Indian rulers not only from the Mughal dynasty but also from among the Bahmanisultans of the Deccan and the Muzaﬀarids of Gujerat. Accounts indicate that, as apious duty, the last of the Great Mughals, Aurengzebe, sent copies of the Qur’anhandwritten by himself to the sacred sites in Mecca and Medina. The
procession should not be confused with the Mahmil
procession, another ceremonydating back several centuries. A comprehensive account of the institution of the
has been compiled by Atalar.
In addition to historical details, Atalar has given acompendium of terms and titles pertaining directly to the
. He mentions thatinformation relating to the
was included by D’Ohsson
in his several volumetreatise
on the Ottoman empire.After the Ottoman capital was moved to Istanbul in 1453, the
processionalong with the caravans of Hajj pilgrims would leave the city customarily on the 12thof the month of Recep.
The heavy cloth covering of the Ka‘ba
used to be wovenand embroidered in Cairo and sent separately from Egypt to Mecca as part of theEgyptian Mahmil, but after the invasion of Egypt in 1798 by Napoleon Bonaparte,the practice was discontinued and the covering began to be woven in Istanbul byspecialized weavers in the courtyard of the Sultanahmet mosque.
However, theembroidery of the Quranic calligraphy that formed and still forms part of the Ka‘bacovering was, by tradition, carried out in Cairo and so during the Ottoman Empirethis cover was sent to Mecca every year by way of Cairo.
The year old Ka‘bacovering was brought back to Istanbul and delivered to the Mabeyn,
after which itwas cut up into small pieces of cloth and distributed to palace visitors, pilgrims andothers. These pious souvenirs were recycled by their owners into containers for theQur’an, used as prayer mats, for covering sarcophagi
or even as
. Thesilver and gold calligraphy that once hung on the walls of the house
of Allah nowgraces the tiled wall of many an Istanbul mosque.The Surre Alayı also formed an integral part of the many pious entertainments of the Ottoman sultan’s household. Ays¸e Osmanog ˘lu, the daughter of the sultanAbdu ¨lhamid, recalls this event in her memoirs:
A special feature of the
was the arrival and departure of thecamel litter carrying the annual gifts in gold and kind from the Sultan toMecca and Medina. The Chief Eunuch with his staﬀ of gold and ivory withhis retinue would bring the camel litter into the garden of the Harem withdevotional songs and cries of
Allahu ¨ Ekber
All the ladies of the haremwould visit the litter and contribute cloth for the covering of the litter, whichwas prepared by a couple of women skilled in sewing and embroidery. Thenext day the Surre Alayı, or Procession of the Royal Purse, would beorganized. The womenfolk of the palace also contributed money and presentsin leather pouches to be sent to families in Mecca and Medina as charity.These pouches would be sealed with a special seal bearing the inscription‘come and go in safety’... The
would prepare the procession andcamel caravan, the Sultan would emerge surrounded by pashas at the windowsof the Yıldız palace, and we too would watch the procession leave, precededby
hakka ˆ ms
who beat large drums and performed folk dances. As soon asthe news of the caravan having crossed to U ¨sku ¨dar
arrived, cannon wereﬁred by way of farewell.194
S. T. Wasti