Asian and African studies blog

07 January 2013

Who were the Mughals' ancestors?

An illustrated genealogy of the Timurids, the Mu‘izz al-ansāb (‘Glorifier of Pedigrees’)

The Mughals took great pride in their ancestry. They claimed to be descended from both the 14th-century Turkic warlord Tīmūr (Tamerlane) and the even more formidable Mongol conqueror Genghis (Chingiz) Khan (d. 1227). The genealogy of the Mughals, and of other Timurids (descendants of Tīmūr) is documented in such works as Mu‘izz al-ansāb (‘Glorifier of Pedigrees’), compiled in Persian at the court of the Timurid Shāh Rukh (d. 1447) in Herat, Afghanistan. Some years ago the British Library acquired at auction a complete manuscript (Or. 14306) of this very rare text, whose author is unknown. Formerly owned by the archaeologist and art collector Hagop Kevorkian (d. 1962), this copy has three especially interesting features.

Amir Timur_750
The Emperor Tīmūr (r.1370-1405),  founder of the Timurid dynasty

Firstly it contains a continuation of the genealogical line, extending right down to the end of the Mughal dynasty in India. Genealogical links are indicated by vertical red lines, linked with red circles or rectangles for the names of sons and daughters respectively. Secondly, there are added notes in English, providing extra information on some of the rulers discussed; regrettably, we have no idea who wrote them. Thirdly, the manuscript contains 30small portraits, beginning with Tīmūr himself and ending with Sirāj al-Dīn Bahādur Shāh, the last nominal Mughal ruler of Delhi, deposed in 1857. The copyist was Nādir ʻAlī and the manuscript and illustrations were probably produced in Delhi between 1840 and 1850. Their iconography largely conforms to that of other portraits of the same figures, sometimes reflecting known traits of character. The subjects include not only the familiar crowned heads but also a number of other royals, including for example Akbar’s sons Mīrzā Dāniyāl and Sulṭān Murād.

The portraits

81v. Sulṭān Amīr Tīmūr Gūrkān

102r. Mīrānshāh, son of Tīmūr

106v. Amīrzādah Sulṭān Muḥammad, son of Mīrānshāh

107r. Sulṭān Abū Saʻīd, son of Sulṭān Muḥammad

108r. ʻUmar Shaykh Mīrzā, son of Abū Saʻīd

108v. Ẓahīr al-Dīn Muḥammad Bābur (r.1526-1530)

The first Mughal Emperor Bābur

109v. Naṣīr al-Dīn Muḥammad Humāyūn, son of Bābur (r.1530-1540; 1555-1556)

110v. Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Akbar, son of Humāyūn (r.1556-1605)

111r. (right) Mīrzā Dāniyāl, son of Akbar; (left) Sulṭān Murād, son of Akbar

111v. Nūr al-Dīn Muḥammad Jahāngīr, son of Akbar (r.1605-1627)

112v. Shihāb al-Dīn Shāh Jahān, son of Jahāngīr (r.1627-1658)

113v. Muḥammad Dārā Shukūh, son of Shāh Jahān

Prince Dārā Shukūh, eldest son and heir apparent of Shāh Jahān, executed in 1659

114v. Shāh Shujāʻ, son of Shāh Jahān

115v. Muḥammad Murādbakhsh, son of Shāh Jahān

116v. Muḥyī al-Dīn Muḥammad Awrangzīb ʻĀlamgīr (r.1658-1707)

The Emperor Awrangzīb ʻĀlamgīr

121r. Bahādur Shāh Muḥammad Muʻaẓẓam Shāh, son of Awrangzīb (r.1707-1712)

122r. Shāhzādah Rafīʻ al-Qadr, son of Bahādur Shāh

122v. Rafīʻ al-Darajāt Shams al-Dīn Abū’l-Barakāt, son of Rafīʻ al-Qadr (r.1719)

123r. (right) Muḥammad ʻAẓīm ʻAẓīm al-Shaʻn, son of Bahādur Shāh (r.1712); (left) Sulṭān Karīm al-Dīn, son of ʻAẓīm al-Shaʻn

123v. Muḥammad Farrukhsiyar, son of ʻAẓīm al-Shaʻn (r.1713-1719)

124r. Khujastah-Akhtar Jahānshāh, son of Bahādur Shāh

124v. Nāṣir al-Dīn Muḥammad Shāh, son of Jahānshāh (r.1719-1748)

125r. Mujāhid al-Dīn Aḥmad Shāh, son of Muḥammad Shāh (r.1748-1754)

126r. Muḥammad Muʻizz al-Dīn Jahāndār Shāh, son of Bahādur Shāh (r.1712-1713)

126v. ʻAzīz al-Dīn ʻĀlamgīr II, son of Jahāndār Shāh (r.1754-1759)

129r. Sirāj al-Dīn Shāh ʻĀlam II, son of ʻĀlamgīr II (r.1759-1806)


Shah Alam_720
Shāh ʻĀlam II, blinded in 1788, wrote Persian and Urdu poetry under the name Aftāb

131v. Muʻīn al-Dīn Muḥammad Akbar Shāh II, son of Shāh ʻĀlam II (r.1806-1837)

133v. Sirāj al-Dīn Bahādur Shāh II, son of Akbar II (r.1837-1857)


Bahadur shah_720
The last Mughal Emperor Bahādur Shāh II, an accomplished poet who wrote under the name Ẓafar

The imperial pedigree of Bābur and his successors may look impressive, but the researches of an international team of geneticists put it into perspective. Tracking the male ‘Y’ chromosomes from Genghis Khan, who besides founding a vast empire fathered a vast number of children, in 2003 they published evidence that roughly one in every 200 men alive today is a descendant of his. For The Guardian’s coverage, see

Muhammad Isa Waley, Asian and African Studies

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