Siyar-ul-Mutakhkherin

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Siyar-ul-Mutakhkherin a voluminous historical work by Sayyid Ghulam Husain Tabatabai. He produced the work during the days of the fall of Muslim rule in Bengal (and also in India). Born in Delhi in 1140 AH/ 1727-28 AD in an aristocratic Muslim family, the author was well connected with the ruling elite of the time and completed his work in 1781 AD, ie almost a quarter of a century after the battle of palashi (1757 AD). The family migrated to Murshidabad in 1732, and thence to Azimabad (Patna) with alivardi khan in 1733 AD. The family of the author, being related to Alivardi, also rose to prominence with the latter's rise to power. His father Hedayat Ali Khan was Bakhshi (Paymaster General) of zainuddin ahmad khan, son in law of Alivardi and deputy governor of Patna, the author's paternal and maternal uncles also occupied important positions in the government of Alivardi. The author himself and his brothers also held offices in the government. Ghulam Husain was a well educated and widely read man.

The Siyar-ul-Mutakhkherin is in three volumes. Volume I gives an account of the geography, climate, animals, forts, saints and Ulama of Hindustan, and briefly surveys its history from the epic age to the reign of aurangzeb. Volume II discusses the history of Bengal from the death of Aurangzeb and deals with the nizamat of Murshidabad, the relations of the English with the nawabs, the battle of Palashi, and establishment of English supremacy in Bengal and Bihar together with British administrative system. Volume III discusses the history of the Nizam of Haidarabad, Haidar Ali of Mysore, Nawab-Wazirs of Oudh, Emperor Muhammad Shah, Ahmad Shah Abdali's invasions and his wars with the Marathas. The volume comes to an end after the affairs of the English upto 1781 AD.

M Raymond, a Frenchman, took the name of Haji Mustapha after his conversion to Islam and translated volume II into English. The translation ends with Shujauddaula's coming to terms and paying compensation to the English after the defeat of the confederacy at Buxar. The volumes II and III of the Siyar cover the history of the period from 1707 to 1781, for which there is no comprehensive historical work produced by the indigenous historians. These two volumes are also very important for reconstructing the history of Bengal and Bihar during the nawabi period. The author is not only contemporary, he also gives eye-witness account of many events. Moreover he acted as an envoy on several occasions: of Raja Ramnarain to Mir Jafar and to Prince Ali Gauhar; of Major Carnac to Mir Qasim and of Mir Qasim to the English in Calcutta. So Ghulam Husain lived in the political centres and was directly or indirectly connected with the persons involved in the political feuds and had the advantage of getting personal knowledge that he utilised in writing the history. There are other contemporary books, but they deal with particular periods or particular nawabs, the Siyar-ul-Mutakhkheirn is the most comprehensive; covering the whole period of more than seventy years, at a time when the Muslim rule came to an end giving place to the English rule.

The Siyar is important from another point of view. It gives a good deal of information about the affairs of the English in Bengal upto the governor generalship of warren hastings. The author dwelt on the rules and regulations, revenue and judicial administration of the English, which is not found in any other contemporary book written in Persian language.

The importance of the Siyar-ul-Mutakhkherin, however, is diminished due to several reasons. First, the author being a Shia gave undue praises to Shia political personages. Secondly, as a time-server, he proved faithless on occasions to his benefactors, even as an envoy he did not discharge his duties faithfully. Thirdly he was hostile to Nawab sirajuddaula and often wrote ill of him in spite of the fact that the nawab was generous to him and the author's father was a servant of Siraj's father Zainuddin. Fourthly, Ghulam Husain had always taken a pro-English attitude. This was probably due to the fact that the author wrote his book when the English rule was firmly established.

The Siyar-ul-Mutakhkherin, nevertheless, is important because it fills a gap in the historical literature of a period of momentous political changes in Bengal and Bihar. [Abdul Karim]

Bibliography Ghulam Husain, Siyar-ul-Mutakhkherin, Calcutta, 1833; KK Datta, Alivardi and His Times, Calcutta, 1963; MA Rahim, 'Historian Ghulam Husain Tabatabai', Journal of the Asiatic Society of Pakistan, VIII, 1963.