A

conference will be held on the historical and cultural connections between Iran, India and Central Asia, at Pembroke College, Cambridge, on 15-17 December 2014, under the auspices of the programme “Empire and Authority” that makes up one of the three research themes currently sponsored by the British Institute of Persian Studies (BIPS). It is organised in collaboration with the Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies and the Shahnama Centre for Persian Studies at the University of Cambridge. The conference has several interlocking aims, with the overall purpose of stimulating research in an area that is unduly neglected in the UK and in doing so, to bring together scholars working in different fields that are usually studied in isolation.

The remarkable richness of Persian culture and its spread well beyond the current boundaries of Iran – into Anatolia, the Caucasus, Transoxania and India – is commonly acknowledged. That the courts of a succession of rulers of essentially Turkic origin, across a vast region of southwest Asia, corresponded in Persian, patronised Persian poets and artists, and adhered to concepts of sovereignty that largely conformed to Perso-Islamic models of kingship needs no particular emphasis; the evidence for it is as widespread as the phenomenon itself. The very scale of the interactions between these polities, however, and their cultural coherence, has made efforts to view them as a whole rather infrequent. Furthermore, while comparisons between the three ‘great’ Muslim empires of the ‘gunpowder’ age – the Ottomans, the Safavids and the Mughals – are relatively commonplace, comparisons and connections across the triangular and very ancient contact zone between the Iranian plateau, Transoxania and India are scattered and often relate to broad or indeterminate topics or periods.

One aim of the conference is therefore to bridge these gaps and bring together scholars working on different aspects of Persian, Indian and Central Asian history at a particular time. While some subjects, such as Indian miniature illustrations of Persian texts, have continually attracted attention, many areas of contact between these regions remain to be explored in more detail. The programme aims particularly to stimulate research on some of the concepts of authority expressed at the time: not only royal authority but also the – sometimes competing – religious authority of sufi shaikhs and the ‘ulama. Rather than the political history of the period, it will explore the reflection of imperial structures and a self-consciously imperial mindset in historiography, court poetry and the arts of the book, that is, often the product of patronage – but also, in the sufi context, the hagiographical literature surrounding individual saints or shrine centres. Underlying all these strands is the phenomenon of movement and physical interaction across the region, with the passage of armies and embassies, bureaucrats and scholars, merchants, pilgrims and seekers of learning.

The programme consists of 22 presentations, spread over two and a half days. The following speakers and titles are confirmed: you can read their abstracts and biographies below. Alternatively, you can download these direct from the following links:  abstracts and biographies. For further information, please contact Charles Melville (cpm1000@cam.ac.uk).

Programme

Monday, 15 December

10.00-11.00 Coffee and registrations

11.00 Introduction

11.15 – 12.45 First session:

Topic: Historical contexts, imperial encounters

Michele Bernardini: The Ghazavat-i Hind: A Narrative of Timur’s Delhi Expedition

Blain Auer: ‘The Cursed Mughal’: Encountering Timur in the History Writing of Delhi

Barbara Brend: India Recalled—the Pavilion or Tomb of Nadir Shah Afshar (d. 1747) at Kalat-i Nadiri

Lunch

14.00 – 15.45 Second session

Topic: literary encounters

Paul Losensky: Shapur Tehrani, his Kith and Kin: The Pathways and Affiliations of an Iranian Family in India

Sunil Sharma: Qandahar between the Safavids and Mughals: Representations in Poetry and Painting

Christine van Ruymbeke: The Kalila-Dimna: Tossed Back and Forth between Iran and India

Break

16.15 – 18.00 Third session

Topic: arts of the book

Barbara Brend: The Legacy of Persian Painting of the Fourteenth-century in Painting for Akbar

Karin Ruehrdanz: The Timurid Legacy as a Patchwork: The Practicality of Refurbishing Luxury Manuscripts

Laura Parodi: Shah Abu’l-Ma‘ali, Mir Sayyid ‘Ali and the Sayyids of Termez: Two Portraits Question Akbari Historiography

18.15    Buffet supper, Pembroke dining Hall

Tuesday, 16 December

9.00 – 10.45 Fourth session

Topic: Political elites

Liesbeth Geevers: A Collateral Line on the Crossroads: the Bahrami Safavids between the Safavids, Uzbeks and Mughals (1518-1712)

Jos Gommans: The Legacy of the Eurasian Warband in Mughal India

Roy Fischel: Foreigners in Ahmadnagar: Migrating Elites and the Fortunes of the State in Sixteenth-century Maharashtra

Break

11.15 – 13.00 Visit to Fitzwilliam Museum study room: prints and drawings (restricted numbers)

Lunch

14.30 – 16.00 Fifth session

Topic: Arts of the book

Firuza Abdullaeva: Why the Mughals didn’t like the Shahnama

Rachel Parikh: All that Glitters: Persian Symbols of Power in Mughal Jewelry

Break

16.30 – 18.00 Sixth session

Topic: Literature: linguistic pluralism 

Benedek Peri: Bayram Khan’s Persian and Chaghatay Ghazals

Ryan Perkins: The Persianization of the Vernaculars: Competing Literatures in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-century India

Arthur Dudney: Iran in Indian Lexicographers’ Eyes

Reception hosted by The Ancient India & Iran Trust and the Shahnama Centre

19.30    Conference Dinner, Pembroke College Old Library

Wednesday, 17 December

9.00 – 10.45 Seventh session

            Topic: historiographical literature

Sholeh Quinn: Exploring Historiographical Boundaries: Early Safavid and Mughal Universal Chronicles

Ali Anooshahr: Khurshah b. Qubad  Husayni’s History of the Mughals and the Safavids

Charles Melville: Vali Muhammad Khan and Shah ‘Abbas: An Episode in Safavid-Uzbek Relations   

Break

11.15 – 13.00 Eighth session

Topic: Intellectual currents

Peyvand Firouzeh: Patronage of the Dead, Patronage of the Living: Sufis and Sultans in Fifteenth-century Iran and India

Keelan Overton: Between Safavid Iran and ‘Adil Shahi Bijapur: Translocal Patterns of Persian Intellectualism, Circulation and Artistic Production

Corinne Lefèvre: Messianism, Rationalism and Inter-Asian Connections: the Mughals and their Theologians (c. 1610)

Closing remarks and Lunch

Speakers

Firuza Abdullaeva (Cambridge) - Why the Mughals did not like the Shahnama

Firuza Abdullaeva
Pembroke College Cambridge
Why the Mughals did not like the Shahnama

The manuscripts of Firdausi’s Shahnama produced in India have been studied until now mainly as separate artefacts, mostly those that originated from the royal ateliers. My talk has a twofold aim: first, to give a survey of the main traditions of copying the poem and illustrating it in India, including such a phenomenal regional style as the Kashmir mass production of illustrated Shahnama manuscripts, and secondly, to attempt to identify the reasons why this poem was not as popular in India even during the Mughal period as it was not only in Persia before and during the Safavid era but also in Ottoman Turkey.

Firuza Abdullaeva is a graduate (cum laude) of the Iranian Philology Department, Faculty of Oriental Studies, St Petersburg University, where she received her PhD in Iranian philology, Art and Islamic Studies. She was an Associate Professor at the University of St Petersburg when she joined the Cambridge Shahnama Project in 2002 after a term at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and a term at the University of Michigan as a Fulbright Professor. From 2005 until 2010 she was teaching Persian Literature at the University of Oxford, being a Tutorial Fellow and Keeper of the Firdousi Library of Wadham College. In 2010 Dr Abdullaeva moved to Cambridge. She is currently Director of Research of the Shahnama Centre for Persian Studies at Pembroke College. Her main research interests include Classical Persian literature, Russian-Iranian cultural and diplomatic encounters, Medieval Persian book art, Persian literary classics in contemporary art and Russian cultural Orientalism in Iran, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Ali Anooshahr (Davis, CA) - Indo-Persian Historiography from the Deccan: Khurshah b. Qubad Husayni’s History of the Safavids and Mughals

Ali Anooshahr
Davis University
Indo-Persian Historiography from the Deccan:
Khurshah b. Qubad Husayni’s History of the Safavids and Mughals

This paper will study the historical work composed in the 1560’s by Khurshah b. Qubad Husayni, who was from an immigrant Iranian family who held important posts in the Deccani sultanate of Ahmednagar and later served as the sultan’s envoy to the court of Shah Tahmasp. Khurshah’s text was essentially a universal history that gave a significant share to the Timurid and Safavid dynasties. It has been edited partially and separately, reflecting the inability of twentieth-century nationalist scholarship to handle his unified vision of Iran and South Asia. The paper will evaluate Khurshah’s contribution to Safavid and Mughal history especially against the backdrop of older Deccani works as well as contemporary Mughal and Safavid texts.

Ali Anooshahr received his BA from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998. He spent the next two years in “teachers’ boot camp” as a substitute teacher in the Houston Independent School District. He was subsequently admitted to UCLA’s History Department where he obtained his MA (2002) and PhD (2005) in Islamic History. He was a CLIR-Mellon post-doctoral fellow in 2005-6 and Ahmanson-Getty Fellow in 2006-7. He used that time to convert his dissertation into a book manuscript, teach courses at the Cal State system, and catalogue Persian, Ottoman and Arabic manuscripts at UCLA Library’s Special Collections. After a year of teaching at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, he moved to Davis in 2008 as a scholar of “comparative Islamic Empires”. In his book and articles, Anooshahr focuses particularly on the transmissions of texts and individuals along networks that connected India, Iran, Central Asia, and the Ottoman Empire. His current research includes Indo-Persian historiography as well as revising early Safavid history.

Blain Auer (Lausanne) - “The Cursed Mughal”: Encountering Amir Timur in the Early Fifteenth-Century History Writing of Delhi

Blain Auer
Université de Lausanne
“The Cursed Mughal”: Encountering Amir Timur in the Early Fifteenth-Century History Writing of Delhi

Amir Timur conquered Delhi in 801/1398 during a period of political instability in what is referred to, in hindsight, as the Late Delhi Sultanate. This event played a role in the provincialisation of the northern Indian empire into a patchwork of successor states. Three historians took up this tale of social and political change at the turn of the fifteenth century. The first was Shams al-Diīn ‘Afif (fl. 801/1398) writing from the perspective of Delhi, as a biographer of the reign of Sultan Firuz Shah. Two others, Yahya b. Ahmad Sirhindi (fl. 831/1428) and Muhammad Bihamad Khani (fl. 842/1438), finding new patronage within the political framework left in the wake of Timur’s invasion, also relate these events. This paper deals with the fundamental question of how these events were received and interpreted by contemporary historians. What does their perspective reveal of Timur, the “Cursed Mughal” of the Delhi Sultanate and what do they say about the historical moment of late fourteenth and early fifteenth-century North India?

Blain Auer is Professor of the Study of Islam in South Asia at the University of Lausanne in the Department of Slavic and South Asian Languages and Civilizations. He specializes in Islam in the context of pre-modern South Asia. In particular, he studies the representations of Islamic authority exhibited through the use of the Qur’an, Hadith, exegesis, and history writing produced during the Delhi Sultanate. A second area of research focuses on the modern ritual, pilgrimage, and relics connected with the burial places of the special dead in Islam. His book titled Symbols of Authority in Medieval Islam: History, Religion, and Muslim Legitimacy in the Delhi Sultanate, was published by I.B. Tauris in 2012.

Michele Bernardini (Naples) - “l’Orientale” The Ghazavat-i Hindustan : A Narrative of Timur’s Delhi Expedition

Michele Bernardini
Università di Napoli “l’Orientale”
The Ghazavat-i Hindustan : A Narrative of Timur’s Delhi Expedition

The Sa‘adatname or Ghazavat-i Hindustan by Ghiyath al-Din ‘Ali Yazdi represents an important source on the Indian expedition by Timur in 800-801/1398-99. The paper will consider this text as evidence of a change in Timurid propagandistic strategies. The comparative analysis of the descriptions of the previous campaigns against India with the Timurid one shows for example the instrumental use of some personages for political aims, as Firuzshah Tughlaq, Tarmashirin Khan and in particular Mahmud of Ghazna. The emulation and the “overtaking” of these previous enterprises together with an implicit anti-Ottoman strategy represent the evolution of previous communicational strategies.

Michele Bernardini is Professor of Persian Language and Literature and History of Iran and the Ottoman empire at the Università di Napoli “l’Orientale”. Together with Jürgen Paul he directs the journal Eurasian Studies. His main interests are Persian historiography and the interaction between Turkish and Persian traditions. Among his publications are: Mémoire et propagande à l’époque timouride, Paris, 2008 and Introduction, translation and notes: Ghiyāsoddīn ‘Alī di Yazd, Le gesta di Tamerlano, Milano, 2009.

Barbara Brend (Independent scholar) - The Legacy of Persian Painting of the Fourteenth-Century in Painting for Akbar

Barbara Brend
Independent scholar
The Legacy of Persian Painting of the Fourteenth-Century in Painting for Akbar

Mughal painting was formed in the second half of the sixteenth century and is widely agreed to unite several streams of tradition. The predominant contribution is from Safavid painting. This is very evident in the 1550s, when much is attributable to painters such as Mir Sayyid ‘Ali and ʿAbd al-Samad, who had left the court of Shah Tahmasp at Tabriz to join Humayun in Kabul and followed him to India in 1555. Safavid influence is again strong when Akbar rules in Lahore from the mid-1580s. In the interim, however, Mughal painting was in ferment: Hindu painters bought ideas from their own tradition, and in addition adopted features of European painting. I will argue that another element in this period of experiment was the adoption of features from Persian painting of the fourteenth century.

The major production of the 1560s and 70s was the enormous Hamzahnama, an action-packed epic evidently to the taste of the young Akbar. The pictures that I advance for comparisons are in the Albums of the Diez collection in the Staatsbibliotek zu Berlin and in the Topkapı Sarayı Kütüphanesi; they are bereft of context, many are thought to originate in Tabriz, but their precise dating is often in debate, depending as it does on the interpretation of styles. It is possible that some among them were indeed illustrations to a Hamzahnama. It appears to me that comparable material must have reached the Mughal workshop, but its vector is an open question.

Barbara Brend read French at Cambridge, and later took an M.Phil. and a Ph.D in Islamic Art and Architecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. She has lectured for the British Museum and British Library. As an independent scholar, her principal research is into form and meaning in Persian and Mughal manuscript illustration. Books: Islamic art (1991); The Emperor Akbar’s Khamsa of Niẓāmī (1995); Perspectives on Persian painting: illustrations to Amir Khusrau’s Khamsah (2003); Muhammad Juki’s Shahnamah of Firdausi (2010); (with Charles Melville) Epic of the Persian Kings (2010), catalogue of an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Arthur Dudney (Oxford) - Iran in Indian Lexicographers’ Eyes

Arthur Dudney
University of Oxford
Iran in Indian Lexicographers’ Eyes

Persian lexicography in the eighteenth century is marked by an increase in cataloguing local usages, both linguistic and cultural. The Mughal-Safavid period was an exceptionally rich time for lexicographers active in South Asia, while by contrast arguably only one important dictionary was produced in Iran itself between 1600 and the 1870s. Though the inclusion of Indian cultural practices in Persian dictionaries is of obvious interest for social historians of South Asia, it is also worth considering cultural practices which the dictionaries note as being specifically Iranian. This paper will focus on such references in the dictionary Mir’at al-istilah (1745/6) by Anand Ram Mukhlis, written in Delhi in the aftermath of Nadir Shah’s conquest of the city. The author is fascinated by Iranian chancellery practices as well as by various everyday items. Some other roughly contemporary dictionaries like Siraj al-Din ‘Ali Khan Arzu’s Chiragh-i Hidayat carefully catalogue which Persian expressions predominate in India and which in Iran, with some of the latter shedding light on Iranian cultural practices. This paper will use lexicographical sources to consider how Iran appeared to Persian-using Indians, particularly to Mukhlis, in the mid-eighteenth century.

Arthur Dudney is the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Early-Modern Indian Cultures of Knowledge at Oxford University. His current post-doctoral project considers Indo-Persian dictionaries as a source for intellectual history. He received his PhD from Columbia University in 2013 for a thesis entitled “A Passion for meaning: Khan-i Arzu’s philology and the place of India in the eighteenth-century Persianate world”.

Peyvand Firouzeh (Cambridge) - Patronage of the Dead, Patronage of the Living: Sufis and Sultans in Fifteenth-Century Iran and India

Peyvand Firouzeh
Pembroke College, Cambridge
Patronage of the Dead, Patronage of the Living: Sufis and Sultans in Fifteenth-Century Iran and India

In my study of the architectural patronage offered to the Ni‘matallahi Sufi order in the fifteenth century by the Bahmanids (1347-1528) of the Deccan and the Timurids (1370-1507), I have made an attempt to contextualize the financial support that has been offered to or withdrawn from them in the broader setting of the two dynasties’ patronage of the Sufi orders at the time. This attempt has opened interesting paths about the differences in the political and social landscapes of fifteenth-century Iran and India with regard to the reception of Sufi orders that I would yet like to explore.
The textual and architectural evidence of the Sufi-Sultan relations during the Bahmanid period suggest that compared to their Iranian counterparts – and here I will mostly focus on Timur and Shahrukh – the Bahmanids more actively and openly patronized the living Sufis of their time. The frequency of real and imaginary encounters between Sufis and sultans in the textual sources on the Indian side hints at the importance of receiving legitimacy from Sufis and the higher dependence of the sultans on them compared with the Timurids. More importantly, by establishing much stronger relationships with ‘court Sufis’ which was not practised at the Timurid court, the Bahmanids took one step further from merely affiliating with – in Digby’s terms – ‘king-maker’ Sufis.

This paper aims at analysing the differences in approach to the reception of Sufis by the Timurids and the Bahmanids. While various examples of the Sufi orders of the time and the patronage they received will be taken into consideration, a special emphasis will be laid on the Ni‘matallahi Sufi order for the strategic place they had by being active simultaneously in the territories ruled by the two dynasties in question.

Peyvand Firouzeh is the E.G. Browne and Soudavar Memorial Trust PhD candidate at Pembroke College and Department of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge. With her background in architecture and history of art and architecture, she is currently completing her dissertation on the architecture done for the Ni‘matullahi order in the fifteenth century in Mahan (Iran), Taft (Iran), and Bidar (India). Her dissertation examines these buildings and/or complexes in their artistic, mystical, social, and political milieux, and in relation to each other, with a particular emphasis on the role of patronage. Peyvand has also been working as the acting curator (part-time) of Islamic collections (Iran, Central Asia, and India) at the British Museum since April 2013.

Roy S. Fischel (SOAS) - University of London Foreigners in Ahmadnagar: Migrating Elites and the Fortunes of the State in Sixteenth-Century Maharashtra

Roy S. Fischel
Department of History, SOAS, University of London
Foreigners in Ahmadnagar: Migrating Elites and the Fortunes of the State in Sixteenth-Century Maharashtra

Migrating elites played a central role in precolonial South Asia. From the early second millennium, Iranians, Turks, Afghans, and others who arrived from the northwest left their impact on state and society as military men, traders, administrators, and literati. These migrants were operating within the Persian language and culture, leading to the growing Persianisation of political and cultural life in India. This process drew the subcontinent closer to the Iranian world and encouraged further movement of people along these routes, safeguarding the lasting impact of the Iranian world on India.

Whereas some newcomers became part of Indo-Muslim society, others preferred to maintain their distinct identity. In the Deccan Plateau of Central India, such migrants styled themselves as Foreigners (gharībān). As suggested by their name, they did not identify with the Deccan as a whole, nor with any sultanate in particular. Rather, they were active within, and connected to a trans-regional sphere that extended beyond the boundaries of the subcontinent. While preserving their transient nature, the Foreigners climbed in prominence and established themselves at the heart of local political system.

This paper examines the unique character of the Foreigners and their role in the Deccan during the sixteenth century. Focusing on the sultanate of Ahmadnagar in modern-day Maharashtra, I argue that the Foreigners continued to play a pivotal role in the functioning of the state. At the same time, their identification with trans-regional networks brought them into conflict with sections of elite society who increasingly associated themselves with the locality. Lacking a substantial local power base, the Foreigners relied on the prosperity of the state, to which they were only partially committed. This put them in a complex position vis-à-vis the state, as both constructive and destructive to the political integrity of the sultanate.

Roy S. Fischel, after studying and publishing on land ownership and domestic policies in the late Ottoman Empire, began to work on pre-colonial South Asia, in particular Muslim states and societies in India; I have received my PhD in this field from the University of Chicago in 2012. My research interests cover political structures, social organisation, concepts of territory and trans-regionalism, and linguistic-cultural identities. Considering these issues, I look into questions of state formation and the construction of authority within the on-going debate on empire, cosmopolitanism, and early modernity. My study focuses on non-imperial polities of Central and South India, which I examine in comparison to, and in association with the empires of the time, mainly those of the Mughals and the Safavids. Currently I am a Lecturer (assistant professor) in the History of South Asia, Department of History, SOAS, University of London.

Liesbeth Geevers (Leiden) - A Collateral Line on the Crossroads: The Bahrami Safavids Between the Safavids, Uzbeks and Mughals (1518-1712)

Liesbeth Geevers
Leiden University
A Collateral Line on the Crossroads: The Bahrami Safavids Between the Safavids, Uzbeks and Mughals (1518-1712)

This presentation focuses on an relatively unknown collateral branch of the Safavid dynasty, the Bahrami Safavids (active in Iran 1518-1596; in India until at least 1712), which played a crucial role in dynastic developments in Safavid Iran in the sixteenth century. It examines the evolution of outlook of the Safavid rulers and their contemporaries to argue that they embarked on a process of dynastic centralization, increasingly presenting themselves as the only dynastic power holder at the expense of their male relatives. The experience of several generations of the Bahraamii branch illuminates how this process took shape in Iran. But their near-independent survival in Qandahar and later their privileged status among Mughal elites in India, illustrates how dynastic developments among neighbouring Central Asian dynasties influenced the fate of the Safavid collaterals, who developed from foundation stones of Safavid power to trophies of Mughal might.

Liesbeth Geevers (1979) is a postdoctoral researcher at the Radboud University Nijmegen. She obtained her PhD from the University of Amsterdam (2008) on the integration of William of Orange and the counts of Egmont and Horn in the Spanish-Habsburg Monarchy (1559-1567). From 2008 to 2011 she was a lecturer of Political History at Utrecht University, focusing on international history and diplomacy. She has published articles on the dynastic identity of the Dutch Nassau dynasty and the Spanish Habsburgs. As a fellow in the NWO-funded project “Eurasian empires: Integration processes and identity formations. A comparative program 1300-1800” she is currently studying the position of dynastic juniors in Eurasian empires (1300-1800), and is preparing publications on the House of Savoy as a junior line of the Spanish Habsburgs, and on the Bahrami Safavids as a junior line of the Safavids.

Jos Gommans (Leiden) - The Legacy of the Eurasian Warband in Mughal India

Jos Gommans
Leiden University
The Legacy of the Eurasian Warband in Mughal India

In 2006 Charles Melville demonstrated the survival of the Mongol household as ordered around the royal guard (keshig) in Ilkhanid Iran. Others (Grupper and Subtelny) have done the same for the early Timurids in Central Asia. In this paper I will take up this issue for the later Timurids in South Asia. To what extent did idea and practice of the Mongol keshig survive under the more settled conditions of Mughal India and what does this imply for the idea that the keshig should be seen as a typical nomadic/Central Asian/Chingissid legacy?

Jos J.L. Gommans is Professor of Colonial and Global History at Leiden University. He is the author of two monographs on early-modern South Asian history: The Rise of the Indo-Afghan Empire, 1710-1780, (Delhi: Oxford University Press 1999) and Mughal Warfare: Indian Frontiers and High Roads to Empire (London: Routledge 2002). He has edited several volumes on South Asia’s interaction with the outside world (with Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Europe) and produced various Dutch source publications including one archival inventory and two historical VOC-atlases. From 2000-2010 he served as editor / editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient and he has recently joined the editorial board of Itinerario. As (co-)director of the NWO-Horizon project on Eurasian Empires (http://hum.leiden.edu/history/eurasia) and the Cosmopolis-programme (http://hum.leiden.edu/history/cosmopolisprojects) his current work takes a global and connective turn by exploring various early-modern manifestations of Eurasian Cosmopolitanism.

Corinne Lefèvre (Paris) - Messianism, Rationalism and Inter-Asian Connections: The Mughals and their Theologians (c. 1610)

Corinne Lefèvre
CEIAS, CNRS-EHESS
Messianism, Rationalism and Inter-Asian Connections:
The Mughals and their Theologians (c. 1610)

Relying on a recently discovered Indo-Persian source—the Majalis-i Jahangiri (1608-11) by ‘Abd al-Sattar b. Qasim Lahauri, this paper will explore the fascinating admixture of messianism and rationalism that came to dominate Mughal court culture in the early seventeenth century and highlight the role of imperial connections with Safavid Iran and Uzbek Central Asia in the emergence of this particular brand of Asian early modernity.

Contrary to the Jahangirnama—Jahangir’s autobiography-cum-official chronicle—where the king’s spiritual pretensions are only alluded to, the Majalis may be read as a manifesto of the emperor’s messianic pretensions. These ambitions unfold in the text through the narrative of his oneiric encounters with the divine, the miracles he performed thanks to his capacities as a seer and, most importantly for the present purpose, the discussions he conducted with a wide range of religious specialists, from Brahmans and Muslim ‘ulama’ and Sufis to Jesuit and Jewish scholars. The paper will present a fine grain analysis of these conversations with a strong focus on those bearing on Islam.

Jahangir’s disputations with Muslim scholars actually provide a unique insight into the particular kind of early modernity the Mughals were promoting within the confines of their empire and across the Asian-Islamicate ecumene. First, because they illuminate how, following the steps of his father Akbar, Jahangir was able to conciliate his messianic claims with a strong engagement with reason (‘aql) and to turn this combination into a formidable instrument for confession and state building. Secondly, because they highlight the role played by inter-Asian connections in the fashioning of Mughal ideology. As shown by the numerous notations concerning the religious ideologies and policies at work at the Safavid and Uzbek courts, as well as by the prominent role the dignitaries and scholars hailing from these two Muslim Asian powers played in the theological disputes orchestrated by the Mughal emperor, Central Asia and Iran loomed especially large in this domain, the first as a renowned centre of Islamic law and jurisprudence, the second as a key reference for sacred kingship and rational philosophy.

Corinne Lefèvre specialises in the political and cultural history of the Mughal empire (16th-18th c.). She received a three-year degree in Persian from the INALCO (National Institute of Oriental Civilizations, Paris) and completed her PhD in history and civilizations at the EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Paris). She is currently research fellow at the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) and the CEIAS (Center for Indian and South Asian Studies). She is section editor for Encyclopaedia of Islam Three and Perso-Indica (http://www.perso-indica.net). Her recent publications include: “The Court of ‘Abd-ur-Raḥīm Khān-i Khānān as a Bridge Between Iranian and Indian Cultural Traditions”, in Culture and Circulation. Literatures in Motion in Early Modern India, ed. A. Busch and T. de Bruijn, 2014, Leiden: E. J. Brill, p. 75-106; “State-building and the Management of Diversity in India (Thirteenth to Seventeenth Centuries)”, The Medieval History Journal, 16/2, 2013, p. 425-447; Cultural Dialogue in South Asia and Beyond: Narratives, Images and Community (sixteenth-nineteenth centuries), Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 2012, 55/2-3, co-ed. with I. G. Županov.

Paul Losensky (Indiana) - Shapur Tehrani, his Kith and Kin: The Pathways and Affiliations of an Iranian Family in India

Paul Losensky
Indiana University
Shapur Tehrani, his Kith and Kin:
The Pathways and Affiliations of an Iranian Family in India

The life of the poet Shapur Tehrani (d. ca. 1030/1621) provides the starting point for an extended case study of the many itineraries linking Iran and India in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His family, long influential landholders in the region of Rey, emerged into the literary history with his great-grandfather, Khvaja Arjasp Omidi Razi (d. 925/1519). After studying with the philosopher Jalal al-Din Davani, Omidi wrote poems for leading administrators of the early Safavid state. But it would be his great-grandsons through his son Mohammad Taher who would assure the family’s fame, not in Iran, but in India. One, Ghiyāth al-Din, would enter Mughal governmental service, gain the title of E‘temad al-Dowla, and see his daughter married to the Mughal emperor Jahangir. Another, Ahmad Amin Razi, would gain fame as the author of Haft Eqlim, a voluminous biographical compendium that traverses the seven climes of the known world. Finally, Shapur himself would be recogniSed as one of the leading poets of his day and amass a considerable fortune as a long-distance trader. The family fortunes show the many career opportunities available to Iranians in India and the close ties between literary, administrative, and economic interests and authority. Tracing Shapur’s encounters with other literary figures of the time extends these familial relations further into other professional and artistic networks, creating an intricate pattern of crisscrossing pathways and affiliations among the Iranian migrant community in India.

Paul Losensky (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1993) is Associate Professor in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies and the Department of Comparative Literature at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he teaches Persian language and literature, comparative studies of Western and Middle Eastern literatures, and translation studies. His research focusses on Persian literary historiography, biographical writing, and the Fresh-Style poetry of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His publications include Welcoming Fighāni: Imitation and Poetic Individuality in the Safavid-Mughal Ghazal (1998), Farid ad-Din ‘Attār’s Memorial of God’s Friends: Lives and Sayings of Sufis (2009), and In the Bazaar of Love: Selected Poems of Amir Khusrau (2013). He has authored numerous articles on Persian literature for journals such as Iranian Studies and is a frequent contributor to Encyclopedia of Islam and Encyclopaedia Iranica. He is a former fellow at the National Humanities Center.

Charles Melville (Cambridge) - Vali Muhammad Khan and Shah ‘Abbas: An Episode in Safavid-Uzbek Relations

Charles Melville
University of Cambridge
Vali Muhammad Khan and Shah ‘Abbas: An Episode in Safavid-Uzbek Relations

In 1020/1611 Vali Muhammad Khan, the Tuqay-Timurid ruler of Transoxania (r. 1605-11), sought refuge with his Safavid counterpart, Shah ‘Abbas (r. 1587-1629), following the insubordination of his nephews and especially Imam-Quli Khan, governor of Samarqand. Safavid sources pay considerable attention to this visit, which presented the Shah with prestige and an opportunity to extend his influence comparable with what Shah Tahmasp had earlier enjoyed as a result of Humayun’s request for assistance in 1544. Warm as was his reception, Vali Muhammad only stayed a month in Isfahan, from mid-June to mid-July, and returned with a small Iranian force in support, having resisted ‘Abbas’s offer to lead an army into Khurasan in person the following year. After an initial success, Vali Muhammad was defeated and executed in September 1611. This paper examines these events, and particularly the Uzbeks’ presence in Iran, in the light of the previously unused account of Fazli Beg Khuzani Isfahani, who furnishes rich details of the mission’s stay in Isfahan.

Charles Melville is Professor of Persian History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Pembroke College. He has a BA (Hons.) in Arabic and Persian from Cambridge (1972), an MA in Islamic History (SOAS, 1973) and a PhD on the Historical seismicity of Iran (Cambridge, 1978). His main research interests are in the history and historiography of Iran in the Mongol to Safavid periods (14th-17th centuries), and the illustration of Persian manuscripts. Recent publications include “The illustration of history in Safavid manuscript painting”, in Colin P. Mitchell (ed.) New Perspectives on Safavid Iran: Empire and Society, London 2011; “The itineraries of Shahrukh b. Timur (1405-47)”, in D. Durand-Guédy (ed.) Turko-Mongol Rulers, Cities and City Life, Leiden, 2013, and “The Royal image in Mongol Iran”, in Lynette Mitchell & Charles Melville (eds), Every Inch a King: Comparative studies on kings and kingship in the ancient and medieval worlds, Leiden, 2013. He is currently working on the illustration of mediaeval Persian history, and Iran in the reign of Shah ‘Abbas.

Keelan Overton (Los Angeles) - Between Safavid Iran and ‘Adil Shahi Bijapur: Translocal Patterns of Persian Intellectualism, Circulation and Artistic Production

Keelan Overton
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Between Safavid Iran and ‘Adil Shahi Bijapur: Translocal Patterns of Persian Intellectualism, Circulation and Artistic Production

In the nascent yet burgeoning field of Deccani art history, Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah II (r. 1580-1627) has been regularly lauded as the region’s “greatest” patron of arts. Many masterpieces of architecture and painting date to his reign, including exceptional portraits of the ruler himself, and his musical and literary talents are well known. Ibrahim has equally garnered attention for his religious syncretism, which has lent his comparison to his Mughal rival, Akbar. Nominally a Sunni, Ibrahim adopted Hindu titulature and founded a synthetic cult (nauras) devoted to the Prophet Muhammad, the Hindu goddess Saraswati, and the Deccan’s most famous Sufi saint Gisu Daraz. While scholarship has focused on Ibrahim’s Deccan-inspired nauras identity, less is known about his participation in translocal patterns of Perso-Islamic sovereignty and patronage, despite the fact that the Indo-Persian painter par excellence of the day – Farrukh Husain – enjoyed a decade-long tenure at his court. An investigation of Farrukh’s Bijapuri oeuvre, to include his mediations of Safavid visual systems, leads to the crux of medieval and early modern Deccani history: the ongoing conflict between local born Muslims (dakhni) and immigrants from Islamic lands (afaqi, or gharbian). Farrukh’s meteoric success in Bijapur was in large part conditioned by a court hierarchy dominated by Iranian émigrés, and it is the contention of this paper that a fuller understanding of the painter’s Bijapur period – and hence by extension Ibrahim’s portraiture and agency in the arts – requires contextualization within this broader climate. Toward this end, this paper introduces additional forms of material evidence – titulature, coins, library collections, metalwork, book binding, wall painting – and seeks to balance the emphasis on Ibrahim as an isolated Deccani “genius” patron and ‘Adil Shahi Bijapur as a courtly culture enmeshed in Perso-Islamic cultural paradigms.

Keelan Overton (PhD, University of California, Los Angeles) is Associate Curator of Islamic Art in the Art of the Middle East Department at the Los Angeles Museum of Art. Her primary field of research examines book arts, patronage, and cultural exchange in the early modern eastern Islamic world. Her secondary specialization considers cultural heritage preservation in later Iran, the formation of American collections of Islamic art, and the refashioning of “Islamicate” space abroad. Her forthcoming publications include an article on collecting, library formation, and visual translation in Ibrahim II’s Bijapur (for Muqarnas 2016), an essay examining the documentary and purveying efforts of Stephen H. Nyman in early Pahlavi Iran (for Yuka Kadoi’s Brill volume on Pope), articles on the Bahmanis and Farrukh Husain (for Encyclopaedia of Islam Three), and contributions to several exhibition catalogs (for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and LACMA). She is also preparing an edited volume entitled “Iran and the Deccan: Persian Art and Culture in Circulation, c. 1350-1700,” which presents interdisciplinary case studies exploring the peripatetic networks and knowledge systems that conditioned elite migration and artistic production between Iran and the Deccan, with the larger aim of underscoring emic networks of circulation, connectedness and identity.

Rachel Parikh (Metropolitan Museum) - All that Glitters: Persian Symbols of Power in Mughal Jewelry

Rachel Parikh
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
All that Glitters: Persian Symbols of Power in Mughal Jewelry

This paper will investigate how Persian connotations of power and imperial status were adapted and appropriated through the production of Mughal jewelry. It will first look at the affiliations between Persian conceptions of royalty and specific types of jewels, and how they are represented in poetry, literature, and art. It will then be demonstrated how these materials established a gemological hierarchy in Mughal decorative arts, which was then used to help symbolize the Mughals’ own imperial identity and legitimacy of rule. Thus, court patronage of jewelry was governed by these ideals, as was the response towards different types of gems and the overall production of these objects. Although very few examples survive, they nonetheless shed light on the influence of Persian imperialism and its visual manifestations on the greatest Islamic empire of the Indian subcontinent. In addition, this paper will examine imperial portraiture, as well as verbal and visual excerpts from the memoirs of the emperors Akbar (r. 1506-1605), Jahangir (r. 1605-1627), and Shah Jahan (r. 1627-1658). These works provide crucial evidence of Persian associations between royalty and jewels. also reflect the very significance of jewelry to the Mughals, who preserved these objects in their imperial treasury, passed down from generation to generation, and gave on special occasions, from anniversaries of the accession to the throne, to marking successful military campaigns. All of these actions only heighten the relationship between rule and precious and semi-precious stones. Additionally, these works give an idea of how Mughal jewelry was made and worn. To further this paper’s argument, other bejewelled items, such as ceremonial daggers, will be briefly analysed. The conclusion will look at the interesting fate of Mughal jewelry, which later ended up in the hands of Persian emperors who used it as symbols of their own power, thus creating a cycle of Persian imperialism and its symbolic representation through gems.

Rachel Parikh has a Ph.D. in the History of Art from the University of Cambridge, where she was a member of Magdalene College. Her dissertation, “Persian Pomp, Indian Circumstance: The Khalili Falnama”, examined a seventeenth-century Deccan copy of a sixteenth-century Persian manuscript, the Falnama, or “Book of Omens”. She was a research associate at the Art Institute of Chicago, researching and cataloguing the Himalayan, South Asian, and Southeast Asian collection, with a particular focus on provenance. Currently, Rachel is the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial/Collections Specialist Fellow with the Department of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Her fellowship involves researching and cataloguing the collection of Indian and Islamic arms and armor, which is approximately 1500 objects strong and has not been reviewed since the time of their acquisition in 1936. She has also just finished teaching a survey course on Islamic art and material culture at Bard Graduate Center, New York. Rachel is currently working on publishing her doctoral dissertation and a co-edited special edition volume of the Journal of the British Association for South Asian Studies on the role of religion and ritual in South Asian visual culture.

Laura Parodi (Independent scholar) - Shah Abu’l Ma‘ali, Mir Sayyid ‘Ali, and the Sayyids of Termez: Two Portraits Question Akbari Historiography

Laura Parodi
Independent scholar
Shah Abu’l Ma‘ali, Mir Sayyid ‘Ali, and the Sayyids of Termez:
Two Portraits Question Akbari Historiography

Possibly the earliest surviving Mughal portrait, the Portrait of Shah Abu’l Ma‘ali contains an inscription indicating it was produced early in Akbar’s reign (in the mid-to-late 1550s). Yet it is the work of an artist, Dust-i Musawwir, whose name disappears from the record around 1554, before Humayun’s return to Delhi. Abu’l Ma‘ali himself fell from favour and was imprisoned early in Akbar’s reign. An examination of available visual and textual evidence, in an attempt to reconcile these apparent contradictions, suggests the artist may have been alive and active in Kabul well into Akbar’s reign. Abu’l Ma‘ali, in turn – who was “of the Great Sayyids of Termez” – is known to have played a prominent role in an attempted coup on the Mughal throne. A comparison of some visual details in the painting with his biography – reconstructed from occasional references in the Akbarnama and other early Mughal sources – suggest a plausible scenario and raison d’etre for the painting. Other members of the Mughal elite, and Termezi Sayyids in particular, bore the consequences of their involvement in the plot. One of them was possibly another leading Mughal artist, Mir Sayyid ‘Ali, who according to some sources may have been of that lineage, and who produced another famous portrait, where his elderly father is shown petitioning on his behalf. The petition must have been unsuccessful, and the Sayyid’s traces are lost soon afterwards. Again, a comparison of visual and textual evidence, including a little-known seal impression, suggests a possible scenario for the painter’s disappearance from the Mughal record. The first portrait in particular reveals details of early disputes over the Mughal throne that are barely perceptible in official Akbari historiography.

Laura E. Parodi (Ph.D.) is an independent scholar based in Genoa, Italy. She has taught courses and seminars at the University of Oxford, University College Dublin, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Università degli Studi di Genova and Università degli Studi di Urbino ‘Carlo Bo,’ and is the author of numerous essays on Mughal art and architecture. She recently edited The Visual World of Muslim India: The Art, Culture and Society of the Deccan in the Early Modern Era (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014), and, with Alessandro Bausi et al., Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies: An Introduction (forthcoming).

Benedek Péri Eötvös (Budapest) - Bayram Khan’s Persian and Turkish Ghazals

Benedek Péri
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
Bayram Khan’s Persian and Turkish Ghazals

Bayram Khan (d. 1561) was one of the most influential nobles at the Mughal court during the reign of Humayun (1530–1540, 1555–1556) and his successor, Akbar (1556–1606). As a member of an eminent Baharlu Türkmen family, he simultaneously represented three major components of Mughal culture, Indian, Persian and Central Asian Turkish. He had family ties in Iran, he was brought up in a mixed Perso-Turkish literary culture that developed during the reign of Timur’s successors, he married into a Turkish royal family, and he spent most of his life in an Indian environment. He was not only a talented statesman and soldier, aptly termed as the second founder of the Mughal Empire, but he was also an acknowledged poet, both in Persian and in Turkish.

In one of his qitcas Bayram Khan summarized his poetic credo in the following way.
Out of sheer ignorance, poets nowadays,
Are not ashamed of borrowing lines.
Verses of this servant are not borrowed like the verses of others,
Because I would be ashamed if I borrowed verses

A story related by the Mughal historian Bada’uni, however, suggests that Bayram Khan’s poetical principles could turn very flexible when it came to “borrowing” other poet’s works.
‘One of the remarkable incidents of this year was that the Khan-i Khanan published as his own a ghazal of Hashim Qandaharí, putting the lines into a different arrangement; he ordered 60,000 tankahs of money to be paid to him by way of compensation, and asked if the sum were sufficient; Hashim by way of an extempore joke said “Sixty is too little”, upon which he increased the sum by 40,000 and gave him altogether a complete lac.’

The present paper while focusing on Bayram Khan’s Persian and Turkish ghazals has a two-fold aim. First, it endeavours to give an overall description of Bayram’s poetry and decide where, between the two extremes of plagiarism and originality, they should be placed; secondly, through analyzing some of his imitations, it attempts to present a somewhat more detailed picture of Bayram Khan’s poetic talent and poetical strategies.

Péri Benedek is currently head of department, Department of Turkic Studies, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, where he did an MA in Turkic Studies and an MA in Iranian Studies (1992) and a PhD in Turkic Studies (2000), entitled „A török írás és szóbeliség nyomai a mogul kori Indiában: Mirza Ali Bakht Gurgani Azfari Mizan at-Turki című grammatikai értekezése és ami körülötte van” (Traces of Turkic literacy in Mughal India. Mirza Ali Bakht Gurgani Azfari’s Grammatical Treatise titled Mizan at-Turki and its historical background). He has been a Faculty member at the Chair of Turkic Studies, Eötvös Loránd University, since 1993 and a member of the Oriental Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences since 2010. In 2013 he was Representative of the International Babur Foundation (Xalqoro Bobur Fondi, Andijon-Toshkent) in Hungary. Recent conference presentations include “Bâbur’s gazel ending in the redîf tapılmas and its place in Turkic classical poetry” (Babur in the History of World Culture, Tashkent 10-11 June 2013); “The gender of the beloved in one of Bayram Khan’s Chaghatay gazels” (’The 56th Annual Meeting of the PIAC’; Kocaeli 7-12 July 2013); and „The influence of Navāyī and Lutfī on the ghazal poetry of the Mughal noble, Bayram Khān (’The Historical heritage of scientists and thinkers of the Medieval East, its role and importance for modern civilization’, Samarkand, 10–13 May 2014).

Ryan Perkins (Portland) - The Persianization of the Vernaculars in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century India and Afghanistan

Ryan Perkins
Portland State University
The Persianization of the Vernaculars in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century India and Afghanistan

In the second millennium, or what has been called the ‘vernacular millenium’ regional languages in South Asia began supplementing Sanskrit and then Persian for literary purposes. This process involved many exchanges, including, but not limited to cultural, political, military, and linguistic exchanges. In this paper I focus on the rise of Urdu poetry and the translation, production, and circulation of a literary text from Persian into Pashto as a way to understand the processes involved in the vernacularization of Persian or the Persianization of the vernaculars. At the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth century the son of Khushal Khan Khattak (d. 1689), Abdul Qadir Khan (c. 1652-1714) completed his translation into Pashto of Jami’s maṡnavī, Yusuf va Zulaikha (1700-1). During these decades around the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, several of Qadir Khan’s brothers and numerous other poets reworked a dozen Persianate romances in Pashto in addition to renarrating indigenous oral ones. It was a period of great literary productivity, not only in Pashto, but in other regional languages as well. Utilizing manuscript copies of Abdul Qadir’s adaptation of Yusuf va Zulaikha, I argue that this along with other contemporaneous texts heralds the creation of a literary tradition that served to shore up elite Pashtun political gains, consolidate social networks, and ward off cultural challenges from without. While scholars have examined the role of Pashtuns within expansive trade networks involving horses, opium, and other high-value commodities, this paper foregrounds translation from Persian not merely as a literary process but also as a record of the material exchanges and social interactions taking place among different linguistic worlds.

C. Ryan Perkins. After receiving my Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Department of South Asia Studies in 2011, I was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Chicago from 2011-2013 and Postdoctoral Fellow in Indian History and Culture at the University of Oxford until September 2014. While at Oxford, I served as course director for the M.Phil program in Modern South Asian Studies. Currently a faculty member in Portland State University’s Department of History, I teach courses on Indian history. I am a historian of South Asia and the Persianate world, with a focus on the social, cultural, and literary history from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. My current book project, The Passion of Print: Abdul Halim Sharar, Islam and the Transformation of Life in Late Colonial India explores the rapid, albeit late, adoption of print technology by Urdu speaking Muslims and Hindus. My article, “From the Mehfil to the Printed Word” was published in 2013 in the Indian Economic and Social History Review and, “A New Pablik: Abdul Halim Sharar, Volunteerism and the Anjuman-e Dar-us-Salam in late nineteenth century India” is forthcoming in Modern Asian Studies.

Sholeh Quinn (UCLA Merced) - Exploring Historiographical Boundaries: Early Safavid and Mughal Universal Chronicles

Sholeh Quinn
UCLA Merced
Exploring Historiographical Boundaries: Early Safavid and Mughal Universal Chronicles

This paper seeks to explore the historiographical boundaries between Safavid and Mughal universal chronicles. The genre of universal history (general history, universal chronicle, general chronicle) provides a useful lens through which we may test the strength of these boundaries, and tells us much about the possible inter-relationships between Safavid and Mughal historiography. This is because historians writing for both dynasties produced universal chronicles, making them a rich source for comparative study.

By the early modern period, the category of universal history writing was recognised as a distinct genre by at least one historian. In the introduction to his Tarikh-i ‘alam-ara-yi Amini, Aq Qoyunlu historian Fazl-Allah ibn Ruzbihan Khunji (860-925/1456-1517) lists eight different classes (tayifa) of historians, and the first such class he notes are authors who have written universal histories.

In this paper, I will discuss the two earliest Persian universal histories written under the Safavids, and the two earliest written under the Mughals. They are (1) Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad Khvandamir’s (ca 880-942/ca. 1475-1535-6) Habib al-siyar, completed in Herat in 1524, but rewritten in 1525 and 1529, (2) Yahya ibn ‘Abd al-Latif Husayni Qazvini’s (885-962/1481-1555) Lubb al-tawarikh, composed in 945/1542 during the reign of Shah Tahmasb for the king’s brother, Bahram Mirza, (3) The Tarikh-i alfi, commissioned in 993/1585 by Akbar, and (4) Mir Muhammad Sharif Vuqu’i Husayni Nishapuri’s (d. 1002/1593-4) Majami‘ al-akhbar 1000/1591-2. I will begin by providing a brief overview of Safavid and Mughal universal chronicles, followed by a short introduction to each history, including a discussion of its organizational scheme and possible connections with other sources. In order to understand these connections in a more indepth manner, the paper will end with a presentation of how each of these universal chronicles treats specific topics in pre-Islamic and/or Islamic history.

Sholeh Quinn is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Merced. She received her PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 1993. She has also taught at Ohio University and the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Her main area of research focuses on the history of Iran during the Safavid era (ca. 16th-early 18th centuries), with a special emphasis on historiography. Her book, entitled Historical Writing during the Reign of Shah ‘Abbas I was published by the University of Utah Press in 2000. In 2006, she co-edited History and Historiography of Post-Mongol Central Asia and the Middle East: Studies in Honor of John E. Woods, published by Harassowitz. She has also published numerous essays in journals and edited volumes. She is currently working on a comparative study of Persianate historical writing under the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals.

Karin Ruehrdanz (Royal Ontario Museum) - Timurid Legacy as Patchwork: The Practicality of Refurbishing Luxury Manuscripts and the New Concept of Illustration

Karin Ruehrdanz
Royal Ontario Museum
Timurid Legacy as Patchwork:
The Practicality of Refurbishing Luxury Manuscripts and the New Concept of Illustration

In its efforts to create a new centre of court culture in Bukhara the Shah-Budaqid branch of the Shaybanid clan focused on manuscript production, although strong patronage was also accorded to religious buildings, in particular the shrine of Baha al-Din Naqshband. In contrast with other Shaybanids, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Bahadur, who ruled the appanage of Bukhara from 1539 to 1550, not only followed a generic Timurid model but aimed at directly connecting to the spiritual and cultural climate of late Timurid Herat, whether through his Sufi master or the reworking of Herat manuscripts.

The latter task usually included providing the originally not illustrated manuscripts with miniatures. To achieve this, the Bukharan atelier came up with practical solutions that had collateral effects on the relationship between text and image. They weakened the dependence of the picture upon the narrative. With new decorative features added, a manuscript page with illustration functioned more or less in a way similar to an album page (with respect to the text – image connection).

In loosening the immediate connection between text and image the Bukharan atelier may have felt encouraged by a tendency that is already visible in some Bihzadian miniatures. Such miniatures visualised ideas contained in the work they illustrated using compositional elements not supported by the narrative of the respective passage. Like the practical solutions for subsequent illustration, the new concept of visualisation of (mainly mystical) ideas was eventually also applied to manuscripts copied in Bukhara during the late 1530s and in the early 1540s and illustrated several years later. The practical “inventions” had, at least in part, a lasting effect visible in Bukharan manuscript production in the second half of the sixteenth century. It has still to be established how far this also might be true for the new concept of illustration.

Karin Ruehrdanz is Senior Curator of Islamic Art at the Royal Ontario Museum and Professor of Islamic Art in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. She earned a Diploma in Oriental Art and Archaeology from Halle University, Germany, 1971 and her Ph.D. from the same institution in 1974. K. Ruehrdanz taught Islamic Art and Archaeology at Halle and Bamberg Universities and at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1993/94 she completed her research on illustrated histories of the prophets at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (published jointly with Rachel Milstein and Barbara Schmitz: Stories of the Prophets: Illustrated Manuscripts of Qisas al-Anbiya’, Costa Mesa: Mazda, 1999). Since then, other manuscript groups studied included Persianate Shahnama copies and illustrated Arabic and Persian compendia of natural history. In recent years her research focused on the impact of the literary genre on pictorial programs in Persian manuscripts; on Central Asian miniature painting (15th – 17th centuries); and on the formation of collections of Islamic art in Central Europe since early modern times.

Sunil Sharma (Boston) - Qandahar Between the Safavids and Mughals: Representations in Poetry and Painting

Sunil Sharma
Boston University
Qandahar Between the Safavids and Mughals: Representations in Poetry and Painting

Safavid forces permanently regained possession of the frontier fortress of Qandahar in 1649, dealing a major blow to Mughal prestige. The immediate victory was celebrated in panegyrics by court poets such as Sa’ib and Vahid in Isfahan, but its symbolic significance had great historical and longer term implications for questions about the ownership of the Persian language and patterns of literary production. The literary response to the taking of Qandahar was the composition of several epic-like poems, including one on the canon deployed by the Safavids, as well as a few romances using classical tropes to describe the reclamation of Persian by Iranians after a century-long emigration of literati to various Indian courts. This paper will examine several poetic, historical, and visual sources to understand the complex impact of this event in Safavid courtly and literary circles. It proposes an alternate way to view early modern Persian literary culture, which has been largely framed by questions of stylistics in connection with sabk-e Hindi poetry and/or the rise and decline of Mughal patronage.

Sunil Sharma is Chair of and Associate Professor of Persianate & Comparative Literature at Boston University’s Department of Modern Literature and Comparative Literature, where he has taught since 2004. He studied Persian in Tehran and Esfahan, and in 1999 received his Ph.D.in Persian Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. From 1998-2003 he was the Bibliographer for Persian at Harvard University’s Widener Library. Over the years he has held fellowships at the Institute of Advanced Study (Berlin), Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture (Harvard), the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Study (New Delhi) and the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris) . He is the author of two monographs, two co-authored books, two edited volumes, and a number of articles and translations. He has co-curated exhibitions on Rumi, Firdausi’s Shahnama, and the romance of Laila-Majnun, at Houghton Library and Sackler Museum. His research interests are in the areas of Persian and comparative literary and visual cultures, translation and travel writing.

Christine van Ruymbeke (Cambridge) - The Kalila-Dimna: Tossed Back and Forth Between Iran and India

Christine van Ruymbeke
University of Cambridge
The Kalila-Dimna: Tossed Back and Forth Between Iran and India

The Kalila va Dimna is perhaps the best and most famous example of literary interconnectedness between India and Iran. I will focus on the sixteenth-century Mughal rewriting of the text by Abu’l-Fazl and, basing myself on the innovations and changes brought by this author on the millennium-old text, I will conjecture on his reasons for producing this new version.

Christine van Ruymbeke is Soudavar Senior Lecturer in Persian at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies in Cambridge. She obtained her PhD in Persian studies at the Brussels University (Belgium). Her research focuses on classical (or pre-modern) Persian literature, with a special focus on the masnavis of Nizami of Ganja. She is preparing a monograph on the fifteenth-century rewriting of the Kalila-Dimna text by Va‘iz Kashifi: the Anvar-i Suhayli of infamous reputation.