King Akbar’s Mahabharata, or the Razmnama (Book of Wars)


The battle of Duryodhana and Bhima (among others.) From the 1616-1617 edition of the Razmnama. By Kamal.
Image source: Simon Ray

When I was little I used to come across prints (much less elaborate than the above) in my house of scenes from the Mahabharata—with (what I assumed to be) Urdu writing on them! It confused me. I looked it up. Turns out, the Mughal king Akbar had a copy of the Mahabharata translated into Persian. Mystery solved. I put it to the back of my mind until recently when, while trying to plug gaps in my knowledge base I found out that there is actually a pretty interesting cast of characters behind this translation. An impassioned, suicidal artist, and his apollonian counterpart! An Islamic fundamentalist tasked with translating infidel texts! A king motivated by both religious toleration, and the maintenance of his regime’s legitimacy! Plus, it’s a good focal point around which to examine Indian art history which gives me the opportunity to post pretty pictures. Swiftly onwards–

Akbar’s Translation movement:

Akbar has a well-earned reputation as the most tolerant and humane of the Mughal kings. His formal policies towards non-muslims displayed liberality, and the composition of his court bespeaks of inclusivity. The range of art and music he chose to patronize also knew no religious bounds.[1] He even founded “Din-e-Ilahi,” a new syncretistic religion that earned the scorn of the orthodox Muslim intelligentsia.

Given these tolerant and syncretistic tendencies, it is no surprise that Akbar was interested in gaining access to the literature of the non-Persian speaking world. During his reign Akbar’s scholars translated works from Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Greek, and Latin into Persian, and also did substantial translation work from Persian into Hindi. Though the Mahabharata was the center of his project, Akbar also had the Ramayana, the Artha Veda, the Lilavati (a treatise on mathematics), and other Sanskrit texts translated into Persian.[2] [3]

Court historian Mulla Daud writes that Akbar “ordered, that the rational contents of different religions and faiths should be translated in the language of each, and that the rose garden of the traditional aspects of each religion should, as far as possible, be cleared of the thorns of bigotry.” Akbar’s reputation for tolerance has helped this explanation for the translation movement stick.[4] However, one should treat anything explanation given by court historians as suspicious. The Razmnama’s text has an array of strangely translated passages, additions, or omissions which justify this suspicion. While I’m sure that Akbar was genuinely interested in reading Hindu texts and spreading knowledge of them amongst his nobility, I also think that the translation project had distinctly fetishistic and propagandistic elements to it.

But First—

The Translation Process:

Ok, here’s the basic process. First, Sanskrit literate Brahmans (many of whom were converts to Islam) translated a common North Indian variant of the Mahabharata from Sanskrit into Hindi both in text, and verbally. Then the Hindi text was translated into Persian by a staff of Muslim, Persian speaking scholars. [5] Then that raw translation was converted into poetic verse by the project’s head, a scholar named Abu al-Fazl. [6] So obviously “translation” is a very loose term. It’s really more of a retelling.


A folio from a 1616 copy of the Razmnama in which: “Asvatthama Fires the Narayana Weapon (Cosmic Fire) at the Pandavas.” You’ll notice I have so far posted no images from the 1587 manuscript which is under discussion here. That is because it sits in the City Palace Museum in Jaipur off limits to all historians. So thanks for nothing City Palace Museum in Jaipur.
Image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

(If on the main page, hit “Continue Reading” for more [theres pretty pictures ahead {do it}])

Oddities in Translation:

Just a side note: I can’t read Persian. For information on the Persian text I’ve relied heavily on Audrey Trusche’s paper “The Mughal Book of War”. [7]  The following seven paragraphs are based on her translation and interpretive efforts:

The retelling differs substantially from the original in a number of ways. Persian Mughals seem to have viewed Hindu Indian culture through a lens similar to that of later British or German orientalists.  Namely, they saw Indian culture as a wellspring of “aja’ib”, a Persian word used to denote magical or fantastic qualities. As an example of this trend, the first Hindu scripture the Mughals chose to translate was the Artha Veda on the basis that it was a book of “spells, incantations, magic, devices, and tricks.” [8]  This exoticization of “less civilized” populations under the subjugation of foreign empires is quite common throughout history as anyone familiar with African, Southeast Asian, or Native American history will know.

The Razmnama is a retelling of the Mahabharata with a heightened level of “aja’ib.” In other words, it more resembles a fairy tale or a fantasy adventure story than the source material. Many words and names are transliterated rather than translated, to create a sanskritized lexicon. Entire verses are sometimes left untranslated, if the editor deemed their significance as “magic words” or “spells” to be important and interesting than their actual meaning. In addition, the entire Asvamedha Parva, (a rather dry theological section) is omitted in favor of a 12th century interpolation called Jaiminiyasvamedha. In the replacement text Arjuna roams around India encountering all manner of fantastical kingdoms, including one composed entirely of women, and one in which people lived for only one day. Replacing the Asvamedha Parva with the Jaiminiyasvamedha also accomplishes another goal of the Mughal translators, which was to de-emphasize the theological aspects of the text.

This de-emphasis of the text’s Hindu theology is accomplished by selective omissions or extensions of the text. For instance, the entire Bhagavad Gita is compressed down to a few pages, and it’s philosophical content is gutted.  This is not to imply that the Mughals were uninterested in the Bhagavad Gita’s philosophy (they had it translated several times in isolation,) but they didn’t see it as essential to the Mahabharata’s story, which to them was really about imaginative escapades and warfare—hence the translated title “The Book of Wars”.

Yet, the Mahabharata is a fairly blatantly religious text, so religious subjects needed exposition somehow. The result is an inconsistent mix of muffled Hindu theology, and an Islamic veneer. For instance, the first few lines of the Mahabharata which in Sanskrit consist of an invocation to Brahma, are rendered as follows in Persian as per Islamic norms: “When the Sutapuranik [narrator] knew that Shunak and the others desired to hear this story, he began the tale. He started first in the name of God, Great be his Glory and Magnificent his Bounty [jalla jalaluhu wa ‘amma nawaluhu].”[9]

Krishna also has a confused association with God. At some points he is described as a prophet like but strictly human figure (much like Muhammed), but at other times as a Hindu deva and at still other times as the Islamic khuda. This should not be interpreted as an attempt by the Mughals to inject their religious ideology into a Hindu text. When I discuss Badauni’s histories (in a few paragraphs) it will become obvious that Akbar wanted to keep Islam out of the text for authenticity’s sake, and that orthodox Muslim translators would have seen inserting Islam into a Hindu text as blasphemous. It is much more likely that this theological confusion is the natural result of Muslim scholars translating a text for a Muslim audience, while simultaneously trying to ignore or obfuscate the religious nature of the text.

Aside from the appreciation for it’s fantastical storytelling, it seems like the Mughal court also valued the Mahabharata for its discussions of kingship. While unexciting theological sections were truncated or removed, the Udyoga and Shanti Parvans were actually expanded. These sections deal with political power and the duties of kings. There are minor quirks in translation here as well. For instance, Santi Parvan praises a king who fosters “svadharma” (fulfilling one’s own ethical duty, or social role) in each of his subjects. However the Persian text praises a king who brings “rahmat-i ilahi” (the grace of God) to earth.

There also seems to have been a concerted effort to contemporize the text. An obvious example of this is in the illustrations, which based on the clothing and architecture depict the story’s events occurring in contemporary India. This is reminiscent of Gothic European works, which depicted biblical events taking place in contemporary Europe. Attempts at making the story current run through the text as well. For example, chapters in the Sanskrit narrative frequently begins with a phrase like “Sanjaya (the narrator of the Mahabharata) said…” The translators change these lines to: “Then the Indian storytellers relayed…” in reference to the narrators who told them the story in the Mughal court. They also inserted verses from well-known Persian poets into the text to provide emotional context to readers unfamiliar with the Indian literary tradition. For instance, Yudhishtra’s pain at hearing of Karna’s death is conveyed through a qasidah by the Persian poet Mu‘izzi:

“I see a land devoid of the face of my beloved.

I see a meadow empty of the stature of that upright cypress.

That place where the beloved used to wander in the garden with friends

Is now the dwelling of the wolf and fox, the domain of wild asses and vultures.”

Most blatantly, the chapters discussing political power sometimes break narrative completely in order to make positive reference to Akbar, and compare him to the revered kings of the Hindu mythological past. Contemporization, suspicious translations, and breaking narrative to praise Akbar really make it seem like Akbar was trying to use this text as a form of political legitimization. But this conclusion raises more questions. Why was Akbar seeking legitimization through a Hindu text? These manuscripts were written for Mughal nobility, not for mass consumption by Hindus. Did he expect Hindus to gain access to the text somehow? Or it a form of self-justification? Possibly, but baseless psychologizing has no place in historical analysis. Was it an attempt by the translators to win favor with the king? Or was it simply the result of translational drift? Who knows?

Hindu and Muslim Scholars

A depiction of Hindu and Muslim scholars translating the Mahabharata from Sanskrit into Persian. This is another example of an attempt to contemporize the text. From the 1598–99 copy of the Razmnama.
Image source: The Free Library of Philadelphia

Ok. Now to abruptly transition into the story of a very peculiar translator.


There were far too many scholars working on the Razmnama to detail them all, but I’d like to go over one of the more well known, well documented, and amusing characters involved with the project: Abd Al-Qadr Bada’uni.

Akbar hired Bada’uni under the impression that he was a Sufi mystic. This turned out to be an extremely false impression. In reality, Bada’uni was a staunch orthodox Muslim, and consequently became highly critical of Akbar in his personal and historical writings, for his perceived attempts to introduce dangerous innovations or reforms into Islam.[10] He decries the project head, Abu al-Fazl as a “hypocrite and a haughty, malicious, dishonest, envious, perfidious, and ambitious man” and even more odious than the Hindus and other heretics”[11] and his is writings as “infidelities and absurdities.”[12] He doesn’t seem to have gotten along with the other translators either. He says that they are “likely to accompany the Kauravas and Pandavas in the day of resurrection.” Presumably meaning they will go to hell.[13]

Given this hindsight, he seems like a very poor choice of a scholar to translate two out of the eighteen books of the Mahabharata, as well as the entire Ramayana. Not surprisingly, Bada’uni strongly resented his task of translating “purile absurdities.”[14] Because of his hostility, Akbar was suspicious that Bada’uni had altered the translation to suit his ideology, which led to the following amusing disagreement:

According to Bada’uni’s account, Akbar called him into the court and chastised him as “such a bigoted follower of Islamic law that no sword can slice the jugular vein of his bigotry.’”[15] Apparently, Akbar had been reading over the text and found verses, which he thought alluded to the existence of heaven, hell, and the Islamic Day of Judgment. The specific verse was “every action (amal) has it’s recompense (ajr) and every deed has its reward (jaza).” Akbar evidently thought that “amal” and “ajr” were veiled references to the two angelic scribes who appear on Judgment day according to Islamic mythology, and that furthermore, the whole verse was an attempt to smuggle divine retribution for sins into Hinduism. This put the orthodox Bada’uni in the uncomfortable situation of having to defend himself by explaining heathen theology to Akbar. He argued (successfully) that Hindus do indeed believe in heavens and hells as waystations in the cycle of rebirth, and that they also have an angel of death (Yama) who judges souls and sends them to either heaven or hell. [16][17]

Bada’uni took consolation in the fact he wasn’t technically an infidel just because he translated their works:

“…I seek refuge with God, (but) copying infidelities is not infidelity…)[18]

And that he was merely a mote in the winds of destiny:

“But such is my fate to be employed on such works. Nevertheless I console myself with the reflection that what is predestined must come to pass.”[19]

For some reason, Bada’uni’s translation of the Ramayana want over a bit better. He only dedicates two short paragraphs to it in his history, but the religious complaints are absent. He describes it as “superior to the Mahabharata.”[20]

Despite my philosophical differences with Bada’uni, I actually admire him for his courage and defiance. Other than Bada’uni’s work, all of the court histories of Mughal kings read like fawning love letters. He was the only one who stuck to his principles and dared to criticize the king for what he saw as moral transgressions.

But lets be serious, everyone is just looking for the pictures, so lets go over that bit:


“Krishna and the Golden City of Dwarka” a miniature from a different translated Sanskrit text called the Harivamsha (Geneology of Vishnu,) also commissioned by Akbar. 1585.
Image source: Sackler Freer Gallery

The Origin of Miniatures:

Until the 11th century, Indian painting traditions were mostly confined to temple walls. It was then that the Pala tradition of Indian miniature painting began, producing illustrated Buddhist manuscripts in universities like Nalanda and Vikramsila.[21] These works strongly resemble the Buddhist wall paintings of the preceding era, with their exaggerated, yet  naturalistic figures and subdued colors. However, by the 13th century the Pala tradition was cut short by the destruction of the Buddhist centers of learning at the hands of the first few waves of Turkic Muslim invaders. [22]

Pala 2

Buddhist Pala miniature depicting “Green Tara Dispensing Boons to Ecstatic Devotees” from a Ashtasahashirika Prajnaparamita Manuscript. From Bengal. early 12th century.
Image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Meanwhile, in 12th century Gujrati, Rajastani, and Malwi Jain artists were also busy illustrating religious manuscripts, although in a very different style of painting. Their figures are flat and deliberately unrealistic, and the colors are much more vibrant, particularly in the heavy use of red and gold. The Western Indian style flourished under the Chalukya dynasty thanks to imperial patronage, and to wealthy Jain merchants who sought to earn religious merit by presenting expensive scripture manuscripts to temple libraries. However, as Chalukya rule receded back to Karnataka during the 13th century, this Jain style influence and converge with general Rajput and Mewari miniature styles. Persian influences, including the use of lapis lazuli blue paint were acquired through the Delhi sultanate.[23] By around the 16th century the various Rajastani miniature styles had overtaken Jain painting in popularity and historical importance.[24][25]


Jain Manuscript. “Devananda’s Fourteen Auspicious Dreams Foretelling the Birth of Mahavira” from a Kalpasutra Manuscript. ca. 1465
India (Gujarat, Jaunpur)
Image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

As all of this was happening in India, Persia was developing it’s own miniature tradition. It’s difficult to say when it started, but there had been a painting tradition in Persia since the days of Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism. After the Mongol conquest brought in Chinese artistic influences, a period of rapid artistic growth and development ensued, peaking in the 13th-16th centuries. Persians used this medium both for Islamic manuscripts, but also to accompany volumes of legends, and Sufi and secular poetry. This style forms basis of the Mughal miniature tradition.[26]


Persian miniature. The Night Journey of the Prophet by Sultan Muhammad, showing Chinese-influenced clouds and angels, 1539-43.
Image source: Wikipedia

That’s the historical background, but contemporary to the early Mughal style (16th century), there was also:

Rajput: Various Rajput cities developed their own slightly differing styles. However, they were all generally rooted in in the Jain Western Indian style, and heavily influenced by the Mughal style.[27] In terms of content, hunts, Hindu rituals or myths, and courtly life were the main subjects.


An early Rajput style (Chaurapanchasika). “Krishna and the Kshatriya Maidens Proceed to Dvaraka” from a Bhagavata Purana series. By Sa Nana. 1520–30
Image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Deccani: Like Mughal style, this tradition was based on Persian miniature, though it adopted a more vibrant color pallet. [28] However, the Deccan sultans had much greater port access than the Mughals, leading to a greater influx of ideas from the Arab world, the Ottoman empire, and Europe.[29]


An unknown Deccani miniature (Deccani works are very poorly catalogued.)
Image source: The Post Graduate Government College for Girls

Himalayan: There were also other painting styles fermenting in the Himalayan foothills, bringing in Tibetan influences and forming the basis of what would become Basohli, Pahari, and Kangra styles. While the only extant samples of these styles are from the 17th century, there is speculation that they, (Basohli in particular) predate the Mughal period, so I include them here. [30]


Basohli miniature. Ganesha. 1730.
Image source: Wikipedia

Prior to Akbar, only Persian artists worked on Mughal miniatures, which ensured close adherence to the Persian style. Akbar was the first to have native Indian artists work on miniatures, leading to the differentiation of Mughal miniatures from the Persian base technique. The illustrations accompanying the Razmnama, and the other concurrently translated Sanskrit texts constitute the first well fleshed out examples of the “Indo-Persian” painting style.

Painting Process:  Although each Mughal miniature had a primary designer, they were produced through a communal process. Line drawing and page composition were considered more technically difficult than painting. Hence, the primary designer did the initial linework and detailing, while one or more younger painters filled in the work with color. Sometimes this division of labor was extended to more specialized roles, like border artists or portrait artists.[31] This division of labor closely resembles the miniature workshops of Persia, but is also similar to traditional Indian village and folk painting traditions, which also entailed artists working cooperatively on a single piece. [32] This cooperate process had the advantage of creating a single, cohesive artistic style for any given manuscript project, but it also limited the ability of any single artist to fully express themselves in a work. [33]

The main designers of Akbar’s Razmnama manuscript were Daswanth, Basawan, and Lal (I’ll discuss the first two in a bit). Abd as-Samad, a Persian master artist and instructor of Daswanth headed the project, and contributed a few works himself.[34] However, more than 50 other junior artists also worked on the project, listed here (pages 149-50.) By their names, one can tell that the vast majority of them were of Hindu origin. In addition to knowledge of the mythological source material, these artists undoubtedly also brought native Indian artistic influences into the project.

In addition to Persian and Indian influences, there is one influence I have thus far failed to mention: European. At around this time European prints (and occasionally, paintings) were entering India for the first time. They brought with them the concept of formal perspective, which although never mastered by Mughal artists was incorporated into the works. The depiction of vegetation in these works often more resembles European watercolors than any Persian or Indian predecessors.[35] Indeed, naturalistic depictions of plants, fields, and trees all seem derivative of Antwerp school, or Dürer prints, which had been circulating in India since their introduction by Jesuit missionaries in the 1590s.[36] Some scholars (such as Maurice Dimand) also attribute the introduction of three-dimensional figures to the European influence. Though I hesitate to disagree with his expertise, I am skeptical of this claim since three-dimensional figures occur in the Ajanta caves, and in the Eastern Buddhist manuscripts centuries before European paintings came on the scene.

Basawan and Daswanth two of the master artists who worked on the Razmnama project represent very different approaches to Indo-Persian painting:


Basawana miniature. “Alexander Visits the Sage Plato in His Mountain Cave” from the Khamsa (Quintet) of Amir Khusrau Dihlavi. 1597–98.
Image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Basawana: Of the two, he was probably the more technically skilled artist. Control, and adherence to Persian tradition are manifest in his style. Vertical and horizontal lines, often in the form of architectural elements give his work structure even when there is a lot of action in frame. They communicate a sense of order, deliberateness, and rationality. Though he never mastered formal perspective, his works are very carefully arranged to communicate depth using minimal foreshortening and no vanishing points.[37] [38]


Miniature by Basawan. “Akbar visits the tomb of Khwajah Mu’in ad-Din Chishti at Ajmer.” 1595.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

A night assault on the Pandava Camp

Miniature by Daswanth from the Razmnma. “A Night Assault on the Pandava Camp.” 1582-1586 I apologize that the Daswanth images are in black and white, but they are extremely rare so I’m lucky to get even these. Direct your letters of complaint towards the City Palace Museum in Jaipur for refusing to allow historians and photographers access to the text.
Image source: “The Mughal Painter Daswanth” by Milo Cleveland Beach


Daswanth is the perfect foil for Basawan. He was Akbar’s favorite artist, and the major active painter of his court. From a lowly birth as the son of a palanquin bearer, Akbar recognized his talent in youth from drawings he had made on walls, and put him into training under the well established, and technically conservative Persian painter Abd as-Samad. His work on the Razmnama constitutes the vast majority of his extant body of work. [39]

Despite being subject to the artistic constraints of the workshop method of production, Daswanth’s illustrations are still uniquely stunning, often consisting of supernatural occurrences, or scenes of fantastic violence. In his most interesting work, he nearly abandons depth and perspective altogether and depicts his subjects on a single plane of churning, frenzied action. [40]  His work “Night Assault on the Pandava Camp” exemplifies the irrational, nightmarish “aja’ib” style. Any horizontal or vertical line is obscured by overlapping forms creating a disorienting or hallucinatory impression. The flatness is reminiscent of pre-Mughal Western Indian works. Despite being taught by the old master Abd as-Samad, his work sometimes looks more Tantric or Tibetan than it does Persian.[41] [42] Compared to his contemporaries, his work is far less formal, less concerned with creating realistic spaces, and more concerned with expressionism. Art historian and former director of the Sackler and Freer galleries Milo C. Beach credits these unique works to the degrading character of Daswanth’s sanity. [43] The fact that he committed suicide after completing only 62 folios, leaving his artistic influence heavily weighted towards the beginning of the text, bolsters this claim.[44]

Bhima kills the bothers of Kichaka

Miniature by Daswanth from the Razmnama. “Bhima kills the bothers of Kichaka.” 1582-1586
Image source: “The Mughal Painter Daswanth” by Milo Cleveland Beach

However, Daswanth and Basawana only worked on the initial manuscript, commissioned for Akbar personally and completed in 1587 (now sitting behind closed doors in City Palace Museum in Jaipur.)[45] There are three other copies known to exist, one in London (completed 1598), one in Calcutta (1605), and one which has been scattered across the world (1616). Interestingly, the illustrations for these copies seem unrelated to those of the initial manuscript. They sometimes depict the same scenes as the first manuscript, and sometimes deviate. Each one has its own style, its own idiosyncrasies. Each copy is simpler in style and more literal in its depictions than the original manuscript.[46] To detail all of that would be too much, so I’ll just say hunt down Seyller’s piece comparing the various editions. Message me if you cant find it online. [47]

Welp, thats all I got for you. There arent many comprehensive online resources on this so I can’t link you to much. That’s one of the reasons I wrote this. It seemed like nobody had really compiled all this information before. Anyway:

If you can read Farsi, you can read some of the texts here.

Here are some illustrations from the later manuscripts.

Hit “Continue Reading” for citations.

[1]  Smith, Vincent Arthur, Akbar the Great Mogul, 1542-1605, 1919. page 421- 4 30

When I say Akbar was tolerant, I’m obviously not referring to the first years of his rule.

On page 421 this source says, strangely, that the development of original poetry in Hindi at the time of Akbar can be partly ascribed to the development of literature in England.  English influence is plausible for mineatures but where are the influences of English literatature on Mughal literature? This is not to deny that English literature had an effect on Indian literature— during the colonial period, but not this early. Does anyone have evidence to support Smith’s claim?

[2] Smith, Page 423

[3] Ali, Athar, Translations of Sanskrit Works at Akbar’s Court, Social Scientist, vol. 20 1992. Page 44

None of the Upanishads or works of Shankaracharya were translated, probably due to the heavier presence of Vaishnavas in Akbar’s court as opposed to Saivites or Shaktites.

[4] Beach, Milo, The Mughal Painter Daswanth, Ars Orientalis, Vol. 13 1982. Page 123

[5] Ali, Athar, Page 41

[6]  Elliot, H. M. Bibliographical Index to the Historians of Muhamedan India: In Four Volumes. Vol. 1. Calcutta: J. Thomas Baptist Mission, 1849. Google Book, Page 251

[7] Trusche, Audrey, The Mughal Book of War, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. 31, 2011. (whole article)

[8] Ibid 7, Page 10

[9] Ibid 7, Page13

[10] Ibid 6, Page 221

[11] Ibid 6, Page 255

[12] Ibid 6, Page 251

[13] Ibid 6

[14] Ibid 6, Page 220

[15] Ibid 7, Page 16

[16] Ibid 3, 41

[17] Alam, Ishrat. Hussain, Syed Ejaz. Varied Facets of History: Essays in Honour of Aniruddha Ray, Primus Books, Delhi, Google Book, 2011 Pages 121-122

[18] Ali, Athar, Page 42 This quote was from after he translated the Ramayana though.

[19] Smith, 423

[20] Elliot, Henry. The History of India, 1961 Page 62

[24] Ibid, 22

[25] Topsfield, Andrew. Court Painting at Udaipur: Art under the Patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar. Zurich: ARTIBUS ASIAE, 2002. Print, Pages 21-45

[26] “Iran: Visual Arts: A brief history of Persian Miniature”

[27] Nīraja, Jayasiṃha. Splendour of Rajasthani Painting. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1991. Google Book. Pages 9-16

[28]  Zebrowski, Mark. Deccani Painting. [England]: Sotheby Publications, 1983. Google Book. Page 10

[29] Ibid 28, Pages 9-12, 96

[30] Singh, Chandramani, A Review of Basohli Style in India, Banaras

[31] Seyller, John, Scribal Notes on Mughal Manuscripts, Artibus Asiae, Vol. 48, 1987 248-249

[32] Beach, Milo C. Mughal and Rajput Painting, Part 1. Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. Google Book, Page 39

[33] Ibid 4, Page 41

[34] Ibid 4, Page 122

[35] Ibid 4, Page 124

[36] Dimand, Maurice S. Mughal Painting under Akbar the Great, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Pages 48, 51

[37] Ibid 4, 121, 122

[38] Chakraverty, Anjan. Indian Miniature Painting. Delhi: Lustre, 2005. Google Book. Page 43

[39] Ibid 4, Page 121

[40] Ibid 4, Page 121

[41] Ibid 32, Page 40

[42] Seyller, John. Codicological Aspects of the Victoria and Albert Museum Akbarnāma and Their Historical Implications, Art Journal, Vol. 49, 1990. Page 383

[43] Ibid 4, Page 125

[44] Ibid 4, Page 123

[45] Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1901. Page 71

[46] Ibid 32, Page 40

[47] Seyller, John. Model and Copy: The Illustration of Three “Razmnāma” Manuscripts, Archives of Asian Art, Vol. 38. 1985.

8 comments on “King Akbar’s Mahabharata, or the Razmnama (Book of Wars)

  1. Extremely well written, particularly your smooth transition into the area of miniature paintings from the overview of Razmnama. I have provided some more details about it and the earlier Arabic summary of the Mahabharata at

    • Thanks Pradip. Excellent article on the arabic translation, among other things. In my research I did find that the arabs had translated or re-told a number of Sanskrit works prior to Akbar, but I couldn’t find a smooth way of integrating that information, so I’m really glad you posted this. Its also way more comprehensive than any of the sources I found.

      This whole thing really piques my interest in the Jaimini version. Is Shekhar Sen’s translation worthwhile?

  2. Nasser Hamed Al Howaimel says:

    i would be grateful if you could give information on the arabic books available on Ramayana ,Mahabharatha and Bhagvath Gita

  3. […] standing over the defeated Duryodhana. From Akbar’s Razmnama. Image source: […]

  4. […] Source: 1. A Persian Mahabharata: The 1598-1599 Razmnama by Yael Rice — 2. Videshi Sutra – An Online Research Project on South Asian History and Culture — […]

  5. […] this also suffered from arguments about interpretation. At one point, Akbar is said to have angrily accused one of the principal translators of not remaining faithful to the text by inserting too many […]

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