A Note on Some of the Sources of Mughal History

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Some Sources of Mughal History

The Mughal empire followed the fall of Ibrahim Lodi in the First Battle of Panipat at the hands of Babur in 1526 A.D. Then, Humayun the eldest son of Babur, became second Badshah but was dislodged by Shershah Suri in c. 1539 AD. He was driven out to wander out of India till 1555 when he led aggression against one of the successors of Shershah Suri, won back his lost empire but died soon. His minor son, Akbar succeeded him to the Mughal throne in 1556 after having defeated Hemu in the second battle of Panipat.

Akbar ruled from 1556 to 1605 succeeded by his son Jahangir [1605 to 1627] and Shahjahan [1627 to 1657]. Shahjahan fell ill and his sons revolted against him. In the succession war, Aurangzeb, the youngest son, who was about 49 years of age at that time, succeeded in eliminating the three rival senior brothers, put his father in Agra Fort Jail where he died in 1666.

Aurangzeb ruled upto 1707. These six emperors were followed by the weaklings and foreign invasions and interference in their affairs increased. After mid eighteenth century the authority of the Mughal emperors remained just a shadow of what their ancestors had enjoyed. Their lineage ended with the transportation of last of the Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah to Rangoon where he died as a prisoner of the British.

This long period of Indian History is very interesting to understand various facets of the life and culture of the people of India during those times. The life and letters of the period could be read with the help of a number of sources available in the form of various memoirs, official correspondence, historical books and sketches in different languages like Arabic, Persian, Urdu. Marathi, Hindi, Rajasthani, English and French that are intact and available in various repositories spread over the Globe even today. Moreover, Mughal Royal Official correspondence is also available in abundance in original form regarding the Mughal government in National Archives of India, New Delhi. The courtiers/manasabdars kept their vakils at the Mughal Court and they regularly informed the activities of the court to their masters which forms a very important segment of the contemporary eye-witness record.

Without reading it all , none can understand various facets of government and society of that important part of Indian History.


One such important source of information is Babur's memoir known as Tuzuk-i-Baburi. Since he was the first Mughal to establish his rule over a vast tract of North-western India, we would like to share what Babur has written and how the historians evaluate his book as a source of history. Before discussing the contents of this memoir, let us first know what historians across globe say about its worth. Some of the historians favour putting full reliance on what Babur has written in his Tuzuk-i-Baburi originally written in Turkish, latter translated into Persian and styled as Baburnama. In subsequent times it has been translated into French, English and many other languages. On the instruction of Akbar, Baburnamah was translated into Persian in 1589 by one of his nobles, Mirza Abdur-Rahim, who was also Bairam Khan's son. Bairam Khan was the preceptor to Mughal emperor Akbar. It was translated into English for the first time by Leyden and Erskine in 1826. The second English translation was made in 1905 by Mrs. Beveridge. Baburnamah was rendered into French by Pavet de Courteille in 1871.

According to Lane-Poole, "If ever there were a case when the testimony of a single historical document, unsupported by other evidence, should be accepted as sufficient proof, it is the case with Babur's Memoirs. No reader of this prince of autobiographers can doubt his honesty or his competence as witness and chronicler."