slave mentality ghula-amaanaa zehniyat inculcated by the British continues
to bedevil Indian history. Thus, Mansura Haidar of Aligarh unthinkingly
parrots the erstwhile feringhee rulers to, allege: "In Akbarnama,
however, one may fail to find an objective analysis and a balanced and
unbiased presentation of facts..." As the reader can see the
chronicle of a great reign written by a prominent intellectual of the 16th
century has been given short shrift and condemned only because Indians
continue to echo distortions of Indian history caused by the British need
to badmouth all "natives" to justify their own intrusion and
destruction of value systems.
Dr Haider, a professor of history at the Centre for
Advanced Study, Department of History in Aligarh Muslim University should
have known better. She has, under the auspices of the Indian Council of
Historical Research, edited selected translations of the legendary Insha
or collection of prose masterpieces of Abul Fazl which have been taught as
model and text for nearly 400 years as part of the Persian studies
syllabus. Her history is not as pointed for accuracy as her critical
faculty. She says, "It is significant that the contemporary
chronicles present Abul Fazl as the most important figure at court during
the first three decades of Akbarís reign even though he did not hold any
important post at that time." As readers know the Emperor came to the
throne in 1556, and Abul Fazl makes his entry into the court on June 20,
1573. The translations fail to convey the power and the glory the romance
and the heartbreak of what was unquestionably one of the most fascinating
reigns in the history of the world. Alas!
Perhaps these points will be addressed in the second edition of
Maktubat-I-Allami. To return to Abul Fazl and the great and encyclopaedic
chronicle, the Akbar-nama let us see how the Allama treats the death of his
rival, Mahesh Bhatt "Brahm," better known as Raja Birbal.
"One of the occurrences was the sending of Rajah Birbar to
Swat," Abul Fazl states that he himself was anxious for a military
command and asked to be considered for the commission.
"Inasmuch as the head of this confused and ambitious one (Abul Fazl
himself) was filled with thoughts of (earning glory in) battle, he
represented to his majesty that although serving the presence in person
and directly was the elixir of fortune, yet he wished to make an attempt
at military service in a distant place as such an assignment would be the
testing place of loyalty.
Abul Fazl further records his feelings thus: "I too had been
raised by His Majesty from the dark recesses of the lane beneath contempt
to a post of prominence and had become conspicuous in the world. By
undertaking a venturesome risky commission I too could lighten the burden
of gratitude on my back and shoulders... should I lose my brief life, I
would acquire an eternal good name!"
His Majesty perceived in my demeanour the marks of sincerity, and accepted
my earnest prayer."
At the end of the day when it was time for taking leave the Emperor said
it had occurred to him that lots should be cast and drawn between the
Rajah Birbar and myself to decide as to who should be given the command.
This way the wishes of the two nobles wanting the command would not come
into play but the divine decree or what Fate had in store could come into
Perhaps Akbar did not want either of his intimate friends and counsellors
to feel that he had favoured the other by giving in to his wishes.
As "the little throw came out in his (Birbarís) name... I
left with the broken thorn of grief in my heart, and seated myself in the
caravanserai of meditation."
That man who was fitted for battle or banquet (babuzm-o-ruzm) went
by Heavenís decree on 12 Bahman, January 21, 1586. Qasim
Khwaja, Gadai Beg, Haji Siyunduk, Ahmad Beg, Tash Beg, Khwaja Hisamuddin
and other distinguished persons went with him."
Abul Fazl informs us that the experienced commander Zain Kh-an Koka who
was already in Swat had asked for reinforcements. "Zain Khan Koka had
represented that by Godís favour he had got through difficult defiles,
and had gained possession of Bajaur and most of Swat, but the troops were
exhausted by their strenuous efforts and the forced marches they had had
The Afghans were assembled in Karaakar Pass between Swat and Buneyr. If
some brave men (reinforcements) were sent to him the enemy would soon have
his just desserts and the whole country come into possession in an
Accordingly on the 19th Bahman (a week after despatch of Rajah Birbarís
force) Hakim Abul Fath was given Hasan Beg, S. Umri, Ahmad Qasim, Toofaan
Beg, Mulla Ghiyuri, Mohan Das along with Cerus and shumsheerbaazaan
(skilled wielders of the scimitar ) to accompany his force to reinforce
Zain Khan Koka. At the end of the day His Majesty visited the Hakimís
tents and gave him excellent counsel." As the reader can see the
reinforcements sent to Zain Khan Koka were two armies commanded by his
favourites who had no experience of warfare except by hearsay.
Abul Fazl comments: "The Kokaltash (Zain Khan Koka) asked for
reinforcements, and His Majesty nominated Rajah Birbar, Hakim Abul Fath
and others. When they joined the dust of dissension and doublemindedness (durangey)
rose up. Previously, there had been hot words between the Kokaltash (Zain
Khan Koka) and the Rajah, and the latter and the Hakim were also not on
good terms. By the jugglery of fortune, they in spite of their lofty
natures, entered into the narrows of envy. They could not brook any
partnership in the royal favour..."
The above observation of Abul Fazl applies to all career development
charts military, civil or commercial. A man who could write thus in a
chronicle which had to be approved by the emperor was no sycophant and
modern or contemporary historians should honour him and not condemn him.
The Rajah Birbal was to pay with his life for the dissensions and divided
counsels. This was on February 16, 1586 and we hope to narrate details in
a future column.