Friday, 9 August 2013

An Informed Perspective on Mughal Miniature Paintings

The Mughals are associated with grandeur and a fine sense of aestheticism due to their immense contribution to the socio-cultural and political heritage of the Indian Subcontinent. India has been the land of extensive arts and culture and boasts of a rich cultural inheritance, which gives the land much of its vigor and fervor.

While the Mughals fostered a love for the Indian soil and sought to establish their rule over the entire land, the Mughals were gracious patrons of art and architecture. The Mughal art is an important school in the landscapes of Indian Painting, as they developed a new style of painting, which brought the varied cultures and traditions of the landscape, thus lending it uniqueness and a splendid variety. This school has come to be known as Mughal Miniature Paintings, and borrows heavily from the Rajpuatana, Kangra, Safavid, Islamic, and Persian schools of art. The diversity of the Mughal art has made it inseparable from the canvas of Indian Miniature Paintings.

Mughal miniature painting
Mughal miniature painting
The subjects of Mughal miniatures boast of a variety so unique to the Mughal Miniature Paintings, with subjects from battle scenes to the scenes of lovers, thus displaying a variety so particularly unique to Mughal Miniature Paintings. Miniatures found their way into the Indian subcontinent through Humayun and the artists who accompanied him from the Safavid Empire, Mir Sayyid Ali, and Abdus Samad. The paintings acquired a vision and a motive during the reign of Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan and became important chronicles, which open up the royal life of medieval India to modern day scholars like nothing else.

The Mughal artists breathed life into the paper miniatures in the ateliers of the Mughal palace. The palace was the hub of several activities, and thus, proved to be a good subject for Mughal miniatures. It is interesting to note that Mughal miniatures were an expression of power, as they documented the aristocracy and the royal household. The common subjects hardly find a detailed representation in the miniatures, and are usually featureless in their depiction. Additionally, the Mughal miniature paintings never present a critique of the Mughal administration or governance, thus, they can be understood as only partial accounts of the era under the Mughals. Albeit they cannot be taken to be reliable testimonies of the time, owing to their focus on the royal family, in general, and on the king in particular, they still hold a special place within archeological studies in order to understand the courtly proceedings and the life of the rulers.

antique miniature painting
antique miniature painting

The antique miniature paintings, which have survived the tides of time, speak through the bright colors and patterns, which are unique to the artists of the Mughal era. As much as the Mughal emperors were enamored by the indigenous traditions of painting, they were as much curious about the epics, myths and legends of the lands, which went on to be included in the wide spectrum of subject of the Mughal miniature paintings!

The Mughal emperor Akbar became the first patron, who encouraged an inclusion of scenes from the life of Krishna, Mahabharata, and Ramayana in the miniatures. Choice of such subjects also encouraged several folk traditions like Rajpuatana to contribute vigorously to the Mughal school of Miniature Paintings.

The Mughal miniature paintings are a testimony to the splendor of the Indian subcontinent, and articulates the glory in an unprecedented manner. While one can understand them as chronicles of power, their beauty and precision surpasses all criticism, thus allowing them to be adored by modern scholars, irrespective of their allegiance with the noble strata of the society.

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