Life’s so strange.
Stranger than we all realize. Actions of insignificant people in the distant past sometimes have an extraordinary impact on the course of future events in a big way.
Take the Taj Mahal for instance. Hailed as a great monument to both love and architecture, the Taj Mahal has impressed visitors from around the world for 360 years.
But few realize that but for a mistake in 1526 by a treacherous cook in Babur’s employ, the Taj Mahal most likely would never have been built.
In his memoirs Baburnama, Babur, the founder of the Mughal empire, describes an assassination attempt on him in graphic detail.
The year was 1526 and the date December 21 (about eight months after the Battle of Panipat in which Babur defeated Sultan Ibrahim Lodi).
Not surprisingly, the architect of the assassination plot was Ibrahim’s mother Buwa. She had some poison brought from Etawah and bribed Babur’s cook to poison his food. However, the nervous cook used only some of the poison and cast the rest into the stove.
As a result, although Babur ate the poisoned meat he only became sick but did not die.
Once the suspicious Babur learned of the assassination plot, he quickly had the plotters arrested and put them to death in the most gruesome manner (You really want to know, OK: the cook was skinned alive, the food taster hacked to pieces, one woman thrown under an elephant’s leg, another woman shot and the architect of the plot Buwa was arrested).
If the cook had succeeded in assassinating Babur, would there have been a Mughal Empire? We doubt it. Remember, these were the early days of the empire, there was disaffection in Babur’s army and the empire had yet to consolidate itself.
So, without the Mughal empire there would have been no Shah Jahan and no Taj Mahal (completed in 1648).
Now you see how ultimately the Taj Mahal owes its existence to Babur’s cook (and hisÂ failure to kill theÂ King 122 years earlier).
Built by a Flustered Cook?
Most likely, the course of India too would have been very different if Babur’s cook had succeeded in his assassination attempt.
Here’s an excerpt on the assassination attempt in Babur’s own words:
After the first old woman, who gave Ahmad Chashnigir the poison, she sent another to see whether or not he had given me the poison. It is good that he put it on the plate and not in the pot, having done so because I had given the cooks strict instructions to supervise the Hindustanis and make them taste from the pot while the food was being prepared. When the meal was being dished out, however, our wretched cooks were negligent. The cook put a piece of thin bread on the porcelain plate and then sprinkled less than half of the poison from the paper on the top of the bread. On top of the poison he put some meat dressed in oil. If he had sprinkled the poison on the meat, or if he had thrown it into the pot, it would have been bad. In a fluster, he threw the rest into the stove.
Source: Baburnama, Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor P.367
Translated, edited and annotated by Wheeler M. Thackston
Who knows what extraordinary consequences the innocuous actions of our times will have in the distant future.
Life indeed is strange. Very strange.