The Memoirs of the Emperor Jahangir are written in the form of annals, which give the main events of each year in chronological order. They are preserved in two forms: one set of copies, a first edition, comprises twelve years of the emperor’s reign; the other, which is extremely rare, carries the records through the eighteenth year. Having the nature both of a journal and an autobiography, these Memoirs are very valuable and are certainly interesting when taken as a whole, even if some of the detailed items and more special matters are, to some extent, lacking in attractiveness.
The character of the Memoirs in general proves Jahangir to have been a man of more than ordinary ability, and in spite of weaknesses and faults, which he acknowledges and puts on record with unusual candour, they leave on the mind a favourable impression of the emperor’s nature and his talents. The first extracts, as given below, relate to the beginning of Jahangir’s
reign and to the Twelve Institutes which he ordained as regulations throughout his realm:–
On Thursday, the eighth of Jumada-s-sani, 1014 A.H. (Oct. 12, 1605 A.D.), I ascended the throne at Agra, in the thirty-eighth year of my age. The first order which I issued was for the setting up of a Chain of Justice, so that if the officers of the courts of justice should fail in the investigation of the complaints of the oppressed and in granting them redress, the injured persons might come to this chain and shake it, and thus give notice of their wrongs. I ordered that the chain should be made of pure gold and be thirty gaz long (about sixty feet), with sixty bells upon it. One end was firmly attached to a battlement of the fort of Agra, the other to a stone column on the bank of the river.
I established twelve ordinances, which were observed as the common rule of practice throughout my dominions:–
1. Prohibition of cesses. – I forbad the levy of duties under the names of tamgha (stamp-taxes) and mir-bahri (port-dues), together with all forms of taxes which the fief-holders of every province and division had been in the habit of exacting for their own benefit.
2. Regulation concerning highway robbery and theft. – In those roads which were the scenes of robbery and theft, and in those portions of road which were far from habitations, the fief-holders of the neighbourhood were required to build a shelter for travellers or a mosque, and were also commanded to sink a well to promote cultivation and to induce people to settle there. If these places were near lands belonging to the exchequer, the government officials were to carry out these provisions.
3. Rights of merchants and of inheritance of property. – First, no one was to open the packages of merchants on the roads without their consent. Secondly, when any infidel or Mussulman died in any part of my dominions, his property and effects were to be allowed to descend by inheritance without interference from any one. When there was no heir, officers were to be appointed to take charge of the property and to expend it according to the law of Islam in building mosques and shelters for travellers, as well as in repairing broken bridges and also in digging tanks and sinking wells.
4. Of wine and all kinds of intoxicating liquors. – Wine and all sorts of intoxicating liquor were forbidden and might neither be made nor sold; although I myself have been accustomed to drink wine and from my eighteenth year to the present, which is the thirty-eighth year of my age, have regularly partaken of it. In early days, when I craved for drink, I sometimes took as many as twenty cups of double-distilled liquor. In course of time it seriously affected me and I set about reducing the quantity. In the period of seven years I brought it down to five or six cups. My times of drinking varied; sometimes I began when two or three hours of the day remained; and sometimes I took it at night and a little in the day. I kept this up until my thirtieth year, when I resolved to drink only at night, and at present I drink wine solely to promote the digestion of my food.
5. Prohibition of seizing houses and of cutting off the noses and ears of criminals. – No one was permitted to take up his abode in the dwelling of another. I likewise issued an order prohibiting everyone from cutting off the noses or ears of criminals for any offence, and I made a vow to heaven that I would never inflict this punishment on any one.
6. Prohibition of taking the property of another without his consent. – Fief-holders and officers of lands belonging to the exchequer were forbidden to take the property of the peasants by force or to cultivate them on their own account; nor were these officials allowed to intermarry with the people in their districts without special permission.
7. Building of hospitals and appointment of physicians to attend the sick. – Hospitals were to be built in large cities and doctors were to be appointed to attend the sick. The expenses were to be paid from the royal treasury.
8. Prohibition of the slaughter of animals on certain days. – In imitation of my honoured father, the Emperor Akbar, I directed that every year from the eighteenth of Rabi’-al-awwal, my birthday, no animals should be slaughtered for a number of days corresponding to the years of my age. In every week, moreover, two days were to be exempted from slaughter: Thursday, the day of my accession, and Sunday, the birthday of my father.
9. Respect paid to Sunday. – My father used to hold Sunday blessed and to pay it great respect, because it is dedicated to the Great Luminary and because it is the day on which the Creation was begun. Throughout my dominions this was one of the days on which it was forbidden to kill animals.
10. General confirmation of commands and fiefs. – I issued a general order that the commands and fiefs of my father’s servants should be confirmed, and afterwards I increased the old commands according to the merit of each individual. He who held ten was not advanced to less than twelve, and the augmentation was sometimes as much as from ten to thirty or forty. The allowance of all the guardsmen was advanced from ten to fifteen, and the monthly pay of all the domestics was from ten to twelve, or ten to twenty. The attendants upon the female apartments of my father were advanced according to their position and kinsfolk from ten to twelve, or ten to twenty.
11. Confirmation of grants. – All those lands throughout my dominions which were devoted to the purposes of prayer and praise, I confirmed according to the terms of the grant in the hands of each grantee. Miran, who is of the purest race of Sayyids in Hindustan and who held the office of justice in the days of my father, was directed to look after the poor every day.
12. Amnesty for all prisoners in forts and in prisons of every kind. – All prisoners who had long been confined in forts or shut up in prisons I ordered to be set free.’
In the second year of his reign Jahangir undertook a journey from Lahore to Kabul, the record of which is especially interesting. The narrative not only shows
the inherited Moghul relations between Hindustan and the old capital of Afghanistan, but it brings out into a clearer light certain characteristics of Jahangir. In the words of Dowson, “he was a mighty hunter and took pleasure in the sport even in the later years of his life. He was a lover of nature, both animate and inanimate, and viewed it with a shrewd and observant eye. He mentions the peculiarities of many animals and birds, and shows that he watched their habits with diligence and perseverance. Trees and fruits and flowers also come under his observation, and he gives his opinion upon architecture and gardening like one who had bestowed time and thought upon them.” The extracts that follow serve to illustrate this:–
The second new year of my auspicious reign began on the twenty-second of Zu-l-ka’da, 1015 A.H. (March 10, 1606 A.D.), and on the seventh of Zu-l-hijja, 1015 A.H. (April, 1606 A.D.), I left the fort of Lahore at a prosperous hour, and crossing the Ravi, I alighted at the garden of Dilamez, where I stopped four days. On Sunday, which happened to be the day of the sun’s entry into Aries, some of my servants were favoured with promotion and ten thousand rupees in cash were given to Husain Beg, the ambassador of the ruler of Iran.
On Monday, I marched from the garden to a village called Haripur, three and a half leagues from the city, and on Tuesday, my flags waved in Jahangirpur, which was one of my hunting-grounds. Near this village a minaret was raised by my orders over an antelope of
mine called “Raj,” which was not only the best fighter in my possession, but was the best decoy for wild deer. Mulla Mohammad Husain of Kashmir, who excelled all persons of his profession in calligraphy, had engraved the following words on a piece of stone: “In this delightful spot an antelope was caught by the Emperor Nur-ad-din Mohammad Jahangir, which in the space of a month became entirely tame and was considered the best of all the royal antelopes.” Out of regard for this animal, I ordered that no one should hunt antelopes in that forest and that their flesh should be considered as unlawful as that of a cow to the infidel Hindus or as that of swine to the Mussulmans, and I caused the stone on the antelope tomb to be carved in the shape of a deer.
On Thursday, the fourteenth, we encamped in the sub-district of Chandwala, and, after one intervening stage, arrived at Hafizabad on Saturday. In two marches more I reached the banks of the Chinab, and on Thursday, the twenty-first of Zu-l-hijja, I crossed the river by a bridge of boats and pitched my tents in the sub-district of Gujarat. When the Emperor Akbar was proceeding to Kashmir, he built a fort on the other side of this river, where he settled the Gujars, who had hitherto been devoted to plunder. The place was consequently named Gujarat and formed into a separate sub-district. The Gujars live chiefly upon milk and curds, and seldom cultivate land.
On Friday, we arrived at Khawaspur, five leagues from Gujarat, and after two further marches we
reached the banks of the Behat, where we pitched our tents. In the night a very strong wind blew, dark clouds obscured the sky, and it rained so heavily that even the oldest persons said they had never seen such floods. The storm ended with showers of hailstones, which were as large as hens’ eggs, and the torrent of water, combined with the wind, broke the bridge. I crossed the river in a boat with the ladies of my harem, and as there were but very few boats for the other men, I ordered them to wait till the bridge was repaired. This was accomplished in a week, after which the whole camp crossed the river without trouble.
The source of the river Behat is a fountain in Kashmir called Virnag, a word which in the Hindi language signifies a snake, since it appears that at one time a very large serpent haunted the spot. I visited this source twice during the lifetime of my father. It is about twenty leagues from the city of Kashmir and rises in an octagonal basin about twenty yards in length by twenty in breadth. The neighbourhood contains many vestiges of the abodes of devotees, consisting of numerous caves and chambers made of stone. The water of this spring is so clear that, although its depth is said to be beyond estimation, if a poppy-seed be thrown in, it will be visible till it reaches the bottom. There are very fine fish in it. As I was told that the fountain was unfathomably deep, I ordered a stone to be tied to the end of a rope and thrown into it, and thus it was found that its depth did not exceed the height of a man and a half. After my accession to the
throne, I ordered its sides to be paved with stones, a garden to be made round it, and the stream which flowed from it to be similarly decorated on both sides. Such elegant chambers and edifices were raised on each side of the basin that there is scarcely anything to equal it throughout the inhabited world. The river expands much as it approaches the village of Pampur, which lies ten leagues from the city of Kashmir.
All the saffron of Kashmir is the product of this village, and perhaps there is no other place in the world where saffron is produced so abundantly. I visited this place once with my father in the season in which the plant blossoms. In all other trees we see, they first get the branches, then the leaves, and last of all the flower. But it is quite otherwise with this plant, for it blossoms when it is only about two inches above the ground. Its flower is of a bluish colour, having four leaves and four threads of orange colour, like those of safflower, equal in length’ to one joint of the finger. The fields of saffron are sometimes half a league or a league in length and they look very beautiful at a distance. In the season when it is collected, the saffron has such a strong smell that people get headache from it, and even though I had taken a glass of wine, yet I myself was affected by it. I asked the Kashmirians who were employed in collecting it whether it had any effect upon them, and was surprised by their reply that “they did not even know what headache was.”
The stream that flows from the fountain of Virnag is called Behat in Kashmir, and becomes a large river
after being joined by many other smaller ones on both sides. It runs through the city, and in some places its breadth does not exceed a bow-shot. Nobody drinks its water, since it is very dirty and unwholesome, but all quench their thirst from a tank called Dal, which is near the city. After falling into this tank, the Behat takes its course through Barah-Mulah, Pakali, and Damtaur and then enters the Panjab. There are many rivulets and fountains in Kashmir, but Darahlar, which joins the Behat at the village of Shihab-ad-dinpur, is the best of all the streams.
This latter village is one of the most famous places in Kashmir, and in a piece of verdant land in it there are nearly a hundred handsome plane-trees, whose branches interlace and afford a deep and extensive shade. The surface of the land is so covered with green that it requires no carpet to be spread on it. The village was founded by Sultan Zain-al-Abidin, who ruled firmly over Kashmir for fifty-two years. He was there called Baroshah, or the Great King, and is said to have performed many miracles. The remains of many of his buildings are still to be seen there, and among them there is a building called Barin Lanka, which he built with great difficulty in the middle of the lake called Ulur (Wulur), which is three or four leagues in circumference and is exceedingly deep.
To form the foundation of this building, boat-loads of stone were thrown into the lake, but as this proved of no avail, some thousands of boats laden with stones were sunk, and thus with great labour a foundation
a hundred yards square was raised above the water and smoothed. On one side of it were erected a palace and a place for the worship of God, than which no finer buildings can anywhere be found. Zain-al-Abidin used to come to this place in a boat and devote his time to the worship of Almighty God, so that it is said that he passed many periods of forty days there.
Kashmir is a delightful country in the seasons of autumn and spring. I visited it in the former season and found it even more charming than I had anticipated.
I was never there in spring, but I hope sometime or other to be there during that season.
On Saturday, the first of Muharram, I marched from the bank of the Behat to Rohtas, with one stage intervening. The fort of Rohtas is one of the buildings of Sher Khan Afghan and is constructed among the ravines, where it seems scarcely conceivable that so strong a position could have been obtained. As this tract is near the country of the Gakkars, a troublesome and turbulent race, he commenced to build this fort for the purpose of overawing and controlling them. Sher Khan died when only a portion of the work was done, but it was completed by his son Salim Khan.
On Tuesday, the fourteenth, I marched four leagues and three-quarters to Tillah, which means “a hill” in the Gakkar language. From that place I proceeded to the village of Bhakra, which in the language of the same people is the name of a shrub with odourless white flowers. From Tillah to Bhakra I marched the whole way through the bed of the Kahan, in which water was then flowing, while the oleander bushes were in full bloom and of exquisite colour, like peach blossoms. These shrubs grew in special abundance at the sides of this stream, so I ordered my personal attendants, both horse and foot, to bind bunches of the flowers in their turbans and directed that the turbans of those who would not decorate themselves in this fashion should be taken off their heads. I thus got up a beautiful garden.
On Thursday, the sixth, the camping-ground was
Hatya, so called from its founder, a Gakkar named Hati. On this march a great many dhak-trees were found in blossom. This shrub has no fragrance in its flowers, which are of a fiery orange colour and the size of a red rose, or even bigger. It was such a sight that it was impossible to take one’s eyes off it. As the air was very charming, and as there was a slight shower in consequence of a veil of clouds which obscured the light of the sun, I indulged myself in drinking wine. In short, I enjoyed myself amazingly on this march. The country from Margalla to Hatya is called Pothuwar, and within this tract there are but few crows to be found. Between Rohtas and Hatya is the country of the Bugyals, who are connected with the Gakkars and are of the same stock.
On Friday I marched four leagues and three-quarters to Pakka, so called because it has a caravansarai built of baked bricks, pakka in the Hindi language meaning “baked.” There was nothing but dust on the road and I found it a very troublesome march in consequence of the annoyances which I experienced. In this place also most of the sorrel brought from Kabul got injured.
On Saturday, the eighth, I marched four and a half leagues through a country very bare of trees to a place called Khar, which in the Gakkar language means “broken ground.” This country is very bare of trees. On Sunday, I pitched my camp on the other side of Rawal Pindi, so called because it was founded by a Hindu named Rawal, and in that language Pindi means
“a village.” Near this place there is a stream of water in a ravine which empties into a tank about a bow-shot in breadth. As the place was not destitute of charms, I remained there for a short time. I asked the Gakkars what the depth of the water was. They gave no specific answer, but said: “We have heard from our fathers that there are alligators in this water which wound and kill every animal that goes into it, so that no one dares to enter it.” I ordered a sheep to be thrown into the water, which swam around the whole tank and came out safe. After that I ordered a swimmer to go in and he also emerged unharmed, thus proving that there was no foundation for what the Gakkars asserted.
On Monday I encamped at Kharbuza, which receives its name of “melon” from the shape of a domed structure erected here in ancient days by the Gakkars for the collection of toll from travellers. The following day, the camp moved to Kala-pani, which means in Hindi “black water.” On this march the road passes. a hill called Margalla. Mar, in Hindi, signifies “to rob on the highway,” while galla denotes “a caravan,” so that the entire name implies a place where caravans are plundered. This hill forms the boundary of the country of the Gakkars, who are strange fellows, always squabbling and fighting with one another. I did all I could to effect a reconciliation, but without effect.
On Wednesday, our camp was at Baba Hasan Abdal. About a league to the east of this place there is a cascade, over which the water flows with great rapidity.
On the whole road to Kabul there is no stream like this, but on the road from that city to Kashmir there are two or three of the same kind. Raja Man Singh raised a small edifice in the middle of the basin whence the water flows. There are several fish in it, half or a quarter of a yard long. I stayed three days at this charming spot, drank wine with my intimate companions, and also had some sport in the way of fishing. Up to this time I had never thrown the safra net, which in Hindi they call bhanwar jal. This net is one of the commonest kind, but to throw it is a matter of some difficulty. I tried it with my own hand and succeeded in getting twelve fish. I strung pearls in their noses and let them go again in the water.
On the fifteenth of Muharram I encamped at Amardi, a most extraordinary green plain, in which you cannot see a mound or hillock of any kind. At this place and in the neighbourhood there are seven or eight thousand houses of Khaturs and Dilazaks, who practise every kind of turbulence, oppression, and highway robbery. I gave orders that the division of Attok, as well as this tract of country, should be made over to Zafar Khan, the son of Zain Khan Koka, and I gave him directions that before the return of the royal camp from Kabul he should march all the Dilazaks off toward Lahore and should seize the chiefs of the Khaturs and keep them fettered in prison.
On Monday, the seventeenth, I encamped near the fort of Attok on the banks of the river Nilab (the Abbasin or Attals), where I promoted Mahabat Khan
to the rank of 2500. This fort, which is very strong, was constructed under the direction and superintendence of Khwaja Shams-ad-din Khwafi by order of my father. In those days the Nilab was very full, insomuch that the bridge consisted of eighteen boats, over which people passed with great ease and security. The chief amir was so weak and sick that I left him at Attok, and as the country around Kabul. was not able to support so large a camp as accompanied me, I ordered the paymasters to allow no one to cross the river except my own friends and household, the main camp being ordered to wait at Attok till my return.
On Wednesday, the nineteenth, I embarked with the prince and a few attendants on a raft, and passing over the Nilab in safety, I landed on the bank of the Kama (Kabul), the river which flows under Jalalabad. These rafts are composed of bamboos and grass placed on inflated skins, and in rivers where there are many stones they are safer than boats. I gave twelve thousand rupees to Mir Sharif Amali and the officers who were left on duty at Lahore to be distributed to the poor; and orders were given to Abd-ar-Razak Ma’muri and Bihari Das, paymaster of the guardsmen, to make arrangements for supplying every necessity to the detachment left behind with Zafar Khan.
On the second day following, I reached my camp near Sarai Bara. On the opposite side of the river Kama there is a fort built by ‘Zain Khan Koka when he was appointed to exterminate the Yusufzai Afghans.
It is called Naushahra, and nearly fifty thousand rupees
were expended in its construction. Men say that his Majesty Humayun hunted wolves in these parts and I have heard my father declare that he had himself attended his father two or three times on these excursions.
On Tuesday, the twenty-fifth of Muharram, I moved to Sarai Daulatabad, where Ahmad Beg Kabuli, who held the fief of Peshawar, brought the Yusufzai and Ghorya-khail chiefs with him to pay their respects. As I was not pleased with his services, I removed him from the government of that country and bestowed it upon Sher Khan Afghan.
On Wednesday, the twenty-sixth, I arrived at the garden of Sardar Khan, near Peshawar. Ghorkhatri, a famous place of worship among the Hindu ascetics, is in this neighbourhood, and I went to see it in the possible chance of meeting some holy man from whose society I might derive advantage; but such a man is as rare as the Philosopher’s Stone or the Roc, and all that I saw was a small fraternity without any knowledge of God, the sight of whom filled my heart with nothing but regret. On Thursday, Jamrud was our encamping ground, and on Friday we went through the Khaibar Pass and encamped at Ali Masjid, thus being fairly within the confines of Afghanistan.
A final extract relating to Jahangir is presented to complete this chapter; it is a description of Nur Jahan, the beloved wife of the emperor. This famous queen was originally a princess of Persian blood and the wife of an Afghan captain who served under the emperor,
although she was born in India, or rather in Kandahar. She was the second daughter of Ghiyas Beg, who gave her in marriage to Sher Afghan, who was in the Moghul army. Some time after her husband’s death she chanced to be seen by Jahangir, who took her into his harem in the sixth year of his reign and became so infatuated with her that he exalted her to the position of chief queen and she ultimately became the real head of the kingdom. An account of Nur Jahan is found in the history of Mu’ tamad Khan, from which the following extract is taken:–
Among the great events that occurred during the sixth year of the reign of the Emperor Jahangir was his demanding Nur Jahan Begam in marriage. This subject might be expanded into volumes, but we are necessarily confined to a limited space in describing the strange decrees of Fate.
Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the son of Khwaja Mohammad Sharif, was a native of Teheran. Khwaja Mohammad was, first of all, the vizir of Mohammad Khan Taklu, governor of Khorasan, but after the death of Mohammad Khan, he entered the service of the renowned King Tahmasp Safawi and was entrusted with the vizirate of Yazd. The Khwaja had two sons, Aka Tahir and Mirza Ghiyas Beg. For his second son the Khwaja sought in marriage the daughter of Mirza Ala-ad-din, the father of Aka Mulla. After the death of his father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg travelled to Hindustan with two sons and a daughter, but as he was passing through Kandahar, another daughter was born to him by the
blessing of God. In the city of Fathpur, he had the good fortune to be presented to the Emperor Akbar, and in a short time, owing to his devotion to the king’s service and his intelligence, he was raised to the office of superintendent of the household. He was considered exceedingly clever and skilful, both in writing and in transacting business. He had studied the old poets and had a nice appreciation of the meaning of words, and he wrote shikastah (the Persian hand of Arabic script) in a bold and elegant style His leisure moments were devoted to the study of poetry and style, and his generosity to the poor was such that no one ever turned from his door disappointed. In taking bribes, however, he was very bold and daring.
When his Highness the Emperor Akbar was staying at Lahore, Ali Kuli Beg Istajlu, who had been brought up under Shah Isma’il II, came from the kingdom of Irak and was included among the number of the royal servants. There, as Fate would have it, he married that daughter of Mirza Ghiyas Beg who had been born in Kandahar. Afterwards, in the reign of Jahangir, a suitable post and the title of Sher Afghan were conferred on him, and he later received a fief in the province of Bengal and departed thither to take possession.
After the death of Kutb-ad-din at the hands of this same Ali Kuli Beg, the officials of Bengal, in obedience to the royal command, sent to court the daughter of Ghiyas Beg, and the king, who was greatly distressed at the murder of Kutb-ad-din, entrusted her to the
keeping of his own royal mother. There she remained some time without notice. Since, however, Fate had decreed that she should be the Queen of the World and the Princess of the Time, it happened that on the celebration of New Year’s Day in the sixth year of the emperor’s reign her appearance caught the king’s farseeing eye and so captivated him that he included her among the inmates of his select harem. Day by day her influence and dignity increased. First of all she received the title of Nur Mahal, “Light of the Harem,” but was afterwards distinguished by that of Nur Jahan, Begam, “Light of the World.” All her relatives and kinsfolk were raised to honour and wealth, nor was any grant of lands conferred upon any woman except under her seal.
In addition to giving her the titles that other kings bestow, the emperor granted Nur Jahan the rights of sovereignty and government. Sometimes she would sit in the balcony of her palace, while the nobles would present themselves and listen to her dictates. Coin was struck in her name with this superscription: “By order of the King Jahangir, gold has a hundred splendours added to it by receiving the impression of the name of Nur Jahan, the Queen,” while all firmans which received the imperial signature also bore the name of “Nur Jahan, the Queen” [which was one of the greatest compliments possible to be paid to her]. At last her authority reached such a pass that the king was ruler only in name. Repeatedly he gave out that he had bestowed the sovereignty on Nur Jahan Begam, and
would say: “I require nothing beyond a sir of wine and half a sir of meat.”
It is impossible to describe the beauty and wisdom of the queen. If a difficulty arose in any matter that was presented to her, she immediately solved it. Whoever threw himself upon her protection, was preserved from tyranny and oppression; and if ever she learned that any orphan girl was destitute and friendless, she would bring about her marriage and give her a wedding portion, so that it is probable that during her reign no less than five hundred orphan girls were thus married and portioned.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage