Atmaran, Hindoo of Peshawar

"Atmaran, Hindoo of Peshawar", coloured lithograph based on the work of James Rattray. Size 26.2 x 37.7 cm. "Atmaran, Hindoo of Peshawar", coloured lithograph based on the work of James Rattray. Size 26.2 x 37.7 cm. Plate 9 of Rattray’s ‘Afghaunistan’ album (London 1847).

"Atmaran, Hindoo of Peshawar" is the title of a coloured lithograph made by E. Walker (d. 1882), based on the work of James Rattray (1818-1854), who was based in Afghanistan during the First Anglo-Afghan war (1838-1842). Atmaram was a Hindu from Peshawar in modern northern Pakistan, who had become the 'minister' of a local Muslim and Uzbek ruler in northern Afghanistan, Mohammed Murad Beg of Kunduz. 

The “Dewan Begi, Atma Ram”, was already a very powerful position when the British veterinary and explorer, William Moorcroft, visited northern Afghanistan in 1824. Another British explorer, Alexander Burnes, stayed with him in 1832, while on his way to Bukhara. When Burnes and his entourage left Kunduz and said goodbye to Atmaram, he "sent a khillut, or dress of honour…" Burnes tells that all of the affairs of Murad Beg were managed by Atmaram. He was a Hindu of low origin, a shopkeeper from Peshawar. The artist Rattray tells about Atmaram that he was “a sly-looking old fellow, countenance beaming with cunning and intellectual fire", and that he "never betrayed his master's trust".

He is wearing a beautiful turban of dark red material wound around a kalpak (a pointed cap particular to the Uzbeks), a magnificently gold thread embroidered mantle of the choga style, possibly with appliqué; a gown and a shirt underneath. The gown may be made of ikat. He has shoes or leather boots with high pointed heels and a single line of large white stitches on the heel, adding a decorative element. Behind him hangs his Indian style sword and a decorated shield. There is also a belt with various pouches attached, with embroidered flaps.

Interesting are the red lines painted on the man’s face. By birth this man was Hindu, and he apparently retained the markings of his caste, although at the same time wearing a turban and a kamarband, among the Uzbek at that time normally reserved for Muslims. Atmaram is sitting on the roof of a house, looking down into the courtyard, made pleasant by a pond and tree. The house may be his own. If so, this was perhaps the place where Alexander Burnes and his following resided when they were en route to Bukhara.

Source: James Rattray, The Costumes of the Various Tribes, Portraits of Ladies of Rank, Celebrated Princes and Chiefs, Views of the Principal Fortresses, and Interior of the Cities and Temples of Afghaunistan. London 1847.


Last modified on Thursday, 13 May 2021 17:12