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Ghatotkacha and three demons in his company chase Bhagadatta, from Bhishma-parva (volume six) of a Razm-nama (Book of Wars) adapted from the Sanskrit Mahabharata and translated into Persian by Mir Ghiyath al-Din Ali Qazvini, known as Naqib Khan (Persian, d. 1614)

June 30, 1616
Religion and Festival
Jahangir 1605–1627

Ghatotkacha and three demons in his company chase Bhagadatta, from Bhishma-parva (volume six) of a Razm-nama (Book of Wars) adapted from the Sanskrit Mahabharata and translated into Persian by Mir Ghiyath al-Din Ali Qazvini, known as Naqib Khan (Persian, d. 1614)



Ghatotkacha and three demons in his company chase Bhagadatta, from Bhishma-parva (volume six) of a Razm-nama (Book of Wars) adapted from the Sanskrit Mahabharata and translated into Persian by Mir Ghiyath al-Din Ali Qazvini, known as Naqib Khan (Persian, d. 1614) 1616-1617 attributed to Fazl (Indian, active early 1600s) India, Mughal, 17th century made for Abd al-Rahim the Khan Khanan Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper, text on verso Page: 36.7 x 24 cm (14 7/16 x 9 7/16 in.) Gift in honor of Madeline Neves Clapp; Gift of Mrs. Henry White Cannon by exchange; Bequest of Louise T. Cooper; Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund; From the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection 2013.321 DESCRIPTION The red demons riding elephants were generated in multiples by Ghatotkacha, a son of one of the five Pandava brothers who knew how to use magic. Though created by magic, the elephant-riding demons could still cause problems for their adversaries and forced them to retreat. This scene took place on the fourth of 18 days of heated battle. This lavishly illustrated copy of the Book of Wars was commissioned by the Khan Khanan, chief minister to the emperor, first under Akbar (reigned 1556–1605) then under Jahangir (reigned 1605–27). INSCRIPTION recto: Persian text in naskh script: . . . they were coming near, four four, five five chariots and their riders with one mace. Many elephants were killed. Sahadeva—the son of Jarasandha—drove toward Ashvatthaman and shot so many arrows at Ashvatthaman that Ashvatthaman lost consciousness. His charioteer took him to his father, Master Drona. Master Drona drove toward Sahadeva—the son of Jarasandha—and showered him with arrows; and he too began to wage battle against Drona. Master Drona was about to finish off Sahadeva when Nakula and three demons and three sons of Drupada came to the aid of Jarasandha’s son and began to fight with Master Drona, and Drona was fighting them all victoriously; and after some time the armies mingled together and became a battle for all, and Bhurishravas and Satyaki began to engage in fighting and Duryodhana came from a side and showered Bhima with nine arrows on the side. Bhima told his charioteer: “Drive my chariot carefully against these people for they are charging at me.” The charioteer drove his chariot toward Duryodhana. Bhima shot ten arrows at Duryodhana, and he lost consciousness, and ten brothers of Duryodhana were killed on this day, and the people who were around him scattered away and dispersed from around him. Duryodhana’s brothers, when they witnessed his plight turned at once toward Bhima and showered him with arrows, and Bhagadatta drove his elephant towards Bhima. The remainder of the fourth day from the eighteen days of battle between the Kauravas and the Paṇḍavas And this Bhagadatta had won such fame in the land of valor that he was deemed a black calamity amid calamities sent by God and for His creatures an instrument of swift death. He shot such an arrow at Bhima’s chest that he lost consciousness and fell leaning against the chariot. Bhagadatta grinned and shouted. Ghatotkacha, the son of Bhima, having witnessed this could no longer hold back and himself mounted an elephant he had made by talismanic means and was called Airavata and summoned three other demons, which he had made in his own image, and had them ride three elephants constructed by art, so that from one demon, four demons went toward Bhagadatta, fighting. And among those elephants, one was called Anjana, the second Vamana, and the third Mahapadma. And Ghatotkacha’s elephants had such an awesome presence that whoever saw them imagined them in rut and from [cont. on verso]; verso: text of Ghatotkacha and three demons in his company chase Bhagadatta: Persian text in naskh script: [cont. from recto] them they would flee. Then the demon drove hard all four elephants toward Bhagadatta until they managed to roll him in their trunks and trampled on his elephant. He was shouting out of despair and seeking help. At this time Bhishma noticed him and shouted at his people to come quickly to Bhagadatta’s aid and save him before he expired. Master Drona, with a well-ordered line of troops and choice warriors, came to battle with the demon. And Bhishma had advised Drona that “This demon is in origin born of a demon, and his way of fighting is not like that of human beings, and he knows a great deal about talismans and magic; therefore, you should act cautiously, and in fact I advise you to cease battle with him today so that if he has indulged in talismans and magic, we too can devise trickeries and ruses of our own so that we gain victory over him tomorrow, for as they say, one should treat like with like.” And the advice of the Kauravas was similar to that of Bhishma. But nevertheless Master Drona set out to free Bhagadatta. Back to the story: when Yudhisthira saw that Master Drona had come to fight the demon in order to free Bhagadatta, he came to the aid of the demon who now was fully backed and supported and who bellowed out joyously: “Now that a massive army has come to my aid, where can you take your life to escape from me?” He said this and left Bhagadatta in order to face Drona. Drona remembered Bhishma’s words and thought it inadvisable to fight the demon. Meanwhile, night was drawing close, and so he pulled back his reins, and accompanied by the Kauravas, returned to their tents. When the Pandavas saw that the Kauravas had ceased fighting and returned to their quarters, they too turned their reins toward their tents and returned homeward with cheer and joy and would slap the demon on the back and express their praise and approval. When night fell, Duryodhana came to Bhishma and summoned all the notables and commanders of the Kauravas and said in a woeful and regretful manner: “Having reviewed and examined today’s battle, I have become extremely despondent and despair of you people. Each one of you has the power and strength to tackle an entire body of troops, and it is clear how much power the demon wields. It is a wonder to me that today too you had agreed together to take it easy and ride out the day and were not capable of countering him, and you have gathered your troops and come home. These actions of yours suggest that either you are not loyal to and bonded with me, or that you just lack strength. How can we believe the latter hypothesis? So we are left with the first hypothesis. So please explain so that I can arrive at another solution.” Bhishma responded to this on behalf of all of them, and said: “Although if you hear the truth from me or from any other person, you will not deem it acceptable, nevertheless since you have posed the question, one must respond out of necessity. I told you at the beginning and tell you again now that Pandavas belong to another breed of people, and overcoming them is no business of yours or ours, for since they have overcome Indra, and Madhu the demon has gained credit from them and taught them magic and sorcery, it would be impossible for the king to overcome them in battle. At most what we are capable of is to indulge in some skirmishes with them and play for time and try to save ourselves from their calamity. Therefore, it would be fitting if you would now see reason and make peace with them on their terms since nothing has yet happened, and the door to reconciliation is open, and what Madhu the demon has related of Krishna and Arjuna––he has said that these two are the Nara and Narayana of the time––you have . . .” PROVENANCE Collection of Hagop Kevorkian (1872–1962), New York, before 1962 Sotheby’s, London, Highly Important Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures: The Property of the Kevorkian Foundation, 7 December 1970, lot 109 EXHIBITION HISTORY Main gallery rotation (gallery 245): November 2, 2015 - The Cleveland Museum of Art (7/31/2016-10/23/2016); Art and Stories from Mughal India, cat. 49.

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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.


The Mughal Images immediately took a much greater interest in realistic portraiture than was typical of Persian miniatures. Animals and plants were the main subject of many miniatures for albums and were more realistically depicted. To upload your images click here.

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