Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1685 Mughal ahadi
Subjectahadi heavy cavalryman
Culture: Mughal-Rajput
Setting: Great Mughal Empire, Hindustan/Deccan late 16th-early 18thc
Object: archery equipment


* Weapon 2006 147
"In Asian archery, it was traditional to draw the bowstring with the thumb.  To help with the pressure imposed on the digit, most archers wore a thumb ring.  This was most often made from animal horn, although jade was sometimes used, as in ... Mughal India.  The ring was worn with the extension for holding the bowstring on the grip side of the thumb.  The arrow, nocked to the string, rested on top of the thumb."

* Brooklyn Museum > South and South-East Asia
"In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century India, archer's rings were made primarily for ceremonial use and as royal gifts.  Decorating them with a network of gold filigree tendrils inset with precious stones was a popular technique, especially during Shah Jahan's reign (1627-1658).  The gemstones, often carved to highlight their brilliance, were imported from distant countries (emeralds from Colombia; rubies from Thailand or Burma)."

* Arts of the Muslim knight 2008 p397 f381
"Such rings, which archers wore on the thumb, do not play a merely utilitarian role to tighten and release the string of a double reflex bow, but were also an object of status worn by the élite.  Islamic miniatures, particularly Mughal paintings, often show nobles and rulers wearing jewelled rings of this type hung at the belt as an ornament."

* Rogers 2010 p367
"Asymmetrical thumb-rings were used in Islam from at least the 14th century AD to protect the archer's thumb when shooting arrows with a composite bow.  Many extant thumb-rings, however, were not for use but display, and are shown, for example, suspended on silk strings from the belts of Jahangir and other Mughal emperors."

* Irvine 1903 online p94-95
"The finger stall. This was called zihgir (Steingass 631), bow-string holder, or shast (id. 743). It was also styled Shast-awez (Anand Ram, Mirat-ul-Isiilah, fol, 155/^, 182a).  Of this last the etymology would be shast, the thumb, awez, attached or fastened to, that is, a thumb-stall. Blochmann, Aj7i, i. 111, N^ 42, and note 3, says the shast dioez was a weapon resembling the girih-kusha, N^. 43, that is, a kind of spear. He has no figure of it. May he not have been mistaken, and is not Anand Ram's direct assertion to be preferred?
    "The bowman drew with his thumb only, the bent fore-finger being merely pressed on one side of the arrow nock to secure it from falling, or as Dr. Weissenberg (quoting V. Luschau) says, p. 52, the forefinger was pressed on the nail of the thumb to strengthen the pull without increasing the exertion. To prevent the flesh being torn by the bow string the zihgir had been invented (Egerton, 114). It was a broad ring, and according to a man's rank and means was of precious stone, crystal, jade, ivory, horn, fishbone, gold or iron. A very valuable zihgir^ part of the Labor booty, one that had belonged to Lord Dalhousie, is described in the "Daily Telegraph" of the W^ November 1898. It was formed of a single emerald and was 21 inches 
across at the widest part and U inches in depth. It bore an inscription which is thus translated : "For a bow ring for the King of Kings, Nadir, Lord of the Conjunction, from the Jewel House it was selected, 1152" (=A.D. 1739). From the date and the wording of this inscription it is to be inferred that it was part of the spoil carried ofi" from Dihli.  How it found its way back to Labor we do not know.  Sometimes two thimbles were worn instead of a zihgir, on the first and second fingers of the right hand. Upon the inside of this ring (the zihgir), which projected half an inch, the string rested when the bow w^as drawn; on the outside the ring was only half the breadth, and in loosing the arrow the archer straightened his thumb, which set the arrow free. (Egerton, 114, Q^wQ\Jmg\k\.Q Booh of Archery, 136). By the use of the ring the distance to which an arrow could be shot was increased. But its use required skill and practice; the Hindus used instead a thumbstall of leather {Mirrd-ul-Istilal/^ fol. 155^). These rings with a 
spare string were usually carried in a small box suspended at the man's side (Egerton, 114). Dr. S. Weissenberg, of Elisabethgrad, Russia, has devoted an article to these rings in the Miltheilmigen der anihrojjologischen Gesellschaft in Wien, Band XXV (1895) pp. 50 — 56, where he gives 
figures of eight of them. He divides them into two classes 1) cylindrical, 2) with tongue-like projection. Those described by him are of bone or stone, and six out of thirteen were found in the ruins of Sarae, a former capital of the Qipchaq. See also a thumb ring of ivory (now in the Nuremberg museum) figured on the plate at p. 887 of A. Demmin, '-'Die KriegswafFen", 4th ed., 1893."


* Irvine 1903 online p92-93
"Kaman. The Moghul bow {kaman) was about 4 feet long, and generally shaped in a double curve. The bow was of horn, wood, bambu, ivory, and sometimes of steel (Egerton, 81, note to N^ 80). Two of these steel bows, in the Emperor of Russia's collection at Zarkoe Selo, belonged to the emperor, Bahadur Shah (1708 — 1712); they bear verses in his honour and are covered with rich gold damascened work (Egerton, 114, note to W. 457). The grip was generally covered with velvet. Mr. Egerton, 144, describes the Persian bow in detail, and the same description applies, there can be little doubt, to the bows used in India, for there they copied everything Persian, and in fact many of the principal officers were themselves Persians. 
    "Mr. Egerton says "the concave side of the bow (the convex when strung) was lined with several strings of thick catgut to give it elasticity and force. The belly is made of buffalo or wild goats' horn, jet black and of a fine polish ; glued to this is a thin slip of hard, tough wood. The ends are fashioned to represent snakes' heads.  The horn is left plain, while the wooden back is decorated with rich arabesques of birds, flowers or fruit intermingled with gilding." Captain Thomas Williamson, ''Oriental Field Sports", 87, describes thus the construction of the Indian bows kept for show or amusement, and also carried by travellers. They were of buffalo horn in two pieces curved exactly alike, each having a wooden tip for the receipt of the string; their other ends were brought together and fastened to a strong piece of wood that served as a centre and was gripped by the left hand. After being neatly fitted, they were covered with a size made of animal fibres, after which very fine tow was wrapped round, laid on thin and smooth. They were then painted and varnished.
    "The notch. The notches at the ends into which the string was fixed were called goshah (Steingass, 1104), literally "corner," also sufar {Dastur ul Insha, 228, Steingass 709).  The latter word is used in Ahioal-ul-hhawaqln (c. 1147 h.), foL 12«. ~"The string. This was called either zih or chillah, Hindi names are roda^, Shak., 1195, catgut, a sinew used as a bow-string, and panach or panchak (id. 552, 553). Bow strings were made of strong threads of white silk laid together until of the thickness of a goose quill. Whipping of the same material was then bound firmly round for a length of three or four inches at the centre, and to this middle piece large loops of scarlet or other colour were attached by a curious knot. These gaudy loops formed a striking contrast to the white silk (Egerton, 144). Captain Williamson, on the contrary, says, p. 87, that the string was composed of numerous thin catguts laid together without twirling, then lapped with silk in the middle and at the ends."