I must admit this was the last piece I viewed, even if it is placed in the first part of the exhibition, just at the bottom of the stairs. It is a huge open book, and it immediately caught my attention as I approached the glass behind which was contained.
It is actually an album, on which the 21 Mughal provinces have been depicted. The book was open on the page featuring the map of the province of “Shahjanabad” (today’s Delhi), along with drawings of the emperor’s throne and imperial accoutrements. The Mughals were said to be dynamic, powerful and resourceful, being able to rule an empire as vast as the subcontinent for three centuries. The systematic land division is one of the most important mechanism utilized for such a successful reign. Akbar divided his empire into “subahs”, each controlled by a governor or “subahdar”. A strict bureaucracy was a vital part of this division: a revenue officer and a military-administrative officer provided support to the governor.
The album was prepared for colonel Jean Baptiste Genitl, a French officer in the service of the provincial governor of Avadah in the late 18th century.
I believe that the curators decided to incorporate this piece in the exhibit because it provides the visitors with a clear understanding of the advanced administration used by the Mughals to control their empire.