ISARDĀS NĀGAR, or Išwar Das Nāgar (b. Patan,1066/1655; d. after 1163/1749), a Brahman of the Nāgar caste from the city of Patan, Gujarat, a Hindu historian writing in Persian. His history, Fotuḥāt-e ʿālamgiri, is a contemporary account of the reign of Awrangzēb, starting with the war of succession following Šāh Jahān’s illness in 1657, up to the thirty-fourth year of his reign (1101-02/1690-91). The author has provided some autobiographical information in the preface and in the concluding sections. As a young man, he was in the service of Qāżi Šayḵ-al-Eslām b. ʿAbd-al-Wahhāb, the chief judge of the imperial army (qāżi-e laškar), until 1684, when the judge resigned from his post and left for a pilgrimage to Mecca. Isardās then passed into the service of Šajāʿat Khan, the governor of Gujarat (1685-1701), who appointed him as revenue collector (amin) in Jōḏpur. There he developed strong relations with the Rajput notables, which enabled him to arrange for the submission of Durgādās Rāthor, the Jōḏpur chief, who supported the rebellion of Awrang-zēb’s fourth son, Moḥammad-Akbar. He also succeeded in recovering Sayf-al-Nesāʾ and Boland Aḵtar, whom their father, Moḥammad-Akbar, had left in the custody of the Rāthors before fleeing to Persia. He personally escorted the two princes to the imperial court. For this diplomatic service, Awrangzēb rewarded him with a robe of honor, a command of 250 men, and a jāgir at Miraṯ. During all this period, as well as the time he was in the service of the Šayḵ-al-Eslām, Isardās was in an excellent position to collect first-hand information about contemporary historical events, both on the authority of high-ranking officers and from his own personal experience and observation.
Two manuscripts of his Fotuḥāt-e ʿālamgiri are known to exist (Storey, pp. 587-88). The first one, dated 1246/1830, is kept in the British Library (Add. 23,884; see Rieu, Persian Manuscripts, pp. 269-70), and the second one, not dated, at the Edinburgh University Library (no. 218; see Hukk, pp. 188-89). An edited version was published with an English translation in 1995. The edited Persian text is mainly based on the first manuscript but it also includes the variant readings and interpolations noticed in the second manuscript (Isardās Nāgar, 1995, pp. i-iii).
The work had been planned, according to the preface, to be divided into seven sections (sawānehá), but this format was not observed throughout, and only the first four chapters are marked by distinct headings; the rest of the chronicle is divided by rubrics that are not numbered (up to twenty-two parts).
The book starts with the account of the war of succession between the four sons of Šāh Jahān and the predominance of Awrangzēb, followed by accounts of Aw-rangzēb’s exploits in keeping the empire under control and putting down riots and rebellions. Isardās is obviously indulgent towards Awrangzēb, as were the other Hindu chronicle of his reign (e.g., Sujān Rāi Bhandari and Bhim Sen Saxena; see Waseem, pp. 56-57), but he also demonstrates great regard toward other royal family figures, particularly Awrangzēb’s elder brother Dārā Šokōh (q.v.), who is depicted as receiving poor counseling and whose defeat in the war of succession is attributed to treachery. Particularly original and useful is the information concerning Gujarat events and the Mughal-Maratha struggles. The flow of narration is sometimes interrupted by the inclusion of verses with a sententious aim. The last events described are those relating to the dispute between Awrangzēb and Durgadās, in which, as mentioned above, Isardās played a main role.
Fotuḥāt-e ʿālamgiri, an indispensable source for the historical reconstruction of Awrangzēb’s reign (Sarkar, 1958, esp. IV, pp. 485-89), seems to have been compiled despite Awrangzēb’s banning of the contemporary official chronicles (on this point, see Wassem, pp. 15-16, 92-98), although it was completed in 1163/1749-50, long after Awrangzēb’s death, when the author was at a very advanced age (Ishwar Das, p. v, n. 9). According to the concluding section of the text, the book was written “for the information of . . . Lāla Ḵošḥāl” (Ishwar Das, 1995, p. 173), possibly a grandson of the author.
A. S. Bazmee Ansari, “Isar-Dās,” in EI2 IV, 1978, p. 93.
Mohammed Ashraful Hukk, Hermann Ethé, and Edward Robertson, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Arabic and Persian Manuscripts in the Edinburgh University Library, Edinburgh, 1925.
Ishwardas/Isar-Dās Nāgar, Fotuḥāt-e ʿālamgiri (text and Eng. tr.), ed. Raghubir Sinh and Quazi Karamtullah, tr. M. F. Lokhandwala and Jadunath Sarkar, Vadorada, India, 1995; tr. Tasneem Ahmad as Futuhat-i-Alamgiri, Delhi, 1978. Jadunath Sarkar, Studies in Mughal India, Calcutta and Cambridge, 1919.
Idem, History of Awrangzib, vols. I-II, IV-V, Calcutta, 1952.
Storey, Persian Literature I, pp. 587-88, 1318.
Shah Mohammad Waseem, ed., Development of Persian Historiography in India, from the Second Half of the 17th Century to the First Half of the 18th Century, International Seminar on the Development of Persian Historiography in India from the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century to the First Half of the Eighteen Century, New Delhi, 2003.
Originally Published: December 15, 2006
Last Updated: March 30, 2012
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Vol. XIII, Fasc. 6, p. 613