Of the Historical Value of the Manuscript.

There is no reason to doubt the genuineness of the manuscript or its correct dating. It was found in a place which held earlier manuscripts of Sher Shāh’s reign. The script is of the period. The author is known, and the history of the manuscript is clear. It is a copy made in A. D. 1653 of an original written in A. D. 1599. The author was thus almost contemporary with the events he relates, and states who his informant was. He was one ‘Sulimān Khān, who had seen the happenings with his own eyes and was one of the followers of Shujā’at Khān, who was ap­pointed to the throne of the governorship of Mālwa by Sher Shāh’. He was ‘groom of the bed-chamber in the court of Bāzid Khān’, and is expressly stated to have been present at Rup Mati’s last singing before him and at the final pleasure party given by Adham Khān in Bāz Bahā­dur’s palace, when he believed that Rup Mati had sur­rendered to his importunate lust.

To knowledge of the history of the times the manuscript makes no great or valuable addition, though it may possibly throw a few welcome sidelights. Be that as it may, the only points which call for discussion by me here are those which concern Rup Mati herself, her birthplace, her caste, and the place of her death and burial.

It is true that the local Māndu legend puts down Rup Mati’s birthplace at Dharmpuri on the Narbada and the ‘Bombay Subaltern’ at Tandapuri on the same river. The latter place I have been unable to identify. The choice of Dharmpuri is, however, merely one of local fancy. Rup Mati’s chattris look down by day on the silver stretch of river by that town and by night on the lights of the temple on the island opposite to it. If her birthplace were not known, Dharmpuri is the obvious choice of invention, and, once made, all subsequent visitors to the chattris would willingly believe it true. Sir John Malcolm, who had the earliest opportunity in recent years, on his entry into Mālwa in 1818, records Rup Mati’s place of birth as Sahāranpur, an obvious mis-spelling for Sārangpur, and this, apart from the present manuscript, is the best evidence available. The manuscript gives the additional and valuable detail that Sārangpur was Bāz Bahādur’s ‘Jāgir’ before his father’s death, and this fact makes possible his acquaintance with a maiden of that place. The other legends which have grown up round Rup Mati’s name are natural growths. As already stated, the site of the chattris in itself suggests Dharmpuri, and the legend of the Goddess of the Rewa river is merely an attempt to explain the name of Rewa Kund, which attaches to the spring and pool below Bāz Bahādur’s palace.

A more difficult question is that of Rup Mati’s origin. On the one side, it has to be at once admitted that Āhmad-ul-Umri’s main interest lies in the romance of his story, and this may have led him to improve on fact in regard to her origin. On the other hand, it is improbable that any of the various historians who mention her death made any real inquiry into the place of her birth or her origin. Their natural assumption would be that she was merely a dancing girl.

It must be confessed, too, that the author of the manu­script uses certain expressions which raise doubts of the accuracy of his description of Rup Mati as a Brahman girl. Had that been so, her mother could not, as stated, have made a second marriage, and certainly not with her husband’s brother. Nor, again, could she have become Bāz Bahādur’s queen without formal conversion to Islām and the assumption of a Muhammadan name. Yet nothing is heard of either, and the author admits that though her father himself gave his daughter to Bāz Bahādur ‘no marriage ceremony was performed’. The use too by Rup Mati of the word ‘union’ to describe her connexion with Bāz Bahādur, her coming out from behind the ‘pardah’ to exhort him to action, the phrase in her message to Adham Khān, ‘I have sung in his assemblies’, all suggest that the story of dancing-girl origin was the true one but that the writer felt her genius, her chastity, and the interest of his story demanded nobler birth.

The evidence of the historians is, however, inconclusive. Farishta calls Rup Mati unequivocally ‘a courtesan’; the author of the Mā’asir-ul-Umra ‘a songstress’, a word corresponding with the Hindi word ‘patur’ used by Āhmad-ul-Umri, which has been translated ‘mistress’. The Akbārnāma does not make it clear whether she is to be included among the ladies of Bāz Bahādur’s seraglio or among his singing and dancing women, though the reference to her ‘honour’ appears to imply the honour of a wife. The Tabaqāt-i-Akbari, however, speaks of her expressly as ‘the favourite wife’.

This conflict of evidence may perhaps be taken to show that the version of the text, which is to some extent a reconciliation of discrepancies, is correct. Further, if the attribution to Rup Mati of the songs and verses, hereinafter translated, be held correct, it cannot be denied that their matter and form are more in accord with the authorship of an educated Brahman lady than of a dancing-girl. The version of Āhmad-ul-Umri, also, derives new and un­expected support from the discovery among the Brahmans of Sārangpur of so many of her songs and verses.

The question of Rup Mati’s origin must, then, still be left undecided, but all sympathetic readers will surely side with the version of the manuscript.

As regards the place of Rup Mati’s death, there is no need to doubt the version of the manuscript that it took place at Māndu. The Akbārnāma, indeed, implies that it took place at Sārangpur after the battle, but the account is brief and the exact place of death was of no importance to the historian. That her tomb is at Sārangpur there would have been no doubt, but for Blochmann’s statement in his edition of the Ain-i-Akbari that ‘Bāz Bahādur and his Rup Mati lie buried together. Their tomb stands in the middle of a tank at Ujjain.’ Beveridge rightly doubts this. There is no trace or legend of any tomb at Ujjain. Nor is there a tomb at Māndu, though local tradition says Rup Mati died there. This, however, would be no bar to her corpse being taken to Sārangpur to the tomb which Bāz Bahādur had long prepared in his own ‘Jāgir’ for himself and her. There—in the middle of a tank—is a tomb, now ruined, obviously that of a man and woman of rank, which steady local tradition points out as the tomb of Bāz Bahādur and Rup Mati. The tomb is about a mile north of the town, which lies in Dewas (S.B.) State on the picturesque banks of the Kāli Sindh river. In a note to the Legend of Māndoo Capt. Abbott writes: ‘At Sahārangpur in Mālwa, her tomb is preserved. We ourselves have made the pilgrimage (A.D. 1835). Senseless to female loveliness as are generally the natives of India, her matchless beauty, constancy and grace are treasured in their traditions. They fondly believe that if any one call at that tomb “Roop-Mati”, the echo renders not a repetition of her name but the name of the chosen of her heart, Bāz Bahādur.’

Alas! to-day the dome has fallen and echo there is none.