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The Mughals were only the last of India’s important Islamic dynasties. When they came to the subcontinent in the 16th century, India’s central zone, called the Deccan, has been ruled for nearly two centuries by Shiite sultanates. This striking brass standard, mounted on top of a long pole hung with cloth, would have been used by Deccani Shiites in processions and other religious observances during the Muslim month of Muharram. Such ‘alams are thought to be conventionalized versions of the battle standards borne by the army of Husain, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, during his defeat at the battle of Karbala. Dragonlike makaras encircle this example’s drop-shaped medallion, in which an openwork Arabic inscription invokes Allah, Muhammad, and Ali. All but one of the ‘alam’s crowning projections are modern replacements; the original upper spikes were probably straighter.
Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund
Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy, Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 20 - July 26, 2015
Haidar, Navina Najat and Marika Sardar. Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015; cat 109, pp 215-16.
Dye, Joseph M. The Arts of India: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. London: Philipp Wilson, 2001. (cat. no. 193, p. 418, 521-522)
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC
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