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Attributed to Dawlat

Shah-Jahan hunting lions at Burhanpur (July 1630) c. 1630 - 1640

Painting in opaque watercolour including metallic paints. | 35.1 x 22.8 cm (image) | RCIN

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  • Shah-Jahan hunting lions at Burhanpur in July 1630.

    This painting comes towards the end of the Padshahnamah volume alongside a text describing a hunt that took place in Bari in 1637. Details of the painting however are much closer to the account of a hunt that occurred in Burhanpur, north of the Deccan, in July 1630 when Shah-Jahan was in his late thirties and the three oldest Princes still in their early teens. Shikar (hunting) was one of the most popular pastimes in Hindustan but contemporary viewers of this image would have been aware that the hunting of lions and tigers was the prerogative of the Mughal Emperor and princes alone.

    The most common method of hunting was the Central Asian qamarghah (ringing-in) manner. This was a mammoth task in which thousands of beaters surrounded large areas of countryside and gradually herded the game inwards; this smaller area was then fenced off with a strong net and the animals trapped inside. Such a method was considered far less reckless than hunting without a net, and therefore a reflection of a good and stable ruler. Facing ferocious beasts at close quarters, the Emperor was nevertheless able to project an image of a bold and courageous leader. Such hunts were also used as training for the army and were often undertaken before military campaigns. The success of this specific hunt in Burhanpur was considered a ’favourable omen’ for Shah-Jahan’s forces in the ensuing Deccan campaign, whereas the escape of an animal would have signified ‘infinite evil to the state’.

    The structure of the painting immediately draws the viewer to the figure of the Emperor, who, from the back of an elephant, eyes the lion down the barrel of his long matchlock, balanced on the shoulder of his mahut. The tall net forms a physical and a metaphorical barrier between the imperial family and their attendants in the foreground. Dressed in various shades of khaki camouflage, the beaters, macebearers and officials form an animated gathering as they relax and chatter. On the left, two men wear European hats over their turbans. Towards the centre, a macebearer has wrapped his arm in strong leather. Presumably this is one of the men who, according to the text, gathered the lion cubs after the adults had been killed, apparently by allowing them to bite onto their left arms while they stunned them with the mace in their right.

    The painter has created a swampy landscape, not unlike those of contemporary Flemish and Dutch artists, inhabited by pairs of tiny animals and birds with a town in the distance as the colours fade to blue.

    Milo Beach and Ebba Koch, King of the world : the Padshahnama, an imperial Mughal manuscript from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, 1996
    Saqib Baburi, Beyond the Akbarnamah: Padshahnamahs and Official Regnal Chronography for Shah-Jahan Padshah (r. 1037/1628-1068/1658), 2010.


    Illustration from a Padshahnamah manuscript formerly in the Mughal imperial library and acquired by Asaf al-Dawlah, Nawab of Awadh, c.1780-90; presented by Saadat Ali Khan, Nawab of Awadh, to George III via Lord Teignmouth in June 1799.

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    Attributed to (illustrator)
  • Medium and techniques

    Painting in opaque watercolour including metallic paints.


    35.1 x 22.8 cm (image)

    58.1 x 36.6 cm (page dimensions)

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