Abdul Latif (son of Abdullah Abbasi), an inhabitant of Ahmadabad ,in Gujrat, on his patron Abul Hassan (the father- in-law of Shah Jahan) being appointed divan of Bengal early in A.D. 1608, accompanied him on a river trip from Agra to Rajmahal . He took accurate notes of what he saw during his travels and wrote them in a book years afterwards in the reign of Shah Jahan.
His book is of unique value as giving us the topography of Bihar early in the seventeenth century, and supplementing the very short account incorporated in the Ain-i-Akbari which was composed twenty years earlier.
The Bihar portion of his travels was translated by Jadunath Sarkar,the famous historian of Bihar in 1915,reproduced here in the words of Abdul Latif–
On 6th May, 1608, we arrived at Chausa, an ancient village on the bank of the Ganges and the commencement of theprovince of Bihar. Its ferry is very famous. Here some severe battles were fought between the imperial troops and the Afghans early in the reign of Akbar. It was at this ferry that the well-known disaster to the army of Humayun took place at the hands of Sher khan Afghan. We halted here. It was formerly well-peopled, but is now in a decayed condition with few habitations.
Above it, the Karmanasha falls into the Ganges. The Hindus of old never set their feet in its water, it being their superstition that whosoever sets his foot in its water loses all his merit [for good deeds done in life]. Hence its name [of Karmanasha or destroyer of goad deeds]. Its water is extremely distasteful and disagreeable to the sight. A look at it turns a man’s bile cold, — not to speak of his merits.
From this place sahseram containing the tomb of Sher Khan Afghan, is I6 kos. Two marches from it is Rohtas, the height spaciousness and grandeur of which is famous, so that there is no fort like it in the world. Its circuit is 14 kos, its height [ probably, path for ascent] exceeds 3 kos. On Its top several thousand high as of land are cultivated, besides several gardens. Some tanks full of water and flowing springs are contained within it. On 9th , May we reached the river Diwa [ i.e. Ghaghra], a broad and deep stream which passing by Bahraich and Oudh, falls into the Ganges 8 kos above Patna. Are [ i e. Bonas ], Gangi, Son, and Gandak, all big rivers, mingle with the Ganges from 1 5 kos above Patna to the foot of that city. Besides, These, there are many nalah and brooks coming from all sides, but they are not worth mentioning. Hence, below Patna the breadth of the river in the rainy season becomes nearly 3 kos, and it forms a vast and voluminous united stream.
On 10th May we reached Patna, the capital of Bihar. Patna stands on the right hand and Hajipur on the left hand, a little above Patna, on the bank of the Ganges. In former ages the ancient city of Bihar, I6 kos from Patna, was the capital of this province. I have heard from trustworthy man of this country that Bihar [present Biharsharif]is a place of grace, where many holy men and saints repose [in their graves] . Even at the present time some good men live here, one of them being Shaikh Humayun, a man of religious abstraction, who has doneand is doing many superhuman deeds.
Hilsa is a village, in the jurisdiction of Bihar, and containing the tomb of Shah Chaman Chishti. It has a lofty dome on which a pitcher, called kalas in the Hindi tongue, has been fixed, which turns in one direction at all hours. Some good men have seen the phenomenon, and I am writing what they have told me. In the course of ages the people have turned [from Bihar town] to Patna, by reason of its being on the bank of the Ganges, and taken up their residence here. In short, Patna is the capital, residence of the Governor, and best [city] of the province of Bihar. One side of it is bordered by the river and three sides by kacha walls of fortification. In the reign of Akbar it was wrested from the possession of the Afghans after a good deal of fighting and a long siege. Munim Khan, surnamed Khan-i-Khanan, besieged Daud Afghan — their chief and formerly lord of Bihar and Bengal — in this fort a year and a half, but could not conquer him till the Emperor himself marched hither with his army and undertook the task.
Patna is a very Sweet city and honored place. By reason of its air, it is a place of perpetual spring Its water is perfect in taste and agreeable, Its inhabitants are extremely healthy and robust. In spaciousness and good appearance the city resembles Ahmadabad, ” the best of the cities of Hind” All kinds of articles needed by men for food and clothing are twice or thrice as cheap and abundant here as in other places. In truth, it is a place fit to live in ; hence many traders and comfort-loving men have chosen it for their home. In no other city of India can be seen so many men of Iraq and Khurasan, as have taken up their residence here.
Jahangir Quli Khan (formerly Labi Beg), who has recently died in Bengal, had, during his Governorship of Bihar, widened and cleared the bazar of Patna. The bazar and lanes of Patna gained splendour from him The late Nawwab Mirza Yusuf Khan, during his viceroyalty, built here a bath of extreme delicacy and purity, consisting af several rooms,always full of water. The late Sadiq Khan, also, has left a mosque as his memorial. Nawwab Asaf Khan, the present wazir of the empire, has constructed a beautiful Governor’s residence overlooking the river, inside the fort, and a neat garden outside the city.Mirza Shamsuddin Husain (son of Nawwab Azam Khan) who has now gained the title of Jahangir Quli Khan, had laid out a delightful garden outside the city.
Leaving Patna we halted at Mungir on 17th May. It hasa pucca fort and a large town. But at this time its population had greatly fallen off. It stands midway between Bihar and Ghati, the gateway of Bengal [i.e. Sikrigali]. Its outside is better than its inside. Early in the reign of Akbar, the imperial army was long cantoned at Mungir for effecting the conquest of Bengal, and many battles were fought between them and the Afghans in this region. At Sitakund, two kos from Mungir and two or three arrows flight fram the river, there are two springs, — one hot and the other cold. The coldness of the one sets the teeth on edge like ice and the warmth of the other turns the bile into the water of hell.
Next day we reached Mashan(Fakir’s rock, near Sultanganj), This village is situated at a distance of half a kos from the river, and is an ordinary place ; but it has two hillocks, one in the midst of the river and the other on the bank, facing each other.How can I describe the charm of its mornings and evenings and the beauty of its moon-lit nights, which exhilarate the spirit and freshen thelife of man .On the hillock by the river`s edge, a pious man has built a beautiful mosque. For the last 30 years a darvish has been engaged in prayer here. A room has also been built for drinking water . What a charming retreat!
On 5th June 1608 we arrived safe and sound at Akbarnagar [Rajmahal], the capital of Bengal and the end of my journey by river.