Mughal Inspiration: Art Forms Increasing Culture

After the Mughals arrived in India, a great cultural growth occurred in many different forms of art, such as music, visual art, architecture, and literature. India was already a country with many different cultural aspects, but the Mughals, of Turkish-Mongolian descent, expanded the realm of art even further. This Mughal art and architecture was considered an Indo-Islamic-Persian style, which combined different aspects of Islamic and Persian art with indigenous Indian art. This style thrived during the Mughal Empire from approximately 1526-1857 A. D.
The monarchs of the Mughal dynasty encouraged art in areas such as literature and painting and created many great buildings and gardens that are still a great display of beauty today. The presence of the Mughals in India added to Indians’ cultural life through the beautiful and rich forms of art such as architecture, painting, literature, and music that they introduced to the subcontinent. First, the Mughals made many great contributions in architecture. The mausoleums, mosques, palaces, and cities that the Mughals created were very rich and intricate. In the words of A. L Basham, “The Mughal period was one of great splendour, and has left its mark on India in the form of many lovely buildings, wherein Islamic and Hindu motifs often blended in perfect unity. ” The most noticeable contribution that the Mughals made in art was architecture, because they left so many great mausoleums, mosques, and palaces. Perhaps the most famous piece of architecture even in the world today is the Taj Mahal, which is a mausoleum that was built by the Mughal monarch Shah Jahan to entomb his third wife’s remains after she died in childbirth.
Construction on this beautiful structure began in around 1632 and was completed in the year 1653. This structure was built mainly of marble, and it includes many tranquil gardens and canals. It is an Islamic structure, but it still was a “symbol of beauty and excellence for all Indians regardless of religious or sectarian affiliation. ” Although this structure was built for an Islamic woman and was influenced by the Islamic style, people from all backgrounds and religions appreciated it for its beauty and symbol of eternal love.

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The first three Mughal emperors, Babur, Hamayun, and Akbar, each used the Iranian Timurid style of combining marble and red sandstone in the structures that they built. For example, Akbar, the third monarch of the Mughal Empire, built a new capital city called Fatehpur Sikri, which sat on a rocky plateau and overlooked a lake. A royal mosque with a palace was set to the west with the residential town area residing below. The city was gated with a grand entrance made of the red sandstone, and a lofty flight of steps were climbed to reach the city.
There was also a marble tomb for Salim Chishti inside the city. Chishti was a Sufi mystic who told Akbar that he would eventually have three sons. The tomb was made of marble, and consisted of geometric shapes and inscribed verses from the Quran. The design of the inscribed verses was considered an abstract form of Islam. This shows the influence that Islam had on the tomb, and therefore on the rest of the citizens who saw this mausoleum in their city every day. Other Mughal monarchs made their mark on Indian architecture as well.
Jahangir and his wife Nur Jahan built tombs for Akbar, his father, at Sikandra and for her father at Agra, respectively. These tombs both incorporated the marble theme that the Mughal emperors before them had started. Overall, the Mughals devoted most of their greatest efforts to burial places for their loved ones. They also developed many fortress-like palaces with intricate details. For example, many of the rooms and corridors in these palaces were shielded from the outside by jalis, or latticework windows.
They contained “mirror rooms”, wall alcoves, small waterways to provide air conditioning, and many statues and sculptures. Many intricate details were used in not only the palaces but also all of the structures that the Mughal monarchs built. The architecture of the Mughals added a very noticeable elegance and beauty to the Indian subcontinent. Another example of a form of art that enriched Indian culture with the arrival of the Mughals was painting. Mughal paintings were and still are very treasured Indian art. Generally, the paintings that the artists created from that time had a realistic yet imaginative style to them.
Annemarie Schimmel stated in her book on the Mughal Empire that Mughal style “developed from the interaction between the refined Persian style and the strong, lively version of the Hindu artists. ” There was a naturalistic style in these paintings, which was not seen in Iranian tradition or in early indigenous paintings of India. Some believe that it may have been both Akbar’s interest in realism and the European prints that arrived at court that influenced the artists to create this style and use naturalistic colors. The second monarch of the Mughal dynasty was Humayun, who was very intrigued by paintings.
If an exotic bird flew into his tent, he caught it and ordered his artists to paint it. This shows his love and passion for painting, even if it was just of a small bird. Akbar, the third emperor, seemed to be the most enthused of all the Mughal emperors about paintings. He encouraged artists to paint and to show him their work; if he enjoyed it, he would give them rewards. Sometimes, he would even honor the especially talented artists with titles or positions close to the throne. In some of the paintings of Akbar’s time, Islamic attitudes towards the representations of living things were considered.
Akbar had stated that the reason that the paintings of living things were somewhat imaginative was because the artists could not make anything individualistic, because every arm looks the same and every body looks the same. Therefore, they put their own spin on whatever they were painting, making it unique and abstract. Akbar also believed that painting deepened faith in God, while many others believed it to be blasphemous. The Mughals also showed interest in allegorical themes. They had paintings of Christ, the Last Supper, St. John, and other religious allegories that were not affiliated with their own religion.
The reason for their possession of this artwork, though, was nothing more than curiosity. The fact that the Mughal emperors were willing to have paintings of Christian descent shows that they appreciated any and all forms of paintings that they came across, and it added to the diversity of the artwork that they had and broadened their cultural life. The Mughals greatly enjoyed paintings and made this form of art a part of their daily lives by having their own artists with them at all times and by rewarding those who showed them their creations.
The Mughals’ arrival also influenced of other forms of art such as literature, music, and even textiles. The first emperor, Babur, and all of his descendents shared a love of fine books. They also thought that calligraphy was very important too; it was not just the contents of books that mattered; they appreciated the calligraphy as well. Akbar was supposedly illiterate, but he worked around this by having people read to him and having scribes take his dictation. His library contained over 24,000 books, of a variety of subjects.
Much of his library had books of important Sufi writings, which showed his devotion to his Islamic religion. Also, because Akbar was tolerant of various religions outside of Islam, his library contained translations of Hindu texts. The great variety in these books show the appreciation they had for all kinds of books, no matter what they were about. Each of the emperors were also interested in textiles, but especially Akbar. He appreciated fine-quality velvets, silks and cottons. In each of the Mughal monarchs’ palaces, tombs, and tents, there were fine carpets that were used to cover the floors.
They appreciated anything fine and beautiful that they could use to decorate their homes. Lastly, the Mughals brought a unique twist on the music of that time period in India. During the Mughals time period, Indian Classical music arose as two different traditions. There was the north Indian Hindustani and the south Indian Carnatic, which arose mainly because of the Islamic influence. The Hindustani tradition was a mixture of traditional Indian music and aspects of Persian performances. Many new musical forms and instruments formed under the Mughal rule.
While some of these musical forms began to form a few centuries before the Mughals arrived, they reached their pinnacle under the rule of the Mughals. The Indian Carnatic music, on the other hand, focused more on the vocal portions of the music and less on the instruments. Most of the Carnatic compositions were written to be sung and performed in a singing style with less focus on the instruments. Each of these forms of Indian classical music, Hindustani and Carnatic, were from Hindu origins. This music helped to evolve Hinduism and allowed its people to practice their religion in a different way.
In a more negative light, though, Aurangzeb, perhaps one of the least flexible rulers of the Mughal empire, allowed only strict interpretations of Islam, therefore barring music. This caused music to be driven underground and caused the performers of music to become social outcasts. Overall, though, the Mughal Empire had more lenient rulers that allowed music to flow through India and influence people in a positive light. The Indians were able to expand their musical preferences and appreciate newer forms of music.
Directly following the arrival of the Mughals, a great increase in Indian culture occurred through various forms of art such as architecture, painting, literature, and music. Although the Mughals were descended from warriors, they had a great eye for beauty and displayed their love for art through the pieces of work that they contributed to their empire. The great cultural varieties that the Indian people were exposed to by the Mughals allowed their already rich and diverse culture to have even more variety. With art to join them, both Hindus and Muslims were able to live together in harmony during most of this time period.
This is also due to the rulers who allowed it, of course, but with these new ways to express art it allowed the Indian people to be united regardless of their religious views and backgrounds. People were influenced to share their own artwork and their cultural diversity expanded even further. Because of the Mughals presence in India beginning from the sixteenth century, Indians’ cultural life was broadened through the beautiful and rich forms of art like architecture, painting, literature, and music that the Mughals brought to them.

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