Kirpa Ram

Kirpa Ram (1832-1877), son of Jawala Sahai, was appointed as Diwan by Ranbir Singh in 1856 at the age of 24 and governor of Kashmir in 1865. He authored several works in Persian such as Golābnāma, a biography of Ranbir Singh’s father, Gulab Singh which was printed in 1876 at the Tuḥfa-ye Kashmir Press, Srinagar. The Golabnāma war translated into English by Sukhdev Singh Charak and Anita Charak Billawaria as “Gulabnama. A History of Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu and Kashmir” (Gulshan Books, Srinagar 2005). Another work by Kirpa Ram is a history of Kashmir entitled Golzār-e Kašmīr printed in Lahore in 1870 at the Maṭbaʿ-e Kūh-e Nūr press.

He also wrote a work on ethics entitled “A handful of roses of ethical principles” (Goldaste-ye alāq). Furthermore, he authored two short treatises, the “Refutation of Islam” (radd-e eslām) and “Site of verifying” (Madīna al-taqīq). The latter was printed in Sialkot in 1877 and is described in the catalogue of the printed books in the Library of the British Museum by Edward Edwards as “a short polemic in defence of certain Hindu rites impugned by Moslems, with some criticisms of the practices of the latter”.

chapters 1-10 compared

The Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī is divided into forty chapters (bāb), each dedicated to a capacity of the ideal ruler or quality of statesmanship, e.g. justice (ʿadl), or a moral quality such as patience (ṣabr). The Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā is likewise divided into forty chapters, some of the titles closely correspond to its Persian counterpart (marked = in the following), some can be considered a transliteration (such as chapter 2, śuklīkaraṇa for šokr) or adaption, e.g. Sanskrit daivaprasannatā meaning “acceptance of fate” for the Persian tavakkol meaning “resignation (to the divine will)”.

chapter Persian title translation Sanskrit title according to uddeśa-prakaraṇa
1 ʿebādat submissive obedience (to God); religious practice tapas
2 eḫlās sincerity susvabhāvatvam
3 doʿā invocation dainyākrandanam
4 šokr thanksgiving tatprāpitānumodaḥ
5 ṣabr patience kṣamā
6 reżā consent (to the divine will) īśecchāprasannatā
7 tavakkol resignation (to the divine will) upanate saṃtoṣaḥ
8 ḥayāʿ chastity vṛddha­śreṣṭhānuvartanam
9 ʿeffat continence bāhyāntaraśucitvam
10 adab courtesy, propriety of conduct vinayaḥ

chapters 11-20 compared

In the preamble to the Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī, Kāšefī makes a distinction between duties owed by the ruler to god (e.g. obedience to the divine will and thanksgiving) and to the population (e.g. establishing social justice). The chapter on justice is the longest section of Kāšefī’s mirror. The theories of state and society expressed therein are mainly based on Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsīs Aḫlāq-e Nāṣerī which itself draws upon Aristotelian concepts of state and society.

11 ʿolovv hemmat high-mindedness udāratā
12 ʿazm determination; firmness dṛḍhaniścayaḥ
13 ǧedd-o ǧahd effort udyantṛbhāvaḥ
14 s̱obāt steadfastness dhairyāvalambanam
15 ʿedālat justice prajānāṃ vyavahārekṣā
16 ʿafv amnesty krodhādisahanam
17 ḥelm clemency pāpyādyupekṣā
18 ḫolq-o refq pleasant disposition hṛdrāga­pūrvakaṃ hasta­vāraṇam
19 šafaqat-o marḥamat compassion and kindness dayā
20 ḫairāt-o mabarrāt charity and good works dānopakāritvam

chapters 21-30 compared

Promoting donations and charitable deeds is another important feature of the late medieval mirror for princes as well as the development of character traits such as generosity. Chapter 21 includes an anecdote of the semi-legendary Hatim al-Tayy, who was hailed for his munificence.

21 saḫāvat-o eḥsān generosity and
benevolent action
22 tavāẓūʿ-o eḥterām humility and respectfulness ātithyaucityataḥ svasya mārdavam
23 amānat-o diyānat placing in trust and integrity pratidānakam
24 vafāʾ be ʿahd fulfilling contracts aṅgī­kṛtārthaṃ saṃpattiḥ
25 ṣedq truthfulness satyavāditvam
26 enǧāḥ-e ḥāǧāt fulfilling (others’) needs parārtha­kṛti­naipuṇyam
27 taʾannī-o taʾammol thoughtfulness and consideration vimṛśyakṛtitā
28 tadbīr-o mošāvarat guidance and counsel mantranītikriyā
29 ḥazm circumspection dūradīrghadarśitvam
30 šoǧāʿat courage śūratvam

chapters 31-40 compared

The last chapters of the mirror are mainly devoted to advise concerning observance of laws, court life and civil service and is addressing questions such as with whom should the ruler surround himself, who should he avoid, how to deal with servants and retinue.

31 ġairat sense of honour mānaucityam
32 siyāsat jurisdiction daṇḍaucityakriyā
33 tayaqquẓ-o ḫebrat alertness and experience svapnabodhaucitī
34 ferāsat sagacity buddhikauśalyam
35 ketmān-e asrār keeping secrets gabhīratā
36 eġtenām-e forṣat-o ṭalab-e nīknāmī seizing the opportunity and
pursuing recognition
37 reʿāyat-e ḥoqūq observing the law kṛtajñatā
38 ṣoḥbat-e aḫyār associating with fine people satsaṅgaḥ
39 dafʿ-e ašrār eliminating the vicious vyasanityāgaḥ
40 tarbiyat-e ḫadam-o ḥašam handling servants and retinue svādhyakṣa­senā­hasty­aśva­yoga­kṣemāvadhānatā

Adaptive transliteration

Several times, Sāhib Rām creates a new meaning for Persian (or, Arabic) proper names and place names derived from their Sanskrit designation. The city of Herat, for example (located in today’s Afghanistan), is referred to as hīrātta, which Sāhib Rām explaines in the commentary by hīrair āttaḥ „to be furnished with a diamond mine“.

Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā explanation in commentarytext passage
alin alatīt[y] alī 1.106
Harāt (the city of Herat)
hīrāttahīrair = vajrākarair ātto = gṛhīta iti hīrātto deśaviśeṣaḥ

is a place name [derived from]:hīrair āttaḥ, [i.e.] ‘to be furnished with a diamond mine’
šokr (thanksgiving)śukra/śukla[śukraṃ =] śuklaṃ [=] śuddhaṃ karmety ar­thaḥ
means] bright, in the sense of: good deeds
Sajyasa-jya: jyayā = ūrvyā samānaḥ
like (sa-)the earth (-jya) [concerning forbearance (=title of the chapter in question)] 


The Sassanid ruler Khosrau I Anušīrwān (r. 531-79) representing justice, and his famous minister Borzūya, representing wit and cleverness, appear in many anecdotes of Kāšefī’s mirror. Anušīrwān is given the name Nava-śarin, or, Nūtna-śarin by Sāhib Rām, both meaning „having new arrows“.

Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī
text passage
yakī az ḫulafāʾ one of the caliphs
Khala-pū (barn sweeper) 2.26
Dāvūd David Dāmodara
Nūtna-śarin (having new arrows) 39.28

Nava-śarin (having new arrows) 39.30


Using narratives and storytelling to capture the audience’s attention while communicating main concerns and offering moral advice (pand; naṣīḥat) is a dominant feature of Persian medieval mirrors for Princes. Throughout the Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī, we find more than 100 anecdotes of various length, featuring figures such as prophets (e.g. Moses), semi-legendary (e.g. Hatim al-Tayy) or historical persons (e.g. the Saljuq ruler Sultan Sanjar).
Sāhib Rām, while adapting these stories, deals with proper names and place names in different ways. He either transliterates them or creates Sanskrit counterparts. Here, we can see some examples of transliterated names:

Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī
Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā     text passage
Sulṭān Sanǧar
Sañjala 4.35
Umara 39.24
Madāyin arab. “the Cities”  (i.e. Ktesiphon)Madīna 39.25
yamānī Yemenite yamanīya 39.26
hażrat-e Mūsā Moses Mosa 39.153
banī esrāʿīlthe IsraelitesBhaṇī-Īsraphel 39.192

tools of translation: formation of synonyms (paryāya)

Multiple synonyms of the main topic appear in every chapter of the Vīraratnaekharasikhā, some of them are semantically clearly not synonyms, but the commentary makes it clear, that the author uses those phrases in the same sense. The following examples are taken from chapter four “on Thanksgiving” which is defined by Kāšefī as “offering thanks and being grateful for the favour bestowed by the benefactor (i.e. God) (sepās-o setāyeš bāšad monʿem rā bar enʿām-e ū). Thanksgiving is referred to by Sāhib Rām as:

  • kṛtajñatvam: gratefulness
  • tatprāpitānumoda: pleasure about what has been granted by him
  • śuklakarman/śuklīkaraṇa “bright” action (cf. transliteration of the Persian šokr “thanksgiving”)
  • bhagavaccharaṇāgati: taking refuge with the venerable
  • tadekaviṣayāgati: the state of having him as the only goal

Tools of translation: Transfiguration of Quotes

The Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī quotes from various sources such as the Qur’ān as well as classical Persian poetry. In some cases, Sāhib Rām remodeled quotes or replaced them by an adequate quotation or imagery from Indian mythological sources such as various purāṇa-texts. In chapter five “on Patience”, where Kāšefī quotes Hāfeẓ:

“If you remain patient like Noah facing the catastrophe of the storm flood, misfortune turns into the opposite and great fortune will be bestowed upon you.” (Gazal 234)

this is replaced by the following verse in the Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā:

“In former times, when [everything] was filled with water, the venerable Matsya[-Avatāra of Viṣṇu] was patient. Depending on him a ship with sages [on board], filled with seeds, persisted and was used by the creator, […], in a new creation [of the world].”

Estimated Extent of Sāhib Rāms Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā

Sāhib Rām extends the original Persian text considerably in his adaptation. This is not so much due to him interpolating completely new content into the text, but rather due to rendering the text in verse, supplementing new details and references, and adding summaries. Based on the manuscripts currently available to us, we can calculate the overall extent to about 5 000 stanzas.

Chapter No. of Stanzas Anuṣṭubh Other Metres
2 54 49 5
3 70 60 10
4 83 72 11
5 61 51 10
6 31 22 9
7 65 59 6
27 31 24 7
32 119 ≈ 102 ≈ 17
33 223 ≈ 196 ≈ 27
38 139 ≈ 120 ≈ 19
39 487 ≈ 413 ≈ 74
Total 1 363 1 168 195

Translation Bureau?

During the reign of Ranbir Singh, several efforts in the educational system were undertaken. Traditional institutions such as madrasa and pathshala were promoted and government-funded schools following the British model were opened, too. During this time, the founding of a “translation bureau” should have taken place where scholars were engaged to translate classics from Persian and Arabic as well as contemporary material for practical purposes into Indian languages:

[…] the institution of translators through which he tried to enrich the languages spoken and understood in the State and the classical language Sanskrit […] A large personnel was employed for the purpose and an elaborate system had been worked out. About a hundred men were proposed to be appointed for translation and compilation work – 40 from Srinagar, 40 from Jammu and 20 from out side. Their pay ranged between ten rupees to fifty rupees per month, and 50 of them were stationed at Srinagar and 50 at Jammu. Some were appointed on monthly pay and some on work charge system […]

– Charak 1985: Life and Times of Maharaja Ranbir Singh, p. 261

We do not know much of the exact scope and range of this “translation bureau” and its output which would allow us to draw further conclusions, however.

Portrait of Ranbir Singh at the Dogra Art Museum, Jammu

A Sanskrit Adaptation of the Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī

The Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī  “A handbook of moral quality (aḫlāq) dedicated to Moḥsen” was composed in 907 AH/1501-02 A.D. in Herat by Kamāl al-Dīn Ḥosain “Vāʿeẓ” Kāšefī and was dedicated to Abū al-Moḥsen Mīrzā, son of the Timurid Sulṭān Ḥosain Bāyqarā, hence the Name ‘Moḥsen’ in its title. It circulated widely in the Islamicate world and was disseminated also in Central and South Asia; where it had an impact on later works on statecraft and moral qualities of the ruler, commonly referred to as “mirrors for princes”.

Kāšefīs works, such as Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī or Anvār-e Soḥeylī, were popular up to the colonial era, e.g. through manuals for learning Persian, such as several Persian Readers. Aḫlāq-e Moḥsenī was also used as an exam test for the Indian Civil Service and was edited and translated into English by G. Keene as Morals of the Beneficent (Hertford 1823 and 1850).

During the regency of Ranbir Singh during the second half of the 19th century, this compendium was translated into Sanskrit under the name of Vīraratnaśekharaśikhā by the Kashmirian scholar Sāhib Rām.