Monday, December 26, 2011

SOURCES OF HISTORY FOR THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD



The Delhi Sultanate and Mughal periods have rich textual sources of history. Several books written by people in that period have come down to us. These include travelogues, religious books, memoirs, biographies and official histories. Some of the most important of them are described below.

Travelogues

Al-Biruni (973-1048)
He was born in Uzbekistan, and came to India as a prisoner of Mahmud of Ghazni. In Kitab ul Hind he described the country and its inhabitants.

Ibn Battutah (1304-77)
He was a traveller from Morocco who wrote down his experiences in Kitab ur Rihla.  The Rihla is a primary source of history of Muhammad bin Tughluq's period.

Fran├žois Bernier (1620-88)
He was a French doctor who travelled in India during the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan's period. He wrote Travels in Mughal India.

Abdur Razzak (1413-82)
He wrote Matlaus Sadain wa Majmaul Bahrain, which contains an account of Timur's invasion and the condition of the Deccan in the age of Vijayanagara.

Other travelers
Marco Polo and Nicolo Conti (from Italy), and Duarte Barbosa and Domingos Paes (from Portugal) also left records of their travels in India. Nicolo Conti, Duarte Barbosa and Domingos Paes describe the Vijayanagara culture and people. Marco Polo left and account of the culture of the common people in the Andaman islands and in the coasts of India.

Some other travelers include Afanasii Nikitich Nikitin from Russia, Seydi Ali Reis from Turkey, Antonio Monserrate from Spain, Mahmud Wali Balkhi from Balkh, Peter Mundy from England, and Jean-Baptiste Tavernier from France.

Religious compositions

These include those of the Sufi and Bhakti traditions. Most of them are poems or sayings of the sufi and bhakti saints compiled by their followers. There are also biographies of the saints written by their followers.

Bhakti literature
The Nalayira Dvyaprabandham is a collection of songs/poems written by the Alvars (devotees of Vishnu). The songs of Andal (devotee of Vishnu) and Karaikkal Ammaiyar (of Shiva, part of the Nayanar tradition) are still sung.

In northern India, similar collected works have survived: the songs of Mirabai, Surdas, and Chaitanya.

Sufi literature
There are treatises about sufi philosophy and practices, collections of sayings of the saints, collected written works (usually letters), and biographical accounts of saints. Poets like Amir Khusrau and Shaik Muhammad Jaisi also belong to the sufi tradition.

Both sufi and bhakti writings are in the local languages, and reflect the common man's life of that age.

Besides these, there are works that do not fall into any religious category. These include the work of Kabir. There are also the Sikh texts - the Adi Granth Sahib and the Guru Granth Sahib composed in the medieval age.

Official histories, biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs

Chachnama
This book, probably written by a follower of Muhammad bin Qasim, describes the ruler of Sindh and its conquest by the Arabs led by Muhammad Qasim (712).

Utbi
He was an employee of Mahmud of Ghazni and wrote the Kitab ul Yamini describing the rise of his master and his exploits till about 1020.

Abu Fazl Baihaqi
He was an official of Sultan Masud, the successor of Mahmud of Ghazni. His works (Tarikh i Baihaqi or Mujalladad i Baihaqi)

Hasan Nizami
His Tajul Ma'asir describes mainly the period of Qutbuddin Aibak.

Minhajus Siraj
He was a qazi in the Delhi Sultanate in the Slave Dynasty period. He wrote a comprehensive history of Islam, where he describes the Mongol problem, among other things (in the Tabaqat i Nasiri).

Amir Khusrau (1252-1325)
A sufi poet and writer, he lived during time of the Tughluq rulers. He wrote the Tughluq Nama, about the victor of Ghiyasuddin Khalji; and the Tarikh i Ilahi about the achievements of Alaududdin Khalji.

Ziauddin Barani
He wrote the Tarikh i Firoz Shahi, about the times of Firuz Shah Tughluq, and several other books.

Shams i  Siraj Afif, Yahya bin Ahmad Sirhindi, Khwaja Abdullah Malik Isami were all historians who described the Delhi Sultanate period.

Mir Khwand wrote a history of Central Asia, the Rauzat us Safa, which describes the lives and achievements of Chengiz Khan and Timur. Khondamir wrote a history of the Islamic world, Habibus Siyar and Shulasat ul Akhabar, which includes a volume on the Delhi Sultanate.

For the Mughals, there are again several sources like Abu Fazl's Ayin-i-akbari. Babur wrote his own memoirs, the Babur nama. Humayunnama, Alamgir nama, and Humayun namai were written in the form of biographies by relatives.

Indigenous literature

Indigenous works like Prithviraj Raso by Chand Bardai and Rajaratangini of Kashmir by Kalhana Pandit are also important sources of information.


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