Forensic Fashion
(c)  2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1685 Mughal ahadi 
Subjectahadi 'single' heavy cavalryman
Culture: Mughal-Rajput
Setting: Great Mughal empire, Hindustan/Deccan late 16th-early 18thc
Evolution: ... > 1234 Mongol ba'adur > 1387 Timurid tarkhan 1526 Timurid-Mughal yigit > 1685 Mughal ahadi

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Gommans 2002 p82
"[T]he personal unit of yikitlar lived on in Akbar's standing army of a few thousand ahadis who were equipped with several horses and had a reputation for being excellent archers.  These gentlemen-at-arms ... were single men (from ahad, one) having no following of mounted retainers themselves."

* Nicolle/McBride 1993 p10
"Cavalry was always the most important element of the Mughul lashkar or army.  It was divided into four basic parts.  The best, or at least the highest paid and most elaborately equipped, were the élite ahadi 'gentleman troopers'.  Many of these had yet to receive a mansab rank.  Akbar's ahadis were under the authority of a senior nobleman, and had their own bakhshi paymaster.  Their main duty was to serve as aides to the Emperor, carrying important messages and guarding the palace.  The pay (and status) of ahadis was lower than that of the lowest mansabdar officer but higher than that of the ordinary tabinan trooper."

* Black ed. 1999 p111 (Jos Gommans, "Warhorse and gunpowder in India c. 1000-1850" p105-127)
"In terms of tactics, mounted archery came only fully into its own when employed on a massive scale.  While wheeling around at a safe distance, large contingents of archers would launch a relentless rain of arrows on the enemy.  Then, after wearing out the enemy in a series of skirmishes and feigned retreats, the charge of the heavy cavalry often struck the final blow.  Hence, next to mounted archery, the deployment of heavy armoured cavalry remained an important feature of Turkish battle tactics.  Even more so, as late as the seventeenth century, heavy cavalry once more came to represent Mughal invincibility on the battlefield, whereas the sultanates of the Deccan and Central Asia continued to rely more on mounted archery."

* Richards 1993 p68
"Four to five thousand gentleman troopers (ahadis) acted as a household cavalry for the Emperor."

* Streusand 2011 p263
"The central cavalry were called the ahadis (single fighters) and frequently had administrative positions in the palace in addition to their military obligations.  Paid directly from the imperial treasury, they were loyal only to the sovereign but had no servile status.  The ahadis normally accompanied the imperial court and took the field only for major campaigns and unusual situations."


* Gommans 2002 p119-120
"Apart from the mounted archers, heavy cavalry made the Mughals superior in the open field, especially in their confrontations with the lighter, but also speedier, horsemen of the Deccan sultanates or the Uzbeks.  The body armour (bagtar) of the heavy Mughal horse-warrior consisted mostly of a helmet (khuddabalghatop) covered with iron or copper mail (mighfar), steel vambraces (dastana) and greaves (ranak), and a plated cuirass, either worn over or integrated with a coat of mail reaching to the knees (zirih), and maybe worn over a quilted jacket (qabcha) or under a quilted cotton coat (chilta).  Like Indian steel in general, Indian armour had a certain reputation for being pierced neither by swords and lances nor by musket and arrow shots.  The Mughals, however, used, neither the lamellar armour of the Mongols nor the scale armour of the Europeans. ... Insufficient Indian armour may have accounted for the ongoing popularity of slashing with a broad sword instead of stabbing with sharp-pointed sabres that could pierce 'the junctures of the harness, or the plates of a coat of mail'.  According to Geleynssen de Jongh, the Indian heat made European harnesses or helmets too uncomfortable.  Monserrate even claims that the Mughals had no heavy cavalry at all.  It seems, however, that Mughal body armour was designed to find the best possible combination of protection and flexibility.  Hence, it was heavier than the usual south Indian outfit consisting of thick quilted tunics that the Portuguese called laudees, but probably lighter than the scaled suit of armour of Europe.  Anyway, it was certainly much cheaper than the latter."

* Richardson/Bennett 2015 p39
"Mail and plate armour was probably introduced into India under the Mughals.  It became the standard type of defence, and continued to be used until the 18th century.  The coat (zereh bagtar), and helmet (kolah zereh) are constructed from small overlapping iron scales of various sizes which are connected by rows of mail links.  The Mughal coats are distinguished from those of the Near East by the large plates at the front, though some Mughal coats preserved in Rajasthan and either made there or in the Deccan have rows of small scales at the back and front.  Trousers of mail (pajama zirah) were worn on the legs.  All this armour was originally fitted with quilted linings, which rarely survive.  The forearms and hands were protected by plate vambraces, called dastana or bazuband.  From the 16th century these were made of two plates joined together with hinges on the outside of the arm and with straps on the inside, extending over the point of the elbow and comfortably padded inside, with mitten-like hand defences of quilted and sometimes rivet-studded fabric."

* Nicolle/McBride 1993 p43 (reconstructing a heavy cavalryman from Hyderabad)
"Very heavily armoured cavalry came back into fashion in the autonomous Mughul province of Hyderabad in the 18th century.  This man has a flexible mail-and-plate helmet worn over a thickly padded cap ....  His long mail hauberk has chest and abdomen plates attached to the outer surface, the mail itself consisting of mixed ganga-jamni iron and gilded links; this name refers to the mixing of the clear waters of the Jumna River with the muddy water of the Ganges."

* Arts of the Muslim knight 2008 p293
"Helmets made in the Deccan ... are generally of domed shape.  Their bands of gold koftgari decoration, occasionally combined with vertical fluting, reflect an awareness of Ottoman and Safavid types.  The addition of magnificent oversize nasals with anchor-shaped terminals, however, is purely Mughal Indian. ...  The return to smaller helmets, protected only by light mail, large nasals and padding, signals a return to lighter and more mobile armour following the introduction of firearms in the seventeenth century."

* Elgood 2004 p239
"The Mughals wore circular chahār-ā'inā in the sixteenth century, the style changing to rectangular plates in the seventeenth century."

* Black ed. 1999 p117 (Jos Gommans, "Warhorse and gunpowder in India c. 1000-1850" p105-127)
"[B]oth matchlock men and archers had great difficulty in penetrating the horseman's body-armour, which could only by achieved from within 100 yards.  Hence the ongoing popularity of heavy Mughal armour, consisting of helmet, vambraces, mail shirt and trousers, and, in particular during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the chahar ayina (lit. four mirrors), a plated cuirass in four sections."​


* Richardson/Bennett 2015 p17
"The composite bow (kaman) was the characteristic missile weapon of both Indian cavalry and infantry before the 18th century.  They are called composite bows because they were made from a combination of different materials, horn, wood and sinew, glued together.  The horn, which is very springy under compression, formed the belly of the bow (the side held towards the shooter).  The sinew is very elastic when stretched, and formed the back of the bow.  A wooden core served as a base for the other materials, and also formed the grip and the rigid 'ears' of the bow, into which were cut the nocks for the bowstrings.  The combination of materials made them very powerful despite their short length, which in turn enabled them to be used easily from horseback.  Bows of this type are also 'recurved', that is, they bend in their relaxed state in the opposition direction to the curve they hold when they are strung."


* Richardson/Bennett 2015 p43
"The standard Indian form of matchlock musket or toradar changed little from the 16th century to the 19th.  It was a smooth bore, muzzle-loading weapon, with a simple sprung and pivoted serpentine directly connected to the trigger, so that when this was pressed the serpentine, with its glowing match-cord, was moved forward into the priming pan to ignite the charge of gunpowder in the breech.  The butt of the weapon was characteristically narrow and straight."

* Richardson 2015 p116
"The Turkish type of matchlock mechanism reached India with the Mughals, and was copied for the next two hundred years.  The general term for a matchlock musket is toradar.  The most common type used throughout the north has a very slender straight butt." 


* Elgood 2004 p258
"Piyazi/Pizi  (Persian and Urdu)  An onion.  An onion-shaped mace-head mounted on a haft.  See Nujum al 'Ulūm.  A mace of this type is in the Ā'īn-i-Akbarī."

* Irvine 1903 online p79-80
"This formidable-looking weapon, the mace (gurz), usually formed part of the panoply of a Moghul warrior, at any rate if he were of any considerable rank. It appears as N". 25 in the A}7i list, i, 111, and varieties of it are entered under N^ 26 (Jiashhur) and N^. 29 (piyazi).  Blochmann gives no figure of the latter, N°. 29, and from his remarks on p. x he seems a little doubtful as to what it was.  The giirz is shown in figure 23, plate xii, of the 
A}n as a short-handled club with three large round balls at the end.  Another kind, the shashbur, or lung-tearer \ figure 21, has a single head, of a round shape; and from Egerton, 23, plate i, N^ 35, I should suppose that it was made up of semi-circular, cutting blades arranged round a centre.  Of the gurz, or mace proper, there are three examples in the Indian Museum.  N". 466 (p. 115 and plate x) is 2 feet 7 inches long, with a many bladed double-head, that is one head above the other; N^. 574 (p. 123 and plate x) has a globular head of 3 inches in diameter and a shaft of steel gilt, length 2 feet 2 inches; N^ 616 (p. 130) is 2 feet 2 inches long and has a steel shaft with a six-bladed head.  Other weapons of a similar kind named by Egerton are the Dhara, the Garguz and the Khmidh-F/iansl.  The Dhara, W. 468 (p. 115), has a six bladed head and octagonal steel shaft; it is 2 feet long, and came from Kolhaptir.  Of the garguz there are four specimens. Nos 373 and 374 (p. 108 and plate x) have eight-bladed heads and basket hilts, one is 2 feet 7 inches and the other 2 feet 8 inches long; N''. 467 (p. 115) is 7-bladed with basket hilt, length 2 feet 4 inches; N^ 469 (p. 115) is eight-bladed with a similar hilt, length 2 feet 10 inches.  The Khundll Phansl, N^ 470 (p. 115 and plate x), is 19 inches long, has a head of open scroll work, and is probably one of the BairagT crutches already referred to.  Pliansi means a noose in Hindi, but 1 do not see the appropriateness of the name here, nor do 1 know what Khundll can mean."


* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/Larocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson p192 (Frederick Wilkinson, "India and Southeast Asia" p186-203)
"Numerous surviving miniatures which portray Mughal rulers and courtiers from the seventeenth century onwards show them armed with khandas or firangis. Rather surprisingly, these swords are not carried in a sheath at the belt but appear to have been carried in the hand almost like a walking stick. Perhaps their length -- many are much longer than the usual talwar -- made them too awkward to carry in the conventional manner. The scabbards are normally quite decorative, with a covering of fabric, and some have a small integral sheath at the mouth which houses a knife."

* Richardson/Bennett 2015 p24
"From the early 17th century a fashion for carrying swords with European rapier or broadsword blades, usually with old Indian basket hilts, grew up, and these swords were commonly called firanghi."


* Richardson 2015 p113
"The curved cavalry sword was probably introduced into India by the Sultans of Delhi, and by the 16th century had developed a style of its own.  The hilt is its most characteristic feature.  Often called an 'Indo-Muslim' hilt, it was formed of steel, in one piece with a disc pommel with a central dome for the tang button, and bulbous grip and a pair of short quillons, sometimes with a knuckle bow as well.  Such swords were generally called by the Hindi name talwar."

* Rawson 1968 p18-19
"During the reigns of Akbar and Jehangir (reg. 1605-27) the Talwar had a blade still somewhat resembling that used by the Mongols, with a shallow curve and a broadened and heavy tip.  In the sixteen-twenties, however, both in Persia and India, there was developed in addition this normal Talwar another form of blade, deeply curved and continuously tapering, which quickly became very popular in both countries.  Under Shah Jehan (reg. 1627-58) and Aurangzeb (reg. 1658-1707) in India this deeper curve was adopted for the forms with parallel edges and broad tips as well as for that with tapered edges.  Swords in which the curve is very deep are usually called Teghas ....
    "The variety of forms of hilt in which the Indian Talwars of the seventeenth century are known, both from the art and from surviving examples, to have been mounted is wide.  Many Persian forms are found, with the characteristic long quillons and ecusson of a piece, and a forward-rolled pommel, which is often developed into the Persian lion-head.  Many forms of hilt appear in the art which have not survived on actual weapons.  The variety is greatest in the first half of the seventeenth century, for after the middle of the century formal traditions in cutlery hardened, and the comparative freedom of invention of which the early Mughal workmen had been capable was lost.  It was only during the reigns of Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb that the Indo-Muslim hilt as we know it became the standard mounting for Talwars.  Earlier, though the form was common, it was only one of many, and was often subject to considerable variation in proportions.
    "For centuries the prestige of the Persian blade had been immense, and in Persia the manufacture and export of blades had been highly organized.  Many Mughal swords were mounted with Persian blades, but as the seventeenth century progressed Indian craftsmen became competent to fulfil even the most exigent wants, so that the direct purchase of Persian blades fell into abeyance, and at the same time direct Persian influence on the character of the Indian weapons waned.  Thus the chief basis for the assessment of the age of a seventeenth- or early eighteenth-century blade is its degree of proximity to a strictly Persian type."

* Rawson 1968 p21-22
"The aesthetic qualities of the Indian sword reached the highest point they ever attained in the weapons of the Mughal period.  For there can be no doubt that the Mughal inheritance of the Persian aesthetic fell on fertile soil.  Since the fundamental appeal of the sword to its owner is primarily phallic, and the weapon is regarded as the repository of his power and energetic action, in the aesthetic appreciation of the Talwar a Platonic conception of beauty as the visual embodiment of perfect adaption to purpose is of prime importance.  The elegance of a fine Talwar blade has much in common with the elegance of formulation admired by the mathematician and the engineer, but is more profoundly rooted in emotional significance.  The purpose, the action which lies at the base of the weapon's appeal, is not a mere function, but an activity of deep personal significance to the user; conflict, killing, personal prestige, and power all lend their emotional force to the aesthetic effect of the fine sword blade, and at no time were these more firmly wedded in their expression to a science of swordsmanship than in the Mughal period.  In addition, to a Muslim of the time the Talwar was, as many of the inscriptions on Talwars testify, still the instrument for the performance of that most sacred Muslim duty, the propagation of the Faith.  This moral and religious end of the sword, peculiar to the Muslim Faith, made the weapon doubly worthy to receive the glorification which art in its essence is, and warranted the sincerity of the artistic effort.  In later times, during the eighteenth century, the sincere emotion dissipated itself into the desire for empty display, and the earlier intensity of expression which had been produced by the simple and direct representation of emotion in function vanished, and the sword became a mere ornament, a personal jewel.  In the Mughal period there survived the old Persian ideal of the beauty of the sword which had led Shah Ismail to send to the Sultan Selim I of Turkey, on whom he had just declared war in 1515, the present of an overrichly ornamented sword, which was meant and taken as an insult.  Perfection of achievement was the heart of Persian aesthetic, finding its expression in the manifest flawless perfection of the execution of a work of art; flaws represent difficulty unsurmounted.  When one examines a perfect Kirk Nardaban damask pattern the whole consummated effort of a genius is embodied before one's eyes.  The series of decisions and actions, each bent towards a clearly conceived end and perfectly achieved, are crystallized into a single object which by its perfection glorifies its end."


* Pant/Sharma 2001 p15
"The Ain-i-Akbari mentions four kinds of shields: sipardhalkhera and pahri, and gives their prices as five muhars, four muhars and one muhar respectively. In the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai is displayed the personal shield of Akbar which carries the name of the Emperor with 12 zodiac signs (each zodiac is inscribed in a small oval shaped panel)."

* Paul 1995 p99
"The four bosses or round metal pieces in front of the shield supported four steel rings on the inner side. To these rings were attached two cross straps or loops by which the shields was held [SIC] in the left hand. In some cases, shields were equipped with an arm strap in addition to the double hand loops, secured through two extra bosses which were spaced a little further apart than the usual four. The inner lining of the shield could be cotton, velvet or brocade."

Daggers (Khanjar, Katar, Chilanum)

* Withers/Capwell 2010 p88
"Daggers from India take many strange and unusual forms.  Their variety is a testament to the importance of the elite warrior class for both the Islamic and Hindu traditions.  Weapons from the Muslim Mughal Empire, which expanded into northern India in the 16th century, are similar to the Persian weapons from which they are descended...." 

* Welch 1985 p205
"Gradually, an etiquette of weaponry evolved, and circumstances determined whether or not the emperor or courtier wore a dagger or knife, or carried a sword.  In formal portraits of the Jahangir and Shah Jahan periods, both daggers and knives and often swords are worn as standard accoutrements; even very young princes toy with weapons scaled to size.  And at family gatherings, such as at the weighing of Prince Khurram, the prince and his father have kards at their belts, but no daggers.  Their prestigious courtiers, however, are fully equipped to protect the imperial family.  On friendly formal occasions, the emperor wore a knife but not a dagger, and often a nearby attendant carried his sword, concealed in a sumptuous cloth bag like the one borne for Jahangir by 'Inayat Khan.  It was considered inappropriate for the emperor or prince, while visiting or receiving individual holy men, but when Shah Jahan honored his religious orthodoxy, he wore a dagger, and his sons and courtiers were fully armed."

* Gift tradition in Islamic art 2012 p51
"While specially fabricated and bejeweled arms and armor were a frequent type of state gift exchanged at the Islamic courts, some types of weapons especially seem to have been given in personal presentations. Among the Mughals, jewel-encrusted daggers were given by the sovereign to reward services. Jahangir (r. 1605-27), in his memoirs (Jahangirnama), makes repeated reference to his bestowal of daggers along with robes of honor and elephants. In spite of their deadly function such richly decorated weapons seem to have been worn as a form of personal ornament and status symbol as suggested by their regular inclusion and detailed rendering in the depictions of Mughal notables."


* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/Larocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson p197 (Frederick Wilkinson, "India and Southeast Asia" p186-203)
"Much more elegant and carried by many as a normal part of their costume was the kard, which appears to have originated in Persia.  This knife is usually of good quality and has a simple hilt, frequently of jade or ivory, which widens slightly at the pommel.  The blade is often of T section and tapers to a point which is commonly strengthened for piercing mail [CONTRA alli].  Like the Khyber knife, the kard usually sits deep inside its scabbard.  Both blade and scabbard are frequently decorated with koftgari work.  A few kard hilts have a small knife concealed inside them."

* Treasures of Islam 1985 p310 (David Alexander & Howard Ricketts, "Arms and armour" p294-317)
"The kārd was mostly worn in conjunction with a dagger and sword in the Islamic world and was more of an all-purpose knife than a functional weapon.  It makes its appearance in miniatures of the late 15th century as a long-bladed knife, almost entirely enclosed by its sheath so that only the pommel is showing, suspended from the belt by a cord.
    "Seventeenth-century Mughal miniatures show it to be an important accessory to court dress.  It is reduced in length but now the pommel is, in grander examples, often carved with animal or occasionally human heads.  A miniature from the Minto Album, showing Jahangir as a young man, but painted c.1625, shows such a kārd being worn." [references omitted]

* Paul 1995 p72
"The kard is basically similar in shape to the Afghan knife but much smaller in size with the blade usually measuring 20 centimetres.  The kard superficially resembles the pesh qabz but while the kard blade tapers gradually, the pesh qabz blade is wide at the hilt, narrowing acutely and then tapering to a long slender point."

* Richardson 2015 p115
"[T]he kard [was] a knife-like dagger ... provided with a scabbard which covered part of the yataghan-like hilt."

​* Pinchot 2014 p48
"The kard, simple yet elegant, and often highly embellished, was very popular among the Mughals, who referred to it by its Persian name. Like the Persian, Mughal scabbards also typically take in part of the grip. The variations which Mughal smiths contributed to this form are many."


* Rogers 2010 p300
"Despite the Islamicisation of the greater part of northern India and the Deccan between 1192 and the early 16th century, and later in the wake of the Mughal conquest of 1526, the vast majority of the population remained Hindu. This must account for the persistence of zoomorphic vessels; not only are the figural elements in Hindu sculpture extremely rich but certain animals and birds played the role of vehicles for the gods and were evidently adapted by craftsmen working for Muslim patrons. This traditionalism shows itself, for example, in the transformation of the almost ubiquitous dragon-head spouts and handles of Ilkhanid and Timurid ewers and drinking vessels into something resembling the Indian crocodile (makara)." [reference omitted]

* Gift tradition in Islamic art 2012 p39 (describing a flask for rose water, India 17th century)
"Vessels of this type were used for rose water in Islamic lands from Istanbul to Delhi. ... These deluxe items ... comprised objects kept in reserve for presentation according to the demands of protocol."