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The Genealogical Seal of the Mughal Emperors of India1

  • Annabel Teh Gallop

Extract

The genealogical seal of the Mughal emperors of India was one of the most potent symbols of Mughal imperial authority. The distinctive design of the seal - a central circle containing the name of the ruling emperor, surrounded by a series of smaller circles, like satellites in orbit, containing the names of his ancestors up to Timūr (1336–1405) each preceded by the filiative ibn - was a self-evident masterpiece of imperial symbolism, in which the authority of the ruling emperor was both legitimised and enhanced by the deliberate reference to his illustrious ancestors. The inscription was designed to be read starting with the ruling emperor's name in the middle, then moving into the outer circle to the name of his immediate predecessor (at 1 o'clock) and, continuing clockwise, finishing up at Timur, who always had pride of place at the top of the seal. In this way, each ruler was expressed as the son of his predecessor, while at the same time, from his central position abutting all the smaller circles, the ruling emperor could be read symbolically as the “son” of each of his ancestors.

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Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
  • ISSN: 1356-1863
  • EISSN: 1474-0591
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