Famine and Dearth

Ain-I-Akbari.Vol.3

About this text

Introductory notes

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.

THE
Ā’IN-I- AKBARI

(A Encyclopaedia of Hindu Philosophy, science, literature and
customs, with the life of the Author and Akbar's wise sayings)

Vol.III
THE ASIATIC SOCIETY 1 PARK STREET, KOLKATA-700 016:
[Page 7]

1. THE BOUNDARIES OF HINDUSTAN AND A BRIEF DESCRIPTION THEREOF

Withal its magnitude of extent and the mightiness of its empire it is unequalled in its climate, its rapid succession of harvests and the equable temperament of its people. Notwithstanding its vast size, it is cultivated throughout. You cannot accomplish a stage nor indeed travel a kos without meeting with populous towns and flourishing villages, nor without being gladdened by the sight of sweet-waters, delightful verdure and enchanting downs. In the autumn and throughout the depth of winter the plains are green and the trees in foliage. During the rainy season which extends from the close of the sun's stay in Gemini to his entry into the sign of Virgo*, the elasticity of the atmosphere is enough to transport the most dispirited and lend the vigour of youth to old age. Shall I praise the refulgence of its skies or the marvellous fertility of its soil?

2.

[Page 10]

The soil is for the most part arable and of such produc-tive power that the same land is sown each year and in many places three harvests and more are taken in a single twelve-month and the vine bears fruit in its first year.

3.

[Page 63]

Reinaud mentions an island called Alramni said to be near Ceylon which produced elephants and brazil wood and inhabited by cannibals,said by Abu Zayd to be among the Zabij islands, i.e., Java Archi-pelago. Geog. Abulf. I. CDVI.

[Page 199]

4. CHAPTER V. JAINA

[Page 214]

It is said that without concurrence of three conditions, this great end cannot be secured: (1)knowledge of the Supreme Being: (2)the acquisition of a guide who makes no distinction between praise and blame, wounding and heal-ing :(3).constancy in good works. These three take rise in obedience and service, by which knowledge is gained. This latter is the chief source of a passionless state (virāga)which annihilates the impulse (āsvara)of the embodied spirit, whence proceeds the closing (samvara)of the passage to such impulses, and this again incites men to austerity whereby they are occupied in the mortification of the spirit and the body. This mortification is of twelve kinds:—(1). not to eat at particular times. Formerly abstinence from solid food for a whole year was practised, and by some for nine months, but in these days six months is the longest duration: (2). to eat sparingly, and to beg for food from not more than five houses, and to fast till the next day if none be forthcoming, and to abstain from five things: viz., milk, curds, butter, oil of sesame and sweets*

5.

[Page 216]

The devotees of this sect are called Yatis.* Sishya (disciple),is an inquirer who enters on this path. Ganesa-sishya2 is an ascetic who for six months at a stretch restrains the inordinate spirit within the prison of freedom from desire.

6.

[Page 217]

If he eats one day, he fasts two, and defiles not his hand with milk, curds, butter, oil nor sweets. He eats only of a little parched wheat thrown into hot water, and begs for alms only from one house; his nights are spent till morn in prayers, and five hundred times during each night he prostrates him-self in worship, and in the day reads the book of Bhagavati.

7.

[Page 218]

The ascetics of this body have no intercourse with women, and avoid the spot where the sound of her voice is [Page 219] heard. They abstain from meat, fruit and sweemeats. They cook no food in their own dwellings, and at the meal-time of others, they approach a house and there stand and announce themselves by the words, “dharma labha” that is, "he who doeth good, receiveth a reward,” and without importunity, take whatever of daily cooked food is brought. They may not take away milk, oil and rice together for food, and with-out being covetous of the taste thereof must speedily swallow their meal. And they must not knowingly accept food cooked especially for them or for the sake of mendicants in general, nor which has been brought from out of a dark room, nor fetched by mounting from a low to an elevated place, nor for which the lock of a door has been opened nor brought out having been previously purchased. They drink nothing but warm water and do not eat or drink24 during the night.

8.

[Page 222]

The prohibitions to be observed by both the ascetics and the laity are, to abstain from flesh-meat, wine, honey, butter, opium, snow, ice, hail, everything that grows beneath the earth, fruits whose names are unknown, or that contain small seeds, and from eating at night.

9.

[Page 249]

If the inquiry be regarding rain, the elements of earth and water indicate that rain will fall, but in the latter there is greater evidence of a plentiful supply to the crops. The element of air predicts clouds without rain; and fire, gentle showers. Regarding questions as to crops, water and earth show that they will yield the revenue, and in the latter case a full harvest; air indicates a moderate crop, and fire that it will be burnt up.

10.

[Page 275]

A king resembles a gardener and should carry out, in regard to his subjects, the course pursued in the care of his garden by the other, who puts away thorns and weeds and keeps his flower-beds in good order, allowing no depredations from without. In the same way a prince should transfer to the frontier of his dominions the turbulence of the seditious, and free the courts of his palace from their machinations, and allow no other evil designers to enter them. The gardener, likewise, from time to time, prunes the redundancy of leaf and branch on his trees, so the king should isolate from each other the more powerful nobles whose friends and dependents are dangerously numerous. The gardener also invigorates his weak saplings with water, and the king should similarly sustain with beneficence his im-poverished soldiery.

[Page 407]

11. SHAYKH SUFI BADHNI

His birthplace was Oudh. He lived a life of extra-ordinary abstraction, heedless of all save the worship of God. It is said that Khwājah Qutbu'ddín and he, with a number of others, were taken prisoners by the Mughals. Hunger and thirst drove the captives to the greatest straits. It was then that the Khwājah, by supernatural power, drew forth from his wallet warm cakes (kāk), with which he supplied each one of the party, while the Súfí gave them all to drink from his broken water-vessel (badhnā).From this circum-stance the Khwājah was called Kākí, and the other Badhni.

12.

[Page 432]

A certain seeker after God was addicted to gluttony. He went to an adviser of practical experience, who gave him a bowl made of (the shell of a dried)pumpkin which he was told to fill in measuring his daily food and also to grind its edge a little (daily)and apply (the paste)to his forehead as a sectarian mark. At the same time, to throw him off the scent, he taught him a prayer to be recited. In a short time his failing was cured.

13.

[Page 436]

Eating anything that dies of itself is unlawful. There is a natural repugnance to it.

14.

[Page 437]

A man's being eaten after he has been killed is the just requital of his own baseness.

15.

[Page 445]

Men are so accustomed to eating meat that were it not for the pain, they would undoubtedly fall to on themselves.

Would that my body were so vigorous as to be of service to eaters of meat who would thus forego other animal life, [Page 446] or that as I cut off a piece for their nourishment, it might be replaced by another.

Would that it were lawful to eat an elephant, so that one animal might avail for many.

Were it not for the thought of the difficulty of sustenance, I would prohibit men from eating meat. The reason why I do not altogether abandon it myself is, that many others might willingly forego it likewise and be thus cast into despondency.

From my earliest years, whenever I ordered animal food to be cooked for me, I found it rather tasteless and cared little for it. I took this feeling to indicate a necessity for protecting animals, and I refrained from animal food.

Men should annually refrain from eating meat on the anniversary of the month of my accession as a thanksgiving to the Almighty, in order that the year may pass in prosperity.

16.

[Page 489]

In the beginning of the year of the accession of His Majesty to the imperial throne, as though wild rue8 were set on fire upon the State with the view of arresting the evil eye, a great famine occurred, which raised the dust of dispersion. The capital [Agra] was devastated and nothing remained but a few houses. In addition to this and other immeasurable disasters, a plague became epidemical. This calamity and destruction of life extended throughout most of the cities of Hindustan. Still that enlightened sage remained in his seclusion and the dust of tepidity settled not in the serene chamber of his mind. The writer of this work was then five years old,9 and the luminary of discernment so blazed before the arch of his vision that its expression cannot enter the mould of language, nor, if expressed, would it find access to the narrow hearing of mankind. He has a perfect recollection of this event, and the evidence of eye-witnesses confirms his testimony. The distress of the times ruined many families and multitudes died. In that habitation10 about 70 people lived, in all, male and female, high and low, may have survived. Contemporaries marvelled at the easy circumstances and general cheerfulness of the dervishes and attributed it to magic and incantation. Sometimes a ser of grain would be obtained, which was set to boil in earthenware vessels, and the warm water distributed among these people. Most strange of all was that there occurred no difficulty of provision in my father’s house, and except the worship of God no other thought disturbed his mind, and save an examination of his own conscience and a perusal of the travels of the spirit no other occupation employed him, until the mercy of God was vouchsafed unto all and a universal affluence lit the countenance of joy. The royal standards shone again with splendour and by a daily increasing justice filled the world with a new radiance. The palace of wisdom grew in amplitude and the wares of knowledge rose to a high price. Science in its many branches and learning of every kind were now diffused. New elucidations, high and lofty views and important discoveries were published abroad and all classes of men received countless benefits from the treasury of intellect. The quiet retirement of that discerning nature became the resort of the learned of the universe, and the highest topics were matters of discussion. But the envy that had been chilled now warmed to life, and the malevolence of the wicked increased.

This text is an English-language translation of the original version:
Original

This is a selection from the original text

Keywords

abstinence, ascetic, cakes, famine, flesh, food, harvest, literature, milk, plague, science, sweets

Source text

Title: Ā’in-I-Akbari:Vol.III, Ā’in-I-Akbari

Author: Abū'l-Fazl'Allāmi

Editor(s): H. S. Jarrett, Jadunath Sarkar

Publisher: The Asiatic Society

Publication date: 1877

Original compiled c.1589-1598

Original date(s) covered: c.1589-1598

Place of publication: Calcutta

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at the Digital Library of India: http://www.dli.ernet.in/. Original compiled c.1589-1598 Original date(s) covered: c.1589-1598

Digital edition

Original author(s): Abū'l-Fazl'Allāmi

Original editor(s): H.S.Jarrett, Jadunath Sarkar

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) 7
  • 2 ) 10
  • 3 ) 63
  • 4 ) 214
  • 5 ) 216
  • 6 ) 217
  • 7 ) 219-220
  • 8 ) 220
  • 9 ) 222
  • 10 ) 249
  • 11 ) 275
  • 12 ) 407
  • 13 ) 432
  • 14 ) 436
  • 15 ) 437
  • 16 ) 445-446

Responsibility:

Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > chronicle histories

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.

Acknowledgements