Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Emperor Jahangir At The Jharoka Window Of The Agra Fort
Mughal, circa 1620 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper
Page 56 x 35.2 cm; Image 31.4 x 20.4 cm
Jharoka scenes such as the one shown in the present example are common in Mughal painting, illustrating the importance of the darbar ceremony, where rulers give public audiences. Such audiences regularly followed another ceremony known as darshan, which emphasized the idea of the divinely illuminated ruler through ritual performance. Akbar (r. 1556-1605 CE) initiated this ritual during his reign; the emperor would appear before his subjects each morning before sunrise, so he could see and be seen by them, as suggested by the name darshan (Sanskrit for “sight” and “beholding”) (Necipoÿlu 1993, p. 314). As Abu’l Fazl, Akbar’s close friend, advisor, and biographer, described: "Royalty is a light emanating from God, and a ray from the sun, the illuminator of the universe.... Modern language calls this light farr-i izad-i (the divine light), and the tongue of antiquity called it kiyan khura (the sublime halo). It is communicated by God to kings without the intermediate assistance of anyone, and men, in the presence of it, bend the forehead of praise towards the ground of submission" (Abu al-Fazl 1977, 1:3). The darshan ceremony took place at the jharoka-i darshan, or the “balcony for viewing,” pictured here at top right, where Akbar’s son, the emperor Jahangir (r. 1605-27 CE) appears in profile view, and the darbar would follow just after. The structure in which the jharoka window appears resembles and is probably meant to represent the Shah Burj (Royal Tower), which was an octagonal tower with a white marble pavilion located at the Agra Fort. Sheila Canby notes that such scenes became popular under the reign of Jahangir and even more so under Shah Jahan (r. 1628-58 CE), when court rituals became even more codified (Canby 1998, p. 141). In this image, numerous figures have been identified by inscriptions appearing on their skirts; Nadir al-Zaman (Abu’l-Hasan), the artist to which the painting is ascribed, appears below the sage. Whether the audience illustrated in this painting actually occurred or not, the significance of the ceremony and the role it played for both ruler and subject is certain: “As the emperor stood framed by the jharoka-i darshan that overlooked the river, his gaze emanating from above assured the multitudes gathered below of his continuing existence, without which they feared the universe might collapse, while their upward gaze convinced him of the adoring devotion of his subjects” (Necipoÿlu, p. 314).
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