This article analyzes three early Mughal auto/biographical texts written at the order of Akbar as forms of instructive memory, and contextualizes these texts within an existing body of writings about akhlāq literature and literary genres. In doing so, this article discusses how auto/biographical narratives in Mughal India were both collected and collective, and how the didactic undercurrents of these texts relied upon individuated notions of character and kingship presented through the figure of Humayun. By reading lived experience across genres that often contained elements of one another, this article places interconnected Mughal lives as central to textual renderings of the past.
ʿAllāmīAbu l-FazlBeveridgeH.SarkarJ. N.The Akbarnāma: History of the Reign of Akbar Including an Account of his Predecessors1979CalcuttaRoyal Asiatic Society, 1948Reprint New Delhi: Ess Ess Publications vol. I.
SmartEllen S.SkeltonRobertTopsfieldAndrewStrongeSusanCrillRosemaryYet another illustrated Akbari Baburnāma manuscriptFacets of Indian Art: A Symposium Held at the Victoria and Albert Museum on 26 27 28 April and 1 May 19821986LondonVictoria and Albert Museum105115
Michel Foucault (1977) points out that in the premodern world texts were inseparable from their authors who were an index for the truthfulness of the text. On the inseparability of books and authors in Mughal India see also Green (2010).
I derive my analysis here from Faruqui (2005). See also Subrahmanyam (1994).
Anooshahr (2008) argues that Humayun falls short compared to Kamran by standards of manliness. However I would argue that in the task of writing Humayun’s life authors can be read as admiring of aspects of his humanity.