Saqi Must'ad Khan's Maasir-I-Alamgiri is an annal of the events which occurred during the reign of Aurangzib- Alamgir, the last great Mughal Emperor of India. The work is based upon certain types of documentary evidence, which has been noted by Sir Jadunath Sarkar, who has translated this work in a condensed form, in the Introduction. Saqi Must'ad Khan describes in this work the wars waged by Aurangzib. It is very obvious that the Emperor was always in trouble-a fact which might have made him entirely dependent on the mercy of God. Aurangzib upset the administrative and financial system perfected by Akbar. Maasir-I-Alamgiri contains hints of Aurangzib's bias against the so-called ‘infidels'. It profoundly disturbed the plural culture of India, and enfeebled the fabric of Indian civilization. A redeeming feature of the work is the description of many interesting places in the Indian subcontinent.
The condensed translation of this work by Sir Jadunath Sarkar is an evidence of his great capacity for hard work. The translation is remarkably lucid. The Glossary is useful, and the Index, prepared by Professor Nirod Bhusan Roy, is exhaustive. The reprint of this work in the Bibliotheca Indica series would be beneficial to the students of the history of the later Mughals.
The Emperor Akbar (reign 1556-I605 A.D.) set the example of having a detailed history of his reign written by official command. The result was the Akbar-namah or ‘Book of Akbar’ of Abul Fazl (completed by other hands after that author’s death). Then came the Emperor Jahangir, who dictated his own memoirs, known as the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, and therefore no official Jahangir-mimah had to be written about him. This book, however, combines the literary characteristics of an autobiography with those of an official history, or in other words, it gives the Emperor’s own reflections and feelings as well as an objective record of the events of his reign. Indeed, in this reign, the literary type of the Mughal official histories was determined for the future, as was exemplified by the Padishahnamah (Shah Jahan), the Alamgir-namah (of Aurangzib, completed by the Maasir-i-Alamgiria), the Bahadur Shih-mimah (Shah Alam I) and later attempts like the Tarikh-i-Ahmad Shahi and the Tarikh-i-'Alamgir Sani.
In all these works, or Namahs proper, the events are built upon a rigid skeleton of dates chronologically arranged; there is an accurate but tiresome assemblage of minute names of persons and places in the course of every month's narrative of occurrences, and the mechanical division of the book into a chapter for, each regnal year is followed. Such a collection of facts, if it is to be correct, requires a basis of written official records, and this basis was supplied by the waqai' or official reports of occurrences regularly sent from every province to the central Government of Delhi. By an order issued in the 24th year of his reign (1580), Akbar appointed in I each province of his empire a uniform set of officers, one of whom — was the Waqai-navis or Recorder of Events. (Akbar-mimah, Bev. ‘tr., iii. 413, also 559). Jahangir continued the system. As he writes, "It had been made a rule that the events of the subahs should be reported according to the boundaries of each, and news-writers from the Court had been appointed for this duty. This being the rule that my revered father had laid down, I also observe it, ....and information is thus acquired about the world and its inhabitants." (Tuzuk, Roger’s tr. i. 247, see also Bahiristan-i-Ghayibi, Borah’s tr. i. 209.) But the system of appointing secret news-writers to the provinces was really borrowed by the Indian Mughals from the ‘Abbasid Khalifs who had borrowed it from the ancient Iranian empire. The different classes of these news-reporters and their method of work are fully described in my book, Mughal Administration, Ch. IV. sec. 6.
When this State intelligence-department was fully developed with the expansion of the Mughal Empire under Shah Jahan and Aurangzib, (1627-1707), a huge collection of reports, written on small slips of paper and transmitted to the capital in bamboo cylinders (nalo) at regular weekly or fortnightly intervals,—came to be formed in the archives at the capital. Besides these there were the akhbarai-i-darbar-i-mu’ala, or reports of everything that was done or said in public at the Court or camp where the Emperor was present in person. These were written daily,-sometimes twice a day, when (as usual) there were morning levees and evening Courts held by His Majesty. Such akhbarats or manuscript news-letters were sent to the vassal princes, provincial governors, and generals out on campaign by their paid agents at the imperial Court, and differed only in their place of origin from the letters coming in a contrary direction, namely the letters of the Government spies in the mufassil which supplemented the more open reports of the official waqai’-navis.
On this accumulated mass of accurate, detailed, and absolutely contemporary records of occurrences, some Persian author, known for his mastery of polished courtierly prose, was selected by the Emperor to work and write the Namah or official annals of his reign. The book was read to the Emperor and corrected under the royal direction before being passed for publication,-the term ‘publication’ here meant, the release of the book for being copied for presentation to the princes and high nobles. The Emperor, after one or two trial hearings, delegated the work of revision to his wazir.
These official annals, in addition to being full of nauseating flattery of the author’s patron and his “sacred” offspring, were extremely verbose; for example the record of the first 20 years of Shah Jahan’s reign occupies 1662 printed pages of 22 lines each (or 83.1 pages for a single year on the average); the history of the first decade of Aurangzib’s reign covers 1107 pages of the same size (or 110.7 pages for one year). But their details and dates of incidents are valuable, though I have detected instances where the Namah has given a wrong date owing to the carelessness of the historian’s clerks in making extracts from the waqi’a in the imperial record office for being worked into his history. However, the survival of the akhbarat for that particular day has enabled me to correct the wrong date entered in the Namah.
It must also be conceded that the author’s flattery of the Emperor, though fulsome and offensive to modern taste, is more a defect of manner than one of fact. Inn these official histories, no fact has been really falsified, though credit is often given to the Emperor where he did not deserve it. We shall have more patience with the courtly author and derive greater profit from his book if we remember that he is only following the facon de parler prevalent in Asiatic courts. And why Asiatic only? The Stuart king of England was styled “His Gracious and Sacred Majesty” and Napoleon’s Moniteurs were not models of factual veracity. Thus, WITH A Namah in our hands, we get the true basis for a narrative of the events of that monarch’s reign and can then form our own judgment of the characters and political forces. Their chief defect –and one which disqualifies them from being called histories in the modern sense of the term, is their absolute silence about the economic and social aspects of the times, and what is known as “the condition of the people”.
The history of the first ten years of Aurangzib’s reign was written, under his orders, in the form of a full-sized Namah, by Mirza Muhammad Kazim, under the title of ‘Alamgir-namah. (Printed in the Bibliotheca Indica series by the R.A.S. Bengal.) But after the author had completed the first decade, the Emperor forbade him to continue it any further. The reason for this prohibition is given by Saqi Musta’d Khan as, “Because this monarch of the external and internal universe preferred laying the foundations of things esoteric to displaying things external”, (p. 68 of the printed Persian text.) what really happened was that when (about 1670) the history of the tenth year was completed by Kazim, Aurangzib curtailed his State expenditure and closed the costly department of prolix official annals. There is no authority for the popular legend that he forbade the writing of his history by any one else as a crime or that Khafi Khan’s history is so entitled because it was written in secret (khufia) in fear of any such royal prohibition. The word Khafi has nothing to do with khufia; it really means ‘a native of Khwaf,-a district of Khurasan situated between Heart and Nishabur (Encyclopaedia of Islam, ii. 866).
Aurangzib’s finances did not improve when the second decade of his reign ended in 1678. He now found himself too much involved with the tribes on the Afghan frontier and was soon afterwards too hard pressed by the Rajputs and the Marathas, to allow him to spend any thought or money on such non-utilitarian purposes as the compilation of a florid and verbose chronicle of his reign. And his circumstances did not improve up to the end of his life. Thus it happened that no complete history of his reign came to be officially composed while he lived.
After his death (in 1707), his last secretary and favourite disciple in State policy and religiosity, I’nayetullah Khan Kashmiri, urged Saqi Musta’d Khan to complete the history of such a model sovereign. In order to help him in this work, the State archives were thrown open to him and he made extracts of the necessary materials to be used in his book, which was completed in 1710 and entitled Maasir-i-‘Alamgiri. For the career of ‘Inayetullah, see Irvine’s Later Mughals, 1.259 and 333; he rose to be Wazir under Muhammad Shah and was keen on reimposing the jazia on the Hindus, (Ibid. 1. 103-105).
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