About this text
The Akbarnama, written by Abu’l Fazl (1551-1602) upon the order of the emperor Akbar (r.1556- 1605), is a historical work composed between 1589 and 1596, with additions made till 1598. It records the events of Akbar’s reign, preceded by accounts of the reigns of Babur and Humayun, in its first two volumes. The third volume has, probably through the consensus of readers since the seventeenth century, been given a separate title A’in-i Akbari. It deals in particular with the A’inha-i Muqaddas-i Shahi (Sacred Imperial Regulations). An illustrated manuscript of the Akbarnama with 116 miniature paintings is held in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Some of the paintings can be viewed on the museum’s database. Another illustrated manuscript is shared between the British Library (Or.12988) and the Chester Beatty Library (Ms.3), and two folios are held separately in the Walters Art Museum (W.684). The standard printed text of the Akbarnama is the Bibliotheca Indica edition of 1873-87 (see below). The following MSS in the British Library contain variants: Add.26207, Add.27247. The work was translated into English by H. Beveridge in 1897-1939. Our selected excerpts contain descriptions of famine and dearth during Akbar’s reign and references to food, feast, charity, poverty, agriculture and climate.
Sultān Abū Sa‘īd Mīrzā's auspicious birth was in 830 (1427) and he became Sultān when he was 25. For 18 years he ruled Turkistan, Transoxiana, Badakhshan, Kabul, Ghaznin,Qandahar and the borders of Hindustan and in the end of his reign, Iraq too came into his possession. And with this prosperity and extent of territory which might become a thousand-fold source of intoxication, he was discreet and open-minded and sought for enlightenment from dervishes and ascetics. In 872 (1468) Mīrzā Jahān Shāh, son of Qarā Yūsuf, the ruler of Azarbaijan, had marched to put down Āẕūn Ḥasan Āq-quyanlu but owing to his great carelessness and complete want of [Page 217] management,was killed by him. The Sultān (Abū Sa‘īd) led an army against him (Āẕūn Ḥasan).Though Āẕūn Ḥasan proferred peace, it was not accepted and being driven to extremity, he cut off the supplies of corn. Consequently a great famine arose in the camp (of Abū Sa‘īd) so that for 14 days the royal horses had no barley and as a result of the famine, the soldiers dispersed. Āẕūn Ḥasan gained the victory and on 22 Rajab, 873 (4th February, 1469), the Sultān fell by fate into the hands of Āẕūn Ḥasan's men. Three days afterwards he was made over to Yādgār Muḥammad Mīrzā, son of Sultān Muḥam¬mad Mīrzā, son of Bāysanghar Mīrzā, son of Shāhrukh Mīrzā who was an ally of Āẕūn Ḥasan. This worthless inauspicious one slew that power¬ful king on the pretext of the murder of Gauhar Shād Bēgum who was the wife of Shāhrukh Mīrzā. The words Maqtal-i-Sultān Abū Sa‘īd the slaughter-spot of Sultān Abū Sa‘īd) give the date (873=1469).
During this year, while his Majesty had his head-quarters in Agra, the hot winds were very oppressive. An impure samūm and sickness were added to the pusillanimity of the camp. A large num-ber absconded out of senseless imaginations. Owing to the rebels, the inclement weather, the impassableness of the roads, the delay of coming by merchants, there was distress for food and a want of necessary articles. The condition of the people became bad. Many officers resolved to leave Hindūstān for Kābul and its neighbourhood, and many soldiers deserted. Though many old officers and veteran soldiers used improper language in the Presence, and also secretly [Page 252] used language disagreeable to his Majesty, yet his Majesty Gītī-sitānī who was unique for far-seeing and endurance, did not heed this but set about the administration of the country. At length on the part of the élite and those who had been trained by his Majesty and from whom different things were to be looked for,there were stale movements of old times.1
In addition to all these [Page 311] protections and precautions it happened that from time to time sundry mountaineering (kūh-naward) woodcutters entered by ravines, which from the density of trees and jungle were difficult for foot passengers to traverse, and of course impracticable for traffic,and for the sake of gain brought corn and ghee to the foot of the fort in order to sell them at a high price, while men in the fort let down money by ropes and drew up the goods.
The army encamped near Jun.1. To that town of lofty threshold (qaṣba-i-rajī‘-‘ataba) there came from Amarkot, the birth-place, the honourable litter of her Ma-jesty Maryam-makānī and the sublime cradle of his Majesty, the king of kings, attended by fortune and happy augury. Accord-ingly a detail of the circumstance has been made an adornment to the Introduction. As this spot was on the banks of the Indus and was eminent among the cities of Sind for its many gardens, streams, pleasant fruits and amenities, the army stayed there for some time.
A brief account shall now be given of the finally victorious progress to Khurasan and Iraq which came to pass to his Majesty Jahānbānī, and of his passing, with Providence for guide, through waterless deserts (fayāfī), saharas, and wastes.
Let arrangements be made day by day for sweet and pleasant drinks, with white loaves kneaded with milk and butter and seasoned with fennel seeds and poppy seeds. Let them be well made and be sent to his Majesty. Let them also be sent for each member of his staff and for his other servants. Be it also arranged that at the places where his Majesty will halt,there be arranged and pitched, on the previous day,cleansed,pleasant,white,embroidered tents and awnings of silk and velvet, and also pantries and kitchens and all their necessary out-offices, so that every requisite apparatus be in readiness. When he, in his glory and fortune, shall direct a halt, let rose-water-sherbet and wholesome lemon-juice be prepared and pour-ed out, after having been cooled with snow and ice. After the sherbet [Page 422] let conserves of maskān*1 apples of Mashhad, water-melons, grapes, &c., with white loaves made as already directed, be tendered; and let care be taken that all the beverages be examined by the protec-tor of sovereignty,*2 and that rose-water and grey ambergris be added to them. Each day let five hundred dishes of varied food be present-ed, together with the beverages.
Let this mandate be shown to the governor of every territory to which [Page 423] he (Humāyūn) may come, and care be taken that that officer render his service. Let entertainments be so conducted that the total of the food, sweetmeats and liquids be not less than 1,500 dishes. The service of, and attendance on the asylum of sovereignty, will be in charge of the asylum of dominion up to Mashhad, the pure and holy. And when the officers aforesaid come to serve, every day there will be produced in the sublime banquet of that king, 1200 dishes of varied food, such as may be fit for a royal table.
The entertaining by the asylum of dominion will be as follows:— Three thousand dishes of food, sweetmeats, syrups(shīra) and fruits will be prepared, and the necessary furniture will be arranged as follows:—First,fifty tents and twenty awnings,and the large store-tent2 was reported to have been prepared for his Majesty's special use, with twelve pairs of carpets of twelve cubits and ten cubits, and seven pairs of carpets of five cubits, nine strings of female camels, 250 porcelain plates, large and small, and other plates and pots,all with bright covers, and also tinned (qalqal‘ī karda), and two strings of mules let the asylum of domi-nion present on the occasion of his entertainment; and let the officers conduct their entertainments as follows:—Let them present food, sweetmeats and comfits to the extent of 1,500 plates, and also three horses, a string of camels and a string of mules,which shall have first been seen and approved by the asylum of dominion. The governors of Ghūrīān, Fūshanj, and Karshū will show hospit-ality in their own country. The governor of Bakharz, in Jam, and the governors of Khaf, Tarshiz, Zawaha and Muḥawwalat2. [Page 431] will entertain at Sarāī Farhād which is five parasangs*from Mashhad.
When the heroes had gained such a victory his Majesty Jahān-bānī Jannat-āshiyānī returned thanks to God, and reached Qandahār five days after the joyful event on Saturday, 7th Muḥarram, 952 (21st March, 1545), in an auspicious hour which was compounded of favour¬able aspect. He halted by the side(dar ẓila')of the gate Māshūr *1 and encamped in the garden of Shamsu-d-dīn ‘Alī the Qāẓī of Qanda¬hār .The batteries were allotted and the captains distributed. There were daily combats between the brave men on both sides. One day Ḥaidar Sultān and his two sons ‘Alī Qulī Khān*2 and Bahādur Khān, and Khwāja Mu‘azzam drove the enemy from the front of Khwāja*3 Khiẓr to the shrines near the old city and the barricade*4 (kūca band), and displayed great deeds. Ḥaidar*5 Sultān was in advance of all the others and the leader in the attacks. A remarkable circumstance was that Bābū Dōst Yasāwal was standing with a number of men among the shrines and was shooting arrows. Ḥaidar Sultān thought to slay him with his lance and raised his arm to do this, and at the same moment an arrow reached his armpit. Isma‘īl*6 Sultān of Jām, whom M. Kāmrān had sent as an auxiliary, was standing on the white (āqca)Tower which faces the tombs, beside M. ‘Askarī and was [Page 460] watching the fight. Though he was too far off to distinguish the features, he remarked that“the man from whose hand the lance has fallen may be Ḥaidar Sultān for once I went with ‘Ubaidu-l-lāh Khān to the city of Tūs, and Ḥaidar Sultān and I were comrades*2in an attack and I lost these two fingers. From the mode of fighting I guess that this is he.” When they brought in the lance afterwards his (Ḥaidar's) name was found written on it. When they read it, they praised Isma‘īl's conjecture. In this engagement many men of rank were wounded, the first of all to be wounded being Khwāja Mu‘azzam, but who succeeded in returning. About this time news was brought that Rafī‘ Kōka, the foster brother of M. Kāmrān, was stationed*3 behind a hill towards Zamīndāwar on the bank of the Arghandāb with a force of Hazāras and Nakodars.*4Bairām Khān, Muḥammad Mīrzā, Ḥaidar Sultān, Maqṣūd Mīrzā Akhtabēgī, the son of Zainu-d-dīn Sultān Shāmlū and a number of others were sent against him. By good fortune Rafī‘ Kōka was made prisoner, and great store of provisions, cattle and weapons was seized and the scarcity in the camp was changed to plenty. Other battles were also fought by the brave warriors with successful results.
Near Qandahār M. Hindāl did homage and was received with unbounded kindness. His Majesty was much delighted at his coming, which was the preface to the advent of many others. Officers hastened from Kābul in troops. But by reason of contrariety and mingling of air-currents a sickness and pestilence broke out on the march in the camp, and there were many travellers to the city of annihilation. Among them was Ḥaidar Sultān.
From the neighbourhood of Baqlan,*2Mīrzās Hindāl and Sulaimān and Ḥājī Muḥammad Khān and a number of experienced and ener-getic men were sent on in advance, that they might set free from the Uzbeks the town of Aibak, a dependency of Balkh which is famed for its cultivation,the abundance of its fruits, and the excellence of its climate.
The winter was spent in that neighbourhood, in travelling and hunting, and in feasting and rejoicing. In the beginning of spring, when the humours are in a state of equilibrium, general receptions were held, and after petitions and tendering of gifts, a number were enrolled in service.
Bairām Khān arrived on the day following the feast of Ramẓān (the ‘Īd,—2nd Shawwal,—31st August).His Majesty, for the sake of giving greater pleasure and out of the affection he bore him, had the feast repeated and gave an entertainment more splendid than that of the ‘Īd.
Salīm Khān also contended for a time with the Niyāz tribe who ruled the Panjāb, their leader being Haibat Khān. They were overcome and in the defiles of the mountains of Kashmīr fell into the abyss of destruction. He also was occupied for some time in fighting with the Gakhars,and did not prevail, for his servants could not get the better of them, and they (the Gakhars) were loyal to the holy family (the Timūrids). He completed the fort [Page 616] of Rohtas which Sher Khān had begun, and he had a presage of evil when he was in the Siwalik hills and founded the fort of Mankot as a refuge for himself. For a long time he laboured under apprehen-sions on account of the Afghan vagabonds and his own bad life, and spent his days in the fort of Gualiar. Though he dealt equitably with the peasantry, he treated the soldiers very harshly. On 22nd Ẕī'l-qa‘da, 960 (October 30th, 1553), he died from a malignant ulcer which formed in one of his lower members owing to the issue of corrupt matter.
When the army arrived at the auspicious town of Kalānūr, Shihābu-d-dīn Ahmad Khān, Ashraf Khān and Farhat Khān were sent to Lahore to have the glorious name (of Humāyūn) proclaimed from the pulpit and placed upon the coinage, and also to give the [Page 624] inhabitants of that great city an order of protection from the mischief of strifemongers. Bairām Khān, Tardī Beg Khān,Iskandar Khān, Khiẓr Khān Hazāra, Ismā‘īl Beg Dūldai and a large troop were sent against Naṣīb Khān Panj Bhaiya (?) who was stationed at Harhāna (Harīana) while His Majesty himself went on to Lahore. The nobles of that country came forward to welcome him. They offered up thanks for this glorious favour and gave large presents. High and low were treated with royal favours according to their degree. On the 2nd Rabī‘-s-sānī, (24th February, 1555), the illus-trious city of Lahore, which is in fact a great city of India, was made glorious by his advent, and all classes and conditions of men were freed from the evils of the times, and attained the objects for which they had been long waiting on hope's highway.
When they came to the borders of Mācīwāra, Tardī Muḥammad Khān and many officers did not think it advisable to cross the Satlaj. As the rainy season was near at hand the proper thing to do, they said, was to secure the ferries and to halt. When the violence of the rains was over, and the air had become temperate, they could cross the river. Bairām Khān and the farsighted perceived that it was right to cross the river and spoke properly in this sense. At length by the exer-tions of Mullā Pīr Muḥammad, Muḥammad Qāsim Khān of Nisha-pur, Walī Beg and Ḥaidar Qulī Beg Shāmlū, Bairām Khān crossed the river.
Just at the time of this victory there was an exces-sive storm of wind and rain. As this caused the destruction of number of oppressors and ingrates, it may be regarded as belonging [Page 633] to the successes of the servants of the State, and as a mark of the destruction of the contumacious. But as it prevented a pursuit of the fugitives and gave them after a thousand agonies a release from danger it may be regarded as a respite to an ill-fated crew.
On this day and while on the march His Majesty the Shāhinshāh struck a nīlagāo(an antelope,portax pictus)with his sword and took it as a prey so that the huntsmen were surprised,*1while the acute obtained a sign of his capturing the booty of a sublime intention, and were made glad. His Majesty Jahānbānī who from the begin-ning of this blessed campaign till he came to Delhi and conquered India had given up the eating of animals now turned his thoughts towards the making a beginning (of eating flesh). On this day he rejoiced exceedingly and ordered that a piece of the nīlagāo be dried and kept in order that when after the Ramaẓān he should be dis-posed to eat animal food, he might make his first meal from this flesh. He then returned thanks to God.
Another of his inventions was the distribution of arrows into twelve classes. Each order of men was assigned to an arrow. The arrangement was as follows: The twelfth arrow, which was of the finest gold, was reserved for the royal quiver, i.e., for Humāyūn and Akbar. The eleventh was for the brothers and other kinsmen and such of the sons of kings as were servants of the threshold of domi-nion. The tenth arrow was for the Sayyids, the Shaikhs, and the [Page 646] ‘Ulamā. The ninth for the great officers. The eighth was for the intimates (maqarrabān)and the ankacīān who held manṣabs(offices). The seventh for the other ankacīān.*The sixth for the heads of of clans. The fifth for the distinguished young volunteers. The fourth for the cashiers (Blochmann, 45). The third for the soldiers (jūānān-i- jargah). The second for artificers.3The first for doorkeepers, watchmen, and the like.
Another of his inventions was his dividing the department of State into four classes corresponding to the four elements, viz., Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. And for the transaction of the business of [Page 647] each of these four departments a vizier was appointed. The artiller and the arrangements of armour and arms and of other things with which fire had to do were called the Fire Department. Khwāja ‘Abdu l-Mulk was appointed to be vizier of it. The wardrobe (karqīrāqkhāna),the kitchen, the stable, and the necessary manage-ment of the mules and camels was called the Air Department. The charge of it was given to Khwāja Latif Ullāh. The arrangements of the Sharbatkhāna,the wine-cellar (sūcīkhāna),and of canals was called the Water Department. Khwāja Ḥasan was appointed the vizier thereof. The affairs of agriculture and of buildings* and the administration of exchequer-lands (ṣabṭ-i-khāliṣāt)and of some of the buildings (biyūtāt)were called the Earth Department. The vizier was Khwāja Jalālu-d-dīn Mīrzā Beg. In every one of the departments one of the Amīrs was employed. For instance, Amīr Nāṣir Qulī was the Mīr Sarkār, or head-officer, of the Fire Department and always wore red.
Another of the inventions of this time was that four large barges were set in the river Jamūna (Jumna) and that the master-carpenters constructed*2on each of them a cārtāq(a square house) of two storeys and of very elegant shape. The barges were so joined together that the cārtāqsfaced one another. Between every two of these four barges another tāq (platform) was made* and thus there appeared an octagonal reservoir between the barges.