The Mughals-1

It’s probably accurate to say that an indigenous form of the Islamic clothing brought in by the Mughals (a mix of Turkish and Persian influences) took shape during the reign of Akbar and Jahangir.  This period also sees the style (imo) at its most balanced and elegant, particularly during Jahangir’s reign (1605-1627).

A slip of a young woman dressed in a pink -tinted *peshwaj*, a filmy overgarment speckled with blossoms and worn in conjunction with her blush-yellow *paijama*, a long golden *patka* ornamented with flowers, and a translucent *odhni*. She assumes a coy pose, tilting her head and glancing across her body, one hand pinning a stretch of her golden *odhni* against her narrow waist and the other lifting the hem of her relaxed *peshwaj*. (Pic 1: Young Woman By Muhammad Ali, Born in Iran, Active in India 1600-1620).  The components of a woman’ garment usually seen in Indian miniature paintings in the 17th and 18th century. A little more on the peshwaj here. The paijama is the tight fitting trouser, the patka the sash and the odhni aka dupatta is the pale green wrap. The shoes look like mojris. Apart from the anklets, all other accessories are fairly discreet.

Pic 2: Portrait of Prince Salim 1620-30. The 17th century Mughal costume for men consisted of the 1) jama, a garment that was fitted till the waist and worn crosswise and fastened at the side with a lower skirt like portion that fell below the knees 2) the tight paijamas for the legs 3)  the patka (sash) which here is secured with a jewelled belt 4) the chadar aka shawl and 5) the turban. The jama and chador were usually fine muslin, fine enough to see underlying jewellery. The shoes seem to correspond to the salimshahi, a type of shoe introduced by Jahangir aka Prince Salim, flat heeled with a pointed front end (often curved) and without a backstrap (perhaps a precursor of the modern mojri).

Pic 3: A portrait of a Rajput nobleman, attributed to the Mughal master Manohar, mounted on a royal album page, Mughal, circa 1610-20. [X].  The clothing of this Rajput noble is similar to that of Jahangir, by the emperor’s time there was an intermingling of Persian and Rajput influences in Northern Indian clothing. While not always adhered to strictly, the ties of the jama on the shoulder are different – tied on the right side for Muslims, on the left for Hindus as in today’s pic.  Note the very light, translucent muslin used for the jama – reputedly spun over the wet months in Bengal. The lightness of the material allows the paijama (literally leg garment) to be showcased. The paijama’s decorative aspect – often floral or striped – is offset by the patka or sash and the turban.

Very thin muslin seems to have had its heyday in the early 17th century in the Mughal court, making way for thicker patterned cottons for men (the linked painting also appears to have a bit of a throwback to Central Asian boots as opposed to mojris like in today’s pic, it is possible that the crossed collar is also Central Asian in origin).

PS: So light an upper garment would require some manscaping I think:)

The chakdar jama seen in the two pics above is similar to the standard jama except that the hem falls in 4 to 6 points. Commonly shown in paintings from the time of Akbar and Jahangir (late 16th/early 17th century), it is speculated that it is derived from the clothing of the Rajput courts. You can see the style in later paintings too, e.g. this one from 1750. Also see X.

For info on the yogini of pic 1 go here. Pic 2 is a portrait of Karan Singh I of Mewar. Karan Singh has a double patka or sash, which is sometimes seen in portraits.

Gauri Ragini, First Wife of Malkos Raga, 1605-6Pic 1 above: Gauri Ragini, First Wife of Malkauns Raga, 1605-6

Early 17th century depiction of a ghaghra-choli (aka gathered skirt and bodice).  The odhni or dupatta is extremely translucent and patterned and probably muslin. Usually in this period the garment appears in Rajput or mythological themes, the peshwaj and paijama  being more common in Mughal paintings. The patka (the white piece anchored to the skirt) is not always present in paintings depicting the ghaghra-choli. Why it is added is unclear, explanations range from hiding the join (the ghaghra presumably resulted from joining the ends of the antariya, which was in any event worn with a sash with a centre pleat) to controlling the volume of the skirt.   Black tassels or pompoms often appear in miniature paintings.  See also Keshavdas’s Rasikapriya illustrations, Malavi Ragini, Gita Govinda circa 1630.


The ghaghra with the patka was still around in the early 19th century (see Thanjavur company painting in pic 2 above) though the odhni is draped in a style that is familiar from the modern sari.

The first four Mughal emperors in the pics above. The cross collar was present in early Mughal attire but the tunic was worn loose and with a long overgarment. By Akbar’s reign this was changed to introduce a skirt like lower feature for the jama or tunic and the side fastening was doubled (doshala). This was worn with a fitting paijama, much like a churidar, which also differed from early Mughal attire. As mentioned in a previous post, the patka (sometimes two) was added to the garment.  Another change was in the turban, the Akbari pagri (turban) consisting of closely and tightly wound layers of cloth to which a sarpech could be added, much in the manner of the Rajputs.  For the sleeveless jacket designed by Jahangir called the nadiri (novelty) see the painting of the emperor embracing the king of Persia, Shah Abbas. The multiple side ties of Jahangir’s jama or tunic are also seen in this painting.

The emperors: Babur, Humayun (painted c 1650), Akbar (seen here with a courtier) and Jahangir (seen with his father Akbar).  See also: The earliest datable Mughal painting

Roop and Baz

At first love seemed easy but after hard. [X]

For a couple whose legendary relationship was built on a love of poetry and music, Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati appear an awful lot in hunting scenes in miniature paintings. Their poems are celebrated + there are enough subsequent songs on the romance, unfortunately hard to track down good translations. A few snippets here.

There seems to be a single English translation dating to 1926 of the original Persian language romance of 1599 on Baz Bahadur and Roopmati authored by Ahmad-ul-Umri.

Pic source: X, X and X.

PostScript: Baz Bahadur was defeated by Rani Durgavati, the Gond Queen, around 1556. That decisive defeat left him averse to war. In 1561 however Baz Bahadur was forced to defend Malwa, lost to Akbar and fled.  Roopmati poisoned herself rather than surrender. The Mughals then turned to Gond.  Despite resistance the Gond army eventually lost, largely due to the lack of artillery. Rani Durgavati died in 1564 on the battlefield by her own hands resulting in the Gonds of Garha Mandla becoming a vassal state of the Mughals.

Adham Khan aka Baz Bahadur’s nemesis was more than taken up with the famed musicians and dancers of Baz Bahadur’s court retaining more than a few of them for his own pleasure and sending on only captured elephants to Delhi. Eventually Adham Khan was killed in 1562 by royal order. Those dancing girls? Akbar did get them, you can see them in the Akbarnama. And Baz Bahadur? He too ended up – probably as a musician – in Akbar’s court.

Recreating Vintage/Historical Art

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Like him or hate him, Raja Ravi Varma remains influential more than a 100 years after his death. Recreating his work seems to be a bit of a thing ranging from the recent Rang Rasiya to Makaramanju to Pushpamala’s photo performances.

Ananthabhadram recreates several paintings (Hamsa Damayanthi, Lady in her dressing room and a few other paintings of Malabar women, The Milkmaid, Maharani Chimnabai, Lady Holding a Fruit and Contemplation) in the song Pinakkamano.

Pictured here: Kavya Madhavan in Ananthabhadram and Ravi Varma’s In Contemplation (Reproduction) and Hamsa Damayanthi.

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Recreating Hemen Majumdar‘s Study of Miss Shelly Gupta (1939) for a new documentary on the painter.  See also X.

Though I guess every Hindi movie with clingy wet saris is a homage to Hemen:)

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Recreating Nainsukh’s Mian Mukund Dev in Amit Dutta’s documentary on Nainsukh. The lady in red is identified as the singer Amal.

Via cineaesthetica.

Africans in India

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Given proximity, its not very surprising that there has been an African presence in India from very early on.  Pakistan for e.g. has a large number of people of African origin, as does Gujarat (the Siddis).

As early as in the 13th century, Africans in India had a political presence. Apart from ruling small principalities in Janjira and Sachin, it was in medieval Deccan that they had a powerful role as military commanders and prime ministers , e.g. Malik Ambar in Ahmednagar and Ikhlas Khan in Bijapur (both from Ethiopia).  Ikhlas Khan in particular, linked as he was to the Adil Shahis, was much painted. See also [X] [X] and [X].  Pic 3 is of a lyre player, an instrument not commonly played in India but apparently common in East Africa.

The dress is similar to portraits of the time of male rulers, the jama (long tunic), shawl (worn Deccani manner), a sash/belt and tight trousers/chudidar.

There also appears to be a book on Africans in the Deccan. And also in [X].

Portraits of contemporary Indian Africans, especially the Siddis. Very few have any remaining roots in Africa and attire is very much in keeping with present Indian dress.  A link that discusses amongst other things their musical traditions which have an African influence.

[X], [X], [X], [X]