Short notes on Literary as a Source for Studying Medieval India


State papers and official or private documents written in Persian provide much information for reconstructing the history of the period. Though most of it has been lost, those found in private collections throw much light on the administration, economy and society of the time.

Chronicles have provided ample information with regard to the history of medieval India. Minhaj-us-Siraj’s Tabaqat-i-Nasiri gives useful information regarding the slave dynasty of Delhi up to the year 1267 ad.

Zia-ud-din Barani’s Tarikh-i- Firuz Shahi gives the history of the first six years of Firuz Shah Tughlaq’s reign. Firuz Shah’s own composition, Futuhat-i-Firuz Shahi gives a record of his administrative achievements.


Isami’s F’utah-us Salatin deals with the period extending from the rise of the Ghaznavids to the reign of Muhammad-bin- Tughlaq. Babur’s famous Memoirs originally written in Turki give important information about the natural environs of the country.

The Memoirs of Jahangir is an excellent source of history. Gulbadan Begum’s Humayun-nama gives insight into the affairs of the royal harem. Abul Fazal’s Ain-i-Akbari and Akbar-nama are the two most important works dealing with the reign of Akbar.

Another important contemporary work is Badauni’s Muntakhab-ul- Tawarikh. Two official chronicles i.e., Padishah-nama and Alamgir-nama cover the reign of Shah Jahan and the early years of Aurangzeb’s reign.

For the latter part of Aurangzeb’s reign there is the Masir-i- Alamgiri. Khafi Khan’s Muntakhab-ul-Lubab supplies us with many facts which were earlier suppressed by Aurangzeb.


The defects of the Persian chronicles are: (i) lack of objectivity, bias towards royalty; (ii) lack of interest in common people.

Foreign travellers’ accounts Travellers from abroad give us interesting information regarding the political, social and economic conditions in medieval India. Al-Beruni’s account of India during Sultan Mahmud Ghazni’s conquest in his Kitab-ul-Hind is considered to be the finest foreign account of medieval India.

Marco Polo who visited South India in the latter part of the thirteenth century has given useful information.

The best known foreigners who visited India during the pre-Mughal period were the Moroccan, Ibn Batuta, an Italian, Nicolo Conti, who visited Vijayanagar around ad 1294, a Persian, Akbar Razzaq who was the ambassador of Shah Rukh of Samarqand at the court of the Zamorin of Calicut and visited the Vijayanagar kingdom (around ad 1442), and a Russian, Athanasius Nikitin who visited South India in ad 1470.


From the sixteen century onwards, the European travellers who came to India have left a mine of information for us.

The works of Jesuit missionaries and European travelle like Barbosa, Ralph Fitch, Roe, Taverneir, Berneir and Manucci have described the conditions of the people, the state of trade und commerce, and the magnificence of the court and the camp.

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