Kandahar Lady of Rank, Engaged in Smoking
Artist: Carrick, Robert C (fl. mid-19th century), after R
Medium: Lithograph, coloured
This lithograph was taken from plate 29 of 'Afghaunistan' by Lieutenant James Rattray.
Rattray does not tell us much about the subject of this portrait, Begum Jan, other than her status as a 'lady of rank' in Kandahar. He writes: "Many of these Afghan ladies have rendered their names celebrated in history by their conjugal attachment and devotion to the cause they supported." He gives as an example Shah Shujah's favourite wife, Wafadar Begum, who was immortalised in prose by Alexander Burnes after courageously rescuing him from imprisonment by the Sikh ruler Ranjeet Singh.
Rattray also wrote of the brave widow of Akram Khan, who was a powerful chief of Zamindawar to the south of Kandahar. When Khan was executed for refusing to tender allegiance to Shah Shuja in 1842, his widow threw off her burkha and led his tribe to battle astride her husband's horse. After a desperate struggle she was driven back. Rattray wrote: "A cause so just and a devotion so noble, merited a more successful termination."