26 August, 2012

The Mughal State and Culture 1556-1598: Selected Letters and Documents from Munshaat-i-Namakin

The Mughal State and Culture 1556-1598: Selected Letters and Documents from Munshaat-i-Namakin

By- Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli

Insha collections compiled in India during the medieval period are an important source of information for the history of the medieval state and society. But scholars working in the area were severely handicapped in their attempts to use this potential source because properly edited texts of the majority of these collections were not available.

Munshaat-i-Namakin is one such Insha collection that was compiled during the last years of Akbar’s reign. It covers the period 1556 to 1598. Its compiler, Abul Qasim Namakin, was a nobleman of eminence and served under Akbar and Jahangir.

It is one of the largest collections dating from the Mughal period. The documents provide extremely valuable information on a wide range of subjects relating to the political, institutional, social, cultural, legal and even religious aspects of Akbar’s reign. Besides, it contains scores of appointment orders relating to different branches of the cnetral as well as provincial administration, providing specific information about the duties and functions of state officials. It also contains copies of important diplomatic correspondence some of which are not available anywhere else.

Insha was a popular branch of literature during the medieval period. in addition to those who were interested in it as a matter of taste, it was an essential reference tool for those who aspired to enter government service. Insha collections, which contained specimen documents and drafts for various occasions served as guides for acquiring the necessary skill in the art of drafting, which was an important requirement for government servants.

Apparently many of the documents in the collection were received by the compiler when he was a Mughal officer working in different capacities. Selections from the writings of other distinguished writers have also been included. Munshaat-i-Namakin is a unique source of history as well as a book of great literary interest for it contains the only available specimen, of a number of documents for various categories.

Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli retired as Professor of History, Aligarh Mulsim University. His academic work relates to mainly Sufism and Indo-Persian hitoriography. 

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