Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-xm8r8 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-14T01:00:12.610Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

The Persianization of Itihasa: Performance Narratives and Mughal Political Culture in Eighteenth-Century Bengal

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 May 2008

Get access


This paper explores the nature and understandings of history, or itihasa/Purana, in eighteenth-century India using two Mangalkabya narratives. These materials belong to a large genre of performance narratives, usually devoted to eulogizing various deities, that were produced in Bengal for several centuries. The paper illustrates how a “traditional” genre such as the Mangalkabya was effectively used to articulate contingent political and cultural preoccupations. The narratives studied here show that the historical experiences and contexts mirrored in them were derived from Mughal rule over Bengal and large parts of India during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The paper seeks to historicize and contextualize the shifts noticeable in these narratives and to engage with the notion that premodern, precolonial India lacked a sense of history molded by contemporary material and cultural imperatives.

Research Article
Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 2008

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


List of References

Alam, Muzaffar. 2003. “The Culture and Politics of Persian in Precolonial Hindustan.” In Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia, ed. Pollock, Sheldon, 131–98. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Alam, Muzaffar. 2004. The Languages of Political Islam: India, 12001800. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Bandyopadhyaya, Brojendranath, and Das, Sajanikanta, eds. 1369 B.S. Bharatchandra Granthabali. Calcutta: Bangiya Sahitya Parishat.Google Scholar
Bandyopadhyaya, Nabinkrishna. 1910–11. Bhadrapurer Itibritta. Murshidabad: Kanika Yantralaya.Google Scholar
Basu, Ram. 1801. Maharaja Pratapaditya Charitra. Searampore: Mission Press.Google Scholar
Bhattacharya, Ashutosh. 1975. Bangla Mangalkabyer Itihasa. Calcutta: A. Mukherjee and Co.Google Scholar
Bidyalankar, Baneshwar. 1940. Chitrachampu. Ed. Chakrabarty, Ramcharan. Benaras: Harakumar Chakrabarty.Google Scholar
Bidyalankar, Mrityunjoy. 1808. Rajabali. Searampore: Mission Press.Google Scholar
Blackburn, Stuart H. 1988. Singing of Birth and Death: Texts in Performance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blackburn, Stuart H. 1996. Inside the Drama House: Rama Stories and Shadow Puppets in South India. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Browne, Edward G. 1969. A Literary History of Persia. Vols. 2–3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Calkins, Philip B. 1970. “The Formation of a Regionally Oriented Ruling Group in Bengal, 1700–1740.” Journal of Asian Studies 29 (4): 799806.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chakrabarty, Kunal. 2001. Religious Process: The Puranas and the Making of a Regional Tradition. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Chatterjee, Anjali. 1967. Bengal in the Reign of Aurangzeb (1658–1707). Calcutta: Progressive Publishers.Google Scholar
Chatterjee, Kumkum. 1996. Merchants, Politics, and Society in Early Modern India: Bihar, 1733–1820. Leiden: Brill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chatterjee, Kumkum. 1998. “History as Self-Representation: The Recasting of a Political Tradition in Late Eighteenth-Century Eastern India.” Modern Asian Studies 32 (4): 913–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chatterjee, Kumkum. 1999. “Discovering India: Travel, History and Identity in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century India.” In Invoking the Past: The Uses of History in South Asia, ed. Ali, Daud, 192227. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Chatterjee, Kumkum. 2005. “The King of Controversy: History and Nation-Making in Late Colonial India.” American Historical Review 110 (5): 1454–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chatterjee, Partha. 1993. The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Chatterji, Suniti Kumar. 1926. The Origin and Development of the Bengali Language. New Delhi: Rupa and Co., 2002.Google Scholar
Coburn, Thomas B. 1985. Devī Māhātmya: The Crystallization of the Goddess Tradition. Columbia, MO: South Asia Books.Google Scholar
Curley, David L. 2002. “Maharaja Krishnachandra, Hinduism and Kingship in the Contact Zone of Bengal.” In Rethinking Early Modern India, ed. Barnett, Richard B., 85117. New Delhi: Manohar.Google Scholar
Datta, K. K. 1963. Ali Vardi Khan and His Times. Calcutta: World Press.Google Scholar
Dimock, Edward C. 1999. Mr. Dimock Explores the Mysteries of the East. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books.Google Scholar
Dimock, Edward C, and Gupta, Pratul Chandra, eds. 1961. The Maharashtapurana: An Eighteenth-Century Bengali Historical Text. Repr., Calcutta: Orient Longman Limited, 1985.Google Scholar
Doniger, Wendy, ed. 1993. Purana Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
Eaton, Richard M. 1993. The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 12041760. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Ghatak, Kalimaya. 1930. Charitashtaka. Calcutta: Gopal Chandra Dey.Google Scholar
Ghose, N. N. 1901. Memoirs of Maharaja Nubkissen Bahadur. Calcutta: K. B. Basu.Google Scholar
Gibb, Hamilton A. R. 1962. “Tarikh.” In Studies on the Civilization of Islam, ed. Shaw, Stanford J. and Polk, William R., 108–37. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
Gooch, G. P. 1959. History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
Goody, Jack. 1987. The Interface between the Written and the Oral. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Guha, Ranajit. 1988. An Indian Historiography of India: A Nineteenth-Century Agenda and Its Implications. Calcutta: Centre for Studies in Social Sciences.Google Scholar
Guha, Sumit. 2004. “Speaking Historically: The Changing Voices of Historical Narration in Western India, 1400–1900.” American Historical Review 109 (4): 10841103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gupta, Anand Swarup. 1964. “Purana, Itihasa and Akhyana.” Purana 6 (2): 451561.Google Scholar
Hansen, Kathryn. 1992. Grounds for Play: The Nautanki Theater of North India. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hardy, Peter. 1982. Historians of Medieval India: Studies in Indo-Muslim Historiography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
Hasan, Mohibbul, ed. 1968. Historians of Medieval India. Meerut: Meenakshi Prakashan.Google Scholar
Hazra, R. C. 1953–62. “The Puranas.” In The Cultural Heritage of India, ed. Bhattacharya, H., vol. 2, 240–70. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture.Google Scholar
Hazra, R. C. 1958–63. Studies in the Upa-Puranas. Vols. 1–2. Calcutta: Sanskrit College.Google Scholar
Hobsbawm, Eric, and Ranger, Terence, eds. 1983. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Hodgson, Marshall G. S. 1974. The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization. Vol. 1, The Classical Age of Islam. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hourani, Albert. 1991. A History of the Arab Peoples. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
Hovhannisian, Richard G., and Sabagh, Georges, eds. 1998. The Persian Presence in the Islamic World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Huq, Mohammed Enamul. 1957. Muslim Bengali Literature. Karachi: Pakistan Publications.Google Scholar
Iggers, George G., and Powell, James M., ed. 1990. Leopold von Ranke and the Shaping of the Historical Discipline. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
, Jayananda. 1994. Chaitanyamangal. Ed. Mukhopadhyaya, Sukhamoy and Rana, Sumangal. Shantiniketan: Bishwabharati Gabeshana Prakashan Bibhag.Google Scholar
Karam, Ali. 1992. Muzaffarnama. Ed. and trans. Khan, Shaista. Patna: Khudabaksh Oriental Public Library.Google Scholar
Lutgendorf, Philip. 1991. The Life of a Text. Performing the Ramacharitmanas of Tulsidas. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Majumdar, Kedarnath. 1315 B.S. “Kabi Gangaram O Maharashtrapurana.” Sahitya Parishat Patrika 14 (4): 248–53.Google Scholar
Majumdar, Purnachnadra. 1905. The Musnud of Murshidabad. Murshidabad: Saroda Ray.Google Scholar
McLane, John R. 1993. Land and Local Kingship in 18th Century Bengal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mill, James. 1968. The History of British India. 6 vols. New York: Chelsea House.Google Scholar
Mirza, Nathan. 1936. Bahristan-i-Ghaibi. 2 vols. Trans. Borah, M. I.. Gauhati: Government of Assam, Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies.Google Scholar
Mukhia, Harbans. 1976. Historians and Historiography during the Reign of Akbar. New Delhi: Vikas.Google Scholar
Mustafi, Byomkesh. 1313 B.S. “Kabi Gangaram O Maharashtrapurana.” Sahitya Parishat Patrika 13 (4): 193236.Google Scholar
Nandy, Ashish. 1995. “History's Forgotten Doubles.” History and Theory 34 (2): 4466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Narayan, Kirin. 1989. Storytellers, Saints, and Scoundrels: Folk Narrative in Hindu Religious Teaching. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
O'Connell, J. T. 2004. “Vaisnava Perceptions of Muslims in Sixteenth Century Bengal.” In Subordinate and Marginal Groups in Early India, ed. Parashar-Sen, Aloka, 404–28. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Orme, Robert. 1803. A History of the Military Transactions of the British Nation in Indostan, from the Year 1745. London: F. Wingrave.Google Scholar
Pertsch, W., ed. and trans. 1853. Kshitishvamsavalicharitam: A Chronicle of the Family of Raja Krishnachandra of Navadvipa, Bengal. Berlin: Fred Dumler.Google Scholar
Pritchett, Frances. 1991. The Romance Tradition in Urdu: Adventures From the Dastan of Amir Hamzah. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Rao, Velcheru Narayana, Shulman, David and Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. 2001. Textures of Time. Writing History in South India, 1600–1800. New Delhi: Permanent Black.Google Scholar
Ray, Ratnalekha. 1979. Change in Bengal Agrarian Society. New Delhi: Manohar.Google Scholar
Raychaudhuri, Tapan. 1969. Bengal under Akbar and Jehangir: An Introductory Study in Social History. Delhi: Munshiram Manharlol.Google Scholar
Rocher, Ludo. 1986. Puranas. Weisbaden: Harrassowitz.Google Scholar
Rosenthal, Franz. 1968. A History of Muslim Historiography. 2nd ed.Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
Roy, Aloke. 2003. “Paribarik Pustak Samgraha” [Book collections of families]. Ababhash, October–December, 110–11.Google Scholar
Roy, Anandanath. 1314 B.S. “Maharaj Rajballabh Sen.” Aitihasik Chitra 3 (3): 111–12.Google Scholar
Roy, Asim. 1983. The Islamic Syncretistic Tradition in Bengal. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Sarkar, Jadunath, ed. 1973. The History of Bengal: Muslim Period, 1200–1757. Patna: Academia Asiatica.Google Scholar
Seely, Clinton B., and Miller, Fredrika V.. 2000. “Secular and Sacred Legitimation in Bharatchandra Ray's Annadamangal.” Archiv Orientalni 68:327–58.Google Scholar
Sen, Bijoyram. 1916. Tirthamangal. Ed. Basu, Nagendranath. Calcutta: Bangiya Sahitya Parishat.Google Scholar
Sen, Dinesh Chandra. 2002. Banga Bhasha O Sahitya. Vol. 2. Calcutta: West Bengal State Book Board.Google Scholar
Sen, Sukumar. 1405 B.S. Bangla Sahityer Itihasa. Vols. 1–2. Calcutta: Ananda.Google Scholar
Sen, Sukumar, ed. 1993. Kabikankan Birachita Chandi. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.Google Scholar
Sen, Sukumar, Panchanan, Mandal, and Sen, Sunanda, eds. 1956. Dharmamangal. Calcutta: Epic.Google Scholar
Shasri, Satyacharan. 1899. Maharajnandakumarcharit. Calcutta: Patrika Press.Google Scholar
Sohnen, Renate, and Shriner, Peter, ed. and trans. 1987. Sanskrit Indices and Text of the Brahmapurana. Weisbaden: Harrassowitz.Google Scholar
StewartTony, K. Tony, K., trans. 2004. Fabulous Females and Peerless Pirs: Tales of Mad Adventure in Old Bengal. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. 2004. “Persianization and Mercantilism in Bay of Bengal History, 1400–1700.” In Explorations in Connected History: From the Tagus to the Ganges, by Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, 4579. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Tabatabai, Ghulam Hussain Khan. 1902. Seir Mutaqherin. 4 vols. Ed. and trans. Mustapha, Haji. Calcutta: R. Cambray and Co.Google Scholar
Tarafdar, Momtazur Rahman. 1965. Hussain Shahi Bengal, 1494–1538 A.D.: A Socio-Political Study. Dhaka: Asiatic Press.Google Scholar
Thapar, Romila. 1986. “Society and Historical Consciousness: The Itihasa-Purana Tradition.” In Situating History: Essays in Honour of Sarvepalli Gopal, ed. Thapar, Romila and Bhattacharya, Niladri, 353–83. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Tribedi, Ramendrasundar. 1306 B.S. “Ek Khani Prachin Dalil” [An old document]. Sahitya Praishat Patrika 6 (4): 297300.Google Scholar
Wagoner, Phillip B. 1996. “‘Sultan among Hindu Kings’: Dress, Titles, and Islamicization of Hindu Culture at Vijaynagar.” Journal of Asian Studies 55 (4): 851–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zbavitel, Dusan. 1976. Bengali Literature. Vol. 9, fasc. 3 of A History of Indian Literature, ed. Gonda, Jan. Weisbaden: Harrassowitz.Google Scholar