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)
dates from the reign of Ghāzān Khān and is founded on the Elkhāni tables. The years and months are Natural, [Page 29] solar. Before its adoption the State records bore date from the Hijrah and the lunar year was current. By this means the road was opened to grievous oppression, because 31 lunar years are equal to only 30 solar years and great loss occurred to the agriculturists, as the revenue was taken on the lunar years and the harvest depended on the solar. Abolishing this practice Ghāzān Khān promoted the cause of justice by the introduction of this era. The names of the month are the Turkish with the addition of the word khāni. Of this, 293 years have elapsed.
His expenditure should be less than his income, and from his treasury he should supply the needy, especially those who loose not their tongues in solicitation. He should never be negligent of the supplies and accoutrements of the troops.
He should turn his attention to the increase of agriculture and the flourishing condition of the land and earn the gratitude of the people by the faithful discharge of his obligations and account the befriending of the agricul-turists as an excellent service to the Almighty. He should retain impartial collectors of revenue and from time to time obtain information regarding their actions. Let him store for himself a goodly reward in the making of reservoirs, wells, watercourses, gardens, serais and other pious founda-tions, and set about the repairing if what has fallen into [Page 40] ruin.
The food which is bestowed in memory of the deceased, he should prepare each year on his birthday and regale the needy.
Should a cultivator or a collector of the crown lands or an assignee of government estates prove rebellious, he should induce him to submit by fair words, and if this fail, he shall take the written evidence of the principal officers and proceed to chastise him.
He should so direct that no one shall demand a tax or cess(bāj wa tamghā)save on arms, elephants, horses, cattle, camels, sheep, goats and merchandise. In every Subah a slight impost shall be levied at an appointed place. Old coins should be given in to be melted down or consigned to the treasury as bullion. He should suffer no alteration of value in the gold and silver coin of the realm, and its diminution by wear in circulation, he shall recover to the amount of the deficiency.
Should be a friend of the agriculturist. Zeal and truthfulness should be his rule of conduct. He should con-sider himself the representative of the lord paramount and establish himself where every one may have easy access to him without the intervention of a mediator. He should deal with the contumacious and the dishonest by admoni-tion and if this avail not, proceed to chastisement, nor should he be in apprehension of the land falling waste.
He shall not make the occasions of journeying, feasting or mourning au opportunity for exactions, and refrain from accepting presents.
He shall record all engage-ments made with the agriculturists, define the village boun-daries, and estimate the amount of arable and waste land. He shall note the names of the munsif, the superintendent, (zabit),the land-surveyor and thanadār, also that of the cultivator and headman, and record below, the kind of pro-duce cultivated. He should also set down the village, the pergunnah and the harvest, and subtracting the deficiency take the value of the assets, or after the manner of the people of the country, inscribe the name, the kind of produce, and the deficiency below the date of cultivation.
The seekers of felicity, sober in conduct, are before all things particularly careful in the matter of food and do not pollute their hands with every meat. To the simple in heart who fear God, labour is difficult and their means of living straitened. They have not that luminous insight which penetrating to the essence of things, dwells in repose, but through fear of the displeasure of God, are sunk in exhaustion of soul from the pangs of hunger. As for instance in the case of the man who possessed a few cows, his legitimate property, and subsisted on their milk. By the accident of fortune, it chanced that they were [Page 54] carried off, and he passed some days fasting. An active fellow after diligent pursuit brought them back, but he would not accept them and replied, “I know not whence those dumb animals have had food during these past few days.” In a short space this simple soul died. Many tales are told of such dull-witted creatures who have thus passed away.
Simple, innocent-minded folk consider that there are no unappropriated waste lands and were they obtainable, it would be difficult to furnish the implements of cultiva-tion, and if these could be had, the means of providing food which would enable them to labour, are not manifest.
When His Majesty had determined the gaz, the tanāb, and the bigha, in his profound sagacity he classified the lands and fixed a different revenue to be paid by each.
Polaj is land which is annually cultivated for each crop in succession and is never allowed to lie fallow.
Parauti is land left out of cultivation for a time that it may recover its strength.
Chachar is land that has lain fallow for three or four years.
Banjar is land uncultivated for five years and more.
Of the two first kinds of land, there are three classes, good, middling and bad. They add together the produce of each sort, and a third of this represents the medium produce, one-third part of which is exacted as the royal dues. The revenue levied by Sher Khān, which at the present day is represented in all provinces as the lowest rate of assessment, generally obtained, and for the con-venience of the cultivators and the soldiery, the value was taken in ready money.
From the beginning of this immortal reign, persons of intelligence and void of rapacity, together with zealous men of experience, have been annually engaged in noting the current prices and reporting them to His Majesty, and taking the gross produce and estimating its value, they determined the rates of collection, but this mode was attended with considerable inconvenience. When Khwajah Abdul Majíd Āsaf Khan was raised to the dignity of Prime Minister, the total revenue was taken at an estimation, and the assignments were increased as the caprice of the moment suggested. And because at that time the extent of the empire was small, and there was a constant increase of dignities among the servants of the State, the variations were contingent on the extent of corruption and self-interest. When this great office devolved on Muzaffar Khān and Rajah Todar Mull, in the 15th year of the reign, a re-distribution of the imperial assessment was made through the qanungos, and estimating the produce of the lands, they made a fresh settlement. Ten qanungos were appointed who collected the accounts from the provincial qanungos and lodged them in the imperial exchequer. Although this settlement was somewhat less than the preceding one,never-theless there had been formerly a wide discrepancy between the estimate and the receipts.
When through the prudent management of the Sovereign the empire was enlarged in extent, it became difficult to ascertain each year the prices current and much inconvenience was caused by the delay. On the one hand the husbandman complained of extensive exactions, and on the other the holder of assigned lands was aggrieved on account of the revenue balances. His Majesty devised a remedy for these evils and in the discernment of his world-adorning mind fixed a settlement for ten years: the people were thus made contented and their gratitude was abun-dantly manifested. From the beginning of the 15th year of the Divine era to the 24th, an aggregate of the rates of collection was formed and a tenth of the total was fixed as the annual assessment; but from the 20th to the 24th year the collections were accurately determined and the five former ones accepted on the authority of persons of probity. [Page 95] The best crops were taken into account in each year and the year of the most abundant harvest accepted, as the table shows.
10.1. BENGAL SUBAH
The original name of Bengal was Bang.Its former rulers raised mounds measuring ten yards in height and twenty in breadth throughout the province which were called Āl.* From this suffix, the name Bengal took its rise and currency. The summer heats are temperate and the cold season very short. The rains begin when the sun is midway in Taurus, (May) and continue for somewhat more than six months, the plains being under water and the mounds alone visible. For a long time past, at the end of the rains, the air had been felt to be pestilential and seriously affected [Page 133] animal life, but under the auspices of his present Majesty, this calamity has ceased.
Jannatabadis an ancient city: for a time, it was the capital of Bengal and was widely known as Lakhnauti and for a while as Gaur. His Majesty the late Emperor Humāyún distinguished it by this title of Jannatābād. It has a fine fort and to the eastward of it is a lake called Chhatiāpatiā in which are many islands. Were the dam that confines it to break; the city would be under water. About a kós to the north of the fort, is a large building and a reservoir, monuments of great antiquity. From time immemorial, its water has been considered to be of a poison-ous character. The place was called Piyāsbāri,(abode of thirst) and criminals condemned to death, were there confined who in a short time perished from the effects of this brackish water. At present in the blessed reign of His Majesty, this practice has been discontinued.
The Sarkār of Khalífatābād is well wooded and holds wild elephants. The Sarkār of Baklā extends along the sea shore. The fort is surrounded by woods. On the first day of the new moon the sea steadily rises until the fourteenth, and from the fifteenth till the end of the month as gradually falls. In the 29th year of the Divine Era, a terrible inunda-tion occurred at three o'clock in the afternoon, which swept [Page 136] over the whole Sarkār. The Rājah held an entertainment at the time. He at once embarked on board a boat, while his son Parmānand Rāe with some others climbed to the top of a temple and a merchant took refuge in a high loft. For four hours and a half the sea raged amid thunder and a hurri-cane of wind. Houses and boats were engulfed but no dam-age occurred to the temple or the loft. Nearly two hundred thousand living creatures perished in this flood.
10.2. THE SUBAH OF BIHAR
Its chief rivers are the Ganges and the Son.Whatever of wood or leather and the like falls into the Son, becomes petrified. The head springs of these three rivers, the Son, the Narbada and the Johila, bubble up from a single reed-bed in the neighbourhood of Gadha[Mandla]. The Son is pleasant to the taste, wholesome and cool; flowing in a northerly direction, it joins the Ganges near Maner. The Gandak flows from the north and unites with the Ganges near Hājipúr. Such as drink of it suffer from a swelling in the throat(goitre), which gradually increases, especially in young children, to the size of a coconut.
Agriculture flourishes in a high degree, especially the cultivation of rice which, for its quality and quantity is rarely to be equalled. Kisāri is the name of a pulse, resembling peas, eaten by the poor, but is unwholesome. Sugarcane is abundant and of excellent quality. Betel-leaf, especially the kind called Maghi, is delicate and beautiful in colour, thin in texture, fragrant and pleasant to the taste. Fruits and flowers are in great plenty.
10.3. The Subah of Oudh
Agriculture is in a flourishing state, especially rice of the kinds called Sukhdās, Madkhar, and Jhanwāh, which for whiteness, delicacy,fragrance and wholesomeness are scarcely to be matched. They sow their rice three months earlier than in other parts of Hindustān. When the drought begins, the Sai and the Gogra rise high in flood and before the beginning of the rains, the land is inundated, and as the waters rise, the stalks of rice shoot up and proportionately lengthen: the crop, however, is destroyed if the floods are in full force before the rice is in ear. Flowers, fruit and game are abundant.
10.4. The Subah of Agra, the Royal Residence
The excellence of its climate is almost unrivalled. Agriculture is in perfection. Fruits and flowers of all kinds abound. Sweet-scented oil, and betel-leaf of the first quality are here obtained, and its melons and grapes rival those of Persia and Transoxiana. Agra is a large city and possesses a healthy climate.
10.5. THE SUBAH OF MALWA
The climate is so temperate that in winter there is little need of warm clothing nor in summer of the cooling properties of saltpetre. The elevation of this province is somewhat above that of other areas of the country and every part of it is cultivable. Both harvests [Page 207] are excellent, and especially wheat, poppy, sugarcane, mangoes, melons and grapes.
The peasants and even grain dealers are never without arms. Ujjain is a large city on the banks of the Sipra. It is regarded as a place of great sanctity and wonderful to relate, at times the river flows in waves of milk. The people prepare vessels and make use of it, and such an occurrence brings good fortune to the reigning monarch.
10.6. SUBAH OF DANDES
Jowāri is chiefly cultivated of which, in some places, there are three crops in a year, and its stalk is so delicate and pleasant to the taste that it is regarded in the light of a fruit. The rice is of fine quality, fruits grow plentifully and betel leaves are in abundance.
This Súbah contains 32 parganahs. Scarce any land is out of cultivation and many of the villages more resemble towns. The peasantry are docile and industrious. The provincial force is formed of Kólis,Bhíls and Gonds. Some of these can tame lions, so that they will obey their com¬mands, and strange tales are told of them.
10.7. SUBAH OF GUJARAT
The staple crops are Jowāri, and Bājrah, which form the principal food of the people. The spring harvest is inconsiderable. Wheat and some food grains are imported from Mālwah and Ajmer, and rice from the Deccan. Assessment is chiefly by valuation of crops, survey being seldom resorted to.
An extraordinary event occurs at the town of Mul Mahadeo where there is a temple dedicated to Siva. Every year on a certain day before the rainy season, a bird called Mukh* appears. It is somewhat smaller than pigeon, with a coarser beak and pied in colour. It alights on the temple, disports itself for a while, and then rolls over and dies. On this day, the people of the city assemble and burn various kinds of perfume and from the proportions of black and white in the plumage of the bird, they calculate the extent of the coming rainfall, the black portending rain, the white, drought. In this tract, there are three crops of jowār annually. At Unah there are two reservoirs, one of which is called Jamna, the other Ganga. The water bubbles up and forms a stream and the fish of these two springs have three eyes, the third eye being in the forehead.
10.8. SUBAH OF AJMER
The soil is sandy, and water obtain-able only at great depth, whence the crops are dependent on rain. The winter is temperate, but the summer intensely hot. The spring harvest is inconsiderable. Jowāri, Lahdarah and Moth are the most abundant crops. A seventh or an eighth of the produce is paid as revenue, and very little in money.
10.9. SUBAH OF DELHI
The climate is nearly temperate. Much of the land is sub-ject to inundation and in some places there are three harvests. The fruits of Irān,Turān and Hindustān are here grown and abundant flowers of various kinds. Lofty buildings of stone and brick delight the eye and gladden the heart, and it is scarce equalled for the choice produc-tions of every clime.
10.10. SUBAH OF LAHOR
This province is populous, its climate healthy and its agricultural fertility rarely equalled. The irrigation is chiefly from wells. The winter though not as rigorous as in Persia and Turkestān, is more severe than in any other part of India. Through the encouragement given by His Majesty, the choicest productions of Turkestān, Persia and Hindustān are to be found here. Musk-melons are to be [Page 317] had throughout the whole year. They come first in season when the sun is in Taurus and Gemini, (April, May, June,) and a later crop when he is in Cancer and Leo (June, July, August). When the season is over, they are imported from Kashmír and from Kābul, Badakshān and Turkestān. Snow is brought down every year from the northern moun-tains.
10.11. Sarkar of Tattah
In the winter season there is no need of poshtins (fur-lined coats) and the summer heats are moderate except in Sewistān. Fruits are of various kinds and mangoes are especially fine. In the desert tracts, a small kind of melon grows wild. Flowers are plentiful and camels are numerous and of a good breed.
The assessment of the country is made on the system of division of crops, a third being taken from the husband-man. Here are salt-pits and iron mines. Shāli rice is abundant and of good quality. Six kós from Tattah is a mine of yellow stone, large and small slabs of which are quarried and used for building. The staple food consists of rice and fish. The latter is smoked and loaded in boats, and exported to the ports and other cities, affording a con-siderable profit. Fish-oil is also extracted and used in boat building. There is a kind of fish called palwah which comes up into the Indus from the sea, unrivalled for its fine and exquisite flavour. Milk-curds of excellent quality are made and keep for four months.
10.12. Sarkar of Kashmir
The rain and snowfall are similar to that of Turkestān and Persia and its periodical rains occur at the same season as in Hindustān. The lands are artificially watered* or dependent on rain for irrigation.
Besides plums and mulberries, the fruits are numerous. Melons, apples, peaches, apricots are excel-lent. Although grapes are in plenty, the finer qualities are rare and the vines bear on mulberry trees. The mulberry is little eaten, its leaves being reserved for the silkworm. The eggs are brought from Gilgit and Little Tibet, in the former of which they are procured in greater abun-dance and are more choice. The food of the people is chiefly rice, wine, fish and various vegetables, and the last men-tioned they dry and preserve. Rice is cooked and kept over-night to be eaten. Though shāli rice is plentiful, the finest quality is not obtainable. Wheat is small in grain and black in colour, and there is little of it, and little consumed. Gram (chick-pea)and barley are nowhere found. They have a species of sheep* which they call Hāndú delicate and sweet in flavour and wholesome.
Near the town of Brang[Bring] is a long defile in which is a pool seven yards square and as deep as a man's stature. It is regarded as a place of great sanctity. Strange to say it is dry during eleven months, but in the Divine month of Urdi-bihisht (April), water bubbles forth from two springs. First in one corner of it is a cavity like a mortar called Sendh brāri: when this becomes full, the spring rises in another corner called Sapt rishi. From these two sources the pool runs over. Sometimes it boils up for three hours, and at times for only a second. Then it begins to decrease till not a drop remains. At three periods of the day, viz., morning, noon and evening, this rise occurs. Various flowers are thrown in as offerings to either spring, and after the reflux of the water, the flowers of each votary are found in their respective springs.
In this vicinity also is a spring, which during six months is dry. On a stated day, the peasants flock to worship and make appropriatory offerings of a sheep or a goat. Water then flows forth and irrigates the cultivation of five villages. If the flush is in excess, they resort to the same supplications, and the stream subsides of its own accord. There is also another spring called Kokar Nāg, the water of which is limpid, cold and wholesome. Should a hungry person drink of it, his hunger will be appeased, and its satisfaction in turn renews appetite.
In the village of Biruwā is a spring and in its water lepers bathe early on the first day of the week and are restored to health. In the vicinity is a plateau, a pasture ground for cattle, the grass of which has peculiar fattening properties.
Zainu'l Aābidín overran Tibet and Sind. He was a wise prince, devoted to philosophical studies and it was his fortune to enjoy universal peace. He was regarded by high and low as a special servant of God and venerated as a saint. He was credited with the power of divesting himself of his corporeal form, and he foretold that under the dynasty of the Chaks, the sovereignty of Kashmír would be transferred from that family to the monarchs of Hindustān, which pre-diction after a period of years was accomplished. His benevolence and love of his people induced him to abolish the capitation tax (levied on other than Muslims) and to prohibit the slaughtering of cows, as well as penalties and presents of all kinds. He added somewhat to the measure of the Jaríb. His private revenues were drawn from copper mines. He often personally administered medicinal re-medies and resolved all difficult undertakings with ease. Robbers were employed in chained gangs on public works. His gentleness of disposition dissuaded men from the pur-suit of game, and he himself eat no flesh meat.
10.14. Sarkar of Sawad (Swāt)
It has no extremes of heat or cold, and though snow falls, it does not lie in the plains for more than three or four days; in the mountains it is perpetual. It is springtime here during the periodical rains of Hindustān. Rainfall occurs and the spring and autumn are very delight-ful. Its flora are those of Turkestān and India, wild violets and narcissus covering the meadows, and various kinds of fruit trees grow wild. Peaches and pears are excel-lent, and fine hawks and falcons are obtained. It also pos-sesses an iron mine.
10.15. Sarkar of Qandahār
The summer heats are extreme and the cold in winter is incon-siderable, but the ice-pits are filled in December and January. Once in three or four years a fall of snow occurs and is hailed with delight. Flowers and fruits are in abundance. Its wheat is extremely white, and is sent as a present of value to distant countries.
10.16. Sarkār of Kābul
This territory was formerly called Zābulistān, and some reckon Qandahār as included within it. Here is the last resting-place of Hakím Sanāiand many other saintly and many other saintly personages. The winter season is said to resemble that of Samarqand and Tabríz. A river runs from north to south which waters all the arable tracts. The cultivators are put [Page 412] to great trouble as fresh soil has to be supplied each year to fertilize the land and it becomes then more productive than that of Kābul. The metal called ruín* is here abun-dant and is imported into Hindustān. In the time of Bābar there was here a tomb which shook whenever the praises of Muhammad were recited. The investigations of acute observers discovered that this was effected by the fraud of relic-mongers. There is also a spring into which if any filth be thrown, a thunderstorm ensues with a fall of snow and rain.