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CBSE Notes | Class 12 | History | Chapter 13 - Kings And Chronicles

The chapter introduces students to the Mughal empire and the great chronicles: The Akbar Nama And The Badshah Nama. The chapter also talks about the policy of Sulh-i Kul, the capital and the Mughal Courts. We also highlight the pilgrimage and the trade of the ottomans.

Mughal Empire

Mughal Rulers & Chronicles

The emperors of the Mughal Empire considered themselves as divinely chosen to reign over a vast and diverse population.

The Mughal Kings commissioned the Court historians to produce accounts.

The events of the emperor's reign were chronicled in these accounts. Their authors gathered large amounts of data from around the subcontinent to aid the kings in the administration of their dominion.

These are known as Chronicles, and they are an essential resource for any historian writing a Mughal history.

The texts were meant to express the meanings that the Mughal emperors wanted to impose on their realm. As a result, they provide insight into how imperial ideas were developed and transmitted.

Rulers & Empire

The term Mughal is derived from Mongol; nevertheless, the kings did not pick this name for themselves. Mughals were known as Timurids because they were paternal ancestors of the Turkish emperor Timur.

Babur, the first Mughal ruler, was maternally connected to Ghenghiz Khan. He spoke Turkish and mocked the Mongols, calling them barbarian hordes.

The empire was founded by Zahiruddin Babur. The warring Uzbeks drove him out of his Central Asian country of Farghana.

He established himself in Kabul, then moved farther into the Indian subcontinent in 1526.

Nasiruddin Humayun (1530-40, 1555-56) was Babur's successor, and he enlarged the empire's borders.

Sher Shah Sur, the Afghan leader, pushed him into exile after he lost his dominion. Humayun sought asylum in the court of Iran's Safavid king. Humayun vanquished the Surs in 1555, and Humayun died a year later.

Jalaluddin Akbar was the most powerful of them all. The Empire was at its pinnacle during his reign. The Mughal Empire was the wealthiest of them all.

He expanded the empire's borders to the Hindukush Mountains, putting a stop to the Uzbeks of Turan (Central Asia) and the Safavids of Iran's expansionist plans.

Akbar had three fairly able successors:

  • Jahangir (1605-27)

  • Shah Jahan (1628-58)

  • Aurangzeb (1658-1707).

Under them the territorial expansion continued, at a reduced pace. The three rulers maintained and consolidated the various instruments of governance.

Imperial Structure

The institution of the Imperial structure was created in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, these include:

  • Effective methods of administration and taxation.

  • The Court was the visible centre of Mughal power.

  • The political alliances and relationships were forged, status and hierarchies defined.

  • The political system was based on a combination of military power and conscious policy to accommodate the different traditions.

The empire progressively deteriorated after Aurangzeb's death in 1707, yet it retained its grandeur.

The British deposed the last scion of this dynasty, Bahadur Shah Zafar II, in 1857.

The Production of Chronicles

The Chronicles are a valuable resource for learning about the empire and its court. They were intended to present an image of an enlightened monarchy to those who came under its protection.

The Chronicles were also written for individuals who opposed the Mughal rule, claiming that all opposition was doomed to fail.

The courtiers were the majority of the authors. They produced histories about the ruler's life, his family, and everything else related to him.

Titles like the Akbar Nama, Shahjahan Nama, and Alamgir Nama (these are the stories of Akbar, Shah Jahan, and Alamgir (Aurangzeb)) show that the empire and the court were synonymous in the perspective of their authors.

Turkish to Persian

The saga's chroniclers used Persian as their primary writing style. Along with north Indian languages such as Hindavi and regional varieties, Persian flourished as a language of the court and literary literature.

In fact, the Mughals were descended from Chaghtai Turks, and Turkish was their first language. Babur also penned Persian poetry and memoirs.

The Mughal court adopted Persian as its official language under Akbar's rule. The Persian language had risen to prominence as the imperial tongue.

In the Mughal court, Persian was expected to be spoken by the king and his household as well as the court's upper classes. Many other languages, such as Rajasthani and Marathi, adopted Persian idioms.

As a result of the contact between Persian and Hindavi, a new language, Urdu, emerged.

A few of the Mughal chronicles, like the Akbar Nama and Babur's memoirs, were written in Persian rather than Turkish.

Babur Nama is the name of the character. By ordering Persian translations of ancient Sanskrit books like the Mahabharata and Ramayana, the Mughal emperors made history.

The Mahabharata is also known as the Razmnama in several languages (Book of Wars).

How were the Manuscripts made?

In Mughal India, every book was a manuscript, and every manuscript was written by hand. At the imperial kitabkhana, manuscripts were created in large quantities. It served as both a storage facility for existing manuscripts and a production place for new ones.

A manuscript is created by a team of people who execute a range of responsibilities.

  • Paper makers were needed to prepare the folios of the manuscript.

  • Calligraphers to copy the text.

  • Gilders to illuminate the pages.

  • Painters to illustrate scenes from the text.

  • Bookbinders to gather the individual folios and set them within ornamental covers.

The completed text was regarded as a valuable thing, a work of intellectual and aesthetic value. It demonstrated the ability of its benefactor, the Mughal emperor, to create such splendour.

The nastaliq, a fluid form with long horizontal strokes, was Akbar's favourite writing style. It's written with a trimmed reed called qalam, which has a five to ten mm tip and is soaked in carbon ink (siyahi).

The Painted Image

Manuscripts were also painted by painters. Aside from the textual content, Mughal emperor chronicles often included illustrations that explained events visually.

It was believed that paintings could communicate concepts about the kingdom and the power of rulers in a way that the written word could not. Paintings did more than just enhance the beauty of a book.

Painting, according to historian Abu'l Fazl, was a "magical art" because it could give the appearance of life to inanimate objects.

Sha'ari interpretations evolved over time. Various social groupings have understood the body of Islamic tradition in different ways.

During the decades of Muslim empire construction, rulers in several Asian nations often hired artists to paint portraits of themselves and scenes from daily life in their realms.

It is worth noting that the Iranian Safavid kings were known for their patronage of the arts and provided workshops at court for budding talents.

The fame of the Safavid court's artists - like that of Bihzad – travelled far and wide thanks to their names. Iranian artists also made their way to Mughal India, where they found a home among the Indian elite.

Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad, for example, were taken to the Mughal court and forced to go with Emperor Humayun to Delhi. Others moved in quest of better job prospects or a chance to rise in the ranks.

The Mughal court was tense because of a disagreement between the emperor and traditional Muslim representatives about how to depict living things in art.

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The Akbar Nama And The Badshah Nama

The most well-known Mughal chronicles are the Akbar Nama and Badshah Nama. Each book has an average of 150 full- or double-page paintings depicting battles, sieges, hunts, construction of buildings, court scenes, and other events of historical significance.

Abul Fazal spent thirteen years working on Akbar Nama. The first two parts are chronicles, and the third is a poem. The Ain-i Akbari is the third book on the list. 

The first volume tells the storey of mankind from Adam to Akbar, who lived for one heavenly cycle in it (30 years).

During Akbar's forty-sixth reign (1601), the second volume comes to a finish.

Akbar Nama author Abu'l Fazl was raised in Agra, the Mughal capital. He was well-versed in the Arabic, Persian, Greek, and Sufi traditions of the Islamic world. He was a fierce debater and a free thinker who vehemently questioned the conservative ulama's viewpoints on many issues.

Abu'l Fazl's qualities impressed Akbar, and he designated him as an adviser and a spokesperson for his policy initiatives.

Bir Singh Bundela, a Prince Salim conspirator, murdered Abu'l Fazl as part of the plan.

What was the reason behind the production of Akbar Nama?

By recording politically significant events across time in the usual diachronic meaning of Akbar's reign, as well as in the new sense of offering a synchronic image without regard to chronology of all of Akbar's empire's characteristics, Akbar Nama presents an in-depth account of Akbar's reign.

Due to the prevalence of reading aloud, Abu'l Fazl penned his works in an ornate language with a strong emphasis on diction and rhythm.

This Indo-Persian writing style was highly regarded at court, and many aspiring writers aspired to be like Abul Fazl himself. He was Abul Fazl's disciple, and I was his.

The Production of Badhash Nama

Author: Abdul Hamid Lahori

He was commissioned by emperor Shah Jahan to write a history of his reign modelled on the Akbar Nama.

The Badshah Nama is this official history in three volumes (daftars) of ten lunar years each.

Lahori wrote the first and second daftars comprising the first two decades of the emperor’s rule (1627-47); these volumes were later revised by Sadullah Khan, Shah Jahan’s wazir.

Infirmities of old age prevented Lahori from proceeding with the third decade which was then chronicled by the historian Waris.

The Akbar Nama and Badshah Nama were first published by the Asiatic Society in the nineteenth century.

In the early twentieth century, the Akbar Nama was translated into English by Henry Beveridge after years of hard labour. Only excerpts of the Badshah Nama have been translated into English to date.

The Ideal Kingdom 

A Divine Light

The Mughal kings' power was drawn straight from God, according to court chroniclers who drew on a number of sources.

The storey of Mongol queen Alanqua, who was impregnated while dozing in her tent by a beam of sunlight, was told. The Divine Light was passed down through the generations through her descendants.

According to Abu'l Fazl, Mughal royalty is in the highest position in the hierarchy of items that receive God's light (farr-i izadi ).

Shihabuddin Suhrawardi (d. 1191), who was inspired by him, was the first to formulate this philosophy.

According to a hierarchy, the Divine Light was transmitted to the king, who subsequently became the source of spiritual teaching for his subjects.

Paintings incorporating narratives from the chronicles effectively communicated these concepts to the audience.

Mughal artists began to show rulers with the halo, which they had seen on European paintings of Christ and the Virgin Mary as a symbol of God's light, beginning in the seventeenth century.

The Policy of Sulh-i kul

According to Mughal histories, the kingdom was made up of several distinct ethnic and religious groups, including Hindus, Jainas, Zoroastrians, and Muslims.

Abu'l Fazal described the concept of sulh-i kul (perfect peace) as the cornerstone of enlightened government.

All religions and schools of thought had freedom of expression in sulh-i kul, but only if they did not challenge the state's authority or fight among themselves.

The Mughals' sulh-i kul ideal was executed by state policy; the aristocracy was made up of Iranis, Turanis, Afghans, Rajputs, and Deccanis, all of whom were awarded posts and honours solely for their devotion and loyalty to the King.

In 1563, Akbar abolished the pilgrimage fee and in 1564, the jizya, both of which were founded on religious discrimination.

All Mughal rulers provided money to support the construction and upkeep of religious structures.

Even when temples were damaged during the conflict, as we know from the reigns of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, funds were made to reconstruct them subsequently.

The jizya was re-imposed on non-Muslim subjects under the reign of Aurangzeb.

Sovereignty as Social Contract

The emperor preserves the four essences of his subjects, namely life (Jan), property (mal), honour (namus), and religion (din), in exchange for loyalty and a portion of resources, according to Abu'l Fazl.

Only powerful sovereigns were supposed to be capable of carrying out the treaty with Divine help.

Symbols were established to depict the concept of justice, which came to represent the Mughal monarchy's ultimate virtue.

The theme of the lion and the lamb (or goat) happily cuddling next to each other was one of the most popular motifs utilised by painters.

This was supposed to represent a realm where the powerful and the weak may coexist together.

Such motifs are found in a niche just beneath the emperor's throne in court scenes from the illustrated Badshah Nama.

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Capitals & Courts

The Mughal Empire's capital city was where the Mughal court convened.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Mughals' capital cities changed frequently. Babur took over the Lodi capital of Agra, though the court was frequently on the move during his four-year reign.

The fort of Agra was built with red sandstone quarried from the surrounding regions by Akbar in the 1560s.

In the 1570s, Akbar decided to construct Fatehpur Sikri, a new capital. One of the reasons for this could have been that Sikri was on the direct route to Ajmer, where Shaikh Muinuddin Chishti's dargah had become a popular pilgrimage destination.

The Mughal emperors developed a close relationship with the Chishti silsila's Sufis. Akbar ordered the construction of a white marble tomb for Shaikh Salim Chishti next to Sikri's magnificent Friday mosque.

The Buland Darwaza, a massive arched gateway, was built to commemorate the Mughal victory in Gujarat.

In 1585, the capital was moved to Lahore in order to better control the northwest, and for the next thirteen years, Akbar kept a close eye on the frontier.


Shahjahan followed sound fiscal policies and amassed enough wealth to pursue his passion for construction. The most visible and tangible sign of dynastic power, wealth, and prestige was construction activity.

In 1648, the court, army, and household relocated from Agra to Shahjahanabad, the newly completed imperial capital.

With the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid, bazaars (Chandni Chowk), and spacious homes for the nobility, it was a new addition to Delhi's old residential city.

Shah Jahan's new city reflected his grand monarchy's more formal vision.

The Mughal court

The court's physical layout, which was centred on the sovereign, reflected his status as the centre of society.

Its focal point was thus the throne, the Takht, which gave physical form to the sovereign's role as Axis Mundi.

The canopy, which has been a symbol of kingship in India for millennia, was thought to separate the sun's radiance from that of the sovereign.

The rules defining status among the Mughal elites are laid out in great detail in the Chronicles. Status in court was determined by one's proximity to the king.

The ruler's decision to give a courtier a special place was a sign of the emperor's regard for him.

No one was allowed to move from the throne or leave without the emperor's permission once he was seated.

In court society, social control was exercised by carefully defining the acceptable forms of address, courtesies, and speech in great detail. The tiniest breach of etiquette was immediately recognised and sanctioned.

What were the different forms of salutation?

The way someone saluted the ruler indicated their social status: deeper prostrations denoted higher social status.

Sijda, or complete prostration, was the ultimate sign of submission.

Shah Jahan substituted chahar taslim and zaminbos for these rituals (kissing the ground).

A Mughal emperor's ambassador was expected to greet him in a polite manner, either by bowing deeply or kissing the ground or by clasping his hands in front of his chest as the Persians did.

James I's envoy to India, Thomas Roe, bowed to Jahangir as is customary in Europe and then shocked the court by demanding a chair.

It was Akbar who instituted jharokha darshan in an effort to get the people to accept imperial authority as part of their religious beliefs.

After an hour in the jharokha, the emperor proceeded to the public audience hall (diwan-i am) to conduct the most important government business. Officials from the state presented data and asked for things to be done.

The emperor held private audiences and confidential discussions in the diwan-i khas for the next two hours.

High-ranking government officials petitioned him, and tax collectors gave him an accounting of their activities.

The Mughals had three major festivals a year: the monarch's solar and lunar birthdays, as well as Nauroz, the Iranian New Year, which fell on the vernal equinox.

The monarch's birthday was a time when he was compared to various commodities and then given away as charity.

Titles & Gifts

Mughal polity emphasised the awarding of titles to deserving individuals. The titles a person held during his rise through the court ranks could be used to track his career path.

Asaf, the legendary minister of prophet king Sulaiman, gave the title Asaf Khan to one of the highest ministers (Solomon).

Jai Singh and Jaswant Singh, Aurangzeb's two most powerful nobles, were given the title Mirza Raja by the emperor.

There are two ways to get a title: earn it or buy it. A letter alif, which stands for A, was offered by Mir Khan to Aurangzeb in exchange for Rs 1 lakh. In the person of Amir Khan

The Mughal emperors adopted grand titles when they were crowned or after they had defeated an enemy.

When the ushers announced them, the loud, rhythmic music created an air of awe among the audience members (naqib).

Mughal coins featured a regal protocol and the full title of the reigning emperor. The emperor's courtiers never came to him with anything to offer: either a small amount of money (nazr) or a large one (peshkash).

In diplomatic relations, gifts are seen as a token of esteem and deference. Ambassadors played a critical role in resolving conflicts between political powers by negotiating treaties and alliances.

When a ring Thomas Roe had given to Asaf Khan was returned to him because it was only worth 400 rupees, he was disappointed.

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The Imperial Household

The Mughals' private world is often referred to as their "harem." It derives from the Persian word haram, which denotes a holy location.

It was the emperor's wives and concubines who lived in the Mughal household, along with the emperor's close female relatives (such as his mother and stepmother and foster mother) as well as his female servants (such as his daughters, daughters-in-law, and aunts).

Among the ruling classes in ancient India, polygamy was widely practised.

Marriage was used by both the Rajput and Mughal families to solidify political ties and build coalitions.

If you gave someone land, it was common to also give them a daughter as a wedding present. As a result, there was no change in the power structure between the various ruling families.

Distinction Between the wives of the ruler

When it came to wives in the Mughal household, there was a clear line drawn between those who were descended from royal families (begams) and those who were not.

Begams had higher social status and received more attention from their husbands because they had married after receiving large sums of money and valuables as dowers (mahr).

At the bottom of the female social ladder, there were the concubines (aghacha, or lesser agha), who served as royal mistresses.

They were all given cash as a monthly allowance, with additional gifts based on their social status.

The agha and aghacha could rise to the position of a beam if the husband so desired and if he did not have four wives already.

The jobs they did ranged from the simple to the complex, requiring a combination of intelligence, tact, and skill.

Financial Control

During the reign of Nur Jahan, Mughal queens and princesses gained control of vast amounts of wealth.

Jahanara and Roshanara, Shah Jahan's daughters, had an annual income comparable to that of imperial mansabdars. As an added bonus, Surat, the port city where Jahanara got her income from, was a lucrative hub for international trade as well.

For an inside look at life in the home, read Gulbadan Begum's Humayun Nama. In addition to being Humayun's sister, Babur also had a daughter named Gulbadan, who was Akbar's great aunt.

In addition to his native Turkish and Persian, Gulbadan was fluent in English.

The Imperial Officials 

Recruitment & Rank

The nobility was recruited from diverse ethnic and religious groups. This ensured that no faction was large enough to challenge the authority of the state.

The officer corps of the Mughals was described as a bouquet of flowers (guldasta) held together by loyalty to the emperor.

In Akbar’s imperial service, Turani and Iranian nobles were present from the earliest phase of carving out a political dominion. Many had accompanied Humayun; others migrated later to the Mughal court.

Two ruling groups of Indian origin entered the imperial service from 1560 onwards: 

  • The Rajputs and the Indian Muslims (Shaikhzadas).

  • The first to join was a Rajput chief, Raja Bharmal Kachhwaha of Amber, to whose daughter Akbar got married. Members of Hindu castes inclined towards education and accountancy were also promoted, a famous example being Akbar’s finance minister, Raja Todar Mal, who belonged to the Khatri caste.

Iranians gained high offices under Jahangir, whose politically influential queen, Nur Jahan, was an Iranian.

Aurangzeb appointed Rajputs to high positions, and under him, the Marathas accounted for a sizeable number within the body of officers. The nobles participated in military campaigns with their armies and also served as officers of the empire in the provinces.

Each military commander recruited, equipped and trained the main striking arm of the Mughal army, the cavalry.

The troopers maintained superior horses branded on the flank by the imperial mark (dagh). The emperor personally reviewed changes in rank, titles and official postings for all except the lowest-ranked officers.

Akbar designed the mansab system, also established spiritual relationships with a select band of his nobility by treating them as his disciples (murid).

There were two other important ministers at the centre:

  • the diwan-i ala (finance minister)

  • sadr-us sudur(minister of grants or madad-i maash, and in charge of appointing local judges or qazis).

The three ministers occasionally came together as an advisory body but were independent of each other. Akbar with these and other advisers shaped the administrative, fiscal and monetary institutions of the empire.

Nobles stationed at the court (tainat-i rakab) were a reserve force to be deputed to a province or military campaign.

They were duty-bound to appear twice daily, morning and evening, to express submission to the emperor in the public audience hall.

They shared the responsibility for guarding the emperor and his household round the clock.

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Information & Empire

The mir bakhshi supervised the corps of court writers (waqia nawis) who recorded all applications and documents presented to the court, and all imperial orders (farman).

The agents (wakil ) of nobles and regional rulers recorded the entire proceedings of the court under the heading “News from the Exalted Court” (Akhbarat-i Darbar-i Mualla) with the date and time of the court session (Pahar ).

The akhbarat contained all kinds of information such as attendance at the court, grant of offices and titles, diplomatic missions, presents received, or the enquiries made by the emperor about the health of an officer.

This information is valuable for writing the history of the public and private lives of kings and nobles.

News reports and important official documents travelled across the length and breadth of the regions under Mughal rule by imperial post.

Round-the-clock relays of foot runners (qasida or pathmar ) carried papers rolled up in bamboo containers.

Beyond the centre: provincial administration

The division of functions established at the centre was replicated in the provinces (subas) where the ministers had their corresponding subordinates (diwan, bakhshi and sadr).

The head of the provincial administration was the governor (subadar) who reported directly to the emperor.

The sarkars, into which each suba was divided, often overlapped with the jurisdiction of faujdars (commandants) who were deployed with contingents of heavy cavalry and musketeers in districts.

The local administration was looked after at the level of the pargana (sub-district) by three semi-hereditary officers, the qanungo (keeper of revenue records), the Chaudhuri (in charge of revenue collection) and the qazi.

Each department of administration maintained a large support staff of clerks, accountants, auditors, messengers, and other functionaries who were technically qualified officials, functioning in accordance with standardised rules and procedures, and generating copious written orders and records.

Persian was made the language of administration throughout, but local languages were used for village accounts.

Beyond The Frontiers

Some contemporary histories provide accounts of diplomatic relationships and conflicts with neighbouring political powers.

These reflect some tension and political rivalry arising from competing for regional interests.

The Safavids and Qandahar

The control of the Hindukush mountain range, which separated Afghanistan from Iran and Central Asia, was critical to the Mughal kings' relations with their neighbours, Iran and Turan.

In the Safavid-Mughal wars, Qandahar was a point of contention. Akbar retook control of the fortress-town in 1595 after Humayun lost control.

Despite diplomatic relations with the Mughals, the Safavid court continued to lay claim to Qandahar.

Jahangir attempted to convince Shah Abbas to keep Qandahar by sending a diplomatic envoy to his court in 1613, but his efforts were unsuccessful.

A Persian army besieged Qandahar in the winter of 1622. When the Safavids arrived, the hapless Mughal garrison was forced to surrender the fortress and the city.

The Ottomans: pilgrimage and trade

To ensure the free movement of merchants and pilgrims in areas under Ottoman control was a key concern in the Mughal-Ottoman relationship.

Mecca and Medina, two important pilgrimage centres located in Ottoman Arabia's Hijaz region, were particularly important.

Exporting valuable goods to the Red Sea ports of Aden and Mokha, the Mughal emperor distributed the money he earned.

Questioning Formal Religion

The utmost respect Akbar had for the Jesuit missionaries left a lasting impression on them. When the emperor showed open interest in Christian doctrines, they took it as a sign that he agreed with their beliefs.

This is understandable in light of Western Europe's general climate of religious intolerance.

On the other hand, "the king cared little that, in permitting everyone to follow his religion, it was actually him who violated all," said Monserrate

In the ibadat khana at Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar's quest for religious knowledge led to debates between learned Muslims, Hindus, Jainas, Parsis, and Christians.

Akbar's religious views evolved as a result of his conversations with religious scholars from various sects and traditions.

A self-created eclectic form of divine worship focused on light and the sun took over from his traditional Islamic understandings of religion.

To help project the king in a positive light, Akbar and Abu'l Fazl developed a philosophy of light. A person who has been inspired by God enjoys absolute authority over his or her subjects and complete mastery over their adversaries.

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