Dabestan-e Mazaheb

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Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great (r. 1556–1605) holds a Religious assembly in the Ibadat Khana (House of Worship) in Fatehpur Sikri; the two men dressed in black are the Jesuit missionaries Rodolfo Acquaviva and Francisco Henriques. Illustration to the Akbarnama, miniature painting by Nar Singh, ca. 1605

The Dabestān-e Mazāheb (Persian: دبستان مذاهب) "school of religions" is a Persian language work that examines and compares South Asian religions and sects of the mid-17th century. The work, whose authorship is uncertain, was probably composed in about 1655 CE. The text's title is also transliterated as Dabistān-i Mazāhib , Dabistan-e Madahib, or Dabestan-e Madaheb.

The text is best known for its chapter on the Dīn-i Ilāhī, the syncretic religion propounded by the Mughal emperor Jalāl ud-Dīn Muḥammad Akbar ("Akbar the Great") after 1581 and is possibly the most reliable account of the Ibādat Khāna discussions that led up to this.


Several manuscripts have been discovered that identifies the author as Mīr Du’l-feqār Ardestānī (also known as Mollah Mowbad).[1] Mir Du'lfiqar is now generally accepted as the author of this work."[1]

Before these manuscripts were discovered, however, Sir William Jones identified the author as Mohsin Fani Kashmiri.[2] in 1856, a Parsi named Keykosrow b. Kāvūs claimed Khosrow Esfandiyar as the author, who was son of Azar Kayvan.[1]


This work was first printed by Nazar Ashraf in a very accurate edition in movable type at Calcutta in 1809 (an offset reprint of this edition was published by Ali Asghar Mustafawi from Teheran in 1982). A lithographed edition was published by Ibrahim bin Nur Muhammad from Bombay in AH 1292 (1875). In 1877, Munshi Nawal Kishore published another Lithographed edition from Lucknow. The distinguished Persian scholar Francis Gladwin translated the chapter on the Persians into English and published it from Calcutta in 1789. A German version by E. Dalburg from Wurzburg was published in 1809. The chapter on the Raushanyas was translated into English by J. Leyden for the Asiatic Researches, xi, Calcutta. The entire work was translated into English by David Shea and Anthony Troyer under the title, The Dabistan or School of Manners (1843) in three volumes from London.[3]

The author describes that he spent time in Patna, Kashmir, Lahore, Surat and Srikakulam (Andhra Pradesh). He is perceived to have been a person of great scholarship and curiosity, and extremely open-minded for the context of his time. He mentions numerous interviews with scholars of numerous faiths, which suggests that he was well connected, and so qualified to report on the Dīn-i Ilāhī.

According to The Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz, a Dabistan was commissioned by a Mughal mystic prince, Dara Shikoh. The section on Judaism consists of translations by a Persian Jew, Sarmad Kashani, and his Hindu disciple from Sindh.[4] Walter Fischel notes:

Through the medium of the Dabistan Sarmad thus became the channel through which Jewish ideas, though with a Sufic blending, penetrated into the religious fabric of the India of his time.[5]

An English version of the Dabistan by David Shea (1843) is available at the Digital Library of India IISc.[6]


The text is divided into twelve ta‘lims (chapters):

  • Chapter I. Religious traditions of the Persian.
    • Sipásíán, Jemsháspián, Samrádíán, Khodáníán, Rádían, Shídrangíán, Pykeríán, Miláníán, Aláríán, Shídábíán, Akhshíán, Zerdushtián (Zoroastrian), Mazdakíán.
  • Chapter II. Hindus.
    • Smártí (Smarta Tradition), Vedanta Sankhya, Jogís (Yoga), Saktíán (Shakta), Vishnú (Vishnu), Chárvákián, Tárkikán, Búdah (actually Jain), and several new sects including
      • Sanyási, Avaduta, Jangama, Sufi-Hindus (Madárían, Jelalían, Kakan), Yógi, Narayaní (Gosáin Haridas), Dadu Panthi, Píára panthi, Gosáin Jáni, Surya-makhan, Chandra bhakta, Pavana bhakta, Jala bhakta, Prithivi bhakta (earth worshippers), Manushya bhakta (humanists), Nanak-Panthi (Sikh).
  • Chapter III. Kera Tabitian (Tibetan Buddhism), as learned from unsatisfactory translation.
  • Chapter IV. Yahuds (Jews), as learned from Sufi Sarmad Kashani, who was born a Jew and described himself as neither Jewish nor Muslim nor Hindu.
  • Chapter V. Tarsa (Christians).
  • Chapter VI. Muhammedans (Muslims).
  • Chapter VII. Sádakíah, founded by Musaylima, a contemporary of Muhammad.
  • Chapter VIII. Váhadiáh (Unitarians), a central Asian religion founded by Váhed Mahmúd.
  • Chapter IX. Rósheníán (Roshanniya), a central Asian religion founded by Pir Roshan.
  • Chapter X. Ilahíah (Din-e-Ilahi).
  • Chapter XI. Wise (Philosophers who studied the Hellenic tradition)
  • Chapter XII. Súfíah (Sufis).

Chapter II includes one of the earliest historical account of the Sikhs.


  1. ^ a b c DABESTĀN-E MADĀHEB, Encyclopedia Iranica, Fatḥ-Allāh Mojtabālī, November 10, 2011|"...identified the author as Mīr Du’l-feqār Ardestānī (ca. 1026-81/1617-70), better known under his pen name Mollā Mowbad or Mowbadšāh, and this attribution is now generally accepted."
  2. ^ INTRODUCING A HITHERTO UNDISCOVERED COPY OF DABESTAN-E-MAZAHEB, Karim Najafi Barzegar, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress , 2009-2010, Vol. 70 (2009-2010), pp. 318-328
  3. ^ Ali, M. Athar (2008). Mughal India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-569661-1, pp.216-28
  4. ^ Jews and Judaism at the Court of the Moghul Emperors in Medieval India, Walter J. Fischel, Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Vol. 18, (1948 - 1949), pp. 137-177
  5. ^ Kamenetz p. 249
  6. ^ [1] Archived 2011-07-19 at the Wayback Machine

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