Divine Signs: Seals of Deities and Saints in Rajasthan From the 17th-19th Centuries
Timeslot:07/28 | 17:50-18:10 UTC+2/CEST
Most seals found on documents from the Mughal and early colonial period belong to emperors, nobles, and state officials. However, seals were also used by other actors and in other settings. On the one hand, their use spread to prominent members of the public, such as religious specialists; on the other hand, seals of deities and holy men also came into use. In this paper, I focus on the form and use of the seals of Govinddevji, an incarnation of Krishna installed in a temple in Jaipur, and of Khwaja Muʿin al-Din Chishti, a Sufi saint whose tomb-shrine is in Ajmer. The visual vocabulary of these two seals are divergent and draw on different idioms: Govinddevji’s seal is a fairly simple square containing only the name of the deity, while Khwaja Muʿin al-Din Chishti’s large round seal mirrors elements of Mughal imperial genealogical seals. Reading the divergent appearances of these seals and their context on and between documents, I reflect on several shared questions: What visual and historical referents inform the understanding of these seals? How did these seals relate to the religious specialists and institutions that were associated with these holy figures and any seals thereof? What did it mean for a saint or deity to have a seal? These reflections suggest the importance of seals in invoking and mediating power and authority both within and beyond this world.