Salim: The first sip

Prince Salim

The year was 1588. Persia was constantly attacking the border cities of Afghanistan. Kandahar was a bone of contention between mughals and Persians for centuries three centuries actually. For most of Akbars rule Kandahar belonged to Mughals rather than Persia. Since the border of Indian sub continent(that time india) was Qandahar attacks on this city was very frequent. War between mughals and Persians intensified after 1605 when Jehangir came on throne with frequent battles in 1590, 1605, 1622, 1649 and so on till almost 18th century. And other times border army’s always had skirmishes.

Persians were again gearing to attack mughal empire, Qandahar and border areas of Afghanistan. An army was sent to defend and enforce that border attacks stop and Qandhara fort is secured. Salim was the commanders of this mughal army. Persians were not unfamiliar to Salim, when he was a young boy of 11-12 years he had already fought a war with Persia. So Salim was neither unfamiliar with Persia and its army. He even spoke and read Persian very well as it was official language of mughal court.

Shah Abbas I father was ruler of Persia. In 1589 there was great conflicts in Persian empire. Shah Abbas mother and elder brother were killed by warring Persian army and finally Shah Abbas ascended the throne at 16 years of age. This Shah Abbas was a suspicious and cruel man like Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. He got his first son killed because he killed a boar before Shah Abbas in hunting game, second son blinded and imprisoned because when he was unwell his son was celebrating with his army about him becoming next king after fathers death and third son was also blinded and put in prison without any reason. He had only three sons and all sons he killed or blinded so you can imagine what sort of cruel man he was by nature.

This cat and mouse game between Persians and mughal army lasted a long time months or years. Actually Kandahar was gifted by Humayun to Shah Tamphas for helping him against his brothers. But anyways border skirmish was frequernt between mughal forces and Persian forces. And Salim had gone to reinforce the border forces and throw out Persian forces who were occupying ssmaller villages in border.

One day Prince Salim decided to go hunting and with his body gaurd set out to hunt. In excitement of hunting Salim and his body gaurd crossed over into Persian territory. He and his body gaurd went very far into territory after a hunt. Suddenly a desert strom ensured and they were caught between that. Finally when storm finished they were struck in desert. Obivously it was danger to go back into mughal territory in day light. Neither they can ask any help from villagers as they are Persian not Indian. So Salim and his body gaurd rested in the desert. In the evening they started walking back towards border territory held by mughals. By than it was more than 24 hours and Salim was hungry and thirsty. Hunger anyways as soldier he could go hungry few days but thirst in this desert atmosphere was tough to bear. His body gaurd had got wine to drink in a deer bag and offered him that drink. Initially Salim was hesitant to drink it as he had never drank wine or intoxication drink ever. Except when they had cold or cough their mother would ask Akbar to give some so she give to him. But otherwise till that day Salim never drank intoxication drinks. But the thirst was getting more after 24 hours without water or food, further desert weather was impossible to bear thirst.  Finally he accepted the wine from his body gaurd and drank it. And he loved it after initial hiccups. Later they both walked back to mughal territory.

And so began Salim’s love for intoxication drinks. Sometimes to forget the brutality of wars, other times in loneliness away from family, and other times just for pleasure Salim started drinking wine till he became addicted to it. And than he drank like 20 cups of pure wine glass everyday for a decade and more till 29 years when finally he collapsed one day. That day the Hakim or doctor told him if you drink like this you will die within 6 months as your liver, kidney, vein everything is damaged. And Salim definetly did not want to die so young, he wanted to be an emperor. Further his kids were small his youngest daughter was like 2 years old, his son Khurram was like 6 years old, Parvez 9 years, Khusrau was 11 and so on. And Murad was already dead from same intoxication. And Murads children were also under his guardianship after Murad death. So Salim did not want to die young to leave his kids orphan and miss ruling the empire too.

Salim says in jehangirnama after nine years of untrammelled drinking, “things got so bad that in my hangovers my hands shook and trembled so badly I couldn’t drink myself but had to have others help me.”


Hence he made a plan and started reducing his drinking. He added grape juice to wine, added opium to get intoxicated anything to reduce the wine cups. He made a rule to drink only in evening and not to drink on Fridays etc any rule that helped reduce his addiction. Finally after 7 years he went from 20 cups of undistilled wine to 6 cups of wine. Thus increasing his life span from 29 years of age to late 50’s.

Usually addicts find it tough to stop drinking no matter how much they try they go back to heavy drinking. But the love to live and rule were supreme in Salims mind that made him go against established norms that addicts cannot stop or reduce drinking. Of course by 29 years he had effect of drinking so heavily his hands shivered at such young age like a 80-90 year old person and he had to be fed food into his mouth by attenders etc. But Salim was determined to live and corrected his bad dinking habits and brought down drinking from 20 glasses pure wine or drinks to 6 glass a day that too adding grape juice to those 6 glasses. His hand shivering stopped and he went back to living life more normally with hunting, horse ridding etc like a normal 35 year old man. But sadly Man Bai who was addicted to the same wine and opium as her husband from young age committed suicide same year he achieved this feat of his reduced drinking leaving him shattered. And that too using the same thing he sought freedom from wine and opium.  

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