Memorial Tombs

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Session Chair: Catriona Murray

Aparna Andhare (Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, City Palace, Jaipur) 

Constructs of Commemoration: Examining the Chhattris of the Jaipur Rulers

Mausoleum-like structures called Chhatris (literally umbrellas) were built to commemorate rulers— a practice that the (Hindu) Rajputs absorbed from (Muslim) Mughal sovereigns. Several Rajput kingdoms across the Indian subcontinent were set up in the 18th century, between the crumbling Mughal empire and the rise of colonisation. Often absorbing stylistic features and materials from the Mughals— like marble, decorated with inlay work— but making it their own. These monuments are often clustered together and built by close family members. Even as they serve as  ultimate public statements on regnal identity, these grand monuments are often neglected, and have slipped through the cracks of early modern scholarship.

My paper travels between sites of commemoration in the city of Jaipur: Gaitore (where the Jaipur rulers were commemorated after the capital moved from Amber to Jaipur) and the Maharani’s Chattris (for select queens). I also think about the implications of the chattri of Sawai Ishwari Singh, who died by suicide. His monument is set apart from the other cenotaphs, and is now a shrine and a stop on the pilgrimage route of Jaipur.

Looking closely at the extant sites, and the shifts in features, I map the changes in the approach of the Jaipur rulers to the representation of their predecessors, woven with portraiture and patronage of the royal Jaipur court. Through an analysis of iconography, style and decoration, the paper reflects on the politics of memory, cultural exchange between religions, ideals of kingship in the long 18th century.

Shauna Hood (University of Edinburgh) 

The Regent Moray’s tomb: both a shelf and Scotland’s first national monument

James Stewart (c. 1531 - 1570) Earl of Moray, Scotland’s first Protestant head of government, was assassinated during his regency for James VI. His tomb in St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, was highly politicised and remained the focus of social and political action for the following 300 years. These activities varied widely, ranging from instigating and settling feuds, promoting royal dynastic interests, conducting business deals and attempting to shape nineteenth-century Edinburgh’s appearance and cultural heritage. The monument was so influential that it continued to be a socio-political magnet even after it was demolished. It seems surprising then, that rebuilding was followed by much reduced interest - to the extent that the recast monument is presently being used as a shelf.

Referencing Kopytoff and Appadurai’s work, this paper will examine the monument’s changing roles, developing an object biography which will help explore the remarkable variance in Moray’s tomb’s social and political standing over time, showing how its apparently reduced status in the present day is a function of the very features which made it so influential in earlier centuries.