A Wild Ride

Babur did not begin drinking until age thirty, but he then took to it with gusto. He describes how he became “roaring drunk” at a boating party outside Kabul. Farrukh Beg’s painting closely follows Babur’s account of his wild evening. The artist left the focal point of the scene uncolored, as if washed by moonlight. Outcrops of swirling rock and the rich array of tents convey the reeling motion of Babur’s free-reigned ride.

A Drunken Babur Returns to Camp at Night
Folio from the First Baburnama
By Farrukh Beg (active early 1580s–1619)
Pakistan, Lahore, Mughal dynasty, ca. 1589
Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper
Purchase—Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

In the words of Babur…

In the Baburnama, Babur describe his drunken party and subsequent hangover.

“At midday, we rode off on an excursion, got on a boat, and drank spirits. The members of the party were Dost Beg, Mirza-Qulï, Ah-madi, Gadai, Muhammad Ali Jang-Jang, Asas, and Ughanberdi Moghul. The entertainers were Ruhdam, Baba Jan, Qasim Ali, Yusuf Ali, Tengri-Qulï, Abu’l-Qasim, Ramazan, and Luli. We drank on the boat until late that night, left the boat roaring drunk, and got on our horses. I took a torch in my hand and, reeling to one side and then the other, let the horse gallop free-reined along the riverbank all the way to camp. I must have been really drunk. The next morning, they told me I had come galloping into camp holding a torch. I didn’t remember a thing, except that when I got to my tent, I vomited a lot.”

Thackston, Wheeler M., trans. The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor. New York: Oxford University Press in association with Smithsonian Institution, Freer Gallery of Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 1996. 276–77.