Select from the drop-down MENU & READ the Blog in your PREFERRED Language


Akbar & Harka Bai | Maharana Pratap | Mauryans | Razia Sultan | Miscellaneous | Jodha Akbar | FolkLore | Suggestions

5300+ comments registered on over 165 active posts, till now.
Plagiarism is a serious ethical offense amounting to copyright infringement. ZERO tolerance for Plagiarism.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Earliest Known Farman of Mughal Emperor Akbar | Issued at the age of 16 During Bairam Khan's Regency

Today, I am sharing a Farman which was given by 16 year old Mughal Emperor Akbar in favor of a sermon reader, to his officials, directing them to make peaceful settlement of a property dispute. This is probably the earliest known farman given by Akbar. 

Interesting Story Behind the Discovery of this Farman

In the late 1990's, the National Archives of India at Delhi acquired a set of family documents from Begum Amina, wife of Professor Abu Bakar of Jamia Milia Islamia University, Delhi, whose ancestors enjoyed the office of Qazi and khatib in pargana Chandpur, sarkar Sambhal, suba Delhi for a considerable period during Mughal rule.

Suba , Pargana and Sarkar were administrative units. They have been explained below, in this article.

These documents covered a period of three centuries, and mainly relate to property disputes, the division of the madad-i ma'ash* holdings among heirs, and initial and confirmatory farmans and parwanas for land grants. 

* - revenue free land grants

Among them were a few papers from the reign of Akbar which shed light on important aspects of administration during the period of the karori** experiment (beginning, 1574-75).

** - Till the 10th year of Akbar’s reign (1566), no change was made in Sher Shah Suri’s crop rate (ray) which was converted into a cash rate, called dastur-ul-amal or dastur, by using a single price-list. Akbar reverted afterward to a system of annual assessment. In the nineteenth year (1574) officials called amil, but popularly known as karoris were placed in charge of lands which could yield a crore of tankas (silver currency).

In the present post, we will only discuss the earliest of these documents, a farman of Akbar dated the month of Safar 966, corresponding to the period between 13 November 1558 -11 December 1558.

Contents of Farman:

'He is without need' (Huwa al-Ghani)

[Title] : Farman of Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar Padshah Ghazi
[Round Seal on the right against the top two half-lines]

[Legend in middle of Seal] : Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar Padshah Ghazi, son of Muhammad Humayun Padshah Ghazi.

[Names of ancestors up to Amir Timur on the rim]

[Order] :


Let the wajhdars (officers holding territorial assignments in lieu of salary), of pargana Chandpur, know that Maulana Ahmad, the sermon-reader, has come to the Imperial Court and petitioned that in respect of the hereditary land, which he holds in the limits of the township of the said pargana, there had been a dispute between the petitioner and Wajih-ud-din, and the said dispute had been placed for adjudication before the qazis of Islam and the reputed scholars of the region of Sambhal and [of] the said pargana, who gave the petitioner's share to him ; but now the said Wajih-ud-din is deviating from that settlement. 

Should what has been represented be true, it is incumbent on them [the addressed officials] to act according to the settlement arrived at before the qazis of Islam and the reputed scholars of that place, in which behalf he (the petitioner) holds a public statement, and not to allow the said person [Wajih-ud-din] to deviate from that settlement. 

Written on the (date not readable) Safar 966.

Part of this Farman

The reverse has two seals, of two scholars Shaikh Anzar, son of Shaikh Khizr, and Shaikh
Mir 'isa Baba, son of 'Abdullah. 

Unfortunately, the photocopy of the farman, taken before the document was acquired by the National Archives, is not good enough for reproduction. But the main text can still be deciphered.

Interesting Tidbits

The officials to whom the farman is addressed are termed wajhdars, perhaps a unique instance among the surviving farmans from Akbar's time. This term reminds us of its use in the Baburnama, in the sense of officials holding wajh, or territorial assignments in lieu of salary.* The term wajh in this sense has a history traceable to the latter half of the 14th century. In Akbar's early years, the sense of wajhdar came to be carried by the term jagirdar and we may, therefore, infer from the occurrence of the former term in this farman that the term jagirdar had still not become universal in 1558, nor was wajhdar entirely obsolete as yet.

* Baburnama, English translation by A.S. Beveridge, II, Pg-521.

Pargana Chandpur was then a part of the region of Sambhal**. This accords with the important position assigned to Sambhal by Babur as a sarkar. It later became a sarkar of Akbar's suba of Delhi.

** - Sambhal is a city in Uttar Pradesh state of India.

Suba , Pargana and Sarkar were administrative units. In the Mughal system, parganas served as the local administrative units of a sarkar. Subas were divided into Sarkars and sarkars were divided into parganas.

Although the dispute between Maulana Ahmad and Wajih-ud-din is stated to be over 'hereditary land', there is little doubt that the land was attached to the office of khatib, which too was shared with the other party in the dispute, Wajih-ud-din. This is shown by an agreement reached on 4 August 1574 between Saiyid Wajih-ud-din and Shaikh Ahmad regarding the division of the duties of the khatib. It was agreed that the 'Id al-fitr sermon would be delivered by Saiyid Wajih-ud-din, and Id al-azhd sermon by the father of Shaikh Ahmad. The Friday sermons were to continue to be shared between the parties in accordance with earlier practice. Similarly, 200 bighas of land pertaining to the office was now divided equally between the two claimants.***

*** - Another farman related to the same case is present in the National Archives of India. It is archived as Record Number-2912/2, in the archives.

Importance of this farman

A. This farman was issued during Bairam Khan's regency, when the Regent was acting as the Wakil of the Sultanate , or the Prime Minister, and was at the height of his authority. Yet the farman does not carry his name. This seems to show that Bairam Khan's authority was not formally reflected in actual Imperial orders. Such lack of formal recognition may partly, perhaps, explain why in the later confrontation with the young Akbar, the Regent's position was so quickly undermined.

B. The way the dispute between Shaikh Ahmad and Wajih-ud-din was decided, some time before the present farman, is not without interest. The case was carried for decision not before secular authorities but before an assemblage of the qazis and scholars of Sambhal and Chandpur. It was, therefore, possibly an informal body that arranged the settlement, which is given here the designation 'dastur*', not generally used for ordinary judgements by the qazis. In subsequent times, such informal procedures came to be replaced by more formal adjudications, so that resort to the former in or before 1558 may be indicative of a lack of administrative control by the central authorities.

* - It means settlement.

C. The farman is written in the semi-cursive diwani mode of writing usual in Akbar's early farmans, and there is no identifiable seal of an official or legible official endorsement on the back. Thus the case does not seem to have been processed by the Sadr (minister for revenue grants) as it would have been in later times. This may mean that the administration was not yet developed and was in nascent stages.

You all can also draw some other interesting inferences from this farman. It can prove to be an interesting discussion.

The copy of this farman is present in the National Archives of India. It is archived as Record Number-2719/1, in the archives.

Translation of this farman & content & all copyrights are attributed to -
Professor Saiyid Zaheer Hussain Jafri
Former Head of the Department of History, University of Delhi - 110007, India

Suggested Links -

Article Category : Mughals(Akbar).

Share this article :

No comments:

Post a Comment