Timur, also written Emir Timur or Amir Temur (Chagatai: تیمور - Tēmōr, "iron") (1336 – 19 February 1405), among his other names, commonly called Tamerlane or Timur the Lame, was a 14th century Turco-Mongol conqueror of much of western and Central Asia, and founder of the Timurid Empire and Timurid dynasty (1370–1405) in Central Asia, which survived until 1857 as the Mughal dynasty of India.
Timur belonged to a family of the Turkicized Barlas clan of Mongol origin. Although Timur was not a direct male-line descendant of the great Khan Genghis, he claimed descent from one of Genghis' granddaughters and took two of Genghis's descendants as his wives to link himself to Genghis. He was Turkic in identity and language, and he aspired to restore the Mongol Empire. He was also steeped in Persian culture and in most of the territories which he incorporated, Persian was the primary language of administration and literary culture. Thus the language of the settled diwan was Persian and its scribes had to be adept in Persian culture, regardless of ethnicity. In addition to this, during his reign Turkic became a state and literary language, and some of the greatest contributions to Turkic literature were made during the Timurid era. Turkic culture was restored from the Mongol expansion and flourished. Major Turkic cultural sites like the Ahmad Yasavi shrine were constructed. Timur's short-lived empire consolidated the Turco-Persian cultural synthesis in Transoxiania: a literary form of Chaghatay Turkish was used alongside Persian as both cultural and official language.
Timur was a military genius and loved to play chess in his spare time to improve his military tactics and skill. His troops were essentially Turkic-speaking. He wielded absolute power, yet never called himself more than an emir, and eventually ruled in the name of tamed Chingizid Khans, who were little more than political prisoners. His heaviest blow was against the Mongol Golden Horde, which never recovered after his campaign against Tokhtamysh. Despite wanting to restore the Mongol Empire, Timur was more at home in a city than on a steppe as evidenced by his funding of construction in Samarkand. He thought of himself as a ghazi, but his biggest wars were against Muslim states.
He died during his campaign against the Ming Dynasty, yet records indicate that for part of his life he was a surreptitious Ming vassal, and even his son Shah Rukh visited China in 1420. He ruled over an empire that, in modern times, extends from southeastern Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait and Iran, through Central Asia encompassing part of Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, North-Western India, and even approaching Kashgar in China.
Timur's military talents were unique. He is known to have employed what is known nowadays as information warfare. Timur's campaigns were preceded by spies whose tasks included collecting information and spreading horrifying reports about the cruelty, size and might of his armies - eventually weakening the morale of the population and causing panic among enemy forces.
Sources claim that when Timur conquered Persia, Iraq and Syria, the civilian population was decimated and their women and children raped, looted and converted to Islam by force. In the city of Isfahan, he ordered the building of a pyramid of 70,000 human skulls, from those that his army had beheaded, and a pyramid of some 20,000 skulls was erected outside of Aleppo. Timur herded thousands of citizens of Damascus into the Cathedral Mosque before setting it aflame, and had 70,000 people beheaded in Tikrit, and 90,000 more in Baghdad. As many as 17 million people may have died from his conquests.
Timur is historically considered to be a contradictory and controversial figure, as was the case even during his lifetime. He was a patron of the arts, but also destroyed the great centres of learning during his conquests.
Timur was born in Transoxiana, near Kesh (an area now better known as Shahrisabz, 'the green city,'), situated some 50 miles south of Samarkand in modern Uzbekistan. His father Taraghay was the head of the Barlas, a nomadic Turkic-speaking tribe in the steppes of Central Asia. They were remnants of the original Mongol invaders of Genghis Khan of whom many had embraced Turkic or Iranian languages and customs. Timur means iron in the Mongolian language (Tomor) and Chagatai language.
The spurious genealogy on his tombstone taking his descent back to Ali, as well as the presence of Shiites in his army, led some observers and scholars to call him a Shiite. However, his official religious counselor was the Hanafite scholar Abd alJabbar Khwarazmi. There is evidence that he had converted to extremist Shia Nusayri sect under the influence of Sayyed Barakah, a Nusayri leader from his mentor, Balkh. He also constructed one of his finest buildings at the tomb of Ahmed Yesevi, an influential Turkic Sufi saint who was doing most to spread Sunni Islam among the nomads.
In his memoirs Timur gave the following information about his ancestry:
My father told me that we were descendants from Abu-al-Atrak (father of the Turks) the son of Japhet. His fifth son, Aljeh Khan, had twin sons, Tatar and Mongol, who placed their feet on the paths of infidelity. Tumene Khan had a son Kabul, whose son, Mönge Bagatir, was the father of Temujin, called Genghis Khan. Genghis Khan abandoned the duty of a conqueror by slaughtering the people, and plundering the dominions of God, and he put many thousands of Muslims to death. He bestowed Mawur-ulnaher on his son Cagatai, and appointed my ancestor, Karachar Nevian, to be his minister. "Karacher appointed the plain of Kesh for the residence of the tribe of Barlas (his own tribe), and he subdued the countries of Kashgar, Badakshan, and Andecan. He was succeeded by his son Ayettekuz as Sepah Salar (general). Then followed my grandfather, the Ameer Burkul, who retired from office, and contented himself with the government of his own tribe of Barlas. He possessed an incalculable number of sheep and goats, cattle and servants. On his death my father succeeded, but he also preferred seclusion, and the society of learned men."
In about 1360 Timur gained prominence as a military leader. He took part in campaigns in Transoxania with the khan of Chagatai, a fellow descendant of Genghis Khan. His career for the next 10 or 11 years may be thus briefly summarized from the Memoirs. Allying himself both in cause and by family connection with Kurgan, the dethroner and destroyer of Volga Bulgaria, he was to invade Khorasan at the head of a thousand horsemen. This was the second military expedition which he led, and its success led to further operations, among them the subjection of Khwarizm and Urganj.
After the murder of Kurgan the disputes which arose among the many claimants to sovereign power were halted by the invasion of the energetic Jagataite Tughlugh Timur of Kashgar, another descendant of Genghis Khan. Timur was dispatched on a mission to the invader's camp, the result of which was his own appointment to the head of his own tribe, the Barlas, in place of its former leader, Hajji Beg.
The exigencies of Timur's quasi-sovereign position compelled him to have recourse to his formidable patron, whose reappearance on the banks of the Syr Darya created a consternation not easily allayed. The Barlas were taken from Timur and entrusted to a son of Tughluk, along with the rest of Mawarannahr; but he was defeated in battle by the bold warrior he had replaced at the head of a numerically far inferior force.
Rise to power
Tughlugh's death facilitated the work of reconquest, and a few years of perseverance and energy sufficed for its accomplishment, as well as for the addition of a vast extent of territory. It was in this period that Timur reduced the Jagatai khans to the position of figureheads, who were deferred to in theory but in reality ignored, while Timur ruled in their name. During this period Timur and his brother-in-law Husayn, at first fellow fugitives and wanderers in joint adventures full of interest and romance, became rivals and antagonists. At the close of 1369 Husayn was assassinated and Timur, having been formally proclaimed sovereign at Balkh, mounted the throne at Samarkand, the capital of his dominions. This event was recorded by Marlowe in his famous work Tamburlaine the Great:
Then shall my native city, Samarcanda...
Be famous through the furthest continents,
For there my palace-royal shall be placed,
Whose shining turrets shall dismay the heavens,
And cast the fame of Ilion's tower to hell.
It is notable that Timur never claimed for himself the title of khan, styling himself amir and acting in the name of the Chagatai ruler of Transoxania. Timur was a military genius but sometimes lacking in political sense. He tended not to leave a government apparatus behind in lands he conquered, and was often faced with the need to conquer such lands again after inevitable rebellions.
Period of expansion
Timur spent the next 35 years in various wars and expeditions. He not only consolidated his rule at home by the subjugation of his foes, but sought extension of territory by encroachments upon the lands of foreign potentates. His conquests to the west and northwest led him among the Mongols of the Caspian Sea and to the banks of the Ural and the Volga. Conquests in the south and south-West encompassed almost every province in Persia, including Baghdad, Karbala and Northern Iraq.
One of the most formidable of his opponents was Tokhtamysh who, after having been a refugee at the court, became ruler both of the eastern Kipchak and the Golden Horde and quarreled with him over the possession of Khwarizm and Azerbaijan. Timur supported Tokhtamysh against Russians and Tokhtamysh, with armed support by Timur, invaded Russia and in 1382 captured Moscow. After the death of Abu Sa'id, ruler of the Ilkhanid Dynasty, in 1335, there was a power vacuum in the Persian Empire. In 1383 Timur started the military conquest of Persia. He captured Herat, Khorasan and all eastern Persia by 1385 and massacred almost all inhabitants of Neishapur and other Iranian cities.
In the meantime, Tokhtamysh, now khan of the Golden Horde, turned against his patron and invaded Azerbaijan in 1385. It was not until 1395, in the battle of Kur River, that Tokhtamysh's power was finally broken after a titanic struggle between the two monarchs. In this war, Timur first led an army of over 100,000 men north for more than 700 miles into the uninhabited steppe, then west about 1000 miles, advancing in a front more than 10 miles wide. The Timurid army almost starved, and Timur organized a great hunt where the army encircled vast areas of steppe to get food. Tokhtamysh's army finally was cornered against the Volga River in the Orenburg region and destroyed. During this march, Timur's army got far enough north to be in a region of very long summer days, causing complaints by his Muslim soldiers about keeping a long schedule of prayers in such northern regions. Timur led a second campaign against Tokhtamysh via an easier route through the Caucasus. Timur then destroyed Sarai and Astrakhan, and wrecked the Golden Horde's economy based on Silk Road trade.
Informed about civil war in India, Timur began a trek starting in 1398 to invade the reigning Sultan Nasir-u Din Mehmud of the Tughlaq Dynasty in the north Indian city of Delhi. His campaign was politically pretexted that the Muslim Delhi Sultanate was too tolerant toward its Hindu subjects, but that could not mask the real reason being to amass the wealth of the Delhi Sultanate.
Timur crossed the Indus River at Attock (now Pakistan) on September 24. The capture of towns and villages was often followed by the looting, massacre of their inhabitants and raping of their women, as well as pillaging to support his massive army. Timur wrote many times in his memoirs of his specific disdain for the 'idolatrous' Hindus, although he also waged war against Muslim Indians during his campaign.
Timur's invasion did not go unopposed and he did meet some resistance during his march to Delhi, by the Governor of Meerut. Timur was able to continue his relentless approach to Delhi, arriving in 1398 to combat the armies of Sultan Mehmud, already weakened by an internal battle for ascension within the royal family.
The Sultan's army was easily defeated on December 17, 1398. Timur entered Delhi and the city was sacked, destroyed, and left in ruins. Before the battle for Delhi, Timur executed more than 100,000 captives, mostly Hindus.
Timur himself recorded the invasions in his memoirs, collectively known as Tuzk-e-Taimuri. In them, he vividly described the massacre at Delhi:
In a short space of time all the people in the Delhi fort were put to the sword, and in the course of one hour the heads of 10,000 infidels were cut off. The sword of Islam was washed in the blood of the infidels, and all the goods and effects, the treasure and the grain which for many a long year had been stored in the fort became the spoil of my soldiers. They set fire to the houses and reduced them to ashes, and they razed the buildings and the fort to the ground....All these infidel Hindus were slain, their women and children, and their property and goods became the spoil of the victors. I proclaimed throughout the camp that every man who had infidel prisoners should put them to death, and whoever neglected to do so should himself be executed and his property given to the informer. When this order became known to the ghazis of Islam, they drew their swords and put their prisoners to death.
One hundred thousand infidels, impious idolaters, were on that day slain. Maulana Nasiruddin Umar, a counselor and man of learning, who, in all his life, had never killed a sparrow, now, in execution of my order, slew with his sword fifteen idolatrous Hindus, who were his captives....on the great day of battle these 100,000 prisoners could not be left with the baggage, and that it would be entirely opposed to the rules of war to set these idolaters and enemies of Islam at liberty... no other course remained but that of making them all food for the sword.
As per Malfuzat-i-Timuri, Timur targeted Hindus. In his own words, "Excepting the quarter of the saiyids, the 'ulama and the other Musalmans [sic], the whole city was sacked". In his descriptions of the Loni massacre he wrote, "Next day I gave orders that the Musalman prisoners should be separated and saved."
During the ransacking of Delhi, almost all inhabitants not killed were captured and enslaved.
Timur's memoirs on his invasion of India describe in detail the massacre of Hindus, looting plundering and raping of their women and children, their forced conversions to Islam and the plunder of the wealth of Hindustan (Greater India). It gives details of how villages, towns and entire cities were rid of their Hindu male population through systematic mass slaughters and genocide and their women and children forcefully converted en masse to Islam from Hinduism.
Timur left Delhi in approximately January 1399. In April he had returned to his own capital beyond the Oxus (Amu Darya). Immense quantities of spoils were taken from India. According to Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo, 90 captured elephants were employed merely to carry precious stones looted from his conquest, so as to erect a mosque at Samarkand — what historians today believe is the enormous Bibi-Khanym Mosque. Ironically, the mosque was constructed too quickly and suffered greatly from disrepair within a few decades of its construction.
Last campaigns and death
Before the end of 1399, Timur started a war with Bayezid I, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and the Mamluk sultan of Egypt. Bayezid began annexing the territory of Turkmen and Muslim rulers in Anatolia. As Timur claimed sovereignty over the Turkmen rulers, they took refuge behind him. Timur invaded Syria, sacked Aleppo and captured Damascus after defeating the Mamluk army. The city's inhabitants were massacred, except for the artisans, who were deported to Samarkand. This led to Timur's being publicly declared an enemy of Islam.
In 1400 Timur invaded Armenia and Georgia (see also Timur's invasions of Georgia). More than 60,000 people from the Caucasus were captured as slaves, and many districts were depopulated.
He invaded Baghdad in June 1401. After the capture of the city, 20,000 of its citizens including Muslims were massacred. Timur ordered that every soldier should return with at least two severed human heads to show him (many warriors were so scared they killed prisoners captured earlier in the campaign just to ensure they had heads to present to Timur). After years of insulting letters passed between Timur and Bayezid, Timur invaded Anatolia and defeated Bayezid in the Battle of Ankara on July 20, 1402. Bayezid was captured in battle and subsequently died in captivity, initiating the 12-year Ottoman Interregnum period. Timur's stated motivation for attacking Bayezid and the Ottoman Empire was the restoration of Seljuq authority. Timur saw the Seljuks as the rightful rulers of Anatolia as they had been granted rule by Mongol conquerors, illustrating again Timur's interest with Genghizid legitimacy.
By 1368, the Ming had driven the Mongols out of China. The first Ming Emperor Hongwu demanded, and received, homage from many Central Asian states paid to China as the political heirs to the former House of Kublai. Although Timur more than once sent to the Ming Government gifts, he wished to restore the Mongol Empire, and eventually planned to conquer China. To this end, Timur made an alliance with the Mongols and prepared all the way to Bukhara. The Mongol leader Enkhe Khan sent his grandson Öljei Temür, also known as Buyanshir. In December 1404, Timur started military campaigns against the Ming Dynasty, but he was attacked by fever and plague when encamped on the farther side of the Sihon (Syr-Daria) and died at Atrar (Otrar) in mid-February 1405. His scouts explored Mongolia before his death, and the writing they carved on trees in Mongolia's mountains could still be seen even in the 20th century.
Of Timur's four sons, two (Jahangir and Umar Shaykh) predeceased him. His third son, Miran Shah, died soon after Timur, leaving the youngest son, Shah Rukh. Although his designated successor was his grandson Pir Muhammad b. Jahangir, Timur was ultimately succeeded in power by his son Shah Rukh. His most illustrious descendant Babur founded the Mughal Empire and ruled over most of North India. Babur's descendants, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, expanded the Mughal Empire to most of the Indian subcontinent along with parts of modern Afghanistan.
Markham, in his introduction to the narrative of Clavijo's embassy, states that his body "was embalmed with musk and rose water, wrapped in linen, laid in an ebony coffin and sent to Samarkand, where it was buried." His tomb, the Gur-e Amir, still stands in Samarkand, though it has been heavily restored in recent years. Timur had carried his victorious arms on one side from the Irtish and the Volga to the Persian Gulf, and on the other from the Hellespont to the Ganges River.
Contributions to the arts
Timur became widely known as a patron to the arts. Much of the architecture he commissioned still stands in Samarqand, now in present-day Uzbekistan. He was known to bring the most talented artisans from the lands he conquered back to Samarkand, and is credited with often giving them a wide latitude of artistic freedom to express themselves.
According to legend, Omar Aqta, Timur's court calligrapher, transcribed the Qur'an using letters so small that the entire text of the book fit on a signet ring. Omar also is said to have created a Qur'an so large that a wheelbarrow was required to transport it. Folios of what is probably this larger Qur'an have been found, written in gold lettering on huge pages.
Timur was also said to have created Tamerlane Chess, a variant of shatranj (also known as medieval chess) played on a larger board with several additional pieces and an original method of pawn promotion.
Timur's mandating of Kurash wrestling for his soldiers ensured for it a lasting and legendary legacy. Kurash is now a popular international sport and part of the Asian Games.
Timur's legacy is a mixed one. While Central Asia blossomed under his reign, other places such as Baghdad, Damascus, Delhi and other Arab, Persian, Indian and Turkic cities were sacked and destroyed, and millions of people were slaughtered. Thus, while Timur still retains a positive image in Central Asia, he is vilified by many in Arab, Persian and Indian societies.
Timur's body was exhumed from his tomb in 1941 by the Soviet anthropologist Mikhail M. Gerasimov. From his bones it was clear that Timur was a tall and broad chested man with strong cheek bones. Gerasimov also found that Timur's facial characteristics conformed to that of Mongoloid features, which he believed, in some part, supported Timur's notion that he was descended from Genghis Khan. Gerasimov was able to reconstruct the likeness of Timur from his skull.
Famously, a curse has been attached to opening Timur's tomb. In the year of Timur's death, a sign was carved in his tomb warning that whoever would dare disturb the tomb would bring demons of war onto his land. Gerasimov's expedition opened the tomb on June 19, 1941. Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany, began three days later. Timur's skeleton and that of Ulugh Beg, his grandson, were reinterred with full Islamic burial rites in 1942. On that same day, the Soviets won a major victory at Stalingrad.
Exchanges with the West
Timur had numerous epistolary exchanges with Western, especially French, rulers. The French archives preserve:
A July 30th, 1402, letter from Timur to Charles VI, king of France, suggesting him to send traders to the Orient. It was written in Persian.
A May 1403 letter. This is a Latin transcription of a letter from Timur to Charles VI, and another from Amiza Miranchah, his son, to the Christian princes, announcing their victory over Bayezid, in Smyrna.
A copy has been kept of the answer of Charles VI to Timur, dated June 15th, 1403.
Timur became a popular figure in Europe for centuries after his death, not in the least because of his victory over the Ottoman Sultan and the humiliations to which he is said to have subjected his prisoner Bayezid.
Timur was officially recognised as a national hero of newly independent Uzbekistan. His monument in Tashkent takes the place where Marx's statue once stood.
Timur's generally recognized biographers are Ali Yazdi, commonly called Sharaf ud-Din, author of the Zafarnāma in Persian (ظفرنامه), translated by Petis de la Croix in 1722 , and from French into English by J. Darby in the following year; and Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Abdallah, al-Dimashiqi, al-Ajami (commonly called Ahmad Ibn Arabshah) translated by the Dutch Orientalist Colitis in 1636. In the work of the former, as Sir William Jones remarks, "the Tatarian conqueror is represented as a liberal, benevolent and illustrious prince", in that of the latter he is "deformed and impious, of a low birth and detestable principles." But the favourable account was written under the personal supervision of Timur's grandson, Ibrahim, while the other was the production of his direst enemy.
Among less reputed biographies or materials for biography may be mentioned a second Zafarnāma, by Nizam al-Din Shami, stated to be the earliest known history of Timur, and the only one written in his lifetime. Timur's purported autobiography, the Tuzk-e-Taimuri ("Memoirs of Temur") is a later fabrication,[need quote] although most of the historical facts are accurate.
More recent biographies include Justin Marozzi's Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World (2006) and Roy Stier's Tamerlane: The Ultimate Warrior (1998)
The Timurids, self-designated Gurkānī (Persian: گوركانى), were a Persianate Central Asian Sunni Muslim dynasty of originally Turko-Mongol descent whose empire included the whole of Central Asia, Iran, modern Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as large parts of India, Mesopotamia and Caucasus. It was founded by the legendary conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) in the 14th century.
In the 16th century, Timurid prince Babur, the ruler of Ferghana, invaded India and founded the Mughal Empire, who ruled most of the Indian subcontinent until its decline after Aurangzeb in the early 18th century, and its eventual demise by the British Raj after the Indian rebellion of 1857.
Barlas, Turco-Mongol, Turko-Persian Tradition, and Persianate society
The origin of the Timurid dynasty goes back to the Mongolian nomadic confederation known as Barlas, who were remnants of the original Mongol army of Genghis Khan. After the Mongol conquest of Central Asia, the Barlas settled in Turkistan (which then became also known as Moghulistan - "Land of Mongols") and intermingled to a considerable degree with the local Turkic and Turkic-speaking population, so that at the time of Timur's reign the Barlas had become thoroughly Turkicized in terms of language and habits. Additionally, by adopting Islam, the Central Asian Turks and Mongols also adopted the Persian literary and high culture which has dominated Central Asia since the early days of Islamic influence. Persian literature was instrumental in the assimilation of the Timurid elite to the Perso-Islamic courtly culture. Timur was also steeped in Persian culture and in most of the territories which he incorporated, Persian was the primary language of administration and literary culture. Thus the language of the settled "diwan" was Persian, and its scribes had to be thoroughly adept in Persian culture, whatever their ethnic origin.
Founding the dynasty
Timur conquered large parts of Transoxiana (in modern day Central Asia) and Khorasan (parts of modern day Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) from 1363 onwards with various alliances (Samarkand in 1366, and Balkh in 1369), and was recognized as ruler over them in 1370. Acting officially in the name of the Mongolian Chagatai ulus, he subjugated Transoxania and Khwarazm in the years that followed and began a campaign westwards in 1380. By 1389 he had removed the Kartids from Herat and advanced into mainland Persia from 1382 (capture of Isfahan in 1387, removal of the Muzaffarids from Shiraz in 1393, and expulsion of the Jalayirids from Baghdad). In 1394/95 he triumphed over the Golden Horde and enforced his sovereignty in the Caucasus, in 1398 subjugated Multan and Dipalpur in modern day Pakistan and in modern day India left Delhi in such ruin that it is said for two months "not a bird moved wing in the city". In 1400/01 conquered Aleppo, Damascus and eastern Anatolia, in 1401 destroyed Baghdad and in 1402 triumphed over the Ottomans at Ankara. In addition, he transformed Samarqand into the Center of the World. An estimated 17 million people may have died from his conquests.
After the end of the Timurid Empire in 1506, the Mughal Empire was later established in India by Babur in 1526, who was a descendant of Timur through his father and possibly a descendant of Genghis Khan through his mother. The dynasty he established is commonly known as the Mughal Dynasty. By the 17th century, the Mughal Empire ruled most of India, but later declined during the 18th century. The Timurid Dynasty came to an end in 1857 after the Mughal Empire was dissolved by the British Empire and Bahadur Shah II was exiled to Burma.
Due to the fact that the Persian cities were desolated by previous wars, the seat of Persian culture was now in Samarkand and Herat. These cities became the center of the Timurid renaissance.
Although the Timurids hailed from the Barlas tribe which was of Mongol origin, they had embraced Persian culture and Persian art (distinguished by extensive adaptations from the Chinese), and also Chagatay Literature, converted to Islam and resided in Turkestan and Khorasan. Thus, the Timurid era had a dual character, which reflected both the Turco-Mongol origins and the Persian culture as well the Persian language. The Persian language was also the state language (also known as Diwan language) of the dynasty.
Timurid Literature in Persian Language
Persian literature, especially Persian poetry occupied a central place in the process of assimilation of the Timurid elite to the Perso-Islamic courtly culture. The Timurid sultans, especially Šāhrukh Mīrzā and his son Mohammad Taragai Oloğ Beg, patronized Persian culture. Among the most important literary works of the Timurid era is the Persian biography of Timur, known as "Zafarnāma" (Persian: ظفرنامه), written by Sharaf ud-Dīn Alī Yazdī, which itself is based on an older "Zafarnāma" by Nizām al-Dīn Shāmī, the official biographer of Timur during his lifetime. The most famous poet of the Timurid era was Nūr ud-Dīn Jāmī, the last great medieval Sufi mystic of Persia and one of the greatest in Persian poetry. The most famous painter of the Timurid court, as well as the most famous of the Persian miniature painters in general, was Ustād Kamāl ud-Dīin Behzād. In addition, the Timurid sultan Ulugh Beg is known as a great astronomer.
Baysanghur commissioned a new edition of the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi and wrote an introduction to it. According to T. Lenz:
“ It can be viewed as a specific reaction in the wake of Timur's death in 807/1405 to the new cultural demands facing Shahhrokh and his sons, a Turkic military elite no longer deriving their power and influence solely from a charismatic steppe leader with a carefully cultivated linkage to Mongol aristocracy. Now centered in Khorasan, the ruling house regarded the increased assimilation and patronage of Persian culture as an integral component of efforts to secure the legitimacy and authority of the dynasty within the context of the Islamic Iranian monarchical tradition, and the Baysanghur Shahnameh, as much a precious object as it is a manuscript to be read, powerfully symbolizes the Timurid conception of their own place in that tradition. A valuable documentary source for Timurid decorative arts that have all but disappeared for the period, the manuscript still awaits a comprehensive monographic study.
National Literature in Chagatay Language
The early Timurids played a very important role in the history of Turkic literature. Based on the established Persian literary tradition, a national Turkic literature was developed, written in the Chagatay language, the native tongue of the Timurid family. Chagatay poets such as Mīr Alī Sher Nawā'ī, Sultan Husayn Bāyqarā, and Zāher ud-Dīn Bābur encouraged other Turkic-speaking poets to write in their own vernacular in addition to Arabic and Persian.
The Bāburnāma, the autobiography of Bābur, as well as Mīr Alī Sher Nawā'ī's Chagatay poetry are among the best-known Turkic literary works and have fascinated and influenced many others world wide. The Baburnama was highly Persianized in its sentence structure, morphology or word formation and vocabulary.
During the reign of Timurid rule, the golden age of Persian painting was ushered. During this period as well as the Safavid dynasty, Chinese art and artists had a significant influence on Persian art. Timurid artists refined the Persian art of the book, which combines paper, calligraphy, illumination, illustration and binding in a brilliant and colourful whole. It was the Mongol ethnicity of the Chaghatayid and Timurid Khans that is the source of the stylistic depiction Persian art during the Middle Ages. These same Mongols intermarried with the Persians and Turks of Central Asia, even adopting their religion and languages. Yet their simple control of the world at that time, particularly in the 13-15th Centuries, reflected itself in the idealised appearance of Persians as Mongols. Though the ethnic make-up gradually blended into the Iranian and Mesopotamian local populations, the Mongol stylism continued well after, and crossed into Asia Minor and even North Africa.
In the realm of architecture, the Timurids drew on and developed many Seljuq traditions. Turquoise and blue tiles forming intricate linear and geometric patterns decorated the facades of buildings. Sometimes the interior was decorated similarly, with painting and stucco relief further enriching the effect. Timurid architecture is the pinnacle of Islamic art in Central Asia. Spectacular and stately edifices erected by Timur and his successors in Samarkand and Herat helped to disseminate the influence of the Ilkhanid school of art in India, thus giving rise to the celebrated Mughal (or Mongol) school of architecture. Timurid architecture started with the sanctuary of Ahmed Yasawi in present-day Kazakhstan and culminated in Timur's mausoleum Gur-e Amir in Samarkand. Timur’s Gur-I Mir, the 14th century mausoleum of the conqueror is covered with ‘’turquoise Persian tiles’’ Nearby, in the center of the ancient town, a Persian style Madrassa (religious school) and a Persian style Mosque by Ulugh Beg is observed. The mausoleum of Timurid princes, with their turquoise and blue-tiled domes remain among the most refined and exquisite Persian architecture. Axial symmetry is a characteristic of all major Timurid structures, notably the Shāh-e Zenda in Samarkand, the Musallah complex in Herat, and the mosque of Gowhar Shād in Mashhad. Double domes of various shapes abound, and the outsides are perfused with brilliantly colors. Timurs dominance of the region strengthened the influence of his capital and Persian architecture upon India.
After the foundation of the Mughal Empire, the Timurids successfully expanded the Persian cultural influence from Khorasan to India, where the Persian language, literature, architecture, and art dominated the Indian subcontinent until the British conquest. The Mughals, Persianized Turks who invaded from Central Asia and claimed descent from both Timur and Genghis - strengthened the Persianate culture of Muslim India.
The Mughal period marked a striking revival of Islamic architecture in northern India. Under the patronage of the Mughal emperors, Indian, Persian, and various provincial styles were fused to produce works of unusual quality and refinement.
The Mughal emperor Akbar constructed the royal city of Fatehpur Sikri, located 26 miles west of Agra, in the late 1500s. The most famous example of Mughal architecture is the Taj Mahal, the "teardrop on eternity," completed in 1648 by the emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died while giving birth to their 14th child. The extensive use of precious and semiprecious stones as inlay and the vast quantity of white marble required nearly bankrupted the empire. The Taj Mahal is completely symmetric other than the sarcophagus of Shah Jahan which is placed off center in the crypt room below the main floor. This symmetry extended to the building of an entire mirror mosque in red sandstone to complement the Mecca-facing mosque place to the west of the main structure. Another structure built that showed great depth of Mughal influence was the Shalimar Gardens.
Rulers of the Timurid Empire
Timur (Tamerlane) 1370 - 1405 (771-807 AH) - with Suyurghitmiš Chaghtay as nominal overlord followed by Mahmūd Chaghtay as overlord and finally Muhammad Sultān as heir
Pir Muhammad bin Jahāngīr 1405 - 1407 (807-808 AH)
Rulers of Herat
Shāhrukh 1405 - 1447 (807-50 AH) (overall ruler of the Timurid Empire 1409 - 1447)
Abu'l-Qasim Bābar 1447 - 1457 (850-61 AH)
Shāh Mahmūd 1457 (861 AH)
Ibrāhim 1457 - 1459 (861-863 AH)
Sultān Abu Sa’id Gūrgān 1459 - 1469 (863-73 AH) (in Transoxiana 1451-1469)
Yādgār Muhammad 1470 (873 AH)
Sultān Hussayn 1470 - 1506 (874-911 AH)
Badi ul-Zamān 1506 - 1507 (911-912 AH) and
Muzaffar Hussayn 1506 - 1507 (911-912 AH)
Herat is conquered by the Uzbeks under Muhammad Shaybani
Rulers of Samarkand
Khalīl Sultān 1405 - 1409 (807-11 AH)
Mohammad Taragai bin Shāhrukh-I 1409 - 1449 (811-53 AH) (overall ruler of the Timurid Empire 1447 - 1449)
'Abd al-Latif 1449 - 1450 (853-854 AH)
‘Abdullah 1450 - 1451 (854-55 AH)
Sultān Abu Sa’id Gūrgān 1451 - 1469 (855-73 AH) (in Herat 1459-1469)
Abu Sa'id's sons divided his territories upon his death, into Samarkand, Badakhshan and Farghana
Sultān ibn Abu Sa’id 1469 - 1494 (873-899 AH)
Sultān Mahmūd ibn Abu Sa’id 1494 - 1495 (899-900 AH)
Sultān Baysunqur 1495 - 1497 (900-902 AH) and
Mas’ūd 1495 (900 AH) and
Sultān Alī Mīrzā 1495 - 1500 (900-905 AH)
Samarkand is conquered by the Uzbeks under Muhammad Shaybani
Qaidu bin Pir Muhammad bin Jahāngīr 808-811 AH
Abu Bakr bin Mīrān Shāh 1405 - 1407 (807-809 AH)
Pir Muhammad bin Umar Sheikh 807-812 AH
Rustam 812-817 AH
Sikandar 812-17 AH
Alaudaullah 851 AH
Abu Bakr bin Muhammad 851 AH
Sultān Muhammad 850-55 AH
Muhammad bin Hussayn 903-906 AH
Abul A'la Fereydūn Hussayn 911-912 AH
Muhammad Mohsin Khān 911-912 AH
Muhammad Zamān Khān 920-923 AH
Shāhrukh II bin Abu Sa’id 896-897 AH
Ulugh Beg Kābulī 873-907 AH
Sultān Uways 1508 - 1522 (913-927 AH)
Rulers of Mughal Empire
Zahiruddin Babur Mirza 1526 - 1530 (933-937 AH) - established Mughal Dynasty in India (Mughal Empire)
Nasiruddin Humayun Mirza 1530 - 1556 (937-963 AH) - ruler of Mughal Empire, son of Babur
Kamran Mirza 1530 - 1557 (937-962 AH) - ruler of Kabul and Lahore, son of Babur
Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar Mirza (Akbar the Great) 1556-1605 (963-1014 AH) - greatest ruler of Mughal Empire, son of Humayun
Abul Qasim Muhammad bin Kamran 968 AH
Suleiman Mirza 936-92 AH
Shahrukh III 983-87 AH - son of Ibrahim
Nuruddin Muhammad Jahangir 1605 - 1627 (1014-1036 AH) - ruler of Mughal Empire, son of Akbar and Rajput Princess Mariam Zamani
Shahbuddin Muhammad Shah Jahan (Shah Jahan I) 1627 - 1658 - ruler of Mughal Empire, son of Jahangir and Rajput Princess Manmati
Mohiuddin Mohammed Aurangzeb (Aurangzeb Alamgir I) 1658-1707 - ruler of Mughal Empire, son of Shah Jahan
Bahadur Shah I (Shah Alam I) 1707 - 1712 - son of Aurangzeb
Jahandar Shah, b. 1664, ruler from 1712 - 1713 -
Furrukhsiyar, b. 1683, ruler from 1713-1719
Rafi Ul-Darjat, ruler 1719
Rafi Ud-Daulat (Shah Jahan II), ruler 1719
Nikusiyar, ruler 1719
Muhammad Ibrahim, ruler 1720
Muhammad Shah, b. 1702, ruler from 1719–1720, 1720-1748
Ahmad Shah Bahadur, b. 1725, ruler from 1748-1754
Alamgir II, b. 1699, ruler from 1754-1759 - son of Jahandar Shah
Shah Jahan III, ruler 1759
Shah Alam II, b. 1728, ruler from 1759-1806
Akbar Shah II, b. 1760, ruler from 1806-1837
Bahadur Shah II (Bahadur Shah Zafar) 1837-1857 - last ruler of the Timurid Dynasty
Heads of the Timurid Dynasty
Bahadur Shah II (1857–1862)
Shahzada Muhammad Hidayat Afshar, Ilahi Bakhsh Bahadur (1862–1878)
Shahzada Muhammad Sulaiman Shah Bahadur (1878–1890)
Shahzada Muhammad Kaiwan Shah Gorkwani, Suraya Jah Bahadur (1890–1913)
Mirza Salim Muhammad Shah Bahadur (1913–1925)
No recognised head of the family (1925–1931)
Shahzada Muhammad Khair ud-din Mirza, Khurshid Jah Bahadur (1931–1975)
Mirza Ghulam Moinuddin Muhammad, Javaid Jah Bahadur (1975-Present)