The Hamzanama or Dastan-e-Amir Hamza (Adventures of Amir Hamza) is an important work which narrates the fantastic exploits of Amir Hamza, the uncle of the prophet of Islam. An illustrated manuscript of the Hamzanama, an artistic masterpiece was created about 1558–1573 under the Mughal emperor Akbar.
The Hamzanama was designed to augment a storytelling performance. This romance originated more than 1,000 years ago, probably in Persia, and subsequently spread throughout the Islamic world in oral and written forms.
Manuscripts of the Hamzanama
The illustrated manuscript created during the Akbar's reign originally comprised 1,400 canvas folios. On one side of most of the folios is a painting, about 54cm x 69cm in area, done in a fusion of Persian and Indian styles. On the other side of most of the folios is Persian text in Nasta'liq script. The folios are ordered, and the text on the back of one folio accompanies the painting on the subsequent folio. Bulk of this folios are to be found in the Austrian Museum of Applied Art (MAK), Vienna, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum, London.
The colophon of this manuscript is still missing. None of the folios of this manuscript so far found is signed. According to Badauni and Shahnawaz Khan the work of preparing the illustrations was supervised initially by Mir Sayyid Ali and subsequently by Abdus Samad. It took fifteen years to complete the work.
The Dastan-e-Amir Hamza existed in several manuscript versions. One version by Navab Mirza Aman Ali Khan Ghalib Lakhnavi was printed in 1855 and published by the Hakim Sahib Press, Calcutta, India. This version was later embellished by Abdullah Bilgrami and published from the Naval Kishore Press, Lucknow in 1871.