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Produced by Jeroen Hellingman and the Online Distributed
Memoirs of Jah?ng?r
Mr. Rogers translated the Memoirs of Jah?ng?r several years ago from the edition which Sayyid Ah?mad printed at Ghazipur in 1863 and at Allyghur in 1864. Orientalists are greatly indebted to the Sayyid for his disinterested labours, but his text seems to have been made from a single and defective MS. and is often incorrect, especially in the case of proper names. I have collated it with the excellent MSS. in the India Office and the British Museum, and have thus been able to make numerous corrections. I have also consulted the MS. in the Library of the R.A.S., but it is not a good one. I have, with Mr. Rogers’s permission, revised the translation, and I have added many notes.
There is an account of the Memoirs in the sixth volume of Elliot & Dowson’s “History of India,” and there the subject of the various recensions is discussed. There is also a valuable note by Dr. Rieu in his “Catalogue of Persian MSS.,” i, 253. It is there pointed out that there is a manuscript translation of the first nine years of the Memoirs by William Erskine in the British Museum. I have consulted this translation and found it helpful. The MS. is numbered Add. 26,611. The translation is, of course, excellent, and it was made from a good MS.
A translation of what Dr. Rieu calls the garbled Memoirs of Jah?ng?r was made by Major David Price and published by the Oriental Translation Committee of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1829. The author of this work is unknown, and its history is an unsolved problem. It is occasionally fuller than the genuine Memoirs, and it contains some picturesque touches, such as the account of Akbar’s deathbed. But it is certain that it is, in part at least, a fabrication, and that it contains statements which Jah?ng?r could never have made. Compare, for instance, the account of the death of Sohr?b, the son of M?rz? Rustam, near the end of Price’s translation, pp. 138–9, with that given in the genuine Memoirs in the narrative of the fifteenth year of the reign, p. 293, and also in the Iqb?l-n?ma, p. 139. Besides being inaccurate, the garbled or spurious Memoirs are much shorter than the genuine work, and do not go beyond the fifteenth year. Price’s translation, too, was made from a single and badly written MS.1 which is now in the R.A.S. library. Dr. Rieu remarks that it is to be regretted that so poor a fabrication as the garbled Memoirs should have been given to the world as a genuine production of Jah?ng?r. This being so, it is appropriate that the present translation of the genuine Memoirs should be published by the Royal Asiatic Society.
When Jah?ng?r had written his Memoirs for the first twelve years of his reign he made them into a volume, and had a number of copies made and distributed (Elliot, vi, 360). The first of these he gave to S?h?h Jah?n, who was then in high favour. The present publication is a translation of the first volume of the Memoirs, but the translation of the whole Memoirs, together with the additions of Mu?tamad K?h?n and Muh?ammad H?d?, has been completed, and it is to be hoped that its publication will follow in due course.
Jah?ng?r reigned for twenty-two years, but ill-health and sorrow made him give up the writing of his Memoirs in the seventeenth year of his reign (see Elliot, vi, 280). He then entrusted the task to Mu?tamad K?h?n, the author of the Iqb?l-n?ma, who continued the Memoirs to the beginning of the nineteenth year. He then dropped writing the Memoirs in the name of the emperor, but he continued the narrative of the reign, to Jah?ng?r’s death, in his own work, the Iqb?l-n?ma. Muh?ammad H?d? afterwards continued the Memoirs down to Jah?ng?r’s death, but his work is little more than an abridgment of the Iqb?l-n?ma. Sayyid Ah?mad’s edition contains the continuations of the Memoirs by Mu?tamad and Muh?ammad H?d?, and also Muh?ammad H?d?’s preface and introduction. But this preface and introduction have not been translated by Mr. Rogers, and I do not think that a translation is necessary. Muh?ammad H?d? is a late writer (see Elliot, vi, 392), his date being the first quarter of the eighteenth century, and his introduction seems to be almost wholly derived from the Ma??s?ir-i-Jah?ng?r? of K?mg?r H?usain? (Elliot, vi, 257). It consists mainly of an account of Jah?ng?r’s life from his birth up to his accession.
It is perhaps unnecessary to say anything about the importance of Jah?ng?r’s Memoirs. They give a lively picture of India in the early decades of the seventeenth century, and are a valuable supplement to the Akbar-n?ma. I may be allowed, however, to end this preface with the following remarks which I contributed to the Indian Magazine for May, 1907:—
“The Royal authors of the East had more blood in them than those kings whose works have been catalogued by Horace Walpole. To find a parallel to them we must go back to Julius Cæsar, and even then the advantage is not upon the side of Europe. After all, the commentaries of the famous Roman are a little disappointing, and certainly the Memoirs of B?bar and Jah?ng?r are far more human and fuller of matter than the story of the Gallic Wars. All Muhammadans have a fancy for writing chronicles and autobiographies, and several Muhammadan kings have yielded to the common impulse. Central Asia has given us the Memoirs of Tamarlane, B?bar, and H?aidar, and the chronicle of Abu-l-ghazi; Persia has given us the Memoirs of Shah Tahmasp, and India the Memoirs of the Princess Gulbadan and Jah?ng?r. In modern times we see the same impulse at work, for we have the biography of the late Ameer of Afghanistan and the diary of the Shah of Persia.
“The contributions to literature by Royal authors which come to us from the East form a department by themselves, and one which is of great value. Nearly all Eastern histories are disfigured by adulation. Even when the author has had no special reason for flattery and for suppression of truth, he has been dazzled by the greatness of his subject, and gives us a picture which no more reveals the real king than does a telescope the real constitution of the Morning Star. But when Eastern monarchs give us chronicles, the case is different. They have no occasion for fear or favour, and mercilessly expose the failings of their contemporaries. Not that they are to be trusted any more than other Orientals when speaking of themselves. B?bar has suppressed the story of his vassalage to Shah Isma??l, of his defeat at Ghajdaw?n, and his treatment of ??lam Lodi; and Jah?ng?r has glossed over his rebellion against his father, and the circumstances of Sh?r-?fgan’s death. But when they have to speak of others—whether kings or nobles—they give us the whole truth, and perhaps a little more. An amiable Princess like Gulbadan Begam may veil the faults and weaknesses of her brothers Hum?y?n and Hind?l; but B?bar strips the gilt off nearly every one whom he mentions, and spares no one—not even his own father.
“The Memoirs of B?bar, H?aidar, and Gulbadan have been translated into English, and those of T?ahmasp have been translated into German; but unfortunately Jah?ng?r’s have never been fully translated,2 though there are extracts in Elliot & Dowson’s History, and Major Price many years ago gave us from an imperfect manuscript a garbled account of a few years of his Memoirs. Yet in reality Jah?ng?r’s Memoirs are not inferior in interest to those of B?bar. Indeed, we may go further and say there is twice as much matter in them as in B?bar’s Memoirs, and that they are by far the most entertaining of the two works. Not that Jah?ng?r was by any means as remarkable a man as his great-grandfather. He was a most faulty human being, and his own account of himself often excites our disgust and contempt. But he had the sense not to confine his narrative to an account of himself, and he has given us a picture of his father, the great Akbar, which is a bigger ‘plum’ than anything in B?bar’s Memoirs. But his account of himself has also its charm, for it reveals the real man, and so he lives for us in his Memoirs just as James VI—to whom, and to the Emperor Claudius, he bears a strange and even ludicrous resemblance—lives in the ‘Fortunes of Nigel’ or Claudius in Suetonius and Tacitus. Jah?ng?r was indeed a strange mixture. The man who could stand by and see men flayed alive, and who, as he himself tells us, put one man to death and had two others hamstrung because they showed themselves inopportunely and frightened away his game, could yet be a lover of justice and could spend his Thursday evenings in holding high converse. He could quote F?rd?si’s verse against cruelty to animals—
‘Ah! spare yon emmet, rich in hoarded grain—
He lives with pleasure, and he dies with pain’;
and be soft-hearted enough to wish that his father were alive to share with him the delicious mangoes of India. He could procure the murder of Ab?-l-faz?l and avow the fact without remorse, and also pity the royal elephants because they shivered in winter when they sprinkled themselves with cold water. ‘I observed this,’ he says, ‘and so I ordered that the water should be heated to the temperature of luke-warm milk.’ And he adds: ‘This was entirely my own idea; nobody had ever thought of it before.’ One good trait in Jah?ng?r was his hearty enjoyment of Nature and his love for flowers. B?bar had this also, but he was old, or at least worn out, when he came to India, and he was disgusted by an Indian attempt to poison him, and so his description of India is meagre and splenetic. Jah?ng?r, on the other hand, is a true Indian, and dwells delightedly on the charms of Indian flowers, particularises the pal?s, the bok?l, and the champa, and avows that no fruit of Afghanistan or Central Asia is equal to the mango. He loved, too, to converse with pandits and Hindu ascetics, though he is contemptuous of their avatars, and causes the image of Vishnu as the boar avatar to be broken and flung into the Pushkar lake.
“It is a remark of Hallam’s that the best attribute of Muhammadan princes is a rigorous justice in chastising the offences of others. Of this quality Jah?ng?r, in spite of all his weaknesses, had a large share, and even to this day he is spoken of with respect by Muhammadans on account of his love of justice. It is a pathetic circumstance that it was this princely quality which was to some extent the cause of the great affront put upon him by Mah?bat K?h?n. Many complaints had been made to Jah?ng?r of the oppressions of Mah?bat in Bengal, and crowds of suppliants had come to Jah?ng?r’s camp. It was his desire to give them redress and to punish Mah?bat for his exactions, together with his physical and mental weakness, which led to his capture on the banks of the Jhilam.
“One of the many interesting observations in his Memoirs is his account of an inscription he saw at Hindaun. He says that in the thirteenth year of his reign, as he was marching back to Agra, he found a verse by someone inscribed on the pillar of a pleasure-house on an islet in the lake at Hindaun. He then proceeds to quote it, and it turns out to be one of Omar Khayyam’s! This is FitzGerald’s paraphrase:—
‘For some we loved, the loveliest and the best
That from his vintage Time hath prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest.’
“The same quatrain has also been quoted by Baday?n? in his history, and the interesting thing about Jah?ng?r’s quotation of it is that he could see the beauty of the verse and at the same time did not know who was the author. There is also an interest in the fact that the third line contains a different reading from that given in Whinfield’s edition of the text. Hindaun is in the Jaipur territory, and one would like to know if the inscription still exists.
“Among other things in Jah?ng?r’s Memoirs there is the description of the outbreak of the Plague, given to him by a lady of his court [which has been quoted by Dr. Simpson in his book upon Plague], and there is a very full account of Kashmir, which is considerably superior to that in the ?y?n Akbar?, which Sir Walter Lawrence has praised.”
With reference to the portrait of Jah?ng?r prefixed to this volume, it may be interesting to note that it appears from Mr. E. B. Havell’s “Indian Sculpture,” p. 203, that the British Museum possesses a drawing by Rembrandt which was copied from a Moghul miniature, and which has been pronounced by Mr. Rouffaer to be a portrait of Jah?ng?r. Coryat (Purchas, reprint, iv, 473) thus describes Jah?ng?r’s personal appearance:—“He is fifty and three years of age, his nativity-day having been celebrated with wonderful pomp since my arrival here. On that day he weighed himself in a pair of golden scales, which by great chance I saw the same day; a custom he observes most inviolably every year. He is of complexion neither white nor black, but of a middle betwixt them. I know not how to express it with a more expressive and significant epitheton than olive. An olive colour his face presenteth. He is of a seemly composition of body, of a stature little unequal (as I guess not without grounds of probability) to mine, but much more corpulent than myself.”
As regards the bibliography of the T?zuk-i-Jah?ng?r?, I have to note that there is an Urdu translation by Munsh? Ah?mad ?Al? S?m?b of R?mp?ra, that is, Aligarh in Tonk. It was made from Muh?ammad H?d?’s edition under the patronage of Muh?ammad Ibr?h?m ?Al? K?h?n Naw?b of Tonk, and was published by Newal Kishor in 1291 (1874). There is also a Hindi translation by Munsh? Deb? Pras?d which was published in 1905 at Calcutta by the Bh?rat Mitra Press. The Urdu translation referred to by Mr. Blumhardt in his Catalogue of Hindustani MSS., p. 61, and noticed by Elliot, vi, 401, and Garcin de Tassy, iii, 301, is, as the two latter writers have remarked, a translation of the Iqb?l-n?ma. The MS. referred to by Elliot vi, 277, as having been in the possession of General Thomas Paterson Smith, and which is described in Ethé’s Catalogue of the India Office MSS., No. 2833, p. 1533, was made by Sayyid Muh?ammad, the elder brother of Sayyid Ah?mad. At the end of the MS. the copyist gives some account of himself and of his family. He made the copy from copies in the Royal Library and in the possession of Rajah Rogh? N?th Singh alias L?l Singh J?lp?r. He finished it in October, 1843. Sayyid Muh?ammad was Munsif of Hutg?m in the Fath?p?r district. He died young in 1845. My friend Mr. T. W. Arnold, of the India Office, informs me that Sayyid Ah?mad told him that he found a valuable illustrated MS of the T?zuk in the débris of the Delhi Royal Library, and took it home, but that it was lost when his house was plundered by the mutineers. There is in the Bodleian a copy in Sayyid Ah?mad’s own handwriting. He states that he made use of ten good MSS. The Englishman at whose request he made the copy was John Panton Gubbins, who was once Sessions Judge of Delhi. This copy is described in the Bodleian Catalogue, p. 117, No. 221. The MS. No. 220 described on the same page was brought home by Fraser, and is a good one, but only goes down to the end of the 14th year.