Search results

Start typing

Eastern Encounters pattern
Eastern Encounters

Drawn from the Royal Library's collection of South Asian books and manuscripts

CAT. NO. 29

Jahangir presents Prince Khurram with a turban ornament by Payag

Mughal, <i>c</i>.1640

Fol. 195r from a manuscript of the Padshahnama (see cat. no. 26) | Painting in opaque watercolour including gold metallic paints with decorative incising on paper; set into margins of gold metallic paint on paper with black ink seal impression | 58.2 × 36.8 cm (folio); 30.6 × 21.1 cm (image) | RCIN

This painting is likely to depict a durbar ceremony held on 12 October 1617 in the hall of public audience of the palace at Mandu in Malwa.[101] It was during this ceremony that the Emperor Jahangir awarded his then 25-year old son, Prince Khurram, the title Shah-Jahan (‘King of the World’) following his return from military victories in the Deccan. The painting comes towards the end of the Padshahnama volume accompanying a text describing the Deccan campaigns of Shah-Jahan’s ninth regnal year with flashbacks recounting his triumphs there as a prince.[102] Jahangir, seated at a jharokha balcony, presents Shah-Jahan with a jewelled and plumed turban ornament symbolising the future transmission of power.[103] The heads of both royal figures are surrounded by shamsas to signify the ‘divine light’ emitted by kings.

Painted in grisaille under the jharokha balcony is an allegorical image in three parts which was not part of the architectural decoration: at the centre is a globe on top of which stand two mullahs with a lion and an ox lying side  by side below. This is a reference to both emperors’ projecting themselves as benign universal sovereigns, expressed through their titles Jahangir (‘World-Seizer’) and Shah-Jahan (‘King  of the World’). The Iranian Mirza Ghiyas Beg, Jahangir’s fatherin-law and Shah-Jahan’s grandfather,[104] gestures towards the mullahs representing spiritual authority. One holds the imperial sword, and the other an open book that reads ‘may the lifetime of the state be perpetually extended’. Mir Muhammad Baqir, an important minister, gestures to the cow and the lion lying together, symbolising sulh-e kul, ‘universal harmony’, under beneficent Mughal rule. This image is adapted from the title page of the Polyglot Bible, where it symbolises Messianic peace prophesied in the eleventh book of Isaiah, a copy of which was brought to the Mughal court by the Jesuits in 1580.[105] A similar example in another durbar scene depicts two mullahs praying before the Chain of Justice, a real chain of golden bells running from the Agra Fort that could be shaken by anyone seeking redress in order to attract the Emperor’s attention (see cat. no. 30).

The figure on the lower left edge of the painting holding a folder and wearing a fashionable Turkish textile of a wavy tiger-stripe design is a self-portrait of the artist. Jahangir and Shah-Jahan’s painters almost invariably depicted themselves on the periphery of the image.[106] The inscription on his folder reads ‘God is great! Drawn by Payag, brother of Balchand’, which may suggest that his brother, the painter Balchand, was the better known of the two when this work was painted. Although active from the 1590s, Payag is celebrated for his later works, particularly his nocturnal and landscape scenes.[107] His colour palette is unlike that of any of Shah-Jahan’s other artists, mellow tones being used to create an almost dream-like atmosphere in this flashback painting.

The order of gazes starts from the lowest group of courtiers on the right and travels diagonally across to the slightly higher group opposite on the left then continuously upwards back and forth to the chief eunuch standing on the royal balcony who gazes directly at the Prince. Similarly, the 45-degree angles repeated across the left-hand side of  the painting and the strong verticals of the right all direct the eye to the spot-lit head of Shah-Jahan, leaving no doubt as to which of the two rulers this painting was intended to honour most.

  • allahu akbar raqam-e Payag baradar-e Balchand / God is Great! Drawn by Payag, brother of Balchand

  • [101] Mandu (Mandhav) is where Sir Thomas Roe witnessed the nau ruz (‘New Year’) ceremony in 1617 and described seeing European paintings behind the throne. Milo Beach alternatively suggests the scene depicts a ceremony on 30 November 1617 when Jahangir gave his son a dynastically important jewel, supposedly the ‘Timur Ruby’ now in the Royal Collection (RCIN 100017.a). See Beach and Koch 1997, pp. 96, 201–3. Saqib Baburi has alternatively identified this scene as ‘Prince Sultan Shah Jahan wears a pearl-fringed khil’at before departing for his second Deccan campaign.’ See Baburi 2012, pp. 394–5.

    [102] Shah-Jahan Nama, p. 148.

    [103] See Jahangirnama, p. 229. This doesn’t however mention the presentation of a jewelled turban ornament but a pearl-fringed charqab, jewelled sword and strap and a jewelled dagger.

    [104] Mirza Ghiyas Beg’s daughter (Mehrunnisa, known as Nur Jahan) married Jahangir (see Findly 1993), and his granddaughter (Arjumand Banu, better known as Mumtaz Mahal) married Shah-Jahan.

    [105] Solomonic rule bringing about peace among the animals was a key tenet of Islamic kingship. See Koch 2010, p. 286.

    [106] Similarly in Mughal albums, artists are occasionally depicted in the borders of the pages.

    [107] For Payag see Okada 1992, pp. 207–15 and Welch 1995. 

  • Bibliographic reference(s)

    Beach and Koch 1997, pp. 96, 201–3

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.