One man’s ambition led to a dynasty of rulers in India. Babur being a heir of a small kingdom of Ferghana which was close to Samarkand, dreamt big. All through his travails he never lost sight of his vision, a grand one at that, to gain a big empire and to establish his dynasty. His travails were no less trivial, from losing his birth kingdom and becoming a mere bandit, to conquering the Golden city of Samarkand three times during his life time and losing it after a short rule and to surrender his sister to his sworn enemy so that he could continue to live and fight another day. The duels with Shaibhani Khan and his loss and struggle makes for an eminent read in the first book of the series, Raiders from the North. A stroke of luck in his getting hold of the gun powder based canons finally enabled him to overcome a 1:10 numerical inferiority to gain control of Hindustan. The book gives great insight into the thought process of Babur as it has based itself heavily on Baburnama which Babur had written as his diary.
The second book “Brothers at war” is about Humayun, the most able son of Babur. Humayan is usually portrayed as weak link in the whole dynasty, but after reading this book you will think otherwise. Humayun looses the hard won empire of his father by callously underestimating his enemy Sher Shah. His struggles to keep his family and hopes alive by roaming around in the deserts of Rajasthan is heart rendering. Being completely driven out, he finally gets help from the king of Persia, with his support he goes on to conquer Kabul back from the clutches of his brother Kamran. His patience with his half-brothers is simply commendable more so because later in the dynasty even full brothers don’t show any mercy to each other. Finally in the end Humayun seeing an opportune moment at the death of Sher shah, rides back to conquer Hindustan after a gap of 15 years.
The third book “Ruler of the world” is about the most famous moghul emperor Akbar. Akbar having inherited the empire at a very young age is initially chaperoned by the famous general Bairam khan. After some years of remaining in the shadows he comes out and assumes full command by abruptly retiring Bairam khan from his services. His brutal attack on the fort of Chittorgarh to establish his supremacy and his later tactics of marrying Rajput princesses is vividly written. His famous association with the Salim chishti is well brought out. Being one of the astute rulers, he didn’t fall into any major vices and caught the pulse of the nation very well. In the later stages, animosity with his son Jahangir regarding his capabilities to be a future ruler and his great love towards his grandson ShahJahan makes a good read even though the fast paced action is sorely missing during this phase. The episode of Anarkali made famous by the movie Mughal-e-azam finds a mention in this book as well.
The fourth book “The tainted throne” covers the life of Jahangir who after his father’s death inherits perhaps the most prosperous empire. His infatuation with Mehrunissa and his plot to get her husband assassinated forms for a gripping read. Marrying Mehrunisa, who later on becomes Noor Jahan, Jahangir starts slipping into his own world of opium and liquor making Noor Jahan more powerful by the day. Seeing a challenge to her authority in the rise of the young prince Shah Jahan, she tries her best to strangle his ambitions of becoming the next emperor. With the death of Jahangir, the struggle for the throne again begins.
The fifth book and the last one in the series till now is “The serpents tooth”. Shah Jahan is now reigning supreme over Hindustan. With his loving wife and family by his side he sees no reason why the Mughal Empire can’t expand into newer horizons. The building of the great Taj mahal at the death of his wife is described in sufficient detail. Finally his great attachment towards his eldest son Dara neglecting the other sons results into a crisis which makes him the first Mughal emperor to get dethroned when living. The brutal tactics employed by Aurangzeb to annihilate his own brothers one by one to eliminate all contenders to the throne shows you how much you can debase yourself for getting the big prize of Hindustan.
Overall a very captivating series. Never a dull moment and most of the books read like a thriller rather than a historic book.