The two centuries of the Mughal rule in India from AD 1526 to 1761 make an important watershed in the evolution of the Indian culture as they promoted and patronized literacy and arts.
The Mughals were responsible for the creation of a rich legacy in the shape of literary masterpieces in Arabic, Persian and Urdu.
Wonderful specimens of architectural marvels in monuments, paintings and miniature paintings of astonishing colour combinations and vast gardens and lakes of their times exhibit their taste for the beauty of nature.
All the above factors made the Mughal rule in India a memorable one, to be remembered for its creative intellectual activity. Satish Chandra is of the view that the Mughal age witnessed many-sided cultural activity leading to the emergence of a national culture. He further points out, that the Mughal period can be called a second classical age comparable to the Gupta age of the early period. In this culture we notice a synthesis of Turko-Iranian and Bharatiya cultures.
The languages that received patronage of the Mughals were Arabic and Persian. Mostly, Arabic language was employed to compose philosophical treatises relating to religious and spiritual matters. Very few works of poetry in Arabic were also available. Persian was the official language of the court. Babur, the founder of the Mughal rule, was an accomplished poet in Turkish language and penned his memories in Turki. His Baburnama was translated into Persian by Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan. Babur is also known to have written a didactic work Mathnaui Mubin.
Babur and Humayun encouraged many Persian poets to come to India. A new Indian style of Persian literature known as Sabaq Hindi developed like the Indian English of the modern times. Notable among the poets were: Faizi, Urfi, Naziri, Talib Amah, Kalim, Ghani Kashmiri, Saib and Bedil developed the above said Sabaq Hindi style, which was patronized by the emperors from Akbar to Shahjahan. Some of the rulers and the princes were themselves poets in the Persian language.
Akbar and Shahjahan patronized a number of poets in their courts. While Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, a great poet lived in the court of Akbar, the greatest poet of this age in Persian was Mirja Muhammed Ali Saib of Tabriz. He is credited to be a creator of a new style in Persian poetry. In the Deccan, Adil Shahi rulers of Bijapur patronized Persian poets and of them the best known were Malik Qummi and Mulla Zohuri. The Qutub Shahis of Golkonda also were well-known patrons of Persian scholarship and literature. Burhan Qati was a Persian dictionary compiled by Muhammad Hussain Tabrezi. During the Mughal rule, classical Indian texts were translated into Persian.
During Akbar’s period, Singhasan Batisi, Ramayana and Rajatarangini of Kalhana were translated. Besides Persian, Urdu, Punjabi, Phusthi, Sindhi, Beluchi and Kashmiri languages too flourished under regional powers’ patronage. Even Sanskrit was patronized by the Mughals, in particular by Dara Shuhkoh and in the contemporary Vijayanagara court. After the debacle of Banihatti battle, the tradition of patronizing Sanskrit literature was continued by the Aravidu lineage of Vijayanagara, the Nayaks of Tanjore and the chiefs of Travancore and Cochin.
Mahakavyas, Sreshta kavyas, Champukavyas, Natakas and historical ‘kavyas’ along with various genres of Sanskrit literature flourished under their patronage. Srinivasa Dikshita, author of 18 dramas and sixty kavyas; Govinda Dikshita, author of Sahitya Sudha and Sangitasudhanidhi-, Appaya Dikshita, who is credited with the authorship of more than a hundred literary works; Nilakanta Dikshita, author of Mahakavya Siva Leela and the Penance of Bhaghiratha; and Chakrakavi, the author of janaki Parinaya deserve to be remembered as the great Sanskrit poets of 16th through the 18th centuries.
Women Sanskrit poets of this age that deserve special mention are Tirumalamba and Ramabhadramba, who wrote Varadambikaparinaya and Ragkinathabhyudaya respectively. In tune with syncreticism of Hindu and Muslim cultures, while Pandith Jagannatha wrote Jagadabh in praise of Dara Shukoh and Asatvilasa in praise of Asaf Khan, Dara Shukoh himself wrote a Prasasti in honour of Nrisimhasaraswati of Benaras. Annambhatta wrote Tarkasangraha in 1625, Vyasaraya wrote philosophical works Bhadojjivana, Nyayamitra and Tatparyachandrika and Vijeyandra authored Upasamharavijaya and Madhavatantra makhabhushana.
As a result of the growth of vernacular literature, the output of Sanskrit literature appears to have reduced to a great extent. It is also because the Bhakti saints preached their devotional songs in their respective vernacular languages to bring home the truth and importance of Bhakti in one’s own life. The most popular literary languages of northern India were Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi.
Hindi language developed from the dialects of Brajbhasha, Awadhi, Rajasthani, Maithili, Bhojapuri, Malwi, etc. A mixed version of Hindi, Khadiboli became popular in the 15th and 16th centuries. Goswami Tulasi Das, the author of Ramcharitamanas was the most famous Hindi poet and he lived in 16th century. Tulasi Das inspired poets like Agra Das and Nabhagi Das who composed poetry on the lives of the Vaishnava saints. Urdu language developed as a dialect of the Muslims who inhabited Deccan and South India from the 14th century onwards and it was also called Dakhani.
The major areas of Dakhani literature were Gujarat, Bijapur, Golkonda, Aurangabad and Bidar. The oldest writer of reputation of this language was the famous Sufi poet Sayyidi Banda Nawaz Geudoz Raz, the writer of Meraj ulAshiqi. The Qutub Shahi rulers of Golkonda patronized Dakhani literature and among them Mahammad Quli Qutub Shah, remains unique. Ibrahim Adil Shah II, the Sultan of Bijapur was also a great patron of Dakhani literature. He himself was an author of a book on music. By 1750, Urdu language was well established in the Delhi region and declined with the conquest of Deccan by the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb.
The Punjabi language grew from Sauraseni Prakrit or Sauraseni Apabhramsa. Before Gurunanak, we have no written record of the existence of Punjabi literature. The earliest text in Punjabi was the Adigrandh written by Guru Arjun Dev in 1604. Besides the gurus of the Sikh ‘parampara’, the important Punjabi poets are Bhai Gurdas, the Hindi poet Aggara, Sultan Baha, Shah Hussain and Batha Shah. The other vernacular languages of significance are Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.
In these vernacular languages, we notice a large output of kavyas by eminent poets. The major poets in Gujarati are Bhalana, Narasimha Mehta and Akho who lived in the 15th and 16th centuries. Among the Marathi poets, the great ones are Muktesvara, Tukaram, Ramdas and Varnana Pandita. In Bengali literature Chaitanya Chandramandas, Jayananda and Lochanadas deserved to be remembered. Muslim writers also enriched Bengali literature with their writings. Of such Muslim writers the first notable writer was Daulat Qazi.
In Assamese, Sankardeva, Mathuradas and Gopala Chandra Durja are remembered even today. Till the 17th century, Oriya literature was under the influence of Sanskrit, and from the 17th century with Haravali of Rama Chandra Pattanayaka, the Oriya language developed a popular base. It was Upendra Bhanja, who ushered a new era in Oriya literature. In Tamil literature, philosophical works, commentaries, Puranas and literary texts occupy a predominant place. Saiva sect and Vaishnava sect of Pouranika Dharma dominate the literary texts. An exposition of Saivism and Vishnavism, Irusamaya Vilakkam was written by Haridas.
In 1553 was written Siuadamiottaram, a Tamil work of significance by Marainanarbandar and he wrote Saiuasamayarjeri or the path of Siva. Kamalainanprakaras wrote a Purana on Tirumaluvadi and also another book on Saiva worship. Purana literature was enriched by Niramba Alagiya Desikar and his ‘sishyas’. Desikar wrote Setu Puranam and the Puranas of Tirupparangiri and Tirtivaiyaru. In the 17th century, the important literary figure was Madai Tiruvengadanathar, an employee in the court of the Nayakas of Madura. He composed a long poem on Advaita Vedanta. Two important lexicons, Niganduchudamoni and Kodaryram were compiled in this period.
Telugu language was closely connected to Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada languages. During this period, it was the Prabandha that dominated the Telugu literary scenario. Krishnadevaraya of Tuluva dynasty of Vijayanagara kingdom was the author of Amuktamalyada in Telugu. His court poet was Allasani Peddana. Krishnadevaraya patronized the Astadiggajas a group of eight great poets.
Interestingly, Quli Qutub Shah of the time of 1550-1583 also patronized Addanki Gangadhara kavi and Ponnaganti Telunguraya who dedicated their literary works Tapatisamharanopakhyanam and Yayaticharitra respectively to Quli Qutub Shah of Golkonda. In the 16th century, a book on horses was written by Manumanchi Bhatta with the title of Hayalakshana. After the disappearance of Vijayanagara Empire, their subordinates of Gandikota, Nellore, Siddhavatam, Gingee, Tanjore and Madurai patronized Telugu literature.
Matli Ananta of Siddhavatam authored Kakusthavijayam. Pushapagiri Timmama translated Niti Sataka of Bhartruhari. The Tanjore Nayaka ruler Raghunatha Nayaka wrote a prose literary text Valmiki Charitam. Even during the 17th through the 18th century the contribution of the Jains to Kannada literature was really remarkable.
In 1533, a prominent anthology of Kannada poets was prepared by Vadi Vidyananda of Geroppa with the little of Kavyarasa. Saiva an important Jaina scholar wrote a number of works like Bharata Ratnakaravarthi, Trilokarasa, Aparajita Sataka and Bharatesvaracharita which deal with Jaina outlook on cosmology and philosophy.
Adrisya’s Cennabasava Purana and Praudharayacarita are the important literary pieces relating to the Lingayat sect. Of the Saiva literature, the most important examples are Siddhesuarapurana of Virakta Pantadeva and Viuekachintamani and Siuayogapradipika of Nijagunna Siva Yogi, Bhava Chintaratna and Virasaiuamrita of Mallinarya Gubbi and Sarvana Padagalu of Servana Murthi.
Vaishnava literature was also produced in this period. Purandaradasa popularized Vaishnavism through his compositions, which are very popular even today.
Malayalam which originated as dialect of Tamil in Odeyar region acquired separate independent status by the 14th century and Malayalam style of poetry began to develop from the 15th century. Rama Panikkar’s, Bharata Gatha, Sauitri Mahatmyam, Brahmandapuranam and Bhagavatam stand as unique examples.
Cherusur Nambudiri of the 16th century is credited as the promoter and developer of modern Malayalam. Krishnagatha was his famous work and the other works of importance are Anju’s Tampuren Pattu and Erauikiittipilla Pattu. It is beHeved that dance-drama Hterature known as Attakatha or Kathakali developed during the 16th cenmry. One of the earliest Attakathas was Raman Attam. Malayalam literature was undoubtedly enriched by Attakathas or Kathakali literature.
In this way Sanskrit, Persian, Urdu and different vernacular languages flourished in India during the 15th through the 17th centuries. Much information is not forthcoming about the structure and content of educational system under the Mughals. We do not come across the names of great institutions that promoted education of the majority of people. Education appears to be the prerogative of the rich and upper strata of society. The content of education was not uniform. Language teaching from childhood received good attention. Education was religion-oriented.
Art and Architecture:
The Mughals left behind as legacy magnificent forts, palaces, gates, mosques, public utility buildings and baulis or water wells or tanks. Akbar was the first great Mughal who initiated the process of constructing on a large scale. Of all the forts of Akbar’s time, the most famous example is the Agra fort. It was built in red sandstone and this fort had many magnificent structures. Fort building activity reached its peak with the construction of Red Fort by Shahjahan in Delhi. In 1572, Akbar began the construction of a palace-fort complex at Fatehpur Sikri or the city of victory, 36 km from Agra, atop a hill with an artificial lake.
The most magnificent building or gateway at Fatehpur Sikri was Buland Darwaja or the lofty gate. It was built to celebrate the victory over Gujarat. In the reign ofjahangir, marble began to be used in the construction of buildings along with the wall decoration of floral design made of semi-precious stones. This method of decoration called ‘pietra dura’ became very common during the rule of Shahjahan and was used extensively in the Taj Mahal, which was called a jewel of the builders’ art.
Humayun’s tomb at Delhi is considered to be the precursor of Taj. The double dome was an important feature of this building. The primary beauty of the Taj is the massive dome and the four slender minarets linking the platform to the main building. Mosque building also reached its zenith under Shahjahan, with the construction of Moti Masjid in Agra fort built with marble and Jama Masjid at Delhi built in red stone.
While the pre-Mughal architecture was well known for its massiveness and simplicity, the Mughal architecture was known for its decoration and delicacy. In Mughal architecture we notice a fusion of Persian and Indian techniques. The second half of the 16th century undoubtedly marks a watershed in the development of the art of painting and music in India and they reached their height of glory in the 17th century. Humayun’s contribution to the evolution of painting is very significant.
An important painting of the time of Humayun was the Princes of the House of Timur. It was done in the year 1550 on cloth, measuring approximately 1.15m square. Owing to the deep interest of Akbar, there emerged a distinctive school of painting of the Mughals. Akbar’s reign has become famous with the illustration of the Hamza Nama through paintings. This project was started in 1562. In the project large numbers of artists were employed. The place where the painters worked was known as Tasveerkhana. S.P. Verma gives a list of 225 artists of the time of Akbar who worked in the Tasveerkhana.
A careful scrutiny of the paintings reveals an evolution in the art of painting. In the beginning the impact of Persia is very visible but slowly it began to decline. The paintings contain the following features of symmetrical compositions – restricted movement of figures, fineness of the lines of drawing, flat depiction of architectural columns and profuse embellishment of buildings in the manner of jewels. By 1590, the painting under Akbar exhibited the following features of naturalism and rhythm and luxuriant depiction of foliage and brilliant blossoms.
The Mughal painting reached its zenith during the reign of Jahangir who had an aptitude for painting. Jahangir claims that he had the capacity to discriminate the work of one from the other painter after looking into a painting drawn by more than one. Portrait painting and animal painting reached its climax under Jahangir. Of such painters, the name of Mansur stands very tall among the rest of the painters, Shahjahan too continued the traditions of painting and with the accession of Aurangzeb, patronage to painting began to decline and a number of painters left Aurangzeb’s court and sought refuge in the regional head-quarters.
From the 17th century onwards, we notice the impact of European painting on Mughal painting. They borrowed some of the technique of the European painters. At the same time, a number of original European paintings were collected and preserved by Jahangir and Dara Shuhkov and several Mughal nobles. An important feature to be noticed in the Mughal paintings is their attempt to make them three dimensional. Though the European painting technique was adopted or borrowed, the Mugjial painters did not prepare oil paintings and there was no work from this period that was executed in oil.
A distinct style of painting developed in the Deccan kingdoms of Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and Golconda in the 16th and 17th centuries, Rajasthani painting also deserves to be noted because by 1600 the art reached its consummation. Different Rajput kingdoms encouraged and patronized painting in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The main centres of Rajasthani painting are:
(a) Mewar School,
(b) Bundi School and
(c) Kishangarh School.
The Rajasthani paintings contain pictures on hunting scenes, portraits and musical seasons. Nature was focused in their paintings because in their paintings we notice a variety of tree forms, dense foliage, singing birds and frolicking animals, rivers full of lotus blossoms and drops of rain falling from deep blue clouds.
Fine arts of music and dance and drama were also patronized by regional kingdoms in the 16th through the 18th centuries. The development of music was due to the growth of bhakti. Swami Haridas of Brindavan promoted music in a big way. Tansen was patronized by Akbar and he is said to be the disciple of Haridas of Brindavan. Tansen is given credit for the introduction of the famous ragas Mian Ki Malhar, Miyan ki Todi and Darbari.
Raja Man Singh of Gwalior is credited with the perfecting ofDhrupad, a variant style of the North Indian music. A later Mughal ruler Muhammed Shah provided great encouragement to music in North India by patronizing Adranga and Sadaranga, two great music composers of Khayal at his court.
An interesting aspect was the incorporation of folk music into classical music of the court and to that category belong Thumri and Tappa. In the south too, music received patronage from the regional kingdoms like Tanjore. Swaramelakalanithi, a treatise on music was written by Ramamatya of Kondavidu in 1550. This book describes 20 Janak and 64 Janya ragas. Later in 1609, one Somanatha wrote which incorporated some north Indian styles.
Caturdandi Prakasika the bedrock of the Camatic music system was composed in 1650 at Tanjavur by Venkata Mukhi. Evidence for the promotion of dance and drama is lacking during this period. The following texts of Abhinayachandrika by Mahesvara Mahapatra, Sangitha Damodara by Raghunatha, Tuljarayas, Natyavedangama and Balavarman’s Balaramabharatam and Sangita Malika of the court of Muhammed Shah deserve to be noted as they indicate the various styles of dance and drama in different parts of India. Thus in the domain of arts, the 16th and 17th centuries proved to be a period of experiments and fusion of north and south Indian concepts.