Krista Gulbransen: Lecture


Monday, April 9, 2018


5:30 pm


Taylor Hall 203-Auditorium

"Prayer, Performance, & Politics: Portraits of the Mughal Emperor Akbar Worshipping the Sun"

In the 1580s, Akbar, the third Mughal emperor of India, famously established an institution of imperial discipleship, later labeled the Din-i-Ilahi (Divine Faith), and inducted the highest ranking members of his court into its elite ranks. Though it was devised as a cult of personality centered on the emperor, architects of this devotional order borrowed from a number of religious traditions in order to outline a code of ethics and design rituals that could articulate these central beliefs. Though he continued to identify as Sunni and practice Muslim customs, Akbar began to worship the sun along with Din-i-Ilahi initiates. Referencing pre-existing Hindu, Sufi, and Parsi rites, solar veneration may have been chosen by Akbar as a form of ceremonial expression for the Din-i-Ilahi precisely because of its widespread appeal amid a spiritually diverse populace. Akbar’s commission of multiple portraits of himself in the act of sun worship speaks to his personal investment in this performance of inclusivity and religious tolerance. Situating this group of portraits within the cultural and political climate of the day, this talk will explore Akbar’s motivations in performing solar rites and documenting them in painted form as well as the role these portraits played in the construction of Akbar’s public persona.

Dr. Krista Gulbransen is an assistant professor of Art History & Visual Culture Studies and Asian & Middles Eastern Studies at Whitman College. Her research examines the origins and development of the portrait genre in sixteenth and seventeenth century northern India, addressing such issues as cultural exchange, historical representation, art and book collecting, political diplomacy, and gift exchange.

Kathleen Panebianco

Asian Studies Program