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Internet Indian History Sourcebook

François Bernier:

An Account of India and the Great Moghul, 1655 CE

He who reigned there was called Chah-Jehan [i.e., Shah Jahan], ---that is to say, king of the world; who, according to the history of that country, was son of Jehan-Guyre [i.e., Jahangir], which signifies conqueror of the world; grandchild to Ekbar [i.e., Akbar], which is great; and thus ascending by Houmayons, or the fortunate, father of Ekbar, and his other predecessors, he was the tenth of those that were descended from Timur-Lengue [i.e., Timur Lang] which signifies the lame prince, commonly and corruptly called Tamerlane, so renowned for his conquests; who married his near kinswoman, the only daughter of the prince of the nations of Great Tartary, called Moguls, who have left and communicated their name to the strangers that now govern Indostan, the country of the Indians; though those that are employed in public charges and offices, and even those that are listed in the militia, be not all of the race of the Moguls, but strangers and nations gathered out of all countries, most of them Persians, some Arabians, and some Turks. For, to be esteemed a Mogul it is enough to be a stranger, white of face, and a Mohammedan; in distinction as well to the Indians, who are brown and pagans, as to the Christians of Europe, who are called Franguis [i.e., "Ferengis" or "Franks"]. . . .

My lord, you may have seen before this, by the maps of Asia, how great every way is the extent of the empire of the Great Mogul, which is commonly called India or Indostan. I have not measured it mathematically; but to speak of it according to the ordinary journeys of the country, after the rate of three whole months' march, traversing from the frontiers of the kingdom of Golconda as far as beyond Kazni near Kandahar, which is the first town of Persia, I cannot but persuade myself otherwise but that it is at least five times as far as from Paris to Lyons, ---that is, about five hundred common leagues. . .

In this same extent of country there are sundry nations which the Mogul is not full master of, most of them still retaining their particular sovereigns and lords that neither obey him nor pay him tribute but from constraint; many that do little, some that do nothing at all, and some also that receive tribute from him. . .

Such are the Pathans, a Mohammedan people issued from the side of the river Ganges toward Bengal, who before the invasion of the Moguls in India had taken their time to make themselves potent in many place, and chiefly at Delhi, and to render many rajahs thereabout their tributaries. These Pathans are fierce and warlike, and even the meanest of them, though they be but waiting men and porters, are still of a very high spirit, being often heard to say, by way of swearing, "Let me never be king of Delhi, if it be not so"; a people that despise the Indians, heathens, and Moguls, and mortally hate the last, still remembering what they were formerly, before they were by them driven away from their large principalities, and constrained to retire hither and thither. . .

Of the like sort are more than an hundred rajahs, or considerable heathen sovereigns, dispersed through the whole empire, some near to, others remote from, Agra and Delhi; amongst whom there are about fifteen or sixteen that are very rich and puissant; such are Rana (who formerly was, as it were, emperor of the rajahs, and who is said to be of the progeny of King Porus [who fought Alexander the Great at the Battle of the Hydaspes]), Jesseigne, and Jessomseigne, who are so great and powerful that if they three alone should combine they would hold him [i.e., the Great Moghul] back; each of them being able in a very short time to raise and bring into the field twenty-five thousand horse, better troops than the Mogul's. These cavaliers are called rajipous, or children of the rajahs. These are men who, as I have said elsewhere, carry swords from father to son, and to whom the rajahs allot land on condition that they be always ready to appear on horseback when the rajah commands. They can endure much hardship, and they want nothing but good order and discipline to make them good soldiers. . .

The Mogul is obliged to keep these rajahs in his service for sundry reasons: the first, because the militia of the rajahs is very good (as was said above) and because there are rajahs (as was intimated also) any one of whom can bring into the field above twenty-five thousand men; the second, the better to bridle the other rajahs and to reduce them to reason, when they cantonize, or when they refuse to pay tribute, or when, out of fear or other cause, they will not leave their country to serve in the army when the Mogul requires it; the third, the better to nourish jealousies and keenness among them, by favoring and caressing one more than the other, which is done to that degree that they proceed to fight with one another very frequently.


From: James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History, 2 Vols. (Boston: Ginn and Co., 1904-1906), Vol. II: From the opening of the Protestant Revolt to the Present Day, pp. 336-338.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton.

This text is part of the Internet Indian History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

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© Paul Halsall June1998

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