TAHMĀSNĀMAH, variously known as Tahmāspnāmah, Tazkirah-i-Tahmāsp, Hikāyat or Qissā-Tahmās Miskīn, is a Persian manuscript preserved in British Library, London (Or.1918). In India, Photostat copies are available in the Oriental Public (Khudā Bakhsh) Library, Paṭnā, and in the Sikh History Research Department at Khālsā College, Amritsar (No. 1283). The manuscript consisting of 354 pages of 16 lines each is by Tahmās Khān, originally named Zahīr and then Taimūr, who adopted Miskīn (lit. humble) as a pseudonym. Written in autobiographical discursive style, the memoir is without any dates and is divided haphazardly into 108 sections designated as hikāyats or dāstāns (lit. stories) of unequal length. The author, however, provides valuable and often original information gathered at first hand about events that took place in the Punjab during over three decades ending with 1782.
Tahmās Khān Miskīn was of Armenian or Kurdish extraction. Born in a village in Asia Minor, he was captured in infancy by Nādir Shāh's Uzbeks. He was brought to India at the age of seven and was offered as a present to Mu'in ul-Mūlk, commonly known as Mīr Mannū, the governor of Punjab, (1748-53), who trained him for military service. On the death of his master, he continued to serve his widow, Mughlānī Begam, whose close confidant he became and whom he accompanied during her flight from Lahore to Sirhind and thence to Delhi. He later fell out with the Begam and served successively under Zābitā Khān Ruhīlā (d.1785) and Mirzā Najaf Khān (d.1782).
Miskīn saw much active service and took part in several operations against the Sikhs. He writes with personal knowledge about events such as Dīwān Kauṛā Mall's death in battle against Ahmad Shāh Durrānī in 1752 and the occupation of Lahore by the Sikhs jointly with the Marāṭhās in April 1758. In fact, one of the most striking features of Tahmāsnāmah is the information it provides about the sustained rebellion of the Sikhs, their guerilla tactics, the persecution they suffered. Mīr Mannū set up special mobile columns armed with jaza'ils, long-firing swivel guns, to be used against them. Miskīn writes : "Mu'īn appointed most of them (jazā'ilchīs) to the task of chastising the Sikhs. They ran after these wretches up to 28 kos in a day and slew them wherever they stood up to oppose them. Anyone who brought Sikhs' heads to Mu'īn received a reward of Rs.10 per head. Anyone who brought a horse belonging to a Sikh could keep it as his own. Whosoever lost his own horse fighting with the Sikhs got another in its place from the state stables." At another place he records, "The Sikhs who were captured alive were sent to hell by being beaten with wooden mallets. At times Ādīnā Beg Khān sent 40-50 Sikh captives from the Doāb; they were as a rule killed with the strokes of wooden hammers." He also gives accounts of the Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā of 5 February 1762 in which, according to him, 25,000 Sikhs were killed; the sack of Sirhind by the Sikhs two years later; and the Sikhs' plundering raids into the Gaṅgā Yamunā Doāb. Once, says Miskīn, he along with Rustam Khān, the faujdār of Siālkoṭ, was made captive by Sutlej Sikhs, and though a zamīndār came miraculously to his rescue, both had to pay ransoms for their release.
Syad Hasan Askarī