Shah Jahan's third son Aurangzeb took on the title of 'Alamgir' (seizer of the universe) when he assumed the throne after imprisoning his father. During his reign art and architecture rapidly declined, and India became a cultural desert in which only the austere mullahs flourished. Because of his austerity, which turned him against music, dance, and painting, very few paintings of his time exist.
In his declining years, Aurangzeb may have relented to some extent for there are paintings showing him as a bearded old man holding a Quran in his hand. This portrait, in spite of its limitation of scale, possesses considerable character and charm. It carries conviction in its drawing and gives the impression of being a truthful likeness. Here, Aurangzeb is viewed through a window; the upper part of the curtain is tied up with a cord and the lower half falls down the frame. The figure is placed against a big bolster and has a large halo around the head, providing a divine effect to the austere face. The features are depicted in rigid profile with fine wrinkles prominently painted to depict his ripe old age. To give it more credibility, he sports a white beard neatly trimmed in the Islamic way. He wears a white angarakha tied on the right side. He is wearing a turban of the bipartite form, standing off the head only a little; its two parts are the actual turban cloth and a broad cross-band as was customary during Aurangzeb's reign. A feather of a Heron is stuck into the turban and fastened by means of a decorative clasp (sarpech).
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