Mughal painting and their development

Mughal Painting

Mughal Painting

Mughal rule established during the time of Akbar. By that the Mughal were no longer the strangers, but they had adopted India as their home. The policy of sulh-e-Qul adopted by Akbar became visible in the art forms patronized by the Mughal emperors. This was visible in painting, music, and architecture.

            Although Babur and Humayun would give followed a liberal policy in such matters, they did not live long, and therefore could not give shape to durable policy. The interregnum of Sher Shah had destabilized the Mughal rule in the period prior to Akbar. Akbar by giving shape to a durable policy of tolerance promoted development and intermingling of art forms, which hitherto would be considered a heretic. His patronage also removed the stigma of sacrilege attached t arts like painting under the orthodox Islamic laws as followed by some of the rulers of the Sultanate.

            Mughal painting is a particular style of Indian painting, generally confined to miniatures either as book illustrations or as single works to be kept in albums, which emerged from Persian miniature painting, with Indian Hindu and Buddhist influence, and developed during the period of the Mughal Empire (16th -19th centuries).

            When the second Mughal emperor, Humayun (reigned 1530-1540 and

Mughal Painting

Mughal Painting

1555-1556) was in Tabriz in the Safavid court of Shah Tahmasp I, He was exposed to Persian miniature painting. When Humayun returned to India, he brought with him, two accomplished Persian artists, Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad. Their works, and the assimilation of local styles during succeeding decades, gave shape to a distinct style, which became known as Mughal painting. The Tutinama (Literal meaning “tales of a Parrot”), now in the Cleveland Museum of Art is among the earliest examples of Mughal painting. The manuscript was made in the reign of Humayun’s son, Akbar ((reigned 1556-1605).

            Mughal painting developed and flourished during the reigns of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan Initially it depicted Persian and Central Asian (Chinese Turkmenistan) influence, but gradually, it developed its own forms which had a large measure of Hindu influence. In manuscript painting, although Islamic themes 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. In Islam, the painting of human forms is considered sacrilege, as it means imitating God’s creation – but under Mughal, the art of portraiture reached a high pedestal – eg. Portraits of emperors, royalty, nobles, Sufi saints etc.

Mughal Painting

Mughal Painting

            Moreover, Hindu artists like Dasawnath, Basaawan, Mukund, Manohar, Bishan Das etc brought in their influence. During Jahangir’s time, themes of nature, hunting scenes, paintings of birds and animals became prominent by Shahjahan’s time, females, as well as love scenes, started to be painted.

            There was also influence from Rajasthani school eg ek-chashma painting (one sided face), while the Persian ones were dedh-chashma. This similarity can also be seen in miniatures and to some extent night scenes of dancing and singing.

            During the reign of Akbar (1556-1605), the imperial court, apart from

Mughal Painting

Mughal Painting

being the center of administrative authority to manage and rule the vast Mughal Empire, also emerged as a center of cultural excellence. Mughal painting thrived and hundreds of painters created innumerable paintings depicting scenes from various Hindu epics including the Ramayana and the Mahabharata; themes with animal fables; individual portraits; and paintings on scores of different themes. Mughal style during this period continued to refine itself with the element of realism and naturalism coming to the fore.

            Jahangir (1605-27) had an artistic inclination and during his reign Mughal painting developed further. Brushwork became finer and the colors lighter. He particularly encouraged painting depicting events of his own life, individual portraits, and studies of birds, flowers, and animals. The Jahangirnama, written during his lifetime, which is a biographical account of Jahangir, has several painting, including some unusual subjects such as the sexual union of a saint with a tigress, and fights between spiders.

            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 intimate position, on terraces and gardens, and ascetics gathered around a fire, abound in the Mughal painting of this period.

            Goverdhan was a noted painter during the reigns of Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan.

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