Study Guide

Beneath a Marble Sky Vocabulary

By John Shors

Vocabulary

Yeah, yeah, we know. Vocabulary is super boring and harkens back to the days when you'd have to memorize twenty words a week for a quiz that your teacher would gleefully spring on you every Friday morning. Nonetheless, if you're anything like us, some of these words were brand new to our brains, and we thought it would be nice to have a handy-dandy reference for ya.

We're nothing if not generous with our hard-earned wisdom.

The Red Fort: The living quarters for select women of the Red Fort, the harem was a collection of apartments, gardens, alleys, retreats, terraces and grottoes. No man—except the Emperor, his sons, guests, and eunuchs—was allowed into this world. 

The Red Fort itself was like a lacquered box seeming to contain an infinite number of compartments. Inside the perimeter of the citadel lay the common grounds, mostly bazaars, mosques, temples and courtyards. The fort's interior, segmented by stout sandstone walls, was comprised of more private spaces consisting of apartments and halls and stables. And within the very heart of this dizzying network stretched the imperial harem.
(1.1-2)

Karkhanas: […] an oversized courtyard housed hundreds of studios, which sheltered thousands of craftsmen, some of whom were Europeans and Persians. The complex reminded me of a honeycomb, as it was replete with narrow alleyways and sandstone dwellings. Artists and workers created weapons of every sort, colorful fabrics, silver drinking vessels, and jewelry for seemingly each part of the body. The most prestigious workshops contained book-makers. (2. 35)

Qamargah: ceremonial hunt. When we finally reached the royal camp, mid-morning was upon us. The first thing I noticed was a massive fence encircling the camp. The fence was made of bundled branches the height of a man. These bundles had been placed upright and were tied together, forming a vast circle. To walk from one side of the arena to the other side would have taken longer than was necessary to boil an egg. In the circle's center stood a sprawling tent. A thicker, but much smaller, circle of wood surrounded this embroidered enclosure. As such hunts commenced, thousands of soldiers—spread in an immense loop throughout the countryside—beat drums and slowly walked toward one another. Frightened animals trapped ahead of the men were forced toward the wooden circle, which had large openings for the beasts to escape into. Once the animals had been corralled within the circle, its openings were shut, effectively ensnaring the animals. Hunting ensued. I'd experienced several qamargahs and must confess that I took no pleasure in them. Men struck down spotted deer with arrows, while trained cheetahs chased slighter game. A hunt, depending on the size of the circle, could last for an afternoon or several days.
(5.28)

Diwan-i-Am: the throne room in which they hold court; contains the Peacock Throne.

Ramadan: Islam's Month of Blessing.

Eid al-Fitr: the celebration at the end of Ramadan.

Musamman Burj: The Octagonal Tower, where Jahanara and her father are held captive (ch.17)

Jizya: the ancient tax on Hindus that forces them to pay half their crops to the kingdom; it is unwisely resurrected by Aurangzeb.