Divine in origin, invested with sacred duties and powers, the king in ancient Indian philosophy was a manifestation of the gods on earth. As such, he had very specific moral and public responsibilities, and even his daily activities were spelled out in Hindu legal texts such as the Arthashastra. Rajput kings ruled through a network of kinsmen who governed different parts of the realm. While the king retained symbols of authority, he also made concessions for the family ties that bound him to his courtiers. The Mughal ruler was viewed as God's shadow on earth, but as Akbar's biographer says: "If he is an emanation of God's light, how can we call him a shadow?" (The 'Ain-i-Akbari, by Abul Fazl). Mughal emperors, partly to secure the loyalty of their new subjects, claimed semi-divine status that raised them above all others. In painting, with the reign of Jahangir (1605-1627,) they acquired a nimbus, or halo. Hierarchy was expressed in formal court occasions such as the royal audience (darbar) but also in hunts and entertainments in which the ruler's victory was assured and his glory reinforced. These were occasions that rulers chose to document as they asserted their power and the reaches of their domain.
Sangram Singh with children in the Dilkhush Mahal
Rajasthan, Mewar
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, ca. 1720
16 1/16 in. x 26 25/32 in. (40.8 cm x 68 cm)

Edwin Binney 3rd Collection