The History of Indian Mughal Miniature Painting


Part - 2

In the second chapter, I would like to start with the translation of the 34 number section of ‘Akbarnama’ where Abul Fazl mentioned some important facts. 

Abul Fazl.

 “Tasbir is a portrait of something followed accurately by the same object. From the very beginning, the Emperor embraced and biased portrait art passionately because, from his perspective, art could be a way of learning and entertainment.” Here we could recall that Emperor Akbar was illiterate and had no ability to read something. This is why he was interested in illustration, painting, which helped him understand something widely. Curiosity was the key factor behind such interest. However, Abul Fazl continued - “such an impulse intensified the art culture and artists were being honored in several ways by the Emperor. Every week, the royal staff and inspectors submitted the selected paintings to the Emperor to evaluate the work. The Emperor either rewarded or increased the monthly salary of those artists based on the quality of work.  Art materials were available in good quality, and to control the price of those materials, it was under the supervision of royal inspectors. Intermingles of colors developed remarkably. As a result, the luminosity of a painting grew, which brought the attention of the viewers. At this time, we can find some great paintings that could reach up to the standard of European miniature artists. It indeed meets the standard of the painting of Bihzad. It's awestruck to look at the attentiveness in the detailing of the painting, impeccable finishing, intelligence of a successful presentation, which are now just unmatchable. Lifeless things are even being revived once again in painting, which was made possible by the newly appointed Hindu artists in the royal court. There are very few of those in this world who are akin to those Hindu artists”.

Tomb of Akbar the Great

Abul Fazl brings up the name of those royal artists, which I mentioned in my previous article, yet I no longer want to repeat it here.

 He continued in this way, - “Perhaps, making a verisimilitude portrait of an object is a waste of time for someone; however, it's a source of intuition for a well-literate and trained soul. The person who picks up the bigotry of fanaticism is against art and artistry. Astonishingly, those are now even able to enjoy paintings.  Once a day, Akbar in merriment with close friends, pronounced, ‘some people abominate artists, however, those deserve hatred for me. I think they have marvelous competence to explore the existence of God. When they paint an animal or human in their painting, perhaps their soul attempts to pray to God to make it lively. Such an effort makes them grow the artistic intuition’. 

Painting from Razmnama. A copy of the Hindu scripture named Mahabharat.

 “Getting support and appreciation from the emperor, the number of masterpiece miniature paintings increased notably. Out of other illustrations, only Hamzanama produced more than 1400 world-class masterpiece miniature paintings by following the story of that novel.  Other masterpiece paintings followed some of the prodigious narratives, such as Razmnama, Ramayan, Naldaman[1] (originally Nal-Damayanti), Ayar Danish, Kalila Dimna[2] (originally Kalia Daman), and many more. The Emperor himself seated for his portrait, and in next, he ordered to make the portrait of the notable persons of his empire. In such a way, a gigantic album was composed and in that album, some notable persons who passed away have become alive once again, and those who are alive were promised to be immortal”. 


“As an outgrowth of endorsement of artists, other art-related miscellaneous professionals are getting a standard income that was coveted. Even soldiers also started earning from 600 to 1200 Dum [3].



The above-stated historical documents presented by Abul Fazl has proved that it was the golden era of Indian miniature paintings that reached the highest label of artistry.

 Along with the order of Emperor Akbar, some royal libraries were found in Agra, Delhi, and some other places. Whatever excellent in Asian Literature was being stored in those libraries by translating into several Asian languages, including Persian. Those books had the precious bind, and regardless of expenditure, all were illustrated with miniature art. As an instance, the expense of Razmnama, which is the short form of Mahabharat, was 40,000 pounds! It is now patronage in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Another novel titled Ramayana, a notable Hindu Scripture composed by the royal artists, endured 20,000 Pounds to complete. It is now probably in a personal collection of someone in Washington. Novel named Akbarnama also had the same value. A Spanish Pastor named Sebastian, who was in Agra, stated that the royal library of Agra contained a total of 24000 novels that was worth 7,20.000 pounds in total.  Remember, it is for only one library. So now, think about the expenditure of all the royal libraries! 


It is perhaps called Royal interest!


Will be continuing

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1. Nala, a character in Indian mythology, is the king of Nishadha Kingdom and the son of Weerasena. Nala is known for his skill with horses and for his culinary expertise. He marries princess Damayanti, of the Vidarbha Kingdom, and their story is told in the Mahabharata.


2.Kaliya (In Devanagari: कालिय), in Hindu traditions, was a poisonous Nāga living in the Yamunā river, in Vṛndāvana UP. The water of the Yamunā for four leagues all around him boiled and bubbled with poison. No bird or beast could go near, and only one solitary Kadamba tree grew on the river bank. The celebration of Nāga Nathaiyā or Nāga Nṛitya is associated with the tale of Lord Krishna dancing upon and subduing Kāliya. The story is told in Vaghbath. 


3. Sher Shah Suri introduced the silver rupee which weighed 11.6 grams. He also introduced new copper coins called as Dam which was continued by Humayun, Akbar and other Mughal emperors.

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Last updated on - 25.09.2023