|Manmadin (Kamadev) by Pierre Sonnerat|
In the time of Akbar their Vedas, or sacred writings, had not been translated from the Sanscrit; accordingly, Akbar's secretary and great friend, Abul Fusl, the historian, tried by a ruse to investigate the principles of their faith, and sent his young brother Feizi, then a mere boy, to Benares to the Brahmins, in the character of a poor orphan of their tribe. This fraud was practised upon a learned Brahmin, who received him into his house, and brought him up as his own son.
When, after ten years of study, Feizi had perfected himself in Sanscrit, Akbar took measures to ensure his safe return. Feizi, it seems, on attaining manhood, had fallen in love with the Brahmin's only daughter, and her father, seeing the mutual affection of the young pair, offered him his daughter in marriage. Feizi, perplexed between love and gratitude, discovered himself to the old man, fell down at his feet, and with many tears entreated his forgiveness for the deceit which he had put upon him. The Brahmin did not reproach him, but drew a dagger and prepared to stab himself; but Feizi seized his hand and conjured him to say if he could make any atonement for the fraud. The Brahmin answered that he would forgive him, and consent to live, if Feizi would grant him two requests viz., that he would never translate the Vedas, nor repeat the creed of the Hindus."
The above intriguing passage is from 'Our Visit to Hindostan, Kashmir and Ladakh' (1879) by J. C. Murray Aynsley.
I have spent last couple of years gobbling up old books on Kashmir [mini list ]. One of the interesting things about most of these 'Kashmir' books, besides their love bordering on obsession with Lalla Rookh, is the freedom with which the writers of these travelogues quoted, re-mixed, re-used the older works available to them. Say while describing a place or a people, even the adjectives, verbs, adverbs, entire sentences, would be put to use, as the writer tries to squeeze the grist of an experience offered in an older work by some other writer/traveller. There works have passages, sometimes entire chapters, that in today's world would simply qualify for 'Copy-Paste'. These days, no scholarly paper created this way would be called scholarly. These day's even search engines might not pick them up.
Yet, if one thinks about it, these 'Copy-Paste' passages don't seem such a terrible thing. Yes the writer may have been a bit lazy, not too lazy as he or she at least did read the original work, may be the writer had nothing new to add, may be there was a quick buck to be made from the latest exotica, yet what his/her re-use of those works ensured was that a particular piece of information was now available via multiple means; it made a piece of information not easy to lose. If one limits or restricts the means, the chances of loss are higher. Pandits, old and new, should know.
Of course, that must not have been the original intention of the writer but these 'Copy-Paste' passages have often led me to some odd stories.
The love story of Abu Fazl's (point to note elder) brother Faizi, as offered and indeed credited by J. C. Murray Aynsley, comes from 'The history of Hindostan', translated by Alexander Dow (1770-72) from Persian work of Muḥammad Qāsim Hindū Shāh Astarābādī Firishtah known as Tārīkh-i Firishtah/ Gulshan-i Ibrahim (1560–1620).
Faizi is credited with translating Mahabarata and Bhaskaracharya's Lilavati to Persian.