This article analyzes the development of literature under Mughal king Jalaluddin Akbar.
Akbar was the only Mughal king who could not read and write. Nevertheless, he encouraged and patronized literary work, prose and poetry, in Persian and other languages without any discrimination. Akbar’s Nauratnas, court advisors, among others also included prominent literary men such as poets and writers who set legacy to continue until the end of the empire in 1857. Important literary figures of Akbar’s period included Abul Fazl, Badauni, Nizam ud din, Sant Tulsi Guru Granth Sahib, Malik Muhammad Jayasi, and others.
Literature development under Akbar
1. Work in Persian
A great deal of high-quality prose and poetry work was produced in Persian during the reign of the third Mughal Emporer Jaludin din Akbar. The great historian and scholar of this period, Abul Fazl is famous for the two important works of Akbar Nama and Ain-i-Akbari in Persian. Other Persian works included Muntakhab-ul-Tawarikh by Baduani, Tabaqat-i-Akbari along the Translation of Hindu religious texts i.e. Atharva Veda and Ramayana and Mahabharat from Vedic Sanskrit.
2. Work in Hindi and its dialects
Surdas, a blind Hindu devotional poet and singer of Akbar’s time wrote Hindu religious lyrics Braj Bhasha. One of the famous works that have made him immortal among followers of Hinduism is Sursagar. Another Hindu saint and poet, Sant Tulsidas, Ramanandi Vaishnava wrote several popular books. He is best known for the epic Ramcharitmanas written in an eastern Hindii dialect of Awadhi.
Akbar encouraged literature development in Hindi. Raja Birbal, Man Singh, Bhagwan Das, Nahari were some of the literary figures in Hindi associated with Mughal courts of that time. Nand Das, Vithal Das, Parmanand Das, Kumbhan Das are among the prominent men who contributed to high-quality poetry in Hindi. The poetry work of Tulsi Das and Surdas developed during the reign of Akbar is the most famous work making them immortal in the Hindu religion. Other notable Hindi poets of this time included Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khana and Rash Khan.
3. Work in Punjabi
Similarly, the Guru Granth Sahib, the central holy religious scripture of Sikhism was compiled during this period in Punjabi.
4. Work in Sanskrit
Akbar recruited Sanskrit thinkers from across the Indian subcontinent who produced masterpieces in the field of art and literature. Some of the important works produced at that time included the Shringar Darpan by Padma Sunder, Heer Shubhagyam by Deva Vimala, and Mahapatra Krsnadasa of Orissa and Pamasudara.
The Mughal king patronized Sanskrit intellectuals across the religions. For instance, Mahapatra Krsnadasa was the first royal-sponsored Sanskrit intellectual whereas Padmasundara was the first Jain to inaugurate the composition of Sanskrit texts. Another important literary work completed on the special request of Akbar was a treatise on Sanskrit aesthetic theory. The treatise was completed in the name of ‘Akbarasahisrngaradarapana’ which means ‘the Mirror of Erotic Passion for Shah Akbar in Sanskrit.
Grammar and Persian-Sanskrit dictionary
In addition to the above literary work, Akbar has this credit to get a Persian-Sanskrit dictionary, Parsi Prakash done. Two important literary men, Krsnadas and Karnapura, of his time also produced bilingual grammar during the period of Jalaluddin Akbar.