Social Scientist. v 20, no. 232-33 (Sept-Oct 1992) p. 38.


Graphics file for this page
M. ATHAR ALf

Translations of Sanskrit Works at Akbar's Court

The concluding portion of Abul Fazl's Ain-i-Akbari contains an extensive account of the thoughts and customs of India. No previous effort of this nature and scale was made earlier after that 'great moment in World History* when one of the most outstanding scientists of the Islamic Civilization, Alberuni, set himself to study, expound and analyse the religion and sciences of India in the eleventh century. Abul Fazl's own English translator Jarrett tells us how much Alberuni's work is superior to Abul Fazl's. Without contesting the essence of this judgement one would still argue that (a) while Abul Fazi has derived and 'processed* some material from Alberuni, the bulk of his information comes from newly tapped independent sources and (b) the purpose of the two works are different: Alberuni's to elaborate, understand and criticise, Abul Fazl's to describe and summarise. What is important to us to consider the first of these two reservations? If Abul Fazi had independent sources, what were these?

It is clear from Abul Fazl's account that a considerable part of his information came from oral testimony of the learned among the Brahmans and Jains. We know from Jain accounts that Abul Fazi was throughout in close touch with them just as he was with the Jesuit Fathers.

But another part of the information came from fresh material translated from Sanskrit. The project of translating Sanskrit works at Akbar's Court has been commented upon by such a large number of modern scholars that I claim no discovery here. What I propose to do in this paper is to go all over the Persian evidence for this remarkable endeavour and present it here, throughout in fresh translation and, hopefully, with a few new additional data.

The effort at translating Ancient Indian works began with the arrival of Shaikh Bhawan at Akbar's Court in A.H. 983/1575-76. Badauni tells us:

In this year Shaikh Bhawan, who was a Brahman scholar, came from the countries of Deccan to take service at Court. Having volun-

National Fellow, ICHR.

Social Scientist, Vol. 20, Nos. 9-10, September-October 1992



Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page