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8 - Becoming Turk the Rajput Way: Conversion and Identity in an Indian Warrior Narrative

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2014

Cynthia Talbot
Affiliation:
University of Texas
Richard M. Eaton
Affiliation:
University of Arizona
Munis D. Faruqui
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
David Gilmartin
Affiliation:
North Carolina State University
Sunil Kumar
Affiliation:
University of Delhi
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

In 1974, John F. Richards noted, ‘Muslim expansion into South Asia is one of the most important and prolonged instances of cultural encounter to be found in world history’. Considerably more is known today about the processes of Muslim expansion in the subcontinent than when these words were written, over thirty years ago. However, much of the scholarship on the spread of Islam is from the vantage point of Muslim courts and the Persian literature they produced; alternatively, it examines the process of Islamization only on a large scale. In this essay I adopt a different approach, one that is microhistorical. Relying primarily on a single text, I explore how an Indian Muslim gentry community represented their past and articulated their present identity. The text is the Kyamkhan Rasa (henceforth KKR), composed between c. 1630 and 1655 at Fatehpur, a town in the Shekhavati region of northern Rajasthan. Its author Nyamat Khan used the pseudonym Jan Kavi in writing this poem in Braj Bhasa, the literary language of Hindi, that covers the history of his lineage, the Kyamkhanis, so named after the ancestor who is supposed to have converted to Islam in the fourteenth century.

By the late sixteenth century, the Kyamkhanis were a well-established community with two main branches. The senior branch was entrenched in the town of Fatehpur (in modern Sikar district, Rajasthan), founded c. 1450 by Fateh Khan, the senior grandson of Kyam Khan, the founder of the clan. A junior branch had been established in the nearby town of Jhunjhunu (in modern Jhunjhunu district) by Kyam Khan’s second son.

Type
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Expanding Frontiers in South Asian and World History
Essays in Honour of John F. Richards
, pp. 200 - 231
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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