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  • csm-3000-scu-shield-front-10_0

Shield of Emperor Akbar

Present Location: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai

Date: 1593 CE

Period: Early Modern

Material: Steel

Objects: Armoury and Weapons

Style: Mughal

Credits: Sir Ratan Tata Collection

The evidence that this shield belonged to the Emperor Akbar comes through an inscription on the shield which reads, 'Buland Iqbal Shehanshah Akbar, year AH 1002.' However, some scholars have contested the authenticity of the inscription. In the Mughal army which mainly relied on its cavalry, the shield was a part of the swordsman's equipment. In the battlefield it was carried on the left arm and when not in use, slung over the shoulder. Shields were usually made of steel or hide and generally ranged between 17 to 24 inches (430 to 610 millimeters) in diameter. If made of steel they were often highly ornamented with patterns in gold damascening. The hide shields bore silver or gold bosses, crescents or stars. Brahman soldiers wore shields made up of forty or fifty folds of silk painted with colors.

The shield is made of steel with gold damascening. Although it was a utilitarian piece yet it was decorated, befitting the Emperor’s stature. The workmanship of the shield speaks of the art of damascening which consisted of inlaying different metals into one another—typically, gold or silver into a darkly oxidized steel background to produce intricate patterns.The decorations on the shield run in three circular bands. There is an effulgent sun in the centre, with four damascened bosses around it. In between the upper and the left side boss there is an inscription placed in a star. The outer band around the centre has a bold meandering pattern. The next band has representations of twelve zodiac signs. The name of each sign is mentioned in the oval panel next to it. Interestingly, the human figures in signs of Gemini, Virgo and Aquarius are shown in European costume which has led the scholars to ascribe a later date to this shield.