Firman of the Emperor Aurangzeb

Historical period(s)
Mughal dynasty, 1661-62
School
Mughal School
Medium
Ink, color, and gold on paper
Dimensions
H x W: 110 x 47.5 cm (43 5/16 x 18 11/16 in)
Geography
India
Credit Line
Purchase — Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S1996.32
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Document
Type

Firman

Keywords
emperor, India, Mughal dynasty (1526 - 1858), nasta'liq script, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

Emperor Aurangzeb (reigned 1658-1707), India [1]

A.C. Ardeshir, Windsor, England, and Bombay, India [2]

To 1996
Terence McInerney Fine Arts Ltd., New York City, to 1996

From 1996
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, purchased from Terence McInerney Fine Arts Ltd. in 1996

Notes:

[1] See Curatorial Remark 1, Massumeh Farhad, January 30, 1996, in the object record.

[2] The Ardeshir collection was moved to Britain prior to World War II (see Provenance Remark 1 in the object record).

Previous Owner(s)

Terence McInerney Fine Arts Ltd.
Emperor Aurangzeb reigned 1658-1707
A. C. Ardeshir

Label

The firman--dated to Aurangzeb's fourth regnal year, corresponding to A.H. 1072/A.D. 1661-62--is written in clear and legible nast'liq and consists of fourteen lines of text. It begins with an elegant "basmallah" written in gold thuluth at the top. Aurangzeb's tugrha or signature giving his name and titles appears below the "basmallah," and a round seal is placed to its right. The seal bears the date of Aurangzeb's coronation, A.H. 1069/A.D. 1658-59 and includes the emperor's name in the center surrounded by smaller medallions giving his lineage, beginning with Timur.

The firman, written on A.H. 25th Jumadi II of 1072/A.D. 15 February 1662, is adressed to Jasvant Singh, the Raj of Marwar, in response to a petition (arzdasht) he had sent to Aurangzeb earlier that month (A.H. 8 Jumadi II/A.D. 29 January) from Aurangabad. In the present decree, Aurangzeb orders Jasvant Singh to remain in Aurangabad and gather and organize his troops, which included muskateers. (The purpose of this order is unclear from the text.)

In addition to its subtle aesthetic qualities, the decree is of considerable historical interest. Jasvant Singh played an important role in the Mughal war of succession that broke out between Shah Jahan's sons, Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja, Murad Bakhsh, adn Aurangzeb, following the emperor's illness in 1657. Fighting on Dara's side, Jasvant Singh's forces were badly beaten by Aurangzib in 1658. Following his defeat, the raja changed sides and joined Aurangzeb. This allegiance, however, did not prevent him from commiting treachery and attacking Aurangzeb's forces at Khajuha in 1659. Jasvant Singh changed sides again and offered to join forces with Dara to rescue Shah Jahan, who had been inprisoned in Agra. At this point, Aurangzeb intervened and promised to forgive Jasvant Singh and honor him with a high post. If he decided to refuse his offer, however, he would  be subject to severe retribution. The emperor continued to show favors to Jasvant Singh until his death in 1678--a fact also confirmed by the firman. Following the raja's death, Aurangzeb seized the foremost Hindu state or Marwar and placed it under Mughal rule.

This firman is the earliest of the published ones and is the first acquisition of its kind for the Sackler Gallery.

Published References
  • Sheila Blair. Islamic Calligraphy. Edinburgh. pl. 12.2.
  • Hunt for Paradise: Court Arts of Safavid Iran, 1501-1576. Exh. cat. Milan. p. 48, fig. 3.1.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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