[Preliminary Entry] The Ā’īn-i Akbarī (Akbar’s Institutes) is a work by Abū al-Fażl ‘Allāmī ibn Mubārak that contains significant information about Indian knowledge systems, much of which is based on Sanskrit sources. The Ā’īn-i Akbarī is the third and final volume of the Akbar-nāma, a court-sponsored history of Akbar’s reign. Abū al-Fażl, Akbar’s chief vizier and one of the major architects of his imperial image, composed this work between 1589 and 1598. The Akbar-nāma went through several redactions before it was deemed complete.
The Ā’īn-i Akbarī is divided into five books that address (i) the royal household and courtly practices, (ii) the army and imperial groups, (iii) administrative areas of the empire, (iv) an account of India, and (v) the sayings of Akbar. The fifth book is by far the shortest section, and the first four books each address a plethora of topics. Books i-iii periodically mention Mughal engagements with the Sanskrit tradition and draw upon Sanskrit-based knowledge. For example, in book i Abū al-Fażl notes that Akbar ordered the translation of Sanskrit texts such as the Mahābhārata into Persian. Book iii occasionally records Indian myths associated with particular regions of the Mughal state, such as the story that the Ganges River descended from heaven to earth via the hair of Śiva.
The bulk of Sanskrit material is addressed in the first two secions of book iv of the Ā’īn-i Akbarī, titled the "Account of India" (aḥvāl-i hindūstān). The "Account of India" comprises four sections that address: India’s geography and cosmography, Sanskrit knowledge (the "Learning of India," dānīš-i hindūstān), Islamic figures who traveled to the subcontinent, and Indo-Islamic saints. Abū al-Fażl admits early in book iv that he is not personally able to understand Sanskrit and so relied upon capable translators. He does not name any of his native informants, but one likely candidate is Bhānucandra, a Tapā Gaccha Jain who resided for some time at Akbar’s court and taught Abū al-Fażl the Ṣaḍdarśanasamuccaya (Collection of the Six Schools). The Bhānucandragaṇicarita (Acts of Bhānucandra), a Sanskrit text by Siddhicandra, details Bhānucandra’s imperial connections.
In the first part of book iv of the Ā’īn-i Akbarī, Abū al-Fażl covers a wide range of topics, including data about the people of India, the topography of the region, creation myths, astronomical calculations, the different climes of the world, the caste system, and the subcontinent’s languages, flora, and fauna. Much of this information is based squarely on the Sanskrit tradition.
In the second section, the "Learning of India," Abū al-Fażl offers his most detailed and methodical account of Sanskrit knowledge systems. He first describes nine Indian philosophical traditions, including the six Brahmanical schools (nyāya, vaiśeṣika, mīmāṃsā, vedānta, saṅkhyā, and pātañjala), as well as the thinking of Jains, Buddhists, and atheists (nāstika). He then covers dozens of branches of Sanskrit learning, including the Vedas, vedāṅgas (six auxiliary disciplines), and various śāstras (technical disciplines) such as literature (sāhitya) and music (sangīta). Abū al-Fażl uses extensive Sanskrit vocabulary throughout this section of his work and even carefully spells out Sanskrit words in Persian longhand in order to ensure their correct pronunciation by his audience.
Abū al-Fażl does not name the the precise Sanskrit texts upon which he relied for individual sections of his "Learning of India." In most cases, the information he gives was available in numerous Sanskrit texts at the time, and so it is difficult to infer his sources. However, in his literature (sāhitya) section he quotes verses (in Persian prose) from two Sanskrit texts: Viśvanātha’s Sāhityadarpaṇa (Mirror of Literature, fourteenth century) and Bhānudatta’s Rasamañjarī (Bouquet of Rasa, fifteenth century).
The Ā’īn-i Akbarī survives in many manuscript copies today and has also been printed and translated into English several times. It was heralded as a highly valuable work during British colonial rule for its statistical information about India. Today it is frequently cited by Mughal historians, both for its economic and cultural insights.
Lithograph: Ā'īn-i Akbarī, Aligarh, Sir Sayyid Academy, Aligarh Muslim University, 1855,
Reprinted 2005. Available at: archive.org/details/Ain-iAkbariOfAbuAl-fazlSirSyedAhmadLithograph.
Edition: Ā’īn-i Akbarī, 2 vols., H. Blochmann, ed., Calcutta, Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1867-1877,
Available in three parts at: http://archive.org/details/AbuAl-fazlsAin-iAkbariInPersianVol1Part1of2, http://archive.org/details/AbuAl-fazlsAin-iAkbariInPersianVol1Part2of2, http://archive.org/details/Ain-iAkbariOfAbuAl-fazlVolume2Ahval-iHindustan
Urdu translation: Ā’īn-i Akbarī, Muhammad Fida Ali Talib, trans., Lahore, Sang-i Mil Publications, 1978.
Hindi translation: Āīn-e Akbarī, Ramlal Pandey, trans., Kanpur, Vidya Mandir, 1935.
Hindi translation: Āīn-e-Akbarī, Gumaniram Kayastha, 1795-96 [unprinted].
English translation: Ā’īn-i Akbarī, H. Blochmann - Colonel H. S. Jarrett - P. C. Phillott - Jadunath Sarkar, trans., 3 Vols, Calcutta, Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1927-1949 (reprinted several times). The original translations by Blochmann and Jarrett are available at : http://persian.packhum.org/persian/
English translation: Ayeen Akbery, Francis Gladwin, trans., 2 Vols, London, 1800.
Ali, M. Athar, 1996, “The Evolution of the Perception of India: Akbar and Abu’l Fazl”, Social Scientist 24, 1/3, pp. 80–88.
Bhānudatta, 2009, Bouquet of Rasa and River of Rasa, S. Pollock, trans., New York, New York University Press.
Hardy, Peter, 1985, “Abul Fazl’s Portrait of the Perfect Padshah: A Political Philosophy for Mughal India—or a Personal Puff for a Pal?”, In C. W. Troll, ed., Islam in India: Studies and Commentaries, Vol 2, New Delhi, Vikas, pp. 114–137. New Delhi: Vikas.
Moosvi, Shireen, 1987, The Economy of the Mughal Empire, c. 1595: A Statistical Study, Delhi, Oxford University Press.
Rizvi, Saiyid Athar Abbas, 1975, Religious and Intellectual History of the Muslims in Akbar’s Reign, with Special Reference to Abuʾl Fazl, 1556-1605, New Delhi, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers.
Siddhicandra, 1941, Bhānucandragaṇicarita, M. D. Desai, ed., Ahmedabad – Calcutta, Sanchalaka Singhi Jain Granthamala.
|Main Persian Title:||Ā’īn-i Akbarī|
|English Translation of Main Persian Title:||Akbar's Institutes|
|Translator:||Abū al-Fażl ‘Allāmī ibn Mubārak|
|Approximate period of composition:||1589-1598|
|Quoted sources on India:||