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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Curious Case of Multiple JahangirNamas : Conclusion

This is the concluding part in the series discussing the multiple versions of the memoirs of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. This post aims to analyze the reasons behind the creation of various versions of the memoirs of Mughal Emperor Jahangir.

Before we start, let us understand that most of the discussion is going to revolve around the following two versions.

1. The first version is :

The author of the work is UNKNOWN.
This Version has been translated from an anonymous manuscript.

 2. The second version is :


MOST important points worth noting / thinking :  

1. Why we have more than 1 version of the autobiography of 1 person?
2. Why do these versions contradict each other? 

3. Not only do they contradict each other, but they contradict other contemporary accounts as well, while narrating some events.

4. Was Emperor Jahangir experimenting with his autobiography ? Or, someone else experimented with it later ?

5. If the same person has written these accounts, then why such inconsistency in reporting ?

And, the most important question, what was the need to write more than 1 autobiography? Or why DID so many different manuscripts with different narration came into existence?

The biggest question before us is -> Who actually wrote these memoirs, which are known to us at present. We may never get these answers, but something seems not right here.

Do we need Sherlock Holmes to unearth this mystery?



To find the answers to all the above questions, we have to re-visit the history of these memoirs. What we read are the English translations of the memoirs of Jahangir. But, the memoirs were originally written in Persian / Turkish language. 

Most of us are under the impression that these Persian texts came to us 'as it is' from the Imperial Mughal library, and from there, they were taken up for translation, and hence we got these English versions. 

But, this is not how it happened.

There are several works which "claim" to be the autobiographical memoirs of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. In the history of medieval Persian literature, this is a unique and dubious distinction. There is no single consistent version, which came to us directly from the reign of the Emperor himself, in its entirety. Multiple copies of the memoirs have been obtained, some of which were outrightly rejected because they contradicted each other while describing the same event!

The pioneering orientalist historians ( Sacy, Gladwin, etc ) in the 18th and 19th centuries were confused over the reasons for this anomaly. The possibilities of copies being forged were expressed, but none of the historians took responsibility to investigate the matter, shying away from calling any version of the memoirs forged. Instead, a new terminology was introduced -  "more genuine" and "less genuine" memoirs.

To compound the matter, these memoirs were edited many times by various historians over the intervening centuries, with the last known editing being done by Mughal historian Muhammed Hadi in the 18th century. He completed and wrote the account of some years in the memoirs of Emperor Jahangir which was left unwritten by the Emperor himself. A note which was found on the memoirs made the above-mentioned declaration.

Jahangir reigned for 22 years, but ill-health and sorrow made him give up the writing of his memoirs in the 17th year (1622) of his reign. He then entrusted the task to Mu'tamad Khan, who continued the memoirs till the beginning of the 19th year (1624). He then stopped writing the memoirs in the name of the Emperor. 

Muhammed Hadi, a later historian of the 18th century who lived in the court of Muhammed Shah Rangila (1719-1748) took up the memoirs of Jahangir and completed the work till his death.

After the mutiny of 1857, Mughal libraries were ransacked by the British.

An Urdu edition of Jahangir's memoirs was published in 1874 in Aligarh. It is claimed that this was made from Muhammed Hadi's version of Jahangir's memoirs. It was translated into Urdu at Aligarh, by Munshi Ahmed and published in 1874. It was done under the patronage of Muhammed Ibrahim Ali Khan, Nawab of Tonk, Aligarh. There was a Hindi edition too, published in 1902.

The translator of the Tuzuk furnishes us some information about the manner in which we have obtained this English translation. He tells us about a manuscript which was made by Sayyid Muhammed, the elder brother of Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan of Aligarh.

At the end of the manuscript, the copyist gives some account of himself and of his family. He made the copy of this manuscript from copies in the Royal Library in the possession of a person named - Raja Roghu Nath Singh. He finished it in October 1843. Sayyid Mohammed was Munshi of Hatgam in the Fatehpur District. He died young in 1845. 

The translator further tells us that one of his friends informed him that Sayyid Ahmed told him that he found a valuable illustrated manuscript of the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, in the debris of the Delhi Royal Library, but that was lost when his house was plundered by the mutineers. There is another copy which was in Sayyid Ahmad's own handwriting. He states that he made use of 10 good manuscripts to write that copy.

The translator further adds the following :

" I have been enabled by the kindness of Mr. Irvine to examine the Hindi Jahangirnama of Debi Prasad. It is not a translation, but an abstract, and I do not think it is of much value. Being a Jodhpur man he has been able, perhaps, to correct some spellings of places, but he does not seem to have consulted any manuscript, and when he comes to a difficulty he shirks from it. 

The most valuable adjunct to the Tuzuk, after the IqbalNama, is the Ma'asir-i-Jahangiri of Kamgar Husaini. It is important as it gives the early history of Jahangir, that is, of the time when he was Prince Salim. There are three copies of his work in the British Museum, but the so-called Ma'asir-i-Jahangiri of the India Office Library, No. 3098, or 324 of the new Catalogue, is only a copy of the IqbalNama.

I regret that the number of Errata and Addenda is so large, but when I began the revision I did not know that Sayyid Ahmad's text was so incorrect. It will be seen that at page 158 and 162 I have made two erroneous notes. "


According to the translator of the Tuzuk, Sir Sayyid Ahmed had made his copy of the memoirs of Jahangir after consulting 10 different manuscripts. Despite this, when the translator examined it, he found it to be heavily erroneous!

Most historians consider the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri to be the "most genuine" among all the versions.  However, do note that, there is no version that can be termed as "perfectly genuine memoirs" of Jahangir.

It is 'closest' to authenticity, when compared with the other versions of the memoirs of Jahangir; but there is no such manuscript that can be called ''totally'' authentic memoirs.


The version which we read as the genuine memoirs of Mughal Emperor Jahangir was formulated after passing through many hands across the years, and underwent much edits and additions, which we can not account for.

Can such a source be held as an authority for every bit of information, which it furnishes? 

I have examined the 2 most prominent versions as per my requirement, in earlier posts. These memoirs contradict other versions at times and even contradict various other well-established historical facts, including the ones relating to Akbar's children.



Appendix - 1

Version number 1 of the memoirs of Jahangir mentions his mother in quite disgraceful terms. Here is what these memoirs say --

Reference to mother of Jahangir from the spurious version of Jahangir's memoirs

Beveridge, the translator of Akbarnama, expresses shock that any son could address his mother in such disgraceful terms. Especially Jahangir, who used to regard his mother highly. Almost every foreign traveller who came to the court of Jahangir made note of the courtesies which he reserved for his mother.


Appendix - 2

Translation of version number 2 of the memoirs of Jahangir, by Rogers, which are considered to be more genuine in comparison with all other versions, also mention his mother in not so graceful terms. Here is what these memoirs say --

Even the memoirs, which are held genuine, mention her as the aunt of Raja Man Singh, who lived in the palace of Akbar.


Appendix - 3

There is another translation of version 2 of the memoirs of Jahangir. I have presented the same event, below, in the picture, as mentioned in Appendix-2, above. 

Note that in this English translation, the reference to any aunt of Raja Man Singh / aka mother of Salim, has been skipped!

This is the same event which is mentioned in appendix 2 in version 2 of the memoirs of Jahangir. However, this English translation makes no mention of any aunt of Raja Man Singh!


Appendix - 4

In complete contrast with the memoirs of Jahangir, the respect which he had for his mother can be summed up in the following picture :

Jahangir's regard for his mother was exceptional and different from what he showed to others. He conducted almost all major ceremonies in her palace. The English traveller Edward Terry, who visited India between 1616 and 1619  records that the Mughal Emperor Jahangir used to carry the palanquin of his mother Mariam-Uz-Zamani on his own shoulders! There are various tales of "the stature and largesse he bestowed upon her". 

If we compare the conduct of Jahangir towards his mother, as recorded by foreign travellers, such as the one listed in the last picture, with the disgraceful reference which was made to her in the versions of the memoirs (spurious as well as genuine)  mentioned above, we get a shock!

I am also left puzzled with one question which was asked by Mr. Beveridge above - Is it possible for a son who held his mother in such high and courteous terms, to address her indirectly in such a disgraceful manner ? 

If not, then how and when did such references creep into these memoirs ? 

Another problem which comes in these memoirs is that - he addresses Hazrat Mariam-Uz-Zamani in honorific terms, instead of directly addressing her as his mother. Why is this so? See this post : Excerpts about Mariam-Uz-Zamani from the memoirs of Jahangir

PS : A separate post will be made about the relation of Jahangir with his mother, based on accounts of foreign travellers who record that he celebrated his birthdays with his mother, and most weddings of the sons of Jahangir took place in the palace of his mother - among other such events, which show his affection for his mother.

Article Category : Mughals(Akbar)

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  1. Great search n research history-geek. It really requires lot of patience n time too.Hats off to u fr ur perseverence :-h .After reading all this I am intrigued as to whether there was any jahangirnaama in reality?:-? If so where is it? In my view, may be some people chose this as an easy subject fr their phd. n wrote their own imaginative piece. Thank u so much Abhay fr taking trouble.:-h

    1. Welcome Geeta...!!
      By the way, Jahangirnama was surely written. :)
      Though, the contents which are "available to us TODAY" are debatable..

  2. Abhay, Let me add to the confusion here with the version I am reading

    The Jahangirnama: Memoirs of Jahangir, Emperor of India by Jahangir, tr. Wheeler M. Thackston. Oxford University Press, 1999.

    In this version they only talk about the living children of Akbar. The birth of the twins is completely missed

  3. Yes Preeti.
    This version skips the mention of twin sons of Akbar and MUZ. :-P
    It starts from the daughter Khannum. :)

  4. Abhay, read the text itself, confusion remains as to the, Jahingara (Salim), his version does not need to be taken into account, morphine, affecting the mental and physical dependence, the English version, I would not read, believe me when they write "the history of other people "have pojma.Interesantno that in your history, so kontradiktornosti.U Ottoman empires, including ours, since they ruled the Balkans, there's, say Suleiman had children with the ladies at court, but only with Hurem was married, Sulejmanov son, who was supposed to sit on the throne of the women with whom he was not married, so in your history has many "mysteries" and unknowns, I watched the movie, but unfortunately, there is no translation, I'm very sorry and hope that will in due course and omoguciti.thanks us a lot.

  5. Tanja,
    Thanks for your inputs about the Ottoman Empire as well. :)
    Here is another post, if you missed on the same issue. >
    Link of Post:
    The thing is that, one needs to start looking in sources other than the available Jahangirnamas also. Infact, the thing is rarely is anyone interested in personal lives of Emperors and hence, do not dig more, as per what i have inferred.