Master and munshī: A brahman secretary's guide to Mughal governance

Rajeev Kinra*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This article aims to contribute to a growing body of scholarship on the cultural world of the early modern Indo-Persian state secretary, or munshī. Our guide will be the celebrated Mughal munshī, Chandar Bhān Brahman (d. 1662-63), whose life and career shed considerable light on the ideals of administrative conduct that informed political and intellectual culture during the reigns of the emperors Jahāngīr and Shāh Jahān. After examining Chandar Bhān's background and socio-intellectual milieu, we will focus in particular on a section of his prose magnum opus, Chahār Chaman ('The Four Gardens'), which served as both a memoir of his career in Mughal service and a didactic guide for exemplary ministerial theory and practice, or wizārat. Chandar Bhān's ideal wazīr, embodied by ministers like Afzal Khān Shirazi (d. 1639), Sa'd Allāh Khān (d. 1656), and Raghūnāth Rāy-i Rāyān (d. 1664), was not only tolerant and humane in the exercise of power, but also an expert in the secretarial arts in his own right, and a model of civility (akhlāq) and mystical awareness (ma'rifat) for others. In modern historiography such virtues tend to be primarily associated with Akbar's court, but at least in Chandar Bhān's eyes, they continued to have lasting relevance throughout the Mughal seventeenth century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-561
Number of pages35
JournalIndian Economic and Social History Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Chandar Bhan Brahman
  • Mughal Empire
  • governance
  • munshīs
  • mysticism
  • nobility
  • wazīrs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Social Sciences(all)


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