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Some Interesting Visitors' Records: Five Examples of Graffiti Found in a Tomb at Nurdi (Amritsar District, East Punjab)

  • Subhash Parihar


The Persian inscriptions of India, which constitute an important source, particularly for the local history of a region, a district, a tehsil, a town and a village, have received inadequate if not scant attention from our historians. Worse and far more regrettable is the neglect of visitors' or travellers' records on the walls of sarais, tombs or mosques, and similar buildings which they passed and where they made a halt, overnight and otherwise. Against the commemorative stone tablets set in a monument to perpetuate the name of the builder, visitors' or travellers' records or graffiti, as they are also called, were written usually in ink and hence were of comparatively much less durable nature. Many of these graffiti have disappeared in the natural course with the passage of time.



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1 There are exceptions, no doubt. Such mementoes of visits engraved on stone are also known. As is wellknown to historians, Mīr Muḥammad Ma'ṣūm Nāmī of Bhakkar in Sind, an official and literatteur of Akbar's time, has left a couple of scores of such mementoes on any imaginable building he came across, pillar of a temple, wall of a tomb or a mosque, minar, etc., in the course of his official visits to the Deccan with Akbar, to Qandahar and Iran where he went as Akbar's envoy to the Iranian king or his private visits to his native place in Sind. His compatriat, Mīrzā 'Īsā Tarkhān's son Mirzā Ṣāliḥ's records are also known on a monument at Jaisalmer, in Rajasthan. These have been listed in the Annual Reports on Indian Epigraphy from time to time.

2 In 1964, Lieut. Colonel K. A. Rashid brought to notice the scribblings on the mosque (which he thinks was a bārādarī) of theSarai, Begum at Attock (Pakistan) in his article “The inscriptions of Begum Sarāi (Attock)”, The Journal of Research Society of Pakistan, (07, 1964), pp. 1524 + 7 Plates. Of the twenty inscriptions on the monument, he reproduced the text of four.

Rashid also refers to another article entitled “Tārīkh-i-Yādgār” (in Persian) by an Iranian scholar, Aḥmad Gulchīn-i-Ma'ānī, published in a monthly Yaghmā (Iran). In this article, Aḥmad mentions “a book in one of the local libraries of Iran, in which are described similar writings on the walls of old monuments of Iran whereupon travellers, poets and even Emperors have taken care to leave their impressions”. Interestingly, this book also records a scribbling by Emperor Humayun on the Mazār of Shaykh Aḥmad Jām, left during his flight to Iran. It is dated 14 Shawwāl, 951 (29 December, 1544).

I know of only one more article of this nature – Grewal, J. S., “Inscriptions from Batala”, Proceedings of the Punjab History Conference (Sixth Session, March 19–20, 1971 Patiala, 1972), pp. 5661. 61. This article analyses the graffiti on the tomb of Shamsher Khān (dated A.D. 1589–90) and other monuments of Batala.

3 I am grateful to Professor Iqtidar Alam Khan for supplying a xerox copy of this unpublished article.

4 In the nonsensical political game of playing with historical names, this village has recently been renamed Qila Kavi Santokh Singh or the fort of the poet Santokh Singh.

5 For details of the tomb of Muḥammad Ḥusayn at Nakodar, see Parihar, Subhash, “Hadironwala Bagh, Nakodar: an extinct Mughal garden”, Oriental Art, XXXIX (Autumn 1993), pp. 40–1 and figs. 3–6.

6 For more details see, Parihar, Subhash, “Little-known Mughal monuments of Nurdi”, Journal of Research Society of Pakistan, (10, 1996), pp. 5561.

7 The poetical fragment is written without separating the hemistiches as is usually done.

8 The word Jahāngīr Shāhī of which only the part Jahān[gīr] has survived is written in a smaller hand beneath the scribbler's name.

9 The text preceding it is missing.

10 The word “Nūrchashmī” meaning “light of my eyes”, i.e., my son, is quite clear.

11 This reading is tentative. The writing is somewhat faded in this portion.

12 All the grandees mentioned in the record did not leave together.

13 For details of the Balkh expedition, see, Begley, W. E. & Desai, Z. A. (ed.), The Shāh Jahān Nāma of Ίnāyat Khan (Delhi, 1990), pp. 327–30;Kambū, Muḥammad Ṣālih, Άmal-i-Ṣāliḥ, Urdu trans. Zaidi, Nāẓir Ḥasan (Lahore, 1974), ii, pp. 364–83 & 387413;Begley, W. E. & Desai, Z. A. (ed.), History of Shah Jahan, iii (forthcoming), Chapter 18. For the roles played by these noblemen, see, Khān, Shāh Nawāz, Ma'āthiru'l-Umarā, i, trans. Beveridge, H. (rep. Patna, 1979), pp. 188–90 (Άlī Mardān Khān), 297–99 (Aṣālat Khān), 344–6 (Bahādur Khān), and 727 (Jagat Singh).

14 This is the first part of the First Creed of Islam; its second part being, “and that Muḥammad is the prophet of Allāh”.

15 In the inscription the figure is written in inverse order from left to right as in the case of English and other Indian languages, 42 for 24. This is not a solitary instance of such writing in inscriptions.

16 The word in the text seems to be bāda but it could have been bādiya in which case the phrase in sar-gardān-i-bādiya-i-firāq would mean “This wanderer in the desert of separation”, which is definitely preferable as the scribe happened to be a traveller from one station to another.

17 That is to say, the following couplet is composed.

18 I could not trace the present location of qaṣba Bahlul.

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Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
  • ISSN: 1356-1863
  • EISSN: 1474-0591
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