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Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India

The distinguished curator/director Karni Jasol of The Mehrangarh Museum Trust elegantly explained for me the high points of “Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India.” Fortunately, I have visited Rajasthan and its capitol, Jodhpur, so I clearly remember the brilliant colors of the dress of everyone from the elite to the farmers in the field, as well pungent spices, arresting music, snake charmers, monkeys, parrots, fascinating Hindu mythology, and the warm and friendly people. We visited the Mehrangarh Fort museum with its unique collections now at the Seattle Museum.

The Mahi-o-maratib (Fish Insignia) in Procession, ca. 1715, Mehrangarh Museum Trust, photo: Neil Greentree

The exhibition begins on the third floor with an installation invoking the royal wedding procession of the “homecoming” of a bride as she arrives at her husband’s palace. It includes an elephant mannequin with a gilded ‘howdah’ and elaborate adornments, as well as horse mannequins with full regalia and jewelry. The bride was hidden from view in a curtained palanquin. There are also video projections based on the procession of the 2010 marriage of Yuvrain Gayatri kumari Pal from the former royal family of Askot in the Himalayan foothills to Yuvraj Shivraj Singh, son of the current Majarajah. A wall of the famous “paag” or turbans rises on the double height gallery.

At the entrance to the fourth floor gallery, stunning photographs present the landscape in Marwar-Jodhpur as well as the history of the Rathores who ruled from the 13th to the mid 20th century. In the same gallery, a dramatic gilded palanquin evokes royal processions and a large cradle for Krishna makes a reference to spiritual loyalties.

As we enter the “The Rathores of Marwar,” paintings depict the descent of the Rathore kings from the Hindu god Rama as well as worship of the Goddess Devi and many portraits of the Maharajas.

“Conquest and Alliance: The Rathores and the Mughals” presents the long relationship with the Mughals both in battle and in court, through intermarriage and cultural exchanges. For example, the builder of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan, is the son of the marriage of Akbar’s son and a Rajput princess. In this gallery a full scale 17th century Indian court tent Lal Dera fills the space, alongside references to military weapons and other objects exchanged or altered by the many yea