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Ain-i-Akbari


Ain-i-Akbari the third volume of the akbarnamah, written by Abul Fazl, the court historian of Emperor akbar (1556-1605 AD). While Akbarnamah is a book of history, Ain-i-Akbari embodies Ains or rules and regulations framed and put into effect for proper administration by Akbar. It is regarded as an administrative manual and is like a modern gazetteer.

Though a part of the Akbarnamah, Ain-i-Akbari is itself a voluminous work. The regulations embodied in the Ain-i-Akbari provide information about Akbar's government, and several departments, its different ranks etc. Histories produced in India under Muslim rule were all chronicles giving accounts of wars, conquests, and dynastic changes, mostly in chronological order. The common people are hardly heard of unless there were famines, and other natural calamities with death tolls of a heavy nature. But the Ain-i-Akbari is a book of different nature. In this book people engaged in different trades and professions are described side by side with imperial establishments, nobles, and grandees of the empire. Even the imperial harem, kitchen and dishes, perfumes, animals like horse and elephant, harvests of spring and autumn seasons, and vegetables etc have been discussed. Abul Fazl also discusses in this book the social condition, literary activities, and study of law and philosophy not only of Muslims but also of local Hindus, Jains and other communities. There are, in addition, chapters on distinguished travellers, Muslim saints, and sufis.

The information in Ain-i-Akbari is important for the reconstruction of the history of Bengal. However, the most important chapter relating to Bengal is the account of the Subah-i-Bangalah, which is divided into three parts. The first part gives the history and geography of the subah, the second part discusses the agricultural and industrial products, flora and fauna of each of the 19 sarkars into which Bengal was divided and the third part is actually the rent-roll of the province. For the first time in historical annals, we get information that Bengal was divided into 19 sarkars, that each sarkar was divided into a number of mahals (or parganas) and that the total revenue yield was more than one core of rupees.

The geographical survey of the Mughal Empire and the statistical details of each of the provinces including Bengal are also significant aspects of the Ain-i-Akbari. The book is, in fact, a unique compilation comprising the system of administration and control over all departments of government of the great Mughal Empire. Later Mughal administrators, both in the administrative and revenue side, used the book as a guide.

Some revenue terms and the administrative framework found then still persist in modern times. However, the summarised version of the history of the rulers of ancient and pre-Mughal period and about events in various subahs, including Bengal, are not very dependable. But the geographical and topographical details given in this book are considered to be satisfactory. The Ain-i-Akbari of Abul Fazl is therefore indispensable in the study of the history of India. Henry Ferdinand blochmann edited the book and the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta, published it in its Bibliotheca Indica series. The book has also been translated into English in three volumes: Volume- I was translated by Henry Blochmann (Calcutta 1873) and Vol II and III by HS Jarrett (Calcutta, 1891 and 1894). [Abdul Karim]

Bibliography H Blochmann (trans.), The Ain-i-Akbari, 1, third edition, 1977, HS Jarrett (trans.), The Ain-i-Akbari, II and III, revised by JN Sarkar, third edition, 1978, VA Smith, Akbar the Great Mogul, London, 1914.