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Jennifer B Joffee (2005)

Art, Architecture, and Politics in Mewar, 1628-1710

PhD dissertation, University of Minnesota.

Today the 17th- and early 18th-century palaces and temples of Mewar (in present-day Rajasthan, India) are visited by hundreds of tourists each year, yet ironically no serious study has been done on the meaning of these structures or the contemporaneous paintings and copiously illustrated manuscripts produced by the Sisodia Rajput dynasty who ruled this region. In 1615, the Sisodia dynasty of Mewar was forced to recognize the sovereignty of the expanding Mughal empire, and a profusion of arts patronage followed shortly thereafter. It is my contention that many of the works of art produced during this period were consciously intended (1) to create and disseminate a particular collective memory and feeling of nostalgia for the pre-Mughal Sisodia past, which would serve to bolster the image of the Sisodia rulers in the eyes of their constituency, the Mughal empire, and other Rajput houses who had long been flourishing under Mughal rule, and (2) to assert that the Sisodias were the rightful, legitimate rulers of Mewar. This was achieved visually by linking the Sisodias to the celebrated, pre-Mughal 15th-century Sisodia ruler Rana Kumbha and the previously invincible Sisodia capital of Chittor; by associating the Sisodias with India's ancient past; by emphasizing the Sisodias' self-proclaimed divine ancestry in painting and architecture, and by rivaling contemporary Mughal art patronage. Previous art-historical scholarship on Mewar art and architecture of this period has largely focused on the degree to which Sisodia art assimilated and/or adopted Mughal visual aesthetics. While I, too, have taken visual and stylistic similarities into consideration, I treat this as only one factor among many when exploring the ways in which Sisodia painting and architecture represented and expressed the dynasty's position within the political sphere. Drawing on the works of literary theorists, social scientists, and anthropologists, I take an interdisciplinary approach that considers not only visual material, but also contemporary imperially sponsored poetic works, literary manuscripts, and inscriptions on monuments and paintings; thus, I have endeavored to fully utilize all available sources, in an attempt to more fully understand Sisodia royal art patronage of the period.