Akbar’s reign in the context of non-official histories

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Nizamuddin Ahmad and Abdul Qadir Badauni are two important historians of the period. Motivated by the popularity of the discipline of history, both the scholars have written history of the Muslim rule in India and have also recorded achievements of men of learning in different fields. Their works run into several volumes. Let us deal with each one separately.

Nizamuddin was the son of Khwaja Muqim Harawi, a noble of Babur and Humayun. A well-educated man, he was interested in the study of history and literature. When he looks up the project of writing history of India in three volumes, he employed men like Masum Bhakkari to assist him and provide information about different regions of the empire. A man who had gained experience in the government after having served on important positions in the provinces and at court as well, he was able to make substantial contribution through his scholarly work.

His first-volume deals with the history of the Muslim rulers of India up to the fall of the Lodi dynasty in 1526. The second volume contains the account of the Mughal rulers of India up to 1593. The third volume deals with the rise and fall of the regional kingdoms in India. It is to the credit of Nizamuddin Ahmad that he mentions all the important events that took place during Akbar’s reign including the controversial Mahzar which is omitted by Abul Fazl.

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However, being the mirbakshi (the in charge of the department of army) of the empire, he does not provide any critical evaluation. Still, it helps us in filling the gap left by Abul Fazl not only on this issue but in several other areas. His work Tabaqat-i Akbari was regarded by all the later writers as an authentic work and they borrowed from it.

Abdul Qadir Badauni was also a keen student of history and literature. He tells us that from his student life, he spent hours in reading or writing history. He also learnt Sanskrit and classical Indian music along with Islamic theology. Akbar employed him to translate Muhabharat from Sanskrit into Persian. The first volume of his history entitled Muntakhabut Tawarikh is related to the history of the Sultanate of Delhi.

The second covers Akbar’s reign while in the third volume we find the biographical notes on the scholars, poets and Sufi saints of Akbar’s reign. His account is very readable bringing out the important facts of the period. Brevity is the beauty of Badauni’s style.

The first volume contains information culled from miscellaneous sources, many of which are not extant today. Moreover, Badauni possessed an analytical independent mind with different views than the official line. In fact Badauni’s objective was to present a frank account of his times. It is Badauni’s second volume that needs to be studied along with Abul Fazl’s Akbarnama to have a proper understanding of Akbar’s reign. Badauni does not gloss over any uncomfortable question on Akbar’s ability as an administrator.

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For example, Badauni records the failure of the karori experience and the – disaster it caused. Badauni is corroborated in essentials by Nizamuddin Ahmad also. Unlike Abul Fazl and even Nizamuddin Ahmad, Badauni’s account of the religious discussions held in Akbar’s Ibadat Khana, the origin of Akbar’s differences with the Muslim orthodoxy that led to religious controversies is vivid depicting the currents and cross currents of thought.

It certainly has precedence on Akbarnama, in a number of areas especially the controversial issues. It gives an impression to the readers that it is free from the official constraints, catches the realities of the time and reflects the magnitude and intensity of conflicts of the period.

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