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UNKNOWN INDIAN ARTIST

RAJA SHAMSHER SEN OF MANDIAND RAJA RANJIT SEN OF SUKET, CIRCA 1772-1773

About the Artwork

Ruler on the viewer’s left: Raja Shamsher Sen of Mandi (r. 1727-1781) was born in 1722 and died in 1781. At the age of five in 1727 he ascended the Mandi throne under the regency of his mother and the vizier Mian Jappu. He assumed full ruling powers after the death of the queen mother and murder of the vizier in circa 1740. Ruler on the viewer’s right: Raja Ranjit Sen of Suket (r. 1762-1791). Mandi was an agnatic offshoot of Suket, having separated in circa 1200. Suket became a Mughal tributary under Raja Udai Sen (r. 1560-1590). Mandi and Suket were bitter rivals and frequently in conflict. Ranjit Sen’s younger brother was Kishan Singh, who in circa 1780 during a campaign against Mandi was betrayed by Ranjit Sen on suspicion of disloyalty. Kishan Singh later revolted against his brother and sacked Suket with the help of Raja Sansar Chand II of Kangra (r. 1775-1823). In this audience scene (durbar) set on a palace terrace, Shamsher Sen and Ranjit Sen are meeting as equals and smoking hookahs. The seated man behind Ranjit Singh is likely Kishan Singh. Various courtiers seated or standing and holding staffs are in attendance. Attendants waive honorific peacock feather fans (morchal) over their respective sovereigns. On the left is the hookah tender. In addition to commemorating this political gathering, which presumably occurred before Kishan Singh’s revolt, this painting is also significant for documenting the concurrent use of spherical and flatbottomed hookahs.

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