Mughal painting

Mughal painting is a particular way of South Asian painting, to be kept in albums, which emerged from Persian miniature painting, with Indian Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist influences, and developed during period of the Mughal Empire (16th -19th centuries).Mughal rules stabilised during the time of Akbar. By that time, Mughals were no longer the strangers, but they had adopted India as their home. The policy of sulh i kul adopted by Akbar became visible in the art forms patronised by the Mughal emperors.This was show in painting, music and architecture. Although, Babur and Humayun would have followed a liberal policy in such matters, they did not live long, and could not give shape to durable policy.
Paintings.In manuscript paintings, although Islamic were avoided, Hindu stories were given free expressions. The Hindu religious and mythological themes were painted like Razmnama (Mahabharat), Ramayana, Nala-Damayanti, Panchatantra, Kalia-daman etc.manuscript the Hamzanama, also made early in Akbar's reign, is said to have contained about 1400 large paintings on cotton (only a fraction have survived) and took about 15 years to complete. In Islam, painting of human forms is considered sacrilege, as it means imitating God’s creation – but under Mughals,art of portraiture reached a high pedestal – eg. portraits of emperors, royalty, nobles, Sufi saints etc.Mughal painting developed and flourished during the reigns of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Govardhan was a noted painter during the reigns of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan.

Hindu artisits like Dasawnath, Baswan, Mukund, Manohar, Bishan Das etc brought in their influence. During Jahangir’s time, themes of nature, hunting scenes, paintings of birds and animals became popular. By Shahjahan’s reign time, female as well as love scenes started to be painted.

Music.Patronage by Mughals led to development of forms like mian ki todi, mian ki malhar, raag darbari by Tansen – these ragas were Indian in origin. According to Abul Fazl there were 36 musicians in Akbar’s court, headed by Tansen. By the time of later Mughals, forms like tarana, thumri etc were formed. It should be remembered that except Aurangzeb, music was patronised by all Mughal emperors. Even Aurangzeb was an expert veena player.The Jahangirnama , written during his lifetime, which is a biographical account of Jahangir, has several paintings, including some unusual subjects such as the sexual union of a saint with a tigress, and fights between spiders.

•The Mughal Empire and the Great Mughals will always be remembered as a great influence on the artistic and cultural life of India.  Their architectural style can still be seen today such as the Taj Mahal built by Shah Jehan and the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri.
•The remarkable flowering of art and architecture under the Mughal Empire is due to several factors.
–The empire provided a secure framework within which artistic genius could flourish.  Both Hindu and Muslim artists collaborated to produce some of the best Indian art.
–The empire commanded wealth and resources that were unparalleled in Indian history.
–The Mughal emperors were themselves patrons of art whose intellectual ideas and cultural outlook were expressed in the architecture.


Akbar initiated building activity in a major way. Humayun’s tomb, buildings at Fatehpur Sikri (monuments like Panch-mahal, Buland-darwaza, palaces etc), forts containing various structures at Agra and Allahabad were built during his reign. This architecture reaching zenith under Shahjahan with the construction of Taj Mahal. During Shahjahan’s time the emphasis was on use of marble ( red sandstone had been used). during Akbar’s time, Trabeate technique (use of beams) was extensively used in secular buildings. There was also use of decorative arches, rather than structural ones. The Bulbous domes and convoluteds arches – the techniques introduced during Shahjahan were Islamic, the pietr dura (prachin kari) was influence of the Hindu style.

During the reign of Shah Jahan (1628-58), Mughal paintings continued to develop, but they gradually became cold and rigid. Themes including musical parties; lovers, sometimes in intimate positions, on terraces and gardens; and ascetics gathered around a fire, abound in the Mughal paintings of this period.All these furthered developement of Indo-Islamic forms of art and architecture in India.Aurangzeb (1658-1707) did not actively encourage Mughal paintings, but as this art form had gathered momentum and had a number of patrons, Mughal paintings continued to survive, but the decline had set in.

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