Marwar-Mughal Style Fusion in the 17th Century

maharaja jaswant singh and nobles in darbar. jodhpur, c.1640-2. coloured drawing

Marwar and the mughals in the 17th Century

The relationship of the rulers of Jodhpur with the Mughal emperors was never a comfortable one. Akbar had successfully besieged Jodhpur in 1564, but the Rathors had been harassing the imperial powers ever since Rao Chandrasen had surrendered. Part of Akbar's policy of domination of the Rajputs was to take the daughters of the conquered rulers into his family by marriage. In 1570, on a visit to Nagaur, Akbar had accepted in marriage the princesses of Jaisalmer and Bikaner, and in 1586, Chandrasen's successor, his brother Udai Singh (Mota Raja, b.1538, r.1583-95) gave his daughter Jodh Bai, also known as Jagat Gosain, in marriage to the emperor's son and heir apparent, Prince Salim, later to become the emperor Jahangir. For this he received a mansab (command) of 1,000 zat (i.e. the command of 1,000 men) and the title of 'Raja' in place of Rao', and at the same time shackled the house of Jodhpur to the service of the Mughals. Close marriage ties to the emperor secured influential and powerful positions at the Mughal court for a succession of Rathor rajas, but theirs was no sentimental attachment of kinship. Loyalty was given by the Rajputs to the occupant of the throne or to the claimant most likely to succeed, and in a society where fratricide and parricide in the cause of ambition were not infrequent, kinship, especially by marriage, carried no guarantee of support in times of conflict.

The production of illustrated histories of Akbar's reign (1556-1605) was a major function of the Mughal painting studio, and it was out of the desire to record historic events, coupled with the strong influence of the European works of art that were by now reaching the imperial court, that the art of portraiture grew. Depiction of real people and places had hitherto had no place in the Indian artistic tradition, and even individual rulers were seen more as symbolic manifestations of kingship than as human beings whose physical nature was worth recording.

raja udai singh(mota raja) of marwar. mughal, c. 1650

Raja Udai Singh (Mota Raja) of Marwar. Mughal, c.1650. By Payag after an original of c. 1580. Chester Beatty Library, Dublin.

Udai Singh, like many other Mughal courtiers, had his portrait painted at court, although the lack of a reliably inscribed likeness of him has resulted in controversy over the identity of several possible portraits of the raja. There has been, in particular, confusion over the identities of portraits of Udai Singh and Raja Man Singh of Amber, in spite of the fact that there are several apparently accurate portraits of the latter that establish his appearance to an unusually detailed degree.? Recent research suggests that the portrait of an unnamed stout Rajput in the Worcester Art Museum may be the most convincing likeness of Raja Udai Singh to have come to light so far. The courtier in this painting also bears a strong similarity in both face and figure to the unnamed raja in a portrait in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, who may also now be identified as Udai Singh. A standing portrait of the same man is still in the Jodhpur collection and although this is a slightly later copy of an early 17th-century original painting, this painting can also be added to the group of known likenesses of the Mota Raja.

A stout Rajput courtier with the same appearance as in the Worcester, Dublin and Jodhpur portraits is shown in a page of the Akbarnama in the Victoria & Albert Museum, depicting a visit of the ambassadors of Mirza Shah Rukh Akbar's court in 1577. This court scene would certainly be an appropriate context in which to find the Mota Raja, who entered Mughal service in about 1570. Althoug a much later work, the portrait of Udai Singh used by T. H. Hendley in The Rulers of India and the Chiefs of Rajputana bears out the identification of these portraits with Udai Singh. The portraits of rulers used by Hendley were painted to his commission in the 19th century and cannot therefore totally trusted as accurate likenesses, but they are mostly based on earlier, in some cases contemporary, portraits of the rajas which had been preserved in local palace collections. The original source of Hendley's portrait of Udai Singh has not yet been traced (it is not the portrait still in Jodhpur, although they are recognizably the same person), but the published 19th-century version is a further indication of the raja's appearance.

A well-known album page now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston depicts a Rajput noble who has also been identified by some scholars as Udai Singh. It shows a stout Rajput leaning on a staff and exhibits, almost in the form of a caricature, the rounded outline that gave Udai Singh his nickname. In spite of the appropriateness of the portrait to the Mota Raja, there is no evidence apart from his physique to suggest that he is the subject, especially in the light of the present identification of the Worcester and Dublin portraits as Udai Singh. Coomaraswamy identified the Boston portrait in 1930 as being probably of Raja Man Singh of Amber,' which is also incorrect and perhaps the basis for much of the later confusion over these two subjects, and it is not known who first suggested the identification with Udai Singh instead. No other likeness of the courtier in the Boston portrait has so far been identified, so his identity must remain unknown for the present. There seems to have been a tendency to identify any portrait of a portly Rajput courtier as Udai Singh, as is the case with a painting in the India Office Library, London.10 This painting is catalogued as a portrait of the Mota Raja although it is in fact recognizable as his grandson, Maharaja Jaswant Singh, who is himself far from immune to confusion over his appearance in portraiture.

Like so many aspects of Mughal culture, documentary portraiture was to have a profound impact on the art of the Rajput courts, and it revolutionized both the form and the content of Rajasthani painting. Here for the first time were accurate representations of real individuals, not gods or mythical kings, and in many cases they were even accomplished enough to convey something of the subject's temperament or his social status. While the Rajput artists never attained the level of portraiture of Mughal court artists such as Payag or Bichitr, by the second half of the 17th century they had begun to emulate the realistic portraits of the imperial court, in contrast to the idealized illustrations to stories of the deities or ragamala subjects which had hitherto been their staple fare.

The Jodhpur rajas had considerable experience of portraiture at the Mughal court through being painted themselves. A brief survey of their representation by Mughal artists is appropriate here, as it shows both the high status that the Jodhpur rajas were accorded at the court (they were, after all, close relatives by marriage to the imperial line and commanders of the emperor's armies) and the consistent formal style in which they were depicted by the Mughal artists: a style which was carried over to their own court in Jodhpur. Not unnaturally, a raja who is repeatedly depicted as a mere courtier in the presence of an overlord (and one whom he resents, as the Rajputs did the Mughals) will eventually set up his own atelier of artists to provide pictures in which he is shown to be the focus of attention, and the wielder of power over his assembled nobles.

raja sur singh of jodhpur. jodhpur or bikaner, after a mughal original, c.1660.

Raja Sur Singh of Jodhpur. Jodhpur or Bikaner, after a Mughal original, c. 1660. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Both Udai Singh and his son Suraj or Sur Singh (b.1571, r.1595-1619) had posed for portraits by Akbar's artists without seeking to emulate them in Jodhpur. Few individual portraits of either were made, or have survived. Portraits that may represent the Mota Raja have been discussed above, and representations of Sur Singh are also infrequently found, although he is to be seen more often in paintings showing groups of nobles at Jahangir's court. A study of Sur Singh by Bishandas, dating from the 1590s, is in the imperial album of portraits known as the Kevorkian Album, now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York." Another version of the same portrait, also by Bishandas, is in another collection of paintings, the Berlin Album,12 with an identifying note dated AH 1017 (AD 1608) in Jahangir's handwriting. Another, slightly later, inscribed portrait of Sur Singh was formerly in the Kishengarh royal collection, and may have been painted there or elsewhere in Rajasthan, in the late 17th century. The pose of the raja in both of the Bishandas paintings appears surprisingly subservient as he stands rather glumly with his hands clasped before him and his head slightly bowed.

In fact, Sur Singh was an important and esteemed figure at Akbar's court: he had been granted a mansab of 2,000 men by Akbar on his accession in 1595, and he accompanied Princes Murad and Daniyal on campaigns to the Deccan and Gujarat. He continued to serve in the Deccan until his death in 1619. Sur Singh is mentioned favourably several times by Jahangir in his memoirs (Tuzuk-i Jahangiri), where it is stated that he ‘reached high rank and great dignities? A painting which is unidentified but which is evidently a version of a Mughal portrait of Sur Singh is housed at Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur. This painting seems to be a later seventeenth-century work, not intended for an imperial album. It may have been done by a Sub-Imperial artist, probably in Jodhpur or Bikaner, in about 1660.

While the emperor Akbar created albums of individual portraits of his own and foreign nobles, including Udai Singh, under Jahangir (r. 1605-27) the trend arose for documentary portraits that showed events and occasions at court. These darbar scenes from Jahangir's reign, and that of Shah Jahan (r.1627-58), provide detailed portraits of the nobles present, and Sur Singh can be identified in several darbar paintings. A scene of Jahangir receiving petitioners and prisoners dressed in animal skins in a garden, painted in about 1610, includes Sur Singh standing at the extreme right of the picture, a little below the emperor's throne His distinctive, somewhat flat profile is recognizable from Bishandas' portrait.

Sur Singh also appears in the Victoria & Albert Museum page from the Tuzuk-i Jahangiri depicting the submission of Rana Amar Singh of Mewar to Prince Khurram (later to become Shah Jahan) in 1614, a painting that reappears in slightly altered form in the Padshahnama, the history of Shah Jahan's reign, now in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. Sur Singh's presence at the event is documented, 18 and he can be identified as one of the courtiers standing facing Khurram on the left of the painting. Sur Singh is also recognizable in a darbar scene from the Tuzuk-i Jahangiri depicting an event in 1619, the last year of his life, in which he stands with other Rajput nobles below Jahangir's balcony." He later appears in four other darbar paintings in the Padshahnama. A curious individual painting inscribed as being of Sur Singh is in Baroda, 21 but this appears to be a highly formalized later work, probably of the early 18th century, and bears little resemblance to Sur Singh of Jodhpur as he is shown in the Mughal portraits.

maharaja gaj singh of jodhpur with raja jai singh of amber. mughal or amber, c.1630

Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur with Raja Jai Singh of Amber. Mughal or Amber, c. 1630. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Sur Singh's son Gaj Singh I (b.1595, r.1619-38) also appears in several darbar or court scenes of the emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Gaj Singh, too, spent a large part of his career in Mughal service in the Deccan for Jahangir and his son Shah Jahan, and the painted record of his appearances at court occur from about 1625 until his death in 1638. An unfinished drawing of a darbar of Jahangir done in about 1630, in the India Office Library, London, shows the emperor greeting his son Shah Jahan on a balcony: Gaj Singh's distinctive features are evident in the middle left-hand side of the assembled nobles. Many more court scenes showing Gaj Singh date from Shah Jahan's reign. One of the earliest is in the St Petersburg Album,23 and may represent a darbar held in 1628, when Gaj Singh returned from the Deccan to attend the court at Agra to acknowledge Shah Jahan's succession. At this time he was presented with a khasa khilat (robe of honour), sword, horse, elephant and kettle drum and had his mansab renewed.24 A fine darbar scene painted in 1629-30 by 'Abid shows Shah Jahan receiving Mahabat Khan, commander of his armies. Gaj Singh, as a high-ranking general, stands next to Mahabat Khan on the left of the picture. This page may have been intended for the Padshabnama, but was included instead in the so-called Late Shah Jahan Album of assembled single pages.

Several pages from the Padshabnama also show Gaj Singh in attendance. In a detached page, by 'Abid, started in 1637 but completed in 1639 and now in the Binney collection in the San Diego Museum of Art, Shah Jahan is receiving a turban ornament from his son Dara Shikuh, while Gaj Singh stands in a group to the right. He is accompanied by a young man: some sources state that Gaj Singh was accompanied to Agra in 1638 by his second son Jaswant Singh, but as Jaswant was still a minor on his succession to the gaddi in the same year (he was born in December 1626), he is too young to be the moustachioed youth on the far right of the picture. Gaj Singh's eldest son, Amar Singh, had already been disinherited and exiled by 1638.

In a darbar scene from the Padshahnama signed by Murar,28 the emperor bids farewell to his son Shah Shuja', on the occasion of his departure to Kabul with Gaj Singh to defend Qandahar from Iranian incursions in 1638. There appear to be two Rathor nobles in attendance on this occasion: Gaj Singh is identifiable in a prominent position at centre right of the painting, just below Shah Jahan's throne, and another man with the unmistakable Rathor profile is seen in a group of courtiers on the left. This may perhaps be Sabal Singh, Gaj Singh's brother.

Bichitr's painting of another scene in the Padshahnama shows Gaj Singh standing amongst other Rajput leaders (he is standing next to Karan Singh of Bikaner, r.1631-74) to the left of the imperial platform while Shah Jahan embraces his three sons. In all of these paintings, Gaj Singh is placed among the most highly-favoured nobles, standing either on the same level as the emperor and his sons or in a prominent position under the balcony.

Gaj Singh is elevated to a starring role in a Mughal court portrait only rarely. In a splendid painting attributed to Bichitr formerly in the Heeramaneck collection, and now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, he is no longer merely an attendant lord but shares a princely seat, and a paan, with a young noble who is identified in the inscription above his head as Maharaja Jai Singh I of Amber (r.1625-67). The supreme talents of the court artist are evident in this symbolic encounter overlooked by European-style cherubs holding up a Persianate canopy. Jai Singh gazes dispassionately at the stately Rajput commander, whose elegant nose and kindly eyes combine with an incipient double chin to give what must be a true picture of Gaj Singh.

Unusually for a Mughal painting, in which the subjects are frequently identified by labels in Persian script, the names of the sitters in this case have been added in Devanagari script. This suggests that the inscription was added while the painting was in the possession of a Rajput court, perhaps even that of Jodhpur. If the painting entered a Rajput royal collection, it would help to explain how it became the prototype for several portraits of Gaj Singh painted in Rajasthan after his death in 1638. A fine full-length study of the raja painted by a Mughal artist probably during his lifetime or shortly afterwards (now in the British Museum, and frequently misidentified as Jaswant Singh) offers an equally lifelike profile, but is not known to have reached a Rajput collection

Whether or not Mughal artists travelled back to Jodhpur with Gaj Singh has been a matter for speculation when considering the development of the Jodhpur school of painting. As the maharaja was so active in imperial service away from home for much of his reign, it seems more plausible that portraits of him were done by Mughal artists at the imperial court or camp. A fine standing portrait of him in the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai (also misidentified as Jaswant Singh) draws heavily on Mughal prototypes, although probably done by a Jodhpur artist. This portrait shows the maharaja with a halo, the symbol of royalty, and he stands leaning on his sword in the attitude common to countless Mughal portraits. This pose (if not this actual portrait) became the model for a later portrait of Gaj Singh, although the unusual and delicately handled greyish tones of the face were not reproduced in later versions.

Portraits showing the ruler at a jharokha window also provided stereotypes for locally produced portraits. A sensitively drawn small portrait of Gaj Singh (again misidentified, in a Persian inscription, as Jaswant Singh) is in the British Museum. Painted in the Mughal style, it is unusual in being set into a curious blue brick surround. Although the fineness of the portraiture could suggest the work of an artist of the Mughal court, the jharokha setting implies that the work was painted in Gaj Singh's own domain, but undoubtedly by an artist trained in the Mughal idiom. The use of brickwork as a decorative motif is alien to Rajasthan, where palaces are of stone, and is also rarely encountered in Mughal paintings (although brick is a common building material in the Punjab and might conceivably be encountered in paintings done in Lahore, for example). It seems likely that the blue bricks, like the floral mount, were added later, outside Rajasthan, a fact which would also help to explain the misidentification of the subject in the inscription.

The imposing portrait of Gaj Singh in the National Museum, New Delhi, shows close similarities with and also with a closely related portrait of Gaj Singh formerly in the Khajanchi collection. The portrait in Los Angeles may have served as a prototype for both of these. However, the significantly different treatment makes it impossible to call or the Khajanchi study a copy of a particular Mughal work. While the Mughal influence is obviously strong, these are Rajasthani drawings, and thus mark a watershed between the purely Mughal representations of the rajas examined up to now and the beginnings of a genuinely Jodhpuri idiom. The Khajanchi portrait has been attributed to Ajmer rather than Jodhpur itself. Ajmer was at several periods under the rule of the Jodhpur rajas, and its nobility was mostly of Rathor origin, but there is no firm evidence to suggest that this style of drawing was particularly associated with Ajmer.

The stylization imposed on the delicately detailed Mughal study is the most important element of the hybrid style exemplified by these two portraits. The lines of the face have taken on a sculptural quality, as have the curves of the ear, the curls of hair and even the striped folds of the turban. The format of both portraits is typically Mughal with the Khajanchi painting of the jharokha type in which Gaj Singh appears as if at a balcony hung with two richly decorated brocades, and the other a bust portrait of the ruler leaning on his sword. The details of Gaj Singh's visite jama, the pearl necklace, pendant, earrings and turban alle ban all echo the Mughal version, but in a more stylised fashion.

maharaja gaj singh at a jharokha window. mughal or jodhpur, c. 1640

Maharaja Gaj Singh at a Jharokha window (misidentified in the inscription as Jaswant Singh). Mughal or Jodhpur, c. 1640. British Museum, London.

maharaja gaj singh. jodhpur, c.1670. national museum, new delhi.

Maharaja Gaj Singh. Jodhpur, c. 1670. National Museum, New Delhi.

The jharokha portrait was very popular with Mughal artists, bortly as it reflected semi-realistically the appearance of the ruler before his subjects, while at the same time provided a neat framework for a small-scale portrait. The idiom was taken up by Rajput artists emulating the Mughal style, although the distant appearance at a window was counter to the Rajput, and certainly the Rathor, concept of the ruler as the first among equals, who would more appropriately be depicted seated in a gathering of his nobles and kinsmen.

A portrait head of Dara Shikuh (1615-58) in the National Museum, New Delhi, has many of the same characteristics as the first two Gaj Singh portraits. Datable to 1645-50, and attributed to Hunhar, this type of nim qalam or partly coloured drawing must have influenced the Jodhpur portraitists as much as the Mughal painting of Gaj Singh formed their conventions of the maharaja's appearance. A later full-length portrait of Gaj Singh in Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur dating from about 1725-40, shows the same characteristics, but here the Rajput artist seems to have resolved the difficulties of rendering the Mughal idiom. The paradigm for Gaj Singh's portrait still seems to be the Los Angeles painting, but the pose of the noble in a wide jama leaning against his sword could be taken from any number of Mughal portraits. The stylized Quality is still very marked with particularly weak hands and feet, but the maharaja is given greater status through the standing posture. The decoration on his jama and turban are exquisitely painted, and they are more effective for being the only colorful areas in the painting. The rolling clouds in the background, reminiscent of a similar sky in the British Museum portrait of Gaj Singh, lend a dramatic air to this large-scale drawing.

The trend of stylization of Mughal stereotypes continues with a painting of Gaj Singh in the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas, The drawing of this portrait is considerably coarser than in the preceding paintings which it superficially resembles. While Gaj Singh's features are well defined, the details of the painting are poorly executed. The hands and the patka (sash) are especially crudely represented. The figure of the ruler is even more sculpturally drawn than the one in the National Museum portrait. He is shown as a Rajput warrior with a large sword of the type known as khanda which was widespread in the Deccan, and it is perhaps used in the portrait as an emblem of his imperial service there, although the khanda is also frequently seen in Mughal portraiture. His jama is undecorated, as is his turban; his eyes, though still with heavy bags and dark rings, gaze steadily upwards; his double chin has undergone an attempt to disguise it as part of a heavy jawline. Although, as in most of the standing portraits, it is the face that has had the most attention given to it, the picture has some proportional sense and is extended down to knee level, with the jama and patka lightly sketched in.

Another 18th-century portrait of Gaj Singh that is obviously based on Mughal prototypes is in the Baroda Museum. This painting is dated VS 179/AD 1733, and like the earlier Mughal picture, uses the convention of hovering cherubs holding a canopy over the standing ruler. Two interesting paintings of about 1710 showing a ruler identified by inscriptions in both paintings as Gaj Singh of Jodhpur in a garden setting, seem to be by Mewar rather than Marwar artists. A Mewar courtier named Gaj Singh, with the same features as the figure in the paintings, appears in a Holi scene of Rana Amar Singh II datable to 1708-10, and it may be he who is the subject of the two garden scenes.

Maharaja Jaswant Singh I (b.1626, r.1638-78), like his father Gaj Singh, served as military commander for the Mughal emperor throughout his reign, although his allegiance to the throne was never heartfelt, to say the least. Tod comments that 'he detested the whole race the Mughals) as inimical to the religion and the independence of his own', and yet he managed to use his position as ‘one of the chief rajas of Hindustan' to advance his own career, at least until Aurangzeb, unable to trust him any longer with militarily sensitive posts, put the collar of simulated friendship around his neck, and sent him bevond the Attock lie to Peshawar) to die'.

standing portrait of maharaja gaj singh. jodhpur, c.1725-40

Standing Portrait of Maharaja Gaj Singh. Jodhpur, c.1725-40. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Jaswant's military career was successful rather than heroic and by the end of Shah Jahan's reign he had increased his mansab from 4,000 to 7,000 and attained the governorship of Malwa. He led Shah Jahan's forces against Aurangzeb at Dharmat in 1657, but his army, which included some 30,000 Rajputs of every clan, was defeated. This loss of face led to the occasion, famous in Jodhpur history, when his wife, a princess of Mewar, shut the gates of the city against him when he returned from the battle, saying that she had rather he had died on the battlefield than suffer defeat. Jaswant Singh was perhaps more suited for a life of literary pursuits than military campaigns, for he is known to have written several literary works, including a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, the metaphysical treatise Siddhant-bodh, the Anand Vilas and a work on rhetoric, the Bhasa-bhusan.

In spite of the numerous misidentifications in which Gaj Singh is labelled as Jaswant Singh in portraits, Jaswant Singh in fact appears infrequently in Mughal works. The reason for this is probably no more sinister than that he spent a great deal of time away from the court on campaign and could not therefore be included in darbar scenes. An unusual portrait in Berlin of Jaswant Singh is one of the few Mughal works to depict him. Although Jaswant Singh's animosity to his overlords was considerable, during his forty-year rule Mughal influences on Marwari culture were naturally strengthened. A darbar scene formerly in the collection of Dr Moti Chandra and a group of drawings in the British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum are some of the finest examples of the Mughal-influenced Jodhpur style. Dating from about 1640, the darbar scene shows a youthful Jaswant, soonafter his accession, flanked by rows of nobles and surmounted by cherubs holding up a canopy - an obvious parallel with the Mughal portrait of Gaj Singh that is known to have been in a Rajput collection. The sensitively drawn faces of Jaswant Singh and the nobles are the most accurate portraits from life yet seen in Jodhpur painting, though the cherubs, borrowed from the western tradition via Mughal paintings, are less well understood.

Although the drawings are obviously preparatory sketches for darbar scenes such as, they do not correspond sufficiently closely to be identified as drawings for this particular painting. Both drawings and seem to show the same people, however, the British Museum drawing, adds a petitioner to the foreground and an extra nobleman on the extreme left. In both, Jaswant Singh looks towards the man on his left, whose family resemblance suggests that he may be his uncle Sabal Singh, who is depicted as a senior member of the group. The other fragmentary sketch in the British Museum shows a row of nobles obviously intended for another darbar scene, but whether or not these were ever completed we do not yet know. No painting has yet come to light which shows as many as six courtiers in a single row, as in this drawing.

maharaja jaswant singh of jodhpur and nobles in darbar. jodhpur, c.1640.
Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur and nobles in darbar. Jodhpur, c.1640. Formerly in the collection of Dr. Moti Chandra, Mumbai.
maharaja jaswant singh and nobles in darbar. jodhpur, c.1640-2. coloured drawing

Maharaja Jaswant Singh and nobles in darbar. Jodhpur, c.1640-2. Colored drawing, British Museum, London.

maharaja jaswant singh and nobles in darbar. jodhpur, c. 1644-5. brush drawing

Maharaja Jaswant Singh and nobles in Darbar. Jodhpur, c.1644-5. Brush drawing, Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

In the V&A drawing, but not in the finished darbar or the other drawings, the Mughal mannerism of showing the ruler with a nimbus or halo of rays around his head is adopted. This in turn was a feature borrowed by the Mughal artists from European painting, although the nimbate ruler occurs in much carlier paintings clsewhere the subcontinent. Mughal characteristics have been clearl assimilated into these drawings, such as the subtle shading of the faces and clothes. Details such as the hands and the folds of the garments are more technically perfect than in previous Jodhpur paintings or drawings. These sketches were obviously made by Mughal-trained artists working at the Jodhpur court. It is not surprising that Jaswant Singh should employ artists from the Mughal court: while frequently changing his allegiance in the factional wars between Shah Jahan's sons after 1658, his personal policy was to extract what he could in terms of land, power and indeed material loot from the Mughals. The magnificent red velvet tent still housed in Jodhpur may be part of the 'spoils' that Jaswant appropriated (“even to the royal tents?)'in 1659 at the battle of Khajwa, when he mounted an attack on Aurangzeb's army and plundered his camp.

Several individual portraits of Jaswant Singh exist. One of the best is in the Cleveland Museum. It is inscribed maharaja sri jasot singhji jodhpur ka raja. Although it utilizes the standard format of the noble standing with a sword, it also exhibits subtlety and care in the drawing of the face. A comparable, but slightly more crudely executed standing portrait of Jaswant Singh was formerly in a private collection. Here, only the face has received any serious attention in the drawing, and the whole figure has a stiff and unnatural appearance. It is obviously based on late 17th-century portrait types, but has little of the sophistication of the imperial artists' work.

A splendid picture from Jaswant Singh's middle years parallels the darbar scenes of his youth. This is a colourful painting done in about 1667 which shows the maharaja listening to female musicians in a garden. Here, the middle-aged Jaswant sits surrounded by ladies in an exuberantly depicted garden which draws on Rajput rather than Mughal forebears for its idealized arboreal setting.

At the same time, it anticipates the excesses of the early 19th century when towering trees full of birds and monkeys seem to dominate similar royal subjects. The colours and composition, as well as the treatment of the people, trees, buildings and carpets, have in this painting become further removed from the Mughal aesthetic and have crossed the border that divided the Rajasthani tradition from the imperial. Jaswant still wears the mild expression that seems to derive from his receding profile and mournful eyes, but his attendant ladies are lively and skilfully drawn.

The boldly patterned carpets, unlike anything previously seen in a Jodhpur painting and equally distinct from the finely detailed floor coverings of Mughal miniatures, recall those in the ragamala set believed to have been painted in about 1650-75 for a Rajput patron serving in the Deccan.

The unusual colour scheme and the drawing of the ladies, as well as the fact that Jaswant Singh was posted to the Deccan in 1667, suggests that some similar conjunction of styles has taken place here, and further suggestions of Deccani influence appear in the painting.

standing portrait of maharaja jaswant singh. jodhpur, c.1660-70.

Standing Portrait of Maharaja Jaswant Singh. Jodhpur, c.1660-70. present whereabouts unknown.

maharaja jaswant singh listening to musicians in a garden. jodhpur, c.1667-70.

Maharaja Jaswant Singh listening to musicians in a garden. Jodhpur, c.1667-70. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

maharaja jaswant singh on horseback. jodhpur or deccan, c.1680

Maharaja Jaswant Singh on horseback. Jodhpur or Deccan, c.1680. Kanoria Collection, Patna.

Several portraits of Jaswant Singh in his later years survive He died while on imperial service at Jamrud, near Peshawar in 1678, apparently at the age of 51 or 52, but he is not infrequently portrayed as an elderly white-haired man. The most accomplished of these portraits is that in the Kanoria collection in which Jaswant Singh, nimbate, is mounted on an elegant horse, attended by a dark-skinned servant. An inscription added at the top of the painting identifies the subject as Maharaja Jaswant Singh, and indeed the amiable receding profile could scarcely belong to anyone else. The costume, in particular the turban, of the servant, recalls similar garments seen in Deccani paintings of the 17th century, and it may well be that the servant could have been taken into Jaswant's service during his service in the Deccan, for example when he was sent to assist Prince Mu'azzam as governor in 1667.

The composition of the painting also recalls Deccani works, especially a group of ragamala paintings attributed by Zebrowski to Bidar in the early 18th century, in which the backgrounds are dominated by steep hills surmounted by buildings or trees in a manner remarkably close to the unusual hilly landscape. The motif of the darkskinned servant in a Deccani turban, who frequently seems to run or caper along beside the horse of the main subject of the painting, recurs in Jodhpur painting throughout the 18th century.

Black attendants are found in works from several schools of painting, and at different periods, most frequently as the black Habshi or Sidi servants seen in attendance on the rulers of Kutch in Gujarat in the 18th century. This occurrence of an apparently Deccani servant in the portrait of Jaswant Singh from the late 17th century is the first time such a figure occurs in Jodhpur painting.

Three standing portraits of the middle-aged Jaswant Singh are outwardly similar, but show significant variations in treatment. The first, in the India Office Library56 (misidentified as Udai Singh) is a purely Mughal work probably done in about 1675. A comparable painting in a private collection in Milan57 is, as usual, closely based on Mughal examples but was painted after Jaswant Singh's death, in the early 18th century, by a Jodhpur artist.

The progression away from Mughal prototypes is exemplified by the late 17th-century portrait in the Goenka collection. Few of the paintings of the end of Jaswant Singh's reign match the imaginativeness of the earlier years. Although we know that artists accompanied him to Peshawar, it is impossible to assign particular works to these named artists. They are listed as Karim, son of Ghasi; Natho, son of Gayo; Narayandas, son of Bagha Devara; and Nago, son of Vagho Devara.

Apart from reigning maharajas, few Rathor nobles seem to have been depicted in 17th-century Mughal-style portraits. An exception is the portrait formerly in the Heeramaneck collection which has appeared several times on the new York art market. Its inscription, in both Persian and Devanagari script, states that it is a portrait of rajaji Sabal Singhji, the younger brother of Gaj Singh. He is also described in the inscriptions as Marot ka (‘of Marot') and vali Marot (“governor of Marot). Marot is a town in Jodhpur state, near Sambhar Lake, but historical sources do not seem to connect Sabal Singh with it. He was given the rulership of Phalodi in the north of Marwar, by Jahangir on the death of Raja Sur Singh in 1619, and he is not to be confused with Sabal Singh of the Bhatti Rajputs who ruled Jaisalmer from 1651-61. This portrait was catalogued as being of Jaswant Singh in two sale catalogues, and certainly the familiar traits of mournful eyes with dark circles, long nose and receding chin could suggest this identification, although these traits seem to be common to Rathor males in the 17th century. As this is the only known painting so far to be identified as Sabal Singh, it is impossible to say whether he really resembled his uncle Jaswant Singh so closely or whether the inscription is in fact incorrect.

A portrait of a Rathor prince in the Victoria & Albert Museum is identified by an inscription on the reverse as Jaswant Singh, and does have the receding profile of both Gaj Singh and Jaswant Singh, but the age of the boy and the date of the painting (c.1660) suggest that the subject might rather be Jaswant Singh's son Prithvi Singh. The delicacy and realism of the portrait indicates that it may have been painted by an artist from Bikaner, the Rajput state that was most heavily influenced by the finely-drawn Mughal painting style.

Another Rathor noble appears in a standing portrait in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The painting is datable to about 1640-50 (although Coomaraswamy dates it somewhat earlier, perhaps on account of the chakdar jama worn by the young noble), and the subject bears a marked resemblance to the young Jaswant Singh. He could, however, almost equally well be another member of the Rathor clan, as their characteristic features seem to be spread quite widely amongst the members. Another Rathor noble appears in a painting in the India Office Library, London. Datable to about 1670, he is identified as Bhoj Raj, maternal uncle to the Mirza Raja (Maharaja Jai Singh I of Amber), whose mother was a Rathor. A portrait of another Rathor noble is in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, but does not bear a conclusive identification.

Jaswant Singh's elder brother Amar Singh (1614-44) is notably absent from the 17th-century group of Jodhpur portraits. Amar Singh's birthright would normally have made him heir to Gaj Singh's throne, but his unstable and violent temperament had caused him to be passed over by his father who, with Shah Jahan's consent, named the more reliable Jaswant as his heir in 1638. Amar Singh's supporters claimed that Jaswant had ingratiated himself with their father's influential pasban (mistress) Anguri Bai, and that she was instrumental in persuading Gaj Singh to bestow the inheritance on Jaswant. As the Maathir-ul-Umara notes with regard to the divergence from the rule of primogeniture, “The customs of the Rathors are different from those of other Rajputs, for that child succeeds whose mother the father has loved the most, though he may be younger'

Amar Singh was exiled from Jodhpur in 1634 either as a consequence of continuing disagreements with his brother or, in an alternative version of the story, following a murder which led to the death of a Jodhpur princess and her fiancé, a prince of the house of Rewa. Despite his disinheritance, he was nevertheless taken into imperial service by Shah Jahan. He was given the governorship of Nagaur, which his descendants continued to rule, even periodically reemerging as contenders for the Jodhpur throne: Amar Singh's son Rai Singh was placed briefly on the throne by Aurangzeb in 1659 to punish Jaswant for his infidelity in supporting Shah Jahan and Dara Shikuh against him, and in 1679, Rai Singh's son Indar Singh was declared ruler of Jodhpur by Aurangzeb in an attempt to stabilize Marwar during the troubled period that followed Jaswant's death in 1678. Under Amar Singh, Nagaur became a minor centre of Mughal-influenced culture, though Nagaur's major flowering as a political and cultural centre was to come in the eighteenth century, under Bakhat Singh.

Forebodings of Amar Singh's impetuous and violent nature were not unfounded: in 1644, after a real or imagined insult by Shah Jahan's paymaster-general Salabat Khan, Amar Singh was summoned to court at Agra to explain his conduct towards one of the emperor's officers. Enraged, he stabbed Salabat Khan to death, and in a frenzied attack killed five more courtiers who were standing by, apparently also endangering the life of the emperor in the attack. He was finally stopped by a knife wielded by his brother-in-law, Arjun Singh Gaur. Although formally discredited in terms of the Jodhpur rulership, Amar Singh's name and exploits continue to be remembered even today, for his is the most popular story in the Rajasthani puppet play (kathputli) repertoire in which he is seen as a valiant Rajput rebel against the repressive rule of the Mughals.

The last part of Maharaja Jaswant Singh's life was a sad end to his career in Mughal service. He was sent to Jamrud, in the inhospitable country around the Khyber Pass, as thanedar or garrison commander, in 1671, and he died at Peshawar, his military headquarters, in November 1678. His death opened an era of misfortune and rebellion for the Rathors, for he had died without an heir. His eldest son, Prithvi Singh, remembered in local tradition for having wrestled with a tiger at Aurangzeb's court, had died in Delhi in 1675 during Jaswant's posting to Jamrud, murdered, according to Tod, by the gift of a poisoned khilat (robe) from Aurangzeb. Tod reports that Prithvi Singh was the staff of his father's age, and endowed with all the qualities required to lead the swords of Maru', and that his beloved son's death contributed to Jaswant's decline, speeded also by the death of his younger son Jagat Singh, in 1676 ‘from the uncongenial climate of Kabul’.

maharaja jaswant singh in middle age. jodhpur, c.1680-90

Maharaja Jaswant Singh in middle age. Jodhpur, c.1680-90. Goenka Collection.

Jaswant Singh had been a thorn in Aurangzeb's side for many years: his animosity towards the Mughals had never subsided and Aurangzeb viewed him as a treacherous and untrustworthy ally. He had sided with each of Shah Jahan's sons in turn during the Mughal succession struggles, and had even tried to make a pact with the Marathas. But even more heartfelt was the pious emperor's opinion of Jaswant as a major obstacle to the propagation of Islam throughout his dominions. It was said that 'while Jaswant lived, sighs never ceased flowing from Aurang's heart”, and when the ageing maharaja died far from home and without an heir, the emperor determined to consolidate his rule over the obstreperous Rathors and to forestall succession struggles amongst the Jodhpur nobility. He sent several Muslim officials to Jodhpur, appointing Tahawar Khan as faujdar (military commander), and Inayat Khan as governor. In April 1679, Aurangzeb instigated the discriminatory jizya taxes which were payable by non-Muslims, appointing as tax collectors ‘many of the honest scholars of the time”.

Jaswant Singh's reign was an important one for the formation of the Jodhpur painting style. While initially it continued the emulation of Mughal portraiture established in Gaj Singh's time, later in Jaswant Singh's reign other elements combined with the courtly and provincial styles to provide works of the imagination and quality of the Melbourne painting. The Deccani influence that can be identified in that picture, however, did not make a lasting impression on the Jodhpur artists. They started instead to move towards a vigorous and characteristic style which reached its peak during the 18th century.

One thought on “Marwar-Mughal Style Fusion in the 17th Century

  1. Maroth says:

    “Raja Sabal Singh” in abovementioned paintings is not the younger brother of Jaswant Singh Jodhpur. Marot(h) was an independent kingdom granted to Maharajadhiraja Maharaja Raghunath Singh Mertia, Raja of Maroth from 1660-1683 A.D. (grandson of Rao Jaimal of Merta). Maroth was divided into two states by his sons, Maharaja Bijey Singh and Sabal Singh, and their Tikai Kings are still called as the Raja of Maroth or Gaudati. After Bijey Singh, Sanwat Singh became the next ruler of Maroth (half), and thereafter his son Jaswant Singh became the king and thereafter the state of Maroth merged with Jodhpur as a vassal state upon demise of Emperor Aurangzeb c. 1707-1710; and his descendants became First Class Nobles of Jodhpur ruling the Estate of Maroth and were granted additional Jagir of “Abhaypura” by Maharaja Abhay Singh Jodhpur in his own name. Now the family owns Maroth fort but 50 years back they shifted to “Jiliya” Palace Fort, due to a superstition that Maroth Fort is cursed and its owner dies without heirs as there were back to back 4-5 adoptions in the royal family. The other branch of Maroth state descended from Raja Sabal Singh became rulers of Minda, which also became a First Class Thikana of Jodhpur later on. Sabal Singh had one son Raja Inder Singh and two daughters, who were queens of Khandela and Sikar. Rajas of Kuchaman, Sargoth and thakurs of Narainpura, Bhagwanpura, Mithadi, Lunwa, Panchota, Panchwa, Lichana, etc are junior offshoots of the same Raghunathsinghot dynasty of Maroth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *