133 • The Emperor Jahangir's Opium Cup

Mughal North India, early 17th century AD
Size: 8 cm wide × 4.5 cm high
Nephrite Jade

Among the Mughals, Babur and Jahangir, who were great connoisseurs of arts and crafts, shared many interests, among them being writing their memoirs, hunting, wine drinking and were also greatly fond of opium.  Babur mentions in his memoir, Baburnama, how much he loved visiting Herat, where his cousin, Sultan Hussayn Bayqara regularly organised feasts in his palace where music, food and drinks were being enjoyed.  A special opium drink was served for them called ‘majoon’ and was drunk mixed with wine and herbs.  Sir Thomas Roe, an English diplomat at the Jahangir court, mentions the lavish lives of Mughal kings of India in his travels which had no comparison with Europe.  He further mentions that Jahangir possessed 500 drinking cups in his collection which only very few of them have survived.

This cup is very special due to its quality and delicacy, made in a shape of a poppy blossom that can only be held from its bottom.  The body of the cup is decorated with typical Mughal floral pattern of irises and tulips as well as cypress trees.  The top lips of the cup are decorated with rose petal design with a band of cintamani pattern underneath it.  The cup has a mutton fat colour which was the preferred colour of jade of the Mughals and has an ‘orange peel’ skin.  It is carved so delicately that it only weighs 56 g.

Achieving the quality of such refinement took a very long time.  At the bottom of the cup, an engraved inscription with year 1611 AD in tughra style filled with gold can be observed which reads, “Jahangir Shahi, Sannata 1020, regal year 6”.  For Jahangir this was a significant year due to his marriage to Mehr-un-Nissa Begum.  First he gave her the title of Noor Mahal (Light of the Palace) and at the later period the title of Noor Jahan (Light of the World).  The same year he issued a gold coin where he is portrayed holding a very similar opium cup from the bottom which has a floral pattern on its exterior.

133 The Emperor Jahangir's Opium Cup
This gold mohar, issued by emperor Jahangir dated AH 1020 regional year 6, shows Jahangir probably holding this opium cup in his hand. This was the year when he married Nur Jahan.