Shield of Emperor Akbar
This grand shield belonged to Emperor Akbar. It is made of high quality watermark steel and has detailed damascene work in gold.The Ain-i-Akbari mentions four kinds of shields – sipar, dhal, khera, and pahri. This is a sipar, which was common in Mughal India. Sipar is a Persian name for a shield made of steel or hide, generally from 43 to 60 cm in diameter. If made of steel, the shields were often, as here, ornamented with patterns in gold.
The decorations on this shield run in three circular bands, with an effulgent sun in the centre and four damascened bosses around it. Between the upper and the leftside boss there is an inscription placed in a star, which reads: “Buland Iqbal Shahinshah Akbar ah 1002 [1593 ce]”.
The immediate band around the centre has a bold meandering pattern. Going outward, the next band has realistic representations of the twelve Zodiac signs,each with its corresponding oval label. Interestingly the human figures in the signs of Gemini, Virgo, and Aquarius are shown in European costume, which led some scholars to ascribe a later date to this shield. However, it is possible that this foreign element could have been copied from European engravings that were presented to Emperor Akbar. It should be noted here that some early paintings of Akbar’s period reflect an awareness of European art. In some of the paintings from the Tutinama (c. 1560–65 ce) several figures wear European costume.
Both Ain-i-Akbari and Akbarnama mention Akbar’s great interest in Indian astrology. Besides, Akbar’s faith in the sun was demonstrated in the new religion he founded, Din-e-ilahi. Abul Fazl records in the Ain-i-Akbari: “An order was given that the sun should be worshipped four times a day in the morning and evening and at noon and mid-night. His Majesty had also one thousand and one Sanscrit names of the sun collected and read them daily, devoutly turning towards the sun….” Emperor Akbar considered the sun auspicious, sacred, and beneficial to all, particularly to a ruler.
Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection.
Arms and Armour
Steel with gold damascene
Diameter 52 cm