Lectures
Lectures are currently held on Zoom at 2pm normally on the last Wednesday of each month. They last for 1 - 1¬Ĺ hours including a question and answer session at the end.
The Drama behind the Taj Mahal: the Life and Times of the Indian Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan
Oliver Everett      Wed 25th June 2014
  Lord Teignmouth, Governor General of India, had a walk-on part in our June lecture, having acquired the Padshahnama (chronicle of the king of the world) as a gift from the Nawab of Lucknow to George III in 1798. Oliver Everett, a former Royal Librarian at Windsor, was well qualified to guide us through this chronicle of the rule of Emperor Shah Jahan.
These were the years of the construction of the Taj Mahal, the mausoleum created by the emperor for his favourite wife who died in 1631 giving birth to their fourteenth child. The Padshahnama was written and illustrated between 1628 and 1658. It consists of 44 paintings, watercolours on vellum, each conveying impressions of social, political and military life. The paintings are of A4 size, the attention to detail reflecting the two years of careful application given to each page by the twenty five full-time artists employed by the court. Characters in the chronicle can be identified.
These were turbulent times. The succession often involved a cull of competitors. Stability was sustained by close links between the emperor and his prime minister, as well as extended family marriages. Shah Jahanís father, Akbar, had been tolerant of different religious beliefs and accepted some Western influences. True to form, he died of alcohol/opium poisoning. However, the new emperor continued to employ some Hindu artists and borrowed the halo as a personal fashion statement.
The chronicle depicts images ranging from royal weddings to expensive gifts of jewellery and fabrics, from the defeat of enemies to the gory reward for rebellious subjects. We see the Shah Jahan being weighed against money to be given to the poor. The emperorís son protects him from a charging bull elephant. Two rabbits munch grass and observe the ways of man. Strange that senior ladies close to the emperor are not included, even the bride.
Full circle, at the age of 62 Shah Jahan is taken ill and his sons jostle for power. Arangzeb locks him up for 8 years, the familyís take on residential care for the elderly, and we learn of the death of the King of the World in 1666. He left us some of the finest Mughal paintings.
On this high note we end our 2013-2014 series of lectures. The next programme commences in September and existing members should have received the relevant information and renewal form, as well as their invitation to the KEDFAS twenty first celebration lunch. If you are not a member and would like more details please contact our Secretary, Mark Jennings