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The Mughal Empire – Literature


  • Persian, Sanskrit and regional languages developed during the Mughal rule.
  • Persian was the language of administration in Mughal Empire and the Deccan states.
  • It influenced even the Rajput states where Persian words were used in administration.
  • Abul Fazal patronised by Akbar compiled the history of Akbar in Akbar Nama and described Mughal administration in his work Ain-i-Akbari.
  • The Ain-i-Akbari is commendable for its interest in science, statistics, geography and culture.
  • Akbar Namah was emulated by Abdul Hamid Lahori and Muhammad Waris in their joint work Padshah Nama, a biography of Shah Jahan.
  • Later Muhammad Kazim in his Alamgir Nama, a work on the reign of the first decade of Aurangzeb, followed the same pattern.
  • Babur’s autobiography written in Chaghatai Turkish was translated into Persian by Abdur Rahim Khan-eKhanan.
  • Dabistan is an impartial account of the beliefs and works of different religions.
  • Persian literature was enriched by translations of Sanskrit works.
  • The Mahabharata was translated under the supervision of Abul Faizi, brother of Abul Fazal and a court poet of Akbar.
  • The translation of Upanishads by Dara Shukoh, Dara Shukoh entitled SirrI-Akbar (the Great Secret), is a landmark.
  • The Masnawis of Abul Faizi, Utbi and Naziri enriched Persian Poetry in India.
  • The Sanskrit works produced during the Mughal rule are impressive.
  • Sanskrit literature of this period is noted for the kavyas and historical poetry.
  • Rajavalipataka, a kavya, written by Prajna bhatta which completed the history of Kashmir belonged to reign of Akbar.
  • Graeco-Arabic learning was transmitted to India through Persian works in the form of Sanskrit translations.
  • Akbar’s astronomer Nilakantha wrote the Tajika Neelakanthi, an astrological treatise.
  • Shah Jahan’s court poet Jaganatha Panditha wrote the monumental Rasagangadhara.
  • The greatest contribution in the field of literature during the Mughal rule was the development of Urdu as a common language of communication for people speaking different dialects.
  • Regional languages acquired stability and maturity and some of the finest lyrical poetry was produced during this period.
  • Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khanan composed Bhakti poetry with a blend of Persian ideas of life and human relations in the Brij form of Hindi.
  • Tulsidas who wrote in Awadhi, the Hindi dialect spoken in the eastern Uttar Pradesh, was very popular for his devotional ideals.
  • Marathi literature had an upsurge due to the literary contribution of Eknath, Tukaram, Ramdas and Mukteshwar during this period.
  • Eknath questioned the superiority of Sanskrit over other languages.
  • The verses of Tukaram kindled monotheism.
  • Mukteshwar composed Ramayana and Mahabharata in literary Marathi. Krishnadevaraya, the Vijayanagar ruler, through his Amuktamalyada (an epic poem on the Tamil woman poet, Andal) and his court Poet Allasani Peddana with his Manu Charitra were the leading beacons of Telugu literature during this period.
  • Malayalam which had separated from Tamil as a language received a separate literary identity during this period.
  • Ramayana and Mahabharata were composed in Malayalam.
  • In Assamese language the tradition of Bhakti poetry was emulated by Shankara Deva who initiated a new literary tradition.
  • Assamese literary works were produced in the fields of astronomy, arithmetic, and treatment of elephants and horses.
  • Ramayana and Mahabharata were also retold in the Assamese language.
  • The Chaitanya cult which portrayed the love of Krishna and Radha in poetic verses promoted Bengali literature.
  • The Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs compiled by Guru Arjun Dev in which the verses of the Sikh Gurus as well as Shaikh Farid and other monotheists are a landmark in the evolution of Punjabi language.
  • During this period Tamil literature was dominated by Saivite and Vaishnavite literature.
  • Kumaraguruparar, a great Saiva poet, is said to have visited Varanasi in the late seventeenth century.
  • He composed important literary works such as Meenakshiammai Pillai Tamil and Neethineri Vilakkam.
  • Thayumanavar wrote highly devotional verses with compassion for all humanity and he formulated a sanmarga that tried to bridge differences between the various Saivite sects.
  • The Christian missionaries like Roberto de Nobili and Constantine Joseph Beschi (Veeramamunivar) contributed much to Tamil language.
  • The empire the Mughals built at the national level made an everlasting impact on India as they knit the fragments into a single political unit, well aided by an effective central administration.
  • Multiple identities also got synthesized in the process leading to the evolution of a unique culture that is Indian.

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