Art of Painting during the Sultanate and the Mughal Rule

There are hardly any examples of court painting during the Sultanate. There is, however, no doubt that the new culture which the Sultanate rulers brought with them had already started influencing the classical Indian style in this period. This is evident in the few scattered works of the age. These manuscripts range from the historical poems of Amir Khasrau Dihlavi and the epic of Firdausi to folk tales glorifying an early Muslim hero filled with missionary spirit. In these illustrations scenes have been portrayed in a simple way but the colour scheme is bold and attractive.

The great Persian artist Bihzad brought about a synthesis of central Asian and Persian art. He lived in Persia in the fifteenth century. One of his disciples came to India and became the first painters of the early Mughal rulers. In this art the emphasis was on depicting nature in all its glory Humayun was the first Mughal emperor who introduced the new style of Persian painting in India. The Persian artists were entrusted with the job of illustrating books. But gradually indigenous fictions and stories were depicted. This process of fusion—Indian and Persian styles—was accelerated when a number of Hindu artists were employed by the Mughal Emperor. Most important artists during the Akbar’s time were Daswanath, Basawan, Kesava, Mukund and Mushkin. The miniatures in Jami-al-Tawarikh, a history on the dynasty of Chinghez Khan and the poems of Amir Khusaru were illustrated by these artists.

The era of Indo-Persian miniatures ended in 1605 and the paintings produced later may appropriately by called Mughal paintings.

Mughal Emperor Akbar was a patron not only of architecture but also of painting. He induced the Hindu artists to learn Persian technique and imitate Persian style. Akbar had 17 leading artists, of whom 13 were Hindus. Among them the most prominent were Basawan, Lal, Kesu, Mukund, Haribans and Desawanth.

Jahangir was a great patron of painting. He encouraged accomplished painters. Miniature painting had great attraction for him. During his reign, Abul Hasan, Muhammad, Nadir, Muhammad Murad, Ustad Mansu, Bishan Das, Manohar and Govardhan were accomplished painters.

Shah Jahan had no such liking for paintings. But even then some portraits of his time “are wonderfully life-like and often perfectly charming.”

Aurangzeb had strong dislike for paintings. He discarded those on religious grounds. Hence he ordered the figures in Akbar’s tomb at Sikandra to be white-washed.

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