Primary Source

Emperor Jahangir Weighing His Son Khurram in Gold [Album Painting]

Annotation

The finely detailed miniature painting in an album created for the Emperor Jahangir (reigned 1605–1627) of the Mughal Empire in India shows a ceremony initiated by Jahangir's father, Akbar the Great (reigned 1556-1605), Jahangir's father. Twice each year on the first day of the solar and lunar years, at an hour calculated by the court astrologers, the emperor himself or one of his sons would be weighed in a great balance against gold, silver, or other metals to be given away to the poor as charity. In addition to the precious metal, trays of textiles were laid out on a cloth to be given as gifts. The ceremony was witnessed by attendants of the court and other dignitaries, while religious officials held the ropes of the scale and recited blessings and prayers for the son.

The boy on the scale in this painting is Khurram, who became Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-57), builder of the Taj Mahal. The emperor may have chosen to weigh Khurram to commemorate a milestone in his life, important in a time of high infant mortality, or it might have indicated his status as heir apparent. The ceremony took place in a pavilion, or gardened canopied space. The wealth of the Mughals was displayed in the form of precious items from China and rich Persian carpets, couches, and clothing. This may have been a part of the ceremony or an artifice of the painter. The association of charitable giving with children and birth is a custom that goes back to the sunnah, or practice of Prophet Muhammad, when charity was given at the aqiqa, or feast in celebration of childbirth. The child's hair was cut and an equivalent in charity was given away. The practice of bestowing textiles, or robes of honor, was also one associated with Islam for centuries, in which it was customary for heads of households or officials to present those under their authority with suits of clothing at holidays.

Source

Manohar (attributed to). Emperor Jahangir Weighing His Son Khurram in Gold. Album-painting in gouache on paper. Mughal dynasty, circa 1615 AD. India (height: 303 mm, width: 188 mm), Object reg. no: AC 1948,1009,0.69 © The Trustees of the British Museum at http://www.bmimages.com/preview.asp?image=00034195001&imagex=6&searchnum (accessed April 30, 2009).

How to Cite This Source

"Emperor Jahangir Weighing His Son Khurram in Gold [Album Painting]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #257, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/257 (accessed August 29, 2014). Annotated by Susan Douglass