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Akbarnamah


Akbarnamah a chronicle in Persian written by Abul Fazl Allami, a court-historian of Emperor akbar (1556-1605). It is by far the greatest work in the whole series of historical literature in India. This work has come down to us in three volumes: the first volume contains the history of Timur's family, the reigns of babur and humayun and the Sur Sultans of Delhi; the second volume contains the history of Akbar until his 46th regnal year; and the third volume styled as the ain-i-akbari dealing with rules, regulations and other related matters.

Akbarnamah is the principal source of information for reconstructing the history of Mughal campaigns in Bengal in the reign of Akbar. The author, Abul Fazl, never visited Bengal, but as the court historian, he had access to relevant documents about the region. In this book we get a picture about Akbar's various attempts to subjugate Bengal and the activities of his generals together with the resistance offered by the bhuiyans and other chiefs of Bengal. Akbarnamah relates the mutiny of Mughal captains in Bengal and Behar which continued for couple of years.

In presenting his narratives about Bengal affairs, Abul Fazl usually starts with 'one of the occurrences', 'reports received from Bengal', or 'joyful news was received from Bengal' etc implying that he based his account on reports received from other sources. The subahdars, army chiefs, and other officers sent these reports. Akbar posted in the provinces one officer called waqia-navis (news-reporter) whose duty was to send news of important events to the imperial capital. These reports also formed important sources of information used by Abul Fazl in writing his books.

Himself a friend of the emperor, Abul Fazl was sometimes biased in giving accounts of the conquests and other achievements of Akbar. In his eyes Akbar was a Khediv and all his successes were due to his good fortune.

As the author had never visited Bengal and had no first-hand knowledge of the geography of the country, at times, he made confusing remarks about the location of places. While giving the account of Mughal warfare in Bengal, he did not however fail to give the causes of success and failures and the intrigues and dissension among the Mughal officers.

The Akbarnamah is an important source about the political condition of Bengal on the eve of Mughal conquest and the identification of the bhuiyans and zamindars who put up resistance against the imperial Mughals. The early career and rise of isa khan, kedar rai, khwaja usman and other Bengal chiefs are available in this book. The Akbarnamah is also the most reliable source for preparing the chronology of the period.

At the instance of Prince Salim, Bir Singh Bundela killed Abul Fazl on his way back from the Deccan in 1602. So Abul Fazl's narrative ends that year. Inayetullah brought the Akbarnamah down to 1605, the year of Akbar's death. [Abdul Karim]

Bibliography Abul Fazl, Akbarnamah, Bibliotheca Indica, Calcutta; H Beveridge (tr) Akbarnamah, III, Calcutta Reprint 1973; A Karim, History of Bengal, Mughal Period, I, Rajshahi, 1992.