ʿABD-AL-ḤAMĪD LĀHŪRĪ

17th-century Indo-Persian historian and author of the Pādšāh-nāma, the official account of the reign of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahān (1037-67/1628-57).

 

ʿABD-AL-ḤAMĪD LĀHŪRĪ, 17th-century Indo-Persian historian and author of the Pādšāhnāma, the official account of the reign of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahān (1037-67/1628-57). Little is known of ʿAbd-al-Ḥamīd’s early life, as he did not come into prominence until an advanced age, after he had already retired to the city of Patna in Bihar. Looking for an historian to highlight the major events of his reign, Shah Jahān summoned ʿAbd-al-Ḥamīd to the Mughal court on the recommendation of his vizier, Saʿdallāh Khan. After accepting the imperial assignment, ʿAbd-al-Ḥamīd commenced his work around 1052/1642 and recorded the events of Shah Jahān’s reign up to 1058/1648. Old age and infirmity compelled him to cease writing and to entrust the remainder of the work to his pupil, Moḥammad Vāreṯ. ʿAbd-al-Ḥamīd died on 16 Šavvāl 1064/30 August 1654.

Despite its verbose and flowery style, in which the author perhaps consciously mimicked his predecessor as court historian, Abu’l-Fażl ʿAllāmī, the Pādšāhnāma remains the most important literary authority for Shah Jahān’s reign. Since the final section was not his own and the first section mainly followed another contemporary history (the Pādšāhnāma of Mīrzā Amīnā Qazvīnī), ʿAbd-al-Ḥamīd is chiefly known for his coverage of the second decade; in this period he was actively writing and recording events as an eyewitness, rather than citing earlier authorities.

Overall, Lāhūrī’s work shares the flat, opaque quality of Persian historiography that has been frequently identified with medieval Indo-Muslim chroniclers. Events do not grow out of prior events, but merely succeed one another in linear sequence. On the other hand, the Pādšāhnāma is a scrupulously accurate chronicle. As the official court historian, the author was, of course, quick to record the generous deeds and victorious exploits of his royal patron. But other aspects of Mughal history are also illuminated by ʿAbd-al-Ḥamīd’s account, such as details of the imperial administration—appointments of new nobles, transfers of ǰāgīrs, pensions, etc.—and the military exploits of Prince Awrangzēb in the Deccan. Significant mention is also made of nonpolitical events such as famines, irrigation projects, and both Christian and Muslim efforts at conversion.

 

Bibliography:

ʿAbd-al-Ḥamīd Lāhūrī, Pādšāhnāma (vols. I and II only), Calcutta, 1866-72; extracts translated in Elliot, History of India VII, pp. 3-72. Storey, I/1, pp. 574-77.

(R. M. Eaton)

Originally Published: December 15, 1982

Last Updated: July 14, 2011

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