About this text

Introductory notes

Maasir-i-Alamgiri is an account of Emperor Aurangzeb's(1620-1707) reign. It was composed after the death of the emperor by Saqi Musta'd Khan at the behest of Inayetullah Khan Kashmiri, the emperor's last secretary. The chronicle is abridged in comparison to Alamgirnamah. Saqi Musta'd Khan was a munshi and diwan in the establishment of Bakhtawar Khan, who authored Mirat-ul-'Alam. The printed Persian text was edited by Maulvi Agha Ahmad Ali and published by Bibliotheca Indica, Asiatic Society of Bengal. The chronicle was translated into English by Sir Jadunath Sarkar and published in 1947. Our selections here feature excerpts on famines, scarcity of provisions, vegetation and taxation.

Primary Reading Saqi Mustaid Khan, Maasir-I-Alamgiri, Persian, ed. Maulvi Agha Ahmad Ali, Calcutta: Bib.Ind,1871. Saqi Mustaid Khan, Maasir-I-Alamgiri, English, trans.Sir Jadunath Sarkar, Calcutta: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1947


[Page 20]

As famine appeared in many places of the Empire, it was ordered that in addition to the permanent alms-houses ten more should be opened in Delhi and twelve others in the parganahs around it for the relief of the poor. Similar arrangements were made in Lahore. In addition to the amounts customarily spent in the months of Muharram, Rajah, Sha'bān, Ramzān, Rabi'-ul-awwal, and Zilhijj, this year double the amount was distributed. Orders were issued to the grandees down to commanders of a thousand that they should practise charity on their own account, and this alms-giving continued until the scarcity was turned into plenty.


[Page 26]

When the Khān-i-Khānān took up his residence at Mathurāpur for passing the rainy season and water covered the whole land, the Assamese began to act boldly. As the Mughal troops could not ride out, the audacity of the Assamese passed all limits. Their Raja too came down from the hills of Namrup. The Mughal outposts were withdrawn ; no other place than Garhgāon and Mathurāpur remained in the possession of the imperialists. Provisions were exhausted. The poisonous air caused a pestilence which carried off vast numbers. This affected the whole land of Assam, and vast crowds of the enemy, too, in the hills went to hell. During this period the food of the soldiers and the cattle was rice and beef, large quantities of which had been captured from the enemy. There was no alternative but to wait patiently for the end of the rains. In the middle [of the month of Safar/mid September] the rains decreased and boats of provisions too arrived at that time.


[Page 29]

During the reign of Shah Jahan, every year 79,000 rupees were distributed in five months through the Sadr-us-Sadur, but in the other seven months no expenditure was made (on charity). Now the Emperor ordered that during five months the existing practice should be followed, and during the remaining seven months 10,000 rupees were to be distributed every month so that in all every year one lakh [47] and 49,000 rupees were to be spent on the needy.


[Page 105]

The Emperor learnt that grain had become dear in Lahore. He ordered the addition of another twenty rupees daily to the expense of the relief kitchen. News came from Kabu1 that the kings of Balkh and Bukhārā were at war with each other, and in both places grain was so dear that men [170] were eating carrion and other forbidden things. On Saturday, the 21st September 14th Shaban, news came that 'Umdat-ul-mulk Āsad Khan had started from Burhān-pur for Āurangābād. Jān Beg, son of Bakhtān Beg, got the title of Ātish Khan. It was ordered that on Sundays and Thursdays 'Ināyet Khan and Kifāyet Khan should come to the Emperor for reporting the diwani business. Āsaish Banu, daughter of Murād Bakhsh, and wife of Khwāja Muhammad Sālih, died. Āmir Khan, Subahdār of Kabul, reached his post on Saturday, the. 8th June/27th Rabi. S.


[Page 162]

The Emperor learnt of a famine in the army of Muhammad 'Āzam Shāh; it was so severe that a grain of wheat laid the snare of seduction for a hundred Adams, and in the fear that the lack of gram would render them weak, all the soldiers felt themselves helpless. Every day severe fighting took place, in the trenches and also with the out-lying troops. The soldiers had no sleep and food, the two sustainers of life. Death rode rampant. There came no food from any side. A letter "By order" was written to the Prince saying, "As you have come to such a pass, return to the Court with your army." The Prince after receiving the letter held a council of consultation with his chief officers. First he turned to Hasan 'Ali Khan Bahādur 'Alamgir-shāhi and said, "The carrying out of the expedition depends on the co-operation of the officers. I have received such a letter from the Emperor. Your advice is important in these matters of peace and war, haste and delay. [264] You have seen and undergone many difficulties and hardships of this kind. What is vour view of this case ?" The Khan replied, "In view of the good of the army and happiness of the people at large, I think a retreat is advisable. When in the Balkh campaign, Prince Murād Bakhsh owing to the rigour of winter could not stay there, he had to give up sieges and battles by order of Shāh Jahān and return to Court. What our men are undergoing is known and your Highness has received the order to retreat." After this the Prince turned to the others; they all supported the Khan. The Prince then said, "You have spoken for yourselves. Now hear from me! Muhammad 'Āzam with his two sons and Begam will not retreat from this dangerous place so long as he has life. After my death, His Majesty may come and order the removal of my corpse for funeral. My companions may stay or go away as they like." Then they all said in concert, "Our opinion is the same as your Highness's." When the Emperor learnt of this determination of the Prince to stay, he ordered Firuz Jang Bahādur on Monday, the 4th October, l685/16th Zil. Q., to set out with a large army and provisions beyond calculation [265] to reinforce and supply the Prince's army. The Emperor excused the branding of the horses of the 3rd and 4th fractions of their contingents in the case of the sadi and 4-sadi in attendance on the Emperor and mansabdars out on expedition. The imperial officers were ordered to buy for the State horses after taking them out of dāgh and send them to the Prince, [Page 163] for distribution to the men who had lost their horses in action. Firuz Jang, on the day of taking leave, was presented with a robe, the māhi, and an elephant for carrying it, four banners (nishān) and four hairy (two-humped) camels for carrying them, and was permitted to kiss the feet of the Emperor, who stroked him on the back with his hand. His officers were favoured with robes, horses, elephants, and promotion. Firuz Jang reached the Prince with the speed of lightning, and the famished army gained the hope of life. The Shah appointed his revived troops to punish the enemy who used to sally out of the fort for fight.


[Page 178]

At this time owing to excess of rain the river Manjerā raged in flood. No provision could come from the neigh-bourhood. Famine prevailed; wheat, pulse and rice dis-appeared. [292]Cries of grief at the disappearance of grain rose from the famished on all sides of the camp. Of the men of Haidarābād, not a soul remained alive; houses, river and plain became filled with the dead. The same was the condition of the camp. At night piles of the dead were formed round the Emperor's quarters. Daily sweepers dragged them and flung them on the bank of the river from sunrise to sunset. The same thing happened every day and night. The survivors did not hesitate to eat the carrion of men and animals. Kos after kos the eye fell only on mounds of corpses. The incessant rain melted away the flesh and the skin; otherwise the putrid air would have finished the business of the survivors. After some months when the rains ceased, the white ridges of bones looked from a distance like hillocks of snow. Through the grace of God to the survivors, the rains abated, the violence of the river ceased, and provisions came from the surrounding country. In the place of Sardār Khan, karori-ganj, Sayyid Sharif Khan, son of Mir Sayyid Muhammad Qanauji, the spiritual guide of Shāh Jahān, and an honest, able and accomplished man, was appointed. Thanks to the gracious aim of the Emperor, the custodian of the livelihood of the people, the scarcity was removed, and cheapness restored.


[Page 188]

After three days' halt here the army again marched. On Saturday, the 25th February /3rd Jamad. A., the Emperor reached the outskirts of Gulbarga, and made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Mir Sayyid Muhammad Gisuda-rāz, removing the veil of poverty from the heads of the residents of that blessed place. After seven days' halt the army resumed the march towards Bijapur. On Thursday, the l5th March, 1688/22nd Jamad. A., the Emperor reached that city. All kinds of inhabitants, faqirs, and hermits, who had fallen into want through the ruin of the city and its environs, were relieved by the Emperor's charity. *** [3ll]


[Page 199]

Haji Shaf'i Khan became daftar-dār of tan vice Musavi Khan, who got the former's post of diwan of the Deccan. Robes for the rains were presented to all the imperial servants at the Court and the provinces. Abul Khair Khan, son of 'Abdul 'Aziz Khan, became qiladār of Rājgarh; Mukhtār Khan Mir-Ātish vice Mukhlis Khan, who became (dārogha of) 'arz-i-mukarrar vice Muhanunad Yār Khan. Mir 'Abdul Karim, a favourite of the Emperor was rewarded with the title of Multafat Khan for his good services as karori-ganj, when he made abundance and cheapness to appear in stead of scarcity and famine at Haidarabad, and thus deserved the Emperor's recognition.

[Page 256]


When the Emperor [425] had finished the conquest of Āzamtara and had appointed its qiladar and faujdar, he wanted to conquer Parli-garh. He ordered Fathullah Khan to go in advance and besiege the fort. The Khan reached the fort that very day and decided to run trenches directed towards the tower under which was a small door of the fort. The imperial officers quickly conveyed the siege materials collected at Satara to the foot of Parli. On Tuesday, the 30th April/22nd Zil.Q., the Emperor having traversed the intervening space in three days, encamped on the plain in front of the fort-gate. The Prince's camp was located before the imperial mansion. Ruhullah Khan became mir murchal. Chin Qalich Khan Bahadur and the soldiers of the Prince, and other forces of the army surrounded the hill of the fort on all sides forming a circuit of a few kos. Parli is even stronger than Satara. In short, the Khan without heeding its strength, worked hard to run trenches and to mount guns [Page 257] on a hillock commanding the fort, doing the work of years in as many days. But what shall I write about the excess [426] of rain and scarcity of grain and fodder? *** The dark clouds showered day and night like the eyes of orphans. Houses were submerged. *** In short, owing to the flood of the rivers and the non-arrival of provisions from all sides, famine became severe.


[Page 272]

[458]The Emperor renamed Khelnā as Sakhkharlanā (=God made hell subject to us). The hills and soil of this [Page 273] tract are wonderful: there is (as it were) no trace of hill or land, you see only herbs and flowers. Those who want to behold God's skill will find nothing so appropriate for their purpose as this garden-like hill and plain. There is not a tree that does not confer some benefit. It has no flower that does not charm the brain with its smell. Every grain of this wide plain can supply the revenue of countries from its fruits and aromatic roots; every particle of its dust attracts the heart. ***


[Page 283]

After a stay of six months and eighteen days, inspite of famine on account of drought, death of the poor, lamentation of the weak, the disappearance of wheat, vetch and rice, the filling of Shāhganj(royal market)to the brim with the groans of the stricken beggars, the Emperor's resolution would not turn back, let the celestial firmament turn back if it will!


[Page 315]

About the middle of his reign he decided to levy the jaziyatax on the Hindus, as ordained by the Shara' and it was enforced throughout his empire; and this rare piece of good work (hasnāt-i-gharib) had not been done in Hindustan aud the Hindus had not been degraded to such a degree in any other period. He used to spend so much money in reli-gious alms (khairāt), beneficent public works, (like the building of public inns, mubarrāt),and pensions (idrārāt), that the expenditure of former rulers had not reached even a hundredth part of it : In the blessed month of Ramzan he used to distribute among the needy 60,000 rupees and in other months smaller amounts than that. Numerous free kitchens (balghurkhānah or langar khānah)for feeding the weak and the poor were established in Delhi and other pro-vinces; wherever there was no inn or sarāi for the accom-modation of travellers before, they were built by him. The repair of (old) mosques throughout the empire was carried out at the expense of his Govennnent, and they were also supplied with a staff of imām, mu'azzin and khātib(for each), so that a huge amount of money was spent on this work. In all the cities and regions of this vast kingdom, he assigned adequate subsistence-allowances in the form of daily stipends and land grants (imlāk)to(Islamic)scholars and teachers, and provided food-money (cost of maintenance) for their students according to their condition and number.


[Page 316]

Among His Majesty's many favours to the public was the abolition of the taxes on grain and other food-stuffs, the charge for road-patrols (rāhdāri), the excise duty on cloth and other articles subject to the sāir(octroi), especially the duty on tobacco, which last article yielded a vast revenue and the excise-officers used to practise astonishing outrages on the modesty of women** in searching their persons, under the suspicion of its being smuggled.

Another of his gracious concessions was the remission throughout his dominions (of certain cesses) on the Mus-lims in particular and the aforesaid items on the people in general, the total annual yield of which taken together ex-ceeded thirty lakhs of rupees. He also abolished the rule of realising from his mansabdars the unspent Government ad-vances to their grandfathers and other kinsmen, which under the standing practice of the finance deparment used before his time to be recovered by gradual deduction from the pay of their mansabs, and credited to the Exchequer, and which every year brought in a large total. [531] His Majesty also forbade the practice of escheating to the State the property of the dead nobles who had left behind them no debt due to Government, but he let their heirs succeed to their legacy,- whereas in former reigns the imperial collectors used strictly to confiscate such property and this rule proved a source of suffering to the surviving relatives. The Emperor also sent [Page 317] his farmāns to every subah ordering that the taxes (hāsilāt) should be collected only in accordance with the rules of the Holy Qurānic Law.

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

This is a selection from the original text


alms-house, beef, charity, famine, flesh, food, grain, needy, pestilence, rice

Source text

Title: Maasir-I-Alamgiri

Subtitle: A History of the Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir(reign 1658-1707 A.D.)

Author: Saqi Mustaid Khan

Editor(s): Sir Jadunath Sarkar

Publisher: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal

Publication date: 1947

Original compiled 1710

Original date(s) covered: 1658-1707

Place of publication: Calcutta

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: Original compiled 1710 Original date(s) covered: 1658-1707

Digital edition

Original author(s): Saqi Mustaid Khan

Original editor(s): Sir Jadunath Sarkar

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) page 20
  • 2 ) page 26
  • 3 ) page 29
  • 4 ) page 105
  • 5 ) pages 162 to 163
  • 6 ) page 178
  • 7 ) page 188
  • 8 ) page 199
  • 9 ) pages 256 to 257
  • 10 ) pages 272 to 273
  • 11 ) page 283
  • 12 ) page 315
  • 13 ) page 316 to 317


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

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