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Mughal Pañcatantra adaptations

id: fj8lz


· Stephan Popp Institute for Iranian Studies, Austrian Academy of Sciences (Vienna, Austria)


Adaptations of South Asian Narratives Across Time and Space


This paper will focus on the “Ayyār-i dānish” (“The Knowledge Raider”), which Akbar’s historian and “PR expert” Abu l-Fazl wrote in order to modernize the “Anvār-i Suhailī” (“The Lights of Canopus”), which in turn is a 15th century adaptation of Kalīla va Dimna, the early 12th century Persian version of the Pañcatantra.

Keeping with the spirit of the time, Abu l-Fazl took it up to rewrite the elegant but long-winding “Anvār-i Suhailī” in the short, accurate and still elegant way that he had designed under the orders of Akbar, not least to mark the claim to power of Akbar’s new empire with new rhetoric.

This, however, sparked Akbar’s interest in the original, for which he had Mustafā Khāliqdad ʿAbbāsī translate the Pañcatantra directly from Sanskrit, and again into the new, elegant but short style that he preferred as a representation of his reign.

This lecture will put the Mughal adaptations of the Pañcatantra into its context and demonstrate its value as an example for the intellectual history of Akbar’s India.