The Aga Khan University-Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations cordially invites you to the launch of Robert Elgood's new book; Rajput Arms and Armour: The Rathores and Their Armoury at Jodhpur Fort (2 Volumes) on Thursday 22 February 2018.
This catalogue of Jodhpur Fort armoury reclaims the Hindu contribution to Indian military culture in the Mughal period. From the sixteenth century, Rajputs rulers married their daughters to the Mughal emperors and were crucial allies of the dynasty but though they adopted Persian culture they retained their own warrior tradition with its roots in Vedic practice. The Rajputs worshipped violent goddesses who required blood sacrifices and alcohol. These warriors (Kshatriya) took prodigious amounts of opium and deliberately sacrificed themselves to the goddess on the battlefield in order to gain warrior Heaven. Believing it was disgraceful for a warrior to die in bed of natural causes, old men, survivors of countless battles, would send word to their enemies to meet them and, after politely sharing a drink, would hack each other to death. Advice to Prince Arjuna from his charioteer, Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, composed between the 5th -2nd century BC remains valid:
"Certain is death for the born, and certain is birth for the dead, therefore, over the inevitable, you should not grieve. Further looking at the duty a Kshatriya should not waver for there is nothing higher for him than a righteous war. Happy indeed are the Kshatriyas who are called to fight in such a battle that comes of itself as an open door to heaven. If you do not fight this righteous war, then having abandoned your own duty and fame, you shall incur sin. To one who delights in honour, dishonour is more than death. Slain you will obtain Heaven, victorious you will enjoy the earth."
A warrior’s sword was his most prized possession, guardian of his honour, women, land and religion, the means of achieving fame and spiritual release, a temple for the Goddess to inhabit and make efficacious. The Charans or court poets had the task of announcing the names and prowess of warriors entering court and their verses set out the appropriate values for Rajput kings, warriors and wives. The Jodhpur armoury is a portal through which the reader enters an unfamiliar Indian world distinct from Brahminism in which Rajput men and women were taught from birth to glory in war, courage, honour and self-sacrifice. This trait was much discussed by Indian Muslims. During a drinking bout the Mughal Emperor Akbar is recorded by Abu’l Fazl swearing that he was as brave as any Rajput and having to be restrained from sacrificing himself in Rajput style by running bare chested against a sword blade set in a wall.
Robert Elgood has a BA in Islamic History from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London University (where he is now a Research Associate) and a DPhil from Oxford University in Indian Anthropology. He worked for some years in the 1980s as Sotheby’s Oriental arms expert and from 2006 to 2012 he was Research Fellow, Eastern European, Islamic and Asian Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection, London. He catalogued the arms collection at Belmont House, Kent and wrote the arms section to a catalogue for Jodhpur’s exhibition at the Museum of Fine Art, Houston. He has lectured at SOAS on the Asian Arts Diploma since the 1980s and lectured at seminars such as the ICOMAN Conference at Oman in 2012 and in Cairo in 2014 and at many of the major museums of Europe, American, the Arab world and India including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Metropolitan Museum, New York; and at The Islamic Art Museum, Qatar and the Dar al Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait where he was a guest scholar. He has twice been a panelist at The Jaipur Literary Festival. He has also advised museums, dealers and collectors. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Asiatic Society.
He commissioned and edited Islamic Arms and Armour (1979), and is the author of Arms and Armour of Arabia in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, (1994); Firearms of the Islamic World in the Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait, (1995); Hindu Arms and Ritual. Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865 (2004). Articles include three for Macmillan’s’ World Dictionary of Art and another for Brill’s Encyclopedia of Islam (EI3). In 2008, he wrote an introductory essay to a new edition of Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke’s Catalogue of the Collection of Indian Arms and Objects of Art at Marlborough House, originally published in 1898 and his Arms and Armour at Sandringham published in 1910. The Arms of Greece and her Balkan Neighbours in the Ottoman Period, Thames and Hudson, 2009 appeared in Greek and English editions. More recent publications by Niyogi Books are Arms and Armour at the Jaipur Court (2015) and his two volume catalogue, Rajput Arms and Armour. The Rathores and their Armoury in Jodhpur Fort, published in 2017. He is currently writing on Indian firearms in Jodhpur Fort.
To attend in person, please click here
To attend online, please click here