Indian Political Literature
A comparison between the Hindu text, Kanhadade Prabandha by Padmanaba and the Muslim text, Khaza'inul Futuh by Amir Khusrau regarding politics and religion in medieval India.
Between the accounts of the Khaza'inul Futuh, by Amir Khusrau, and the Kanhadade Prabandha, by Padmanabha, there is much similarity, but one marked difference in the treatment of religion makes the Kanhadade Prabandha a more sophisticated work. In the Khaza'inul Futuh, religion is treated almost exclusively as a support to the Emperor's power and authority, while in the Kanhadade Prabandha, religion also becomes an instigator of Hindu behavior. The difference lies in a retrospective legitimization compared to a causal reality. Only in one instance is a reference to God not directly attached to a concept of the Emperor's beatific nature and worldly exploits in the Khaza'inul Futuh. Similarly, the Kanhadade Prabandha only legitimizes one victory for the Hindus through the use of a god, but other forms of legitimization occur. However, the gods also come to advise and direct the humans, who must protect them from the Muslims. The two accounts do not entirely differ in their explanation of events or their desire to legitimize their respective rulers' victories, but the Kanhadade Prabandha substitutes the concept of punya for the god in explaining how the Hindus were able to overcome the Muslims, and why they should hold the hope of overcoming them once again (in some amorphous future after the end of the book).
The Khaza'inul Futuh's one use of God as a concept beyond the emperor was in its discussion of buildings for it has an "account of the sacred buildings, which the Emperor has constructed for the pleasure of God" (158). That section, small though it may be, lacks a glorification of the Emperor; it describes his actions as no more than an attempt to please Allah, which is very different from the ordinary tone of the book. Instead, the book praises the Emperor, perhaps at the expense of Allah.
After describing the defeat of the Mughals in battle, Khusrau quotes the Quran in saying that "surely Allah will help him who helps His cause" (173). This is a clear explanation of how the Muslims were victorious in battle: since they won, they must have been doing God's business, and because of that, he gave them some aid. This circular legitimization happens more than once in the book. Khusrau also says that the Muslims, "through divine assistance…passed safely over…such a road" (226). He also describes raging rivers traversed through the aid of Allah. But these events maintain the hindsight, circular logic that characterizes the rationale for Muslim victory in war. Both events occur, and since they were so challenging, God is invoked as having been useful in the process. However, by the end of the paragraph or section, Khusrau is usually back to praising the Emperor, "the model for the generation" (227). In passages such as these, Allah becomes a side issue, of lesser import than the grandeur of the Emperor. Perhaps this is because Allah isn't likely to have your head cut off if he doesn't like what's coming out of it.
The Emperor is also legitimized by the end result of his campaign. Direct connection is made between divine favor and the presence of spoils of war (249). Here, Khusrau is trying to say that it's okay that the Emperor stole much of the wealth of the Hindu elite and temples. In direct contradiction to the teachings of the Quran, the men at war did loot and pillage the valuables of their opponents, and had need to claim that deed as within their divinely proscribed actions.
The Khaza'inul Futuh also praises the emperor through comparisons to its religious heritage. There are several references to Biblical personages and comparisons between Khusrau's contemporaries and the most influential and respected of Old Testament characters. The Emperor is referred to as "the Solomon of the age" for his fantastic wisdom and leadership. The Emperor simply makes no mistakes-comparing him to the great men of the Bible enables the author to praise him, and bring the reader into his perspective through simple, yet effective religious language.
At other times, Khusrau uses his religious tradition for describing the fate of the dead. Muslim dead, we are told, ascend into heaven, while the fiery pits of hell await the Hindus. In this case, religion is being used as a system of reward/punishment for actions performed while on earth, but only as a further example of how religion can be used to circularly explain events. The Hindus, according to the Khaza'inul Futuh, are destined to destruction; it is the task of the holy Muslim army to send them to hell. The evil nature of the Hindus justifies the offensive.
The Kanhadade Prabandha uses two major legitimizing techniques: Siva's favor, and punya earned by good deeds from a past life. After Kanhadade's initial victory, Padmanabha says, "On what earnest request Lord Siva had granted them so much strength that they gave up their lives only after finishing the Mlechchhas and powerful Mughals!" (9). So, since God had given them victory, not only was it a "good" thing that they had killed other men, but it was a necessary thing.
The use of punya in Kanhadade Prabandha is pronounced and regular. It is "on account of punya that Raval Kanhadade destroyed the Mlechchhas" (25). Punya is a storehouse of merit earned from past actions (karma). It is the concept that all actions have causal results and that past actions can create a store of merit to be used in times of need. The merit can even be consciously brought to bear: Padmanabha claims "Kanhadade reverently prayed to Asapuridevi… [and] glowing embers rained on the enemy" (61). Padmanabha would have us believe that through religious merit, physical needs may be satisfied here on earth. More to the point, that the military victories of Kanhadade are the direct causal result of this stored up punya.
Punya is also used to develop a more cohesive world-view. The Muslims are brought into the Hindu scheme as Hindus who made grievous mistakes in their past lives. As a form of punishment, they are born as Muslims. However, being reborn as such does not preclude the obtainment of merit-Khunja Ladana's suicide at the death of Viramade was a Hindu behavior which enables her to earn enough punya to ascend into heaven with him. So, by behaving as a Hindu would, it is possible for Muslims to overcome their own inadequacies. Sacrifice of one's life is revered by the entire Hindu society. When Jolor was finally being overcome (as when Kanhadade's cousin lost his fort), everyone committed the Jauhar sacrifice-a suicide ritual designed to earn merit by remaining with the lord to the last (in spirit, at least). It represents the desire to be forever efficient in one's servitude.
There is another substantial difference between the Kanhadade Prabandha and the Khaza'inul Futuh's treatment of the divine: in the Kanhadade Prabandha, there is a strong regard for the temple idols, which are believed to be the physical presence of gods, and the divine presence in dreams. It was to regain the idol of Somanatha that Kanhadade first ventured out against the Muslims. The presence of the God was a source of strength and inspiration for Kanhadade. The various gods in Kanhadade's dreams also spurred him to action. Whether it was to recover Somanatha or to explain that the Muslims would find their way into Jalor, they predicted the future. In doing so, the gods actually became actors in the world of the writer, rather than simply explanations.
Although both the Kanhadade Prabandha and the Khaza'inul Futuh use their religious traditions to explain how things came to be in the world and to justify the actions of their peoples, the Kanhadade Prabandha gives to religion a more pro-active role, one in which gods become players in the game, rather than rules by which the leaders are made to act. Both sources glorify their earthly rulers, and use their religion to justify how that ruler came to be so powerful and so majestic; but the Khaza'inul Futuh lacks the depth that Padmanabha put into the Kanhadade Prabandha's divinities and the structures relating them to the mortals.