In this article we will discuss about the new era in Persian literature under the Mughals in India during medieval period.
With the coming of the Mughals, a new era in Persian literature started. Babur brought with him poets and scholars like Abu’l Wahid Farighi, Nadir Samarquandi and Tahir Khwandi from Central Asia. Though Babur himself wrote in Turkish, his court provided forum to both Persian and Turkish writers.
Babur himself was a poet and great historian. According to T. Lanepool, “In Persian, the language of culture—the Latin of Central Asia—he was an accomplished poet; and his native Turki, he was master of a pure and unaffected style alike in prose and verse.”
Babur was a great patron of literary persons and had great admiration for them. For example, he writes in his memoirs about Jami, “The all surpassing head of the poet-band was Maulana Abdur Rahman Jami. He was unrivalled in his day for esoteric and exoteric knowledge. Famous indeed are his poems, The Mulla’s dignity it is out of my power to describe: it has occurred to me merely to mention his name and one atom of his excellence as a benediction and good omen for this part of my humble book.”
Jami was the last great mystic poet and not the last great classical poet of Persian language. He composed material versions and Sufism dominates his poetry. “In Persian, more particularly; his verses in elegance, style, and originality, are quite up to the level of the average Persian mystic poets.”
Suleiman Shah, a cousin of Babur, also wrote verses both in Turkish and Persian. The other prominent literary figures of Babur’s time were Shaikh Zainuddin, Mulla Shihab and Khwandamir. Gulbadan Begam, the daughter of Babur was also a great scholar and she wrote Hamayun Nama on the specific request of Akbar. Shaikh Zainuddin who was the Secretary of Babar, was an accomplished scholar of Turki, Arabic and Persian.
According to Badauni, “He was one of the greatest scholars of the age and was the first to translate into Persian the Turki memoires of Babur. He also commented on Mabayyan ,a work which Babur had written on Hanafi jurisprudence. He was known as Zainuddin Khawafi, although he wrote as ‘Wafai’. The important work which he wrote covers the whole history of the conquest of India by Babur.”
Commenting on the literary pursuits during the times of Babur, M.A. Ghani says “Among Babur’s contemporaries there were many who came to India, and wrote their works here under the Indian patronage. No parallel instance is to be found in history of a period prior to his in which poets and scholars of Persian language migrated to India in such large numbers. It is mostly from his regime or the advent of the Mughal rule that the Persian language in India has acquired its own significance.”
Humayun, the next ruler was also a great patron of poetry as well as prose. Like Babur he was also adept at writing poetry and wrote masnavi, rubai, diwan as well as ghazal. According to M.A. Ghani, “From his own verses which include almost all principal kinds of poetry except qasida and gita, his position as a poet of the Persian language is clearly established.
In his rubai, and ‘ghazal’ while behind no one, he stands ahead of many of his contemporaries. The chief feature of his style is the clearness of expression which pervades all his writings, and his words are always few, simple and compact.”
Apart from being a scholar, Humayun encouraged other scholars, poets and historians. A large number of them adorned his court. Shaikh Amanullah Panipati wrote qasida. Shaikh Abdul Wahid Bilgrami and Shaikh Gadai were two prominent Hindi-Persian poets at the court of Humayun Muhammad Ibn-i-Ashraf al Hussaini or Dustamdari wrote Jawahir nama-i-Humayuni in 22 chapters.
Another important work of history produced during his time was ‘Nafais ul Maasir by Mir Alauddaula Kazwini.
Maulana Qasim Kahi compiled a diwan in which he included a number of qasida, masnavi, and ghazal. Shah Tahir Dakhani also wrote qasida and masnavi in praise of Humayun. Another prominent literary figure of Humayun’s time was Yusuf bin-i-Muhammad Hirwal who is credited with important works like Riyaz ul Insha, Jamiul Faicaid Qasida Fihifz-i-Sihat, and Badaiul Insha.
The last work dealt with the art of literary composition. Jauhar wrote Taqkirat-ul-Waqiat. Khawaja Hussain Mervi apart from compiling a diwan also translated the famous Hindi work Sanghasan Battisi into Persian.
The Persian literature made a wonderful progress during the times of Akbar. A number of outstanding works of literary and historical importance were produced during his time. Some of the prominent works of his time include Tarikh-i-Alfl ofMulla Daud, the Ain-i-Akbari and Akhamama by Abul Fazal, the Muntakhab-ut- Twarikh the Tabakat-i-Akbari of Nizamuddin Ahmed.
Akhamama of Faizi, the Masir-i-Rahimi of Abdul Baqi. Abul Fazal apart from being a great scholar was a personal friend and counselor of Akbar for almost 35 years. The quantum and quantity of his work has been greatly admired by the scholars. For example, V.A. Smith says, “Abul Fazal alone among the historians aimed at producing a work worthy to be ranked as literature, but can hardly be said to have succeeded.”
Similarly Blochman says, “there is no passage in his works where woman is lightly spoken of, or where immorality is passed over with indifference.”
Abdul Qadir Badaoni wrote Muntakhab ul-Tawarikh which is also known as Tarikh-i-Bidauni, a general history from the times of Ghazanvides to the fortieth year of Akbar. This work is specially useful in correcting fulsome eulogium of the Akbarnama.
It helps in forming correct impression of the character of the great Mughal ruler. Nizamuddin’s Tabakat-i-Akbari is a chronicle of external events and completely ignores the religious views of the Emperor.
Takmila-i-Akbarnama of Inayatulla provides us with information regarding the four years of Akbar’s reign not covered by Abul Fazal in his Akbarrama. Faizi’s Akbarnama though not an original work and largely based on Tabakat-i-Akbari provides us sufficient information in a straightforward manner.
Another work which provides us useful information about the later years of Akbar’s reign is Wikaya-i-Asad Beg. The Muntakhabu-t-Tarcarikh by Hasan Bin Muhammad al-Khaki al-Shirazi is a valuable history of the emperor and other eminent persons of Tartary and Hindustan.
Abul Faizi, the brother of Abul Fazal was also a great poet. Among his prominent works mention may be made of Nala-o-Daman. Markaz-i-Adivar, Mawarid-ul-Kala. and Swati-ul-Ilham. According to Prof. Ishwari Prasad, “Faizi shone brilliantly as a poet and in all he wrote there is enthralling charm.
His style is chaste, pure, and free from all kinds of vulgarism, and in all his works we find the noblest sentiments expressed in a most beautiful language.” Faizi is known as the king of poets. Badauni also says, “He excelled in the arts of versification, enigmatic lines and rhyming. In history, in philology, in medicine, in letter-writing, and in composition, he was without a rival.”
Akbar had set up a special department for translation with a view to bring about fusion in Hindu and Muslim cultures and to provide a common literature to the people of this country. Many notable works of Sanskrit, Arabic, Turkish and Greek were translated into Persian. Thus Abul Fazal translated many Sanskrit works like Kisan Joshi, the Gangadhar, the Mahesh Mahananda into Persian.
Malialharat was translated into Persian by Naqib Khan. Ramayana was translated into Persian by Abul Qadir Badayuni and Shaikh Sultan of Thaneshwar. Atharvaveda was translated into Persian by Haji Ibrahim Sarhindi. Lilauati, a Sanskrit treatise on mathematics was translated into Persian by Faizi.
Rajtarangivi, famous historical work written in Sanskrit about the history of Kashmir was translated by Maulara Sheri. Shirazi translated Zich-i-Jadid-i- Mirji while Abul Fazal translated Panch Tantra. In short, we can say that Akbar made valuable contribution in the direction of providing a common culture to the people of India.
Jahangir was not only an intellectual like his father but he had a taste for literature. He accorded patronage to men of learning and his court was adorned with many literary figures such as Nasiri of Nishapur Ghiyas Beg, Naqib Khan, Mutamid Khan, Niyamat-Ullah and Abdul Haq Dehlvi.
He wrote his own autobiography entitled Tuzulc-i-Jahangiri in which he revealed his daily life with freshness and candor. Very few incidents of his life such as his revolt against his father, the circumstances leading to his marriage with Nur Jahan, the death of Khusrau have been omitted.
According to Elliot and Dowson Tuzlci Jahangiri taken as a whole proves Jahangir to have been a man of no common ability. He records his weaknesses and confesses his faults like Babarj with candour and a perusal of this work would have a favourable impression both of his character and talents.
Another historical work produced during Jahangir’s time was Iqbal-namah-i-Jahangiri by My amid Khan, which is considered to be a primary source for the history of his reign. The other important historical works produced curing his time were Maasir-i- Jahangiri and Zubd-ut-Tuwarilch.
His reign also witnessed the production of outstanding poetry as well as commentaries on Quran. One thing which strikes most that the Department of Translation which had been very busy under Akbar seems to have been disbanded by Jahangir.
Shah Jahan, the next ruler also continued to patronize men of learning. The prominent scholars who were patronized by Shah Jahan were Abu Zalih, Haji Muhammad Jan, Chandra Bhan Brahman, Abdul Hamid Lahauri, Aminai Qazwini, Inayat Khan and Muhammad Salih. Abdul Hamid Lahauri was the court historian of Shah Jahan and wrote Padshah-Nama.
Aminai Qazwini a’sa wrote another Padshah-Nama. The works produced by Inayat Khan and Muhammad Salih were Shahjahan-Nama and Amal-i-Salih respectively. During the times of Shah Jahan a large number of scholars came from Persia. Shah Jahan even offered the post of poet-laureate to one of such scholars namely Faizi.
Banarsi Prasad Saksena observed that the Persian literature produced during his period was not purely Persian. He says, “The Persian language had come to stay in India, and it could not for long keep itself aloof from its new and powerful environments. It observed Indian ideas and Indian thoughts, and it was used for Indian subjects. Necessarily, it developed a distinct character. To condemn it as un-Persian without consideration of these factors is to pay a poor tribute to the genius of the Indian people. No language can retain its virgin purity among a strange people unless they be intellectual nonentities, and there is no reason why Persian should form an exception to this rule.”
Dara Shikoh, one of the princes of Shah Jahan, was also a great patron of learning. A number of scholarly works were produced under his patronage. He not only got the Hindi scriptures like Gita, Upanishads and Yoga Vashistha translated into Persian but also wrote a treatise on the technical terms of Hindu pantheism.
Dara Shikoh was greatly interested in religious and philosophical studies and a number of masterpieces in Persian literature were produced in these fields under his patronage. The most outstanding work of Dara Shiko was Majm-ul-Bahrain (mingling of the Oceans) in which he tried to show how Hinduism and Islam were two paths leading to the same goal.
Aurangzeb, though an orthodox Sunni, was a critical scholar of Islamic theology and jurisprudence. However, he was opposed to poetry and the writing of the history of his reign.. No doubt, a number of histories were written about his time but they were not the outcome of his patronage. These works were produced by the scholars independently. Thus Khafi Khan wrote Muntakhab ul- Lubab, Mirza Muhammad Qasim wrote Alamgir-Nama, Ishwar Das Nagar wrote Maasir-i-Alamgiri, Bhim Sen wrote Nushkha-i-Dil Kasha and Sujan Rai wrote Khulasa-ut-Tawarikh. Aurangzeb patronized a number of theologizes and directed them to produce and elaborate digest of Muslim laws. This resulted in the production of Fatawa-i-Alamgiri. Aurangzeb himself had mastery over Persian which is exhibited from the collections of his letters called Raqqat-i- Alamgiri.
Under the successors of Aurangzeb Persian literature continued to be patronized. It was only during the times of Muhammad Shah (1713—1748), that Persian was neglected and attention began to be paid to Urdu. However, even during the later Mughal period a number of works both on Sufism and history were produced in Persian by both Hindu and Muslim scholars.
These works were not of that high literary quality as those produced under the patronage under the earlier Mughal rulers. Some of the local rulers however, continued to encourage production of historical works in Persian.
Some of the important chronicles produced during the later Mughal period were Sair-ul-Mutakherin by Ghulam Husain, Tarikh-i Muzaffari by Muhammad Ali Ansari, Tawarikh-i-Chahar-i Gulzar-i-Shujai by Hari Charan Das, Imad-us-Saadat by Ghulam Ali Naqvi, Maadan-us-Saadat by Sultan Ali Safawi, Ibrat-Nama by Khair-ud-din and Haqiqat-ul-Aqalim by Murtaza Husain Bilgrami.
In the South also the Persian literature continued to flourish and some of the outstanding works in Persian were produced. In 1611 Farishta wrote the monumental work Gulshan-i-Ibrahimi which is regarded as the most compendious of chronicles produced during Medieval India.
In Ahmadnagar ‘Ali b. ‘Aziz Tabataba wrote Burhan-i-Maathir which deals with the Bahmanis and the successive States up to 1694. The other important works produced in South were Tadhkiratu’l Muluk completed in 1661 and Tarikh-i-Muhammad Qutb Shah.
The latter work deals with the history of Qutb dynasty from its inception to 1617. In Golconda, Khurshaha wrote Tarikh Flchi Nizam Shah in 1628 which is a sort of history of the Creation to the present day.” In this work the author strangely enough omits to record the history of Golconda (even though he wrote it under the patronage of ruler of Golconda).
There are other important works which deal with the history of Qutb Shahi dynasty.
These include Nisbat Nama Shahrayari, Nasab Nama Shahryari, and Tarikh-i-Qutb Shahi. These works were mainly compiled during the reign of Muhammad-Quli Qutb Shah and record some of the common facts. However, there are some distinct differences also which shows that they were written independently.
Persian language made special progress under the patronage of Bahmani wazir Mahmud Gawan. He came to India from Persia in 1453 and ended his life as a result of murderous conspiracy in 1481. He made a collection of his letter entitled Riyazu’l Insha.
These letters were written to men of foremost ‘learning in Persia, and are a paragon of the ornate style, then in vogue in Persian language. Another outstanding work of Mahmud Gawan was Manaziru’l Insha, a book on art of diction in Persian.
In the States of Bijapur and Golconda, the Persian scholars were given every possible encouragement. It is said that there was so much of influx of Persian historians, poets and other literary figures during the times of Ibrahim Qutb Shah that they could not be accommodated in the walled-city of Golconda.
As a result Sultan had to found a new city of Hyderabad in 1592. It is not possible to give a list of all the poets, prose writers and other literary figures who enriched the Persian language during medieval times in India. But it is really noteworthy that the Persian learning attracted both Hindus and Muslims all over the country .
This according to Sherwani “was a symbol of the general trend of the cultural goodwill which existed in the country.”