The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians/V. Ibn Haukal (Ashkálu-l Bilád)

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The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians

Sir H. M. Elliot, Edited by John Dowson, 1867, Volume I

Early Arab Geographers On History Of India

Introduction to Ibn Haukal

[p.31] IN one of the Royal Libraries of Lucknow there is a very old Arabic manuscript, written A.H. 589 (1193 A.D.). The title, "Ash-kálu-l Bilád," Diagrams of the countries (of Islam), is given in the Postscript. It contains maps and a geographical description of several countries. The first leaf is wanting. It contained in folio recto in all probability the beginning of the preface, and in folio verso the map of the world; apparently the greater portion of the preface is preserved. The plan of the work is thus stated- "Then (after having given a map of the world) I have devoted a separate diagram to every country of Islám, in which I show its frontiers, the shape of the country, the principal towns, and in fact everything necessary to know. The diagrams are accompanied by a text.

Dominions of Islám

I have divided the dominions of Islám into twenty countries. I begin with

1. Arabia, for this peninsula contains the Kábah and Mecca, which is unquestionably the most important city and the centre of the peninsula. After Mecca I describe the country of the Bedouins; then I proceed to the description of-

2. the Persian Gulf, which surrounds the greater part of Arabia;

3. the Maghrib;

4. Egypt;

5. Syria;

6. The Mediterranean;

7. Mesopotamia;

8. 'Irák;

9. Khúzistán;

10. Fárs;

11. Kirmán;


12. Mansúra, and the adjacent countries,1 which are Sind, India, and part of the Muhammadan territory;

13. Ázarbaiján;

14. the district of the Jibál;

15. Dailam:

16. the sea of the Khazar (i.e. the Caspian);

17. the steppes between Fárs and Khurásán;

18. Sijistán and the adjacent countries;

19. Khurásán;

20. Má wáráu-n nahr."

Of every one of the above countries there seems to have been originally a map, but two have been lost (viz., Nos. 6 and 10), and some have been transposed (as well as several leaves of the text) by the bookbinder. It was copied in A.H. 589, as it is stated in the postscript, from a very correct copy, and with great care. The copyist has added in a few instances marginal notes, which prove that he took an interest in what he wrote, and that he was acquainted with the subject. On comparing this work with the "Book of Roads and Kingdoms" of Ibn Haukal, I find it almost verbatim the same, so much so, as to leave no doubt that it is a copy of Ibn Haukal's work under an unusual name. As there are only two copies in Europe, one of which is very bad, this MS. is of considerable value.2 The following extract is translated from the Ashkálu-l Bilád, followed by a passage from Ibn Haukal, in the part where the Lucknow manuscript was deficient, or which probably the transcriber neglected to copy. [The map is from the Ashkálu-l Bilád, and is very similar to that of Istakhrí, as published by Moeller.]

Book of Roads and Kingdoms

Map of Sind by Ibn Haukal

[The real name of Ibn Haukal was Muhammad Abú-l Kásim, and he was a native of Baghdád. When he was a child the power of the Khalifs had greatly declined, and Baghdád itself had fallen into the hands of the Turks. On attaining manhood he found himself despoiled of his inheritance, so he resolved to gratify a natural taste, and to seek to mend his fortunes by travelling and trading in foreign countries. He left Baghdád in 331


A.H. (943 A.D.), and after passing through the various lands under Musulmán rule, he returned to that city in 358 A.H. (968 A.D.). The following year he was in Africa, and he seems to have finished his work in 366 A.H. (976 A.D.). His book received the same title as that of Ibn Khúrdádba, or "Book of Roads and Kingdoms," and he says that his predecessor's work was his constant companion.1 His obligations to Istakhrí have been already mentioned. M. Uylenbroek translated part of the work in his "Iracæ persicæ descriptio," and Gildemeister has given the "Descriptio Sindiæ" in his "Scriptorum Arabum de Rebus Indicis," etc. Part of the Ashkálu-l Bilád relating to Khurásán has been translated by Col. Anderson, and was published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. xxii.


From the sea to Tibet is four months' journey, and from the sea of Fárs to the country of Kanauj is three months' journey.

* * * *

I have placed the country of Sind and its dependencies in one map, which exhibits the entire country of Sind, part of Hind, and Túrán and Budha.2 On the entire east of this tract there lies the sea of Fárs, and on the west, Kirmán and the desert of Sijistán, and the countries subject to it. To the north are the countries of Hind, and to the south is the desert lying between Makrán and Kufs,3 beyond which is the sea of Fárs. This sea is to the east of the above-mentioned territories, and to the south of the said desert, for it extends from Saimúr on the east to Tiz,4 of Makrán; it then bends round the desert, and encircles Kirmán and Fárs.

The chief cities

The chief cities: The chief cities of this tract are the following:

In Makrán,- Tiz,1 Kabar [Kíz], Kabryún [Kannazbún], Darak, Rásak the city of schismatics, Bih, Nand [Band], Kasrkand, Asfaka, Fahalfahara, Musli, Yusli (Kambali), Armáil (Armábíl).

In Túrán,- Ma-háli Kaníkánán, Súra and Kasdár.

In Budha,- Kandábíl. In Sind,-Mansúra, which, in the Sind language, is called Bámíwán,2 Debal, Nirun,3 Fálid [Kallari], Abri [Annari], Balzi (Ballari), Mas-wáhí, Harúj, Bánia, Manjábari, Sadúsán, Aldúr.

In Hind,- Fámhal, Kambáya, Súrbárah, Sindán, Saimúr, Multán, Hadrawur [Jadráwar, or Jandrúd], and Basmat. These are the cities of these countries which are known to me.4 From Kambáya to Saimúr is the land of the Balhará, and in it there are several Indian kings.5 It is a land of infidels, but there are Musulmáns in its cities, and none but Musulmáns rule over them on the part of the Balhará. There are many mosques in these places, where Muhammadans assemble to pray. The city in which the Balhará resides is Mánkír, which has an extensive territory.6

Mansúra is about a mile long and a mile broad, and is surrounded by a branch of the Mihrán. It is like an island, and the inhabitants are Musulmáns. The king of the country is one of the tribe of

[p.35]: Kuraish, and is said to be a descendant of Hubád, the son of Aswad. He and his ancestors ruled over this country, but the Khutba is read in the name of the Khalífa. The climate is hot, and the date tree grows here; but there is neither grape, nor apple, nor ripe date (tamr), nor walnut in it. The sugar cane grows here. The land also produces a fruit of the size of the apple, which is called Laimún, and is exceedingly acid. The place also yields a fruit called Ambaj (mangoe), resembling the peach in appearance and flavour. It is plentiful and cheap.1 Prices are low and there is an abundance of food.

The current coin of the country is stamped at Kandahár; one of the pieces is equivalent to five dirhams. The Tátarí coin also is current, each being in weight equal to a dirham and a third.2 They likewise use dínárs. The dress of the people of the place is the same as that worn by the inhabitants of 'Irák, except that the dress of the sovereigns of the country resembles in the trousers3 and tunic that worn by the kings of Hind.

Multán is about half the size of Mansúra, and is called "the boundary4 of the house of gold." There is an idol there held in great veneration by the Hindús, and every year people from the most distant parts undertake pilgrimages to it, and bring vast sums of money, which they expend upon the temple and on those who lead there a life of devotion. Multán derives its name from this idol. The temple of the idol is a strong edifice, situated in the most populous part of the city, in the market of Multán, between the bazar of the ivory dealers and the shops of the coppersmiths. The idol is placed under a cupola in the centre of the building, and the ministers of the idol and those

[p.36]: devoted to its service dwell around the cupola. In Multán there are no men, either of Hind or of Sind, who worship idols, except those who worship this idol and in this temple. The idol has a human shape, and is seated with its legs bent in a quadrangular posture,1 on a throne made of brick and mortar. Its whole body is covered with a red skin like morocco leather, and nothing but its eyes are visible. Some believe that the body of the idol is made of wood; some deny this; but the body is not allowed to be uncovered to decide this point. The eyes of the idol are precious gems, and its head is covered with a crown of gold. The hands rest upon the knees, with the fingers all closed,2 so that only four can be counted.3 The sums collected from the offerings of the pilgrims at the shrine are taken by the Amír of Multán, and distributed amongst the servants of the temple. As often as the Indians make war upon them and endeavour to seize the idol, they4 bring it out, pretending that they will break it and burn it. Upon which the assailants retire, otherwise they would destroy Multán. There is a strong fort in Multán. Prices are low, but Mansúra is more fertile and populous. The reason why Multán is designated "the boundary of the house of gold" is, that the Muhammadans, though poor at the time they conquered the place, enriched themselves by the gold which they found in it. About half a parasang from Multán are several edifices called Chandráwár,5 the cantonment of the chief, who never enters Multán, except on Fridays, and then on the back of an elephant, in order to join in the prayers of that day. The Governor is of the tribe of Kuraish, of the sons of Samáh, the son of Lawí, who first occupied the place. He owes no allegiance to the chief of Mansúra. He, however, always reads the Khutba in the name of the Khalífa.

[p.37]: Basmad is a small city, situated like Multán and Chandráwár, on the east of the river Mihrán. This river is at the distance of a parasang from each of the places mentioned. The inhabitants use well water for drink. Basmad has a fort.

The country [city] of Alrúr1 is as extensive as Multán. It has two walls, is situated near the Mihrán, and is on the borders of Mansúra.

The city of Debal is to the west2 of the Mihrán, towards the sea. It is a large mart, and the port not only of this but neighbouring regions. Debal is remarkable for the richness of its grain cultivation, but it is not over-abundant in large trees or the date tree. It is famous for the manufacture of swords.3 The inhabitants generally maintain themselves by their commerce.

The country of Nírún is between Debal and Mansúra, but rather nearer to the latter. Manjábarí is to the west of the Mihrán, and there any one who proceeds from Debal to Mansúra will have to pass the river, the latter place being opposite to Manjábarí.

Maswáhí, Harj, and Sadúsán,4 are also situated to the west of the Mihrán.5

On the road between Mansúra and Multán, and on the east of the Mihrán, but distant from it, are two places called Ibrí and Labí [Annarí and Kállarí].6

Máíldí [Ballarí] is also near the Mihrán, and on the western bank, near the branch which issues from the river and encircles Mansúra.

Bilha [Bánia] is a small city, the residence of 'Umar, the son of 'Abdu-l 'Aziz Habbári, of the tribe of Kuraish, and the ancestor of those who reduced Mansúra.

[p.38]: The city of Fámhal1 is on the borders of Hind, towards Saimúr, and the country between those two places belongs to Hind. The countries between Fámhal and Makrán, and Budha, and beyond it as far as the borders of Multán, are all dependencies of Sind. The infidels who inhabit Sind are called Budha2 and Mand. They reside in the tract between Túrán, Multán, and Mansúra, to the west of the Mihrán. They breed camels, which are sought after in Khurásán and elsewhere, for the purpose of having crosses from those of Bactria.

Tht city where the Budhites carry on their trade is Kandábíl, and they resemble men of the desert. They live in houses made of reeds and grass. The Mands dwell on the banks of the Mihrán, from the boundary of Multán to the sea, and in the desert between Makrán and Fámhal. They have many cattle sheds and pasturages, and form a large population.

There are Jám'a Masjids at Fámhal, Sindán, Saimúr, and Kam-báya, all which are strong and great cities, and the Muhammadan precepts are openly observed. They produce mangoes, cocoa-nuts, lemons, and rice in great abundance, also great quantities of honey, but there are no date trees to be found in them.

The villages of Dahúk3 and Kalwán are contiguous to each other, situated between Labí4 and Armábíl. Kalwán is a dependency of Makrán, and Dahúk that of Mansúra. In these last mentioned places fruit is scarce, but crops grow without irrigation, and cattle are abundant.

Túrán5 is a town.

Kasdár is a city with dependent towns and villages. The governor is Muín bin Ahmad, but the Khutba is read in the name

[p.39]: of the Khalífa only, and the place of his residence is at the city of Kabá-Kánán.1 This is a cheap place, where pomegranates, grapes' and other pleasant fruits are met with in abundance; but there are no date trees in this district.

[Here ends the extract from the Ashkálu-l Bilád; that which follows is from Ibn Haukal, as translated into Latin by M. Gildemeister.]

There is a desert between Bánia, Kámuhul, and Kambáya. From Kambáya to Saimúr the villages lie close to one another, and there is much land under cultivation. The Moslims and infidels in this tract wear the same dresses, and let their beards grow in the same fashion. They use fine muslin garments on account of the extreme heat. The men of Multán dress in the same way. The language of Mansúra, Multán, and those parts is Arabic and Sindian. In Makrán they use Persian and Makránic. All wear short tunics except the merchants, who wear shirts and cloaks of cotton, like the men of 'Irák and Persia.

* * * * * *


  • from Ayara [Annarí] to Valara [Ballarí], two;
  • from Valara to Mansúra, one;
  • from Debal to Kannazbúr, fourteen:
  • from Debal to Manhátara [Manjábarí] two, and that is on the road from Debal to Kannazbúr;
  • from Vallara [Ballarí] to Ayara [Annarí], four parasangs;
  • Kámuhul from Mansúra is two days' journey, and
  • Bánia intervenes at one stage distance.
  • The Mihrán is the chief river of those parts. Its source is in a mountain, from which also some of the feeders of the Jíhún flow. Many great rivers increase its volume, and it appears like the sea in the neighbourhood of Multán. It then flows by Basmad, Alrúz, and Mansúra, and falls into the sea, to the east of Debal. Its water is very sweet, and there are said to be crocodiles in it it like those of Egypt. It equals the Nile in volume and strength of current. It inundates the land during the summer rains, and on its subsidence the seed is sown, as in Egypt.

The river Sandarúz [Sind-rúd] is about three days' distant from Multán. Its waters are abundant and sweet. I was told that its confluence with the Mihrán is above Basmad, but below Multán.

Jandarúz [Jand-rúd] is also a great and sweet river, on whose bank is the city of Jandarúz.2 It falls into the Mihrán below the Sandarúz [Sind-rúd] towards the country of Mansúra.

The zat race

Makrán contains chiefly pasturages and fields, which cannot be irrigated on account of the deficiency of water. Between Mansúra and Makrán the waters from the Mihrán form lakes, and the inhabitants of the country are the Indian races called Zat. Those who are near the river dwell in houses formed of reeds, like the Berbers, and eat fish and aquatic birds.

* * * *

Another clan of them, who live remote from the banks, are like the Kurds, and feed on milk, cheese, and bread made of millet.

We have now reached the extreme eastern border of the dominions of Islám. The revenue of the kings and governors is small, and not more than to satisfy their actual needs. Some, no doubt, have less than they wish.

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