AS a prelude to the upcoming Chandigarh Literature Festival 2016, readers and history lovers spent the Saturday evening in the company of author Shazi Zaman, who talked about his latest book in Hindi, Akbar, based on the life and times of the Mughal Dynasty’s iconic ruler – Akbar the Great.
The author was in conversation with Satyanand Nirupam, editor, Rajkamal Prakashan, and also interacted with the audience on the many aspects of the book, and the process of writing at Panjab University’s PL Anand Auditorium.
“Akbar is the result of 20 years of intensive research. History and historians reflect on incidents and dates, but my book strives to go beyond this, reflecting on Akbar’s life, thoughts, turmoil, his multi-faceted personality, his state of mind, spiritual side. There are so many aspects of Akbar’s life that I discovered, which are part of this book,” said Zaman, who was a history student and now a journalist and author.
To reach the heart and soul of Akbar’s life and times, Zaman researched material associated with Akbar from Kolkata’s Indian Museum to London’s Victoria Albert.
Studying miniature paintings, drawings made by artists commissioned by Akbar, documents — Zaman also researched closely the monuments and buildings related to Akbar and those of his close associates.
“An intensive study of Akbarnama, Muntkhbutwaarikh, Babarnama, Humayunnama and Tazikratul Wakyaat, apart from Jain and Vaishnav priests’ literature on Akbar gave me many insights into Akbar’s life,” said Zaman.
Showing slides of the photograph of an armour said to be work by Akbar in war, part of the collection of a museum in Mumbai, Zaman said he sent it to Oxford for experts to study it, and estimate the height and physical dimensions of Akbar.
“I needed to have his reflection in my mind, his face, physical attributes, look. I kept myself away from films, serials and even books on Akbar so that my research was not impacted and I had my own reflections. The idea was to reach primary sources of information. So, I read a lot of literature by writers considered close to Akbar, regional, vernacular sources and even letters written by Christian priests. My research also boasts of a deep study of Mughal miniatures,” added Zaman.
Reflecting on many aspects of Akbar’s life, Zaman said the study of and experts’ input on documents bearing Akbar’s writings show that he had difficulty writing.
“Very few people know that Akbar used to recite Dohas in Braj Bhasha and I chose to write the book in Hindustani and not Urdu or English, for I wanted to write in his language. He was a great proponent of communal harmony and had a deep knowledge of religions. Akbar gave the world something new, be it his architecture, clothes, philosophy, poetry, political acumen. At the peak of his life, after winning all wars and being the most powerful man, he looked inward to find a place in the spiritual space,” said Zaman, adding the book will be soon translated into English.