Layers of History Documented
Farhat Nasreen
BRAJ BHŪM IN MUGHAL TIMES: THE STATE, PEASANTS AND GOSĀ’INS by Irfan Habib and Tarapada Mukherjee Primus Books, Delhi, 2020, 286 pp., 1095.00
January 2021, volume 45, No 1

This book unlocks the mesmerizing mojo of medieval Braj region. Masterfully written by Irfan Habib and Tarapada Mukerjee, it is an exemplary work of intense research. The primary source materials for this work are the Vrindavan Documents––a treasure trove of information. Two threads criss-cross the pages of Braj Bhūm, firstly, the historical reference point of each of these documents and secondly the derivation of facts and analysis from them. It presents layers of histories within histories. The authors have captured pictures of the past from various angles, by looking at the documents from different points of view. Coming from veterans like Habib and Mukherjee, that is hardly a surprise. Amazing are the miraculous circumstances in which these documents were preserved, collected and handled. In a letter to Habib, dated 20 October 1986, Mukherjee proposed that they work in collaboration on the Persian portion of some documents which he was collecting. In 1987 and 1989-90, they jointly published three papers based on them. With valuable support from Shri Shrivats Goswami, a renowned mystic of Vrindavan, the collection grew. In fact Habib repeatedly thanks the past and present gosā’ins who facilitated the preservation and the eventual use of these documents. Dr. Mukherjee passed away on 7 July 1990. Although Habib doesn’t write it down, it can be gauged from the vibes of the book, that after this loss, the systematic use of these documents became like a promise made to a friend that Habib would fulfil, come what may. He sought the approval of Dr. Emma Mukherjee, wife of his late friend and colleague and continued working on the project. He writes:

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