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Sultan Azhar ud-din Muhammad 'Azim Mirza, 'Azim us-Shan Bahadur, Receiving the Investiture from Khwaja Khizr. ca. 1712 -19. (3)

December 31, 1711
Mirza Firuz Shah
Jahandar Shah 1712–1713

Sultan Azhar ud-din Muhammad 'Azim Mirza, 'Azim us-Shan Bahadur, Receiving the Investiture from Khwaja Khizr. ca. 1712 -19. (3)



Looking more like the work of a jeweler than a painter, this late-Mughal painting is covered in gold. The narrow margin that frames the painting is pure gold. The emperor sits on a massive throne of gold studded with emeralds, rubies and pearls and surmounted by lotuses, which are probably enamel on gold. High above the throne is a canopy of cloth-of-gold held aloft by tent-poles covered in sheets of gold. At the emperor’s feet are golden dishes with golden covers; the platform that the throne stands upon has a golden facing and is surrounded by a railing made of gold. On the floor are silk bags brocaded with gold which must contain coins of gold. There are jewel-encrusted hilts and scabbards of daggers and swords, golden standards fluttering pennants of gold, gold turban cloths, gold trappings on the elephant and a golden bridle on the horse, gold trumpets piercing the sky, and golden bundles piled up in the arcade behind. Practically every material thing in this painting is touched with gold. The sumptuous objects that surround the ruler are not mere boasts about his wealth. Their rich materials remind us of divine presence in our material world. It was the “fostering glance of the sun” that infused black rocks with precious stones and golden ore, Abul Fazl tells us, and kings surround themselves with “external splendour because they consider it to be an image of Divine Glory”. To the brilliance of these objects, the painter adds other effulgences – the glow of the sun in the sky and the circlet of flickering rays escaping the halo of the king. Unlike the gilded objects in the painting that merely reflect light, however, these two – the emperor and the sun – are themselves radiant and shed light. In Mughal theories of kingship, light is the animating force of the universe; as the earth receives its light from the sun, so the king receives his light from God. This divine light, called farr, suffuses the body of the king and becomes visible as an aura. All around the central figure are signs of his sovereignty. He sits on a throne, of course, but the presence of the fly-whisk, the five standard-bearers, the musicians playing the naubat music from the musician’s gallery or naubat-khana above the gate were all privileges reserved for the emperor. Their prominence in this painting underlines the fact that we are seeing a coronation scene. The newly anointed emperor receives gifts from a saintly old man clad in green. There is a dagger on the tray, and a sword, and an inkwell perhaps, but the ruler has picked out two rubies. This may be significant. According to one legend, rubies did not come to earth via the beneficent gaze of the sun. They are the crystallisation of the spilt blood of a murdered and unavenged king. In the legend, the headless body of the dead king lay under a whirlpool, leaking blood that turned into torrents of rubies. Until the king’s son could come of age and avenge him and thus put his dead father to rest, the body was tended by Khwaja Khizr. Khizr, also called the Pir-e-Sabz or the Green Saint, is a mythical figure who is immeasurably old but will never die, since he has discovered the Fountain of Life. He is often shown near or in water, sometimes riding a fish, and is associated with the forces of fertility and life. He offers protection to those who lose their way or walk on dangerous paths. A puzzle for art historians Shah Jahan’s artists depicted him with Khwaja Khizr many times, with the saint usually offering that emperor symbolic gifts: a globe, a cup of the water of life, or a royal sword. Khwaja Khizr is in our painting too, that was made half a century after Shah Jahan’s death. He is the ancient man in green clothes who is offering the new emperor his new regalia on a tray. But who is the emperor whose investiture Khwaja Khizr has come to bless? This is a question that has puzzled art historians. An inscription identifies him as Azim-ud-din. This was the name of the second son of Bahadur Shah I, himself the second son and successor of Aurangzeb. Born in 1664, Azim-ud-din was 43 years old in 1707 when he was given the title Azim-us-Shan Bahadur. His father came to the throne a few days afterwards. Azim-us-Shan was the most powerful, the wealthiest, and most able of Bahadur Shah’s sons and was his heir-apparent. He was by his father’s deathbed in an encampment near Lahore, and was immediately proclaimed emperor in the royal camp. This was on the February 29, 1712. Within days his three brothers had combined forces against him. Although Azim-us-Shan had more forces and much more money than they, tactical errors ended in his rout. On the March 18, 1712, his army was in tatters when he entered the battlefield. Then, it seemed, even the heavens turned against him. “It so happened that a high wind sprang up and the sand from the Ravi banks rose in clouds,” says an historian. “Everything was blotted from view.” A lucky shot “struck the trunk of the elephant on which Prince Azim-us-shan was riding. The elephant turned and fled towards the Ravi… Such was the terror of the elephant that it outstripped the dust itself had raised… Suddenly the elephant disappeared over the high bank overlooking the stream: when the pursuers reached the edge and looked down, all they saw was the heaving mud and sand, from which issued the most frightful roaring. The elephant and the prince had been swallowed up by a quicksand.” (Reference Taken From: Attributed to Bhavani Das. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.)


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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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