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Indo-Persian historian and Sindho-Persian intermediary: the Tarikh-i Maʿsumi of Mir Muhammad Maʿsum Bhakkari (d. 1606)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 May 2019

Ali Anooshahr*
University of California, Davis


Studies of Indo-Persian historiography tend to focus on the monumental compositions created at the behest of the Mughal court. This has unfortunately led to the neglect of texts from “regional” settings. The present article intends to expand the field of inquiry by studying Mir Muhammad Maʿsum's Tarikh-i Maʿsumi (completed c. 1600) which was the first Mughal-era Persian history of Sindh. I will argue that the author used the new the literary models developed by Mughal chroniclers in order to both facilitate and contest imperial domination.

Copyright © SOAS University of London 2019 

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This article was first presented at the “Epistemological frontiers of Persian learning” conference, University of California, Los Angeles in April 2016. I thank Nile Green for inviting me, and all the other participants and attendants for their questions and comments.


2 This is the case both with recent surveys such as Joshi, Harit, “Les sources historiques en langue persane en Inde, du Sultanat de Delhi jusqu’à l'empire moghol”, in Kouamé, Nathalie (ed.), Historiographies d'ailleurs, Comment écrit-on l'histoire en dehors du monde occidental? (Paris: Éditions Karthala, 2014), 2942Google Scholar; Roy, Asim, “Indo-Persian historical thought and writings: India 1350–1750”, in Rabasa, Jose, Sato, Masayuki, Tortarolo, Edoardo and Woolf, Daniel (eds), The Oxford History of Historical Writing, Volume 3: 1400–1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 148–72Google Scholar; Conermann, Stephan, Historiographie als Sinnstiftung: Indo-Persische Geschichtschreibung während Mogulzeit (932–1118/1516–1707) (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2002)Google Scholar; and Dale, Stephen F., “India XVI. Indo-Persian historiography”, in Encyclopædia Iranica, 2004, Vol. XIII, Fasc. 1, 5363Google Scholar, available online at: (accessed 31/1/2017); as well as earlier surveys such as Mukhia, Harbans, Historians and Historiography during the Reign of Akbar (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1976)Google Scholar; Rizvi, S.A.A., Religious and Intellectual History of the Muslims in Akbar's Reign, with Special Reference to Abu'l Fazl, 1556–1605 (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1975)Google Scholar; and Sarkar, Jagadish, History of History Writing in Medieval India: Contemporary Historians (Calcutta: Ratna Prakashan, 1977)Google Scholar.

3 Regional historiography in the vernacular has fared better. See Deshpande, Prachi, Creative Pasts: Historical Memory and Identity in Western India, 1700–1960 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar for Marathi historiography; Chatterjee, Kumkum, The Culture of History in Early Modern India: Persianisation and Mughal Culture in Bengal (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar for the Bengal; and Dayal, Subah, “Vernacular conquest? A Persian patron and his image in the seventeenth-century Deccan”, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 37/3, 2017, 549–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar for the Deccan.

4 The rather large library of regional studies that draws on local chronicles include the pioneering works of Richards, John, Mughal Administration in Golconda (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975)Google Scholar, Raychaudhuri, Tapan, Bengal under Akbar and Jahangir: An Introductory Study in Social History (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1969)Google Scholar, and Alam, Muzaffar, The Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India: Awadh and the Punjab, 1707–48 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1986)Google Scholar as well as more recent works such as those by Singh, Chetan, Region and Empire: Panjab in the Seventeenth Century (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1991)Google Scholar, and Hasan, Farhat, State and Locality in Mughal India: Power Relations in Western India, c. 1572–1730 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)Google Scholar. Two recent works that deal with the region studied in this article are Sunita Zaidi, “Akbar's annexation of Sind – an interpretation”, Bilgrami, Fatima Zehra, “The Mughal annexation of Sind – a diplomatic and military history”, both in Habib, Irfan (ed.), Akbar and His India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 2532Google Scholar and 33–54 respectively. The most thorough study is Amita Paliwal's “Sind in the Mughal Empire (1591–1740): A study of its administration society, economy and culture”, PhD thesis, Aligarh Muslim University, 2010.

5 Purani, Sayyid Mir Muhammad b. Bayazid, Nusrat'namah-i Tarkhan, ed. Khan, Ansar Zahid (Karachi: Institute of Central and West Asian Studies of the University of Karachi, 2000)Google Scholar; Bakkari, Muhammad Maʿsum, Tarikh-i Sind al-maʿruf bih Tarikh-i Maʿsumi, ed. Daudpoṭa, Umar Muhammad (Puna: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1938)Google Scholar; Tattavi, Muhammad Nisyani, Tarikh-i Tahiri, ed. Balocu, Nabi Bakhshu Khanu (Haydarabad: Sindi Adabi Board, 1964)Google Scholar; Biglari, Idraki Biglar'namah, ed. Balocu, Nabi Bakhshu Khanu (Haydarabad: Sindi Adabi Board, 1980)Google Scholar; Tattavi, Muhammad ibn Jalal's Tarkhan'namah, ed. Rashidi, Husam al-Din (Haydarabad: Sindi Adabi Board, 1965)Google Scholar; Mirak, Yusuf Tarikh-i Mazhar-i Shahjahani, ed. Rashidi, Husam al-Din (Haydarabad: Sindi Adabi Board, 1962)Google Scholar; Thatavī, Miru ʿAli Sheru Qaniʿ, Tuhfat al-Kiram, Rashidi, Sayyidu Husammuddinu (Haydarabad: Sindi Adabi Board, 1971)Google Scholar. Of these, the penultimate author has been studied to some extent by Alvi, S.S., “Mazhar- Shahjahani and the province of Sindh under the Mughals: a discourse on political ethics”, in Perspectives on Mughal India: Rulers, Historians, ʿUlama, and Sufis (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012), 2850Google Scholar.

6 A Persian history of Sindh from the thirteenth century already existed, namely, Kufi, ʿAli ibn Hamid's Fathnamah-i Sind: al-Maʿruf bih Chachnamah, ed. Daudpotah, ʿUmaru bin Muhammadu (Delhi: Matbaʿah Latifi, 1939)Google Scholar. While our author did use this text, I contend that the Mughal era Tarikh was substantially different from the Chachnamah, which was a purported translation from an original in Arabic. See the recent analysis by Asif, Mana Ahmed in A Book of Conquest: The Chahnama and Muslim Conquest in South Asia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar as well his earlier The long thirteenth century of the Chachnama”, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 49/4, 2012, 459–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar. I will refer to his book below.

7 Babur, Zahir al-Din Muhammad, Baburnama: Chaghatay Turkish Text with Abdul-Rahim Khankhanan's Persian Translation, ed. Thackston, W.M. (Cambridge, MA: Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University, 1993)Google Scholar; Shaykh Zayn Khvafi Vafa'i, Tabaqat-i Baburi, British Library, Mss. OR. 1999; Three Memoirs of Humayun: Gulbadan Begim's Humáyunnáma; Jawhar Áftábachí’s Tadhkiratul-wáqíát; Báyazid Bayát's Táríkh-i Humáyún, ed. and trans. W.M. Thackston (Costa Mesa: Mazda Publishers, 2009); Sarwani, ʿAbbas Khan, Tarikh-i Sher Shahi, ed. Imamuddin, S.M. (Dacca: Dacca University Press, 1964)Google Scholar; Qandhari, Muhammad ʿArif, Tarikh-i Akbari: Maʿruf bih Tarikh-i Qandhari, ed. Nadwi, Muʿin al-Din; Dihlavi, Azhar ʿAli; ʿArshī, Imtiyaz ʿAli Khan (Rampur: Hindustan Printing Works, 1962)Google Scholar.

8 Neither text has been edited. Moin, A. Azfar, his, inPeering through the cracks in the Baburnama: the textured lives of Mughal sovereigns”, The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 49/4, 2012, 493526CrossRefGoogle Scholar, designates two phases of textual production during Akbar's reign: an early phase marked by the production of epics and romances, and a later phase marked by the composition of chronicles.

9 The following survey is informed by Ali, M.A., “The use of sources in Mughal historiography”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series, 5/3, 1995, 361–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kumar, S., The Emergence of the Delhi Sultanate (New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2007)Google Scholar; Rizvi, Religious and Intellectual History; Mukhia, Historians and Historiography; and Anooshahr, Ali, “Author of one's fate: human agency and fatalism in Indo-Persian histories”, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 49/2, 2012, 197224CrossRefGoogle Scholar; “Dialogue and territoriality in a Mughal history of the millennium”, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 55/2–3, 2012, 220–54; “Mughal historians and the memory of the Islamic conquest of India”, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 43/3, 2006, 275–300.

10 Haravi, Nizam al-Din Ahmad, Tabaqat-i Akbari, ed. Brajendranath De (Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1931–35), vol. II, 330410Google Scholar.

11 Nizam al-Din Ahmad, Tabaqat, vol. III, 512.

12 Khan, Samsam al-Dawlah Shahnavaz, Ma'asir al-Umara, vol. 1, ed. ʿAbd al-Rahim, Maulavi (Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1888), 663Google Scholar.

13 Bhakakri, Shaykh Farid, Zakhirat al-Khavanin, vol. 1, ed. Haqq, S. Moinul (Karachi: Pakistan Historical Society, 1961–74), 202Google Scholar.

14 For a recent discussion of this see Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, “Intertwined histories: Crónica and Tārīkh in the sixteenth-century Indian Ocean world”, History and Theory, 49/4, 2010, 118–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar, especially p. 144.

15 Firishtah, Muhammad Qasim Hindushah Astarabadi, Tarikh-i Firishtah, ed. Nasiri, M.R., 4 vols (Tehran: Anjuman-i Asar va Mafakhir-i Farhangi, 2008–15)Google Scholar. The bibliographical list is in I: 9, and the section on the Arghuns is in IV: 413–20 which can be compared with Nizam al-Din, Tabaqat, III: 519–21.

16 The date was obtained by U.M. Daudpota, in his “introduction”, pages Ḥ-Ṭ. The fullest biography of the author is found in Rashidi, Husam al-Din, Aminulmulk Navabu Miru Muhammadu Masumi Bakkhari (Hyderabad: Sindhi Adabi Board, 1979)Google Scholar which supersedes  the biography in Daudpota's introduction, as well as Choksy, Jamsheed K. and Hasan, M. Usman's “An emissary from Akbar to ʿAbbās I: Inscriptions, texts, and the career of Amīr Muḥammad Maʿṣūm al-Bhakkarī”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series, 1/1, 1991, 1929CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 3.

18 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 135.

19 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 134.

20 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 133–4.

21 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 136. The term is used widely in Safavid sources such as Iskandar Beg Munshi's ʿAlamara-i ʿAbbasi and Qazi Ahmad Qumi's Khulasat al-Tavarikh. Jahangir refers to his father as murshid in his memoirs (p. 38) and is addressed as such by a mansabdar (p. 251). See Jahangir, , Jahangirnamah: Tuzuk-i Jahangiri, ed. Hashim, Muhammad (Tehran: Bunyadi Farhangi Iran, 1980)Google Scholar.

22 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 137–8.

23 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 138.

24 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 3, 237.

25 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 3, 237.

26 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 3, 237, 244.

27 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 197–237.

28 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 238.

29 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 250–1.

30 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 251.

31 He is identified by the author as a grandfather on p. 194. A simple process of elimination makes him the maternal grandfather.

32 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 198.

33 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 194, 208, 222.

34 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 199–200.

35 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 203.

36 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 215.

37 Daudpota, “Introduction”, YṬ.

38 Badauni, ʿAbd al-Qadir, Muntakhab al-Tavarikh, ed. Subhani, Tawfiq (Tehran: Anjuman-i Asar va Mafakhir-i Farhangi, 2001), v. III, 249Google Scholar.

39 Daudpota, “Introduction”, 23.

40 The line of poetry quoted by Badauni III, 248 was attributed by Navai to a poet called Vali Qalandar. See Nava'i, Ali Shir, Majalis al-Nafais, ed. Hikmat, Ali Asghar (Tehran: Manuchihri, reprint 1985), 213–4Google Scholar.

41 See Badauni and Daudpota, cited above.

42 See the references cited in Daudpota, 10–11.

43 The death of Sultan Mahmud is given in Maʿsum, 235.

44 Nahavandi, ʿAbd al-Baqi, Ma'asir-i Rahimi, ed. Husayn, M. Hidayat (Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1924–27), v. II, 226Google Scholar.

45 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 230.

46 Badauni, Muntakhab, III,  248.

47 Badauni, Muntakhab, III, 248.

48 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 164.

49 Badauni, Muntakhab, III, 248.

50 Daudpota has cited these and Rashidi has collected and published them in his Aminulmulk Navabu, 495–543. See also Choksy and Hasan's “An emissary” for a discussion of one of these.

51 Asif, A Book of Conquest, 154–5. Arshad Islam in two brief articles had already pointed out some minor discrepancies between Mir Maʿsum and the Chachnamah without, however, teasing out their significance. See his Tãrīkh- Maʿṣūmī: An appraisal for its relevance to the history of Sindh”, Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society, 47/3, 1999, 3943Google Scholar as well his Indo-Persian historiography with reference to Tarikh-i-Masumi”, Journal of Objective Studies, 11/1, 1999, 8393Google Scholar.

52 See the citations to the Chahnamah in Asif, A Book of Conquest, 81, 84, 90, 108, and 118.

53 Nisyani, Tarikh-i Tahiri, 12.

54 Shaykh Farid Bhakkari, Zakhirat, 204.

55 Daudpota, “Introduction”, k.

56 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 10 and 132.

57 Ernst, Carl, “Admiring the works of the ancients: The Ellora temples as viewed by Indo-Muslim authors”, in Gilmartin, David and Lawrence, Bruce B. (eds), Beyond Turk and Hindu: Rethinking Religious Identities in Islamicate South Asia (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000), 98120Google Scholar, especially 108.

58 Nisyani, Tarikh-i Tahiri, 32–5.

59 Nisyani, Tarikh-i Tahiri, 35–6.

60 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 8–9.

61 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 10.

62 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 10.

63 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 11. The presence of Brahmin viziers in service to medieval sultans is attested in other sources as well. See Kumar, Sunil, “Bandagi and naukari: Studying transitions in political culture and service under the north Indian sultanates, thirteenth–sixteenth centuries”, in Orsini, Francesca and Sheikh, Samira (eds), After Timur Left: Culture and Circulation in Fifteenth Century North India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007), 60107Google Scholar, especially 90–97.

64 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 34–5.

65 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 36.

66 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 36.

67 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 38–49.

68 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 44.

69 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 59–60.

70 On the Jams see Digby, Simon, “The coinage and genealogy of the later Jāms of Sind”, The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 2, 1972, 125–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

71 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 64.

72 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 65–6.

73 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 68–70.

74 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 73–5.

75 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 80.

76 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 80–1.

77 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 84.

78 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 86.

79 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 104, 126.

80 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 87.

81 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 98.

82 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 169, 175.

83 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 168–70.

84 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 101–2.

85 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 102.

86 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 107.

87 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 127.

88 Bilgrami, “The Mughal annexation”, 38–9.

89 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 189–235.

90 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 187–8, 190.

91 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 188.

92 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 193–4.

93 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 207.

94 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 223.

95 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 223–5.

96 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 242–3.

97 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 244–5.

98 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 245.

99 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 245–6.

100 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 246.

101 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 246.

102 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 247.

103 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 247–9.

104 Maʿsum, Tarikh,  249.

105 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 250.

106 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 250.

107 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 251,

108 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 252–6.

109 Maʿsum, Tarikh, 256.

110 See Bayly, C.A.'s Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780–1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)Google Scholar.

111 A rare advantage for the Mughal as well as the colonial period; a good example of the challenge for the British period is Nicholas Dirks’ study of the Brahman Boria who was among many Indian participants who conducted Mackenzie, Colin's first general survey of India in “Colonial histories and native informants: biography of an archive”, in Breckenridge and van der Veer, Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press 1994), 279313Google Scholar; see also Oberoi, Harjot, “Empire, Orientalism, and Native Informants: The Scholarly Endeavours of Sir Attar Singh Bhadour”, Journal of Punjab Studies, 17/1 and 2, 2010, 95113Google Scholar.

112 See Chatterjee, Partha, The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

113 Ernst, Carl W., “Muslim studies of Hinduism? A reconsideration of Arabic and Persian translations from Indian languages”, Iranian Studies, 36/2, 2003, 173–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Truschke, Audrey, Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016)Google Scholar.

114 On the problematic role of the local agents see Burbank, Jane and Cooper, Frederick, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010)Google Scholar.

115 An issue raised for the British period by Cohn, Bernard S., Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996)Google Scholar.

116 We can see this image of the emperor as an impartial judge in courtly sessions during Jahangir's reign as shown recently by Lefèvre, CorinneBeyond diversity: Mughal legal ideology and politics”, in Ertl, T. and Kruijtzer, G. (eds), Law Addressing Diversity. Pre-Modern Europe and India in Comparison (13th–18th Centuries) (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2017), 116–41Google Scholar; Messianism, rationalism and inter-Asian connections: The Majalis-i Jahangiri (1608–11) and the socio-intellectual history of the Mughal ʿulama”, The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 54/3, 2017, 317–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kollatz, A., Inspiration und Tradition: Strategien zur Beherrschung von Diversität am Mogulhof und ihre Darstellung in Mağālis-i Ğahāngīrī (ca. 1608–11) von ʿAbd al-Sattār b. Qāsim Lāhōrī (Berlin: EB-Verlag, 2016)Google Scholar; and Alam, Muzaffar and Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, “Frank disputations: Catholics and Muslims in the court of Jahangir (1608–11)”, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 46/4, 2009, 457511CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

117 I am inspired here by Steven Loyal and Quilley, Stephen, “The particularity of the universal: critical reflections on Bourdieu's theory of symbolic power and the state”, Theory and Society, 46/5, 2017, 429–62Google Scholar.

118 Anooshahr, Ali, “No man can serve two masters: Conflicting loyalties in Bengal during Shahjahan's rebellion of 1624”, in Koch, Ebba (ed.), in collaboration with Anooshahr, A., The Mughal Empire from Jahangir to Shah Jahan: Politics, Art, Architecture, Law, Literature and Aftermath (Mumbai, India: Marg Foundation, 2019), 5463Google Scholar.

119 Yusuf Mirak Tarikh-i Mazhar, 171.