Elegant Nomads: A Comparative Study of the Mughal Royal Court Progress

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 11:00 AM
Belmont Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Lisa Balabanlilar, Rice University
As a centerpiece of imperial court culture, the royal court progress played a pivotal role in the formulation of rule in Mughal India. Not simply an act of migration or of military campaigning, this paper asserts that the Mughal court progress was both an argument for local authority and a ritual commemoration of ancestry and lineage.  As a core attribute of their political culture, imperial touring offered the Mughal dynasts a performed ritual through which they negotiated and reinforced communal solidarity and legitimate rule.  Their near-constant movement so satisfied the needs of the Mughals that the peripatetic court remained into the eighteenth century as a key feature of their royal culture---until the collapse of their imperial fortunes quite literally immobilized the dynasty. Yet while the Mughals insistently traversed the landscape of their imperial possessions, many of their contemporaries in China and in the west, confronting the same tensions of imperial rule, remained stationary.  A comparative examination of the various motives for court movement will help us understand the development of ideological exercises and discursive frameworks in early modern political court culture.
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