Dining Etiquette and Aesthetics in the Early Mughal Period (1504-1605 CE)


Anku Bharadwaj

Research Scholar, Dept. of History, University of Delhi, Delhi



This paper explores the various norms of dining etiquettes and food aesthetics practiced by Early Mughal period in the time of the first three Mughal kings, Babur (1504-1530), Humayun (1530 -1556) and Akbar (1556 -1605). Studying the processes of constant change in their food habits, adab, and rituals over the period of time, this paper explains the extent of influence of the Turko-Mongol predecessors on early Mughal food habits and rituals, the influence of the dining etiquettes and customs in the construction of political authority, social identities and norms of civility and the role of food aesthetics in the construction of esteem and class- distinction.


KEYWORDS: Dining etiquettes, food aesthetics, food sharing, hierarchy, power, Mughal, Turko-Mongol



Culinary practices are important in shaping the culture of any ruling class. Norbert Elias traced the shifts in the culinary practices and table manners in Western Europe, in the period of their transition from a feudal system to the court society and then to the modern nation-state. Within the feudal system, Elias argued that the culinary practices of the feudal lords were marked by excess and lack of social control. In his own words: ‘There is little in their situation to compel them to impose restraint upon themselves.’1 However, with the development of the court society, the situation changed and the behaviour of the court nobility was accordingly modified. The court society was a cultural trendsetter for people who aspired to move up the social ladder 2 According to Stephen Mennell, the court, with its elites, as a culturally powerful establishment that shaped good taste and appropriate manners, was seen as a blueprint of power relations in the society.3 It was to seek approval from the aristocrats at the top of the hierarchy and to differentiate themselves from the other inferior classes who were also trying to find their way into the court society. The enabled members of the court displayed heightened forms of self-restraint and mannered behaviour.4

With regard to food etiquette, Elias argued that the court regimes often justified the emphasis on moderation and restraint in terms of their alleged health benefits, but this was actually not the real explanation. Rather, the paraphernalia surrounding food consumption [presentation, aesthetics, table manners, menu, etc.] were generated by the quest for social distinction, and exclusiveness. The performance of ‘refined’ behaviour was motivated by the obligation to operate in an increasingly interdependent social structure, and by the need to confirm one’s social position over those of competing social classes.

Similarly, in Mughal dynasty, it is important to bear in mind that the rules and customs regulating arrangement of commensals, distribution and sharing, as well as ‘table manners’ symbolised hierarchy, acted as a social differentiator and served to reinforce the prestige and distinctiveness of the ruling dynasty. In the realization of these objectives, of course, the inherited Timurid and Chingizid traditions were selectively appropriated by the Mughals, as well.


The shaping of Culinary Etiquette in early Mughal India: The Turko- Mongol Heritage

From the Memoirs of Babur, we get the feeling that during his reign in Hindustan, there were no established gastronomical connections. During his period not much emphasis was given on eating etiquette and dining practices. Initially, during his itinerant phase, he shared a strong bond with his nobles and social inferiors, and we get to see that less emphasis was given on distinction among people according to their ranks and positions. Although the differences in status and position between the ruler and his begs were well-defined, Babur did not let these differences, influence dining etiquette. They were all invited to share Babur's wine parties where music and dance, and poetry recitals were common. The climate is described in the extant sources as one of camaraderie, conviviality and faith. Many references shared by him in Baburnama show that on his excursions, Babur and his men cooked food, shared food and made merry together.5


Genealogies are imperative legitimizing mechanisms. We get to know from various accounts that Babur was inclined towards his Timurid side, but he did not negate his Chingizid lineage either. However, he argued that the stringent Chingizi Tura should be followed critically.6

Ruby Lal has rightly pointed out that the histories of Humayun’s time do not indicate the insistence on the Timurid identity that we notice in the Baburnama. She argues that the stern approach to an intricate code of conduct might have been a part of a search for a new identity, an element of which was certainly Timurid. But no particular emphasis was given to Timurid identity by Humayun.7 For Humayun, the assimilation of Chingizid-Timurid ways was of another order - part of a shared conception of aristocracy and good demeanour. Adab is continuously referred to in the histories of his time. Khwandamir uses the word ‘adab’ in a variety of ways in his Qanun-i-Humayuni. There were many other instances in the Humayuni histories that designated close attention to the rules of privilege, hierarchy and right conduct.


Humayun maintained his distance and remained at the pedestal as a king. During his period, there was a more defined code of eating etiquette. The court had grown to the novel, grandiose proportions in comparison to earlier times. In fact, etiquettes were emphasized, especially in Humayuni chronicles in a way it was never mentioned before. We witness an elaborate description of the various feasts and dinners, especially the seating arrangements. Communal eating and dish sharing were highlighted and no discerning reader would fail to notice how well-differentiated treatments according to the rank of privileges existed. The boundaries between individuals ‘around the table’ were increasingly emphasized and policed. As a matter of fact, Humayun was very particular about his food and drinks. Once he punished Mehter Dula for breaking his flask of lemon juice.8 Jauhar Aftabchi was appointed the water carrier by Humayun, only because his predecessor was too preoccupied with his family to attend to his duties.9


During Akbar’s time we see a more detailed elaboration of the code of etiquette. The court chronicles created a profusely meticulous, virtuous and masculine image for Akbar which included careful dietary habits, including preferred vegetarianism and abstinence from wine showing his moderation and self-control. The individuality of his distinguished presence itself derived legitimacy and stability to the kingdom. He believed that knowledge and care for proper consumption of food were necessary, as strength of body, capability of external and internal blessings and acquisition of worldly and religious affairs depended on it apart from ‘distinguishing man from beast.’10


Both Abul Fazl and Monserrate mention that Akbar used to dine in private, that too, only once in the course of the whole day, except on the occasion of a public banquet where he remained seated on a high golden throne approached by steps.11 According to Massimo Montanari who believed a reason for the Chief to eat ‘alone’ was to establish clearly, his otherness, and to distinguish between his persona and role and the courtiers’ who surrounded him. According to him, separation is necessary unless the purpose is to express symbolically the absence of hierarchical standing, democratic nature of the group, and that of the ‘table’ around which it gathers.12

Babur had to be careful after crushing Lodhi in 1526. When he ascended to the throne of Delhi, he was cautious in hiring his kitchen staff but he did not fire all the Hindustani cooks who served in Lodhi’s kitchen.13 However, this kindness proved fatal, since acting on the advice of the mother of the ousted prince, a kitchen servant sprinkled poison in Babur’s food. Somehow, this went unnoticed and unchecked, and Babur swallowed the food, but vomited instantly before the poison could take effect.  The eating arrangements underwent changes. Humayun was in exile for a long period and was quite careful about what he ate. In 1542, on his march towards Qandahar, Humayun and his men were short of supplies and eatables, and decided to kill a horse for food. Aware of what had happened with his father earlier, he roasted the horse himself before consuming its meat to fill his appetite.14


Akbar ate alone and, on feasts and festivities, distant and away from the rest of the crowd. The number and variety of domestic officials grew, and particular officials were given specific roles, explicitly in-charge of personally regulating access to the imperial kitchens and preventing any attempt on the king’s life, serving drinks and water, in charge of calling the order and tasting etc., creating tactics and defenses to shield their person and power against antagonistic undertakings carried out using food as a vehicle. However, it was not that Akbar had no close associates, and Abul Fazl mentions that Akbar often stated that he did not enjoy his meals on account of Humam’s [son of Mir Abdur Rassaq of Gilan] absence.15

During Akbar’s period, the Waqiahnawis 16 kept a record of the etiquette being followed in the State Hall and Akhlaq [moral] literatures were read out to Akbar every day, 17 which meant that the court etiquettes and protocols were important to him and so were dining etiquettes and regulation in the mode of eating. According to Harbans Mukhia, it was mostly for maintaining the image of virile masculinity and to follow modes of orderly elite behaviour.18 Etiquette and the distinction in ranks of honour was very significant, evident from the long passages in Ain-i-Akbari by Abul Fazl emphasizing the inevitability of maintaining the sanctity of ranks at the court19 and mentions of unbound favours by Akbar on people who followed good manners and had courteous behaviour, such as Mubariz ud din Mir Muhammad Khan Bahadur.20 In fact, Arabs were mocked for their boorish eating habits and gluttony.21



We get to see a huge shift from the casual, informal and boorish royal get together and parties in peripatetic and moving life of Babur to the period of Humayun where he had to maintain his imperial position for which he created a pedestal where courtly etiquette copiously made a difference. Also, the exclusivity of the king and his distance from others came to matter a lot, and these tendencies were structurally reinforced in Akbar’s time. Throughout all these shifts, several dining etiquettes remained the same, but the early Mughal period saw important innovations, as well, in the culinary and dining etiquettes in the imperial court culture.


Seating Arrangements

Seating arrangements were significant as a part of etiquette. We observe quite a lot of detailed description of dining and feasts that shed light on the significance of seating arrangements. Hirschman stated that one of the main issues in manuals of good manners and etiquette was seating arrangements because they reflect or sanction precedence.22 Most of the times, we see that rank and order played a huge role in defining the hierarchy and power protocol. Ritual constituted sovereignty, and gastronomy was an important part of the rituals of the state. Seating arrangements formed crucial elements of the plan, indicating the importance of the norms of comportment. A seat was not to be assigned at random. The placement of a person served to signal the importance and prestige of that individual. In fact, there are instances when assigned seat to individuals were ‘supposedly’ found unworthy of their social rank and they did not fail to protest.23


According to Mukhia, honour was differentially assigned to spaces on the right and left sides of the emperor; being allowed to stand or sit on one or the other was acutely observed as indicative of either status or the ruler favour or disfavour. The left was considered inferior to the right in several medieval civilizations.24 It generally meant that if a person was on the right side, he was approved of a place of honour and dignity and adorned a highly exalted position in the kingdom. Similarly, if the right hand side symbolized the place of righteousness and exaltation, the usual metaphor of the left hand side was the opposite, an accused, ritually inferior place.


The seating arrangements were crucial in early Mughal India in forging household and familial relations, and, more importantly, in reinforcing hierarchies and intimacies in the spaces of the household. For e.g. When Babur described his reception by Badruzzaman Mirza in 1506 on his trip to Harat, he particularly mentioned that he was made to sit on a set in the right-hand place of honour whereas Jahangir Mirza and Abdur-Razzaq Mirza were made to sit on a lower divan and even a good deal lower, were Muhammed Baranduq Beg, Za’nnun Beg and Qasim Beg.25 Likewise, Jauhar also mentions how in 1543-44, in a feast organized by Shah Tahmasp for Humayun, Shah had Humayun sit on the right side on the same cushion on which he himself was sitting.26 This meant that they shared solidarity and cordial relationship and that the Shah had accepted the guest as his equal.

When Babur gave a feast [after the defeat of Ibrahim Lodi and in acknowledgment of the victory over Rana Sanga] the guests from Farghana-Timurid and Chingiz-khanid kinsfolk came to celebrate Babur’s victory. It was adorned by the presence of Qizil-bash [Red-head] who sat on his right, and the Auzbeg, who sat on his left side.27


We see a parallel custom being followed during Humayun’s time period as well. At the Mystic feast, Gulbadan Begum specifically mentions that all the paternal aunts were made to sit on the right whereas the left-hand guests have not been specified. The guests were mainly descendants of the Timurid and Chingiz dynasty- royal princes and princesses of Mawarannahr and Khurasan.28 This showed the importance given to both the paternal and maternal lineages.


It is worthwhile to notice here the difference in the narrative of a feast in 1548, covered by both Gulbadan and Jauhar, when Mirza Kamran had come to Humayun and asked for forgiveness, had excuses for his past conduct and expressed regret. According to Jauhar, Humayun had Kamran sit on the right,29 but according to Gulbadan Begum, Humayun made Kamran sit on the left [which she described as a place of honour] and also asked Kamran in Turki [language of the family] to sit close by him.30 In 1552-3, as mentioned by Jauhar, Kamran was handed over to Humayun by Sultan Adam, the Ghicker chief and Humayun received him graciously and had him sit down on the bed on his right hand, and the young Prince Akbar on his left hand.31 It was just before he was blinded for his rebellions and various wrongs. It could be to display that Kamran held more importance to Humayun than his own son and hence he was made to sit on the right side and Akbar on the left.

During Akbar’s period, when Mirza Sulaiman came to Fathepur to meet Akbar, he gave Mirza a place ‘on the masnad of the empire by his own side.’32 During the feasts, the cup was always handed to the king from the right hand side only.


The seating arrangements depended on political and social hierarchies defined by rank and order. At the Harat trip, Muzaffar Mirza took Babur to a wine-party, where Babur particularly mentioned that he was given a place above anyone, including Muzaffar Mirza himself.33 Likewise, to elevate the enthusiasm of his men who were exhausted on reaching Hindustan, Babur threw a party in 1526. He summoned his companions and subordinate officials; 34 and each of them was assigned a proper place, according to their rank and position.


Seniority also had its perks and privileges. At the Mystic feast, during Humayun’s period, we see that the king and the senior lady sat together on the special Devan. The seating arrangement was not done in an arbitrary fashion but according to the proper status and place of their occupants.35


It has rightly been pointed out by Mukhia that the permission to wash one’s hands in the same ewer as the kings, even for his siblings, was an honour. Also, age difference between male relatives could moderate the demands of courtly etiquette if the ties of sovereignty did not intervene.36 In the case of France, as has been argued by Elias, those higher in rank were given precedence while washing the hand before and/or after meals.37 This was true for the Mughals as well. In 1548, Humayun, Mirza Kamran, Mirza Askari, Mirza Hindal, and Mirza Sulaiman [brother by courtesy and custom] sat in a tent to eat together. Humayun asked to bring ewer and basin so that they may wash their hands and eat together. He was the first person to wash his hands, and he was followed by Mirza Kamran. Mirza Kamran washed his hands from the same ewer. Mirza Sulaiman (b. 920H.) was older than Mirza Askari (b. 922H.) and Mirza Hindal (b. 925H.), and so, out of deference to him, the two brothers set the ewer and basin first before him. After washing his hands, Mirza Sulaiman did something improper with his nose, which was disliked by Mirza Askari and Mirza Hindal.38 Then the two Mirzas went and washed their hands outside and came back and sat down. Mirza Sulaiman was very much ashamed. Some natural functions which were once tolerated at the table – belching, breaking wind, wagging nose, etc. – increasingly become a source of shame, a ‘fear of social degradation or, more generally, of other people’s gestures of superiority.’39 Taking cue from Elias, we could argue that the key feature in the historical trajectory of table etiquette was the increasing threshold of shame and embarrassment that was attached to certain actions.


Constraints were not just limited to certain established etiquette, but also on certain things which otherwise seemed trivial. The amount of water to be used for washing hands also found mention in the manuals and rule books.  Once Humayun had ordered a banquet in honour of the Maulavi Makhdumi Arif Jami and Maulavi Abdul Ghafur Lari [Akhund (tutor) to Bairam Khan]. With his own hands, he took the ewer while Bairam Khan took the basin intending to pour the water over his hands; seeing this the Akhund asked Humayun, if he knew Mir Habibullah, the grandson of Mir Saiyyid Jamalud Din. Made aware of his high position, Humayun thereupon carried the ewer to the Mir, who, with the extreme confusion, poured half of the entire contents of the ewer over his hands, after which the Akhund washed his hands, as well. At this time, Humayun inquired as to how much water is instructed by the Sunnat to be poured over the hands, they replied so much as is necessary to clean the hands.40


Sharing Food and Drinks

According to Fischer, commensality produces bonding, making commensals more alike and bringing them closer to each other.41According to Montanari, to share food, is in medieval language an almost technical way of signifying that one belongs to the same family. On all social levels, sharing a table is the first sign of membership in a group - each brotherhood, guild, or association confirms its own collective identity at the table.42 Sharing food signify [or creates] affection.


We often see the king sharing his food with his fellow mate, brother or his servant, sometimes out of scarcity or need – Once, in 1526, Babur invited Fath Khan Sherwani, a cowed Afghan commander, to a majlis to share wine, and ‘ennobled him with the regard and favour’ of Babur’s own clothes and turban before allowing him to return to his old estates.43


Humayun provided a Mughal merchant his own water in the deserts of Gujarat in 1541.44 The merchant was fatigued and owing to extreme thirst, had fallen down on the road. Incidentally, the merchant had to cancel his debt to Humayun in exchange for the water provided by Humayun.


It was not just the king who shared his food with his servants and officials. We also come across instances where the case was quite the obverse - servants sharing their food with their sovereign. Humayun maintained a formal and hierarchical relationship with his servants. And, yet Jauhar shared his water with Humayun when, on an expedition to Ouch, his throat had dried of the thirst and the water in his ewer had all been already consumed earlier.45


In the Mughal court culture, sharing water with a thirsty person was an act of immense virtue. It didn’t matter if the person happened to be an enemy of the state. We come across several instances where the Mughal emperor reprimanded his noble for refusing water to a rebel. In Akbar’s time when Muhammad Husain Mirza was brought in a prisoner, one of his officials called, the tuyuldar of Korrah, refused him water, despite his repeated pleadings. When this came to Akbar’s notice, he gave him some of his own water, and reprimanded Farhat Khan for his cruelty.46 In another incident, narrated by Badauni, when the horse of a rebel, Daud Khan got stuck in a swamp, and Hasan Beg surrounded him, and brought him to Khan Jahan. Daud Khan being overcome with thirst, asked for water! They filled his slipper with water and brought it to him, clearly to humiliate him. When Khan-i-Jahan came to know of it, he gave the order that he should be provided water from his kitchen.47


In Mughal court culture, sharing of food and drinks had a symbolic connotation, and signified relations of friendship and companionship. An interesting Afghan legend finds mention in the Appendices of Baburnama, where Yusufzai Malik Ahmad, anticipating execution at the hands of Babur, visited Babur’s court, and in a show of humility, unbuttoned his jerkin, as if to suggest his willingness to die at his hands. This show of humility impressed Babur so much that he not only forgive him, but also decided to have drinks with him. Three times, one after the other Babur filled his cup and after drinking a portion, gave the rest to Ahmad. The gesture was symbolic and was intended to emphasize the hierarchical nature of their new found friendship. It was Babur who controlled the distribution and consumption of drinks, and determined the quantity that Ahmad would consume. At the same time, with a view to highlight the strength of his friendship, Babur did let himself loose, danced ecstatically, and asked Ahmad to reward him on his dance performance. In a show of ritual inversion, Babur opened his palm three times before Ahmad, and each time, he dropped a gold coin into his open hand. Babur took the coins, each time placing his hand on his head- a gesture of blessing. He then gave his robe to Ahmad; Ahmad took off his own coat, gave it to Adu the musician, and put on the robe that Babur had given him.48 According to Mukhia, of all the gifts, the gift of the robe was the most coveted. It was a symbol to show that an authorized portion of the king’s power, prestige and authority is extended to the person.49 He also mentioned that a gift of robe from the Emperor’s own wardrobe, and especially off him, was made for an extraordinary act of favour or in appreciation of some exceptional deed of service to the empire.


During Humayun’s reign, we see instances where the sovereign shared part of his food or drink as a symbol of love and gratitude. Shah Tahmasp, presented Humayun with two apples50 and a knife, and placing a ring on the King's finger, gave him leave to recover Hindustan. Shah commanded Prince Bahrain to accompany Humayun till the place where his tents were pitched. When they came within sight of the tents, the Prince requested his dismissal; upon which Humayun, having cut an apple in two, gave one piece to Bahrain, and ate the other himself.51 The sharing of the fruit here represented the strength of his feelings for Shah Tahmasp and his family.

Father Monserrate mentions how Akbar sent him dishes from his own table on several occasions – as a mark of distinction.52 Indeed, one of the ways through which the early Mughals honoured guests and subjects was by sharing their food with them. Father Monserrate rightly saw the gesture on the past of Akbar as a rare privilege.


Communal Eating and Hospitality

Babur did not believe in the inimitability of a king, and for him social intercourse and shared meal were necessary for a ruler. He berates the Indians for not even sharing meals with each other and for failing to enjoy the benefits of the ‘convivial society and social intercourse.’53 When he renounced wine, it was not the wine but the company that he missed the most.


In collective dining rituals, the meaning of particular gestures resides in the elaboration of rules. According to Montanari, an essential aspect of eating together was that of ‘sharing out’ food. The serving of one piece of food rather than another is never casual [unless, once again, one deliberately seeks to express an absence of hierarchy]. Rather, it reproduces relationships of power and prestige within the group.54 Douglas too claimed that patterns of food sharing articulated the communal associations in a culture. The code of food sharing revealed ‘hierarchy, inclusion and exclusion, boundaries and transactions across the boundaries.’55 The acts of sitting down to eat together expressed these tensions by highlighting who is doing the sharing, who is participating and who is excluded. The dining rituals serve to reproduce relationships of dependence, suppress upheavals and keep clients in their place. Being a guest involves more than the right to observe or even consume some of what is being served. This is perhaps most evident when one considers people who are physically present at a feast, but who are nonetheless not considered guests. These may include those who serve or prepare the meal or musicians and dancers who stage performances. Although the excluded may evince resentment, 56 rulers’ feast binds political alliances, and creates affinities, retinues’ patronage networks and household aristocracies.


Commensal events craft, sustain or reproduce a varied variety of social relationships.57 For example, when we analyze Jauhar’s description of Shah Tahmasp’s feast for Humayun in 1543-44, we see from the details of the table lay-out, the respect he had for Humayun. The Shah had Humayun’s butler to lay the table.58 The gesture to involve his servant showed that Shah had faith in the capabilities of the choice made by Humayun. Accompanied with trumpets and ostentations, the feast was a symbolic celebrations of the sovereignty of the host, Shah Tahmasp. The same feast has been also described by Abul Fazl in Akbarnama. Expectedly, Abul Fazl’s description has a tinge of exaggeration, but he does mention that everything was done in accordance with the prescribed rules. Shah took great care in getting all the beverages examined.59 In fact, to make everybody comfortable, he had asked the servants to leave the place so that the guests are not constrained by their presence and could help themselves with as many drinks as they wished! Apart from rare fruits and sherbets, there were varieties of dishes presented to Humayun, sometimes 500 and other times going up to 1200.60 In fact, the cordiality was not just limited to food, feasts and entertainments, but he also made the governor of the province [wilayat] to chaperon Humayun up to Herat, not neglecting the minutest points of amenity and attendance.

Having accepted an invitation, the person who is a guest at someone else’s table is obliged to return it by hosting the person who invited her/him. Similarly, when Humayun invited the Shah, he made sure that Shah had nothing to complain about. The feast was arranged to the absolute satisfaction of the Shah! 61


According to Marcel Mauss, the reciprocity of feast could be viewed as a particular form of gift exchange that generates the same relations of mutual obligation between host and guest as between donor and receiver in the exchange of other more durable types of objects. The major difference here is that food is destroyed once it is ingested in the body. This is a literal ‘embodiment’ or ‘amalgamation’ of the gift and the social obligation that it provokes is marked by a relationship that is reinforced by food exchanges and return feasts. Of course, unlike durable valuables, the food consumed cannot be re-circulated [or reinvested] in other gift exchange relationships, but like gift they serve to reinforce inter- and intra- community relations.62


Both Shah and Humayun always did their best to entertain their guests by arranging artists, music, liquor and the most expensive crockery. These efforts were not just to please the guest, but to maintain their prestige and honour as hosts, as well.


During Akbar’s time, both Abul Fazl and Monserrate describe the elaborate procedure of food arrangements, cooking, responsibilities of the Mir Bakawal [Chief- in-cook] and the elaborate well laid out table, consisting of more than forty courses served in gold and silver utensils.63 The gastronomy in Akbar’s reign served to highlight and reaffirm imperial authority and grandeur. The food trays and utensils were covered and wrapped in linen cloths which spoke of the rich materiality of the court, tied up and sealed by the cook, for fear of poison. The servants of the palace tasted the food twice, spread the tablecloth on the ground, and arranged the dishes; and when Akbar commenced to dine, the table servants sat opposite him in attendance. Before having his food, Akbar used to put some food apart as the share of the dervishes. This was a ritual that was intended to affirm the ruler’s care for his poor subjects. Nizamuddin Ahmad, a historian of Akbar’s time says: ‘One day when Akbar was dining, it occurred to him that probably the eyes of some hungry one had fallen upon the food, how, therefore could he eat it while the hungry were debarred from it? He therefore gave orders that every day some hungry persons should be fed with some of the food prepared for himself and afterwards he should be served.’64


A custom of offering paan to guests was well-known in Mughal India. According to Eraly, it was a norm of polite behaviour in the Mughal court culture to offer paan to guests. It was an established convention to call for paan when the visitors decided to hit the road; the exchange of paan indicated the termination of the meeting. Similarly, when a servant of any consequence was dismissed from service, it was customary to give him paan as a gesture of goodwill.65 For instance, Rai Man Singh Deohra, the chief of Sirohi, in accordance with the Indian custom, gave pan to Rajput envoys at the time of the dismissal and bid them adieu.66 In fact, according to Abul Fazl, in Hindistani culture, eating betel was the means by which persons [both men and women] adorned themselves.67


Dining Aesthetics and Rituals

Display of power was necessary for the Mughals in their efforts to consolidate their rule in India. Organizing pompous feasts and drinking parties on a grand scale, was one of the ways to do so! As Robin Fox puts it, ‘next to showing off military hardware, showing off food is the best way to impress the ‘outsider.’’68 These events of feasts and the ‘conspicuous consumption’69 of aesthetically rich food and drinks, were an affirmation of Mughal imperial power and a public display of imperial grandeur.  


The general presentation of the feasts to the world included splendid and lavish food, table settings, ritual and spectacle of all kinds. Incidentally, these presentations in a way, defined the courtly class. Meals served on special occasions were ‘an interesting indicator of the mode of self-presentation adopted in ‘‘showing off’ a life-style.’70  Good aesthetic sense and sensory experiences was considered as the forte of the high class as they had more power, wealth and choices to explore and improve the taste of their meal. To emphasis on style and convert food to an object of art was in essence a means to demonstrate exclusivity and esteem.

Culinary parameters such as the amount of food, the number of dishes and quality of the food, its origin [local or exported], cooking modes, kinds of drinks, drinking paraphernalia, styles of drinking and consumption practices, the efforts invested in the presentation of the food not only determined the status and prestige of the host but also gave meaning to the social-political value of the event. For instance, Babur recounts how he longed for his favourite fruits from his native Ferghana valley and dispatched a small army of men from Delhi to Kabul to fetch a seasonal supply.71 Visibly, power, money and accompanying organizational means were applied. Abul Fazl mentions how Bairam Khan got 3000 drinking cups and 700 porcelain dishes of various colours from the travelling-stores of Pir Muhammad Khan, to serve Akbar, while they were on an itinerary.72


In these chronicles, reference to various kinds of bread, saucers of curds, plates of pickles, fresh ginger, limes and various greens as supplements to the main dishes, various spices, dry fruits and saffron as taste enhancers and pan or betel nuts as mouth fresheners at the end of the meal, has been made. Abul Fazl describes the recipes of various dishes which he categorized into three broad types – those without meat, the ones with meat and rice and those meat savoured with spices.73 The victuals were served in dishes of gold and silver bowls, plates and dishes. China, porcelain and copper vessels were also used and often tinned. It is obvious that such a large functioning of the royal kitchen required a huge establishment of skilled cooks, procurers of supplies, unskilled workers etc. Abul Fazl further describes the functions of the head of the kitchen, Mir Bakwal, and his assistants. Cooks from various places were appointed to assist the Mir Bakwal. Best items and groceries were used, for example, Sukhdas rice from Bahraich,  Dewzirah rice from Gwaliar, Jinjin rice from Rajori and Nimlah, ghi from Hicar Firuzah; ducks, water-fowls, and certain vegetables from Kashmir.74 Means of preservation was also well known. Often the meat was dried and preserved for special occasions.75 The sheep, goats, berberies, fowls and ducks were fattened by the cooks and fowls were never kept for more than a month.76


Both Humayun and Akbar were very specific about their palates, hygiene and health. Humayun seemed fond of lemon sherbet, which his servants had to carry on all his excursions.77 The royalty, generally used ornate silver and gold drinking vessels and goblets to symbolize their wealth and prosperity, however Humayun emphasized more on intricacies and aesthetics. In a feast, he ordered the carriers to bring all royal drinks in glass goblets to the assembly, so that the tastes of the members of the assembly should not be disturbed by flies, dust or rubbish that may have fallen into the drinks; and they should be favoured and safeguarded by having clear and pure beverages to drink.78

Akbar were very particular about the quality of water that he consumed.  He chose to drink water only from the Ganga and called it - the source of life ‘the water of immortality.’79 During his reign, food was cooked in rain water or water taken from the Jamnah and the Chanab, mixed with a little Ganges water.


The early Mughal chronicles have often complained of the scorching hot weather of Hindustan. The early Mughals, brought ice and snow to the plains from the northern mountains, by land and water, from the district of Panhan, about forty-five kos from Lahor.80 Also, saltpetre was extensively used to keep the water cool. The whole process of cooling water through saltpetre has been described by Abul Fazl.81


Social prestige was associated with certain foods. The degree of social prestige given to particular food stuff not only affected the demand for it, but also influenced the way in which it was prepared. Meat and wine were definitely a high prestige food which played a role in the distinction of class boundaries and served as the embodiment of class identities shaping both the development of tastes and styles of consumption, as well.


Large mammals often have a pre-eminent role among feasting foods and can be used as a prestige item because of their high rank as an economic food item and its high value.82 Prestige may be obtained from a food item's exotic nature and related high procurement cost, or from the contribution of the food item, as a high return thing. It also works as an instrument for glorification and status display. We have many references where the flesh of horses was served at banquets held by Timur83 and Mongols84 but in Mughal period, we see a reference where often, when no other choice was left, i.e. in case of lack of foodstuff or famine, people were reduced to eat horse flesh.85 Interestingly, the flesh of the wild boar and the tiger was acceptable because it was believed that the courage, which these two animals possess, would be transmitted to anyone who fed on such meat.86 Apart from that, camels, sheep, deer, goats, cows, peacocks, fowls, ducks etc. were eaten as well.


The Memoirs of Babur reflected his fondness for wine, where apart from his references to various drinking parties, he gave elaborate descriptions and comparisons of flavour and quality of various wines in Kabul.87 He appreciated Bukhara wine the most, asserting that it was the strongest made in Mawaraunnahr.88 His interest in flavours and tastes of wine is evident even before he started drinking. Many a times, his judgments was not based on his own experience of drinking but on the opinion of others on flavours of wine.


‘Kabul wines are heady, those of the Khwaja Khawand Said hill-skirt being famous for their strength; at this time however I can only repeat the praise of others about



The flavour of the wine a drinker knows;

What chances have sober men to know it?’89


There are many instances around wine parties and feasts which help us to understand eating and drinking rituals. For example, during Babur’s Harat trip, at Muzaffar Mirza's wine party,90 when Babur was offered wine, he was hindered by etiquette to show deference to the elder brother; he couldn’t have first taken wine from Muzaffar Mirza without offending his older brother, Badruzzaman Mirza, and so the moment was postponed until the two Harat Timurids would jointly entertain him.91 In another incident, at a party thrown by Badruzzaman Mirza for Babur, he was asked to carve a set of roasted goose. He didn’t touch it because he had never carved a bird before. According to Stephen Dale, it could be a social skill that he did not possess and probably did not even realize until then that he lacked. 92 This might be a common practice performed by the Timurids, a tradition followed during communal dining, where animal food came to the table with their natural origin and preparatory skinning, feathering, and disjointing, practice was carried out in company. No reference of Mughals practicing the same has been mentioned anywhere. Elias mentions how, from a standard of feeling by which the sight and carving of a dead animal on the table which was experienced as pleasurable, later changed with developments leading to another standard by which reminders, that the meat dish has something to do with the killing of an animal was avoided altogether.93 In fact, during Akbar’s time, the slaughter-house was moved away from the city or the camp, near rivers and tanks, where the slaughtered animals could be washed, and then sent to the kitchen in sacks sealed by the cooks, to be washed again.94


Usually, the transgressions of a drunk person were ignored, but this was not always the case. Referring to a wine party in Oct, 1519, Babur mentions one, Gadal Bihjat was so drunk that he began using foul language and ultimately lost his senses. His transgressions were forgiven by Babur. Indeed, the indecorous behaviour after drunkenness was forgiven on account of the befuddled effect of the wine and such excesses were not unusual in wine parties. However, in another wine party in Jan 1520, Asas, Hasan Aikirik and Masti, got quite drunk and created disturbances and did unpleasant things that made others uncomfortable. Visibly irritated, Babur wanted to throw them into the pool, but restrained.95 Clearly, improper drunk behaviour was not accepted every time, and when the imperial servants transgressed their limits, especially in the presence of the king, they were duly punished!96 We see dissimilarities in expected conduct during and after drinking in these two cases. Dietler refers to ‘behavioural distinctions’, 97 i.e. how a person is expected to conduct himself physically during and after drinking, including such things as acceptable signs of intoxication or anticipated modes of drunken conduct and serving or being served.


Bhargava and Chatterjee mention how class distinction and cultural differences were created according to the quality and assessment of different varieties of alcohols.98 While in Kabul, Babur came across different kinds of wine and once decided to taste particularly kafir wine, commonly used by the kafirs of the Tumans [sub-divisions]. He didn’t like the taste of the wine and was compelled to abandon the idea of drinking while in Bajaur, preferring majun, instead.99 This entire description reveals Babur’s curiosity to know the ways of the people of Kabul but then his decision to reject local drinks reflected the cultural difference he felt, between him and the common men in Kabul.


When Humayun visited the Kabul fort where Kamran was hiding, Rukaiya Begum [Babur’s widow] served him with beef broth, and a curry made of the same meat with vegetables.100 Beef played a minor role in the medieval royal cuisine. Being the cheapest and coarsest meat available, it was not regarded luxurious enough for the royal palate.101 Humayun was furious when he saw beef on the table, and angrily asked, ‘Could Kamran not afford to keep a few goats for her subsistence?’102 Clearly, he associated beef with disregard and neglect by Kamran for Rukaiya Begum’s deteriorated subsistence, amounting to an affront to her dignity, and in agony asked, ‘Could not we, his four sons, support his relict as he did?’103


The food that was laid out on the table had prestige value, as has been suggested by Levi-Strauss, to each dish was attached a different level of prestige.104 With what one served on the table, one would, in Mughal court culture, honour or dishonour a person, his household and community.105


Early Mughal dining etiquette and aesthetics symbolized hierarchy, acted as a social differentiator and functioned to buttress the prestige and distinctiveness of the ruling dynasty. Seating arrangements, sharing food and drinks, commensal dining aesthetics formed crucial elements of dining rituals, suggesting the significance of norms and demeanour. Mughal imperial power and public display of imperial grandeur was instated through consumption of aesthetically rich food and drinks. According to the quality and assessment of different varieties, each dish was attached with a different level of prestige and class distinction. The emphasis on style and presentation of food was a way to demonstrate exclusivity and esteem. Code of conduct and etiquette were stressed and were crucially tied to gastronomy, serving to stress the complex and deep inter- connections between rituals, food and power.



1.       Elias Norbert. The Civilizing Process: State Formation and      Civilization. Blackwell. Oxford, 1982: p. 72.

2.       Olden–Jorgensen S. State ceremonial, court culture and political power in early modern Denmark, 1536–1746. Scandinavian Journal of History. 27; 2002: p. 65.

3.       Mennell S. All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present. Basil Blackwell. Oxford; 1985: p. 108.

4.       Elias Norbert. The Civilizing process: The History of Manners. (Trans.) Edmund Jephcott. Basil Blackwell, England.  1978

5.       ‘One day we crossed the water by way of an excursion, cooked food and made merry with the braves and pages.’ Babur. Baburnama (Memoirs of Babur). I. (Trans) A. S. Beveridge.  Lusac & Co. London. 1970: p. 156;

          ‘Having spent the night somewhere, we found a fat camel belonging to the Hazaras, had it killed, made part of its flesh into kababs [brochettes, meat cut into large mouthfuls, spitted and roasted.] and cooked part in a ewer [aftab] Such good camel–flesh had never been tasted; some could not tell it from mutton.’, Ibid., p. 251;

          ‘Till the Bed–time Prayer I sat through that blizzard of snow and wind in the dug–out, the snow–fall being such that my head, back, and ears were overlaid four hands thick. The cold of that night affected my ears. At the Bed–time Prayer some–one, looking more carefully at the cave, shouted out, ‘It is a very roomy cave with place for every–body.’ On hearing this I shook off my roofing of snow and, asking the braves near to come also, went inside. There was room for 50 or 60! People brought out their rations, cold meat, parched grain, whatever they had. From such cold and tumult to a place so warm, cosy and quiet! ‘, Ibid., p. 310 and various other drinking parties from 1508 to 1519;

          ‘The circular motion of the wine cups looked like the moving stars and it carried the sphere like assembly to the highest pitch of glory and the soul nourishing wine or the musical note brought the king [Babur] and his servants together comingling like sugar and milk; the people if the assembly had come together and were of one heat and contraries and opposite were inclined to be sociable and admixing.’, Zain Sheikh Khan. Tabaqat–i–Baburi. (Trans.) Sayed Hasan Askari. Idarah–i Adabiyat–i Delli. Delhi, 2009: p. 9; ‘Up till the time when the evening ending in mirth and pleasure opened its lips of indulgence from the roseate twilight, smile played upon the star like teeth of all, and the royal banquet resounded with the clarion call of draughts after draughts. The king and the soldiers forgot everything about kingship and servitude.’ Ibid., p. 10.

6.       During his dinner with Badruzzaman Mirza, Babur says that even though it wasn’t a social gathering, cooked viands were brought in, drinkables were set with the food, and near them gold and silver cups. He stated that they followed the Chingiz–tura [ordinance], doing nothing opposed to it, whether in assembly or Court, in sittings–down or risings–up. But he stated his own point of view asserting that his code is not a nass qati [categorical text] that a person must follow. Whenever one leaves a good custom, it should be followed but if ancestors leave a bad custom, it is necessary to substitute it, with a good one.  Babur. Baburnama. I. pp. 298–299.

7.       Lal Ruby. Domesticity and Power in the early Mughal World. Cambridge University Press, New York. 2005.

8.       Jauhar Aftabchi. Tazkirat–al–Waqiat, or Private Memoirs of the Emperor Humayun. (Trans.) Charles S. Stewart. Cleveland Row, London. 1972: p. 62.

9.       Ibid., pp. 111–112.

10.    Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. I. (Trans.) H. Blochmann and Colonel H. S. Jarrett. Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta. 1873 – 1907: pp. 57–59.

11.    Monserrate. Commentary of Father Monserrate: S.J, On His Journey to the Court Of Akbar. (Trans.) J.S Hoyland and S.N Banerjee (Ed.). London. 1922: pp. 175, 199.

12.    Montanari Massimo. Food is Culture. Columbia University Press, New York. 2006.

13.    Babur. Baburnama. II. p. 541.

14.    Gulbadan Begum. Humayunnama. (Trans.) Mrs A.S Beveridge. The Royal Asiatic Society, London. 1902: pp. 166–167.

15.    Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. I. p. 474.

16.    ‘Their duty is to write down the orders and the doings of His Majesty and whatever the heads of the department’s report; what His Majesty eats and drinks; when he sleeps, and when he rises; the etiquette in the State hall; the time His Majesty spends in the Harem; when he goes to the general and private assemblies; the nature of hunting–parties; the slaying of animals; [Akbar wished to restrict the slaying of animals], when he marches, and when he halts; the acts of His Majesty as the spiritual guide of the nation; vows made to him; his remarks (vide Fifth Book); what books he has read out to him; what alms he bestows; what presents he makes; the daily and monthly exercises [especially fasts] which he imposes on himself; appointments to mansabs; contingents of troops.’ Ibid., p.  258.

17.    O’Hanlon Rosalind. Kingdom, Household and Body History, Gender and Imperial Service under Akbar. Modern Asian Studies. 41; 2007: p. 894.

18.    Mukhia Harbans. The Mughals of India. Wiley-Blackwell,      Oxford. 2004

19.    ‘It is therefore necessary for just kings, to make themselves first acquainted with the rank and character of men, by the light of insight and penetration, and then to regulate business accordingly. And hence it is that the sages of ancient times have said that princes who wear the jewel of wisdom, do not appoint every low man to their service; that they do not consider everyone who has been appointed, to be deserving of daily admittance; that those who are thus favoured, are not therefore deemed worthy to sit with them on the carpet of intercourse; that those who are worthy of this station, are not necessarily admitted to the pavilion of familiar address; that those who have this privilege, are not therefore allowed to sit in the august assembly; that those upon whom this ray of good fortune falls, are not therefore let into their secrets; and that those who enjoy the happiness of this station, are not therefore fit for admission into the Cabinet Council.’ in Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. I. (Trans.) H. Blochmann and Colonel H. S. Jarrett. Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta. 1873 – 1907: Abul Fazl’s Preface.

          Chapter: ‘On Etiquette’, in Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. I. p. 159.

20.    Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. I. p. 170.

21.    Two verses from the Shahnamah, which Firdausí gives as part of a story, were fre­quently quoted at court—

          From eating the flesh of camels and lizards,

          The Arabs have made such progress,

          That they now wish to get hold of the kingdom of Persia.

          Fie upon Fate! Fie upon Fate!

          Badauni. Muntakhab–al–Tawarikh. II (Trans.) Ranking. Lowe and Haig, Delhi. 1980: p. 319.

          Saadat Ali Khan was killed in 988 in a fight with the rebel, Arab Bahadur. It is said that, Arab drank some of his blood. Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. I. p. 427.

22.    Hirschman A. Melding the public and private spheres: Taking commensality seriously. Critical Review 10(4); 1996: pp. 533–50.

23.    An interesting incident was when Abul Maali felt insulted when he didn’t get the same position given by Humayun, in the court of Akbar. He sent a message to Akbar stating that at the qamargha [ring–hunt] in Jui Shahi he ate with Humayun in the same place and off the same plate whereas Akbar’s portion [alush] was sent to him whereas here a separate rug and a  separate tablecloth was put down for him. Akbar sent a message to him stating that the regulations of State and the laws of love are distinct, he doesn’t enjoy the same position now that he had with Humayun, in Abul Fazl. The Akbarnama. I. (Trans.) H. Beveridge. Baptist Missionary Press, Calcutta. 1897 – 1939: p. 662.

24.    Various examples are as follows: In early Christianity ‘Jesus’ right hand was blessed and filled with holiness’ Reinkin GJ. Pseudo– Methodius: A concept of History in Response to the Rise of Islam in A. Cameron and L. Conrad (Eds.). The Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East. Vol I. Princeton. 1992: p. 172;

          And in later centuries, left was ‘in the medieval system of values always judged to be derogatory’. Fraesdorff David. The Power of Imagination: The Christianity as and the Pagan North during Conversion to Christianity (800– 1200). The Medieval History Journal. Special Issue. Exploring Alterity in Pre Modern Societies. Vol 5(2); 2002: p. 310;

          Among devout Hindus the left hand is the dirtier one and eating with it or even giving a gift with it would send shivers of horror from head to foot. In the Quran, God promises to place the virtuous ones on his right on the Day of Judgement and vicious ones on the left. The distinction was probably absorbed from pre Islamic Arab culture. In Mukhia. The Mughals of India. p. 93; 

          Babur records that in 1500 Shaibani Khan was visited by Sultan Ali Mirza at Samarqand. ‘The Khan, for his part, did not receive him very favourably; when they had seen one another, he seated him on his less honourable hand.’ Babur. Baburnama. I. p. 127  [The translator differs in view and believes that it was on his right hand side because The II.S. ii, 302 represents that 'All was well–received. After Shaibaq had had Zuhra’s overtures, he sent an envoy to 'Ali and Yahya; the first was not won over but the second fell in with his mother’s scheme. This difference of view explains why 'Ali slipped away while Yahya was engaged in the Friday Mosque'. It seems likely that mother and son alike expected their Auzbeg blood to stand them in good stead with Shaibaq which means that when all was received well as the translator believes to be, he was made to sit at the ‘place of honour’ which was right and according to Babur the relationship was strained and hence was made to sit at the ‘place of dishonour’ which was left];

          Later on Babur describes the right hand side as ‘the place of honour’ Babur. Baburnama. II. p. 566;

          Badauni tells us that when the poet Niyazi first made his appearance before Humayun,’ he stepped forward towards him at the levee with etiquette, he said, ‘the Mulla is left [handed]’ and commanded him to be led out again and brought forward a second time.’ Badauni. Muntakhab. III. p. 496.

25.    Babur. Baburnama. I. pp. 298–99.

26.    Jauhar. Tazkirat–al–Waqiat. pp. 62–65.

27.    Babur. Baburnama. II. pp. 630–34.

28.    Gulbadan Begum. Humayunnama. pp. 118– 124.

29.    Jauhar. Tazkirat–al–Waqiat. p. 92.

30.    Gulbadan Begum. Humayunnama. p. 42.

31.    Jauhar. Tazkirat–al–Waqiat. p. 104.

32.    Nizamuddin Ahmad Haravi. Tabaqat–i–Akbari. II. Bibliotheca Indica. Low Price Publications, Delhi. 1992: p. 478.

33.    Ibid., pp. 302–304.

34.    Khan. Tabaqat–i–Baburi. p. 146.

35.    Humayun and Khanzada Begam sat together. On Khanzada Begam’s right sat her paternal aunts, the daughters of Sultan Abu–Sa’id Mirza, upon another cushion sat the paternal aunts, the sisters of his Majesty and some others. Gulbadan Begum. Humayunnama. pp. 118–124.

36.    Mukhia. The Mughals of India. p. 80.

37.    Elias. The History of Manners.

38.    Mirza Askari and Mirza Hindal were much put out, and said: ‘What rusticity is this? First of all, what right have we to wash our hands in his Majesty's presence? But when he bestows the favour and gives the order, we cannot change it. What sense is there in these nose–wagging performances?’ Gulbadan Begum. Humayunnama. p. 187.

39.    Elias. The History of Manners. p. 292.

40.    Badauni. Muntakhab. I. p. 589.

41.    Fischler Claude. Commensality, Society and Culture. Social Science Information. 50; 2011: pp. 528–548.

42.    Montanari. Food is Culture. p. 94.

43.    Babur. Baburnama. II. p. 537.

44.    Jauhar. Tazkirat–al–Waqiat. p. 37.

45.    Ibid., p. 35.

46.    Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. I. p. 441.

47.    Badauni. Muntakhab. II. p. 245.

48.    Babur. Baburnama. II. Appendices (xxxviii).

49.    Mukhia. The Mughals of India. p. 104.

50.    According to Levi–Strauss, ‘the less the food is transformed, the higher its social status.’ The fruits that hang on trees for they rested in the air. Hence, they were widely consumed among social elites. Levi–Strauss Claude. The Raw and the Cooked. (Trans.) John and Doreen Weightman. Vol 1. Mythologiques. University of Chicago Press. 1964.  

          Supposedly fruit was the principle constituent of food in Central Asia, hence symbolically important too; as stated in Babur, Baburnama. I. p. 114.

          Also all early Mughal sources chronicled various descriptions on fruit, either when nostalgically remembering Samarkand, Kabul etc. or observing Hindustan.

51.    Jauhar. Tazkirat–al–Waqiat. p. 75.

52.    Monserrate. Commentary. pp. 48, 64.

53.    Babur. Baburnama. II. p. 518.

54.    Montanari. Food is culture.

55.    Douglas Mary. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. Routledge, New York. 2001

56.    One day Itabi came to the house of Qazi Ḥasan of Qazvin, who has the title of Khan, and the doorkeeper didn’t let him enter. Itabi grappled with him, entered the assembly, which was a party of friends who had sat down to food, and said to Qazi asan, ‘It was this food, that led you to cause your door to be shut in the face of a learned man, a foreigner, and you have a perfect right [to keep your food to yourself].’ In spite of all that, the master of the house and his guests tried to excuse themselves by saying that the doorkeeper had not recog­nized him. Itabi was not appeased, and refused to sit down and eat. Ibid., p. 381.

57.    Wiessner Polly. Food, Status, Culture and Nature. In Wiessner & Schifenhovel (Eds.). Food and the Status Quest. pp. 1–18.

58.    Jauhar. Tazkirat–al–Waqiat. p. 64.

59.    Abul Fazl. The Akbarnama. I. p. 421.

60.    Ibid., p. 423.

61.    The Persian monarch, and the guests having been seated, and the cup having repeatedly passed round, a tray of the fruit called the Royal Sachek [species unknown], was produced; on which Shah Tahmasp said, ‘who is to divide the Sacheks ?’ the King replied, ‘ whoever your Majesty shall order’, Tahmasp directed the chief eunuch to do so. The Khwaja then placed a whole one before the Persian monarch, a whole one before the King, and half a one before each of the other guests, [or a plate full before each of the monarchs.], Jauhar, Tazkirat–al–Waqiat, p. 74.

62.    Mauss Marcel. The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. Norton, New York. 1967

63.    Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. I. pp. 58–59; Monserrate. Commentary. p. 199.

64.    Nizamuddin Ahmad. Tabaqat–i Akbari. II. p. 519.

65.    Eraly Abraham. The Mughal World: Life in India’s Last Golden Age. Penguin books, New Delhi. 2007.    

66.    Abul Fazl. The Akbarnama. III. p. 7.

67.    A chapter on ‘Srigara’ or Ornaments of Dress, where among other things, eating betel was mentioned as a form of adornment for both, men and women. Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. III. p. 312.

68.    Fox Robin. Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective. Social Issues Research Centre: p. 1-22

69.    Term coined by Veblen Thorstein. Theory of the Leisure Class: An economic study in the Evolution of Institutions. New York. 1899.

70.    Bourdieu Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. (Trans.) Richard Nice. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. 1984, p. 79.

71.    Babur. Baburnama. II. p. 687.

72.    Badauni. Muntakhab. II. p. 19.

73.    Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. I. pp. 59–61.

74.    Ibid., pp. 58–59.

75.    Humayun had ordered that a piece of the hunted nilagao be dried and kept so that his first meal after the fast of Ramzan would comprise of this flesh. Ibid., p.  634.

76.    Ibid., pp. 58–59.

77.    Jauhar. Tazkirat–al–Waqiat. p. 62.

78.    Khwandamir. Qanun–i–Humayuni. p. 81.

79.    Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. I. pp. 55–56.

80.    Ibid.

81.    Ibid.

82.    Grimstead Deanna N. and Bayham Frank E. Evolutionary Ecology, Elite Feasting, and the Hohokam: A case study from a Southern Arizona Platform Mound. American Antiquity. Vol. 75. No. 4; 2010: pp. 841–864.

83.    Monserrate, Commentary, xxx, xxxi.

84.    Smith John Masson. Dietary Decadence and Dynastic Decline in the Mongol Empire. Journal of Asian History. Vol. 34. No. 1; 2000: pp. 2, 7, 8, 10.

85.    Gulbadan Begum. Humayunnama. p. 148; Abul Fazl. The Akbarnama. III. p. 1138; Badauni. Muntakhab. II. p. 87.

          In fact, there is a discussion where, one of the companions of the late Ḥusain Khan asked Khawja Hafiz, whether horse meat was lawful food or not? Badauni. Muntakhab. III. p. 37.

86.    Badauni. Muntakhab. II. p. 315.

87.    He stated that grape wine of Nur valley in Kabul were good. Wine of Lamghan had reputation. Two sorts of grapes were grown, the arah–tashi and the suhan–tashi, the first were yellowish, the second, full–red of fine colour. The first make more smooth wine.  Critiquing Kafiristan wine, he stated that strong wines were brought down to Kafiristan because the quality of Kafiristan wine was poor, thin and, even so, usually diluted with water, so much so that instead of water, they consume wine which was as tasteless as water. He also compared wines of Alasal [Kabul] with Nijrau’s and stated that the former was better and stronger. Babur. Baburnama. I. pp. 210–212, 221.

88.    Ibid., p. 83.

89.    Ibid., p. 203.

90.    Ibid., p. 299.

91.    Ibid., p. 303.

92.    Dale Stephen. The Garden of the Eight Paradises: Babur and the Culture of Empire in Central Asia, Afghanistan and India (1483–1530). Brill Academic Pub, Leiden and Boston. 2004: p. 81.

93.    Elias. The History of Manners. p. 102.

94.    Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. I. pp. 58–59.

95.    Babur. Baburnama. I. p. 423.

96.    Other such cases were: Abul Maali was put into confinement for his improper drunk behaviour, Abul Fazl, The Akbarnama, II, p. 28; Akbar punished Lashkar Khan, who held the office of Mir Bakhshi and Mir Arẓi for his improper drunk behaviour in the court. Ibid., p. 529.

97.    Dietler Michael. Alcohol: Anthropological/Archaeological Perspective. Annual Review of Anthropology. 35; 2006: pp. 229–249.

98.    Bhargava Meena. Narcotics and Drugs: Pleasure, Intoxication and Simply Therapeutic– North India, Sixteenth–Seventeenth Centuries. The Medieval History Journal. 15.1; 2012: pp. 103–135; Chatterjee Prasun. The Lives of Alcohol in Pre Colonial India. The Medieval History Journal. Vol. 8 (1); 2005: pp. 189–225.

99.    Babur. Baburnama. I. pp. 212–3, 423.

100. Jauhar. Tazkirat–al–Waqiat. p. 83.

101. Weiss Adamson Melitta. Food in Medieval Times. Greenwood Press, London. 2004.

102. Jauhar. Tazkirat–al–Waqiat. p. 83.

103.  Ibid.

104. Levi–Strauss. The Raw and the Cooked. 

105. There is a reference of Mirza Koka, Muzaffar Khan, Lashkar Khan and some persons of ‘lower rank’, who had joined the assembly and had taken ‘arq’ and ‘tari’ but were ‘behaving as if they had wine.’ Arif Qandhari. Tarikh–i–Akbari. p. 199.

          A similar instance was when Abul Fazl invited several grandees, Khudawand among them. The dishes placed before him contained fowls and game and different kinds of vegetables, whilst the other guests had roasted meat. He observed it, took offense, and went away. Although Akbar assured him that Abul Fazl had treated him to fowls and game accord­ing to a Hindustani custom, Khudamand disliked Abul Fazl, and never went again to his house. Abul Fazl. Ain–i–Akbari. I. p. 443.






Received on 22.11.2015

Modified on 09.01.2016

Accepted on 25.01.2016

© A&V Publications all right reserved

Research J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 7(1): January- March, 2016, 61-72

DOI: 10.5958/2321-5828.2016.00012.7