The Marriage Procession of Mughal Emperor Shahjahan's Eldest Son

Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in the Marriage Procession his Eldest Son Dara Shikoh (1740/1750) by UnknownNational Museum - New Delhi

Although the painting depicts the occasion of the marriage procession of Dara Shikoh, the beloved though ill-fated son of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the painting was made almost a century after the event.

Reminiscing about the magnificence of the Empire during its zenith, the painters in an era of a fading Mughal Empire copied many paintings of the erstwhile ‘high’ period.

This painting is also a copy of a now lost painting, probably from a dispersed Padshahnama, a chronicle of the life and times of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

The copy however betrays the style of the painters as schooled in the idioms and exposed to new ideas of rendering space and perspective current around the mid eighteenth century.

Space in the painting is unfolded in a tilted foreground and the background and deeper space and distant figures emerge in planes parallel to the surface of the painting.

Dara Shikoh is depicted at the center of the painting

He is mounted on a richly caparisoned horse, with a veil of pearls (sehra) covering his face, customarily worn by a bridegroom. His steed similarly wears the sehra.

A bejewelled turban draped in strands of pearls and a large plume covers his head. 

Dara Shikoh holds the reins with one hand, and with the other, a handkerchief.

His father the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan rides next to him

Distinguished by a pale blue and gold halo that encircles his head. 

Following them is a procession of nobles who ride on horses.

The riders are accompanied by a crowd of men that carry lighted candles sticks in large glass jars, on tall bifurcated staffs with candles mounted on either ends, or as single flaming ones.

Others in the crowd play instruments, sing, dance or pray

On the top left, four elephants carry female musicians...

...and the drummers who beat the large naubats on the happy occasion.

On the top right, in the far distance a magnificent blaze of firework display takes place, with streamers, barrages, Roman candles, and rockets lighting up the pitch-black sky with gold, and clouds of smoke softly wafting downwards.

The artist exhibits his virtuosity with the play with light and the detail and precision of line in rendering figures and forms.

The hard outlined faces and bodies, a tendency for linearism where the figures are flattened, yet depicted in great detail and the distinct style of rendering fire and light in a more naturalistic fashion are all traits seen in the late Mughal style painting during the mid-eighteenth century.

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