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Tārīḫ-i Banākatī

Abū Sulaymān Dāwūd ibn Tāj al-Dīn Abī al-Fażl Muḥammad Banākatī was a poet and historian who flourished at the Ilkhanid court during the period when the capital was in Tabriz and then Soltaniyeh. He was probably born in Banākat (Tajikistan), a town on the upper side of Syr Darya of Transoxiana, and died in 730/1329-30. We know next to nothing about his life. In the month of ḏū al-qa‘da 701/July-August 1302, Banākatī was awarded the title of poet laureate (malik al-šu‘arā) by the Ilkhanid ruler Ġāzān Ḫān (r. 1294-1305). In his Taḏkira al-šu‘arā (Biography of poets), Dawlatšāh Samarqandī records one of Banākatī’s poems (Samarqandī 1385š/2007, pp. 395-397). Banākatī completed the Tārīḫ-i Banākatī on 25 šawwāl 717/31st December 1317 during the reign of Abū Sa‘īd (r. 1316-1335) (Barthold 1987, p. 645, Jackson 1988, p. 669).

Banākatī’s general history was officially titled Rawżat ūlī al-albāb fī ma‘rifat al-tawārīḫ (or fī tawārīḫ al-akābir) wa-al-ansāb, “The garden of those who are interested in the knowledge of histories (or histories of influential persons) and genealogies.” It contains nine chapters (qism) dealing with: (i) histories of Prophets from Adam to Abraham, (ii) histories of ancient kings of Persia, (iii) histories of Prophet Muḥammad, the four rightful caliphs, and the imams, (iv) histories of regional dynasties in the eastern caliphate which were established during the ‘Abbasid, (v) history of Jews, (vi) history of Christians and Franks, (vii) history of India, (viii) history of China, and (ix) history of the Mongols. The main sources of the Tārīḫ-i Banākatī are the Niẓām al-tawārīḫ, a Persian historical work by Nāṣir al-Dīn Bayżāwī (d. 685/1286, see Itani 1997) and, as Banākatī himself says, Rašīd al-Dīn’s Jāmi’ al-tawārīḫ which had been written only a decade before the Tārīḫ-i Banākatī (Banākatī 1348š/1969, p. 1). The chapter on India, titled “on the history of Indians, the images of the climates, and descriptions of the kingdoms in Hindustan and their monarchies from the time of Vāsudeva to sultan ‘Alā’ al-Dīn (dar tārīḫ-i Hunūd wa ṣuwar-i aqālīm wa ḏikr-i mamālik-i Hindūstān wa pādšāhī-yi īšān az ‘ahd-i Bāsudīw tā sulṭān ‘Alā’ al-Dīn),” is divided into three parts (bāb). The first, divided in four sections (faṣl), deals with the calculation of time and eras, the chart of the seven climates, and geographical information about Hindustan; the second part presents the life of Śakyamuni (a name for Buddha) and the belief of metempsychosis (dīn-i tanāsuḫ); the third part deals with the history of the kings in India.

Although most of the accounts of this chapter are borrowed from the Jāmi’ al-tawārīḫ’s second volume, the Tārīḫ-i Banākatī probably includes also materials from the third volume of Rašīd al-Dīn’s chronicle, which was supposed to deal with geographical knowledge of the world but was presumably never completed and has never been traced so far (Browne 2003, p. 72). The second and third sections of the first part of the chapter on India of the Tārīḫ-i Banākatī actually contain descriptions which does not appear in the second volume of the Jāmi’ al-tawārīḫ. Although section two dealing with measuring of habitable zone on the earth is chiefly based on section two of part one of the chapter on India of the Jāmi’ al-tawārīḫ, the Tārīḫ-i Banākatī contains a chart which divides habitable zone into seven areas, which is not found in the second volume of the Jāmi’ al-tawārīḫ (Rašīd al-Dīn 1374š/2005, pp.12-14; Banākatī 1348š/1969, p. 316). Moreover, in section three of bāb one, which contains an outline of the seven climates, Banākatī includes references to Ptolemy’s work, which are not found in the second volume of the Jāmi’ al-tawārīḫ (Banākatī 1348š/1969, p. 316-318; Shiraiwa 1995, pp. 192-183).

In the second part, Banākatī omits the accounts of hells and heavens in Buddhist cosmology given in the Jāmi’ al-tawārīḫ and present only to the six paths of metempsychosis which are placed after the account of ten evil deeds (Banākatī 1348š/1969, p. 329). One possible reason for Banākatī’s omission is that he may have felt uncomfortable with Rašīd al-Dīn’s account in which hells and heavens are compatible with metempsychosis, because in Islamic thought the other world (āḫira) is eternal. Instead of this, Banākatī additionally inserts a paragraph offering a general view of believers in metempsychosis (ahl-i tanāsuḫ), including non-Buddhist ones, where he introduces four paths: nasḫ (transformation into another human), masḫ (transformation into animal), fasḫ (transformation into vegetation), and rasḫ (transformation into mineral); these accounts are not found in the corresponding part of the Jāmi’ al-tawārīḫ that deals only with metempsychosis in Buddhism. Moreover, he adds a fifth path on transmigration into an angel which can be interpreted as an effort to add a category familiar to Muslim readers (Banākatī 1348š/1969, p. 328). Beside this, his description of the four paths by and large agrees with the description of metempsychosis given in earlier Arabic treatises on religions such as al-Šahrastānī’s Kitāb al-milal wa-al-nihal (Bāšā 1995, p. 144; Gimaret 1998, p. 182).

In part three, on the histories of the kings of India, Banākatī presents twenty-three kings who ruled Delhi and divides them into two groups (ṭā’ifa): ten Hindu kings and thirteen Muslim rulers (Banākatī 1348š/1969, pp. 331-336). This division of kings into Hindus and Muslims does not appear in the Jāmi’ al-tawārīḫ. The group of Hindu kings covers from the rule of the family of Aḏī (sun goddess Aditi) to the fall of the Hindūšāhids and Kṛṣṇa Vāsudeva’s enthronement. The description of the second group stretches from the time of Muḥammad ibn al-Qāsim’s (d. 96/715) expedition to Sind to the reign of ‘Alā’ al-Dīn Ḫaljī, until 717/1317. Banākatī’s descriptions are based on the fifth and seventh sections of the first part (qism) of the chapter on India of the Jāmi’ al-tawārīḫ: the rule of Aditi’s family is on section seven and the rules of Vāsudeva and his successors are on section five. However, Rašīd al-Dīn juxtaposed three timelines of Indian history in the first part of the chapter: the history of Delhi (section five), the history of Kashmir (section six), and the history of rulers flourished in the four yugas (sections from seven to ten, Rašīd al-Dīn 1374š/2005, pp. 50-100). On the other hand, Banākatī combines the materials in order to integrate them into a single timeline from Āditya sun gods to ‘Alā’ al-Dīn Ḫaljī, by omitting the history of Kashmir and of other epic-Purāṇic kings (narrated in sections eighth, ninth, and tenth of Jāmi’ al-tawārīḫ). In this manner, the structure of history of India becomes more coherent with that of the other chapters of the Tārīḫ-i Banākatī, arranged on the basis of one timeline of events.

Some later Muslim historiographers in South Asia refer to the Tārīḫ-i Banākatī in their writings. In the section of Buddhism in his Ā’īn-i Akbarī, Abū al-Fażl (d. 1011/1602) narrates that during his third visit to Kashmir with the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605) he met some old men who had the belief (kīš) in Buddhism. However, according to Abū al-Fażl none of them know about Buddhism as much as the descriptions given in Ḥāfiẓ-i Abrū’s work (probably his replacement volume of the Jāmi’ al-tawārīḫ, completed after 829/1426) and the Tārīḫ-i Banākatī (Abū al-Fażl, 1876, p. 111; Abū al-Fażl 2004, p. 1031). Thus, as Sakaki suggested, it is probable that Abū al-Fażl was acquainted with the description of Buddhism given in the Tārīḫ-i Banākatī (Sakaki 1992, pp. 124-127). During the reign of Šāh Jahān (r. 1628-1658), Muḥammad Yūsuf Atakī, a Muslim historian who was active in present Attock, used the Tārīḫ-i Banākatī as a source for the chapter on the history of Delhi in composing his Muntaḫab al-tawārīḫ (completed in 1056/1646-47) (Rieu 1966, p. 122b-123a; see also Mashita 2011, p. 66).

Lithograph:  Tārīḫ-i Banākatī - Rawḍat ūlī al-albāb fī ma‘rifat al-tawārīḫ (or fī tawārīḫ al-akābir) wa-al-ansāb,

Ja‘far Ši‘ār, ed.

, Tehran, Anjuman-i Āṯār-i Millī, 1348/1969, pp. 23, 593.


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Satoshi Ogura

Originally published: 17 June 2020
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Ogura, Satoshi, 2020, "Tārīḫ-i Banākatī", Perso-Indica. An Analytical Survey of Persian Works on Indian Learned Traditions, F. Speziale - C. W. Ernst, eds.,

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Main Persian Title: Tārīḫ-i Banākatī
English Translation of Main Persian Title: History of Banākatī
Alternative Title(s):
Rawżat ūlī al-albāb fī ma‘rifat al-tawārīḫ (or fī tawārīḫ al-akābir) wa-al-ansāb
Year / Period of Composition: 717/1317
Place: Iran
Quoted sources on India:
Jāmi‘ al-tawārīḫ
Later texts quoting this Work:

Muntaḫab al-tawārīḫ of Muḥammad Yūsuf Atakī