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Type: Thesis
Title: Imperial Hunting Grounds: A new Reading of Mughal Cultural History
Author: Parpia, Shaha Altaf
Issue Date: 2018
School/Discipline: School of Architecture and Built Environment
Abstract: This study is an exposé of the imperial hunt, considered one of the most enduring institutions of the Mughal dynasty (1526-1858). It presents a new understanding of the hunting culture and the shikargah (hunting ground). A critical examination of the ways in which the shikargah was perceived and utilised, both real and allegorical, during the reign of the first six emperors, the Great Mughals (1526-1707), enables a rethinking of the common narrative that the shikargah was ‘wilderness’, an untamed, amorphous space filled with game for the chase. As the series of above studies show, the shikargah was rather a sophisticated, purpose-designed, ecologically modified landscape meant to reflect the multi-dimensional Mughal hunting culture, itself seen as an extension of prevailing socio-political and cultural world views. The vast enterprise of the hunting expedition, which involved the movement and encampment of entire courts and armies in shikargahs as well as the hunting palaces enroute, served a number of political purposes with the intent to project kingship and good governance. Using the framework of the hunt to interpret related landscapes, such as the garden, agricultural lands, and forests, these studies also appraise the complex human-animal-environment nexus and find a sustainable spatial, cultural, and political interdependency between their related spaces and habitats, thus highlighting the role of the hunting culture in supporting both the economy and the ecology. The implications of the shikargah’s utility, viewed as an ‘intellectual space’, also addresses the relationship between science, religion, ethics, and spirituality. The study also finds that visual depictions of the imperial hunt and the shikargah are cloaked in layers of meanings and ideological concerns. The Mughal artist’s use of artistic tools, viewing choices and hermeneutics are intended to reflect the cultural, political and spiritual views of the rulers, thus providing another useful tool with which to view the Mughal world. The new reading thus highlights the importance of the imperial hunt and the shikargah as essential analytical components for future Mughal historical and landscape studies.
Advisor: Akkach, Samer
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Architecture & Built Environment, 2019
Keywords: Mughal
hunting ground
hunting landscape
landscape transformations
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