A superlative exhibition Sultans of Deccan India opened at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in April with an important accompanying catalogue (Haidar and Sardar 2015). The arts of the Deccan (upland peninsular India) are among the rarest survivals from Muslim India and the exhibition concentrated on its greatest period, namely 1500-1700, so that the quality of the exhibits was uniformly high. The three major sultanates emerged from the earlier Bahmanid kingdom around 1490 and survived until conquered by the Mughals in the 17th century, when most of their paintings and manuscripts seem to have perished. The British Library has an outstanding collection of this rare material and several of the key pieces from it were lent to the exhibition. – See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2015/06/british-library-loans-to-sultans-of-deccan-exhibition-in-new-york.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29#sthash.yt7hZN02.dpuf
‘White Mughal’ William Fullerton of Rosemount
Scottish surgeon William Fullerton (d.1805) from Rosemount enlisted with the East India Company and served in Bengal and Bihar from 1744-66. Developing close ties with locals, including the historian Ghulam Husain Khan, he remained in the region after retiring. Although his impressive linguistic abilities brought him attention, Fullerton’s prominence stems from the fact that he was the sole European survivor of the attack by Nawab Mir Qasim of Bengal against the British at Patna in 1763!
A new manuscript of ‘Inayatallah’s Bahar-i Danish
Shaikh ‘Inayatallah Kanbu of Delhi finished his romantic tale the Bahar-i Danish (‘The Springtime of Knowledge’) in 1651, a collection of Indian tales held together by the frame story of the romance of Jahandar Sultan and Bahravar Banu. No early illustrated copy seems to have survived. A previously unknown manuscript of the text illustrated with 118 miniatures appeared recently at auction from the collection of the Duke of Northumberland (Sotheby’s, London, 8 October 2014, lot 275). Although undated, this manuscript goes some way to fill the gap in Mughal manuscript illustration between the end of the reign of Shah Jahan (r. 1628-58) and the revival of the imperial Mughal studio in the 18th century. The present writer was able to study it closely and concluded that the text was copied around 1700, that there were three illustrative campaigns, the first two of which were contemporary with the writing, but that the third campaign was undertaken later, almost certainly in the 1720s in the imperial studio of Muhammad Shah (r. 1719-48). The illustrations in this third campaign seem preparatory to the paintings by Govardhan II in the Karnama-i ‘Ishq, the finest known imperial manuscript from the 18th century (BL J. 38, see Losty and Roy 2012, figs. 138-45).
There are very few good quality Mughal manuscripts from the latter half of the 17th century with which this manuscript could be compared. Shah Jahan was interested in manuscript illustration only for inclusion in his chronicles, while under the puritanical Aurangzeb (r. 1658-1707) painting was discouraged along with all the other arts of the court. Artists must have sought other employment in this period whether with princes and noblemen or else in a more commercial environment. In searching for other illustrated manuscripts of this text, an unexpected find was a hitherto ignored but important Mughal illustrated manuscript with 126 miniatures in the India Office collections in the British Library (numbered IO Islamic 1408, Ethé 1903, no. 806), the subject of the present note. Although inscribed as a Johnson manuscript and hence collected by Richard Johnson in India before his return to England in 1790, it is not certain that the inscription is correct. However, a note in an old hand mentions Alexander Dow’s partial translation (published 1768) but not Jonathan Scott’s complete one of 1799, suggesting that the manuscript was already in a contemporary collection. Even more interesting was the discovery that it is another version of the Northumberland manuscript. Its miniatures are also divided into three distinct campaigns to be discussed below and have the same compositions and colouring, except that the third campaign in the ‘Johnson’ manuscript is a continuation of the style of the first campaign.
As two of the earliest if not the earliest illustrated versions of this text, these manuscripts, by far the finest known illustrated versions, assume a particular importance. Their style is derived from the 17th century Mughal style, as they are copying the Shahjahani style albeit in a simplified manner. This comes through particularly in the costume details in the three illustrative campaigns, which all show the jama (gown) at mid-calf length in vogue in the mid-17th century. Both of the manuscripts must be based on a no longer known exemplar from the 17th century, perhaps the first illustrated version done under the author’s supervision. Indeed the Northumberland manuscript refers to a lacuna in its exemplar (f. 101) which in the Johnson manuscript is filled with a painting, so that there can be no question of one being copied from the other. In the third campaign in the ‘Johnson’ manuscript there are several preliminary drawings and unfinished paintings.
suggesting that the different paths taken in the third campaigns are because the original exemplar was unfinished.
An alternative Cinderella: The girl with a kneading bowl (not a pearl earring)
Tracy Chevalier’s 1999 novel Girl with a pearl earring was inspired by the magnificent painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. Griet, the heroine of the Chevalier novel, always wore a distinctive white cap. Chevalier explained that behind Griet’s symbolic cap was an idea originally from the Bible, which considered women’s hair to be seductive and therefore subversive. Chevalier built upon that idea, as if Griet’s cap served to shield the wilder and more sensual side of her persona that she did not want to reveal to others.
In Japanese folklore, more specifically the stories known as Otogizōshi 御伽草子, we find another girl who always wore an impressive object on her head. This extremely odd piece of headgear led her to be known as “the girl with a kneading bowl” (Hachikazuki 鉢かづき).
– See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2015/03/an-alternative-cinderella-the-girl-with-a-kneading-bowl-not-a-pearl-earring.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29#sthash.GucxnZXK.dpuf
Japan’s first ‘curry rice’ recipe?
Although it may not rank in gastronomic terms with such delicacies as sushi, sashimi or Kobe beef, “curry rice” (karē raisu カレーライス) is one of Japan’s most popular dishes and favourite comfort foods. Arguably it has more in common with the 19th century versions of curry served on Royal Navy ships than with original Indian cuisine, and the sauce has a thick, viscous consistency.1 Initially a foreign import, it has become an integral part of Japanese food culture and been adapted and developed in a typical example of Wayō setchū 和洋折衷 – the blending of Japanese and Western influences. Curry rice can be eaten in a wide variety of forms, among the most popular being katsu karē (curry with a breaded pork cutlet on top) and karē don (thickened curry sauce served on top of a bowl of rice). Nowadays in Japan, curry restaurants are found everywhere and a bewildering array of curry sauce mixes and pre-packed curries fill supermarket shelves.
– See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2015/03/japans-first-curry-rice-recipe.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29#sthash.hEBjfJxK.dpuf
The Malay Tale of the Wise Parrot
The Hikayat Bayan Budiman, ‘Tale of the Wise Parrot’, is an old work of Malay literature, probably composed in the 15th century or earlier. It is based on a Persian original, the Tuti-nama, and is the earliest example in Malay of a framed narrative: a literary work comprising a compilation of individual stories. And like the ‘Thousand and One Nights’, in the ‘Tale of the Wise Parrot’, the stories are designed to help the protagonists avoid a nasty fate.
In the Hikayat Bayan Budiman, Khoja Maimun is married to the beautiful Siti Zainab. One day he buys a rare parrot, which can speak and foretell the future, and a mynah bird. The wonderful stories the birds tell of far-away places lead Khoja Maimun to sail off to seek his fortune, leaving his wife in the care of the birds. While her husband is away Zainab falls in love with a prince, and in order to stop her committing adultery, the parrot begins to tell a story. Carried away by the narrative, Zainab forgets her assignment, and morning comes. The next evening the parrot commences another story, and in this way he keeps Zainab rooted to her house until her husband Maimun returns from his travels.
– See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2015/03/the-malay-tale-of-the-wise-parrot.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29#sthash.ZY0lZ2NR.dpuf
The truth about the Japanese doll festival
Looking back to the late 90’s, “Girl Power” created a great sensation in the UK pop music industry. These pop idols are grown up now and no longer proudly shout their catchphrase “Girl Power”. Their time in the 90’s has become a rather nostalgic topic to reminisce about. On the other hand, there is a long surviving tradition in Japan for girls to celebrate being girls. Nowadays, 3rd March is a day to celebrate a girl’s well-being and happiness by setting out a special dolls display with peach blossoms. This festival is called the Hina festival (雛祭りHina matsuri).
Example of a modern Hina-doll display. Photo by © Y.Ohtsuka
Women, both young and old, enjoy everything related to the celebration of the Hina festival, from opening boxes, unpacking the dolls and placing them in position to offering them peach blossoms. They also prepare treats such as dainty sweets and special drinks, and hold parties while taking pleasure in viewing the dolls. Basically it is a relaxing “Girly” day.
Sakura mochi (桜餅), a modern example of seasonal sweets for Hinamatsuri. Ashinari Photo Material
Hina (literally ʻprettyʼ or ʻlittleʼ) dolls are dressed like courtiers of the Heian period (794-1185). They are treated with great respect and are dearly loved throughout their graceful existence by all generations of women. In the display the top level is reserved for the master (男雛 Obina) and his mistress (女雛 Mebina). The next level below that is for their servants such as the Three Ladies-in-waiting (三人宮女 Sannin kannyo), the Five musicians (五人囃子Gonin bayashi), the Two ministers (随身 Zuijin), the Three guards (衛士 Eji), and beneath the mistress’s trousseau is also on display.
Yōshu Nobuchika 楊洲周延 (1838-1912). ‘Hina-doll viewing’ (雛拝見 Hina haiken), which is a part of ‘The Great Interior of the Chiyoda Castle’ (千代田の大奥 Chiyoda no Ōoku), Tokyo : Fukuda Hatsujirō, 1896. Nishikie (錦絵) wood block print. Photo National Diet Library
The custom of displaying the Hina-dolls on different levels, looking as if they were placed on a kind of stand, became popular in the Edo period (1600-1867). This display format still lives on today. A number of educational books were published throughout the Edo period, which targeted girls for the purpose of teaching women’s morals, appropriate manners and accomplishments. It wasn’t however, until the later Edo period that publications dealt with the etiquette of the Hina festival on the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month which we consider to be the foundation of the modern version of Hina matsuri.
An example of early Edo era educational text books for girls with a page showing the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month on the right. Based on a publication by Namura Jōhaku (苗村常伯 1674-1748), edited and revised by Takai Ranzan (高井蘭山 1838-1912). ‘A record of collected treasures for woman’ (女重寶記 Onna chōhōki), 1847. Woodblock printed (British Library 16124.d.23)
In the early Edo era, instead of celebrating with Hina-dolls, ceremonial poetry competitions were held on the date of Jōshi (上巳), which falls on the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month. This traces its origins back to the Heian period when one of the absolutely essential skills for courtiers was the ability to compose elegant poetry spontaneously. There were many opportunities for poets to compete against each other. Perhaps the most challenging was the highly refined event held by the bank of a meandering river. The contestants sat along the river bank and had to complete their compositions before the cup, which was floating downstream, passed them by. This was called the river bank poetry competition (曲水の宴Kyokusui no en).
Some abstract illustrations of Heian courtiers. The figures on the left page are represented as if they were sitting along the meandering river. ‘Practical design book’ (応用漫画 Ōyō manga), illustrated by Ogino Issui (荻野一水), 1903 (British Library ORB.30/6167)
Hina-dolls certainly existed in the Heian period, but not as display objects. In fact, they were children’s toys for playing with. In chapter 5 of ‘The Tale of Genji’ (源氏物語 Genji Monogatari), the hero, Prince Genji, discovers a young girl who reminds him of Lady Fujitsubo, whom he has been secretly admiring as his true love. He is eager to approach the girl, who does not have enough family members to support her upbringing, by offering his noble guardianship. However, her ill grandmother politely rejects his offer saying her granddaughter is just a child happily playing with her Hina-dolls, therefore not of suitable age to accept his overtures.
Chapter 5 of ‘The Tale of the Genji’ (源氏物語繪詞, Genji monogatari ekotoba), Naraehon manuscript, mid-17th century (British Library, Or.1278, f.18)
There are no episodes describing the river bank poetry competition in the Tale of the Genji, but in chapter 12, Genji undergoes a purification ceremony on the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month (上巳の祓え Jōshi no harae). The dolls had a key role during the ceremony since they absorbed the supplicants’ bad fortune. Then the supplicants threw the dolls into water in order to remove all of the negative energy from their lives. Both events were rooted in trusting in the natural power of flowing water, which was able to carry things away.
Chapter 12 of ‘The Tale of the Genji’ (源氏物語繪詞, Genji monogatari ekotoba), Naraehon manuscript, mid-17th century (British Library, Or.1278, f.18)
The 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month was also the time of peach blossom. In fact, peaches were believed to have divine power to protect people from evil. Most famously in Japanese legend, the god Izanagi, who formed the landmass of Japan with his partner, defeated demons by throwing peaches on his way back to earth from hell. Peaches might be part of the reason why the purification ceremony was carried out on Jōshi. People could expect extra protection from peach blossom as good spirits.
Peach blossom. Ashinari Photo Material
Peach blossom is still one of key elements in the modern day celebration of the Hina dolls Festival. In fact the day is also known as the Peach festival (桃の節句 Momo no sekku). It is not only pretty, but also quietly ensure a safe and successful happy “Girly” day.
Takeda, Kyoko 武田京子. Hinamatsuri in home education 家庭教育からみた雛祭. Iwate Daigaku Kyōiku gakubu nenpō 岩手大学教育学部研究年報 [The annual report of the Faculty of Education, University of Iwate] 54.2 (1994): 79-87. (in Japanese)
With special thanks to Alessandro Bianchi, Asian and African Studies and PhD student, University of Cambridge
Yasuyo Ohtsuka, Curator Japanese
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03 February 2015
A Mamluk Manuscript on Horsemanship
During the rule of the Mamluks who ruled in Egypt and Syria from 1250 to 1517, the presence of Crusaders coming from Europe seems to have stimulated a great interest in the military arts, weaponry and cavalry training among rulers in the Near and Middle East. The cavalry training was designed to improve the skills of soldiers who practised jousting exercises and equestrian games to prepare them not only for battle against the Crusaders but also for entertaining large crowds of spectators in specially-built stadia or hippodromes.
A horseman impales a bear, from Book three of Nihāyat al-su’l which gives instructions on using lances. Dated 773/1371 (Add. MS. 18866, f. 113r)
A fourteenth-century Mamluk manual on horsemanship, military arts and technology from the British Library’s collection of Arabic manuscripts (Add. MS 18866) has just been uploaded to the Qatar Digital Library. Its author, Muḥammad ibn ‘Īsá ibn Ismā‘īl al-Ḥanafī al-Aqṣarā’ī, died in Damascus in 1348. The colophon states that this near contemporary copy of the manual was completed on 10 Muḥarram 773 (25 July 1371) by the scribe Aḥmad ibn ‘Umar ibn Aḥmad al-Miṣrī, but it is not certain whether in Egypt or Syria. The manuscript came into the Library of the British Museum (now British Library) in 1852, having been purchased at the auction of the estate of Sir Thomas Reade, one time jailer of Napoleon Bonaparte (for more on the manuscript’s provenance see our earlier post ‘Sir Thomas Read: knight ‘nincumpoop’ and collector of antiquities’). A very similar illustrated copy of the same work, dated 788/1366, is preserved at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (CBL Ar 5655).
The colophon giving the name of the scribe Aḥmad ibn ‘Umar ibn Aḥmad the Egyptian (al-Miṣrī) and the date of completion as 10 Muḥarram 773 (25 July 1371). Although the scribe was Egyptian, it is not certain whether the manuscript was copied in Egypt or Syria (Add. MS 18866, f. 292r)
The title-page names the work Nihāyat al-su’l wa-al-umnīyah fī ta‘allum a‘māl al-furūsīyah (‘An End of Questioning and Desiring [Further Knowledge] concerning Learning of the Different Exercises of Horsemanship’) which is an example of furūsīyah, a popular genre of mediaeval Arabic literature embracing all aspects of horsemanship and chivalry. The manuscript itself deals with the care and training of horses; the weapons which horsemen carry such as the bow, the sword and the lance; the assembling of troops and the formation of battle lines.
Diagram of a parade ground (Add. MS 18866, ff. 93v-94r)
This early dated manuscript from the Mamluk period is a veritable treasure in itself containing some of the most magnificent examples of Mamluk manuscript painting. It includes eighteen colour paintings depicting horses, riding equipment, body armour and weapons and twenty-five instructive diagrams on the layout of a parade ground, dressage and various military insignia. Beyond the military and equestrian arts, the paintings in this manuscript are full of details relating to contemporary costume and decorative style. It is one of the highlights of the British Library’s illustrated Arabic manuscripts and is notable also for its beautiful calligraphy and tooled leather Islamic binding that is likely to be contemporary with the manuscript.
Brown goat-skin binding with envelope flap decorated with blind-tooled circular designs on both covers and flap; probably 8th/14th century with signs of later repair (Add. MS 18866, binding)
Below is a list of the manuscript’s eighteen paintings. For most of them the author provided his own captions which are given below. Please click on the hyperlinks to see the full images:
(f. 97r) ‘Illustration of two horsemen whose lance-heads are between each other’s shoulder-blades’.
(f. 99r) ‘Illustration of a number of horsemen taking part in a contest, their lances on their shoulders’.
(f. 101r) ‘Illustration of a horseman taking part in a game with a lance, the lance-head being in his hand and its shaft to his rear’.
(f. 109r) Without caption; a horseman carrying two horizontal lances.
(f. 113r) Without caption; a horseman impales a bear with his lance.
(f. 121r) ‘Illustration of a horseman performing a sword exercise’.
(f. 122v) ‘Illustration of a horseman with a sword in his hand and his sleeve wound over his hand as he rises out of his saddle and strikes with the sword’.
(f. 125r) ‘Illustration of a horseman with a sword in his hand with which he strikes from the horse’s ear as far back as its right croup’.
(f. 127v) ‘Illustration of a horseman with the edge of the sword under his right armpit, the hilt in his left with the reins’.
(f. 129v) ‘Illustration of a horseman with a small shield around his neck and a sword in his hand which he brandishes to left and right’.
(f. 130r) ‘Illustration of a horseman with a hide shield over his face, the sword edge under his right armpit and the hilt on his left’.
(f. 131v) ‘Illustration of a horseman with an iron helmet on his head, with a sword. A fire is lit on the helmet, the sword blade and in the middle of the shield’.
(f.132v) ‘Illustration of a horseman with a sword in his right hand, its blade on his left shoulder and a sword in his left hand whose blade is under his right armpit’.
(f. 134r) ‘Illustration of a horseman with a sword in his left hand and its tip under his left arm pit’.
(f. 135r) ‘Illustration of two horsemen wheeling around, with a sword in each one’s hand on the horse’s back’.
(f. 136r) ‘Illustration of a horseman with two swords and two small hide shields, on up at his face and the other in his hand with the sword’.
(f. 138v) ‘Illustration of a horseman with a lance in his hand which he is dragging behind him, and a shield in his other hand’.
(f. 140r) ‘Illustration of four horsemen, each one with a sword and a hide shield, and each one carrying his shield on his horse’s croup’.
G.Rex Smith, Medieval Muslim Horsemanship: A Fourteenth-century Arabic Cavalry Manual, London, The British Library, 1979.
Abul Lais Syed Muhammad Lutful-Huq, A critical edition of Nihayat al-sul wa’l-umniyah fi ta’lim a’mal al-furusiyah of Muhammad b. ‘Isa b. Isma’il al-Hanafi, Ph.D. diss., School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1955. Download free from British Library Electronic Theses Online Services (ETHoS).
D. Haldane, Mamluk Painting, Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1978.
E. Atıl, Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press 1981.
Colin F. Baker, Lead Curator, Middle Eastern Studies
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30 January 2015
Akbar’s horoscopes: how to become a Leo if you are not
Akbar’s horoscopes: how to become a Leo if you are not
Editor: On 31 October 2014 we held a successful one-day symposium ʻBritish Library Persian Manuscripts: Collections and Researchʼ at which Dr. Stephan Popp of the Institut für Iranistik, Vienna spoke on ʻHoroscopes as propaganda under Akbar and Shāh Jahānʼ. Although he is planning an expanded version of his paper for future publication, he has kindly agreed to summarise it for us here.
In the 16th century, astrology was still an approved science both in Europe and in India, and many princes between Lisbon and Dhaka relied on the counsels of astrologers. Especially so the chronicle of the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605), the Akbarnāma by Abu l‑Fażl, which uses the emperor’s horoscope extensively to prove his claim to power. Akbar claimed to be the mujaddid (restorer of Islam) of the second Islamic millennium and the pre-destined perfect ruler. But first, some remarks on Mughal astrology and how it was supposed to work.
For this reason, let us then have a quick look at Akbar’s horoscope as it appears in the Akbarnāma:
A horoscope is a diagram showing the sky over a given place at a given time. It consists of: 1) the zodiac, 2) the houses, i.e. a second zodiac constructed with the ascendant (i.e. the point that is just rising) as the starting point, and 3) the planets at their places for that particular time. This horoscope is constructed on a square grid, with the east on top (modern horoscopes are in the form of a circle, with the north on top). The twelve fields are not the zodiac signs but the houses. They are equated with the zodiac sign their first degree falls in, although this is at the very end in the case of Akbar. House I is top centre, and the other houses follow counter-clockwise. The planets are entered, but without their exact position in the zodiacal sign. Aspects, i.e. significant angles between objects that strengthen or weaken their power, are not indicated in this horoscope but are mentioned in the text where necessary. Moreover, several kinds of subdivisions of zodiac signs also have properties that strengthen or weaken a planet, which in turn strengthens or weakens a house.
Thus, a horoscope contains ca. 250 interrelated data, and the art of the astrologer consists in picking the right influences and interpreting them in an appropriate way. This is obviously highly subjective, even if the planets had influences. No wonder, as Abraham Eraly has observed (Eraly, p. 109), astrologers have been called the psychiatrists or confessors of the Mughal Empire.
This blog will show how astrologers acted not only as the psychiatrists but also as the spin doctors of the Mughal Empire. Abu l‑Fażl ibn Mubārak, Akbar’s mentor on policy and official chronicler, had a genuine interest in astrology. That he regarded it as a fully-fledged science is clear from the fact that he comes up with four different horoscopes of Akbar and discusses their differences (Akbarnama, pp. 119–123). Eva Orthmann (p. 108 below) proves that the horoscopes are based on genuine calculations and not made up by Abu l‑Fażl. Abu l‑Fażl writes that an Indian and a Western horoscope were cast at Akbar’s birth in 1542 by Jyotik Rai and by Maulānā Chānd. The results were different due to the different definitions of zodiacal signs in Vedic and Western astrology. Indian astrology defines the zodiac as the constellations in the sky whereas western astrology defines the zodiac as the ecliptic divided into twelve equal parts beginning from the spring point (where the sun rises at the spring equinox). The spring point, however, slowly moves backward through the constellations, so that at the present time it is at the end of Pisces, not in Aries.
Because of this movement, Abu l‑Fażl says, the Vedic results were 17° behind the Western ones in Akbar’s time (whereas now they are 25° behind). Thus, Akbar’s ascendant fell in Leo according to the Indians, which suited an emperor, but in the Western horoscope, it fell in Virgo. Abu l‑Fażl discusses this difference, effectively discrediting the Indian astrologers (pp. 119–122). Still, as acknowledged by Orthmann (p. 110), ‘royal’ Leo would have been a much more suitable ascendant for an aspiring emperor than Virgo.
When the great scientist and physician Fatḥullāh Shīrāzī joined Akbar’s court in 1583, Abu l-Fażl asked him to correct the two horoscopes. Instead, Fatḥullāh cast his own, using the old “star tables of the Greeks and Persians” of ca. 830 AD instead of the new ones of Ulugh Beg. In this way, he arrived at the ascendant falling at the very end of Leo (28°36’) instead of 7° Virgo. Abu l-Fażl calls this “the most reliable horoscope” (p. 94) although containing outdated data, and devotes two chapters to its description and predictions.
When the diagram was ready, the task of the astrologer was to pick those influences that suited successful rule. Combining the right influences from the vast data, Fatḥullāh Shīrāzī sings Akbar’s praises (p. 111):
As this (4th) house is a Fixed Sign, and its lord (Mars) is in exaltation and has a beneficent aspect, territory will continually be coming into the possession of the King’s servants…,
and even (p. 108):
The Native will exceed the natural period of life, viz., 120 years.
Overall, the horoscopes emphasize Akbar’s success in conquest, acquiring wealth and in administration, and his supreme reason by which he guides the state and settles disputes. Moreover, the astrologer Maulānā Chand argues that Akbar is greater than Timur because Akbar’s Mars is stronger (p. 79). That the horoscopes contradict themselves is only superficial, Abu l‑Fażl concludes, for, he claims, God hides Akbar’s greatness from the undeserving (p. 123):
Owing to the jealousy of God, the truth of the holy nativity remained under the veil of concealment and was hidden behind the curtain of contradiction. But… if each of the horoscopes be looked at with the eye of judgment… it becomes plain that… there is nothing equal to them.
A person deserving special mention was, according to Abu l‑Fażl, Akbar’s father Humāyūn, an accomplished astrologer and “by the perfection of his personality enlightened by flashes of forthcoming events” (p. 124). Humāyūn danced with joy when he read the horoscope, Abu l-Fażl says. In this way, he tries to make his readers believe that if they see nothing but contradiction, this is because they do not see well enough. Even the astrologers, accomplished scientists, did not see everything. But they did their very best to combine their data in the way that Akbar and Abu l‑Fażl wanted them to: to “discover” that Akbar was the king of kings.
Abu l‑Fazl ʿAllāmi: The Akbarnama of Abu-l-Fazl, tr. Henry Beveridge. 3 vols. Calcutta 1897–1939 (1907 reprint digitised by Google available here).
Abraham Eraly: The Mughal World, Life in India’s Last Golden Age, New Delhi: Penguin, 2007.
Kushyār Ibn Labbān: Introduction to astrology, ed. and transl. by Michio Yano, Tokyo: Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, 1997.
Māshā’allāh Ibn Asari: The astrological history of Māshā’allāh, ed. E. S. Kennedy and David Pingree. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1971.
A. Azfar Moin: “Challenging the Mughal Emperor: The Islamic Millennium according to ʿAbd al‑Qadir Badayuni”, in Metcalf, Barbara: Islam in South Asia in Practice, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.
Eva Orthmann: “Circular Motions: Private Pleasure and Public Prognostication in the Nativities of the Mughal Emperor Akbar,” in: Günther Oestmann, H. Darrel Rutkin, and Kocku von Stuckrad (ed.): Horoscopes and Public Spheres, Essays on the History of Astrology, Berlin: de Gruyter, 2005, pp. 101–114.
Stephan Popp, Institut für Iranistik, Vienna (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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