A Mughal archive: the Inayat Jung Collection, NAI, New Delhi

Nandini chatterjee

The National Archives of India, New Delhi

I worked in the National Archives of India, New Delhi, 8-18 January, 2020. Besides dreadful pollution, which made wearing a medical grade mask essential when out and about, the city was also being rocked by protests by students, women and other activists, protesting against the Government of India’s newly passed laws proposing a National Population Register, National Register of Citizens and Citizenship Amendment Act. Women and children had gathered in  Shaheen Bagh, in a Muslim-majority locality, holding continuous peaceful protests 24/7 in an unprecedented political and cultural development. A great deal of debates in the media and public discourse was about the meaning of words – in religion, poetry and politics – creating a surreal situation where prime-time TV included discussions of the revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poem, Hum Dekhenge (We shall see), and the meaning of the Islamic credo, La Ilaha il-Allah (There is no God but God).

The Islamic creed inscribed in a 13th-century mosque in the Qutb complex, Delhi

My work also consisted of looking through multi-lingual material, but of a much more prosaic sort. My aim was to form an idea about one of the two largest surviving collections of documents directly produced by Mughal state institutions – the Inayat Jung collection. The background story, as provided S.R. Tirmizi, ex-director of NAI, is that these documents were retrieved and stored by an official in the Hyderabad state, and later acquired by Prof. Nurul Hasan for the National Archives of India. The collection consists of 160,000 individual documents, all related to the administration of the provinces of Bijapur and Golconda. 

On random sampling, I found that all documents have a small purple Inayat Jung stamp. They are in boxes which have an average of 400 documents each. Every document is enclosed in an individual file, which has a short summary of the document on it, as well as the file number. There are 408 boxes in total, of which the greatest number is from emperor Muhammad Shah’s reign (1719-1748 CE). 

A complete catalogue does not exist. There is an overview article by the archivist-historian Zakir Hussain, which I was able to read and copy. The archivists also revealed to me that they had managed to calendar around 50,000 of the documents, covering the entire reign of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. They had done so, by typing out the short summary on the cover of the individual files. This very useful work was soon to be published, but was not available at the current time. 

The numbering system has been revised; currently, the numbering is thus: 

The first part of the numbers is the serial order of the emperor eg. Aurangzeb = 1/ then regnal year/then month number (eg., Muharram =1)/serial number of document in that year/month. 

Whichever values cannot be verified have been left as 00. 

Box 1 

This box contains what I was alerted to as a ‘pre-Aurangzeb’ bundle, said to be 1656 onwards. These files are numbered 00/1/- 

00/1-2 (Old number: I/2/28) 

Series: Madad-i-ma’ash (These are interpretive categorisations introduced by the archivist.) 

17 Shawwal 30 Julus-i Shahjahan i.e. 1066 AH/29 July 1656 AD 

Contents: Copy of Farman granting village Kasara of pargana Sanganmner to Khwaja Muhammad Sadiq as Madad-i ma’ash. The revenue income of the said village was Rs 172/- in 1064 AH/1653-54 AD (bearing seal of Abd al-Khalil Khan Mufti Shara’ Muhammad dated 1110 AH 

Actual document: Small A5 sized document with purple seal of IJ, written on both sides. The document starts with an extended word which is probably نقل. 


فرمان الاشان قبل از جلوس از قرار بتا () ذی قعده سنه ۳۰ آنکه در این ایام سعدت انجام نشان علیشان 

عنران از مکمل لطف شرف صدور می یابد که موضع کاساده معموله پرگنه سنگمنر که حاصل آن 

در سال هزار هشت و چهارم از هجریت  مقدسه مبلغ یکصد هفتاد و در روپیه 

 Ends with the date. And then there are two notes to the effect that the nishan was written. A third note says:  

یکموضع در و بیشت 

There is a seal of a qazi visible, which bears the date 1110; which would still put the document at the end of the seventeenth century. 

 Further down the line, I found several bi-lingual documents:

Box 100 VIII 4/151-450  


Series: Diwani 

Date: 10 Zulqada 20 Julus of Muhammad Shah 

Contents: Siyaha of Mahsul-Mahal-i Nargadi Balda Hyderabad under the supervision of Zulqadr Khan Rs. 3/15/9 from Muslims viz: Khudai 

(Bears seals of Zulqadr Khan, Dakhniram and Jaskarandas) 

Also in Marathi 

 Document: Two sided A5 but most writing in front. Very little text – a top cluser, then two lines, the another line and a cluster with details, then two Persian seals of an official who mentions the emperor. 2.5 lines of Marathi (in Modi) on the left margin. Some Modi used in the clusters that offer particulars. 

 Only very brief notes on reverse. 

Several documents appear to be part of a short series, such that the same transaction, involving the same protagonists and the same officials is repeated over several years.

I have requested digital copying of some of these documents, and look forward to returning to read more.

Overall, I feel that this collection complicates my increasing suspicion that the centralised Mughal archives may have never existed; document storage being the function of significant landed families and their households. This collection, however, points to processes of documentation and record-storage by Mughal government agencies, at least at the provincial level, and has pushed me to think harder about how and why people create and kept records in Mughal South Asia.





Summer School ‘Working in an Indian Archive,’ Hyderabad, August 19-30, 2019

By Elizabeth Thelen

A sign for the Summer School on the MANUU campus

During the last two weeks of August, 30 young scholars from around the world gathered on the campus of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) in Hyderabad for a summer school on reading Indo-Persian documents. I was fortunate to be one of the participants in this intensive programme, which was organized by Prof. Dr. Eva Orthmann of the University of Göttingen and Prof. Chandar Shekhar of Delhi University in collaboration with the Persian Department at MANUU and Dr. Zareena Parveen, the director of the Telangana State Archives.

The first several days of instruction focused on the technical skills for decoding documents and an introduction to several common genres of document. Ali Langroudi of the University of Göttingen taught the principles of the Nastaliq and Shikasta scripts and reviewed forms of words commonly found in the archival documents, while Prof. Orthmann introduced us to reading seals and tughras and to the genre of farmans. Prof. Najaf Haider of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi joined us for a day to focus on documents relating to financial and economic history. We read several types of records with him including a farman promulgating a revenue grant and an excerpt from an administrative manual on the process of minting coins.

A demonstration of how to distinguish letters in Shikaste writing

We then applied the training from the first four days and continued to develop our reading skills during three days at the Telangana State Archives. The director, Dr. Zareena Parveen, took us on a tour of the archives, showing us how the documents are stored and the conservation processes. We also visited the archive’s display room, which has a sampling of the types of documents held by the archive on display. The archive has the largest collection of Mughal records from the reigns of the emperors Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb available in India, as well as the records of the Nizam period of rule in Hyderabad and post-Independence records. During our classes in the archives, we examined and read a number of Mughal administrative documents relating to the functioning of the mansabdar system. Written for an internal audience of administrators, these documents are often written in a shikasta hand that is particularly difficult to decode until you know the common formulae and structures of the documents. Drawing on her three decades of experience in the archives, Dr. Parveen showed us how to decipher salary calculations and orders to increase or decrease mansab ranks.

Prof. Chandar Shekhar addressing the participants alongside Dr. Zareena Parveen and Prof. Eva Orthmann

In the second week, we were joined by Prof. Chandar Shekar, who led us in the reading and translating of a variety of document types. He guided our reading of additional documents in the Telangana State Archives, including charitable grants. We also read eighteenth-century roznamcha reports. Along the way, he shared insights into the interrelations between different types of documents and administrative practices. We also took a trip to the Bargah of Hazrat Pathar Wali Sahib, which is home to the Haadi-e-Deccan Library and Research Institute. Over the last 170 years, the sajjada nashins of the bargah have developed and maintained a library including rare Urdu publications and over 600 Persian and Arabic manuscripts.

Alongside our classes, the programme included an evening lecture series, during which participants shared their research. I spoke about my research on the use of Persian documents in Rajasthan, while Dr. Stanislaw Jaskowski discussed polish reporting on the 1638 battle in Qandahar between the Safavids and Mughals, Guiseppe Cappello shared insights from his work on the Gulzar-i-Hal, Pia Malik introduced her research on sufism in the Deccan, and Anurag Advani talked about madness in the Mughal period.

Though I had worked with Persian documents before, I came away with increased fluency in decoding and reading shikasta documents, an understanding of document types I had not encountered previously, and an overview of the collections of the Telangana State Archives.

A judicial enquiry – glimpses from Waqai‘ Ajmer

Guest post by Prof. Chander Shekhar

Director, Lal Bahadur Shastri Center for Indian Culture (ICCR),Embassy of India, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

During my work at the Telengana Government Oriental Manuscripts library (old Asafia library)in Hyderabad, I came across this interesting report of a legal dispute within the waqai‘ Ajmer (official newsletters from the administrative division of Ajmer), from emperor Aurangzeb’s period of rule. The specific report is dated the month of Jamādi al-ākhir, twenty-first sāl-i julūs (1676 CE). 

In this, it is reported that a parvāna(sub-imperial order) was issued under the the seal  of siyādat panāh Iftekhar Khan, seeking a full inquiry by the Aqzī al-Quzzāt (اقضی القضاه; unusual term, possibly seniormost judge) in the matter of an appeal by a resident of the city of Ajmer called Ganga Ram. Ganga Ram complained  that his son-in law Bhagwan, a bronze vessel worker, had been whipped badly and killed by a certain Muhammad Alam son of Muhammad Arif Amin in Dindwana qasba (town) for not obeying his undue orders to make bronze vessels. Bhagwan’s wife, the daughter of Ganga Ram, who wanted to burn herself with her murdered husband was stopped from burning and kept forcibly in Muhammad Alam’s house. According to the above, office of siyādat panāh Iftekhar Khan has sought the immediate presence of Muhammad Alam along with the daughter of the plaintiff. Decision will be taken after the matter becomes clear after due inquiry.

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