BAḴTĀVAR KHAN, MOḤAMMAD (1029?-96/1620?-85), historian and official at the court of the Mughal emperor Awrangzēb (1068-1118/1658-1707) and a patron of literature. A eunuch, he joined the service of Prince Awrangzēb in 1065/1654, initially as a presenter of petitions (ḵedmat-e ʿarāyeż); but during the war of succession between Awrangzēb and his brothers in 1067-68/1657-58, he became the prince’s personal attendant (Bakhtāwar, I, pp. 25, 62, 101, 130). At the second coronation of Awrangzēb in Ramażān, 1069/June, 1659, Baḵtāvar served as a whisk bearer, and in August of the same year he received the title of khan (ibid., pp. 152, 165). In 1076/1666 he was given the manṣab of 1,150 savārs (ibid., p. 338), and four years later he became dārūgā-ye ḵawāṣṣān. He died at Aḥmadnagar on 15 Rabīʿ I 1096/19 February 1685 and was buried at Baḵtāvarpūra (now Bastī Nabī Karīm) near Delhi.

Baḵtāvar’s first work, Āʾīna-ye baḵt or Čahār āʾīna (comp. 1068/1658), describes the four battles Awrangzēb fought against his brothers in his bid for the throne. His Bayāż, completed in 1084/1673-74, comprises selections from the poetry of well-known Persian mystical poets such as Sanāʾī, ʿAṭṭār, and Rūmī. Rīāż al-awlīāʾ, a taḏkera of Sufis and ʿolamāʾ from the classical period to Awrangzēb’s reign, is an important source for the religious personages of the period. His epitome Merʾāt al-ʿālam is a compendium of history divided into an introduction (moqaddema), seven parts (ārāyeš), an appendix (afzāyeš), and a conclusion (ḵātema). The book is famous for its seventh part, which is subdivided into three sections (pīrāyeš); it is one of the most important primary sources for the political history of the first ten years of Awrangzēb’s period as well as for the intellectual and cultural history of the era. Written in simple Persian, the Merʾāt is not an official history of Awrangzēb’s reign but complements the official chronicle ʿĀlamgīr-nāma of Monšī Moḥammad Kāẓem by providing additional details of certain events and personalities (for details, see ibid., introd., pp. 23-45). Another significant contribution of this work lies in the sections devoted to the mašāʾeḵ and the ʿolamāʾ (part seven), calligraphers (appendix), and the poets of Awrangzēb’s period (conclusion). Elliot and other scholars have attributed Merʾāt al-ʿālam and other works by Baḵtāvar to Moḥammad Baqā, Baḵtāvar’s contemporary and author of Merʾāt-e jahānnomā. However, from the contemporary and near-contemporary sources it is established that Baḵtāvar was indeed the author and compiler of the works attributed to him above (for details, see ibid., introd., pp. 14-16).

Baḵtāvar was interested in art and literature and was the patron of a number of Persian poets, facilitating the entry of numerous poets, writers, and ʿolamāʾ into the imperial court (ibid., introd., pp. 18-19). He also took an active interest in public building activities such as mosques, sarāys, and a township near Delhi (ibid., II, pp. 519-24), and had a mausoleum constructed for himself.



S. S. Alvi, “The Historians of Awrangzeb: A Comparative Study of Three Primary Sources,” Essays on Islamic Civilization, ed. D. P. Little, Leiden, 1976, pp. 57-73.

Bakhtāwar Khān, Mirʾāt al-ʿĀlam: History of Emperor Awrangzeb ʿĀlamgīr, ed. S. S. Alvi, I-II, Lahore, 1979.

H. M. Elliot, The History of India as Told by Its Own Historians, ed. J. Dowson, London, 1877, VIII, pp. 150-53.

Mostaʿed Khan, Maʾāṯer-e ʿālamgīrī, Eng. tr. Jadunath Sarkar, Calcutta, 1947, pp. 59, 61, 142, 155.

Moḥammad-Afżal Sarḵoš, Kalemāt al-šoʿarāʾ, Lahore, n.d., pp. 25-26. EI2 I, p. 954.

Rieu, Pers. Man. I, pp. 124-27; III, pp. 890-91, 975.

Storey, I, pp. 132-33, 517, 1012.

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 بختاورخان، محمد bakhtavar khan mohammad bakhtawar khan mohammad  bakhtaawar khaan mohammad


(S. S. Alvi)

Originally Published: December 15, 1988

Last Updated: December 15, 1988

This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 5, pp. 541-542