SOURCES FOR STUDYING MEDIEVAL INDIA
LITERARY SOURCES State papers and official or private documents written in Persian provide much information for reconstructing the history of the period. Though most of it has been lost, those found in private collections throw much light on the administration, economy and society of the time.
Chronicles Chronicles have provided ample information with regard to the history of medieval India. 'Minhajus-Siraj's Tabaqat-i-Nasiri gives useful information regarding the slave dynasty of Delhi up to the year 1267 AD. Zia-uddin Barani's Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi gives the history of the first si~ years of Firuz Shah Tughlaq's reign.
Firuz Shah's own composition, Futuhat-i-Firuz Shahi gives a record of his administrative achievements. Isami's Futah-us Salatin deals with the period extending from the rise of the Ghaznavids to the reign of Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq. Babur's famous Memoirs originally written in Turki gives important information about the natural environs of the country. The Memoirs of Jahangir is an excellent source of history. Gulbadan Begum's Humayun-nama gives insight into the affairs of the royal harem. Abul Fazal's Ain-i-Akbari and Akbar-nama are the two most important works dealing with the reign of Akbar. Another important contemporary work is Badauni's Muntakhab-ul-Tawarikh. Two official chronicles i.e., Padishah-nama and Alamgir-nama cover the reign of Shah Jahan and the early years of Aurangzeb's reign. For the latter part of Aurangzeb's reign there is the Masir-i-Alamgiri. Khafi Khan's Muntakhab-ul-Lubab supplies us with many facts which were earlier suppressed by Aurangzeb.The defects of the Persian chronicles are: (i) lack of objectivity, bias towards royalty; (ii) lack of interest in common people.
Foreign travellers Travellers from abroad give us interesting information regarding the political, social and economic conditions in medieval India. AI-Beruni's account of India during Sultan Mahmud Ghazni's conquest in his Kitab-ul-Hind is considered to be the finest foreign account of medieval India. Marco Polo who visited South India in the latter part of the thirteenth century has given useful information. The best known foreigners who visited India during the pre-Mughal period were the Moroccan, Thn Batuta, an Italian, Nicolo Conti, who visited Vijayanagar around AD 1294, a Persian, Akbar Razzaq who was the ambassador of Shah Rukh of Samarqand at the court of the Zamorin of Calicut and visited the Vijayanagar kingdom (around AD 1442), and a Russian, Athanasius Nikitin who visited South India in AD 1470. From the sixteenth century onwards, the European travellers who came to Iridia have left a mine of information for us. The works of Jesuit missionaries and European travellers like Barbosa, Ralph Fitch, Roe, Taverneir, Berneir, and Manucci have described the conditions of the people, the state of trade and commerce, and the magnificence of the court and the camp.
COINS Coins have given useful information regarding the state of polity and economy during the Sultanate and Mughal periods. The coins of Muhammad-bin- Tughlaq have revealed much about his reign and his kingdom. The coins of provincial rulers such as those of Bengal, for instance, with their dates and mint-marks, are specially valuable as resources of information not fully dealt with in the general chronicles.
EPIGRAPHIC SOURCES Inscriptions are of greater use for the pre-Mughal rather than the Mughal period. The reigns of the Bengal Sultans, Shams-ud-din Firuz, Ala-uddin Firuz, and the Nizam Shahi king, Burhan m, have been established by studying inscriptions alone. The Bengal Sultanate, especially from the 14th to 16th centuries, has been understood solely on the basis of epigraphic sources. In many an instance, the full titles of kings and queens and the history of minor dynasties have been revealed by studying inscriptions. The inscriptions that reveal India's medieval history throw light on political aspects as well as social life.
MONUMENTS Monuments testify to the growth of material prosperity and the development of culture. They do not help us much in constructing political history.