10.2a.1a Samsam-ud-Daula, Inauguration of Shahjahanabad; (1747)
This excerpt comes from a 1747 biography of Shah Jahan written by Samsam-ud-Daula, an official and courtier of the Mughal Empire. The passage describes the day that Shah Jahan officially moved into the new palace at Shahjahanabad.
Samsam-ud-Daula (1700 – 1758) was an official and courtier of the Mughal Empire, a wealthy empire in northern and central South Asia, as well as the writer of a biographical dictionary of famous people from the empire. This excerpt comes from his 1747 biography of Shah Jahan, a Mughal emperor who ruled from 1628 to 1658. Along with the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan built a new capital city for the empire that he named Shahjahanabad, or Shah Jahan City. That city is now called Delhi, or Old Delhi, and the magnificent ruins of Shah Jahan’s palace complex described in this excerpt are still standing. The entire city had a huge fort, many palace buildings, mosques, courtyards, and gardens. In this excerpt, the historian Samsam-ud-Daula describes the day that Shah Jahan officially moved into the new palace at Shahjahanabad. When you read about the decorations and party, think about how much money they would cost. Taxes collected by the Mughal imperial officials paid for these expenses. For whose benefit was all of this done? What does this lavish spending say about the power of this emperor? Vocabulary brocade: heavy, rich material made of silk embellished: decorated jharoka: a balcony on which the emperor would appear to the people Qur Khana: armory; collection of weapons scabbard: sheath for a sword quiver: container for arrows gembedecked: covered with jewels awning: canopy auspicious: lucky, fortunate Visual caption for Shah Jahan on Horseback This is a miniature painting of Shah Jahan, who was emperor of the Mughal Empire from 1628 to 1658. It was painted by an Indian court artist named Payag during the reign of the emperor as a folio (page) of a book about Shah Jahan’s reign.
This excerpt describes the “entry” or the moving-in ceremony of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to his new city, fortress, and palace complex at Shahjahanabad, now part of Delhi. During Shah Jahan’s reign, the Mughal Empire was at its height, and its opulence was legendary. Shah Jahan was a very lavish spender, particularly on buildings, the most famous of which is the Taj Mahal. The Mughal emperors ruled without sharing power, although some of their courtiers and officials had influence, and other Mughal princes challenged their rule. The Mughals were Muslims ruling over a population of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. They spent most of the wealth of the Indian subcontinent on grand buildings, lavish lifestyles, and wars. That grandeur and big spending for the benefit of the emperor (and not the people) is one significant point students should gain from this source. You might also point out to them that emperors used these grand displays to awe their people and display their power.
"On … [April 8, 1648] in the 21st year of the reign [of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan], which day had been selected by the astrologers for royal entry, orders were issued for arranging the paraphernalia of a royal feast and a convivial entertainment. In all the royal apartments were spread beautiful carpets… while on the doors of the courtyards and porticoes were hung curtains embroidered, worked in gold, and velvet brocades …. The three sides of the great portico of the private and public palaces were embellished with a silver enclosure, and opposite the Jharoka was a golden enclosure, while golden stars with golden chains were hung in all alcoves, and these made the place resemble the heavens. In the middle of that portico was placed a square throne surrounded by a golden enclosure; the heavenly jewelled throne…. In front of the throne was erected a canopy embroidered with gold and pearl strings, and raised on jewelled poles…. Behind the throne were placed jewelled and golden tables on which was displayed the Qur Khana- which consisted of the jewelled swords with worked scabbards, quivers and gembedecked arms, and jewelled spears [made of] … all the resources of the sea and mines…. In front of the great central portico was erected an awning of gold embroidered velvet… This great canopy, which in its height and extent resembled the heavens, was, according to the royal orders, woven in the imperial factory at Ahmadabad…. It covered an area of 3,200 (square) yards, and 10,000 people could be accommodated under it…. From the date of the auspicious entry of the Emperor into this heavenly building there was a continuous grand feast lasting ten days"" (45-46)."