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The Reign of Jahangir - The Stroke of Change
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The Reign of Jahangir - The Stroke of Change


The Mughal era stands distinctively in the Indian history, owing to its immense contribution to the art and culture of the subcontinent.

The Mughal era stands distinctively in the Indian history, owing to its immense contribution to the art and culture of the subcontinent.

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  • 1. The Reign of Jahangir - The Stroke of Change The Mughal era stands distinctively in the Indian history, owing to its immense contribution to the art and culture of the subcontinent. The Mughal rulers carried a deep passion for art and its beauty within their bosoms, which led to the establishment of a tradition of art so particularly unique to the period, thus emerging as the Golden Period in the cultural history of India. While Mughal era stands as a testimony to the development of various techniques and forms of art, it is primarily due to the patronage of the rulers that art came to flourish during the period. It found itself accepted and appreciated, not only by the artists, the connoisseurs and the kings of the time but also the demagogue. Mohammed Jalaluddin Akbar, the son of Humayun and the third emperor of the Mughal India, has been understood as one of the most capable rulers of all times, owing to his intelligence and his secular ways of governance. It is also during his reign that Mughal Miniature paintings found acceptance as an art form and reached unparalleled heights, in terms of technique and beauty. The tradition found warm acceptance in the court of his son, Nur-ud-din Mohammad Salim, also known as Jahangir, who succeeded him in 1605. Jahangir embraced the passion for art just like his father and maintained an atelier of his own. It is interesting to note that each of the emperors made it a point to innovate and reform the art form, thus improving its texture. Art, then, did not only become a matter of beauty or aesthetics but also about exploration and documentation of that which was new. The court painter, Ustad Mansur, is renowned for depicting animals and birds of several varieties, which were found either on Jahangir’s numerous expeditions or received as gifts from the travelers from other countries. These paintings, therefore, are not merely beautiful artifacts, which speak a language of the times, but also little mirrors into the ideologies, cultural traditions, and beliefs of the times. For instance, the Mughal miniature paintings during Akbar’s reign carried realistic portraitures of the animals, birds and kings, and formed an important part of the books and chronicles. However, during Jahangir’s reign, the subject of the miniatures changed from birds, animals, and scenes of the court to the king himself, which is why the miniatures of the time carry Jahangir’s portraits, something that was never seen before. The formal order of the figures- be it that of Jahangir or of the courtiers, depicts a strong departure from the bold and vibrancy so imminent in the miniatures during the reign of Akbar. Jahangir’s reign also saw a cultural interaction with the Europeans, the influences of which can be noticed in the Antique miniature paintings that have survived from the era. For instance, the traditional miniature paintings followed a
  • 2. flattened and multi-layered style. However, with the influence of the European oil paintings upon Jahangir’s aesthetics, the ateliers were commanded to emulate a single point perspective, complete with geometric and floral borders, which was a significant feature of the European paintings. The subject of the paintings also changed from being a depiction of the persona of the emperor to the inner aspects of the king. The miniature painting in which Jahangir holds a portrait of Mother Mary speaks volumes for the cultural amalgamation that changed the technique, form and the style of the Mughal miniature paintings. Art, in itself, is the mot vibrant depiction of a culture. These Mughal Miniature paintings open up little windows to the silent winds of the royal past, invoking the memories that lie buried within the fabrics of time.