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Narrativizing History And Causality

Shivangini Tandon

By Zia ud Din Barani . Translated by Ishtiyaq Ahmad
Primus Books, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 410, Rs. 1595.00


Zia ud Din Barani, in his Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi begins his account of the history of the Delhi Sultanate where Qazi Minhaj ud Din Juzjani had left it in his Tabaqat-i Nasiri. Minhaj had covered the history of mankind from Adam till the end of Sultan Nasir ud Din’s reign. Thus, Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi begins from the accession of Balban in AH 662/1266 CE and it is brought to the sixth year of Firuz Shah Tughlaq’s reign in AH 758/1357. Barani’s account is the most exhaustive and significant source for the study of the history of the Delhi Sultanate without which a very crucial period in Medieval Indian history would have been mostly lost. It is quite surprising that such a detailed and authoritative source was not translated for such a long time. In addition to his Tarikh, Barani had written the Fatawa-i Jahandari as well which is a didactic text on governance. He also authored the Sahifa-i Naat-i Muhammadi. What makes Barani’s account very interesting is that he is very opinionated and writes history within a subjective frame of reference. The history that he writes is full of strong opinions, deep prejudices and emotional. These are qualities that would discredit any historian today but it is a deep paradox that it is precisely these qualities that make Barani such an exceptional historian of the Delhi Sultanate. One way that this exhibits in his history writing is allowing him to describe events, personalities and situations that seek to bring them to life for the reader. E.g., when Barani describes the pomp and splendour of Sultan Iltutmish’s court he writes that…. ‘the grandeur of his court and the pomp and majesty of his cavalcade was not enjoyed by any other ruler of Delhi before. His court was so awesome that its majesty continued to remain imprinted in the hearts of the viewers for days to come....’ Barani’s description of Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s arrival at the Badaun gate has the same sentiment, ‘… the spectators who were on the roofs gathered the nisar of Sultan Muhammad from the roofs. Over the roofs and down the streets golden and silver tankas virtually rained over the heads of people. The common people, men and women, old and young, children and the aged, slaves and maids and Hindus and Muslims showered benedictions upon Sultan Muhammad and prayed aloud for him.’ ...

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