Tabakat-i Akbar-shahi

abakat-i Akbar by Nizamu-d din Ahmad, Bakhshi (d. 1003 H., 1595 CE).
In The History of India as Told by its own HistoriansThe Posthumous Papers of the Late Sir H. M. Elliot. John Dowson, ed. 1st ed. 1867. 2nd ed., Calcutta: Susil Gupta, 1956, vol. 3.

  1. Overview

The Tabakat-i Akbari, “The Annals of Akbar”, is also known as Akbar Shâhî and Târîkh-i Nizâmi (“Nizâm’s History”) is a history of India down to the 39th year of Akbar’s reign, i.e. 1002 H. (1593-4 CE).  It narrates external historical events and ignores complex issues such as Akbar’s religious explorations.  It is generally considered reliable, although its chronology is defective with regard to Akbar’s reign, in which there is confusion between the regnal and Hijrî years.   Later historians such as Firishta used it as a source.

The book was composed by Khwâja Nizâmu-d dîn Ahmad.  He held the high office of First Bakhshî under Akbar, and died at Lahore in October 1594, the same year the book was completed.

The first excerpt cited here deals with the unprovoked raid of Âsaf Khân, on the queen of Gondwâna, Durgavatî in 1564 CE.  This act of aggression was carried out as an aspect of Akbar’s policy of expansion of Moghul control into areas previously independently governed.  Durgavatî was a Chandêl princess, a descendent of the great house of the Chandêl dynasty, who ruled a kingdom consisting of Bundêlkhand in what is now Madhya Pradesh, although at their peak in the eleventh and twelfth centuries their kingdom extended as far north as the Jumna River, encroaching significantly into the territory of the Kanauj and Pâla kingdoms.  At their peak they fought against both Subuktin and Sultan Mahmud, but were defeated by both.  Unlike other Hindu kingdoms which fell to the Muslims, however, they continued to rule in the reduced but inaccessible territory of Bundêlkhand.  Durgavatî was a princess of this house, and was married to a Gond Raja.  She fought valiantly against Âsaf Khân, but was slain in battle.  This was followed by the plundering of Gondwâna.

The second excerpt deals with Akbar’s siege of the fort of Chitor, which was in the Rajput state of Udaipur of the Sîsodia Rana of Mewar.  Seeking to acquire strategic fortresses throughout northern India, Akbar began the siege on 20 October 1567 CE.  The defenders put up fierce resistance, and the siege was marred by major blunders.  The siege ended on 23 February 1568, when Akbar himself killed the commander of the fort, Jai Mal, with a lucky shot of his musket.  This broke the spirit of the defenders, 8000 of whom, having vowed to die in combat, perished in the resulting melee.  Akbar, enraged at the lengthy and costly siege, ordered the massacre of 30,000 of the local peasants, whom he suspected of aiding the besieged.1

  1. Excerpts

1. Âsaf Khân’s raid on Gondwâna.
2. Akbar’s assault on the fort of Chitor.1.

[p. 128]

[Events occurring during the 9th year of Akbar’s reign, i.e. 1564 CE.]

Conquest Of The Fort Of Chunai

The fort of Chunar was held by a slave of ‘Adali named Fattu.  He now wrote a letter offering to surrender it.2  The Emperor sent Shaikh Muhammad Ghaus and Asaf Khan to receive the surrender of the fort.  When it was delivered over, they placed it in charge of Husain Khan Turkoman.  At this Ghazi Khan Sur, formerly one of the nobles of Adali, but who had for a time lived in allegiance to the Emperor, now that Asaf Khan was appointed to the government of Karra, took flight, and went to the country of Panna. There he gathered some men, and arrayed himself in rebellion.  When Asaf Khan was sent to Karra, Ghazi Khan led his followers against him, but he was defeated in battle by Asaf Khan, and killed upon the field.  Asaf Khan thus established his power and authority.

The country of Garha-Katanka was near to Asaf Khan, and he formed the design of subduing it.3  The chief place of that country is Chauragarh.  It is an extensive country containing seventy thousand (haftad hazar) flourishing villages.4  Its ruler was at this time a woman named Durgavati, who was very beautiful.  When Asaf Khan heard the condition of this country, he thought the conquest of it would be an easy matter, so he marched against it with fifty thousand5 horse and [p. 129] foot.  The Rani collected all her forces, and prepared to oppose the invader with 700 elephants, 20,000 horsemen, and infantry innumerable.  A battle followed, in which both sides fought obstinately, but by the will of fate the Rani was struck by an arrow, and fearing lest she should fall alive into the hands of the enemy, she made her elephant-driver kill her with a dagger.  After the victory Asaf Khan marched against Chauragarh.  The son of the Rani, who was in the fort, came forth to meet him; but he was killed, and the fort was captured, and all its treasures fell into the hands of the conquerors.  Asaf Khan, after he had achieved this victory and acquired so much treasure, returned greatly elated, to Karra, and took possession of his government.


[p. 168]

Conquest Of The Fort Of Chitor

Many zamindars and rajas of Hindustan had become subjects of the Imperial throne.  But Rana Udi Singh, Raja of Marwar, confident in the strength of his fortresses, and the number of his men and elephants, had thrown off his allegiance.  Now that the Emperor had returned to the capital, with his mind at rest in respect of ‘Ali Kuli Khan and other rebels, he turned his attention towards the capture of Chitor.  He accordingly began to make preparations for the campaign.  The pargana of Bayana was taken from Haji Muhammad Khan Sistani, and given in jagir to Asaf Khan, who was ordered to proceed thither, and collect provisions and materials for the army.  The Emperor followed to the town of Bari, with the avowed intention of hunting, and there killed a thousand animals in sport.  Then he ordered his army to be brought up, and proceeded onwards [p. 169] to Mumaidana.  When he reached the fort of Supar,6 he found that hearing of his approach, the men who garrisoned that fort for Rai Surjan of Rantambhor, and abandoned it and fled to Rantambhor.  The fort was placed in charge of Nazar Bahadur, one of the Imperial adherents.  From thence he went on to Kota, one of the parganas of that country, of which he made Shah Muhammad Khan Kandahari the governor.  Next he marched to Gagrun,7 on the borders of Malwa.

Mirza Ulugh and Mirza Shah, sons of Muhammad Sultan Mirza, had fled from Sambal, and had come into these parts, where they had begun a revolt, which the Emperor deemed it necessary to suppress.  He therefore appointed Shahabu-d din Ahmad Khan, Shah Bidagh Khan, Muhammad Murad Khan, and Haji Muhammad Sistani to jagirs in Mandu, and charged them with that duty.  When the amirs reached Ujjain, which is one of the chief places in that country, they found that the Mirzas, on hearing of the Emperor’s approach, had assembled together and fled to Gujarat, to Changiz Khan, the ruler of that country, who had been one of the adherents of Sultan Mahmud Gujarati.  So the amirs obtained possession of Mandu without opposition.

When the Emperor reached from Gagrun, Rana Udi Singh left several or eight thousand men to hold Chitor, under the command of a Rajput named Jai Mal, a valiant chief, who had fought against Mirza Sharafu-d din Husain, in the fort of Mirtha, as before related.  The Rana himself, with all his relatives and dependents, took refuge in the hills and jungles.  The fort of Chitor is seated on a hill, which is about one kos in height, and has no connexion with any other hill.  The length of the fortress is three kos, and the [p. 170] width half a kos.  It contains plenty of running water.  Under his Majesty’s orders, the ground around the fort was portioned out among the different amirs.

The royal forces were ordered to plunder and lay waste the country, and Asaf Khan was sent to Rampur,8 a prosperous to of the province.  He attacked and captured the fort, and ravaged all the neighborhood.  Husain Kuli Khan was sent with a detachment towards Udipur and Kombalmir,9 which is one of the chief fortresses in that country, and is the residence of the Rana.  He ravaged several towns and villages, but finding no trace of the Rana, he returned to the Imperial camp.

When the siege of Chitor had been carried on some time, the Emperor ordered the construction of sabats, and the digging of mines.  About 5,000 builders and carpenters and stonemasons were collected, and began their work of constructing sabats on two sides of the forts. A sabat is a kind of wall which is begun at musket-shot distance (from the fort), and under the shelter of its planks strongly fastened together and covered with raw hides, a kind of way (kucha) is conducted to the fortress.  The walls are then battered from it with guns, and a breach being made, the brave assailants rush into the fort.  The sabat which was conducted from the royal battery (morchal-i badshahi) was so extensive that ten horsemen abreast could ride along it, and it was so high that an elephant-rider with his spear in his hand could pass under it.

While the sabat was in course of construction, the garrison kept up such a fire of guns and muskets, that more than l00 of the workmen and labourers employed [p. 171]

in it were killed daily, although they covered themselves with shields of bull-hide.  Corpses were used in the walls like bricks.  In a short time, the sabat was completed, and carried close to the fort.

The miners also carried their mines to the foot of the walls, and having constructed mines under two bastions which were near together they filled them with gunpowder.  A party of men of well-known bravery, fully armed and accoutred, approached the bastions, ready to rush into the fort as soon as a breach was made by the explosion of the mines.  Fire was applied to both mines at the same time, but the match of one was shorter than the other, and that made the explosion first. The bastion was blown into the air, and a large breach was effected.  The storming party at once rushed to the breach, and were about to enter, when the second mine exploded, and the bastion was blown up.  Friends and foes, who were contending in the breach, were hurled into the air together, and those also on whom the stones fell perished.  It is notorious that stones of 200 mans were carried to a distance of three or four kos from the walls, and bodies of men who bad been burnt were found.  Saiyid Jamalu-d din and….and a great number of the Emperor’s attendents, were slain, and nearly 500 picked soldiers were killed blows from the stones.  A large number also of the infidels perished.

After this disaster, the pride and solicitude of the Emperor became still more intent upon the reduction of the fortress.  A sabat which had been laid down in the battery of Shuja’at Khan was now completed.  On the night of Tuesday, 25th Sha’ban, 975 H., the Imperial forces assembled from all sides, and the wall being breached, a grand struggle began.  Jai Mal, commander of the fortress, came into the breach to encourage his men.  The Emperor was seated in a gallery, which had been erected for him on the sabat, and he had a musket in his hand.  The face of Jai Mal was discernible by the light which was cast upon the spot by the fire of the [p. 172] guns and muskets. The Emperor took aim at him, and so wounded him that he died upon the spot.  The garrison was disheartened by the fall of their leader, and each man hurried to his own home.  They collected their wives and children, property and effects, in one place, and burnt them.  This proceeding in the language of the infidels of Hind, is called Jauhor. The royal forces were now massed, and they assaulted the breaches in several places.  Many of the infidels rushed forward to defend them, and fought most valiantly.  His Majesty, seated on the sabat beheld the exertions of his men with an approving eye. ‘Adil Muhammad Kandahari….and others exhibited great valour and daring, and received great praise.  All that night the fighting went on, but in the morning, which was a glorious morning, the place was subdued.  The Emperor mounted on an elephant, and, attended by his devoted followers on foot, entered the fortress.  An order for a general massacre was issued, and more than 8,000 Rajputs who were in the place received the reward of their deeds.10  After noon the slaughter was stayed, and the Emperor returned to his camp, where he remained three days.  Asaf Khan was appointed to rule this country, and His Majesty started for the capital on Tuesday, the 25th Sha ‘ban.

A curious incident in this siege was this: A person was sitting near the battery of the author of this book, under the shelter of a tree, with his right hand placed upon his knee.  As an opportunity presented itself, he raised his thumb, covered with the stall usually worn by archers, and just at that moment a gun was fired from the fortress, and the ball passed within the length of a barley corn from his thumb, and did him no harm.

When the Emperor started to effect the conquest of  [p. 173] Chitor, he vowed that if he were successful, he would make a pilgrimage to the tomb of Khwaja Mu’inu-d din Chishti, which is at Ajmir.  In performance of this vow, he set off for Ajmir, and walked all the way on foot.  On Sunday, the 7th Ramazan, he reached Ajmir.  He performed all the observances of the pilgrimage, and made the poor and needy glad with his alms and offerings.  He remained there ten days, and then departed for the capital.


  1. For a lengthy treatment of this siege see Vincent A. Smith’sAkbar, The Great Mogul(Oxford 1919), pp. 81 ff.
  2. Abu-l Fazl places this surrender in the sixth year of the reign. The Emperor, on his return from Karra, deputed Asaf Khan to besiege the fort, and this frightened Fattu into submission—Akbar-nama,vol. ii., p. 190.
  3. See Extract from theAkbar-nama, infra.
  4. Abu-l Fazl, Badauni, and Faizi all agree in this number, but it is a manifest error—vol. ii., p. 264.
  5. The MSS. differ widely.  One of them says five thousand, the other two fifty thousand.  There are other discrepancies.  Two of the MSS. omit the word “innumerable,” making the Rani’s force to be “20,000 horse and foot,” but they agree in the incredible “700 elephants.”  Firishta moreover, gives “1,500 elephants and 8,000 horse and foot.— See Extract from theTarikh-i Alfi.
  6. 0rSiwi-SuparAkbar-nama, vol. ii, p. 381. “Sheopoor ,” 120 miles S.W. of Agra.
  7. Near the junction of the Ahu and Kali Sind in Kola.
  8. About fifty miles S.E. from Chitor.  Asaf Khan had previously reduced the fort of Mandal (the ‘Mundalour’ of Malcom’s map, ten miles S.E. of Gagrun?)—Akbar-nama,vol. ii, pp. 395, 396.
  9. Thirty-four miles N.W. of Udipur.
  10. Abu-l Fazl states that the number of the slain amounted to nearsi hazar(30,000); but perhaps sih hazar, 3,000, is meant —Akbar-nama, vol. ii, p. 407.