Justifying Defeat: A Rajput Perspective on the Age of Akbar

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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Abstract

This article explores a darker side of cultural dialogue—the experience of subjugation to a cultural “other”—through a case study of Rao Surjan of Bundi, a Rajput warrior who was defeated by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1569. Surjan’s surrender of Ranthambhor fort was celebrated in Mughal chronicles such as the Akbarnama but condemned in Nainsi’s Khyat and other Rajput texts. Drawing primarily on Surjanacarita, a Sanskrit poem from about 1590, this article examines the literary strategies that were employed to justify Surjan’s submission to Akbar and his subsequent career as a Mughal mansabdar (imperial rank-holder).

Justifying Defeat: A Rajput Perspective on the Age of Akbar

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

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6)

See e.g. A. Busch“Literary Responses to the Mughal Imperium: The Historical Poems of Kesavdas.” South Asia Research 25 (2005): 31-54. See also her Poetry of Kings: The Classical Hindi Literature of Mughal India (New York: Oxford University Press 2011) and “Portrait of a Raja in a Badshah’s World: Amrit Rai’s Biography of Man Singh (1585)” in this volume. See also H. Pauwels “The Saint the Warlord and the Emperor: Discourses of Braj Bhakti and Bundela Loyalty.” JESHO 52 (2009): 187-228; and C. Talbot “Becoming Turk the Rajput Way: Conversion and Identity in an Indian Warrior Narrative.” Modern Asian Studies 43 (2009): 211-43. Excerpts from the Rajasthani chronicler Nainsi are studied in R.D. Saran and N.P. Ziegler The Mertiyo Rathors of Merto Rajasthan 2 vols. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Centers for South and Southeast Asian Studies 2001).

17)

G. SenPaintings from the Akbar Nama: A Visual Chronicle of Mughal India (Calcutta: Lustre Press under arrangement with Rupa1984): 42-5.

24)

M. Habib (trans.)The Campaigns of Alauddin Khilji being the Khazai’nul Futuh (Treasures of Victory) of Hazrat Amir Khusrau (Bombay: D.B. Taraporewala, Sons & Co.1931): 41.

29)

B.A.K. MattaSher Shah Suri: A Fresh Perspective (Karachi: Oxford University Press2005): 159 185.

33)

A. HusainThe Nobility under Akbar and Jahangir: A Study of Family Groups (Delhi: Manohar1999): 87-9; A.R. Khan “Akbar’s Initial Encounters with the Chiefs: Accident vs. Design in the Process of Subjugation.” In Akbar and His India ed. I. Habib (Delhi: Oxford University Press 1997): 1-14.

36)

S. Chandra“Akbar’s Rajput Policy and Its Evolution: Some Considerations.” Social Scientist 20 (1992): 62.

54)

Saran and ZieglerMertiyo Rathors1:135.

57)

NainsiKhyat 1:99-100.

61)

Saran and ZieglerMertiyo Rathors2:99; Mathur Relations of Hadas: 38-40.

62)

NainsiKhyat1:98; Kaviraj Shyamaldas Virvinod: Mewar ka Itihas part 2 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass 1986): 1:83-4.

67)

TodAnnals3:1480 1483.

69)

ShyamaldasVirvinod108 111. Note that Nainsi reflects the Mewar perspective in stating that the Mewar king made Surjan the commander of Ranthambhor fort.

72)

C.B. AsherThe Architecture of Mughal India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1992): 149 85-6 88.

74)

AwrangabadiMaʾasir al-umara2:918-9.

76)

On Mirza Hakim see M.D. Faruqui“The Forgotten Prince: Mirza Hakim and the Formation of the Mughal Empire in India.” JESHO 48/4 (2005): 487-523 and S. Subrahmanyam “A Note on the Kabul Kingdom under Muhammad Hakim Mirza (1554-85).” La transmission du savoir dans le monde musulman périphérique Lettre d’information 14 (1994): 89-101.

80)

MishranVamsha Bhaskar 5:3377.

94)

T. Mukherjee and I. Habib“Akbar and the Temples of Mathura and Its Environs.” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 48 (1987): 235-9.

95)

A. EntwistleBraj: Center of Krishna Pilgrimage (Groningen: Egbert Forsten1987): 159.

97)

K. Chatterjee“Cultural Flows and Cosmopolitanism in Mughal India: The Bishnupur Kingdom.” Indian Economic and Social History Review 46/2 (2009): 157.

98)

C. Minkowski“Nilakantha Caturdhara’s Mantrakasikhanda.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 122 (2002): 336-8.

99)

R. O’Hanlon“Letters Home: Banaras Pandits and the Maratha Regions in Early Modern India.” Modern Asian Studies 44 (2010): 201-4217-9.

102)

K. Chatterjee“Scribal Elites in Sultanate and Mughal Bengal.” Indian Economic and Social History Review 47 (2010): 450458.

104)

TodAnnals 2: 1482-4.

109)

M.C. BeachRajput Painting at Bundi and Kota (Ascona, Switzerland: Artibus Asiae Publishers1974): 12. I have also drawn on pp. 6-10 in this paragraph.

Figures

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    Rai Surjan Hada making Submission to Akbar Mukund and Shankar. (Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

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