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This concluding chapter is a detailed methodological essay which narrates the process by which the archive underlying this book was reconstructed by the author from its various fur-flung locations within and outside India. It demonstrates the value of such archival reconstruction, and the use of micro-history in combination with systematic data analysis associated with quantitative methods. It proposes that such a methodology can reveal the vast archive of Indo-Islamic and/or Indo-Persianate legal documents hidden in plain view, exploding the myth of archival vaccuum and providing vast quantities of new data and analytical approaches. It is argued that such an approach is productive not only for uncovering dramatic, people-filled stories, but also for adding legibility and comprehensibility to a body of material that has long been neglected for its alleged dryness and difficulty. The chapter concludes with a reflection on the practice and ethics of memorializing the past of one’s family, which created this invaluable, but necessarily selective, archive.
In the late 1620s, Prince Khurram was serving his punishment posting as governor of Deccan, while his sons were held hostage at the imperial court by his own father, Emperor Jahangir. Prince Khurram, who would eventually assume the imperial Mughal throne as Shah Jahan in 1628, was being punished for armed rebellion, which had also seen him attempting to build a military and political base in the sūba (province) of Malwa, until he was chased across the country by the imperial army and eventually defeated. While embroiled in imperial high politics, Prince Khurram found the time to issue a nishān (a princely order) confirming the appointment of a man called Mohan Das to the post of qānūngō (local official maintaining tax records) of the pargana (district) Dhar.
This chapter deals with documents recording a variety of inter-personal dealings that reveal that transactional ambit of the protagonists, including sale and purchase, loans, gifts, and payment of blood-money. Structured as recognizably pan-Islamic documentary forms and sealed by the Islamic judge (qazi), these documents offer an opportunity for learning further details about the social life of the protagonists, especially the women among them, and their relations with their social equals or subordinates. This leads to a discussion about the percolation of Islamic legal forms and procedures in this pre-dominantly non-Muslim context. The documents in the collection are connected to models provided by Persian-language formularies known as munshats, showing how standardization amd popularization of legal forms may have been achieved through such non-religious manuals that formed training materials for Indo-Persian scribes, or munshis.
This chapter focusses on a prolific subset of bilingual (Persian and Hindi/Rangri) documents within the collection (designated qaul-qarar), which record contracts between individual members of the family and the state (or its jagirdars - 'fief-holders'). The contracts consisted of agreements to collect land-tax and other imposts over a finite period of time, and deposit a certain pre-determined amount into the provincial or noble's household treasury. The chapter uses these contracts and documents recording further transactions based on them, such as sub-renting, selling, standing surety for others, and foreclosures, to demonstrate how the family portfolio was built up by contracting as tax-farmers for the regime and its officials. It also adds details to the landscape of authorities that the protagonists had to contend with in order to benefit from such political-fiscal investments.
This chapter examines the effects of regime change on the family and its practices, as Maratha chieftains took over the district of Dhar in Malwa in the early eighteenth centuries, overthrowing Mughal control and institutions. Documents from this period are used to reconstruct the difficult negotiations undertaken by landed families such as our protagonists, in order to convince the new rulers to recognize their existing titles and prerogatives. The chapter then proceeds to the second regime change in the early nineteenth century, when the local Maratha chieftain-turned-king – the Puwars – came under the control of the British colonialists. Using several document types – some continuing from Mughal times and some innovations – this chapter examines how older entitlements, conceived in a Persianate cultural world, were re-stated in an altered institutional and cultural environment.
This chapter delves into specific moments of dispute among the protagonists and others. Such episodes are used to map the range of adjudicative authorities – Islamic judges (qazis), jagirdars, the imperial court, and their own peers – that was available for significant villagers in Mughal Malwa. This is used to discuss the concept of jurisdictional intertwining as an alternative to inter-jurisdictional conflict and mobility. The focus of the chapter is on an explosive contest over inheritance in the late seventeenth century, which pulled in all the institutions of state that have been discussed thus far, and forced members of the family to define the limits of their kinship and their circle of entitlements. After narrating how a Muslim man tried to argue that he was part of this Hindu family and entitled to share in its rights, the archive is examined afresh – speculating how this episode may have structured the production and preservation of a specific body of documents, aimed at establishing certain rights, and erasing those of others.
As kayasths, the protagonists of this story were part of a community of archetypical professionals, who served various Indo-Islamic and even colonial regimes in India. This chapter examines the notion of professionalisation, reflecting on the conflicting aspirations of this landed martial family, for whom martial Rajputs offered the most immediate and attractive social and cultural model. This chapter examines a family history, re-written several times, in different scripts, through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; family trees in multiple scripts; and a petition presented to colonial authorities in the early twentieth century, all of which members of the family used in trying to explain and justify the origins of their wealth and status. The chapter also looks at other specialists, who enabled and structured such claims, such as Islamic judges (qazis), Muslim and non-Muslim scribes (munshis), and specialist traders, connecting what is known of the social location and professional orientation of each group with the functions they evidently performed in the story of this family.
This chapter introduces the political geography of the region called Malwa in central India: a sultanate from the thirteenth century, a Mughal province from the sixteenth, a Maratha state from the eighteenth, and a British-controlled princely state from the nineteenth. It traces the area of operations of the book's protagonists, relating that area to key commercial and military routes that traversed the region, and the petty Rajput domains that dotted and shaped the territory. The chapter serves to evoke the context of entrenched knots of military-political pwer together with the shifting of empires, within which the family of landlords staked their claims.
This chapter uses a range of records of grants and other documents of order to introduce the protagonists and to trace the story of their accmulation of entitlements related to land, agrarian revenues, and state offices. It discusses how such grants were received from emperor, princes, and nobles, as reward for a variety of services – military, fiscal, and administrative – provided to those higher authorities. As such, the protagonists are shown to be part of a ubiquitous and diverse social class, referred to in Mughal parlance as zamindars – holders of land. All this is used to show how the Mughal state was actuated and even inhabited, and turned into family property – not just at the top, but also the bottom of the regime's hierarchy.
Based on a completely reconstructed archive of Persian, Hindi and Marathi documents, Nandini Chatterjee provides a unique micro-history of a family of landlords in Malwa, central India, who flourished in the region from at least the sixteenth until the twentieth century. By exploring their daily interactions with imperial elites as well as villagers and marauders, Chatterjee offers a new history from below of the Mughal Empire, far from the glittering courts of the emperors and nobles, but still dramatic and filled with colourful personalities. From this perspective, we see war, violence, betrayal, enterprise, romance and disappointment, but we also see a quest for law, justice, rights and righteousness. A rare story of Islamic law in a predominantly non-Muslim society, this is also an exploration of the peripheral regions of the Maratha empire and a neglected princely state under British colonial rule. This title is also available as Open Access.