Setting the record wrong: a Sanskrit vision of Mughal conquests

Truschke, Audrey Angeline

In 1589, Padmasāgara wrote the first Sanskrit account of the Mughal rise to power within a short poem titled Jagadgurukāvya (Poem on the Teacher of the World). The work primarily eulogizes the life of a Jain religious leader named Hīravijaya, but Padmasāgara devotes one-third of the text to detailing the military exploits of Humayun and Akbar. Moreover, Padmasāgara departs significantly from known Indo-Persian historiography and imagines a startlingly innovative storyline for the early days of the Mughal Empire. Through this substantial rewriting, he furthermore consistently depicts the coerced establishment of Mughal rule as engendering the flourishing of Indian cultural and religious traditions. In this article, I provide the first detailed account of Padmasāgara's presentation of the battles of Humayun and Akbar to secure their claims over the subcontinent. I then seek to understand the motivations that fuelled this particular narrative by placing Jagadgurukāvya in the context of Gujarati relations with the Mughal court, Jain religious interests and historical sensibilities in early modern India. In his account of the early Mughal Empire, Padmasāgara crafts a political vision in which history is not constituted by a set of unchangeable facts but rather by a range of potential cultural implications that can be best realized through literature. His ambitious narrative about the recent past has important implications for how we understand early modern Sanskrit historiography and its relationship to Mughal power.

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South Asian History and Culture

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Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Published Here
June 22, 2012