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Paintings > Mughal > Akbar Handing Over to Shahjahan the Mughals’ Dynastic Crown
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Akbar Handing Over to Shahjahan the Mughals’ Dynastic Crown

Akbar Handing Over to Shahjahan the Mughals’ Dynastic Crown

Akbar Handing Over to Shahjahan the Mughals’ Dynastic Crown

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Watercolor Painting On Paper

13.0 inch X 18.5 inch
Item Code:
MJ38
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Akbar Handing Over to Shahjahan the Mughals’ Dynastic Crown

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This magnificent work of art, a painting portraying Akbar handing over to Shahjahan the Mughals’ dynastic crown, weaves around three great Mughals: Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjahan, a purely imaginary theme. The painting seeks to reproduce a miniature from the Shahjahan’s court-atelier, dated around 1630-35 A.D., attributed to Govardhana, a great painter of his time who worked first with Jahangir and then with Shahjahan. As is historically known, Akbar was unhappy with prince Saleem, who later ascended the Mughal throne as Jahangir, for many of his habits and for his rebellion against him so much so that once when he was out on a campaign, Saleem not only revolted against him but also declared himself as the Emperor of Hindustan. Hence, Akbar had decided to supersede Jahangir and enthrone his grandson – Jahangir’s eldest son Khusrau Mirza by his Rajput wife Manbhawati Bai, though after Akbar’s death, before Khusrau Mirza could hold reins, Jahangir attacked, defeated and blinded him as the punishment and ascended the Mughal throne. Thus, as is the historical position, Akbar wished to supersede Saleem and enthrone his grandson Khusrau Mirza instead of his father but neither by an act nor by sheer desire prince Khurram, who ruled as Shahjahan, was ever the Akbar’s choice for the Mughal throne. Obviously, the theme of this painting is pure imagination, created by substituting Khusrau Mirza with prince Khurram, perhaps conceived by the artist just for his master’s delight, as also to suggest that his ascendance was by his grandfather’s blessings imparting to it sanctity and greater authority.

The painting represents Akbar as seated in a hexagonal throne made of gold and embedded with precious gems, rubies and emeralds in particular. His seat, carried over winged human figures serving as its legs, occupies the centre of the platform and the canopy raised over it. The platform has laid over it a rich carpet, the foreground consists of pistachio green and a snow-covered white hill comprises the backdrop. The hexagonal form of Akbar’s seat, considered highly auspicious in Islamic tradition, and its height attribute to it a throne’s distinction as against two other seats which are square and have much less height. However richly inlaid, as against Akbar’s regal throne these are mere seats of the princes. Jahangir, as prince Saleem, has been portrayed as occupying the seat on his right, while the seat on his left has been occupied by prince Khurram. Akbar has been represented as extending towards Khurram the Mughals’ dynastic crown, studded with rubies, emeralds and diamonds, Shahjahan’s chosen stones having massive presence in miniatures of his time. Noticeably, both Saleem and Khurram are seated with their legs turned backwards, a mode of sitting during prayer expressing reverence, while Akbar is seated as cross-legged, the posture of authority.

One of three persons standing below the platform, carrying a long sword and shield, is obviously the security in charge, whereas the other two, holding some papers, the Holy Text, are the ecclesiastical persons ready for solemnizing the Emperor’s act with necessary ritual of Khutba. Though worked with gold, Akbar is wearing his widely known ‘atapati-pagadi’ – casually worn turban. Jahangir and Shahjahan had their own turban-styles and they have the same on their heads. The artist’s skill in portraying elegant gracious figures, transparent skin, sharp features, exceptional line-work and great splendour combined with the same level of simplicity, is simply superb. As far as three figures : Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjahan, are concerned, as also Akbar’s dislike of Jahangir and his decision to supersede him the painting represents the history’s factual picture; however, the Akbar’s act of handing over the crown to Shahjahan registers a shift from fact to fiction, and thus a queer blend of two modes of creative arts, the realistic and the fictional.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.

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