Sources of Medieval Indian History – Notes and Key Points

qutub minar
There are a large number of reliable sources are available to know about the Medieval Indian History. They provide a good deal of insight and knowledge about the conditions of those times-art and architecture, history and literature, agriculture and industry, commerce and trade, culture and civilization, philosophy and religion etc.
In fact available sources cover almost all areas of socio-economic life.
sources of medieval history
1. Historical Accounts written by Scholars on paper:
  1. Tahquiq-Hind (11th C. A.D.) by Al-Beruni – it is  a Persian traveller’s travel account mentioned as Study on India. He was one of the greatest medieval  scholars and expert of the time. In 1017, he came to India with Mohammad Ghaznavi and wrote in his account, Tahqiq-i-Hind, about the Condition and society of India.                                                                                                                                               
  2. Tarikh-i-Firoze Shahi (13th C.) by Zia-ud-Barni – Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi is the best Specimen of Indo-Persian historiography produced during the Sultanate period in India. it is written by Zia ud Din Barani under  Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq, it was completed in 1357C. and was dedicated to the monarch of his time .                                       
  3. Tuzak-i-Babri   by Babur – it is the autobiography of Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, the founder of the Mughal empire in India. is is written in Turkish language.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
  4. Humayun Nama (16th CE.) by Begum Gul Badan –  Humayun Nama describes the life of the Humayun, the 2ndMughal emperor. Humayun was the son of Babur and he succeeded his father as the Mughal emperor of India from around 1530 – 1556.                                                                                                                 
  5. Ain-i-Akbari (16th CE.) by Abul Fazal – Ain-i-Akbari  means “Administration of Akbar”, is a 16th-century  document which shows us the administration of the Mughal Empire under Emperor Akbar, it is Written by , Abu’l Fazl (court historian of Akbar) in the Persian language.                                                                                               
  6. Akbar Nama (16th cent.) by Abul Fazal – The Akbarnama, the official chronicle of the reign of Akbar, the third Mughal Emperor (r. 1556–1605), commissioned by Akbar himself and written by his court historian and biographer, Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak. It was written in Persian, which is the literary language of the Mughals, and includes vivid and detailed descriptions of his life and times. Like that, it was produced in the form of lavishly illustrated manuscripts.                                                                                                                                                                                                          
  7. Tuzki-Jahangiri (17th CE.) by Jahangir – Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri  is the autobiography of Mughal Emperor Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir (1569–1627). Also referred to as Jahangir Nama, Tuzk-e-Jahangiri is written in Persian, and follows the tradition of his great-grandfather, Babur (1487–1530), who had written the Baburnama; though Jahangir went a step further and besides the history of his reign, he includes details like his reflections on art, politics, and also information about his family. 
2. Historical Accounts by Foreign Travellers:
  1. Tuhfat-un-Nuzzar fi Gharibi-il-Amsar ( Rihala) by Ibn Batuta- Ibn Battuta came to Delhi in the fourteenth century. He provided us  a vast description of the Indian cities. Ibn Battuta Mentioned about the Social and Political life of Medieval india in his book Rihala.                                                                                         
  2. Accounts of Marco Palo (13th cent.) –  Marco Polo visited the southern tip of the subcontinent – specifically, modern day Tamil Nadu and Kerala – between 1292 and 1294 – arriving on the Coromandel Coast in a merchant ship Here Polo began his documentation of the rich social fabric of India: “The climate is so hot that all men and women wear nothing but a loincloth, including the king – except his is studded with rubies, sapphires, emeralds and other gems.
  3. Accounts of Nicolo Conti (16th CE) – Nicolo, on reaching India, visited first the city of Cambaya in Gujarat. After twenty days’ sojourn there he passed down the coast to “Pacamuria,” probably Barkur, and “Helly,” which is the “Mount d’Ely” or “Cabo d’Eli” of later writers. Thence he travelled inland and reached the Raya’s capital, Vijayanagara, which he calls “Bizenegalia. Provided Us Detail Social life of People.                                                                                                   
  4. Tarikh-i-Frishta (16th CE) by Firishta – Tarikh-i-Firishtah a general history of India with particular reference to the Deccan states, comes down to the close of the reign of akbar. It was written in about 1612 by Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah, better known as Firishtah.
3. Literary Accounts:
  1. Shahnama (10th CE) by Firdausi – The Shahnameh or Shahnama is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi for Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni between c. 977 and 1010 CE and is the national epic of Greater Iran. Consisting of some 50,000 “distichs” or couplets, the Shahnameh is one of the world’s longest epic poems.

  2. Rajtarangini –   Rajatarangini is a  legendary and historical chronicle of the north-western Indian subcontinent, particularly about the kings of was written by Kashmiri historian Kalhana in Snaskrit language in the 12th century CE. Rajtrangini Have 7826 verses, which are further divided into eight books called Tarangas.

  3. prithvi raj rasoPrithvi Raj Raso (12th CE) by Chandbardai – The Prithviraj Raso is written in Brajbhasha. it is an epic poem about the life of the 12th century Indian king Prithviraj Chauhan. written by  Chandr Bardai, who , was a court poet of Prithvi Raj Chauhan.                                                   

  4. Padmavat (14th CE.) by Jayasi – Malik Jayasi was an  Sufi poet of India who used  to write in Awadhi, because the language is used by the common people in 15th century. Jayasi’s most famous work was Padmavat, it is the story of the historic battle of Chittor by Alauddin Khilji and his conquest for Rani Padmini.

4. Archaeological Sources:

A. Medieval Temples:

  1. khaurahoKhajuraho – The Khajuraho Temples are a group of Hindu temples and Jain temples in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh, India, they are located 175 kilometres (109 mi) southeast of Jhansi. Khajuraho is popular for its artistic temples which were built by the Chandela rulers between the 10th & 12th Century. Chandela rulers were the great patrons of art and thatswhy,the Khajuraho  temples is known for its sculptural wealth.

  2. konark sun templeKonark (Odisha) – The Konark or Konarak Sun temple is the temple of the Hindu sun god Surya, it was constructed as a giant stone chariot with 12 wheels, it is the most famous of the few sun temples built in India. . It was built  King Narasimhadeva I (r. 1238-1264 CE) of the Eastern Ganga dynasty in c. 1250 CE .  Konarak is a classic example of Hindu temple architecture, complete with a gigantic structure, sculptures and artwork of myriad themes.

  3. Dilwara (Mount Abu) – The Dilwara Temples are the temples of svetambara Jain temples located about 3 kilometres from the Mount Abu s in Sirohi District, Rajasthan’s only hill station. The earliest were built by Vimal Shah and supposedly designed and financed by Vastupala, Jain minister of Dholka. They were constructed between the 11th and 16th centuries, they are considered as some of the  most famous monuments in the style of Māru-Gurjara architecture, made up of very pure white marble and intricate marble carvings

B. Medieval Mosques:

  1. Jama Masjid – The Jama Masjid was built in Delhi  as a part of Shah Jahan’s new capital, . It is regarded as the best among all mosques built during the Mughal Empire, as it has the best mixture of marble and limestone. At the time of its construction, it was the biggest mosque in the Indian.

  2. Moti Masjid – Moti  means pearl. The mosque was built between 1630 & 1635, it was the first among the “pearl” named mosques, the other Moti masjid was built by Shah Jahan in Agra Fort (1647–53), and later by Aurangzeb in  Red Fort (1659–60).

  3. chisti dargahFatehpur Sikri Dargah – The Tomb of Salim Chishti is considered as one of the best examples of Mughal architecture in India, built by Akbar in 1580- 1581, along with the imperial complex at Fatehpur Sikri, it tells us about the Religious and Cultural progress in Akbar regime.

C. Medieval Forts:

  1. agra fortAgra Fort – Agra Fort is located in the city of Agra in India. it is a great historical monument, It was thehomee of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty till 1638, after 1638 the capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi. The Agra fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is about 2.5 km northwest from  the Taj Mahal.

  2. chittor fortChittor Fort – Chittorgarh fort is located in Chittorgarh, Rajasthan, it is the largest fort in India and Asia. It was attacked thrice In 1303 by Alauddin Khalji, again in 1534 by Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, and lastly by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1568. The Hindu Rajput rulers fought fiercely and remain independent 

  3. Gwalior Fort –Gwalior Fort, located on top of a hill, is considered as one of the best fortresses of India. It is also considered to be one of the most impassable forts in the country. is is  Known for its great architecture and rich History.  The name ‘Gibraltar of India‘ is given by Babur  because it provides panoramic views of the old Gwalior town.

  4. Red Fort – The Red Fort was built byMughal Emperor Shah Jahan to serve as the palace fort for his capital  The Red Fort ( known for its great architecture) was a palace once used  by a number of Mughal rulers

 D. Pillars of Medieval India: 

  1. Qutab Minar- The Qutb Minar was built over the ruins of the Lal Kot, the citadel of Dhillika. Qutub Minar was begun after the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, which was started around 1192 by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, first ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. This victory tower shows us  the traditional Islamic architecture and South-western Asian design.

  2. charminar Char Minar – The Charminar situated in Hyderabad, India is a mosque and grand Monument it was built in 1591 AD. It is amoung thr famous building of Hyderabad and also considered amoung the most famous buildings in India.  Muhammad Quli Qutb Shahi built Charminar to celebrate the end of a deadly plague.

E. Medieval Buildings Ruins :
  1. Firozabad –  Taj ud-Din Firoz Shah Bahmani (1397-1422)founded , the city of Firozabad, about 30 km south of Kalaburagi, the city lies in ruins today. It is Situated on the banks of River Bhima. Firozabad was initially established to be a royal pleasure resort, but it also used as halting station for bahmani troops. This Sultan was a great patron of art, culture and was celebrated for his theological and philosophical knowledge. During his reign, new architectural expressions of power appeared, some inspired by Persian literary sources. 

  2. Tughlaqabad –  The Tughlaqabad Fort in Delhi which is in complete ruins now, once served as a symbol of might and power of the Tughlaq Dynasty. It was built by Ghiyasudddin Tughlaq, the first Sultan of the Tughlaq Dynasty in 1321. In spite of its grandeur and greatness, it was abandoned not long after it was completed. The city was Cursed by Nisserudin Auliya   saying, “Ya rahe ujjar ya base gujjar,” (either it will be left desolate or occupied by the nomadic herdsmen).

F. Coins of Emperors:

  1. akbar coinsAkbar’s Louis (Coins) –  The gold coins called ‘Muhar’, The shape of the Akbar’s coins was round which changed to square later on. The round and square coins were issued simultaneously during 1585 A.D. to 1590 A.D Akbar also introduced the pictorial motifs on some of his coins The copper coins called ‘Dam’, was the fortieth part of a silver rupee.

  2. Ala-ud-din’s coins – Ala ud din Khliji issued coins in gold, silver, copper and billon. Gold and silver tankas issued by him are very common and were struck at three places: Delhi, Dar Al Islam, and Deogir. He also struck some square tankas in both the metals, but they did not have the mint name inscribed on it.khilji coins

Prominent Historians of Indian history of Medieval Period:

In the 11th century, Al beruni, an Iranian scholar who accompanied Mahmud Ghazni during his invasions of India gave an account of the Indian society in his Tahquiq Hind.

Chandr Bardai in his epic narrated the exploits of Prithvi Raj Chauhan.

Kalhan  wrote about the history of Kashmir in 11th ce


In the 13th century, Hasan Nizami, a traveler from Ghazni, Afghanistan gave information about Qutub-ud-din Aibak regime.

 Marco Polo provided us Details about  South India.

In the 14th century, Ibn Batuta, a traveller from Morocco, wrote about Muhammad Tughlaq

 Khwaja Abu Malik provided the Account the  Delhi Sultans.

 Zia-ud-Barni wrote the history from Balban to Firoz Tughlaq.

In the 15th century Abdul Razzaq described about the times of Vijayanagar kings.

In the 16th century Babur’s Babur Nama, and Abul Fazal’s Ain-i- Akbari and Akbar Nama provided detailed information about these two emperors. In the 17th century, Jahangir himself wrote Tuzki – Jahangiri throwing a lot of light on the period.

About Rohit Chaudhary

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