Of the Finding of the Persian Manuscript,
the Pictures, and the Verses.

IT had long been in my mind to make inquiries into the true history of Rup Mati of Māndu, of whom the historians of the period make mention indeed but tell no consecutive story, nor was there any great reason to believe in the literal truth of the legends told in Māndu.

When I returned to Mālwa in 1923 the most obvious method of beginning the quest was to search for songs attributed to Rup Mati, which were alleged to be still extant among the peasantry. The only two, of which I was at the time aware, were that translated by Sir A. Cunning­ham and printed in Col. Luard’s brochure on Dhār and Māndu (No. xxvi), and that quoted in the notes to the History of Māndoo by ‘A Bombay Subaltern’ (No. xii). As soon as I began my inquiries I found, resident almost at my door, my chief agent in the search, Pandit Bālbhadra Sinha of Sehore, who had for long taken an interest in Rup Mati’s history and songs, and in the course of a few months he found the eight songs translated in Nos. ii-ix. Then the search halted and success seemed likely to end, when unexpected but very welcome assistance arrived in the person of Munshi Bashiruddin, B.A., LL.B., of Bhopāl. He came to see me in quest of an opening in life, and in the course of my interview with him I found out that he had been making independent research into the reign of the Emperor Sher Shāh and had studied many unpublished Persian manuscripts of his era.

As Sher Shāh had appointed Shujā’at Khān, Bāz Bahā­dur’s father, to be Governor of Mālwa, it appeared not unlikely that among these there might have been manu­scripts dealing with the history of Bāz Bahādur and Rup Mati. I questioned him accordingly. At first he could not recollect any manuscript of the sort, but on reflection added that at one house in Bhopāl, where he had found several manuscripts referring to Sher Shāh’s times, he thought he remembered seeing a few pages in which the names of Rup Mati and Bāz Bahādur were mentioned.

This was highly interesting news and I at once sent him off to search, and the first finds were some eight pages in Persian of the beginning of ‘A strange tale of faithfulness’ and one or two later leaves. One of the first-fruits of this discovery was that the birthplace of Rup Mati was defi­nitely set down as Sārangpur, as Sir John Malcolm had stated (though mis-spelling the name Sahāranpur), and, as I was already aware, in Sārangpur there existed a tomb which had from time immemorial been pointed out as that of Bāz Bahādur and Rup Mati. The further statement that Rup Mati was of Brahman birth led to inquiries, not only in Sārangpur but from the Brahmans of that place, whether among them were preserved, orally or otherwise, any verses and songs attributed to her. The result was the production, mainly in manuscripts of at least one hundred years old, of the remaining songs, including the beautiful love-letter in verse, which now figures as No. i in the translations.

While this search was going on, Munshi Bashiruddin had been busy in Bhopāl, hunting for further portions of the Persian manuscript, and in the course of two or three months these were found page by page and pieced together. Each gap in the text became the starting-point of a new search, and eventually the whole story was complete and appeared to end, appropriately enough to its title, on the words ‘If Nizāmi had occasion to read this strange tale, he would have learnt that women, too, may be faithful unto death’.

Reflection, however, upon the author’s style and pre­dilections rendered it almost impossible to my mind that he could have checked his natural instinct and ended so abruptly, and I soon persuaded Bashiruddin of this. He returned once more to the search, and after a period of ten days returned in triumph with the long and interesting disquisition on woman which forms the last part of the manuscript, the impressive peroration and the final note of the copyist, Mir Jā’afar Ali.

This, with its statement that ‘the original was embel­lished with pictures and of these three came into my hand’, became the immediate starting-point of a new trail. The son of Ināyat Ali, who had purchased and brought the manuscript to Bhopāl and inscribed on it the last couplet, was unable to throw any light on the subject, and it was only after consulting his mother that he found that some pictures had been sold by his father to one Aziz-ur-rahmān of Tonk in Rājputāna—two hundred miles to the north-west. Inquiries after him had then to be made in Tonk, and in time it was discovered that he had removed to Hyderabād, Deccan, six hundred miles to the south. There the search had to be restarted, but eventually the quarry was found. In­quiry was naturally made about three pictures only, of which Aziz-ur-rahmān admitted possession and gave the subjects as ‘The adornment of the bride’, ‘Rup Mati and Bāz Bahādur in seclusion at Māndu’, and ‘The last scene’. Offers of purchase were made but were uncompromisingly refused. The fish, however, was biting, and at last Aziz-ur-rahmān turned up in Bhopāl, but unfortunately a day or two after I had been transferred to Gwalior. After long bargaining Bashiruddin succeeded in getting from him three pictures which he forwarded to me. They were:

1. ‘Rup Mati in the lap of the tirer of the bride, even as the cup at the lip and the mirror in the hand’, marked ‘the work of Sānwlah’.

2. ‘Bāz Bahādur and Rup Mati in seclusion at Mandu indulging in the delights of love’, marked ‘the work of Govardhan’.

3. A picture bearing no title but a variant of No. 2, apparently by the same artist.

There was thus no picture to which the title of ‘The last scene’ could be assigned, and hence further inquiry was made. This led to the production of two more pictures:

4. ‘This is the miserable end of this story, which began in love and faithfulness’, without any attribution.

5. ‘A martyr to faithfulness’, marked the work of Chitarman.

Some comment will be made on the pictures at a later stage, but here I only remark on the extreme good fortune which attended me in my quest, in finding almost at the same time two such enthusiasts as Pandit Bālbhadra Sinha and Munshi Bashiruddin, and in discovering in the Persian manuscript such an admirable pointer in the search for Rup Mati’s verses.