Sources of Medieval Indian History

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Sources of Medieval Indian History

The sources of Medieval Indian history is richer than the sources of  Ancient India.  There are plenty of written records and memoirs. They are not without limitation. In fact, a large number of Muslim chroniclers enjoyed the patronage of the ruling princes and looked hardly beyond the court and the capital.

For the sake of convenience it would rather be better to divide the source into following categories:

  1. In Official records: Official records have been found relating to the history of the Turko-Afghan and the Mughal rule in the India. These are obviously the most valuable and reliable source materials for the said period. But due to lack of proper upkeep and several other reasons much of them did not reach us.
  2. Contemporary writings: It is possible to gather so many information from the writings of the contemporary chroniclers. The famous Arab scholar Al Beruni wrote chronicle called ‘An Enquiry into India’. It dealt with the affairs of India when Sultan Mahmud invaded India. Another important work called Tabaqut-i-Nasiri was written by Minhaj-ud-din Siraj. It narrates the story of Muslim India up to sixties of the thirteenth century. Similarly Ziauddin Barauni in his work Tarik-i-Firoj-Shahi took up the story from where Minhaj-ud-din ends (from the reign of Balban to that of Firuz Shah Tughlug). Other contemporary chronicles include the works of Amir Khashru, Fatuah-i-Firoz Shahi, by the Sultan himself and Fatuah-us-Salatin by lsami. Regarding the source materials of the Mughal period the most remarkable works are the Akbarnama and Ain-i-Akbari by Abdul Fazal. Besides, Khafi Khan’s Muntakhab­-ul-lubab, Badauni’s Muntakhab-ul-towarikh, Nizamuddin Ahmed’s Tabqaut-i-Akbari have proved to be worthy source materials for different phases of Mughal rule.
  3. Biographies and Memoirs: In the Sultanate period Firoz Shah Tughluq wrote his biographies called Fatuhat-i-Firoz Sahi. Sultan Mahmud and Timur had their own biographies. And Chand Bardoi became famous for his lyrical balard called ‘Prithviraj Raso’. The most important memories and biographies of the Mughal India are the memoirs of Babar and Jahangir and biographical sketch of Humayun by Gulbadan Begum.
  4. Accounts of foreign travellers: The earliest African traveler who visited Muslim India was Ibn Batutah. His Rehala on travels furnishes us with details of the various aspects of the Tughluq-sahi period. Another important traveler was Abdur Razzaq who left us valuable information about the Vijaynagar Kingdom. Among others were Nikola Kanti (Italian), Nikitin (Russian), Payer (Portuguese), etc.
  5. Coins and Inscriptions: During the period Of the Sultanate and the Mughal India various kings of coins were introduced by the Sultans, and the Mughal Emperors. The standard of the metals used and also from the engrave on them it is quite possible to understand the economic condition of the time. Besides, these contain evidences relating to the year of accession, the extent of the dominions of the Sultan and his relations with the neighboring powers, etc.
  6. The Monuments: The monuments of Medieval India are far more numerous than those of the ancient India. They are indispensable aid to the proper understanding of the artistic, cultural and even economic history of Medieval India.

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