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Tazkiratul Umara of Kewal Ram- Biographical Account of Mughal Nobility From The Reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar to The Reign of Muhammad Shah

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Item Code: NAX706
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Author: S. M. Azizuddin Husain
Language: English
Edition: 2020
ISBN: 9788121512688
Pages: 302
Other Details 10.00 X 6.50 inch
Weight 620 gm
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Book Description
About the Author

S. M. Azizuddin Husain is a well known medieval historian and a Professor of History at Department of History and Culture, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. His tenure at Jamia began in 1976 as Assistant Professor and has served the University in various capacities such as Head, Department of History; Dean, Faculty of Humanities & Languages; Hony. Director, Dr. Zakir Husain & His Contemporaries' Archives & Portrait Gallery; Director, Premchand Archives and Literary Centre and Coordinator, Jamia Cultural Committee. He has also served at Raza Library, Rampur, Ministry of Culture, Government of India as its Director.

He has penned twenty seven research books in his academic career and has also brought out sixty one publications during his tenure at Raza Library, Rampur. He has to his credit one hundred eighteen published articles and has presented two hundred and one articles in National and International seminars.

He has successfully supervised seventeen Ph.D and ten M.Phil scholars and has organized twenty National and International seminars as well.


LALA KEWAL RAM AGARWAL, THE compiler of Tazkiratul Umara belonged to a family of Banias who had served Mughal emperors in India for generations. Kewal Ram compiled biographies of almost twelve hundred nobles - a mammoth task indeed.

Tazkiratul Umara is an important primary source pertaining to Mughal India, a piece of Persian prose of 18th century. It consists of a biographical account of Mughal nobility beginning from the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar (1556-1605 AD) and ending with the reign of Mohammad Shah (1719-1748 AD), arranged in alphabetical order. Its importance lies in the fact that it covers a vast period unlike the other earlier and contemporary biographical accounts like Zakhiratul Khawaneen and Maasirul Umara which incorporate accounts only up to the reign of Aurangzeb and not beyond. Charles Reiu, the compiler of "Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts in the British Museum" is wide of the mark while opining that Kewal Ram's Tazkiratul Umara discusses only the lives of Amirs who served under the Timurids from the beginning of the reign of Akbar to the death of Alamgir (p. 971, vol. III - 1883) When I visited Bodleian Library, Oxford UK. in 2017, I found one manuscript copy of Kewal Ram's Tazkiratul Umara, bearing MS. Ouseley Add. 149 but it is undated.

I am extremely grateful to my friends Prof. Afzal Khan, Professor in the Centre for Advanced Study in History, A. M. U, Aligarh who has done a commendable work on "The Ruling Elite - Iranian Nobility under Shahjahan and Aurangzeb" for his support in this endeavor-and Dr. Jibraeil, Assistant Professor in Deparment of History, AMU, Aligarh, for helping me in making necessary corrections in the translation of Tazkiratul Umra. It took almost a year but still I say that if there are errors, I am responsible for that. I shall request the scholars that if they find any error, then they may please inform me so that they are rectified in the next edition.

I am thankful to my sincere colleague Ms. Snigdha Roy, Archivist, Premchand Archives, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi for making the final reading of this text and Prof. Farhat Nasreen for their kind support.

Thanks are due to my colleague at Rampur Raza Library, Rampur, Mr. Shujauddin Khan and Dr. S.A.Kazim, Department of History, A.M.U., Aligarh for their kind help. I am grateful to Mr. Faheemuddin for typing the English text of Tazkiratul Umara. I am grateful to the librarin and the staff of M.A. Library, A.M.U., Aligarh, Research Library, Centre for Advanced Study in History, A.M.U, Aligarh and Dr. Zakir Husain Library, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. I am obliged to ICHR, New Delhi for their financial help without which this work would not have been a possibility.

My special gratitude is for my teachers, Prof. Saiyid Nurul Hasan, former Minister of Education, Government of India, Prof. M.A. Ansari, former Head, Department of History, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, and Prof. S. A. I. Tirmizi, former Director, National Archives of India, Government of India, New Delhi. Alas! None of them is present today to see this edition in print.

I am grateful to Shri Ashok Jain, Munshi Ram Manohar Lal Publishers, New Delhi for publishing the English translation of Tazkiratul Umara. I thank my wife Prof. Talat Aziz, my daughters Lt. Col. Atiya Aziz and Planner Zeba Aziz, my grandson Master Sameer whom I fondly call Nurul Hasan, my grand-daughter Ms. Anaya and my little grandson Zia for their moral support in completing all my academic assignments.

Now I have shifted from the Tazkira of Umara (nobles) to the Tazkira of Mashaikh (Sufis). At present I am working on a research project-Biographies of Sufis of India. Indian Council of Historical Research, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, has assigned me Senior Academic Fellowship to work on this project.


One cannot grow unless and until one takes the benefit from the scholarly works done in different languages. In the middle ages works of Greek scholars were translated by Muslim scholars in Arabic. Arabic scholar's works were translated by Western scholars in different European languages. Al-Bairuni came to India, learnt Sanskrit and gave very valuable information in his famous work Kitab Al-Hind on Indian History and Culture. On contrary, no attempt was made by Indian scholars during ancient period to learn Arabic or other European languages. During Sultanate period, Salatin and Ulema did not make any attempt to arrange the translation of Sanskrit works into Persian. Though we find that sufis made an attempt to learn local languages such as Punjabi, Rajasthani, Hindavi, Gujarati etc. Shaikh Fariduddin Ganj-i-Shakar, a thirteenth century sufi of Punjab, composed verses in Punjabi which later became the part of Guru Granth Sahib. They did it at personal level and did not have much resource at their disposal to start the project on translations of Indian sources into Persian. It was Mughal Emperor Akbar (1556-1605 AD) who established -Darut Tarjuma (Centre for translation) at Fathpur. Works like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bible etc were translated into Persian, so that Persian speaking people could gain knowledge from these translations. Dara Shikuh translated Upanishad into Persian. Indian historians like Ishwar Das Nagar, Bhim Sen, Sujan Rai Bhandari and others wrote history of India in Persian during the seventeenth century.

With the establishment of British rule in India, they paid attention to the study of Indian history as it would facilitate the governance of the region. Muslim scholars wrote histories of Sultanate and Mughal period in Persian language. British scholars had no knowledge of Persian, so language was a great barrier between them and the chronicles of Indian history, from thirteenth to eighteenth century. Elliot planned the project of editing and translation of Persian chronicles around 1840. Large number of chronicles were edited and translated during ninteenth century. Let us recognize this contribution of British scholars. Major researches on medieval Indian history are based on those English translations, going on not only in regional Universities but in Central Universities such as A.M.U., Aligarh, University of Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University etc. In the same spirit I translated Kewal Ram's Tazhkiratul Umara in English a historical work overlooked by British scholars. In 2008, Shri Jawahar Sircar, former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, New Delhi, formed a committee for the -Translation of Arabic and Persian Manuscripts, in English and other Indian Languages. In 2012, Ministry of Culture, had appointed me as the Convener of this committee. Under this project I have arranged for the Hindi translation of following Persian chronicles:

1. Gul Badan Begum's Humayun Nama

2. Jauhar Aftabchi's Tazkiratul Waqiyat

3. Kamal Wasti’s Asrariya Kashf -i- Sufiya

4. Dargah Quli Khan's Muraqqa-i-Dehli

5. Sheikh Abdul Haq's Akhbarul Akhiyar

India did not have the tradition of historiography, that is why, there is only one account, that is, Kalhan's Rajtarangni, which deals with the history of Kashmir. But with the establishment of Turkish rule in India, came Muslim scholars, who brought with them the tradition of historiography. They started writing history of India by laying the foundation of Persian historiography in India. Prof. Dodwell comments on this contribution of Muslims in India, "the advent of Islam begins a great series of Indian chronicles. The Muslim chronicles are far superior to our own (British) medieval chronicles. They were written for the most part not by monks but by man of affairs, often by contemporaries, who had taken part in the events they recount.. the Muslim period is one of vivid living men whereas the Hindu period is one of shadows". It shows that Dodwell is of the view that during medieval period the trend set by the Muslims in the field of Persian historiography was far advanced to western and Indian schools of historiography. With the result Fakhr-i-Mudabbir's Adabul Harb Wash Shujaa, Hasan Nizami's Tajul Maasir, Minhajus Siraj 's Tabaqat-i-Nasiri, Ziauddin Barani's Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi, Isami's Futuhus Salatin and Shams Siraj Afif's Tarikh-i-Firozshahi were written. These Muslim historians wrote history of India from their own point of view and understanding of Sultanat period. Peter Hardy holds opinion that, "The period from the beginning of the thirteenth century to the middle of the fifteenth century, may, however, be described as a colonial period in Indo-Muslim historiography - a period where Muslim historians remained aloof within the 'civil Lines' of Muslim historical writing the modes and manners of Arabic and Persian historians back at 'home' in their own records of the adventures among the 'natives' of their fellow Indian Muslim political and military chiefs". He is right that these historians belonged to the class of ulema and they kept themselves aloof from the local people.

Babur laid the foundation of Mughal empire in India in 1526. He wrote his own autobiography named Babur Nama in his mother tongue. But from the second half of sixteenth century Persian historiography had taken a new dimension. Akbar had assigned the task of the compilation of Tarikh-i-Alfi to commemorate the completion of one thousand years of Islam but Akbar was not satisfied with their performance. Then Akbar assigned the task of the compilation of Akbar Nama and Ain-i-Akbari to Abul Fazl. During Akbar's reign new vistas in the field of historiography were opened. Like the historians of Sultanat period, Abul Fazl did not regard history as allied to theological studies. He established a close relationship between history and philosophy and adopted a rational and liberal approach to history. He widened the scope of history by giving details relating to polity, society, economy and culture and by incorporating chapters on administrative regulations. He questioned the validity of a source and accepted it only when it satisfied the principles of historical investigations formulated by him. The treatment of contemporary history in these terms struck a new note in medieval historiography. Abul Fazl's liberal interpretation of Indian history gained ground, and the historians of later Mughal period, whether Hindu or Muslim, looked on the political developments in India in terms of Mughal empire and those who were opposed to it. Then another work was done on history of Gujarat, named, Mirat-i-Ahmedi by Ali Muhammad Khan. So a large number of historical works were written from thirteenth to eighteenth century. But unfortunately Muslims did not work on these historical sources during ninteenth century, A. Rogers who translated Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, writes that, "the contribution to literature by Royal authors which come to us from the East form a department by themselves, one which is of great value". It shows that British scholars also appreciated this contribution of Muslims. History of India, was not included in the curriculum of madrasas of India during ninteenth century. They taught history from the rise of Islam to the fall of Baghdad in 1258 AD. Naturally no work has been done on the history of India written from twelfth century to eighteenth century. I agree with Henry Elliot when he opines that, "No work had ever been written specially on this matter".

With the establishment of their rule in India, the British immediately paid attention to the study of Indian history as it would facilitate governance of the region. All histories from Sultans to the Mughals were written in Persian and British scholars and historians had no knowledge of this language. British administrators, scholars and historians planned to edit and translate these Persian chronicles. Sir Henry Elliot was assigned this project. He made a project for the compilation of voluminous work History of india as told by its own historians. First of all he planned that a uniform edition of these histories should be published. Elliot writes that, "on referring the matter to his honour the Lt. Governor, North Western Provinces, it was replied that the Education Funds at the disposal of the government were not sufficient to warrant the outlay of so large a sum as the scheme required". The fact that British government's education Funds were insufficient for publication of Persian works of Medieval historiography, goes to reveal their massive quantum.

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