FAMINES IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, 1500 to 1767
|1555 (a) [+1556]: Delhi and the heart of the Mughal Empire|
|Documented causes: drought, war|
|Documented effects: migration, depopulation, cannibalism, epidemic|
|Sir Henry M. Elliot, "Bibliographical index to the historians of Muhammedan India" (vol. 1, 1850) [with amendments from his version in "The History Of India, As Told By Its Own Historians" (Vol. 5, 1873) pp490-1]|
|(from Mulla Abdu-l-Kadir Maluk Shah, "Tarikh-i-Badauni")
p232: [events shortly after Mubariz Khan seized control of northern India by assassination in 1554, to reign briefly as Adil Shah] "At this time, a dreadful famine raged in the eastern provinces, especially in Agra, Biana [Bayana] and Dehli, so that one seer of Juwar [the grain called juwari] sold for two and a half Tankas, and even at that price was obtained with difficulty. Many of the faithful closed their doors, and died by ten and twenties, [and even in greater numbers] without either coffin or grave. Hindus perished in the same numbers. The common people fed upon the seeds of the Babiil [thorny acacia] and dry grass [of the forest], and on the hides of the cattle which the wealthy slaughtered and sold. After a few days, mortification [swellings] ensued on their hands and feet, so that they died, and the date is represented by the [words khashm-i izad] 'Wrath of God.' The author himself witnessed the fact, that men ate their own kind, and the appearance of the famished sufferers was so hideous, one could scarcely look upon them. What with the scarcity of rain, famine, and uninterrupted warfare for two years, the whole country was a desert, and no husbandmen remained to till the ground. Insurgents also plundered the cities of the Musulmans."|
p233 [events of AH 962 (1555 CE) or just after]: "While Hemun was encamped before Biana, the people died with the word 'bread' upon their lips, and while he valued the lives of an hundred thousand men at no more than a barley corn, he fed his five hundred elephants upon rice, sugar, and butter. The whole world were astounded and disgusted at his cruelty and indifference. Hemun, once every day, eat with his own followers in public, and calling the Afghans to his own table, he would invite them to eat, telling them to take up large handfuls, and he would abuse any one whom he saw eating slowly, and say 'how can you with such a slender appetite expect to fight with any rascally Moghul.' As the Afghans had now nearly lost the empire, and were completely subdued and powerless, they could not muster spirit enough to reply to the infidel ; and laying aside their valour and impetuosity, for which they are so celebrated, they consented, whether from fear of consequences or hope of reward, to swallow his foul language like so many sweetmeats, adopting the following verses as their maxim.
'In hope of a blessing, you place your hands on my feet;
Give me only bread, and you may lay your slipper on my head.' "
|1556: Raj Kumar "Essays on Medieval India" (2003)|
|p128: "North-Western India suffered from a severe famine in 1555-56, i.e. the first year of Akbar's reign. It was accompanied by a pestilence which took a heavy toll of human life."|
|Abu-l Fazl (trans. E. Mackenzie), "Akbar-nama" (1875)|
|pp21-2: [first year of Akbar's reign, 1555-6 CE] "At this time ... there was a great scarcity in Hindustan. In some districts, and especially in the province of Dehli, it reached a most alarming height. If men could find money, they could not get sight of corn. Men were driven to the extremity of eating each other, and some formed themselves into parties to carry off lone individuals for their food."|
|Abul Fazl 'Allami (trans. H.S. Jarrett), "Ain I Akbari" (vol. 3, 1894)|
|pp425-6: "In the beginning of the year of the accession of His Majesty to the Imperial throne [taken literally, this would be autumn 1555 CE, the start of 963 AH; Akbar came to the throne in the month of Rabi 2, February 1556], … a great famine occurred, which raised the dust of dispersion. The capital was devastated and nothing remained but a few houses. In addition to this and other immeasurable disasters, a plague became epidemical. This calamity and destruction of life extended throughout most of the cities of Hindustan. … The writer of this work was then five years old [Footnote: "He was born at Agra on the 6th Muharram 958 (14 January 1551)."] … He has a perfect recollection of this event, and the evidence of eye-witnesses confirms his testimony. The distress of the times ruined many families and multitudes died. In that habitation [Footnote: "I presume this means the quarter in which his family resided. …"] about 70 people, in all, male and female, high and low, may have survived. Contemporaries marvelled at the easy circumstances and general cheerfulness of the dervishes and attributed it to magic and incantation. Sometimes a ser of grain would be obtained, which was set to boil in earthenware vessels, and the warm water distributed amongst these people. Most strange of all was that there occurred no difficulty of provision in my father's house, and except the worship of God no other thought disturbed his mind …"|
|1555 scarcity: friends and enemies in Sindh|
|Documented causes: scorched earth and scorched city|
|Documented effects: ruined crops, ruined city|
|Mahomed Masoom, "A History of Sind, embracing the period from A.D. 710 to A.D. 1590" (trans., 1855)|
|p133: [In 1555, Mirza Isa Beg, first of the Tarkhan rulers of Sindh, who had made his capital at Thatta, was trying to persuade Sultan Muhammad Khan of Bakhar/Bukkur to accept his rule. Unable to dislodge the Sultan from the fortress there, he apparently requested aid from the Feringhi (the Muslim name for Europeans- in this case specifically the ruthless Portuguese seafarers who were settling along the Indian coasts). Whether invited or (as the "Tarikh-i-Tahiri" suggests) not, on their way up the Indus river, the Feringhi learned that Isa Beg would not be at Thatta to greet them:] "… a body of Furinghees, whom Meerza Eesa had called to his assistance, came to Tatta, which they looted and burned, seizing some of the people, whom they carried away. The day previous to their looting Tatta, these Furinghees threw some spirits into the river, when the water of it became ignited.|
When this news reached Meerza Eesa, he went there with haste, being followed as far as Sehwistan [=Sehwan] by Sultan Mahomed, who destroyed all the Rubee (spring crops) of that country. …"
p139: [Alternative version of the same story] "… some Furinghees, whom Meerza Eesa had called to his aid, arrived at Tatta on a Friday, when all the people had gone to the Jamin Musjid, which these Furinghees entered, throwing gunpowder about in it, and in the streets, which they set on fire, by which all those in the Musjid were destroyed, and many in the town were burnt. They looted the whole place, and then went away. Meerza Eesa was much dejected at hearing this, and returned. One week after he had left, Sultan Mahomed, having collected men, followed him as far as Sehwistan, destroying the spring crops of that country on both sides of the river. He wished to do the same by the gardens, but he withdrew his hand from this on the representation of Syud Meer Kulan [the author's grandfather] …"