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Counterpoint: Reassessing Ulughkhānī’s Arabic history of Gujarat

  • Jyoti Gulati Balachandran EMAIL logo


Despite his familiarity with the well established Indo-Persian history‐writing traditions, ‘Abdullāh Muḥammad al-Makkī al-Āṣafī al-Ulughkhānī ‘Ḥājjī al-Dabīr’ (b. 1540) chose to write his history of the Gujarat Sultanate and of other Indo-Muslim polities in Arabic. Ulughkhānī consulted several Persian chronicles produced in Delhi and Ahmedabad, including Sikandar Manjhū’s Mir’āt-i Sikandarī (composed c. 1611) that has served as the standard history of the Gujarat Sultanate for modern historians. Despite its ‘exceptionalism’, Ulughkhānī’s early seventeenth-century Ẓafar al-wālih bi Muẓaffar wa ālihi has largely been seen as a corroborative text to Persian tawārīkh. This article re-evaluates the importance of Ulughkhānī’s Arabic history of Gujarat by situating the text and its author in the social, political and intellectual context of the sixteenth-century western Indian ocean. Specifically, it demonstrates how the several historical digressions in the text are not dispensable aberrations to his narrative but integral to Ulughkhānī’s expansive social horizons at the time of robust commercial, pilgrimage, diplomatic and scholarly connections between Gujarat and the Red Sea regions.

Corresponding author: Jyoti Gulati Balachandran, Penn State University Park, History, 108 Weaver Bldg, University Park, PA, 16802-1800, USA, E-mail:


The writing of this article was made possible by the generous support of the Humanities Institute at Penn State University. I’d like to thank Christopher Bahl and Sanjay Subrahmanyam for offering their insights and suggestions on this article. Thanks to Christopher for also sharing his forthcoming (now published) article with me. I’m grateful to the anonymous reviewer for questions and comments. This article follows the IJMES system of transliteration for Arabic and Persian.


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Published Online: 2020-12-07
Published in Print: 2020-11-18

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