Revue de presse
This handsomely produced volume is a welcome addition to the somewhat sparse literature on the arms and armour of the Rajput courts. The royal Jaipur collection showcased here is of particular interest because of the many weapons accumulated by the Kachhwahas of Amber when serving as commanders and governors under the Mughals, beginning with Akbar. After the decline of Mughal supremacy the Kachhwahas achieved greater autonomy and prosperity, refurbishing older weapons in their armoury, and commissioning new weapons for ceremonial use in the audience hall and on the parade ground of the recently built palace in Jaipur. Many of these items were displayed in exhibitions held in the new capital, where a new School of Art was established in 1867 and the Central Jaipur Museum opened shortly afterwards. Both institutions were intended to encourage local craftsmen, including metalworkers. Judging from the high quality of the weapons manufactured at this time, this was a successful venture, to which British figures in Jaipur at the time, such as Colonel Thomas Holbein Hendley, gave encouragement. As the author notes, weapons continue to be made in Jaipur and other Rajput centres to this day. The core of this volume is the author s catalogue of 186 weapons, each meticulously described and illustrated with a full-page coloured image. The weapons are arranged by type: thus, daggers, katars, swords, lances, shields, armour-plates, axes, elephant-goads, maces, pistols and guns, etc. Their diverse provenance reflects the different parts of India where the Kachhwahas were posted in imperial service: daggers and lance heads from the Deccan, some with elegantly worked metallic, nephrite and crystal hilts (nos. 3, 20-24, 34, 74, 107-108); sabres from Kashmir or the Punjab (nos. 92-93); a shield from Gujarat (no. 116); even a tribal sword from Assam (no. 75). The numerous daggers, swords, shields and arm-guards from Mughal workshops confirm the close relationship of the Kacchwahas with the Mughals. One of the most spectacular Mughal items is an iron helmet embellished with damascening (no. 129). More intriguing, perhaps, is a walrus ivory archer s ring engraved with the face of a bearded European, which the author suggests may be a Christian subject commissioned by Jahangir in 1619 (no. 165). A sabre from Persia (no. 84) and a leather shield from Japan (no. 119) add a cosmopolitan dimension to the collection, as do swords with European or Persian hilts attached to later Indian steel blades (nos. 29-30 and 54); blades from Italy, Germany or Persia with local hilts (nos. 73, 81-82, 85); and even Portuguese and English pistols with later Indian decoration (nos. 176-177). Such a kaleidoscopic arsenal in Jaipur is hardly surprising considering that the Kachhwahas, like their Mughal contemporaries, kept up to date with international developments in warfare technology, importing fine metallic components whenever possible. The link with Persia is partly explained by Jaipur s contacts with the Middle East in the international textile trade. That most 19th-century weapons in Jaipur are of local production testifies to the skills acquired by metalworkers in Rajasthan. Among the techniques displayed in the Jaipur weapons are damascening, a practice imported from Persia, perfected under the Mughals and adopted by the Rajputs to achieve gorgeous gleaming effects (nos. 80, 82, 88); sharp chiselling to create sinuous, relief designs, sometimes with figures and animals in typical Rajput hunting scenes (nos. 92-93); lacquered leather painted with floral motifs (no. 119); and even enamelling with gleaming colours (no. 76). In conclusion, this is not only an attractive volume with an abundance of illustrations, but a painstaking study of materials rarely subjected to historical, technical and aesthetic scrutiny. At the end of the volume the author supplies a --GEORGE MICHELL -Review for BSOAS [18 November 2015]
Présentation de l'éditeur
The book has a selection of 186 of the most interesting arms in the Jaipur royal palace and discusses them as weapons in their social and historical context. The book breaks new ground in Indian arms scholarship and is also a very readable account that takes in Rajput, Mughal and British Indian history,anthropology and art history. The objects are stunning: swords belonging to the Mughal Emperors Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb; wonderful court daggers with hilts of carved rock crystal, jade, ivory and gilt steel; ferocious tribal arms; some remarkable historic firearms and beautiful painted shields, some of which were decorated in Japan for the Mughal court. There is even a device for extracting arrows from wounds with toe-curling ancient medical remedies. Most of these arms are from the reserve collections and published for the first time. One in a series illustrating the collections of the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, City Palace, Jaipur, the book will be essential for all museum curators, dealers and collectors working in this field. Others in the series are Festivals at the Jaipur Court by Vibhuti Sachdev and Costumes & Textiles at the Jaipur Court by Rahul Jain.