130. A Mughal Agate Paper Polisher

from the Imperial Mughal workshop
North India, Jahangir period, circa 1615 AD
Size: 13.5 cm high

The inscription on top of the pestle, a circular medallion like a coin is engraved with the inscription ‘Allahu Akbar’ set against a scrolling floral vine. The significance of this inscription is more than a pious invocation, and the explanation for it can be found on a series of coins issued by the emperor Jahangir early in his reign. During the month of Aban in Jahangir’s ninth regnal year, a man came from Aminabad to meet the emperor. He brought it to his notice that according to the Abjad system the numerical value of ‘Jahangir’ and ‘Allahu Akbar’ was the same (equal to 289; see Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri, account for ninth year). The man was rewarded generously by the emperor and a gold coin bearing a portrait of Jahangir on the obverse, and a couplet incorporating the fact on the reverse, was issued shortly thereafter. A series of coins was then issued from Burhanpur without Jahangir’s name but with ‘Allahu Akbar’, a phrase that thenceforth had a special significance for him. The floral scroll behind the inscription on the pestle is also similar to the floral decoration on the coins.

A craftsman burnishing a sheet of paper on a wooden board.
A marginal painting from a leaf of the Jahāngīr Album, circa 1600–1610 ad. Freer Gallery of Art,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 54.116.