The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Jan 4, 2010

Indian Military Art

The Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection at Brown University is a repository of much military art, from which (with the kind permission of the Curator) I reproduce the following.

Aurangzeb at the Siege of Golconda (©Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library) The first is a gouache dating from between 1750-90 of the last Great Mughal, Aurangzeb, at the Siege of Golconda. The Qutb Shahi rulers of this kingdom in the Deccan had refused to bow to the Mughal imperium, and to punish them for their insolence, Aurangzeb himself led his forces against them in 1687. Under the redoubtable Tana Shah, the fortress at Golconda withstood the siege for eight months, ably supported by the Marathas who harried the Mughal army endlessly. Eventually, through bribery, the redoubt fell, and the Mughals marched in victoriously, extinguishing the Qutb Shahis.

Mughal Officer c. 1650 (©Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library) So what did a Mughal military officer look like in the 17th century? Here is a watercolour that shows one such, circa 1650. Mughal military ranks, inspired by the Persians, were numerical, named mansab, that, beginning in 1573, denoted an officer’s salary, obligations, and position in the hierarchy. Mansabs were further divided by ethnic origin (in Mughal studies, at least) such as Iranis, Turanis, Afghans, Indian Muslims, Marathas, Rajputs, and other Hindus. Though they were usually of aristocratic origin, the mansabs were not hereditary ranks. There were 33 grades of mansabs, commanders of 10 through to commanders of 10,000, either of cavalry or infantry; their pay (jagir) was expected to support not only themselves but also supply and equip their troops. Finally, any mansab could be transferred from one part of the empire to another, although in practice, the senior-most very likely stayed in their own fiefs until called upon for service.

Travancore Nair Brigade (©Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library) Two hundred years later, the East India Company controlled two-thirds of the subcontinent. Its armies comprised Indians from almost every part of the country. From Kerala came the martial clans known as Nairs. This picture shows some of its members part of a Nair brigade in the service of the British, as painted by the Swiss artist Paul Aimé Vallouy (1832-1899) and part of a series of three charcoal and watercolour drawings made in 1855.


Maddy said...

I purchased a book the other day - the armies of the raj by farwell..yet to bite deep into it..

Post a Comment