This article examines a literary circuit of poets and chroniclers in the Deccan (south central India) region that formed around an Iranian émigré, Mustafa Khan Lari (d. 1648), using a largely neglected versified history in Dakkani Urdu. An earlier generation of historians drew on Persian materials, as well as Dutch and Portuguese archives, to illustrate the role of Iranians as statesmen and merchants. However, Dayal turns to Persian chronicles and a maṣnavī or narrative poem written in the courtly vernacular to understand Mustafa Khan’s role as a literary patron, especially of history writing across two languages in the seventeenth-century Deccan. This literary circle of poets and chroniclers—along with their patron—circulated across Safavid Iran, Mughal Hindustan, and the Deccan; they forged new allegiances and affinities during a period of conquest and chose to observe the world around them in new tongues. The polyphonic activities of this literary circuit challenge an ethnolinguistic parochialism pervasive in the study of court culture in early modern South Asia. Further, the circuit shows how itinerant literati used the technique of ethnography to apprehend enemies and friends while moving with armies in a period of volatile and unpredictable conquest.

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