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On creative Moghul cruelty

April 7, 2008 1 comment

My last purchase at Borders before I bounced outta Palo Alto was an audiobook titled “Taj Mahal”, an account of the history and circumstances behind the construction of The Taj Mahal, that wondrous monument to love and loss.

Naturally, since the Taj was constructed by Shah Jehan, the book spends considerable time discussing the Moghul dynasty – all the way back to Babar. I’ll post separately about the book itself, but the one thing that stands out with special starkness is the creative cruelty of the Moghul dynasty when punishing rebels, thieves and other miscreants.

Here are some fun examples:

  • Babar, when he found that his cook had tried to poison him, literally “skinned him alive”
  • Jehangir, who was supposedly way too enamored by cruelty, enjoyed watching while elephants trampled upon and killed criminals.
  • Jehangir’s son Khusrao, who staged multiple unsuccessful rebellions, was blinded by the rubbing of a corrosive fluid in his eyes and the subsequent stitching of his brows. This was a lesser punishment than the actual gouging of eyeballs, also a common practice of Timur (from whom the Moghuls descended).
  • Akbar is known to have walled up a concubine. Alive. This one scared the crap out of me.
  • Jehangir, while punishing Khusrao’s accomplices, had one of them stitched into the internals of an oxen and the other into the stomach of an ass. You can’t make this shit up.
  • Akbar, well known as an efficient administrator of a large empire, put the fear of God in bandits by setting up stakes at regular checkpoints on large trunk roads. On these stakes were spitted sets of 3 human heads each, stacked on top of each other.

Crazy, huh?

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