The British Institute of Persian Studies is happy to be partnering with the Department of Asian Studies and the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad for a three-day conference.

Indo-Persian Manuscripts: issues and challenges in the modern times

6-8 March 2020

The English and Foreign Languages University Hyderabad, India 


Sub themes:

  1. Indo Persian Manuscripts: Their Significance
  2. Deccan Manuscripts
  3. Role of Institutions in collecting and preserving Persian manuscripts in modern times
  4. Persian manuscripts in the Private Collection: Boon or Bane
  5. Mughal Atelier and Concept of Kitābkhāna
  6. Miniatures and Manuscripts
  7. Illustrated Manuscripts
  8. The Libraries and their role in manuscript preservation.
  9. Translation of Indian classics into Persian: Interdisciplinary Study
  10. Editing and Publishing Indo Persian Manuscripts: A Step to the World of Learning
  11. The Relevance of Persian Manuscripts to the World
  12. Any topic relevant to the theme of the Conference

You can download the full conference programme here.

To register, follow the link here.

Concept Note:

India and the Persian world have had close contacts in the realm of language, literature and culture through the ages. Since 12th century many parts of the subcontinent became seat of Persian learning and played vital role in promoting and propagating Indo-Persian written heritage. The Mughals, the Nizams of Hyderabad, Nawabs of Bengal, Officials of the British Raj, the great orientalists and the Indian scholars collected Persian manuscripts, documents, miniatures and artifacts which are now in the treasure trove of the libraries and museums of India and abroad.

The Persian language started enjoying the status of the principal administrative language of India since 13th century and continued till 1837 when it was finally abolished as the official language. During this vast period of six centuries, thousands of books were written in Persian, and tens and hundreds of poets composed their poems in this language. Copies of their rare works have been preserved in different libraries in the subcontinent in the form of manuscripts. “It is estimated that in 2003, India possesses nearly one hundred thousand manuscripts in Arabic script spread over a number of libraries in various parts of the country,” noted Omar Khallidi. These manuscripts and documents are not only the national heritage but also constitute as an authentic source of socio-cultural and historical studies of the Persian Civilisation or Indo Persian Culture.

The Mughals were the successors of the Delhi Sultans and they too were great patrons of Persian language and literature. They even patronised the local poets, scholars and nobles besides extending patronage to a large number of poets, historians and artists from Iran and Central Asia who visited their courts or settled in Delhi, Bengal and Hyderabad to name but a few. During this period, Persian language and literature reached the highest stage of development which resulted in a huge proliferation of Persian manuscripts, documents, miniature paintings and socio-cultural artefacts. This Persian heritage includes theological texts, prayer-books, commentaries on the Qur’an, works on Sufism, the lives of saints and prophets and poets; literary and poetic texts dealing with romances, chronicles and fables; manuals of writing, books on grammar, dictionaries; volumes of books on the history of India and the local history; diaries and works on philosophy, medicine, general history, geography, astronomy and astrology, records and history of British Raj, etc. A great number of Indian, Persian, and Central Asian scholars were engaged by the emperor Akbar to translate Indian classics from Sanskrit language into Persian to broaden the domain of knowledge in the subcontinent. Moreover, texts produced in India started to have a major stylistic influence in Iran, with which India enjoyed a continuous scholarly and literary exchange.

Increasing British interests in India in the latter half of the 18th century brought a change of attitude towards learning. It provided a vital impetus to the study of Persian language, history, and culture for merchants, administrators, and diplomats. However a host of scholars in Calcutta and Bombay having proficiency in Persian translated judicial and revenue regulations for the East India Company, They also showed interest Persian classics and initiated the study of the Orient in the modern times. Coordination between Indian scholars and British officials produced a significant number of translations and edited versions of Persian and Indo-Persian works. The tradition of book production, patronage to the collection of manuscripts continued until the 19th century when modern printing press replaced manuscript production. Since the foundation of the Asiatic Society in Calcutta in 1784, the systematic collection and documentation of manuscripts was started. Important projects of editing and publishing existing manuscripts were undertaken by the institutions like the Asiatic Society of Bengal. The Society under its Bibliotheca Indica Series Publications printed valuable texts of the Persian manuscripts which contributed to the researches of Persian studies in universities and research institutions throughout the world. The large-scale acquisition of manuscripts by Indians and British officials gave birth to rich library collections in India that constitute an important resource for Persian studies globally.

However, today many of these collections remain incompletely and poorly catalogued. Many manuscripts are in a deplorable of state of inaccessibility and oblivion, and often ignored by scholarship even on Indian history, let alone the wider Persianate world, while there are numerous institutional problems of accessibility. As a result, even the broad contours of production of Indo-Persian texts remains unclear, and the contribution of India to the broader Persianate cultural world is still often underplayed in scholarship. Major Indo-Persian authors remain unpublished, and often entirely unstudied. In South India, for instance, a rich tradition of Persian historical writing developed at the courts of Hyderabad/Golconda and Bijapur, almost none of which has been published to date and thus remains largely unknown to scholars, even those who work on Deccani history. The same is true of most other fields of literary endeavour. While a handful of illustrated manuscripts have attracted the attention of art historians, the texts themselves remain neglected.

Although a number of scholars work on the field of Indo-Persian texts, both inside and outside India, their efforts remain dispersed and fragmentary, focused on their specific fields of endeavour. Moreover, owing to the poor cataloguing of Indo-Persian texts, scholarly collaboration is vital to share knowledge about the existence of texts that otherwise may escape an individual scholar’s attention.

In the long term, a desideratum is a comprehensive bib-bibliographical database of Indo-Persian literature. However, as a first step towards improving scholarly knowledge of this important but neglected field of Persian studies, coordinating scholarly efforts and identifying avenues for future research and collaboration, it is proposed to hold a 3-day international conference that will bring together scholars from India, Iran and the west. The conference will be held in Hyderabad, home to some of the major collections of Indo-Persian manuscripts in the Telengana State Archive and the Salar Jung library, and it is anticipated that the conference will also involve these institutions with a view to enhancing the prospects for future research.