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Cosmopolitismes en Asie du Sud

Corinne Lefèvre
Ines G. Županov
Jorge Flores

Itinéraires/pratiques // Itineraries/practices

Cosmopolitan Particularism. Mahamati Pran-nath’s dawa in the Laldas Bitak

Un particularisme cosmopolite : la dawa de Mahamati Pran-nath dans le Laldas Bitak

Vikas Rathee


The Laldas Bitak is an account of the dawa (Ar., H., Pers., claim, mission) of Mahamati Pran-nath (1618-1694), a charismatic figure in Mughal India. The text was written c. 1700 by Laldas, a disciple of the Mahamati, and records the history of the universalist claims of the Mahamati and their realization in the Bundelkhand locales. The terms used to address the Mahamati include ‘Isa, Muhammad, Imam, Imam Mahdi, Nishkalank Avatar and Budh Nishkalank. The imagery, the motifs and the cosmology of the text derive from Hindu and Islamic traditions. The text self-consciously promotes the dawa of the Mahamati that sought to revive Islam prior to the impending qayamat (Day of Judgment) by ample referencing from the Quran and the Puranas. While this may be seen as a sign of “cosmopolitanism,” the article points out that universal ideas including “cosmopolitanism” are fated to go local just like Pran-nath’s goal to save all humanity on qayamat was overtaken by partisanship in local feuds of Central India.

Le Laldas Bitak est un récit de la dawa (Ar., H., Pers., appel, mission) de Mahamati Pran-nath (1618-1694), une figure charismatique de l’Inde moghole. Le texte a été écrit vers 1700 par Laldas, un disciple de Mahamati, et consigne l’histoire des prétentions universalistes de Mahamati et leur réalisation locale au Bundelkhand. Les termes utilisés pour décrire le Mahamati comprennent ‘Isa, Muhammad, Imam, Imam Mahdi, Nishkalank Avatar et Budh Nishkalank. L’imagerie, les motifs et la cosmologie du texte proviennent des traditions hindoues et islamiques. Le texte favorise consciemment la dawa de Mahamati qui cherchait à revivifier l’islam avant l’imminent qayamat (Jour du Jugement) par une abondance de références issues du Coran et des Puranas. Même si cela peut être considéré comme un signe de « cosmopolitisme », l’article souligne que les idées universelles, y compris le « cosmopolitisme », sont condamnées à s’appliquer au niveau local, tout comme l’objectif de Pran-nath de sauver toute l’humanité du qayamat fut submergé par l’esprit partisan à l’œuvre dans les querelles locales de l’Inde centrale.

Texte intégral

  • 1 All references are to the Mahamati Pran-nath Prerit Swami Laldas Bitak (henceforth LB), ed. V. Meht (...)

1This article examines the utility of the concept of “cosmopolitanism” to characterise a religious movement drawing on multiple Indian traditions such as Hinduism and Islam. I shall propose a reading of the Laldas Bitak,1 an account of the dawa (Ar., H., Pers., claim, mission) of Mahamati Pran-nath (1618-1694), a charismatic figure in Mughal India. The LB was written c. 1700 by Laldas, a disciple of the Mahamati, and an oceanic merchant from Thatta in Sind. The word bitak is a derivative of the Sanskrit root vritra that implies the meanings “to be,” “to happen.” The text, whether termed a history, chronicle, biography, hagiography, narrative or myth, prophesises that the qayamat (Judgment Day) is nigh. The text records the history of the politico-religious claims of the Mahamati and how they are realised in Bundelkhand. It relates how the Mahamati institutes “real” Islam prior to qayamat. The text addresses the Mahamati as Shriji Saheb, Mehraj Thakur, Shri Pran-nath ji, Shri Raj, ‘Isa, Muhammad, Imam, Imam Mahdi, Nishkalank Avatar and Budh Nishkalank. The imagery, the motifs and the cosmology of the text derive from both Hindu and Islamic traditions. However, it would be wrong to label the text syncretic because it self-consciously promotes the dawa of the Mahamati that sought to revive Islam prior to the impending qayamat. This is done with ample references to the Quran and the Puranas. In the past, such phenomena were dismissed away as “secular,”or “syncretic.” However, these concepts have failed the test of time and have come under scrutiny from critics of all hues. This article tests how far the emergent idea of “cosmopolitan” goes in characterising delete the LB’s mission.

Cosmopolitan : is it possible ?

2In the English language, the word “cosmopolitan” belongs to both the world of daily parlance and academic discourse. Both kinds of usage may be traced back to the Greek roots kosmos, meaning cosmos or the universe, and polis, meaning city or city-state, and are also linked to the multiple contemporary usages of the word. In popular parlance, “cosmopolitan” indicates heterogeneous aspects of cultural formations. In any given conjunction of time and place, only certain cultural activities and artefacts are deemed “cosmopolitan.” What is “cosmopolitan” may be determined by a range of factors including material factors such as class, and ideological factors like ethnicity or language. Usually, bourgeois and middle-class cultures are seen to be more cosmopolitan than lower-class cultures. Thus, cities like Dubai and Singapore are deemed cosmopolitan because they host a mix of bourgeois expatriate populations originating in multiple regions of the world, and because they provide a high quality of life to these populations. In contrast, the working class populations of these same cities, that are equally global in their origins, hardly get counted as cosmopolitan. Similarly, congregations of Islamic extremists with global origins in 1980’s Afghanistan are not deemed cosmopolitan, but American shopping malls housing foreign-flavoured restaurants are.

3The usage of the term “cosmopolitan” in academic parlance seeks to change the meaning of the word from a phenomenon that transcends particular locations and cultures into a universal Weltanschauung or habitus. Thus, Patrick Hayden posits that cosmopolitanism and the ideal of “world citizenship” involve “a single world community,” in which “all human beings have equal moral standing.” For Hayden, cosmopolitanism is a promotion of the individual human being, irrespective of location, as the ultimate unit of concern (Hayden 2005 : 3). More sophisticated articulations of such a viewpoint may be found in the works of the philosopher Kwame Appiah (2006). However, these works are unable to clarify what qualities make an “individual human being,” a category foundational to cosmpolitanism. Sanjay Subrahmanyam has used cosmopolitanism to conceptualise the global phenomenon of “early modernity” at the levels of individual experiences. Subrahmanyam sees cosmopolitanism as a characteristic of the world citizen ethic. In his Three Ways to be Alien, he writes :

Yet, we can assume that such an expansion in terms of horizons meant that those who inhabited this world made a smooth and rapid transformation from being merely rooted inhabitants of Bijapur, Sussex, or Venice to being cosmopolitans, and thus citizens of the world (Subrahmanyam 2011 : 173).

4Ironically, Subrahmanyam posits that alienation in certain cultural milieux is germane to being cosmopolitan. Thus, Subrahmanyam explains how a cosmopolitan “citizen of the world” could be at cross purposes with the non-cosmopolitan, the local and the rooted. However, he never discusses whether, at heart, the “the citizen of the world” had some local allegiances rootedto a particular and concrete place in the world, which would render cosmopolitanism a kind of facade, or even a deception (ibid.).

5Jacqueline Fewkes has applied the idea of the “cosmopolitan” to characterise early-twentieth-century Ladakhi traders. Fewkes recognises that cosmopolitanism is an uneasy equation between those claiming universality and those claiming locality. She recognises that any claims to cosmopolitanism may simultaneously be potentially universal or particular. Fewkes sees a cosmopolitan or a “world citizen” as someone who recognises a separate cultural world in his/her life that straddles what seems like a cultural divide to many others. Thus, cosmopolitan people recognise shared material and cultural interests with others across cultural spheres, without necessarily seeking to express them in the same manner. For Fewkes, cosmopolitanism is premised on the existence of multiple cultural and material systems with recognisable borders (Fewkes 2012 : 259-281).

6Fewkes’position is markedly different from that taken by the editors of a volume entitled Cosmopolitanism. The editors of Cosmopolitanism have gone out of their way to propose a basis for a new society based on “cosmopolitanism,” but simultaneously admitted to having difficulty defining their project. They confess :

We are not exactly certain what it is, and figuring out why this is so and what cosmopolitanism may be raises difficult conceptual issues. As a practice too, cosmopolitanism is yet to come, something awaiting realization. […] [Cosmopolitanism] must always escape positive and definite specification, precisely because specifying cosmopolitanism positively and definitely is an uncosmopolitan thing to do (Breckenridge et al. 2002 : 1-15).

7The editors reached the above position after considering “cosmopolitan” to be a novel idea not moored in any previous discourses for constructing social reality. They went so far as to argue that, because cosmopolitanism has yet to be outlined, past acts of cosmopolitanism have yet to be discovered and explicated. Having rejected any cosmopolitan traits in previous discourses, including nationalism — and presumably Islam — communism and others, the editors nevertheless purport to be the harbingers of a “minoritarian modernity”, an idea to be nurtured in the academic and political spheres of the future. In its fulfilment, “minoritarian modernity,” would transcend the general and the particular, Europe and its others, canonical and non-canonical traditions. In the end, the editors argue that cosmopolitanism is nothing but an infinite number of different ways of being, and that “we” or, presumably, all past human traditions, were always cosmopolitan but without being aware of it. However, such labelling of all past and future human traditions as cosmopolitan renders the term useless as an analytical tool. Equally, in reaching this position, the editors invalidate their previous assertion that cosmopolitanism is a completely novel concept and a previously unseen reality (ibid.).

  • 2 Pollock 2002. Also see Pollock 2006 : 148.

8Sheldon Pollock has discussed “cosmopolitanism” against the backdrop of the literary histories of Sanskrit and Latin, the cosmopolitan literary cultures germane to the rise of the vernacular literary cultures of South Asia and Europe, respectively. Pollock does not see the relationship between the cosmopolitan and the vernacular as a difficult one, and feels that vernacular literary cultures do not resist cosmopolitan literary cultures, but rather appropriate them. He calls this a “tactical reversal of domination” through “resistance through appropriation.” Pollock proposes a position whence at the level of literary practice, the cosmopolitan and the vernacular co-exist and are not mutually exclusive. Pollock sees such an equation between the cosmopolitan and the vernacular in the Latinate and Sanskritic worlds as worthy of emulation because of the apparently unhappy marriage between the local and the global in the present era of globalisation.2

9Pollock’s portrayal of the cosmopolitan world of Sanskrit and allied vernaculars, drawn from a rich palette with examples and parallels from India and Europe, provides a stepping stone for extending our understanding of the cultural and linguistic history of South Asia from within its own limits. Constructed upon the edifice of a single “cosmopolitan” language such as Sanskrit or Latin, the history of the “vernaculars” of South Asia and Europe is incomplete in some ways. This model could do with a further examination of both the theoretical exploration of the idea of cosmopolitanism and the available literary, linguistic and cultural evidence from South Asia and Europe.

10Pollock’s model is perfect for the analysis of the seminal roles of Sanskrit and Latin in the history of the linguistic diversity of South Asia and Europe, but incomplete as an exploration of the histories of vernacular languages. The history of the linguistic diversity of the two regions cannot afford to ignore the seminal role of other cosmopolitan languages, such as Greek, Arabic, Persian, French or English, in the formation and development of vernacular languages. This oversight is more than a factual shortcoming, and has consequences for our understanding of the idea of cosmopolitanism. A consideration of the influence of multiple cosmopolitan languages on the development of a vernacular language calls into question the very idea of a cosmopolitan language. In the South Asian instance, the history of Kashmiri, Punjabi, Hindi-Urdu and other Indo-European languages reveal powerful influences emanating from the Sanskrit, Persian and English cosmopolises. Given that the singular cosmopolitan worlds of Sanskrit, Persian and English have had particular historical trajectories and distinct relationships with the different vernacular languages of South Asia, it must be asked whether any manifestation of cosmopolitanism can rid itself of temporal, spatial and cultural constraints, as envisaged by Pollock and the other editors of Cosmopolitanism. Furthermore, given the inability of cosmopolitanism to manifest itself as universal, it may be surmised that an aggregation of the particular manifestations of cosmopolitanism would continue to be restrained by particular historical formations, negating the very idea of a universal cosmopolitanism.

11The present article does not deal with the idea of literary cosmopolitanism, but rather explores the idea of cosmopolitanism in the sphere of religion in the late seventeenth century. It argues that languages and ideologies as varied as Latin, Sanskrit, Islam, Hinduism and secularism can aspire to universal cosmopolitanism, but are fated to specific and particular renditions due to their changing historical circumstances. My article is not interested in advocating any new forms of cosmopolitanism or its cousins by presenting historical data, but rather in documenting the career, the aspirations and the reach of phenomena, ideologies or worldviews that claim the status of cosmopolitan universalism. It does so by exploring the dawa proffered in Mahamati Pran-nath as recorded in the LB. The LB is a very rich and hitherto under-utilised text, awaiting attention from historians of society, language, religion and politics. This article offers a glimpse into this rich text and explores the limits of the idea of cosmopolitanism. As indicated in the title, the article gives details about the particular manner in which the LB understands and operationalises the universal and cosmopolitan message of Islam.

The Laldas Bitak

12The text of the LB consists of 74 prakarans (episodes). Each prakaran is in chaupais (quatrains) with frequent quotations in Sanskrit — mostly from the Puranas — and in Arabic from the Quran. The final chaupai of each prakaran is in the explicit first person voice of the Mahamati. Laldas, the author, remains completely self-effecing. The language of the text is Khari Boli.

  • 3 The number of kings in total, and the number of kings in each of the jugas should be treated as an (...)

13Prakaran I names previous rajas, eighty-five in total, without specifying their territorial domains. These rajas are arranged in a chronological order with the oldest coming first and the latest at the end. Time, from the earliest to the latest, is divided into satjug (17 rajas), trota (29), dwapar (19), kaljug (19) and the end of time (1).3 The reigns of these rajas are located in the past, the present and the future. Today, many of these rajas of satjug, trotajug and dwaparjug, including Bhairavanand, Dhum-rishi, Brahma, Marich and Kashyap amongst others, would unequivocally be termed “religious” figures. The first of these rajas is Kritdatt, and some familiar names from Hindu mythology include Prahlad, Vishwamitra, Harishchandra, Rohitas, Mandhata, Raghu, Dasrath, Ramchandra, Lav, Indra, Vyas, Pandav, Arjun, Parichhit and Janamejaya. The twenty rajas of kaljug may be divided into categories — Hindus (6) and Muslims (13) — even though neither of these terms is used in the LB. The first six Hindu kings are Jadu, Ajaipal, Mahipal, Gandharvasen, vikramaditya and Vikramachak. The Muslim kings are Gauri padshah, Sultan Alauddin, Nasiruddin, Lodha Mahmud, Bada Mahmud, Soor Khan, Taimurlang, Babar, Humayun, Akbar, Salimsah, Sahjahan and Aurangzeb. The last and the final raja, set to arrive in the future, at the end of kaljug, and after Aurangzeb, is Budh Kaleki. The LB often addresses the Mahamati as Budh Kaleki :

  • 4 LB, 1 : 27. All translations are mine.

Ta oopar Aurangjob, e kaliyug ke naam
Aage avtar hoyega, budh kaleki is thaam.
Upon him Aurangzeb, thus ran out the age of Kali,
Avatar, Budh Kaleki, he would grace this alley.4

14Laldas says that this is attested by the sastras (1 : 28). Later sections of the text go to great lengths to show that Mahamati Pran-nath is the same as Budh Kaleki, the Mahdi and other apocalyptic figures mentioned in the LB.

The antecedents of Mahamati Pran-nath

15The LB sees Indic cosmologies as perfectly compatible with cosmologies deriving from the Quran. Terms like bhagwaan, islaam and haq are used interchangeably for Pran-nath’s project. Further, the LB posits Syam, or Krishna, to be the same as Muhammad. Similarly, the six days of creation in the Quran include two days at Braj, one of which is spent in the Raas. The LB says

Braj ras dou akhand, kar chetan bandhi phire man
Ai brahmand teesra, jahaan mahammad aaye rosan
Raas-leela khel ke, aaye barArab mein
Tahaan baat sab jaahir kari, chalya marg inse
Chhe din quran mein, vaake bhaye jab
Taa din ki hakikat, saari chip kahi tab
Taa mein ek din braj mein, doosre din raas
Ek raat tahaan khele, dekhe virah vilaas
(2 : 7-10)
Braj and Raas are two Singulars/ Alas, the woken soul still binds
Now, this is the third universe/ here Muhammad removed the blinds
Having partaken in the
Raas-leela/ to Arabia went Syam
There the revelation was complete/ Up on the road was Islam
Six days in the Quran were what led towards the incidents (of Creation)
That truth was hidden. Finally, it is unravelled and spoken.
One of the days was in Braj. In Raas was another.
After a night of Raas came separation without measure.
(2 : 7-10)

  • 5 Ali Anooshahr has categorized ghazis as military commanders who waged “holy war” on the frontiers o (...)
  • 6 LB, Pr 12.
  • 7 LB, Pr 2-7.

16The birth of Muhammad occurs on the third day of the Quranic Creation. The birth of Devchandra, spiritual preceptor of the Mahamati, occurs on the fourth day. Devchandra is seen to come down from the heavens from the misl ghaaji (the tribe of the ghazis) (2 : 15).5 The LB hints that Devchandra was a Kayastha, a caste whose members were as accountants and administrators in the Mughal period. The birth of Devchandra is marked by the presence of a sloka from the Bhagvata Skandha Puran, whose import is that at the end of kaljug, figures of the Ikshavaku lineage, which existed in the satjug, would re-establish varnasrama dharma.6 This may be seen as an indirect reference to Devchandra. Devchandra’s spiritual journeys took him to locations and people in the Brahminical and bhakti traditions, such as sanyaasis, kanphataas, a raajguru, a Brahmin, vallabhis, radha-vallabhi Krishna-worshippers, and a sole mulla in a masjid (mosque). Most were unable to quench his spiritual yearnings. He managed to start attracting followers from some of these traditions, including after public debates, engagements and conflicts with those in the vallabhi and raadha-vallabhi sects. The LB ends prakaran 6 by telling the saath (the devotees) that this was their foundation (ye apni buniyaad, 6 : 53), on which they needed to build.7

  • 8 LB, Pr 7.
  • 9 LB, Pr 8
  • 10 Personal communication with present-day followers of the Pranami Sampradaya who follow the teaching (...)
  • 11 LB, Pr 8-9.
  • 12 LB, Pr 8.

17Prakaran 7 describes how Devchandra reached haq (truth) at the age of 40. He died at age 74 in 1712vS/1655AD, and left the saath or the ummat khasulkhas in the care of Mahamati Pran-nath (1675vS/1618AD – 1751vS/1694AD), who in turn left the saath in the care of Shri Mahaaraaj or Chhatarsaal Bundela (1649- 1731AD). It should be noted that the term momin (those who accept Islam consciously, unlike Muslims, who are born into Islam) is used for Devchandra. This elevates the Mahamati above him, because in Prakaran 8, and in the rest of LB, this term is used for the followers of the Mahamati.8 Furthermore, the term momin makes it appearance in the text after the appearance of Mahamati Pran-nath.9 The death of the Mahamati took place on sukra jumma (Friday), and is described as his departure to aras ajeem (the greatest throne) or darul bakaa (the eternal abode, i.e. the other world). Many momins also departed with him, although it is not mentioned how. The Mahamati was buried, not cremated, in Panna.10 Furthermore, the people included in the category of momin do not have names originating in the Arabic language, but in Indic, or arguably Persian, languages. Thus, some of the momins, who were aasik din islam (lovers of the din, faith, of Islam ; 8 : 18), renounced their bodies, and adapted their conduct to the impending qayamat (8 : 8), have names such as Sankar Hajuri, Lalman, Narayandas, Godavari, Kisni, Jasiya, Ambobai, Ratanbai, Rambai, Vallabh-das, Kesav-das, Mathura, Ram-kunwar, Hammira, Saah-man, Narsingh-das, Sant-das, Purbai, Khadgo, Kesar-bai, Kaasi and Asau.11 The text rues the fact that many, including the poet-author, who thought their faith in the Mahamati unshakeable, were found wanting.12 The poet finds a way out by giving the name momin khaas to those who renounced their bodily existence and accompanied the Mahamati in his demise (8 : 17, 9 : 20 and 9 : 22). The action of the momin khaas can not be interpreted as “actions,” because such things are engineered only through special spiritual commands (ye baat hukum ki, so to haath hai hak), and there must be a reason why the remaining momins did not receive any such command (9 : 16-17). Prakarans 10 and 11 give further details of the kabilas (family, tribe) of Devchandra, Pran-nath and their followers.

18Prakaran 12 says that the time of qayamat is near, and draws upon Islamic and Hindu traditions to argue thus. Laldas says that all the signs of qayamat mentioned in ved and kateb (Quran) are manifest (12 : 3), and that 120 years have been spent fighting the Dajjal (the false prophet set to appear at the end of time as per the Quran) (12 : 7). The Dajjal first fought Muhammad and his followers, and then Devchandra and Pran-nath. Furthermore, it is mentioned that the Dajjal resisted (kiya bada kufraan) the Mahamati by inhabiting the soul of a certain Bihariji, who contested the Mahamati’s ascension to the gaddi (seat, throne) of Devchandra (Pr 15-17). Other unfavourable situations in Pran-nath’s life and career are also attributed to the Dajjal.

  • 13 LB, Pr 12.
  • 14 LB, Pr 14.
  • 15 LB, Pr 15.

19Prakaran 12 relates that people (khalq) flocked to the momin and the Devchandra sarup (reincarnation) from masraq (east) and maghrab (west) with their iman (faith).13 Subsequently, the LB shows how the sarup continues from Devchandra to Pran-nath. Devchandra ensures that the “real” soul of Pran-nath, reclining in hauz quasar, is awakened.14 Devchandra does so by sending the Mahamati to Arabia, a journey of forty days in the monsoon (maagh-faagun). The journey to Arabia involved business activities. In Arabia, the Mahamati replaced Khetabhai as the agent and business associate of Gangjibhai of Nautanpuri (Jamnagar). The Mahamati inherited business disputes over the property and commercial activities of Khetabhai. On the advice of an Arab, the Mahamati sought out the “Sultan Imam” (15 : 13) to resolve these issues. The Mahamati gave a rukka (open letter) to the Sultan Imam, and spoke to him in his ear when the latter was going for nimaaz (prayers). The Sultan Imam expressed surprise over the contents of the rukka, which proclaimed qayamat, and asked his attendant (chopdaar) to summon the Mahamati for an interview. That the Mahamati encountered the Sultan Imam when the latter was going for nimaaz (prayers) indicates his familiarity with the culture of namaaz, and how the namaaz and the mosque could facilitate intervention in “spiritual” and “political” discourses.15

  • 16 LB, 15 : 66. The last couplet in prakaran 15 argues that this bitak should lay to rest all doubts, (...)
  • 17 LB, Pr 16-17.
  • 18 This work is the scripture of the Pranamis. The Tartam Swarup is a collection of fourteen books, re (...)

20The Mahamati returned to Gujarat, and ran into difficulties over property and business, and over succession to Devchandra’s gaddi.16 Eventually, Bihariji succeeded to the masand (seat, 31 : 64) of Devchandra in 1712vS/1655AD. As per the LB, Pran-nath accepted the spiritual leadership of Bihariji.17 However, the wazir of Jamnagar confiscated Pran-nath’s property, and put him under house arrest (17 : 41) in a place called Prabodhpuri. During this period (1714vS/1657AD), Qutb-ud-din, the faujdar of Sorath, under Maharana Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur, the then Mughal governor of Gujarat, invaded Jamnagar. One night, during these tumultuous times, revelation came to Pran-nath in Prabodhpuri, while he was busy thinking about Islam (17 : 43). Solitary confinement (habsa) enabled Pran-nath to concentrate and reach the perfect mental and emotional state (dil sundar rup anup, 17 : 47 ; dil khula hua bakhat, 17 : 49) to receive the first two books of the Tartam Swarup (aka Tartam Sagar Kuljam Swaru and Kuljam Sharif).18 Thus, the Anjil, the Jambur and some verses of the Kalas were revealed on that fateful night. Throughout the text of the LB, Laldas often claims Pran-nath to be the Mahdi. In prakaran 17, he makes such a claim, and says :

Mahaamati kahe ae momino, ye haadi mehedi imam
Taaki bitak aur kahon, jo nur din islam
O Momins, the Mahamati says, this is the Mehdi and Imam
Continue to find out more about the light of the Spirit of Islam (17 : 68)

21However, this claim pales in comparison to the claim made in 68 : 72, where Laldas says

Ye hi achcharaatit hai, ye hi hain dhani dhaam
Ye hi mahamad mehdi isa, ye hi poore manorath kaam
The Word Incarnate, the (Krishnaite) Holy House is He
Muhammad, Mehdi and Jesus, the end of every desire and plea (68 : 72)

  • 19 The number of women mentioned as members of the saath and as momins is quite high. The role these w (...)

At other points in the text, Pran-nath is made out to be the Niskalank Avatar or Kalki, the avatar of Vishnu that is supposed to come at the end of time. Laldas says that when the revelation occurred a powerful light appeared (nur rosin zor), followed by the appearance of Jibril (Gabriel). He also says that this was a sign (ye bada likha nisaan), presumably of the qayamat, and of the appearance of the Mahdi. Pran-nath was so overpowered by his revelation (aaya jos in samay, kachchu na rahi khor), much like Muhammad, that he lost control over his senses. However, unlike for the Muhammadan revelation, Uttambai was at hand to record all the miraculous verses (17 : 56-57).19 Pran-nath had been in Prabodhpuri for almost twelve months (18 : 1), when he was let go and made to leave Jamnagar, on the insistence of Bihariji. Other texts that form the Kuljam Swaroop continued to be revealed to Pran-nath over time in places like Surat, Diu, Merta, Panna and other parts of Central India.

  • 20 LB, Pr 18.

22The narrative of the LB interweaves religion, politics and commerce in the career of Pran-nath. Upon being forced to leave Jamnagar, Pran-nath started participating in diamond mining (Pr 18) alongside Harji Vyas, another Brahmin. The second military attack upon Jamnagar by Qutb-ud-din in 1663 is justified by the LB, and seen to be the arrival of ilham (Ar., a form of Revelation) and the recognition of the brahmsrishti (the greatest creation) in Jamnagar. This was accompanied by the appointment of Pran-nath to the office of diwan, which he gave up because it interfered with his concern for the momins.20

23When this happened, Pran-nath left Jamnagar, and started moving around in Gujarat, Sind and Saurashtra, and eventually North and Central India to spread his message. His first stop was Diu, where he stayed for two years beginning in 1722vS/1665AD (20 : 15). In Diu, the firangis, or the Portuguese “administrators,” sometimes supported and sometimes opposed Pran-nath’s claims. Initially, Pran-nath sought to convert followers of Bihariji, but subsequently followed his own path and rid his mission of narrow sectarianism. Some followers of Pran-nath and his wife were kidnapped by Arab pirates from Diu (22 : 23). As the geographic and social range of Pran-nath’s project expanded beyond Western India, so did the kind of people who would be included in the rubric of dajjal used in some case as a qualifying term. It should be noted that dajjal could refer, in Diu, Bundi, Udaipur and other places, to people with names originating in Indic and Persian languages, and in Delhi and other places, to people with names originating in Arabic and Persian. Some verses (25 : 15, 25 : 24) in the LB relate opposition to Pran-nath inspired by kaljug, reinforcing his claim to the Niskalank Avatar another name for Kalki.

24From Diu, Pran-nath went to Patan, Porbandar, Bhuj, Thatta and Laathi Bandar. In these places, his followers faced prosecution. Pran-nath revived the faith of those who had forgotten the joys of the saath in some of these places. Laldas, the author of LB joined Pran-nath in Thatta. Pran-nath is called subhan-ul haq in these passages (prakarans 21-25), while his discourses talk of brij-raas, which is associated with Krishna. In 1728vS/1671AD, Pran-nath went to Muscat and spread his message, presumably amongst Gujarati traders, all of whom are listed with names based in Indic languages. Pran-nath also managed to rescue some of his followers and his wife (see above) in Muscat. There, a daroga, presumably a local, came to collect money in return for freeing the kidnapped. This daroga is termed a kafir for doing so (26 : 42). This money was paid by a certain Bhairon Thakkar, who was based in Bandar Abbas (27 : 2), and Pran-nath went from Muscat to Bandar Abbas to enjoy the hospitality of Bhairon, and other traders and expatriates, all of whom had names originating the Indic languages. Pran-nath propagated vegetarianism amongst his followers (27 : 34, 28 : 5). Owing to political disturbances in Bandar Abbas, Pran-nath reached Kog Bandar (28 : 1), from whence he returned to Thatta, in 1728 vS/1671AD, and propagated haq (28 : 8). Thus, having mobilised a community in various port cities of the Arabian Sea, Pran-nath resolved to meet Bihariji and sort out their differences (28 : 32), which stemmed over the membership of nich jaat (low castes) and raand stri (whore women) amongst Mahamati’s followers (31 : 50). Bihariji rejected the idea that Pran-nath had received any revelation (31 : 64 – 65), and excluded him from the order (31 : 66 – 69). Upon the request of his followers who felt that Bihariji had failed in his leadership (31 : 74), Pran-nath took over the cause of “islam.” The LB says :

Ab tum kya dekhat, najar karo taraf dhaam
Levo tum sir apne, din islam ka kaam
No point turning away, now look up at the station.
You take charge of it all. Shepherd Islam and the nation.
(31 : 76)

  • 21 LB, Pr 32.

25The LB consciously recreates the hijra of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. It compares the masand of Bihariji and his followers in Jamnagar with Mecca, while Surat is compared with Medina, and the followers of Pran-nath, who turned up in Surat from different parts of the Arabian Sea coast and Western India, are termed muhajirs (migrants ; 32 : 1-2). The re-creation of the hijra was a sign of the arrival of the Mahdi at the end of time, and portented of the impending slaying of the Dajjal, happiness for all, and the bringing about of real iman (faith). In this context Pran-nath and Devchandra are termed gaazi beni israyil (ghazis of the tribe of Israel).21

The failure of Pran – nath’s dawa in Delhi

  • 22 Wilberforce-Bell mentions that the Mughal intervention in Jamnagar took place at the invitation of (...)

26Thus, Pran-nath began his political campaign to fulfil his dawa and went to Gujarat (presumably the same as Ahmadabad), and from there to Sidhpur and Palanpur. Pran-nath’s preceptor Devchandra had told him that the awakening of the two great souls, Sakundal and Sukumar, was necessary for their spiritual project (34 : 6). Sakundal refers to Krishna, who was the spiritual and political advisor of Arjuna, or Sukumar. Thus, the LB refers to Pran-nath as Sakundal, or the spiritual and political preceptor of a Sukumar who was yet to be found. Sukumar was the political ally of Pran-nath, whose soul Pran-nath sought to find and awaken for the dawa. The LB mentions that Pran-nath continued his journey in this manner, gaining more and more followers, most of whom had names originating in Indic and Persian languages. The abode he established at the house of Keshav Bhatt in Sidhpur was termed thana (33 : 41), a seventeenth century term for a military post. In Merta (Jodhpur), where people flocked in droves, the Mahamati wrote a letter to Maharaja Jaswant Singh, who was at the Atak Banaras fort (present-day Attock, near Peshawar, Pakistan). As mentioned above, Jaswant Singh was the subadar of Gujarat when Qutb-ud-din, the faujdar of Sorath, raided and intervened in the politics of Jamnagar to the advantage of Shriji. This letter was sent through Govardhan Bhatt to Attock.22 The Mahamati stayed at Merta for four months during which he recited the kalma, which he equated with the achharaatit or the most ancient word. The Mahamati saw the kalma as nothing but a premonition of his appearance at the end of time. The LB claims Pran-nath to be the second coming of Christ, at one with Muhammad, and the unifier of the fragmented religions of the descendents of Adam (33 : 66-74).

  • 23 LB, Pr 35.

27At Merta, it was determined that the title Ahmad was befitting for Pran-nath, and the time to kill Dajjal was nigh (34 : 4). Pran-nath decided to invite the Sultan, or Aurangzeb, for this purpose and went off to Delhi, visiting Gokul, Mathura and Agra on the way. It was in Delhi that the LB mentions Sheikh Badal, a follower of Pran-nath, who had a name originating in Arabic (34 : 13), unlike most of the followers. Pran-nath and his followers prepared a paati (letter) for the potential Sukumar, or Aurangzeb, in the Urdu Bazaar of Delhi, and went to the Laal Darwaaza (Lal Qila or Red Fort), where they put up in the haveli (mansion) of a kshatriya. Amongst the people who came to meet Pran-nath in Delhi were Malukdas and Har Parsad Harkara. In Delhi, a certain Asajit advised the Mahamati that the Sultan was an enemy (dusman) of the Hindus (hinduan), and would not look at a paati written in Hindavi, because he was a devout Musalman, upon whom only sariyat (shariᶜat) prevails (34 : 36-39). Further, given the security — characterised as the ring of Saitan (Satan) — around Aurangzeb, the momins were unable to figure out the right way to approach him, and decided to retire to a house in the neighbourhood of Shahjahanpur Bodiya for a few days to deliberate on how to proceed.23

  • 24 LB, Pr 36 – 37.

28In 1735vS/1678AD, a year of political turmoil in Marwar and Mewar, Pran-nath went to the Hardwar mela (fair), or the Kumbh, where he debated the acharyas (scholars) of the Ramanujis, the Nimanujis, the Visnu Syamis, the Sanyasis, the followers of Madhavacharya, the Kitwars and many other small sects and defeated them (Hallisey 1977). Pran-nath did the same to the different schools of philosophy (darsan) such as the Mimansa, Sankhya, Vaisheshikas, the Patanjals and Vedant. Pran-nath warned all of these people about the arrival of the brahmarup in kaljug, and claimed to be the Nishkalank Avatar with support from the slokas of the Gita, the Harivansha Puran, the Skanda Puran, the Brahmopnishad, the Brahmvidyopnishad and the Varaha Samhita amongst others. The LB says that Pran-nath’s visit to Hardwar coincided with the appearance of a comet. The LB reports that having succeeded in his four-month-long mission to Hardwar (38 : 1), Pran-nath returned to the house of the quaintly named Daud Pande, in Delhi, to attempt to get his message across to Aurangzeb.24

29A new message was written for Aurangzeb that had fewer Hindi elements (38 : 12), and was a perfect counter to the administration of Aurangzeb, and its strict enforcement of sariyat. The LB mentions the reduced Hindi elements with pride. It was decided a meeting would be arranged with Aurangzeb, with the help of someone who was close to the person of the emperor. Thus, Sheikh Saleman, who had listened to Pran-nath speak twice, in order to get rid of the kufr in his heart, was contacted. The message to Aurangzeb claimed that a fakir was going to become the patsah. Sheikh Saleman was literally afraid to carrying this message and refused (38 : 17-28). The momins fell into even greater confusion, and wondered how they could make the sultan perform his asal jaat (39 : 3). Laldas and Govardhan, two followers of the Mahamati, contacted a mulla (39 : 1), and read the Tafsir-i Husaini, a commentary on the Quran, and the Dajjalnama (39 : 60-68), which again led nowhere.

  • 25 LB, Pr 39.
  • 26 For Rezavi Khan, see Shah Nawaz Khan 1979 , vol. 2 : 538-9. Bakhtawar Khan was the chief secretary (...)
  • 27 Aqil Khan is the historian who wrote the Waqi at-i Alamgiri, one of the first Persian histories d (...)

30Subsequently, Sekh Badal went to Friday prayers at the Idgah in Delhi, and read passages from the Sanandh, a book recently revealed to the Mahamati. The reaction to Sekh Badal was not pleasant. A Sayyid called him jahil, while others ridiculed his usage of the Hindavi language, and yet others ridiculed him for saying there was more than one Muhammad. This painful experience convinced the entire team move to Sarai Rohilla Khan, on the outskirts of Delhi. They determined to use the Persian language for their correspondance with the Sultan. Qaim, an upstart Persian tutor, was employed for a month and, with the help of Sheikh Mirajiy, he wrote rukkas for the saath. These rukkas were sent to each and every person close to the Sultan, including his tutor, Sheikh Nizam.25 The team got in touch with Rezavi Khan, an old man who had served as a khas-navis (scribe) in the Imperial household, with a fakir by the name of Sekh Wajid, and with Sagarmal and Bakhtawar Khan (40 : 1-7).26 Finally, their letters (nalwa) were accepted by the Sheikh Islam, Rezavi Khan, Sheikh Nizam, Aqil Khan and Siddi Polad (Phaulad), but all of them refused to help.27 Thus, even after two months, the momins of the saath were unable to gain access to Aurangzeb, the supposed Sukumar, whose secular authority was to combine with the spiritual claims of Sakundal.

  • 28 LB, Pr 42.
  • 29 LB, Pr 43.

31Finally, Nandlal Ghadiyalchi took it upon himself to put up the rukka of Pran-nath’s claim to imamat and mahdi-hood in the gusalkhana (private ablution hall) of the Sultan. This caused commotion in the darbar which the Sultan soon heard of. According to the LB, the Sultan was angered, as evidenced by the fact that he ordered his staff to grant supplicants and subjects access to him. Aurangzeb issued a proclamation that all supplicants could come and meet him on his way to Friday prayers. Sheikh Suleiman, the officer in-charge of the gusalkhana was replaced by ‘Abdullah, the son of Sheikh Nizam. However, instead of passing on the rukka of Pran-nath to Aurangzeb, ‘Abdullah tore it up and chased the messengers of Pran-nath from the court.28 As a last resort, the members of the saath, except for Pran-nath, went to the Jama Masjid and started singing verses of praise to Muhammad taken from the Sanandh, a book revealed to the Mahamati. This caused joy to the imam of the Jama Masjid, who offered to help Pran-nath and his followers set up a meeting with the Sultan. However, the imam merely took them for jharokha darshan when the momins tried to communicate with the Sultan. Apparently, the Sultan asked the momins standing below his parapet (chabutra) who they were, and what they wanted. The momins said that they were asik din islam (lovers of the faith of din Islam), who wished to spread the din muhammadi and wanted the Sultan to listen to their message in private. Apparently, the momins managed to obtain a gift of a hundred rupees from the Sultan, even though he was uninterested in their project (49 : 44-50). However, Sidi Polad, the kotwal, soon arrested these twelve momins, and was surprised to see the similarity of dress and eating habits amongst them. The kotwal took the momins to the Qazi Sheikh Islam, who conversed with them for three days, discussing theological beliefs, texts and practices, and their leadership, but he was unable to glean any information about the latter.29 When Pran-nath was informed of these events at Aurangzeb’s court, he said that Aurangzeb and his servants had turned away from Muhammad and Islam (mahammad se munkar huye, inon chhoda din islam, 44 : 5). The LB devotes extended passages, in Prakarans 44, 45, 46 and 47, to disqualify the emperor and his entourage as kafir dajjal and jahudan, i.e. people who were merely imitating Islam and did not know sariyat. It is argued that the Sultan was unable to listen to the Pran-nathis because he had no conception of the batun (batin), and thought that his wordly jas (fame) was endangered by the appearance of the imam, who would undermine his political and spiritual authority useless (47 : 106-109).

32However, the resolve of Pran-nath and his followers in spreading their view of Islam. Pran-nathi Islam was quite open to Hindu culture, as is evidenced in various passages in these sections. The LB states :

Aditya puran bhagvat mein, jaisa likha kalaam
Tin oopar tum chalo, beech din islam
The luminescent
Puran Bhagvat, has it written
Follow those instructions to Islam, and you are smitten
(47 : 87)
Main tumhare sir par khada hun ek paye
Aur dis hinduan ki, nike raakho banaye
I am standing on one leg, and shielding you
You keep going in the same direction, O Hindu
(47 : 120)

33Nor were the Pran-nathis under any doubt over their impending success. They believed that both Hindus and Musalmans would ultimately accept their message (47 : 101). However, after the effort of Pran-nath and his followers to help Aurangzeb realise his role in the impending qayamat came to nought, they decided to target the umras (nobility) in general. The LB states :

Ab tum chhipe na raho, bade umrao hoven aadheen
so tum so taalim lenge, jin chinta karo beech deen.
Come out of the closet, ‘for the great nobles shall be your pets
They shall seek you out. Unhindered you spread Islam’s tenets
(47 : 117)

34More patris were prepared for steadfast dissemination amongst various groups. It was decided to find a Sukumar who was less interested in worldly affairs (48 : 3). The agenda focused upon developing an ideology that accepted all kinds of people into fold, including Brahmans and Sudras, and Hindus and its Musalmans (48 : 6-13). It must be emphasised that this ideology was called Islam, even though it incorporated elements from Hindu scriptural texts. The adherents to this Islamic ideology were not called Musalmans, but momins, or saath, a collective term.

Pran-nath in the context of Mughal – Rajput relations (1678 – 1679)

  • 30 LB, Pr 51.

35Subsequently, the Pran-nathis set off for Rajput capitals including Amer, Sanganer and Udaipur. In the climate of the events of 1678 and Aurangzeb’s interventions in the Rajput polities, the message stressed how the Sultan had misbehaved with the Pran-nathis (Pr 47). Interestingly, while his followers were trying to make the Sultan endorse and become a part of their project, Pran-nath was in Udaipur, which is where many momins ended up after they left Delhi (49 : 51). The LB says that Udaipur was already rife with interest in the Pran-nathis, who managed to gain an audience with Rana Raj Singh thanks to the intercession of a certain Motibai (49 : 54-55). The Rana asked the various spiritual figures he patronised to debate with the Mahamati. Some of these figures thought Pran-nath was a fraud, some saw in him a genuine sadhu, and yet others saw in him a Musalman agent of the Sultan. In Udaipur, the Mahamati’s discourses attracted many people, including Pathans (Afghans) like ‘Inayat Khan and Murad Khan. However, these Pathans insisted that the Mahamati recite the kalma (kalima) to demonstrate his faith in Muhammad, to which Pran-nath replied, much to the disaffection of most of these Pathans — but not Awwal Khan —, that Muhammad resided in his soul, and he did not need to recite the kalma. According to the LB, Rana Raj Singh came in disguise and partook in the kirtan (speech, discussion, song) of the Mahamati.30

  • 31 LB, Pr 50.

36At this time, Aurangzeb invaded the dominions of Mewar, and asked the Rana to come and join his din and become a Musalman, which caused a great uproar (50 : 4-5). It must be noted here that the LB does not say that Aurangzeb asked the Rana to accept Islam. In this tumultuous situation, rumours saying that the Pran-nathis were agents of the Sultan spread. The Rana implored them to leave Udaipur till things calmed down. Apparently, the Mahamati said that qayamat was nigh, and that the Rana should let the Sultan come to Udaipur, where he would come to realise the falsity of his views. Given all this, the Mahamati and his followers were asked to leave Udaipur. Eventually, the Pran-nathis slunk out of Udaipur dressed as members of nirguni sects, and the Mahamati (50 : 48) was separated from his followers.31

  • 32 LB, Pr 51. Mohabbat Khan could not have been Mahabat Khan Luhr-asp, who had died in 1675 as per the (...)

37Soon, the Pran-nathis reached Mandsaur in disguise, and rested in Puranmal charan (caste of scribes) mansions, in Rampura (51 : 3-17). Quite a few soldiers from the contingent of imperial troops (lascar patsahi, 51 : 24) at Mandsaur visited the Pran-nathis, and were enthralled by the musical performance of their scriptures. Many of these soldiers were Pathans. However, some did not approve of the Mahamati, and had heated debates with him and his followers over the meaning of the Quran, including with Laldas. One of these soldiers, called Ibrahim and dubbed un-Islamic in the LB, told the Pran-nathis not to go beyond the sariyat, but to no avail. However, Ibrahim was chastised by his superior Mohabbat Khan, and told to prostrate himself at the feet of Pran-nath and please the momin with his conduct.32 We can conclude that the followers of Pran-nath were on both sides of the military conflict between Aurangzeb and the Rajputs.

  • 33 LB, Pr 53.
  • 34 LB, Pr 55.
  • 35 LB, Pr 54.

38Pran-nath’s followers then moved to Aurangabad via Ujjain. At Aurangabad, the Pran-nathis went to the entourage of Bhausingh Hada, a significant Rajput general in the imperial army (52 : 17), and tried to arrange a meeting between Pran-nath and Bhausingh. Mahant Ramdas, a member of Bhausingh’s entourage got these followers beaten up, and chased them out of Aurangabad. Mahant Ramdas is termed dajjal by the LB (53 : 10). However, the followers hid in a temple where Bhausingh came to worship regularly, and passed on a message from Pran-nath. Bhausingh took interest in the Pran-nathis, and arranged for them to be hosted in his establishment. Bhausingh arranged for Pran-nath to travel to Aurangabad, met him, and was enthralled by the performance (kirtan) of the songs of Narsi Mehta, a bhakti saint from Gujarat. However, Bhausingh agreed to promote the cause of qayamat postulated by Pran-nath, if and only if the Musalmans in his entourage were convinced by his message. It is clearly mentioned in the LB that the night-long charcha (spiritual discourse) of the Pran-nathis was conducted in the presence of both the Bhagvat and the Quran (53 : 65 sq.). Musalmans also participated in the charcha, and were moved by it. However, they refused to accept the case for qayamat and the Mahamati’s claim to be Ruh-allah and imamat, because these claims were incompatible with the hadis. Through the voice of Fateh Muhammad, a Pathan, the LB explicitly says that these claims superseded and diluted the padshah’s claims to padshahi, and therefore could not and should not be accepted. Furthermore, the Mahamati was asked how he could wear tika (forehead mark) and mala (rosaries), and read the Quran at the same time. This uneasy situation became even more volatile upon the death of Bhausingh Hada (53 : 128), with Pathan soldiers searching for Pran-nath in all of Aurangabad in order to arrest him. Pran-nath spent three days hiding in a mulla’s house, and was protected by Jahan Muhammad, a.k.a. Arabi Khan, another Pathan. Eventually, the Mahamati was escorted to Budhanpur by Bhimsen, the author of Nuskha-i Dilkasha, whose understanding of Islam and religion is equally counter-intuitive to the modern mind, but we do not have time to discuss it here.33 In Budhanpur, the Mahamati met the mufti Abdul Gafur, the chief qazi, and the sheikh-ul islam : both all of whom argued that the Mahamati’s interpretation of the Quran ran counter to the shariat and that nobody would accept the dawa of qayamat, with such an interpretation.34 Despite these incidents, the LB reports that the Mahamati continued to attract momins, who realised the urgency of the situation pertaining to the qayamat, from four directions (54 : 54). The Mahamati sought to prepare a force (fauj) to fulfil his mission. However, the trouble was that the Mahamati also attracted the Dajjal, who would constantly dress up as momins and refused to acknowledge that in the ideal situation the shariaᶜt accepted the notion of a qayamat, which was nigh.35

39Unable to gain acceptance from significant political figures in Jodhpur, Delhi, Udaipur, Aurangabad and Burhanpur, the Mahamati headed towards areas in Central India on the frontiers of the Mughal polity and political culture. Eventually, the Mahamati, or Imam Mahdi, Muhammad and Nishkalank Avatar, found a willing political ally for his project of saving the souls of all people from the impending qayamat : Chhatarsal Bundela, who was then struggling to establish himself as the scion of the Bundela clan amongst a host of claimants. In almost a parody of the bombastic and universal claims of being Jesus, Muhammad, Mahdi and the Nishkalank Avatar who would save Islam, the Mahamati ended up fighting the cousins and rivals of Chhatarsal Bundela, and one minor Mughal officer, who were dubbed dajjal and the scions of kaljug. Chhatarsal became the Sukumar to the Sakundal of Pran-nath, who saved Islam at the end of time.


40On a theoretical level, those who have tried to articulate meanings of “cosmopolitan” and “cosmopolitanism” have kept these concepts open-ended, universalist and all-inclusive in their membership and applicability. Also on a theoretical level, the project of Mahamati Pran-nath also sought to save everyone’s soul. However, many of these souls refused to be a part of his ostensibly “cosmopolitan” and universal project. There was no dearth of other such projects in the given time-place that could be termed “cosmopolitan.”

41Posthumous labeling of peoples and ideas as “cosmopolitan” serves little analytical purpose in the academic study of history that is already overburdened by the presence of terms that may or may not hold contextual relevance. In certain contexts, “cosmopolitan” can even be detrimental to the writing of history. This is possible in instances where ideas or social groups inimical to each other are discovered to be “cosmopolitan.” As it turns out, the opponents of Mahamati Pran-nath — ranging from minor merchants in the Persian Gulf to powerful political figures in the Mughal polity — also displayed “cosmopolitan” characteristics. Given this scenario, the application of “cosmopolitan” to historical data pertaining to mutually inimical social formations would need to be qualified. This qualification, in turn, would limit open-ended cosmopolitanism to something particular, that I have chosen to call “cosmopolitan particularism.”



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Breckenbridge, C. A. et al. (2002), “Editors’ Introduction,” in C. A. Breckenbridge et al., eds., Cosmopolitanism, Durham, NC, Duke University Press, pp. 1-15.

Bouillier, V. & Khan, D.-Sila (2009), “Hajji Ratan or Baba Ratan’s Multiple Identities,” Journal of Indian Philosophy, 37, pp. 559-595.

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Pollock, S. (2002), “Cosmopolitan and Vernacular in History,” in C. A. Breckenbridge et al., eds., Cosmopolitanism, Durham, NC, Duke University Press, pp. 15-53.

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Shah Nawaz Khan, (1979), The Maathir-ulumara : being biographies of the Muhammadan and Hindu Officers of the Timurid Sovereigns of India from 1500 to about 1780 AD, by Nawwab Samsam-ud-daula Shah Nawaz Khan and his son Abdul Hayy, 3 vols., transl. and ed. H. Beveridge & B. Prashad, Patna, Janaki Prakashan.

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Swami Laldas (2009), Mahamati Pran-nath Prerit Swami Laldas Bitak, ed., V. Mehta & M. Priyacharya, with tika (commentary) by M. Dube, Delhi, Shri Pran-nath Mission.

Tod, Col. J. (1950), Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, or the Central and Western Rajput States of India, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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1 All references are to the Mahamati Pran-nath Prerit Swami Laldas Bitak (henceforth LB), ed. V. Mehta & M. Priyacharya, with tika (commentary) by M. Dube (2009). Thus, 45 : 3 refers to prakaran 45, chaupai 3. Prakaran is shortened as Pr.

2 Pollock 2002. Also see Pollock 2006 : 148.

3 The number of kings in total, and the number of kings in each of the jugas should be treated as an approximation, because it is possible that some of the rajas have been listed twice, under different titles.

4 LB, 1 : 27. All translations are mine.

5 Ali Anooshahr has categorized ghazis as military commanders who waged “holy war” on the frontiers of Islam (Anooshahr 2009). Ironically, there is nothing in the LB to justify the use of ghazi in the military sense for Devchandra and Pran-nath.

6 LB, Pr 12.

7 LB, Pr 2-7.

8 LB, Pr 7.

9 LB, Pr 8

10 Personal communication with present-day followers of the Pranami Sampradaya who follow the teachings of Mahamati Pran-nath. I saw photographs of the site in Panna (in Madhya Pradesh).

11 LB, Pr 8-9.

12 LB, Pr 8.

13 LB, Pr 12.

14 LB, Pr 14.

15 LB, Pr 15.

16 LB, 15 : 66. The last couplet in prakaran 15 argues that this bitak should lay to rest all doubts, without explaining the nature of these doubts. It can safely be said that prakarans 15-16 indicate Mehraj’s encountered some difficulties in the spiritual and commercial worlds.

17 LB, Pr 16-17.

18 This work is the scripture of the Pranamis. The Tartam Swarup is a collection of fourteen books, revealed to Pran-nath over the course of several nights in the late seventeenth century.

19 The number of women mentioned as members of the saath and as momins is quite high. The role these women play is also significant. In the LB, women followers of Pran-nath often enable him to meet powerful men. However, this aspect of the LB deserves a separate essay.

20 LB, Pr 18.

21 LB, Pr 32.

22 Wilberforce-Bell mentions that the Mughal intervention in Jamnagar took place at the invitation of a rani of the Jam Ranmalji (d. 1661). This rani was from the ruling house of Jodhpur, whose scion was Maharaja Jaswant Singh, and adopted a “spurious” male child with the aid of her brother, whose name according to Wilberforce was Govardhan Rathod. Jadeja Raisinghji, the younger brother of the deceased Jam Ranmalji, tried to stop the plot, upon which the rani went to Ahmadabad and sought Qutb-ud-din’s aid. See Wilberforce-Bell 1916 : 117-8.

23 LB, Pr 35.

24 LB, Pr 36 – 37.

25 LB, Pr 39.

26 For Rezavi Khan, see Shah Nawaz Khan 1979 , vol. 2 : 538-9. Bakhtawar Khan was the chief secretary of Aurangzeb, and also the author of the Mirat-ul Alam, a Persian history from the late seventeenth century.

27 Aqil Khan is the historian who wrote the Waqi at-i Alamgiri, one of the first Persian histories detailing of the War of Succession amongst the sons of Shah Jahan. He also translated the Padmavat into Persian.

28 LB, Pr 42.

29 LB, Pr 43.

30 LB, Pr 51.

31 LB, Pr 50.

32 LB, Pr 51. Mohabbat Khan could not have been Mahabat Khan Luhr-asp, who had died in 1675 as per the Maathir-ul-Umara. However, this needs to be corroborated by other sources. The MU also says that Bhau Singh Hada died in 1677, but Col. J. Tod dates this event to 1682, which agrees with the LB (Tod 1950).

33 LB, Pr 53.

34 LB, Pr 55.

35 LB, Pr 54.


Vikas Rathee is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He got his PhD in History from the University of Arizona, for writing a dissertation entitled “Narratives of a War of Succession (1658) for the Mughal Throne, c. 1670-c. 1710.” His area of specialisation is the political, cultural and religious history of South Asia.

© Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 2015

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