About this text
The A’in-i Akbari is the third volume of the Akbarnama composed by Abu’l Fazl (1551-1602) upon the order of the emperor Akbar (r.1556-1605) between 1589 and 1596, with additions made till 1598. It deals in particular with the A’inha-i Muqaddas-i Shahi (Sacred Imperial Regulations) and contains five books (daftars). The first three – Manzil-abadi (the palace establishment), Sipah-abadi (the military establishment), and Mulk-abadi (the government of the country) – give detailed descriptions of imperial administration. The two final books describe the sciences, religions, and culture of the country, and add a collection of Akbar’s “sayings”. The standard printed text is Blochmann’s edition of 1867-77, but two previous versions are those edited by Syed Ahmed Khan (Delhi, 1855), and Nawal Kishore (Lucknow, 1869). Manuscript variants include: British Library, Add.7652, Add.6552, IO Islamic 6; Royal Asiatic Society, Pers.121. The work was translated into English by Blochmann and Jarrett, revised by Phillott and Sarkar (1927-48). Our selected excerpts contain descriptions of food, feast, charity, household and agricultural management, and administration of resources.
(A Gazetteer and Administrative Manual of
Akbar's Empire and Past History of India)
2.The assistants of victory, the collectors and those entrusted with income and expenditure, who in the administration resemble wind, at times a heart-rejoicing breeze, at other times a hot, pestilential blast. The head of this division is the Vizier, also called Diwān. He is the lieutenant of the Emperor in financial matters, superintends the imperial treasuries, and checks all accounts. He is the banker of the cash of the revenue, the cultivator of the wilderness of the world.
The sages of antiquity mention the following four persons as the chief supports of the State—1.An upright collector; who protects the husbandman, watches over the subjects, develops the country, and improves the revenues. 2.A conscientious commander of the army,active and strict.3. A chief justice,free from avarice and selfishness, who sits on the eminence of circumspection and insight, and obtains his ends by putting various questions, without exclusively relying on witnesses and oaths. 4.An intelligencer, who transmits the events of the time without addition or diminution, always keeping to the thread of truth and penetration.
Every man of sense and understanding knows that the best way of worshipping God, consists in allaying the distress of the times, and in improving the condition of man. This depends, however, on the advance-ment of agriculture, on the order kept in the king's household, on the readiness of the champions of the empire, and the discipline of the army. All this again connected with the exercise of proper care on the part of the monarch, his love for the people, and with an intelligent management of the revenues and the public expenditure. It is only when cared for, that the inhabitants of the towns and those of the rural districts, are able to satisfy their wants, and to enjoy prosperity. Hence it is in-cumbent on just kings, to care for the former, and to protect the latter class of men.
Poor, but abstemious people take a sufficient quantity of food and raiment, so as to keep up the strength necessary for the pursuit of their enquiries, and to protect them against the influence of the weather; whilst the other class think to have just sufficient, when they fill their treasuries, gather armies, and reflect on other means of increasing their power.
His Majesty calls this source of life “the water of immortality”, and has committed the care of this department to proper persons. He does not drink much, but pays much attention to this matter. Both at home and [Page 58] on travels, he drinks Ganges water. Some trustworthy persons are stationed on the banks of that river, who dispatch the water in sealed jars. When the court was at the capital Āgra and in Fathpúr, the water came from the district of Sorún,1 but now2 that his Majesty is in the Panjāb, the water is brought from Hardwār. For the cooking of the food, rain-water or water taken from the Jamnah and the Chanāb is used, mixed with a little Ganges water. On journeys and hunting parties, his Majesty, from his predilection for good water, appoints experienced men as water-tasters.
Since the thirtieth year3 of the Divine Era, when the imperial standards were erected in the Panjāb, snow and ice have come into use. Ice is brought by land and water, by post carriages or bearers, from the district of Panhān, in the northern mountains, about forty-five kós from Lāhor. The dealers derive a considerable profit, two to three sers of ice being sold per rupee. The greatest profit is derived when the ice is brought by water,next when by carriages, and least when by bearers. The inhabitants of the mountains bring it in loads, and sell it in piles containing from 25 to 30 sers, at the rate of 5 dāms. If they have to bring it very far, it costs 24 d. 17j; If the distance be an average one, 15 d.
His Majesty cares very little for meat, and often expresses himself to that effect. It is indeed from ignorance and cruelty that, although various kinds of food are obtainable, men are bent upon injuring living creatures, and lending a ready hand in killing and eating them; none seems to have an eye for the beauty inherent in the prevention of cruelty, but makes himself a tomb for animals. If his Majesty had not the burden of the world on his shoulders, he would at once totally abstain from meat; and now, it is his intention to quit it by degrees, conforming, however, a little to the spirit of the age. His Majesty abstained from meat for some time on Fridays, and then on Sundays; now on the first day of every solar month, on Sundays, on solar and lunar eclipses, on days between two fasts, on the Mondays of the month of Rajab,3 on the feast-day of every [Page 65] solar month, during the whole month of Farwardín, and during the month, in which his Majesty was born, viz. the month of Ābān. Again, when the number of fast days of the month of Ābān had become equal to the number of years his Majesty had lived, some days of the month of Āzar also were kept as fasts. At present the fast extends over the whole month. These fast days, however, from pious motives, are annually increased by at least five days. Should fasts fall together, they keep the longer one, and transfer the smaller by distributing its days over other months. Whenever long fasts are ended, the first dishes of meat come dressed from the apartments of Maryam Makāní, next from the other begums,the princes, and the principal nobility.
In this department nobles, ahadís, and other military, are employed. The pay of a foot soldier varies from 100 to 400 dāms.
His Majesty looks upon fruits as one of the greatest gifts of the Creator, and pays much attention to them. The horticulturists of Irān and Túrān have, therefore, settled here, and the cultivation of trees is in a flourishing state. Melons and grapes have become very plentiful and excellent; and water-melons, peaches, almonds, pistachios, pomegranates, etc., are everywhere to be found. Ever since the conquest of Kābul, Qandahār, and Kashmír, loads of fruits are imported; throughout the whole year the stores of the dealers are full, and the bāzārs well supplied.
Many sincere inquirers, from the mere light of his wisdom, or his holy breath, obtain a degree of awakening which other spiritual doctors [Page 173] could not produce by repeated fasting and prayers for forty days. Numbers of those who have renounced the world, as Sannāsis, Jogis, Sevrās,Qalandars, Hakims, and Sufis, and thousands of such as follow worldly pursuits, as soldiers, tradespeople, mechanics, and husbandmen, have daily their eyes opened to insight, or have the light of their knowledge increased.
It is also ordered by His Majesty that, instead of the dinner usually given in remembrance of a man after his death, each member should prepare a dinner during his lifetime, and thus gather provisions for his last journey.
Each member is to give a party on the anniversary of his birthday, [Page 176] and arrange a sumptuous feast. He is to bestow alms, and thus prepare provisions for the long journey.
His Majesty has also ordered that members should endeavour to abstain from eating flesh. They may allow others to eat flesh, without touching it themselves; but during the month of their birth they are not even to approach meat. Nor shall members go near anything that they have themselves slain; nor eat of it. Neither shall they make use of the same vessels with butchers, fishers, and birdcatchers.
His Majesty bestows upon the needy money and necessaries, winning the hearts of all in public or private. Many enjoy daily, monthly, or yearly allowances, which they receive without being kept waiting. It is impossible for me to detail the sums which some people receive in conse-quence of representations having been made of their circumstances by such as stand near the throne; and it would take up too much time to describe the presents made daily to beggars, or the eating houses which have been established for the poor. There is a treasurer always in waiting at Court; and every beggar whom His Majesty sees, is sure to find relief.
His Majesty is weighed a second time on the 5th of Rajab1,against eight articles, viz., silver, tin, cloth, lead, fruits, mustard oil, and vegetables. On both occasions the festival of Sālgirih(birthday)is celebrated, when donations, or grants of pardon, are bestowed upon people of all ranks.
His Majesty,in his care for the nation, confers benefits on people of various classes; and in the higher wisdom which God has conferred upon him, he considers doing an act of divine worship.
His Majesty, from his desire to promote rank distinctions, confers lands and subsistence allowances on the following four classes of men, first, on inquirers after wisdom who have withdrawn from all worldly occupation, and make no difference between night and daytime in searching after true-knowledge; secondly, on such as toil and practise self-denial, and while engaged in the struggle with the selfish passions of human nature, have renounced the society of men; thirdly, on such as are weak and poor, and have no strength for inquiry; fourthly,on honourable men of gentle birth who from want of knowledge are unable to provide for themselves by taking up a trade.
His Majesty takes from each bigha of tilled land ten sers of grain as a royalty. Store-houses have been constructed in every district. They supply the animals belonging to the State with food, which is never bought in the bāzārs. These stores prove at the same time of great use for the people; for poor cultivators may receive grain for sowing purposes, or people may buy cheap grain at the time of famines. But the stores are only used to supply necessities. They are also used for benevolent purposes; for His Majesty has established in his empire many houses [Page 286] for the poor, where indigent people may get something to eat. He also appoints everywhere experienced people to look after these store-houses, and selects for this purpose active Dārogahs and clever writers, who watch the receipts and charges.
His Majesty enquires into the excellent customs of past ages, and without looking to the men of the past in particular, he takes up that which is proper, though he have to pay a high price for it. He bestows his fostering care upen men of various classes, and seeks for occasions to make presents. Thus, when His Majesty was informed of the feasts of the Jamsheds, and the festivals of the Pārsi priests, he adopted them, and used them as opportunities of conferring benefits. The following are the most important feasts. 1.The New Year's day feast.* It commences on the day when the Sun in his splendour moves to Aries, and lasts till the nineteenth day of the month [Farwardín]. Two days of this period are considered great festivals, when much money and numerous other things are given away as presents; the first day of the month of Farwardin, and the nineteenth, which is the time of the Sharaf. Again, His Majesty followed the custom of the ancient Pārsis, who held banquets on those days the names of which coincided with the name of a month.* The follow-ing are the days which have the same name as a month: 19th Farwardín; 3rd Urdíbihisht; 6th Khúrdād; 13th Tír; 7th Amurdād; 4th Shahríwar; 16th Mihr; 10th A´bān; 9th A´zar; 8th, 15th, 23rd Day: 2nd, Bahman; 5th Isfandārmuz. Feasts, are actually and ideally, held on each of these days. People in their happiness raise the strain of inward joy. In the beginning of each pahr the naqqārahs(vide p. 51, l.1) are beaten, when the singers and musicians fall in. On the first of the above feasts coloured lamps are used for three nights; on the second for one night, and the joy is general.