at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.
The remains were found at depth of 68 cm and in good condition, with the feet missing, The hands were crossed over the front of the pelvis. No remnants of a coffin or shroud were found.
The king’s remains will now be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral, the nearest consecrated ground, in keeping with archaeological practice.
After the discovery, a row between Leicester and York developed, which claims King Richard III should be buried in York according to his own wishes.
Kersten England, chief executive of City of York Council, said: “His self-identification with the north and York is reflected in his plans for a chantry of 100 priests in York Minster where he wished to be buried.
“That the burial site of this Yorkist king was determined by where he died from battle wounds makes the importance of adhering to his own wishes for his final resting place most important.
“City of York Council and all its political leaders are united in the belief that York is the most fitting burial place for Richard III, one of the city’s most famous and cherished sons.”
City of York Council will now write a letter to the Ministry of Justice stating its case.
Now the face of King Richard III has been unveiled to the world. Facial reconstruction of the monarch has been released by the Richard III Society after it was confirmed
The image is based on a CT scan taken by experts at the University of Leicester, who discovered the king’s skeleton during the archaeological dig.
The facial reconstruction was unveiled at The Society of Antiquaries at Burlington House in Piccadilly, London.
DNA samples from Michael Ibsen – a Canadian-born furniture maker who is a direct descendant of Richard’s sister, Anne of York – provided further proof.
Richard III was the last Plantagenet and Yorkist monarch later defeated by Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII, father of the famous King Henry VIII.
Lecturer Jo Appleby, who led the exhumation of the remains, speaking at Leicester University after tests established that a skeleton is that of King Richard III (Yahoo News)
Facial reconstruction of the skull identified as that of King Richard III
Michael Ibsen a direct descendant faces the face of his illustrious ancestor!
Sun Tzu (AKA Sun Wu and Chang Qing) was a Chinese General in the 6th Century BC. His contribution to war and tactics were immense. He wrote the hugely influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy, The Art of War.
Sun Tzu & The Art of War
All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
….. If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected. …. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” … It is only the wise general who will use the highest intelligence for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results. – Su Tzu … Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him. – Sun Tzu ….
”Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” – Sun-Tzu …. “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” ―Sun Tzu …. Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.
…. What is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations.
Andres Bonifacio is the antithesis to Jose Rizal, the unofficial national hero of the Philippines. Accolades have been poured on Rizal’s memory from far and wide; there is even a brotherhood in his honour called the Knights of Rizal. He was born from a well-to-do family. He was learned, well-educated; became a medical doctor, well-travelled, and a very accomplished writer and poet to boot. It was his two books, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo that inspired the likes of Andres Bonifacio to rise up against the hundreds of years of colonialism from Spain. For this reason, Jose Rizal was martyred at Bagumbayan. This should have not happened as Rizal often said that he never wanted Filipinos to completely separate from Spain. He did not want blood shed. He was into “the pen is mightier than the sword”.
Allegedly it was the American who mooted that Rizal be the National Hero because of his qualities, some says that this alleged encouragement from the Americans was to subliminally curve Filipinos’ fighting spirit. Hehehe
Anyway many of us, yes including me, are pro-Bonifacio.
Andres Bonifacio came from an ordinary family, he was to my mind as brilliant as Rizal. He was well read but did not have the same opportunities as Rizal. Bonifacio was self-taught. As most Filipinos, he was also multi-lingual. He spoke Tagalog, Spanish and a little English (and probably a few Philippine dialects as well). He read voraciously including Rizal’s novels (I read the novels too as part of our high school curriculum and it pained me to say that it did not hold my attention for long, found the novels rather laborious and tedious at times, sorry Rizal ;( !!! ), which apparently touched him to the core, he found the hidden message that there was no other way to sling the butts of the Spaniards out of the country but through the swords and brutal force.
Like Rizal, Bonifacio was a member of the La Liga Filipina which folded eventually. The members were divided into two factions, one for reforms through peaceful means and the other was for a truly radical and, dare I say, more credible option of baring arms against the unacceptable long running subjugation from Spain. Bonifacio was a member of the latter. He then founded the KKK which an acronym for kataastaasang Kagalanggalang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (I would translate this as Superemely Proud Organization of the Children of the Country, LOL), and it was more known as Katipunan. And this was the beginning of the end for the 333 years of Spanish colonialism of the Philippines.
But not a happy ending I am afraid, because we became a “colony” of the USofA. And then the Japanese came…
I hope another Bonifacio or Rizal will rise up from the masses right now and do a total clean up of the Philippines inside and out. It is a shame that the Philippines seems to be forever lagging as a Third World country when it has so much to offer to the world.
All the blood shed by brave Filipinos, the named (famous) ones and those who died in obscurity, seem to amount to nothing as the country is gripped by a different force, a more heartbreaking one, CORRUPTION.
I hope this Bonifacio Day will jerk us from our stupor, and about time too. There is a real freedom crying to get out. It is time Filipinos to choose the people we put in office. Choose the most learned, the most efficient, the most trustworthy, the most experience; not the has-been movie/tv stars, not the boxer, not your street preacher, not because he is good-looking, not because he has money, not because he is white in complexion, not because he speaks perfect English. Choose the one who will promote the will of the people and the constitution.
Thank you Happy Bonifacio Day.
Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa Andres Bonifacio
Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya Sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila Gaya ng pag-ibig sa tinubuang lupa, Aling pag-ibig pa? Wala na nga wala.
Walang mahalagang hindi inihandog Ng may pusong wagas sa bayang nagkupkop. Dugo, yaman, dunong, katiisat pagod: Buhay may abuting magkalagot-lagot
Ang nakaraang panahon ng aliw Ang inaasahang araw na darating Ng pagkatimawa ng mga alipin Liban pa sa bayan saan tatanghalin? Sa aba ng abang mawalay sa bayan
Gunita may laging sakbibi ng lumbay
Walang alaalang inaasam-asam Kundi ang makita lupang tinubuan.
Kayong nalagasan ng bungat bulaklak Kahoy niyaring buhay na nilantat sukat Ng bala-balakit makapal na hirap Muling manariwat sa bayay lumiyag
Ipakahandog-handog ang buong pag-ibig Hanggang sa may dugoy ubusing itigis Kung sa pagtatanggol buhay ang kapalit Itoy kapalaran at tunay na langit
Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya Sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila Gaya ng pag-ibig sa tinubuang lupa Aling pag-ibig pa wala na nga wala Gaya ng pag-ibig sa tinubuang lupa Aling pag-ibig pa? Wala na nga wala .
ANDRES BONIFACIO SHOULD HAVE BEEN OUR NATIONAL HERO
From the Moon King
By Atty Alma Luna-Reyes
September 29, 2012 was a day of celebration among Filipinos in Southern California. But, of course, they have a reason to celebrate. An 8 foot statute of the Philippine National hero, Jose Rizal, was unveiled in the City of Carson in the morning and a thanksgiving gala was held at the Westin LAX in the evening.
The events had all the elements of festivities and the usual incidents that come along Filipino organized events. There were minor issues on seating arrangements, sound system glitzes and not only numerous but long speeches. The program was too long that some attendees, including a lady seated by our table (who happens to be a President of one organization) fell asleep during the program. In general, however, I did enjoy the evening. It was an opportunity to see and be with friends and do a couple of dance pieces.
What I want to take a closer look in the midst of all this celebration is whether Jose Rizal deserves all of the accolades. Should he be our National Hero? Or is Andres Bonifacio more deserving of the deference?
Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio opted for different courses of action. Rizal fought against the friars with the use of his pen. Bonifacio advocated for revolution. There is nothing wrong with advocating for something without revolt. In fact, a nonviolent means is the best way of achieving political change. Although I admire Rizal’s accomplishments, it seems like Rizal opted against the revolution because he was for the preservation of the status quo. This is why according to author Renato Constantino, the reason Rizal was given special attention as a hero by the American colonial administration because Rizal was interpreted to represent peaceful political advocacy, unlike more radical people whose ideas could inspire resistance against American rule.
If we look at Rizal’s life circumstances, he is among the rich. His family is one of the landed gentry of the province of Calamba. Rizal was able to travel and study abroad at a time when most Filipinoswere not even able to leave their home province. The success of Bonifacio’s Revolution may mean that Rizal’s family would lose their privileged position. There are also some historians who believe that Rizal did not actually advocate independence but merely wanted representation and better rights for Filipinos while remaining under Spanish rule. Bonifacio’s cause was more people-oriented. There was no indication of any type of self-service or of any type of self-preservation. He just fought to end the foreign rule. No properties to protect, no interest group to favor, no allegiance to anyone other than to the Filipinos. Contrary to popular belief and urban legends, Bonifacio was not an uneducated brute. He was self-educated and was well-read. He spoke Tagalog and Spanish and a little English as well. Despite this, his image is still that of the bare-chested insurgent and common man who launches himself into battle without regard for his safety.
Choosing Rizal as the national hero is for the benefit of the ruling class who will always favor preservation of the status quo. But in terms of nobility of the cause, passion, dedication and price of sacrifice, Bonifacio is by far more deserving of all accolades.
It bears noting that Jose Rizal is not the official national hero of the Philippines. In fact, the country does not have any official national hero. There has never been any law passed to recognize a national hero in the country. ………………………..
In the first half of the 10th century a Muslim ruler of Afghanistan invaded the Punjab 11 times, without much political success, but taking away a great deal of loot.
A more successful invasion came at the end of the 12th century. This eventually led to the formation of the Delhi Sultanate.
A later Muslim invasion in 1398 devastated the city of Delhi.
The Mughal Empire grew out of descendants of the Mongol Empire who were living in Turkestan in the 15th century. They had become Muslims and assimilated the culture of the Middle East, while keeping elements of their Far Eastern roots.
They also retained the great military skill and cunning of their Mongol ancestors, and were among the first Western military leaders to use guns.
Babur the first Mughal Emperor, was a descendent of Genghis Khan and Tamerlaine.
Babur succeeded his father as ruler of the state of Farghana in Turkestan when he was only 12, although he was swiftly deposed by older relatives.
Babur moved into Afghanistan in 1504, and then moved on to India, apparently at the invitation of some Indian princes who wanted to dispose of their ruler. Babur disposed of the ruler, and decided to take over himself.
He captured the Turkic Ghur’iat Sultanate of Delhi in 1526, imposing his rule on most of Northern India.
The Empire he founded was a sophisticated civilisation based on religious toleration. It was a mixture of Persian, Mongol and Indian culture.
Under Babur Hinduism was tolerated and new Hindu temples were built with his permission.
Trade with the rest of the Islamic world, especially Persia and through Persia to Europe, was encouraged.
The importance of slavery in the Empire diminished and peace was made with the Hindu kingdoms of Southern India.
Babur brought a broad-minded, confident Islam from central Asia. His first act after conquering Delhi was to forbid the killing of cows because that was offensive to Hindus.
Babur may have been descended from brutal conquerors, but he was not a barbarian bent on loot and plunder. Instead he had great ideas about civilisation, architecture and administration.
He even wrote an autobiography, The Babur – Namah. The autobiography is candid, honest and at times even poetic.
Babur was followed by his son Humayun who was a bad emperor, a better poet, and a drug addict. He rapidly lost the empire. He did eventually recover the throne but died soon afterwards after breaking his neck falling downstairs.
While Humayan was certainly disastrous as a ruler, his love of poetry and culture heavily influenced his son Akbar, and helped to make the Mughal Empire an artistic power as well as a military one.
The third Emperor, Abu Akbar, is regarded as one of the great rulers of all time, regardless of country.
Akbar succeeded to the throne at 13, and started to recapture the remaining territory lost from Babur’s empire. By the time of his death in 1605 he ruled over most of north, central, and western India.
Akbar worked hard to win over the hearts and minds of the Hindu leaders. While this may well have been for political reasons – he married a Hindu princess (and is said to have married several thousand wives for political and diplomatic purposes) – it was also a part of his philosophy.
Akbar believed that all religions should be tolerated, and that a ruler’s duty was to treat all believers equally, whatever their belief.
He established a form of delegated government in which the provincial governors were personally responsible to him for the quality of government in their territory.
Akbar’s government machine included many Hindus in positions of responsibility – the governed were allowed to take a major part in the governing.
Akbar also ended a tax (jizya) that had been imposed on non-Muslims. This discriminatory tax had been much resented, and ending it was a popular move.
An innovation was the amount of autonomy he allowed to the provinces. For example, non-Muslims were not forced to obey Islamic law (as was the case in many Islamic lands), and Hindus were allowed to regulate themselves through their own law and institutions.
Akbar and Godism
Akbar took the policy of religious toleration even further by breaking with conventional Islam.
The Emperor proclaimed an entirely new state religion of ‘God-ism’ (Din-i-ilahi) – a jumble of Islamic, Hindu, Christian and Buddhist teaching with himself as deity. It never spread beyond his court and died when he did.
Fatehpur Sikri was the new capital built by Akbar, as a part of his attempt to absorb other religions into Islam. Fatehpur Sikri is a synthesis of Hindu and Islamic architecture.
Jahangir and Jahan
Akbar’s son, Emperor Jahangir, readopted Islam as the state religion and continued the policy of religious toleration. His court included large numbers of Indian Hindus, Persian Shi’a and Sufis and members of local heterodox Islamic sects.
Jahangir also began building the magnificent monuments and gardens by which the Mughals are chiefly remembered today, importing hundreds of Persian architects to build palaces and create magnificent gardens.
Jahangir’s approach was typified by the development of Urdu as the official language of Empire. Urdu uses an Arabic script, but Persian vocabulary and Hindi grammatical structure.
The architectural achievements of the Mughals peaked between 1592 and 1666, during the reign of Jahangir’s successor Jahan.
Jahan commissioned the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal marks the apex of the Mughal Empire; it symbolises stability, power and confidence.
The building is a mausoleum built by Jahan for his wife Mumtaz and it has come to symbolise the love between two people.
Jahan’s selection of white marble and the overall concept and design of the mausoleum give the building great power and majesty.
Jahan brought together fresh ideas in the creation of the Taj. Many of the skilled craftsmen involved in the construction were drawn from the empire. Many also came from other parts of the Islamic world – calligraphers from Shiraz, finial makers from Samrkand, and stone and flower cutters from Bukhara.
By Jahan’s period the capital had moved to the Red Fort in Delhi, putting the Fort at the heart of Mughal power. As if to confirm it, Jahan had these lines inscribed there: “If there is Paradise on earth, it is here, it is here.”
Paradise it may have been, but it was a pricey paradise. The money Jahan spent on buildings and on various military projects emptied his treasury and he was forced to raise taxes, which aggravated the people of the empire.
Jahan’s son Aurangzeb was the last great Mughal Emperor.
History’s verdict on Aurangzeb largely depends on who’s writing it; Muslim or Hindu.
Aurangzeb ruled for nearly 50 years. He came to the throne after imprisoning his father and having his older brother killed.
He was a strong leader, whose conquests expanded the Mughal Empire to its greatest size.
Aurangzeb was a very observant and religious Muslim who ended the policy of religious tolerance followed by earlier emperors.
He no longer allowed the Hindu community to live under their own laws and customs, but imposed Sharia law (Islamic law) over the whole empire.
Thousands of Hindu temples and shrines were torn down and a punitive tax on Hindu subjects was re-imposed.
In the last decades of the seventeenth century Aurangzeb invaded the Hindu kingdoms in central and southern India, conquering much territory and taking many slaves.
Under Aurangzeb, the Mughal empire reached the peak of its military power, but the rule was unstable. This was partly because of the hostility that Aurangazeb’s intolerance and taxation inspired in the population, but also because the empire had simply become to big to be successfully governed.
The Muslim Governer of Hydrabad in southern India rebelled and established a separate Shi’a state; he also reintroduced religious toleration.
The Hindu kingdoms also fought back, often supported by the French and the British, who used them to tighten their grip on the sub-continent.
The establishment of a Hindu Marathi Empire in southern India cut off the Mughal state to the south. The great Mughal city of Calcutta came under the control of the east India company in 1696 and in the decades that followed Europeans and European – backed by Hindu princes conquered most of the Mughal territory.
Aurangzeb’s extremism caused Mughal territory and creativity to dry up and the Empire went into decline. The Mughal Emperors that followed Aurangzeb effectively became British or French puppets. The last Mughal Emperor was deposed by the British in 1858.