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main manuscripts of mughals


Padshahnama or Badshah Nama is a genre of works written as the official history of the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan’s reign. Unillustrated texts are known as Shahjahannama, with Padshahnama used for the illustrated manuscript versions. These works are among the major sources of information about Shah Jahan’s reign. Lavishly illustrated copies were produced in the imperial workshops, with many Mughal miniatures. Although military campaigns are given the most prominence, the illustrations and paintings in the manuscripts of these works illuminate life in the imperial court, depicting weddings and other activities.

The Hamzanama

Dastan-e-Amir Hamza  Dâstâne Amir Hamze, “Adventures of Amir Hamza” narrates the legendary exploits of Amir Hamza, or Hamza ibn Abdul-Muttalib, an uncle of Muhammad who was a historical figure, though most of the stories are extremely fanciful, “a continuous series of romantic interludes, threatening events, narrow escapes, and violent acts” The Hamzanama chronicles the fantastic adventures of Hamza as he and his band of heroes fight against the enemies of Islam. The stories, from a long-established oral tradition, were written down in Persian, the language of the courts of the Persianate world, in multiple volumes presumably in the era of Mahmud of Ghazni. In the West the work is best known for the enormous illustrated manuscript commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in about 1562. The text augmented the story, as traditionally told in dastan performances. The dastan (storytelling tradition) about Amir Hamza persists far and wide up to Bengal and Arakan (Burma), as the Mughals controlled those territories. The longest version of the Hamzanama exists in Urdu and contains 46 volumes in approximately 4800 pages.


The Bāburnāma alternatively known as Tuzk-e Babri is the memoirs of Ẓahīr-ud-Dīn Muhammad Bābur (1483–1530), founder of the Mughal Empire and a great-great-great-grandson of Timur. It is written in the Chagatai language, known to Babur as “Turki” (meaning Turkic), the spoken language of the Andijan-Timurids. During Emperor Akbar’s reign, the work was completely translated to Persian, the usual literary language of the Mughal court, by a Mughal courtier, Abdul Rahīm, in AH 998 (1589–90). Translations into many other languages followed, mostly from the 19th century onwards.

Bābur was an educated Timurid prince and his observations and comments in his memoirs reflect an interest in nature, society, politics and economics. His vivid account of events covers not just his own life, but the history and geography of the areas he lived in as well as the people with whom he came into contact. The book covers topics as diverse as astronomy, geography, statecraft, military matters, weapons and battles, plants and animals, biographies and family chronicles, courtiers and artists, poetry, music and paintings, wine parties, historical monument tours as well as contemplation on human nature.


Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri is the autobiography of Mughal Emperor Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir (1569–1627). Also referred to as Jahangirnama, Tuzk-e-Jahangiri is written in Persian, and follows the tradition of his great-grandfather, Babur (1487–1530), who had written the Baburnama; though Jahangir went a step further and besides the history of his reign, he includes details like his reflections on art, politics, and also information about his family. He wrote the memoirs in stages through most of his life until stopping in 1624. His own manuscript was magnificently illustrated by his studio of painters, but the illustrations were very early dispersed, many being found in muraqqa (albums) compiled by his sons. Several are in the British Library.


The Akbarnama, which translates to Book of Akbar, is the official chronicle of the reign of Akbar, the third Mughal Emperor (r. 1556–1605), commissioned by Akbar himself by his court historian and biographer, Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak, called one of the “nine jewels in Akbar’s court” by Mughal writers. It was written in Persian, the literary language of the Mughals, and includes vivid and detailed descriptions of his life and times.[1] It followed the Baburnama, the more personal memoir by his grandfather, Babur, founder of the dynasty. Like that, it was produced in the form of lavishly illustrated manuscripts.


The Ain-i-Akbari or the “Administration of Akbar”, is a 16th-century detailed document recording the administration of the Mughal Empire under Emperor Akbar, written by his court historian, Abu’l Fazl in the Persian language. It forms Volume III and the final part of the much larger document, the Akbarnama (Account of Akbar), also by Abu’l-Fazl, and is itself in three volumes. The Ain-i-Akbari is the third volume of the Akbarnama containing information on Akbar’s reign in the form of administrative reports, similar to a gazetteer. In Blochmann’s explanation, “it contains the ‘āīn’ (i.e. mode of governing) of Emperor Akbar, and is in fact the administrative report and statistical return of his government as it was about 1590.”

The Ain-i-Akbari is divided into five books. The first book called manzil-abadi deals with the imperial household and its maintenance, and the second called sipah-abadi, with the servants of the emperor, military and civil services. The third deals with imperial administration, containing regulations for the judiciary and the executive. The fourth contains information on Hindu philosophy, science, social customs and literature. The fifth contains sayings of Akbar, along with an account of the ancestry and biography of the author.(Navaratnas) of Akbar’s royal court. It is stated that the book took seven years to be completed. The original manuscripts contained many miniature paintings supporting the texts, thought to have been illustrated between c. 1592 and 1594 by at least forty-nine different artists from Akbar’s studio, representing the best of the Mughal school of painting, and masters of the imperial workshop, including Basawan, whose use of portraiture in its illustrations was an innovation in Indian art.

After Akbar’s death in 1605, the manuscript remained in the library of his son, Jahangir (r. 1605-1627) and later Shah Jahan (r. 1628–1658). Today, the illustrated manuscript of Akbarnma, with 116 miniature paintings, is at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was bought by the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) in 1896 from Mrs Frances Clarke, acquired by her husband upon his retirement from serving as Commissioner of Oudh (1858–1862). Soon after, the paintings and illuminated frontispiece were removed from the volume to be mounted and framed for display.


Tutinama (Tales of a Parrot)Tutinama  literal meaning “Tales of a Parrot”, is a 14th-century Persian series of 52 stories. The work remains well-known largely because of a number of lavishly illustrated manuscripts, especially a version containing 250 miniature paintings was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor, Akbar in the 1550s. The Persian text used was redacted in 14th century AD in Iran from an earlier anthology ‘Seventy Tales of the Parrot’ in Sanskrit compiled under the title Śukasaptati (a part of katha literature) dated to the 12th century AD. In Iran, as in India, parrots (in light of their purported conversational abilities) are popular as storytellers in works of fiction.


Jahangirnameh is an epic poem in the Persian language which relates the story of Jahangir son of Rostam. It is composed in the same meter as the Shahnameh. The author mentions his name as Qāsem-e Mādeḥ in one of the last couplets of the poem. Composed in Herat, it contains nearly 3,600 couplets. It was published in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1309/1886.It should not be confused with another work often called the “Jahangirnameh” but also the Tuzk-e-Jahangiri. This is the autobiography or memoirs of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir (1569-1627) in Persian prose.

Jami’ al-tawarikh 

The Jāmiʿ al-tawārīkh, is a work of literature and history, produced in the Mongol Ilkhanate. Written by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani (1247–1318) at the start of the 14th century, the breadth of coverage of the work has caused it to be called “the first world history”. It was in three volumes. The surviving portions total approximately 400 pages, with versions in Persian and Arabic. The work describes cultures and major events in world history from China to Europe; in addition, it covers Mongol history, as a way of establishing their cultural legacy.


The Shahnameh ‘The Book of Kings” is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 CE and is the national epic of Greater Iran. Consisting of some 50,000 “distichs” or couplets (two-line verses), the Shahnameh is one of the world’s longest epic poems. It tells mainly the mythical and to some extent the historical past of the Persian Empire from the creation of the world until the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century. Modern Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and the greater region influenced by Persian culture (such as Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and Dagestan) celebrate this national epic.

The work is of central importance in Persian culture and Persian language, regarded as a literary masterpiece, and definitive of the ethno-national cultural identity of Iran. It is also important to the contemporary adherents of Zoroastrianism, in that it traces the historical links between the beginnings of the religion and the death of the last Sassanid ruler of Persia during the Muslim conquest which brought an end to the Zoroastrian influence in Iran.


The Razmnama, British Library Or.12076 is an incomplete illustrated Mughal manuscript of the Razmnama, which is a translation of the Hindu epic Mahabharata written by Naqib Khan, and copied in AH 1007 (1598/99). It contains sections 14–18, the concluding part of the work, with some detached parts. There are 24 full-page Mughal paintings of high quality, all attributed to artists (two artists in three cases). It is the second of the four surviving Mughal illustrated manuscripts, described in the BL catalogue as “Sub-imperial Mughal

The Zafarnāma 

The Zafarnama was a spiritual victory letter sent by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1705 to the Mughal Emperor of India, Aurangzeb after the Battle of Chamkaur. The letter is written in Persian verse.

Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji sent Bhai Daya Singh Ji to Ahmednagar to give it to Aurangzeb. However it is said that a copy of the Zafarnama, written by himself, was found with the Mahant of Patna Sahib in 1890 and one Babu Jagan Nath made a copy; this copy was somehow misplaced by him. Since Babu Jagan Nath was himself a scholar in Persian language, he could reproduce it from his memory and got it printed in Nagri Parcharni Patrika in Benaras. He is also believed to have sent a copy to Sardar Umrao Singh Shergill in Amritsar who is said to have given it to Khalsa college and which in turn reproduced in Makhzan-e-Twarikh Sikhan. In Punjab newspapers, it first appeared in the Khalsa Samachar of 16 July 1942. Then in 1944, Kapur Singh ICS published it in Urdu Ajit of Lahore under the heading “Fatehnama”. It is quite possible that in the process of translations and publications of the Zafarnama at different stages, some verses were not reproduced correctly and what we have today is not the original Zafarnama of the Guru in its entirety. The abrupt end of the Zafarnama also indicates that it is not complete and that some verses have been left out. Objections raised by some scholars on the authenticity of a few verses may be viewed in this context.


(Stars of Science) (1570 CE), is a manuscript commissioned during the Adil Shahi rulers of Bijapur, India. The manuscript is described as illustrated encyclopedia about ancient Indian astrology and astral magic. The book consists of 876 miniature paintings and about 400 paintings of various angels, planets, signs, degrees, Sufic talismans, magical spells, Hindu goddesses, astrological tables and horoscopes, animals and weapons. These are among the earliest examples of the Deccan painting style.

The Golestan

“The Flower Garden”) is a landmark of Persian literature, perhaps its single most influential work of prose. Written in 1258 CE, it is one of two major works of the Persian poet Sa’di, considered one of the greatest medieval Persian poets. It is also one of his most popular books, and has proved deeply influential in the West as well as the East. The Golestan is a collection of poems and stories, just as a flower-garden is a collection of flowers. It is widely quoted as a source of wisdom. The well-known aphorism still frequently repeated in the western world, about being sad because one has no shoes until one meets the man who has no feet “whereupon I thanked Providence for its bounty to myself” is from the Golestan.

The minimalist plots of the Golestan’s stories are expressed with precise language and psychological insight, creating a “poetry of ideas” with the concision of mathematical formulas. The book explores virtually every major issue faced by humankind, with both an optimistic and a subtly satirical tone.There is much advice for rulers, in this way coming within the mirror for princes genre. But as Eastwick comments in his introduction to the work, there is a common saying in Persian, “Each word of Sa’di has seventy-two meanings”, and the stories, alongside their entertainment value and practical and moral dimension, frequently focus on the conduct of dervishes and are said to contain Sufi teachings. Idries Shah elaborates further. “The place won by the Golestan as a book of moral uplift invariably given to the literate young has had the effect of establishing a basic Sufic potential in the minds of its readers.”


Āina-kāri is a kind of interior decoration made by Iranian artists who assemble finely cut mirrors together in geometric, calligraphic or foliage forms (inspired by flowers and other plants). This creates a beautiful shining surface covered with complex facets, reflecting light as intricate abstract patterns or glittering reflections. Beside their decorative use, this art is used as a strong durable cover for an interior space of a building.

In the Zand and Qajar periods, this craft was applied over doorways, window-frames, walls, ceilings, and columns in pavilions and private houses, tea-houses and zūrḵānas, as well as royal buildings and shrines. The funerary complex of Shah Cheragh in Shiraz, Iran, features extensive use of Āina-kāri mirrorwork. It also appears as an external architectural facade, within semi-domed ayvāns that mark the entrance of tālārs, courtyards, gardens and reflecting pools.