Understanding the Mughal Book of War: A Translation and Analysis of Abu’l-Fazl’s Preface to the Razmnama

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Sixteenth century India
Mughal Empire
Emperor Akbar
Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak
Razmnama Preface

The Mughal emperor Akbar (1542-1605) commissioned the translation of a number of texts from Sanskrit into Persian, one of his most ambitious projects being the Mahabharata, India’s celebrated epic. Akbar called this the Razmnama or ‘Book of War’ on account of the great conflict at the heart of the narrative. In 1587 he asked his courtier Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak to write a Preface to the Razmnama. This thesis is a study of that Preface. My thesis is divided into several parts. To begin, I look at Abu’l-Fazl and the Translation Bureau, the department set up by the Mughals to undertake translation work. I then turn to the sources that document the translation of the Mahabharata and identify the translation team. After reviewing the scholarship on Abu’l-Fazl’s Preface, I turn to my larger aims: a translation and analysis of the Preface in order to understand Abu’l-Fazl’s relationship to his tasks as a writer and his relationship to the Persian version of the epic. My aims also embrace allied problems, namely Abu’l-Fazl’s understanding of the social groups for whom the translation was intended and his relationship to emperor Akbar.

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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Derryl MacLean
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of History
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.