The Importance of the Last Emperor of Mughal Kingdom

 Before stepping into the discussion, a tragic historical fact I want to share to recognize the political calamity of historical India. At the time of grey-headed Shah Jahan in his 65 years, the nefarious sons of Shah Jahan got disposed on his throne forcefully and getting him in prison. It was not the end of antithetical activities among the sons of Shah Jahan, rather had raised the question, - who will be the next emperor of India? In 1658, the battle of Panipat concluded all the controversy, and Aurangzeb became Emperor by defeating his younger brother Dara Shikoh. After getting the throne, he took into consideration the conquest of southern India.

 It is known to all that Aurangzeb was not interested in painting, but it is a partial truth. Because the royal tradition of his ancestors in art, motivated him too and he adopted the same by admitting the workflow of those royal artists, as it was. Therefore, the glory of portrait painting was flowing in the same direction. But after a certain time, when his fanatical approach to Islam got excessive mostly against portrait painting; it had been going dimmed and portrait artists superseded elsewhere. It was quite natural because the person who is in the pivotal part of all the cultural practice got against for those. Therefore, it was not possible for artists to continue. They need support and encouragement in order to produce something unique. As a successor, Emperor Aurangzeb got some great artists of that era in his royal court, however, those artists didn’t receive the same criticism, encouragement, and the inner-vision from Aurangzeb, as they were getting from his ancestors. As a result, the trend had been dimming away slowly. 

Portrait of Aurangzeb with bird.

 Nevertheless, we could not leave out in the cold a specialty that came with the conquest of southern India of Aurangzeb which performed as ‘Deccan style’, entered in the Mughal painting. It was a successful regional inclusion in the Mughal miniature painting that made it precious. But at the same time; inner-vision of the portrait painting such as the significance of the characters had been getting dimmed and got emphasized on the outer part of the portrait, such as flamboyance of ornaments and attires, the expertness of fine brush works, etc. We got a portrait of young Aurangzeb seated in the profile angle [see the image of the left side]followed the European style with a bird, most probably a parakeet; just a good example followed the above assumption regarding the portrait art. From the era of Aurangzeb, European style made an impact somewhat, nevertheless, most of those were made with Southern Kalam since the royal artists of the Mughal court started working with foreign business persons of Southern India and they influenced by the regional styles. In such a way, interweave of Southern and Mughal tradition formed a new style in the Mughal painting that got it to prosper.


 Emperor Aurangzeb was the pioneer of this new style in Mughal Miniature Painting. But due to the lack of alimentation of Emperor, royal artists left the studio of Aurangzeb and were looking elsewhere, mostly to the regional capital cities. They gave prosperity to the regional art and culture, however, the tradition of illustrated scripture and making the album (Murakka) got dimmed at the same time. Although there is a lot of portraits composed in the reign of Aurangzeb, however, those were not remarkable as well.

Here I want to mention some of the great royal artists of the reign of Aurangzeb; those were respectively, Fakir-e-hakir, Amal-e-Khamananda, Raghunandan, Roy Chitraman, Anup Chattar, Ustad Gulab Roy, Masud, Lachman Sing, etc.

The work of an emperor is to rule over his kingdom and keeps control of the regional areas he gets the victory. It would be even hard to understand for you how complicated it is to do in such a country like India. Here is a versatile culture, language, tradition that makes it more difficult to have complete control. It is indeed astonishing how those exotic rulers did it smoothly by making India their own. 


Nevertheless, it will difficult to find such similar four emperors in world history who came from another culture but gratuitously not only adopted a separate culture as their own but produced a new form that later becomes an icon of Indian art! 


There is a lot of things related to Mughal painting that needs to discuss and am sure, I'll do it later. However, it's an ending episode and I am keen to know, how you like the serial discussion. Is there anything precious you know that I overlooked? Do you have any information that I missed? Feel free to share in the comment section and make it more valuable. Knowledge is endless and hence, I need to know more from you. 


Thank you for your interest.


The End

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Last updated on - 07.12.2023