Archive for the ‘Persian’ Category

The Surrender of Kandahar


Apparently, this illustration depicts the successful Mughal campaign to take Kandahar during the reign of Shah Jahan, 1628 to 1666 A.D. (1037-1076 H.). Assisted by brothers Kamran Khan and Malik Maghdood, the Mughal armies seized Kandahar in 1637. After the battle, the pair were made governors of the region. After the death of his brother, Malik Maghdood made a doomed attempt to usurp the governorship of Kabul, and his death was apparently noted with some sorrow by the Shah. These details are drawn from the Padshahnama, a 17th century illustrated history  from the court of Shah Jahan chronicling the exploits of his reign.  Most of the Padshahnama now resides in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle, though other parts are at museums in Patna, India, and, for this particular painting, the Muisee Guimet in Paris. Here’s what the museum says about the painting:

This miniature depicts the surrender of Persian troops- seen on the right, on horseback or on foot-handing over the keys to the city to Kilij Khan whose haughty silhouette appears on the left, mounted on a white steed and wearing a black-plumed turban. The panoramic tableau- heightened by the plunging view over the city that creates an open-air atmosphere- is uncommon in Mughal painting. The painting is typical of the finest productions from the imperial workshop around 1640. The composition includes separate, symmetrical registers, skilfully rendered in a subdued vein. The upper background of this extremely well organized painting shows a citadel-probably Kandahar-treated in casually expert perspective. The surrender scene itself takes place in the foreground, and is inscribed in a virtual square, vertically subdivided into two parts.

Shah Jahan (1628-1658) was doubtless the most splendid of the Mughal emperors. The sovereign’s Official Chronicle, or Padshanama brimmed with illustrations by the greatest imperial artists. Certain miniatures (including this one) were in all likelihood removed from the manuscript in the 18th century. This page, depicting the surrender of a city- probably Kandahar- is one of the most interesting paintings in the chronicle. It provides a pictorial account of a key military event which took place in 1637-1638 under Shah Jahan’s reign. The great Afghan fortress of Kandahar, commanding a strategic position on the road to India and a hub of trade, was bitterly fought over by Safavid Persia and the Mughal Empire in 1595 and 1622. In 1638, Shah Jahan again forced Kandahar to surrender but the city was definitively re-annexed by the Persians in 1653. The manuscript of the Padshanama is today in the collections of the Royal Library at Windsor Castle.

Several years ago, Thames & Hudson published The King of the World: The Padshahnama: An Imperial Mughal Manuscript from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, which looks lovely and too expensive for my current means.

Categories: Fogs of Time, Persian