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Rishad Choudhury presents a new history of imperial connections across the Indian Ocean from 1739 to 1857, a period that witnessed the decline and collapse of Mughal rule and the consolidation of British colonialism in South Asia. In this highly original and comprehensive study, he reveals how the hajj pilgrimage significantly transformed Muslim political culture and colonial attitudes towards it, creating new ideas of religion and rule. Examining links between the Indian Subcontinent and the Ottoman Middle East through multilingual sources – from first-hand accounts to administrative archives of hajj – Choudhury uncovers a striking array of pilgrims who leveraged their experiences and exchanges abroad to address the decline and decentralization of an Islamic old regime at home. Hajjis crucially mediated the birth of modern Muslim political traditions around South Asia. Hajj across Empires argues they did so by channeling inter-imperial crosscurrents to successive surges of imperial revolution and regional regime change.
In 1786, several hundred subjects of Tipu Sultan (r. 1782–99), ruler of the kingdom of Mysore in southern India, travelled to the Ottoman Empire on a diplomatic mission. This essay revisits the embassy's travels, and travails, across Eurasia and the Indian Ocean by drawing attention to a rich cache of administrative documents. I suggest that this collection, hitherto unexamined, can illuminate some significant aspects of diplomatic conduct and procedure in Islamicate Eurasia, yet underexplored. The essay accordingly highlights such overlooked themes as the bureaucratic complexities that were involved in long-distance ambassadorial tours, the role ceremonials played in elite intercourse, and the myriad ways in which material culture mediated interstate exchanges. While its significance lies also in how it decentres a dominant scholarly focus on encounters between Europe and its others, scrutiny of this collection, I additionally argue, can enhance historical understanding of how reciprocal relations between Islamicate polities transformed due to growing European influence. As contemporary configurations of imperial power changed in both South Asia and the Middle East, the Mysore-Ottoman embassy hence at once reflected and anticipated the advent of European—and more specifically, British—hegemony in non-European diplomatic contexts.
This article charts several historical paths, hitherto underexplored, through the Hindi or ‘Indian’ Sufi lodges of the Ottoman empire. Focusing on the ‘long eighteenth century (circa 1695–1808)’, it tracks their remarkable ascendance as an institutional network for mobile and migrant Indian Sufi pilgrims. From Istanbul to the provinces, the article demonstrates how Naqshbandis and Qadiris on the Hajj circuit drew on local channels of social communications, legal petitioning strategies, and state and inter-state linkages to forge unique identities as ‘trans-imperial subjects’ in an age of decentralization in the Ottoman world. I argue that central to their social success was the creation of new corporate regimes of itinerant piety. But first, I place the little-known lodges at the heart of a specific shift in early modern attitudes to identity, as the story behind ‘Hindi’ beckons wider inquiry into emergent differences among Sufi pilgrims in the Ottoman empire.
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