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mercredi 13 octobre 2010

La cérémonie de la pesée (ceremony of weighing) chez les Moghols

Miniature tirée des Mémoires de Jahanghir, 1615-1625. Jahanghir pèse son fils Khurram, le futur Shah Jahan, contre de l'or et de l'argent pour son seizième anniversaire. Les métaux précieux sont sont ensuite distribués en charité aux pauvres. Source : Victoria and Albert Museum, Londres

A l'époque moghole existait une cérémonie curieuse qui consistait lors de certaines occasions (anniversaires, jours de fêtes...) à offrir en charité aux pauvres l'équivalent du poids du souverain ou du prince héritier en or, en argent, en monnaie ou en diverses denrées alimentaires. L'ambassadeur de la Compagnie Anglaise des Indes Orientales, Thomas Roe, nous a laissé dans sa relation de voyages dans l'empire moghole, un témoignage de cette cérémonie.

"At Mandu, Roe [l'Ambassadeur de la East Indian Company] saw the emperor being weighed on his birthday against a variety of precious metals and stones, a ceremony which he had missed the previous year at Ajmer, greatly to Jahangir's anger, because a messenger misled him about the time of it. The emperor sat on one side of a pair of golden scales while bags of gold were placed to balance him on the other, followed by the same weight in silver, jewels, precious cloth and foodstuffs. Roe was unimpressed because the precious metals were not visible ("it being in bagges might bee pibles"), and he argues that since the sacks were carried inside again afterwards it was not likely that the goods would be distributed in charity, as they were intented to be ; but it seems improbable that the Great Moghul would have connived at such an easily discovered fraud suggesting poverty. The ceremony of the weighing derived from a Hindu custom known as tuladana and is usually said to have been introduced into the Moghul calendar by Akbar, but certainly Humayun was weighed against gold as early as 1533. From Akbar onwards there were two weighings each year, one for solar birthday in public and one for the lunar birthday, usually in the privacy of the harem ; the monarch's solar and lunar birthdays coincided only on the day of his birth, after which they separated by a further eleven days each year. Being fat cost the emperor money but could on occasion benefit a private citizen, as when Jahangir weighed Ustad Mohammed Nayi against rupees to reward him for his flute-playing, or gave the astrologer Jotik Ray his own weight for a correct prediction. The comfortable astrologer turned out to weight two hundred rupees more than the musician."

Bamber Gascoigne, The Great Moghuls, Jonathan Cape Ltd, p. 156

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