ABUL FAZAL. The Akbar NAmA of Abu-l-Fazl, translated from the Persian, transl. H. BEVERIDGE (1902-1939). Reprinted 1993, 3 vols (in 2), Delhi: Low Price Publications.

Vol. III: 581-582. The incident of "the testing of the silent of speech (khamUshAn-i-goyA)." In an argument about language origins, Akbar held that speech arose from hearing, so babies raised without hearing speech would be unable to speak. For proof, he "had a serai built in a place which civilized sounds did not reach. The newly born were put into that place of experience, and honest and active guards were put over them. For a time tongue-tied (zabAn basta) wetnurses were admitted there. As they had closed the door of speech, the place was commonly called the Gang MaHal (the dumb-house)." Some time later (August 1582), Akbar was in the vicinity and "he went with a few special attendants to the house of experiment. No cry came from that house of silence, nor was any speech heard there. In spite of their four years they had no part of the talisman of speech, and nothing came out except the noise of the dumb." (Cf. versions in BEVERIDGE, BONVILLIAN et al, CATROU, DABISTAN, ELLIOT & DOWSON vol.V, MANUCCI, and also comments under HODIVALA and KAI KAUS).


[ALLAMA PRABHU.] In: Speaking of Siva, transl. with introduction by A.K. RAMANUJAN (1973) London: Penguin. 199 pp.

Free verse lyrics (vacanas) in Kannada, by four great Bhakti figures. On p. 165, one of them, Allama Prabhu, addresses Shiva (i.e. the Lord of the Caves) thus: "

A running river / is all legs.
A burning fire / is mouths all over.
A blowing breeze / is all hands.
So, lord of the caves, / for your men,
every limb is Symbol."


ARUNACHALAM, M. [1987-1994] Kumaraguruparar. In: Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature, III: 2173-74. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.

See discussion towards the end of the Introduction to this bibliography.


BADAUNI, Abdul Kadir : see ELLIOT & DOWSON.


BARNI, Ziauddin : see ELLIOT & DOWSON.


BEVERIDGE, Henry (1888) Father Jerome Xavier. J. Asiatic Society of Bengal, lvii, pt.I: 33-39.

p. 37 quotes from a letter by Xavier, written in 1598 from the court of Akbar, translated from Latin: "He [Akbar] told me that nearly twenty years ago he had thirty children shut up before they could speak, and put guards over them so that the nurses might not teach them their language. His object was to see what language they would talk when they grew older, and he resolved to follow the laws and customs of the country whose language was that spoken by the children. But his endeavours were a failure, for none of the children came to speak distinctly."

The same passage is given on p.77 of a longer article, E.D. MACLAGAN & R. MACLAGAN (1896) The Jesuit missions to the Emperor Akbar, J. Asiatic Society of Bengal lxv, Pt.1, 38-113, which provides some broader context.


BONVILLIAN, John D., GARBER, Amanda M. & DELL, Susan B. (1997) Language origin accounts: was the gesture in the beginning? First Language 17: 219-239.

Includes study of Akbar's Gang Mahal experiment (see ABUL FAZAL, above, et al.) Quotes extensively from various contemporary and later sources. The authors' purpose is to pursue a linguistic argument; their comments are weak on Indian history and source evaluation.


CATROU, François (1708) Histoire Générale de l'Empire du Mogol depuis sa fondation. Sur les Mémoires Portugais de M. Manouchi, Vénitien. A La Haye, chez Guillaume de Voys. xxiii + 380 pp.

Father Catrou's account was first published in 1705. On p.137 of the 1708 edition, Akbar's language experiment appears thus:

[Akbar] "...fit enfermer dans un Château situé à six lieuës d'Agra, douze Enfans à la mamelle. On les fit élever par douze Nourrices müettes, ausquelles on donna un Portier müet comme elles. Le Portier avoit défence, sous peine de la vie, d'ouvrir jamais les portes du Château. Quand les Enfans eurent atteint l'âge de douze ans, Akebar les fit venir en sa présence. Il rassembla alors dans son Palais des gens habiles en toutes les langues. [ ] Lorsque ces Enfants parurent devant l'Empereur, on fut tout étonné qu'il [sic] ne parloient aucune langue. Ils avoient appris de leur Nourrice à s'en passer. Seulement ils exprimoient leurs pensées par des gestes qui leur tenoient lieu de paroles. Enfin ils étoient si sçauvages & si honteux, qu'on eut bien de la peine à les apprivoiser, & à délier leurs langues, dont ils n'avoient [p.138] presque point fait d'usage dans l'enfance "

See partial translation below, and MANUCCI, et al.


CATROU, F. (1826) History of the Mogul Dynasty in India ... 1399 - 1657 ... translated from the French, [&c]. London: Richardson.

The anonymous translation below of part of Fr. Catrou's French account seems to include some interpretation. A section where some additional material appears, beyond the French given above, appear below in added italics.

p. 117. "When these children appeared before the emperor, to the surprise of every one, they were found incapable of expressing themselves in any language, or even of uttering any articulate sounds. They had learnt, from the example of their nurses, to substitute signs for articulate sounds. They used only certain gestures to express their thoughts, and these were all the means which they possessed of conveying ideas, or a sense of their wants. They were, indeed, so extremely shy, and, at the same time, of an aspect and manners so uncouth and uncultivated, that it required great labour and perseverance to bring them under any discipline, and to enable them to acquire the proper use of their tongues, of which they had previously almost entirely denied themselves the exercise."


DABISTAN. [Muhammad Mohsin Fani.] The DabistAn or School of Manners. Translated from the original Persian, with notes and illustrations, transl. David SHEA & Anthony TROYER (1843), 3 vols, Paris: Oriental Translation Fund.

The Dabistan is usually attributed to Mohsin Fani, living in Lahore and Kashmir during the 17th century. Vol. III: 90-91 gives an account of the Gung Mahal experiment (see ABUL FAZAL, above, et al.):

"... a number of children were put in a place called Gangmahel, where every thing necessary was furnished to them; but none could articulate a letter; having remained there to their fourteenth year, they were found to be dumb; which made it evident, that letters and language are not natural to man, that is, cannot be used unless they have been acquired by instruction, and it is then only that the use of conversation becomes possible."


ELLIOT, Sir Henry M. & DOWSON, John (eds) (1867-1877) The History of India as told by its own historians. The Muhammadan period. 8 vols, reprint 1979, Lahore: Islamic Book Service.

Vol. III, pp. 179-180, in transl. of Ziauddin Barni's account of the reign (1300-1320) of Sultan Alauddin. The monarch's intelligence-gathering system was such that "nobles dared not speak aloud even in the largest palaces, and if they had anything to say they communicated by signs." See also FULLER's translation, below.

V: 419-20, in the Tabakát-i Akbari by Nizam-u Din Ahmad, note of "a man born without ears or any orifice of the ears, who yet heard all that was spoken, just like people with ears. His Majesty [Akbar] was greatly interested in the man, and settled a pension upon him."

V: 533, in the TárIkh-i BadáúnI, the Gung Mahal experiment (see ABUL FAZAL, above, et al.) is mentioned: "In this year (989 H.), in order to verify the circumstances of the case [of the man who heard without ears - see V: 419-20], an order was issued that several sucking infants should be kept in a secluded place far from habitations, where they should not hear a word spoken. Well-disciplined nurses were to be placed over them, who were to refrain from giving them any instruction in speaking ... To carry out this order, about twenty sucklings were taken from their mothers for a consideration in money, and were placed in an empty house, which got the name of Dumb-house. After three or four years the children all came out dumb, excepting some who died there..."


FULLER, A.R. (1870) Translations from the TArIkh i FIrUz ShAhI. J. Asiatic Society of Bengal 39 (I): 1-51. (Continued from 1869, pt IV.)

pp. 3-4. ["Secondly, with the view of making revolts impossible, the SulTAn appointed informers (munhiyAn), and their number was so great, that he knew the good and bad things that men did. People could not utter a syllable without his knowledge; and whatever happened in the houses of the AmIrs and the Maliks, of wellknown and great men, of the officers and collectors, was, in the course of time, brought to the [p. 4] SulTAn. Nor did he treat indifferently (farU naguzasht) whatever information was brought to him by the patrol (daur), but he made the patrol responsible for it. The spies were so intruding, that the Maliks in HazAr SitUn could no longer say a single word openly, and if they had anything to say, they made use of gestures. Day and night they trembled in their houses, lest the patrol of informers should come;..."]

See also ELLIOT & DOWSON III: 179-180, above. The JASB editorial footnote (p.2), below Fuller's translation of this account of Sultan Alauddin's reign, states that it is weak at this point. However the pertinent point, i.e. about use of gestures and signs for silent communication, is supported by Elliot and Dowson's translation.


GRACIAS, Fatima da Silva (1994) Health and Hygiene in Colonial Goa (1510-1961), New Delhi, Concept.

p. 137 An institution known as Hospicio dos Desamparados at Monte de Guirim, Bardez (north Goa) took care of gente pobre e surdos (needy and deaf people) at least as early as 1589, and was still running in 1797. (The date 1589 and Portuguese original wording were kindly supplied in a personal communication by Dr da Silva Gracias in 1995, based on manuscript sources in the Historical Archives of Goa. Dr da Silva Gracias commented, "The province of Bardez was looked after by Franciscan missionaries. Apparently it [the Hospice] was established to care for old missionaries who might have gone deaf due to old age.")


GRIERSON, P.J. Hamilton (1903) The Silent Trade. A contribution to the early history of human intercourse. Edinburgh: William Green & Sons. x + 112 pp.

pp. 41-68 in particular, discuss practices ranging from the silent barter of goods, described in many historical accounts around the world including South Asia, to various non-audible systems of barter, and to more developed sign systems. (See e.g. PYRARD, and VARTHEMA, below).


HAYAVADANA RAO, C. (1943-1946) History of Mysore (1399-1799 A.D.)., Bangalore. 3 vols.

Vol. II: 1-17 describes the reign of the deaf ruler, Kanthirava Narasaraja Wodeyar, who "suffered from the disability of being born deaf and dumb" (p. 2). Only son of Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar, he was born 27 Dec. 1672, installed as ruler on 30 Nov. 1704, and died 18 Feb. 1714. "Though not possessed of the exceptional personal capacity and talents of ChikkadEvarAja Wodeya, and despite the infirmities he suffered from, it must be said to the credit of KaNThIrava that he was able to preserve the glorious traditions of his predecessors." (p. 17) See also WILKS.


HODIVALA, Shahpurshah Hormasji (1939) Studies in Indo-Muslim History. A critical commentary on Elliot and Dowson's History of India as Told by its Own Historians, Bombay.

pp. 561-562. Hodivala suggests that a passage in the Qabusnama of Kai Kaus, may have been the origin of Akbar's language experiment: "Human beings learn to speak only by hearing speech and the proof of it is this. If a child is born and if it is taken to a place underground and fed with milk and bred up there, and if the mother and nurse do not speak to it and do not allow it to hear the speech of any other person, it will undoubtedly be dumb when it grows up." (See KAI KAUS below, with a longer extract in French translation.)


IBN BATTUTA (transl. 1958) The Travels of Ibn Battuta A.D. 1325-1354, transl. H.A.R. Gibb. 4 volumes. Cambridge University Press, for the Hakluyt Society.

Vol. III, pp. 727-728. The great African traveller spent several years at the court of the Sultan Muhammad ibn Tughluq, at Delhi and Daulatabad. In the Deccan in 1339, "one of the associates of Qutlu Khan namely Ali Shah Kar (Kar means 'deaf'), had revolted against the Sultan. He was a gallant man of fine figure and character, and having taken possession of Badrakut he made it the capital of his kingdom." However, the Sultan sent Qutlugh Khan with a large force against Ali Shah Kar, who was forced to surrender. He was pardoned but exiled to Ghazna. After some time he tried to return home, but was caught and executed.


KAI KAUS ibn Iskander ibn Qabus. Le Cabous Namè ou livre de Cabous, transl A. QUERRY (1886). Paris: Leroux.

The 'Cabous Namè' (in English: Kabusnama, Qabus-nama, etc), written in Persian in 1082-83 CE, was an early example of the class of literature intended as instruction manuals for princes. (See article on Kay KA'Us by C.E. Bosworth, Encyclopaedia of Islam, new edn.) A passage in Ch. VII (on "De la Recherche de l'Excellence dans l'art du bien dire") suggests that a child deprived of all language exposure during infancy will grow up mute, giving also the example of congenitally deaf persons.

p. 86. "Ne te lasse pas d'être un auditeur attentif, c'est en sachant écouter qu'on acquiert [p. 87] la sagesse et l'art de bien dire; les enfants nous en fournissent la preuve. En effet, supposons un enfant qui, dès sa naissance, serait enfermé dans un caveau, y serait allaité, nourri, auquel sa mère ou sa nourrice n'adresserait jamais une parole ni une caresse, qui n'entendrait aucun son, il est évident que, devenu grand, il resterait muet et incapable d'émettre une parole à moins que, par quelque hasard, il n'eût l'occasion d'entendre et ainsi d'apprendre à parler. Une autre preuve de ce que j'avance est ce fait que tout sourd de naissance est en même temps muet; ne voit on pas que tous les muets sont sourds?" (See also: A Mirror for Princes: the Qabus Nama, transl. Reuben LEVY, 1951, London: Cresset, p. 44)

HODIVALA (see previous item) has suggested that this work may have been the origin of Akbar's language experiment. The numerous extant manuscripts suggest that the Qabus-nama was quite widely used. It is plausible that it played some part in Akbar's education, or was read to him at court, and that the idea stayed in his mind. However, this would not so readily fit with the motive indicated by MANUCCI, and by Xavier (see BEVERIDGE), of discovering which language the children would speak.


MANUCCI, Niccolao. Storia do Mogor or Mogul India 1653-1708, transl. William IRVINE (1907). 4 vols. London: John Murray.

Vol. I: 142-143. A contemporary account of Akbar's Gung Mahal experiment (see ABUL FAZAL, above). The purpose was "to know what language a child would speak who had not the use of speech or any master to teach it. ... he ordered the erection of a house with many rooms at a distance of six leagues from the city of Agrah, and directed them to place in it twelve children, who should be retained there till the age of twelve years. An injunction was laid on everyone that, under pain of death, no one should speak a word to them or allow them to communicate with each other." Twelve years later the children were produced to Akbar. On being questioned, "they answered just nothing at all. On the contrary, they were timid, frightened, and fearful, and such they continued to be for the rest of their lives."

IV: 98-99. Towards the end of his reign, Aurangzeb disputed the right of a Prince of Srirangapatanam (Kanthi Rae, the 'Dumb Rajah') to rule, because he was deaf - though this may have been merely an excuse for trying to take over his territory.


AL-MARGHINANI. The Hedaya or Guide. A commentary on the Mussulman laws. 2nd edn. transl. Charles HAMILTON, ed. Standish GRADY (1870), reprint 1975, 4 vols in one, Lahore: Premier Book. xxvii + 783 pp.

Translation first made in the 1780s (dedicated "to Warren Hastings, Esq., late Governor-General of Bengal") of a highly influential and detailed commentary by a 12th century CE lawyer from Marghinan, east of Bukhara, taking account of the major legal schools of Islam. His work was used over many centuries in the Middle East and among Muslim legal authorities in South Asia.

Vol. IV, Book LIII (the final chapter, in this version, pp. 707-708) discusses in some detail the legal capacities of dumb persons, under two broad heads:

(i) "The intelligible signs of a dumb person suffice to verify his bequests, and render them valid; but not those of a person merely deprived of speech". In discussion under the first head, it is stated that the learned doctors of law "...conceive a natural difference between a person originally dumb, and one who merely labours under a recent incapacity of speech, for various reasons. - First, signs are not cognizable, unless they be habitual and their meaning ascertained, which is the case with the signs of a dumb person, but not with those of one who has merely lost his speech. (Still, however, our doctors hold that if this person be so long deprived of speech as to render signs habitual to him, and their meaning ascertained, he then stands in the same predicament with a dumb person in this particular)."

(ii) "A dumb person may execute marriage, divorce, purchase or sale, and sue for or incur punishment, by means of either signs or writings; but he cannot thereby sue for or incur retaliation". Provision was made for cases where "a dumb person is capable of either writing intelligibly, or making intelligible signs". After an argument demonstrating that the dumb person's written deeds are valid and cognizable, "With respect to signs made by a dumb person, they are recognize[d] in the cases of marriage, divorce, and so forth (as mentioned above), from necessity, since those are matters in which the right of the individual alone is concerned, and which are not restricted to any particular form of words".

See also vol. I, Book 4, chapters I, IX and X (pp. 76, 119-120, 125). In the latter case, concerning punishment of someone who may have made a false accusation under oath, "the argument of our doctors is that the signs of a dumb person are not altogether free from doubt, and punishment is removed by any circumstances of doubt."

(This 12th century recognition of the signing deaf person's legal capacity in the Muslim world, even with its limitations, compares rather favourably with the positions described by the papal physician Paulus Zacchias (1584-1659) based on European Christian authorities from the 14th through 16th centuries; see Paul F. Cranefield & Walter Federn (1970) Paulus Zacchias on mental deficiency and deafness, Bull. New York Academy of Medicine 46: 3-21, on pp. 14-21.)


PYRARD, François [1619] The Voyage of François Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil, ... from the third French edition of 1619, ed. and transl. Albert GRAY & H.C.P. BELL (1888). 2 vols. London: Hakluyt.

II: 178-179, silent, concealed bargaining amidst the vast crowds buying and selling at Goa around 1608: "they are wont to make signs under their silk or cotton mantles, which are worn like our cloaks: so touching the hands thus privily, they give one another to understand by the fingers at what price they are willing to buy or sell, without the others knowing or being aware of anything." (Footnote refers to the same at Calicut, see VARTHEMA; and more generally across India in Tavernier's Voyages, Pt.II, Bk.II, ch. xi).


VARTHEMA, Ludovico di [1510] The Travels of Ludovico di Varthema in Egypt, Syria, Arabia ..., in Persia, India, and Ethiopia, A.D. 1503 to 1508, ... from the original Italian edition of 1510, transl. John W. JONES, ed. George P. BADGER (1863), 2 vols, London: Hakluyt.

I: 168-169, description, with footnoted additions, of Indian bargaining conducted by finger signs hidden under a cloth, at Calicut. See PHILLOTT, below, et al.


WILKS, Mark (1869) Historical sketches of the South of India, in an attempt to trace the history of Mysoor. 2nd edition. 2 vols. London.

I: 139-140, "Canty Reva Raj. The son of the late Raja was born deaf and dumb (and thence called Mook Arsoo, the dumb sovereign) an incapacity which under a less settled government would have excluded him from the throne; but he succeeded without opposition through the influence of the minister Tremalayengar [TirumalaiyangAr], who survived his old master no more than a year and a half. The vigour and regularity of the late long reign [of Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar] continued to be perceptible in the administration." (See also HAYAVADANA RAO.)

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