Part I — Timur

Timur and the mendicant

The great conqueror Timur was an ancestor of the Moghul Emperors. Timur means 'Lord of Iron'. He is also known as Tamerlane, or Timur-the-Lame. In 1398 he came from his capital of Samarkand with his forces and invaded Northern India. He overthrew the Sultan of Delhi and occupied the royal city.

One day, during his campaigns in India, Timur saw a religious mendicant praying and meditating most soulfully at the foot of a tree. Timur was not a spiritual person, but he deeply appreciated spiritual people. He was so deeply moved by the religious mendicant that he told him he could have anything he wanted from him.

The mendicant said, "I do not need anything from you."

Timur asked, "But why not?"

The mendicant replied, "Because God has supplied me with all my material needs. I am sheltered by this beautiful tree and I can draw water from the river. During the day I have the sun, at night I have the moon, and all the time I have such a vast sky over my head. What else do I need?"

Timur said, "You do not have any money!"

The mendicant said, "I do not need any money."

"Then please come and visit my palace," said Timur.

"There is no need for me to visit your palace," said the mendicant. "It is true that each place has its own outer beauty, but I care only for the inner beauty."

Finally, Timur said, "I am the Emperor. You have to accept something from me."

The mendicant said, "Then give me something that will increase my aspiration and my love for God."

Timur was puzzled. He said, "I do not have any aspiration. How then can I give you something that will increase your aspiration?"

"Aspiration is the only thing I need," said the mendicant. "Anything else that I take from you I will not be able to appreciate or utilise."

Timur said, "No, you have to ask me for something else. Since I do not have anything to increase your aspiration, give me another chance to offer you something."

At last the mendicant agreed. He said, "All right. When I meditate here, sometimes flies come and bother me. Can you stop them from bothering me?"

The Emperor tried for a few moments to stop the flies from bothering the mendicant, but they came back again and again. At last the Emperor exclaimed, "This is an impossible task! How can I do it?"

The mendicant told him, "Oh, you are a real Emperor, indeed! You cannot even save me from these flies. Yet just now you were bragging about your wealth and capacity."

Timur was deeply humiliated. He stopped disturbing the poor spiritual mendicant and went away.

Timur did not remain in India. Having subdued it, he returned to Samarkand with much wealth and many skilled craftsmen. The great Moghul Emperors all descended from the House of Timur. They were at once brave and cultured. Each Moghul Emperor regarded Samarkand as his ancestral home.