The Mughal’s Move: Sanskrit as a political tool

Audrey Truschke's book, Culture of Encounters. Image source:

New Delhi: In Audrey Truschke’s recent book, Culture of Encounters, the author discusses the course of the rise and the fall of the Sanskrit language during the era of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahana and Aurangzeb. While during the rule of the first three emperors, the ancient language substantially blossomed into their courts, but the start of the reign of Aurangzeb ushered in the downfall of the Sanskrit.

Truschke writes in her book that the decimation of the language was mainly due to two reasons. First, that Sanskrit in the 17th century was now slowly giving away to the evolution of Hindi and the second was that the political motivations of Aurangzeb curtailed the stimulation of the language.

To explain the political aspect of Aurangzeb further we need to know that, in order to demarcate his own ‘idiom of rule’ and cut up the ties entirely with that of his elder brother, Dara Shikoh, he steers clear from any associations with the Sanskrit world.

Truschke eased the context further by adding that “Let me clarify that while Akbar inaugurated Mughal engagements with Sanskrit, he did so for slightly different reasons than many people think… Akbar was interested in Sanskrit for its political valence in his empire, not as some personal religious quest.” This act was mainly an attempt by them to get acclimatized as the new rulers of India.

Akbar in order to gain the trust of the Indians tied up with the Rajput chiefs, Brahmin and Jains and took the strategic move of abolishing the pilgrimage tax in 1562 and the Jizya Law in 1564. This was mainly due to the fact that his rule was in the threat of continuous rebellions from the non-Muslims.

Though, the tactic was quite successful as we can find in Badauni’s work who claims that Brahmins had to testify that Akbar was another form of Lord Vishnu like Ram and Krishna, who has descended to earth as a human being.

Though the façade was over once the protest was over. It is discovered that Akbar re-implemented both the discriminatory decrees on the non-Muslims again. He massacred over 30,000 peasants in the Chittor fort, which may have resulted in the suppression of the initial rebellion.

Still, there is a catch that a bigger rebellion rose up again and Akbar was forced to abandon the Jizya Act again and instill the new ideology of Sulh-i-Kul, which basically means Peace with All in Persian.

The ultimate finding that should be known and incorporated into the mainstream discourse by the scholars is the fact that, “Hindi was on the ascent as a literary language in the 17th century and the Mughals increasingly looked to Hindi texts for classical Indian knowledge as opposed to seeking out Sanskrit works.”

Something that will dig out probably bigger further hidden secrets from the annals of unknown history. (Inputs from

Prepared by Annesha DasGupta for NewsGram