Chronicling the Lives of Two Noblemen-Poets in the Mughal Court

By Madhulika Liddle

In Delhi’s Nizamuddin area, just off one of the city’s busiest main roads, sits a large mausoleum. Its stark rubble dome is in sharp contrast to the impressive proportions of the building itself. Few of the thousands who traverse this stretch of Mathura Road every day would know who is buried there. Some, when told that this is the tomb of Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, would probably recognise the name as that of one of the foremost generals and statesmen in Akbar’s court.

But mention that the occupant of this tomb is Rahim, the Rahim of Hindi poetry, and there is likely to be an immediate recall. In Delhi, and across north and central India, in all the places where Hindi is spoken and school textbooks contain the dohas of Rahim, Rahim lives on. Those who have studied his dohas may have forgotten that he was more than a poet, but they remember, in the very least, that Hindi literature counts him among its greatest.

In Attendant Lords: Bairam Khan and Abdur Rahim, Courtiers and Poets in Mughal India, T.C.A. Raghavan documents the life of Rahim, as well as that of his father, the equally illustrious Bairam Khan, known primarily as a regent to the young Akbar after the death of Humayun. Read more