BAHĀRESTĀN-E ḠAYBĪ, a detailed history in Persian of Bengal and Orissa for the period 1017-34/1608-24 composed by Mīrzā Nathan ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Eṣfahānī. ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn’s father, Malek ʿAlī Ehtemām Khan, a Persian immigrant who had served as the castellan (kūtvāl) of Agra under Akbar, was promoted by Jahāngīr to the rank of 1,000 dat (personnel) and 300 savārs (horsemen) in 1607 and sent to Bengal as mīr baḥr (chief of artillery and flotilla; see Tūzok-e jahāngīrī, p. 68; Bahārestān-e ḡaybī, ms., fol. 2b). In Bengal ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn served in the contingent of his father and got closer to Eslām Khan Češtī, the governor general of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. On Ehtemām Khan’s death in 1021/1612, ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn entered the imperial service with the military rank of 500 dat and 250 savārs (Bahārestān, fol. 97b), later receiving the title of Šetāb Khan.
Bahārestān-e ḡaybī, composed in 1034/1624, is ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn’s only literary work and contains his memoirs. It is a significant historical work, written in a simple, unadorned style, but containing a first-hand, detailed account of the military, political, and social events of Bengal and Orissa in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. It provides detailed information about the military strength of the Nuhani and Karrani Afghans in eastern Bengal, the Pani Afghans in Orissa, and the Mughal relations with the non-Muslim rulers of Kooch Behar, Assam, Orissa, Tippera, and Arracan (cf. Bahārestān, fols. 78b, 97b, 104b, 211a-212b). Oddly enough, the work does not seem to have gained much attention; no later Mughal historians quote it as a source of information. The reason for this may be the non-literary style of the work as well as the author’s desire to portray his father and himself as the heroes of every military campaign in which they took part.
The work is divided into four daftars (books), each of which is further divided into dāstāns (narratives). The first part, entitled Eslām-nāma, deals with the events that took place in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa during the governorship of Eslām Khan Češtī; the second daftar, untitled, covers the governorship of Qāsem Khan; the third is entitled Ebrāhīm-nāma after the governor Ebrāhīm Khan Fīrūz Jang; the fourth, entitled Wāqeʿāt-e jahānšāhī describes the arrival of the rebel prince Šāh-Jahān in Bengal and his usurpation of authority. Bahārestān exists in a single manuscript made during the lifetime of the author and preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. A rotograph copy of this manuscript is kept in the Decca University Library. A summary translation into English was made by M. I. Bohrah (A History of the Mughal Wars in Assam, Cooch Behar, Bengal, Behar and Orissa during the Reigns of Jahāngīr and Shāhjahān, Gauhati, 1936).
Qeyam U’ddin Ahmad, “Mirza Nathan—A Memoirist of the 17th Century,” in Historians of Medieval India, ed. Mohibbul Hasan, New Delhi, 1968.
S. N. Bhattacharya, “Conquests of Islam Khan (1600-1613),” in Sarkar, History of Bengal II, pp. 247-72, esp. p. 247 n. 1.
Blochet, Cat. Bib. Nat. I, p. 617.
Nūr-al-Dīn Moḥammad Jahāngīr, Tūzok-e jahāngīrī, Calcutta, 1864.
Moʿtamed Khan, Eqbāl-nāma-ye jahāngīrī, Calcutta, 1865.
Ḵᵛāja Neʿmat-Allāh Hervī, Tārīḵ-eḵān-jahānī, ed. S. M. Emām-al-Dīn, II, Dacca, 1962.
J. N. Sarkar, History of Bengal II, Dacca, 1948, preface, p. x.
S. R. Sharma, Bibliography of Mughal India, Bombay, 1938, repr. Philadelphia, 1977, pp. 69-70. Storey, I/2, p. 714.
(I. H. Siddiqui)
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: August 23, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 5, pp. 481-482