In this article we will discuss about the economic, social and religious condition of people during the rule of Mughuls.
One novelty of Indian culture and civilization is that without losing its essentials it has absorbed within itself influences and novelties of all those people and their culture who came to India and settled down here. It happened with-the coming of the Muslims as well. During the rule of the Turks and the Afghans, Hindu and Muslim cultures, of course, came nearer to each other. But, primarily because that period remained a period of conflict, the fusion of both cultures could not be possible. However, during the rule of the Mughuls, the conditions changed. Political stability and Akbar’s national attitude created a favourable atmosphere for the fusion of both cultures and that helped in creating that Indian culture which absorbed within itself many elements of Islamic culture thereby enriching it further. We find it in all spheres of life, viz., dress, manners, literatures, fine arts, etc.
India remained prosperous till the reign of Shah Jahan. The security and stability which Akbar provided to the Mughul empire brought about fruitful results and the prosperity of India reached its highest mark during the reign of Shah Jahan.
The emperor, the nobles, traders and industrialists, of course, enjoyed maximum share of this prosperity, yet, the common people were not devoid of daily necessities of life as all articles were cheaply available. The emperor was the highest beneficiary.
He not only collected many taxes but was also the best trader and industrialist. He maintained many industries (karkhanas) which produced a large variety of articles which were sold in the market and constituted a good source of his income.
He, therefore, led a most luxurious life. Next to him were his mansabdars and Rajput kings. They enjoyed extensive Jagirs besides heavy salaries from the state. They enjoyed the best of their lives till they could afford it.
Below them were the members of the bureaucracy. Most of them were also well-placed. Among them only petty civil servants and slaves were the least beneficiaries. The traders and industrialists were divided into several categories.
Several among them were very rich. Virji Bohra of Surat was regarded the richest man in the world and Abdul Gaffar alone had trade equal to the East India Company of the British. But traders and industrialists did not dare to exhibit their wealth because the emperor or even a powerful mansabdar could snatch it away from them.
The condition of lower category of traders and industrialists was not good but satisfactory. Scholars, artists and craftsmen also were in a good condition and some of them who enjoyed the patronage of the emperor or any mansabdar certainly enjoyed prosperity.
Of course, lower category of them were not in a good condition. The condition of labour whether industrial or agricultural was not good. They got very little remuneration and therefore, led a poor life. However, the worst sufferers were the cultivators who paid most of the taxes and were exploited by revenue officers.
Thus, during the rule of the Mughuls, the economic structure of the Indian society was feudal in which the people were divided into different upper and lower categories. In such a society the people of upper strata were the only beneficiaries while the common people toiled and remained mostly on existence level.
The profession of the majority of the people was agriculture. More than seventy-five per cent of the population lived in villages and were directly or indirectly connected with land. Wheat, barley, gram, maize, rice, millets, linseeds, pulses, sugarcane, jute, poppy, indigo, fruits, vegetables, etc. were produced in different parts of the country.
Wheat was abundantly grown in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar; sugarcane was primarily grown in Bengal and Bihar; barley and gram was extensively grown in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar; indigo was commonly grown in the district of Bayana; poppy was grown in Malwa and Bihar; cotton was grown practically everywhere in the country, and rice was grown in Madras, Kashmir, etc.
The implements which were used in agriculture were practically the same which were being used in India till the first half of the twentieth century. The peasants depended on rains, ponds, wells and canals for irrigation. The peasants suffered from famines from time to time. Famines were followed usually by epidemics which resulted in loss of lakhs of lives.
The state used to help the people during such times but because of poor means of transport and lack of medicines, its help was always insufficient. Wild animals also used to harm cultivation as there were extensive forests at that time. The tax-burden on the peasants was also heavy. Except during the reign of Akbar and Jahangir, the revenue was quite heavy.
Besides, the government officials also took advantage of the ignorance of the peasants and taxed them extra. Constant wars and rebellions also adversely affected cultivation and lives of the cultivators. Yet, with all these difficulties it can be said that the country was self-dependent from the point of view of agriculture.
Except in cases of famines and epidemics, the peasants also led a happy life as they had very limited necessities of life. Comparing with other countries in the world and the period of the Delhi Sultanate we can say that the condition of the peasants was fairly satisfactory till the reign of Shah Jahan.
Many prosperous cities grew up during the period of rule of the Mughuls. There were numerous ports on the sea-coast of Gujarat, Bengal and the Deccan. People from different European countries came to India for the purpose of trade. All these were proofs of industrial growth of India because agriculture alone could not lead to such economic prosperity. Sugar industry was well-developed in Bengal, Gujarat and Punjab.
The industries of indigo and opium were also popular. These were exported to foreign countries as well. Clay-toys and utensils were prepared all over the country and were renowned for their beauty. Delhi, Banaras and Chunar were particularly famous for clay industry. Wood-work was also popular in India. Kashmir and Karnataka produced good artistic pieces of wood.
The Indians built good ships. Both passenger and cargo ships were prepared by the Indians. Iron industry was also well-developed in India though steel was produced in a much lesser quantity because of the shortage of coal from mines. Iron was used mostly in preparing arms. The Indians produced swords, javelins and other traditional arms of good quality but they failed to produce cannons and rifles of good quality.
Comparatively Turkey, Persia and several European countries were far ahead than India in this field. Punjab and Gujarat were renowned for the production of good quality arms. Copper, brass and bell-metal were used for preparing utensils and idols. Delhi was famous for its copper industry; bell-metal industry was well-developed in Bengal; and Banaras was famous for its brass industry.
Gold, silver and ivory were used in preparing ornaments and idols. Gold was extracted from the river-beds of Punjab and Kumayun, copper-mines were mostly in Rajasthan and Madhya Bharat and diamonds were extracted from the mines of Golkunda and Chota Nagpur.
India produced some world-famous diamonds. Koh-i-Nur diamond was found from a mine at Golkunda. Diamonds were used in preparing ornaments, thrones and also in making garments. India also produced wine on a large scale but its quality was not good.
Therefore, best quality wine was imported from Persia and several European countries. Leather industry of India was not in a good condition. Common people of India did not use shoes or chappals. So, these were not prepared on a large scale. Salt was extracted from the salt-hill ranges in Punjab and it was also prepared from sea-water.
Pearls were taken out of sea and it was a well-developed industry near the sea-coast of south India. Glass was also used for manufacturing different articles and this industry was well-developed at Fatehpur Sikri, Berar and Bihar. Jaunpur and Gujarat were famous for a large variety of perfumes.
The Mughul emperors built a large number of forts, palaces, mosques, etc. The Rajput rulers too constructed forts and palaces in large number. Therefore, stone-cutters and mansion-builders were also found in large numbers in India.
But, the most famous and largest industry of India was cloth industry. India produced a large quantity and also that of different variety of cotton, silk and woollen cloth. Carpets and shawls of good quality were also produced in India.
Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Multan, Alwar, Jaunpur, etc. were famous for manufacturing carpets. Yet, Indian carpets were not as good and famous as the carpets produced in Persia. Kashmir produced woollen cloth, carpets and silk- cloth of a good quality. Bengal was also famous for its silk industry but Gujarat was at the top in the production of silk-cloth of good quality.
Silk-cloth was coloured in different colours and cloths were made of it. The emperors themselves had many Karkhanas for this purpose at Agra, Lahore, Dacca and Ahmedabad. Yet, India imported silk of good quality from foreign countries particularly from China which meant that the silk industry was not in a well- developed stage. Woollen clothes were prepared mostly in hill areas. It was largely limited to Kashmir, Punjab and the district of Kumayun.
The best woollen clothes particularly shawls were prepared in Kashmir and Lahore. According to Abul Fazl, Akbar started one thousand Karkhanas for producing woollen cloth at Lahore. Jahangir established such Karkhanas at Amritsar. Thus, woollen cloth was produced in India on a large scale and received praise from contemporary foreign visitors. Yet, the industry could not grow much because of the non-availability of good quality wool.
India, however, produced best varieties of cotton cloth. Sonargaon in Bengal, Banaras and Agra in Uttar Pradesh, Lahore, Multan and Thatta in Punjab and Sindh, Ahmedabad, Patan, Baroda and Surat in Gujarat, Burhanpur in Khandesh and Golkunda were famous for producing cotton cloth of good quality. Dacca produced its world- famous muslin. Indian cotton cloth was in demand in China, Japan, Persia, Arabia, Egypt, Africa and many European countries.
Cotton cloth was, thus, at the top among export items of India. Indian cotton cloth enjoyed worldwide reputation and the industry flourished till Industrial Revolution took place in England and the British deliberately tried to destroy this industry of India.
Thus, there were many industries in India but only some of them were so well-developed which could earn foreign exchange. Of course, the stability which the Mughul empire provided to the country helped in their growth which increased the prosperity of the country.
But, as there was no security of property and India had failed to organise Joint Stock Companies which would have led to the accumulation of capital, Indian industries failed to reach the point of their natural growth.
Besides, most of the Indian industries were limited to individual families. The workers, therefore, had no facility for proper training. The professions were mostly hereditary and so was the training which the artisans received. Therefore, there was limited scope for enhancing the professional skill.
In these circumstances, there were no chances for the development of industries. It was only the patronage of emperors, nobles and Rajput rulers that helped a little in their growth and once that became absent, the industries began to ruin. The process completed when the British occupied this country and converted it into a colony to get raw material and a good market for the sale of finished goods of Britain.
Trade flourished during the Mughul rule. The Mughul emperors provided peace and security to their extensive empire. They also constructed good roads and sarais which helped in convenient transport and travelling. This helped in the growth of trade except during the period of rule of the Later Mughuls who failed to provide peace to the Empire. The Mughul rulers also did not charge much trade-tax.
Mostly, it remained 3 ½ to 5 per cent both on imports and exports. Internal trade was carried on both by roads and rivers while foreign trade was carried on by sea and roads. The road-route was towards the north-west. One road was there from Lahore to Kabul and the other one from Multan to Kandhar. There were so many ports on the sea-coast of Gujarat, Bengal and the South which provided facility for sea-trade.
India had trade relations with different countries of Europe, Africa and Asia like France, Holland, Portugal, England, Arabia, Egypt, Central Asia, Persia, Ceylon, China, Japan, Nepal, etc. India imported woollen cloth from France, silk from Italy and Persia, carpets from Persia, raw-silk from China and horses from Arabia and Central Asia. As gold and silver were not found much in India, India imported them also.
Besides, it also imported good wine, glass-wares, medicines, etc. from foreign countries. The most important item of export was cotton cloth which was in large demand in different countries of Asia, Africa and Europe. Besides, India exported indigo, salt, spices, opium, etc. Thus, the trade of India was-extensive and it was favourable to India which helped in the prosperity of the people.
Thus, it can be fairly concluded that India was economically prosperous during the Mughul rule. That is why when Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali attacked India, they got everything in abundance in plunder.
The majority of the Indian society consisted of the Hindus. Traditionally, they were divided into four castes, viz., the Brahamanas, the Kshatriyas, the Vaisyas and the Sudras. Besides, the Hindus were subdivided into different sub-castes. The caste-system was rigid and there were strict restrictions on inter-dining and inter-caste marriages. The caste determined the profession of individuals.
The Brahamanas were engaged mostly in education and priestly pursuits, the Kshatriyas and Rajputs employed themselves mostly in army, the Vaisyas carried on trade and agriculture and the Sudras were either craftsmen and agricultural labour or served other upper castes. The untouchables constituted a distinct caste and were in the lowest cadre of the society. Besides the Hindus, Buddhist, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Muslims were other religious communities in India.
The Muslims were primarily divided into two parts. The one consisted of foreign Muslims like the Arabs, the Persians, the Turks, the Mongols, the Uzbegs, the Abbysinians and the Armenians. They regarded themselves superior to converted or Indian Muslims on the basis of the purity of their blood. They enjoyed best social status and highest services in the state.
The other part consisted of Indian Muslims or those who were converted to Islam from Hinduism. They were in the majority. Yet, they were regarded inferior to foreign Muslims. Only some of them succeeded in getting highest posts in the service of the state on merit. But, the Muslims were further divided on the basis of differences of different sects within the Islam, viz., the Sunnis, the Shias, the Bohras, the Khojas, etc.
Among them the Sunnis and the Shias were most prominent. The Sunnis were not only in the majority but also the privileged ones because the emperors were also Sunnis. The Shaikhs and Sayyids also commanded good respect in the society. Another important section among the Muslims was those of the Sufis.
Besides, all foreigners were welcomed in India. Therefore, Chinese Portuguese, British, French, etc. had settled down in India at different places.
The one novelty of the Mughul period was that it produced several capable and intelligent women who influenced the politics of their times. Rani Karnavati, Rani Jodha Bai, Rani Durgavati, Rani Rupmati, Chand Bibi, Nur Jahan and her mother Asmat Begum, Mumtaz Mahal, Jahanara, Roshanara, Jebunnisa, Jija Bai (mother of Shivaji), Tara Bai (wife of Raja Ram), Bibi Sahiba (wife of Subedar of Kabul), etc. were such ladies who influenced the politics and society of their times.
But, all these ladies belonged to the highest strata of the society because the facility of education and development of personality for women were limited only to a tiny section of the society at the top viz., emperors, nobles, Rajput kings etc. In general, the women suffered from all sorts of handicaps. Women were not given education, they did not command respect in the society and they had no independent existence.
The laxity in morals of the emperors, nobles and rich people had reduced the position of women to articles of pleasure. The emperors and their nobles kept a large number of wives, concubines and slave girls in their harems. The Rajput rulers also followed their example and started keeping their own harems. Akbar had five thousand women in his harem and Raja Man Singh kept one thousand and five hundred women in his harem.
Other Mughul emperors and nobles pursued the same practice. Islam prohibits drinking of liquor, wine etc. Yet, all Mughul emperors except Aurangzeb and their nobles were addict to it. These licentious lives of the emperors, nobles, Rajput kings and other rich people affected adversely the morals of the society and the position of women as compared to men. Besides, both Muslim and Hindu women suffered from certain social evils.
A Sunni Muslim could have four wives at a time while a Shia Muslim had the liberty to have even more wives than four. The Muslims had the facility of divorce between men and women but, in practice, it hardly gave any advantage to women. The Muslim women had to observe purdah most strictly. That virtually meant slavery to them. They could neither get facility of education nor could participate in social life in any way.
The impact of the Muslims and the insecurity of honour of women further affected adversely the conditions of Hindu women. Many social evils like purdah system, child marriages, prohibition on widows’ marriages, the practice of Sati, polygamy etc. had crept up in the Hindu society and these continued during the rule of the Mughuls.
All these social evils had reduced the status of women among the Hindus so much so that the birth of a girl was regarded inauspicious in the family. The number of widows increased, illegal child-births increased, the profession of music and dance became more popular and the number of prostitutes also increased in the society.
Thus lack of education, dependence on men, different social evils, insecurity of honour of women and increased licentiousness among the rich lowered down very much the status of women in the society. Yet, there remained one safety-valve for them. This culture of the rich remained limited only to cities. Therefore, the common people were not affected by it and women among them enjoyed their traditional respect.
Dress, food-habits, ornaments, etc. underwent important changes during the Mughul rule. Upper and middle classes both among the Muslims and Hindus wore Qaba (long coat coming down to the knees) and tight trousers while the common men among the Hindus wore Dhoti and the Muslims Kurta and Pajama. Both the Hindus and the Muslims wore turbans though their styles differed. Shawls both woollen and cotton were also used by men.
The emperors, nobles and the rich people got stitched gold-thread, pearls and even diamonds on their garments. Only rich people could afford to wear shoes or chappals. Ornaments were used both by males and females. While the males wore ear-rings, finger rings and necklaces, the females wore all sorts of ornaments from head to toe like bracelets, rings, necklaces etc.
Hindu ladies wore Dhoti and Angiya and the Muslim ladies wore pajama, Ghagra, jacket, dupatta etc. A large variety of cosmetics were used by the ladies. Asmat Begum, mother of Nur Jahan prepared rose-perfume while Nur Jahan and Mumtaj Mahal brought about improvement in cosmetics and ornaments.
The diet of the Hindus and the Muslims of upper classes was not very much different. Meat, roti, rice, fruits, milk, butter, ghee etc. were their common diet. Good food of a large variety was prepared with the help of all sorts of spices among the rich people. Common people limited their diet only to rice, roti, pulses, vegetable, milk etc.
The Jains and the Brahamanas at certain places avoided meat. Otherwise, both the Hindus and the Muslims, in general, were non-vegetarians. People used wine, liquor, opium and tobacco as intoxicants.
Music, dance, boating, display of dramas etc. were the means of entertainment of the people. Chess, chaupar, card-playing, wrestling etc., were favourite games of the people. Animal fighting, Chaughan (horse-polo) and hunting were entertainment of emperors and nobles.
Different fairs and festivals served religious as well as entertaining purpose. Naurauj, Id-ul-Fitr, Id-ul-Zuha, Bara Wafat, Ramzan etc. were important Muslim festivals. Among festivals of the Hindus, Holi, Diwali, Dashera, Basant, Durga Puja, Ganesh Puja etc. were important festivals. Emperors and nobles also participated in all these festivals.
Besides, celebrations were held by the court on birthdays of emperors and princes. Common people also participated in all these fairs, festivals and celebrations. Therefore, these occupied an important place in the social life of Indians. One novelty of Indian social life during the reign of the Mughuls was that the Hindus and the Muslims came closer to each other as compared to the period of the Delhi Sultanate.
The policy of religious toleration pursued by Akbar and the teachings of saints like Nanak, Kabir, Malukdas, Dadu and different Sufi saints created that atmosphere in which both the Hindus and the Muslims could understand the utility as well as the necessity of living with each other in harmony. This helped in making Indian social life more peaceful and liberal as compared to the social life during the period of the Delhi Sultanate.
Thus, the social life during the Mughul age had some distinguishing features if compared with the period of the Delhi Sultanate. Of course, the increasing prosperity of the empire brought about laxity in morals among the members of the ruling class which certainly affected adversely the Indian social life. Yet, the increasing comforts of life of citizens led to progress in different fields of social life and, thereby, enriched Indian culture in many fields.
Practically all religious communities existed in India at that time. The Hindus, the Christians, the Buddhist, the Jains, the Parsis and the Sikhs were prominent religious communities among them. The Hindus constituted the majority among the population of India. They mostly pursued Bhakti-marg to attain salvation. Yet, they were divided into different sects.
Among those sects Vaishnavism or Bhagvatism was the most popular one. The Vaishnavas had four prominent sects among them. One among them consisted of those who were followers of Ramanuj and worshipped Narayan and Laxmi. The second one consisted of the followers of Chaitanya. They called Chaitanya Gaurang Mahaprabhu and worshipped Krishna.
Community Kirtan and Raslila were special features of their worship. Their followers composed prayers and poems in large numbers in Sanskrit and Bengali language. This cult was widely popular in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh.
The third one consisted of the followers of Ballabhacharya. His son, Vitthalnath and grandson Gokulnath made this cult very much popular. The followers of this cult worshipped Krishna and emphasized on idol worship. This sect produced eight great poets. Among them Mira and Surdas became very much popular. Their Bhajans (poems, songs etc.) inspired lakhs of people.
The fourth one consisted of the followers of Ramanand who worshipped Ram and Sita. They were divided into different smaller sects. But all of them emphasized on Bhakti. Saints like Dadu, Malukdas and Shivdayal were among them, each of whom established a separate sect of their followers.
All of them opposed caste-system. However, there were certain other upper-caste Hindus who believed in the Bhakti of Ram and Sita but kept themselves separate from the followers of these saints. They were led by Tulsi Das who wrote Ramcharitmanas and Vinay-patrika.
He assigned Godhood to Ram and Sita and emphasized on their Bhakti. He contributed most in popularising the cult of Ram and Sita. All these sects of Vaishnavism differed from each other in details but they were unanimous in one thing. They all believed that the best way to attain salvation was Bhakti. Therefore, they made Bhakti-cult, the most popular cult in India among the Hindus.
This cult inspired the Hindus to construct temples, worship idols of gods and goddesses and helped in the growth of literatures of many regional languages because most of the saints composed poems, books etc. in their different regional languages. But, the cult affected the society adversely also.
Some sects among this cult exploited innocent people in the name of religion. The Sakhi sect regarded Krishna as the only male. For them, all other men were not men but, in fact, women. The male-members of this sect attired themselves in female-dresses and started Ras (group-dance) with women.
That resulted in immoral relations between men and women among the followers of this sect. Followers of another sect regarded Krishna as their Guru (teacher) and started the practice of offering young girls to Guru, i.e., to the idol of Guru in the temples. The temples, therefore, became places of corruption. Thus, in certain respects the popularization of Bhakti-cult resulted in demoralisation of the society.
Besides the above-mentioned important sects of Vaishnavism, some minor sects also grew during this period. These sects also pursued the path of Bhakti, though differed from each other here and there. One of them was Radha- Baliabhi sect. It was started by Hari Vamsa near about 1551 A.D.
The followers of this sect worship Radha, the consort of Krishna and seek to gain the favour of Krishna through her. Dadu (1544-1603 A.D.), another saint and reformer who denounced idolatry, ritualism and caste found a sect called Dadupanth. Birbhan, a contemporary of Dadu found the sect of Satnamis.
The followers of this sect denounced caste-system, idol-worship, hoarding of wealth and inequalities arising out of it, observed a high standard of morals and adored one God named Satnam.
This sect became prominent during the reign of Aurangzeb. Haridas founded a sect Narayanian; Laldas formed the sect of Laldasis, Ramcharan founded the Ram-Sanehi order; Swami Narayan Singh formed the Siva-Narayani order; and Sahjananda formed the Swami-Narayani sect. In Maharashtra, Eknath, Tuka Ram and Ramdas also gave the message of Bhakti to the people though none of them established any separate religious sect.
Among the Muslims, the Shias, the Sunnis, the Bohras, the Khojas and the Sufis were prominent sects. The Sufi sect had become known to Indians even prior to the coming of the Turks in India But when the Turkish empire was established, a large number of Sufi saints came to India and propagated their religious views. The Sufis emphasized on Bhakti and love to God.
The Sufis included much of the philosophy of Vedanta in their views particularly the Chishti sect among them was influenced most by it. The Islam regards the relation of man with God as that of between a slave and his master while the Sufis regarded that relation as that of a beloved and lover. This was primarily due to the influence of Bhakti-cult of the Hindus.
The Sufis also accepted the principle of non-violence which was not a feature of Islam. The same way meditation, acceptance of physical suffering etc. were also adopted by the Sufis which were accepted among the Hindus, Jains, etc. Sufism became widely prevalent in India during the rule of the Mughuls.
Their most popular sects were Chishtis, Surawardis, Kadiris and Nakshbandis and the most influential saints of that time were Shaikh Salim Chishti, Shaikh Abdul Kadir, Shaikh Miyan Mir, Shaikh Ahmad Sarhind, Shaikh Wali Ullah etc.
The Sufis led a simple and moral life and emphasized on truth, purity, unity of God and love to God. The Sufi saints were family-saints and lived with their families. They believed that living holy family life was the best means to prepare oneself for the love of God.
The Sufi sect remained popular both among the Hindus and the Muslims during the seventeenth and the eighteenth century and helped in bringing the Hindus and the Muslims closer to each other.
Dr J.N. Sarkar has remarked:
“Sufi philosophy tended to bring the ruling sect and the dominated people closer together.”
Another novelty during the period of rule of the Mughuls concerning religion was the origin and development of Sikhism. Guru Nanak (1469-1539 A.D.) established this religious sect. Nanak himself did not desire to establish any new religious sect and he did not give any name to his followers.
In the beginning, Sikhism, thus, was only a reformist movement within Hinduism. It was only afterwards that it was regarded as a separate religion. Nanak was a family-saint. He emphasized on unity of God, good deeds, moral life, truth, honesty generosity, etc. He preached that a man should remember God and keep faith in his Guru.
He believed in the theory of Karma, transmigration of soul and concept of Nirvana (salvation of soul). But, he was against ritualism, theory of incarnation, idol-worship, casteism and the superiority of Brahmanas and Maulvis.
He made no distinction between the Hindus and the Muslims and accepted disciples from among both communities. The second Guru of the Sikhs was Angad who was a disciple of Nanak. He compiled the teachings of Nanak.
The third Guru, Amardas established twenty-two gaddis for the propagation of Sikhism. He opposed the practice of sati and purdah-system, simplified marriage ceremonies and prohibited the use of intoxicants by his followers. The fourth Guru, Ram Das made the office of the Guru hereditary and told his followers that the soul of a Guru passes in the body of the next Guru.
Therefore, all Gurus were to be respected equally. The fifth Guru, Arjun compiled teachings of all Gurus in one treatise called Adi-Granth He also constructed the golden temple of Amritsar. He blessed prince Khusrav when he revolted against his father. Jahangir, therefore, was displeased with him, asked him to pay a fine of two lakhs rupees and, when refused, imprisoned him where he died.
The sixth Guru, Har Govind attempted to convert his followers into soldiers and came in conflict with Shah Jahan. He was succeeded by Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Kishan, Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Govind Singh respectively. All of them lived during the reign of Aurangzeb and each of them came in conflict with him. Guru Teg Bahadur was killed by Aurangzeb.
The tenth Guru Govind Singh converted the Sikhs into Khalsa-soldiers. He fought against Aurangzeb throughout his life. He was murderously attacked by two Pathans at Nadir in the Deccan and there he died in 1708 A.D.
Another important feature of the religious life during the rule of the Mughuls was the growing spirit of religious toleration both among the Hindus and the Muslims. The religious preachers of both communities particularly saints of the Bhakti-cult among the Hindus and Sufi saints among the Muslims preached and practised religious toleration.
Besides, both the Hindus and the Muslims realised the necessity of living in harmony with each other after conflict of centuries. The policy of religious toleration practised by Akbar also helped in this process.
Aurangzeb’s religious policy, of course, worked against this process but the rise of the Marathas, Sikhs, Rajputs and Jats after his death created balance of power among these communities and there remained no scope for the practice of religious intolerance by any Mughul ruler.
The Hindus and the Muslims lived in harmony for quite a long time till the British rulers again attempted to divide them. Therefore, it is accepted that as compared to the period of rule of the Turks and the Afghans prior to the Mughuls and the British period after them, the relations between the Hindus and the Muslims were better during the period of rule of the Mughuls.
The common people led a simple life at the time of rule of the Mughuls. They believed in ritualism, Tantra, etc. and had blind faith in their respective religions. Yet, they observed general code of morality. There was no progress from the point of religious philosophy during this period.
However, attempts were made to improve the already existing ones but those attempts were not much successful. Thus, the necessity of bringing about improvement in religion, harmonious relations between different communities and moral awakening remained as before during the period of rule of the Mughuls also.
The Mughuls did not attempt to establish a uniform and planned system of education and no separate department existed for this purpose. Educational institutions and scholars were given financial assistance and honours by the state on the recommendation of Sadrs.
The educational institutions were mostly managed by private enterprise. While the Muslims had their maktabs (schools) and Madarsas (colleges) the Hindus had their pathsalas and vidyapiths. Yet, the Mughul emperors did not neglect education. Most of them were well-educated and they gave all encouragement to the growth of education.
All of them gave protection to scholars and therefore, there was no dearth of scholars and scholarly writings till the empire maintained its power and glory. It led to the growth of literature in several languages. However, the fact remained that no attention was paid towards the education of the common people during the rule of the Mughuls.
The first Mughul emperor Babur was a scholar. He established a madarsa in Delhi where provision was made for the study of geography, mathematics and astronomy besides the study of Islamic theology. His son, Humayun also established a madarsa in Delhi. Sher Shah and his successors also gave assistance to scholars and educational institutions. But, by that time, emphasis was mostly on the study of Muslim theology.
Akbar, however, realised that to concentrate mostly on the study of religion and Muslim theology was harmful to the cause of education. Therefore, he not only established maktabs and madarsas in large numbers and gave financial assistance to Hindu pathsalas and vidyapiths but also arranged for the study of all subjects like mathematics, geography, home science, history, politics, astronomy, etc. He also attempted to improve the system of education.
He believed and expressed- “Care is to be taken that he (student) learnt to understand everything himself, but the teacher may assist him a little.”
It is difficult to say as to how far Akbar succeeded in giving practical shape to his ideas and bring about a change in the technique of education but, we find a large number of scholars during the period of his rule who produced good work in different fields of education which prove that he, certainly, helped in the growth of education.
During his rule, the Hindus started studying Persian and the Muslims studied Sanskrit. It facilitated the translation of many Sanskrit treatises into Persian. Jahangir was also liberal in providing financial assistance to educational institutions of both the Hindus and the Muslims.
Jahangir promulgated a regulation in his dominion that whenever a well-to-do person or a rich traveller died without any heir, his property would revert to the crown and it would be utilised for building and repairing madarsas.
He also repaired those madarsas which were not in use for the last thirty years and filled them with students and teachers. Shah Jahan encouraged learning by granting rewards and repaired the college called Dar- ul-Baqa which had been almost in ruins. He also founded a famous college to the south of the Jama Masjid in Delhi and appointed teachers at the colleges at Delhi and Agra. He made generous contributions towards education.
Therefore, the number of educational institutions grew up during the reign of Shah Jahan as well. Aurangzeb gave all encouragement to the education of the Muslims. He sanctioned enormous sums of money for the repair and reconstruction of the old Maqtabs and madarsas of Gujarat. But he tried to close down the Hindu pathsalas and vidyapiths.
Though it could not be possible to close down them all, yet, it is certain that the education of the Hindus suffered during his rule. The Later Mughuls failed to pay proper attention towards education because of their financial difficulties but many provincial dynasties compensated this loss. Yet, education suffered during the eighteenth century which resulted in mental bankruptcy among Indians which, in turn, stopped their progress practically in all spheres of life.
Certain Hindu rulers, provincial governors and independent rulers also established different institutions at different places. Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur was one of them who encouraged education of scientific subjects. It is said that he built a number of observatories at Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi, Mathura and Delhi.
Besides, institutions were started by private individuals as well. Such were the college of Maham Anga and Madarsa of Khwaja Muin in Delhi, the madarsa of Maulana Sadruddin at Shahjahanabad and Madarsa of Ghaziuddin at Delhi. There were also some families of Muslim scholars living in different cities who had their own institutions. Such institutions also attracted students in large numbers because of their teaching in specialised courses.
Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Lucknow, Ambala, Gwalior, Kashmir, Allahabad, Lahore, Jaunpur, Sialkot, etc. were centres of education for the Muslims. Persian was the language of teaching in all maktabs and madarsas.
Many madarsas among them became quite famous for the study of different subjects, viz., Farangi Mahal Madarsa at Lucknow became famous for the study of law; the madarsa of Shah Wali Ullah at Delhi became renowned for the study of traditional values of life; and, the madarsa at Sialkot was famous for the study of grammar.
The fame of a madarsa depended on the teachers or scholars of that madarsa. There were no examination system at that time. The admission and promotion of a student depended entirely on his teacher. Therefore, the knowledge of a student was judged by the school where he had studied and the teacher who taught him.
Three types of degrees were awarded to students. Those who studied logic and philosophy were awarded the degree of Fazil; those who studied religion were awarded the degree of Alim; and, those who studied literature were awarded the degree of Kabil.
Though Arabic was no state language, yet, highest Muslim education was still provided through this language. The most advanced students used to pay visit to Mecca for getting higher learning. Such students were mostly absorbed in the department of justice.
The Hindus received their education in pathsalas and vidyapiths. Different scholars provided education to students at their homes also. Sanskrit language and literature were the main subjects of study. Other important subjects of study were theology, geography, medicine, mathematics, grammar, etc. The Hindus emphasized less on religious education as compared to Muslims.
Therefore, the study of other subjects was more popular among them. Banaras, Mathura, Allahabad, Nadia, Mithila, Ayodhya, Srinagar, etc., were important educational centres for the Hindus. Banaras enjoyed reputation for the study of religion, Sanskrit language and literature. Bernier compared Banaras with Athens of Greece for the purpose of education.
Tavernier also praised Banaras for being the centre of high learning. Nadia in Bengal had also become an important centre of education. Mithila in Bihar also enjoyed fame all over India.
The Hindus were more keen in education as compared to Muslims and they established pathsalas even in villages which were attached to temples. A child was sent to pathsala at the age of five where he studied for four years without any fee. For higher studies, a student had to seek admission in a vidyapith.
There was no separate arrangement for the education of girls. There were neither separate institutions for them nor there was separate syllabus for them. Both girls and boys studied in the same institutions and under same pattern of education. The Hindus paid more attention to the education of girls as compared to Muslims.
However, mostly girls did not receive higher education. Only rich people arranged for higher education of the girls of their families and that was arranged mostly at home. Gulbadan Begum, Salima Sultana (wife of Akbar), Nur Jahan, Mumtaz Mahal, Jahanara and the daughter of Aurangzeb, Zeb-un- nisa were well-educated ladies of the Mughul-court.
The Mughul system of education was satisfactory from certain points of view. Education and scholars were patronized and financed by emperors and nobles; the upper classes had all facilities for education; Persian was made the medium of education which facilitated in bringing about uniformity in education and unity among the people; and education developed because of the liberal grants of the state. But the system suffered from serious defects also. There was undue emphasis on religious education.
The state paid no attention towards the education of the masses. Female-education was negligible and there was no arrangement of technical, industrial and professional education in schools and colleges for which students had to depend on their families or Imperial Karkhanas. Therefore, the education suffered and failed to progress which resulted in backwardness of the country in all spheres of life.
Yet, we can say that there were facilities of education during the rule of the Mughuls except in the eighteenth century. That is why we find fairly satisfactory progress in the field of literature and fine arts during this period.
The only serious defect of this educational system was that there was no adequate arrangement for technical and scientific education which resulted in backwardness of the country as compared to other countries particularly those of Europe.
Mughul emperors were interested in fine arts. They were particularly fond of buildings. Therefore, among fine arts, architecture flourished most during the period of their rule.
The Mughul architecture is a mixture of the Islamic architecture of Central Asia and Hindu architecture of India. Akbar was responsible for its origin and development. Akbar possessed a national attitude and that reflected in all fine arts which grew and developed during the period of his rule.
Even prior to him, Muslim architecture was influenced by Hindu architecture during the period of the Delhi Sultanate. Akbar made further progress in that field. He employed designers and architects both from among the Hindu and Muslim artists and gave them perfect freedom to construct his buildings on the model of Hindu or Muslim or mixed art.
It helped in the adjustment of both types of architecture and the net result was the creation of a new type of architecture called the Mughul architecture. Besides, Hindu artists being in the majority and the necessity of constructing buildings according to the climate of the country also helped in moulding Mughul architecture.
Thus, the architecture which developed under the patronage of Akbar was a happy blending of the Islamic and Hindu architecture. Of course, the trend of architecture changed during the reign of Jahangir and Shah Jahan but the fundamentals of the art could not be changed. Some basic features of Mughul architecture were construction of round domes, high minarets, mihrabs, pillars of varied types, open courtyards etc. in the buildings.
During the early period, red stone was used for the construction of buildings and attempt was made to make them large and strong, but, during the later period, white marble replaced red stone and emphasis was laid on beautifying buildings with the help of coloured designs, use of gold and silver waters and minute carvings.
Babur was fond of constructing buildings. He found that labour was available cheap in India. He, therefore, employed numerous workmen in constructing his buildings at Agra, Bayana, Dholpur and other places. Babur appreciated the buildings constructed by Raja Vikramajit at Gwalior. But, he mentioned their defects also which prove that he was a good judge of architectural designs.
Babur, however, did not try to construct large buildings. He had no time for that. Therefore, he constructed only small buildings like fountains, bath-rooms, wells etc. Most of them either could not withstand the vagaries of time or were destroyed by the rulers of the Sur dynasty. So, we find only some buildings constructed by Babur. Only three mosques have been traced which were constructed by him.
One of them is in Panipat, the second one is in Sambhal and the third one is in Ayodhya. But none of these mosques have been regarded as a fine specimen of architecture. Thus, we can say that Mughul architecture made no progress during the period of the rule of Babur.
Humayun also could not contribute anything towards the growth of this art. His palace in Din Panah was destroyed by Sher Shah while two mosques constructed by him at Agra and Fatehabad are no good specimens of architecture.
The mausoleum of Sher Shah which he himself got constructed is a fine specimen of architecture of this period. Though, it does not represent Mughul architecture, yet, it is a good example of the progress which was achieved by the Indians in this field by that time. It is at Sasaram in Bihar and has been constructed in the middle of a large quadrangular tank.
It was connected with the mainland by a bridge which is now ruined. It is a beautiful building and has been described as ‘representing the personality of Sher Shah’, “a bridge between the simplicity of the buildings of the rulers of Tughluq dynasty and that of the feminine beauty of the buildings of Shah Jahan” by others and ‘the best building among the buildings of north India’ by some others.
The mausoleum is a fine specimen of the combination of Islamic and Hindu architecture. Sher Shah constructed the Purana Quila and a mosque in it at Delhi which is now in ruins. At Sasaram too, he constructed some other buildings as well which exist even now.
The first building which was constructed during the reign of Akbar is the mausoleum of Humayun at Delhi. It was constructed by Humayun’s widow, Haji Begam with the help of a Persian architect named Mirak Mirza Giyas.
Therefore, it clearly exhibits the influence of Persian art and can be compared fairly with the mausoleums of Timur and Bibi Khanam at Samarqand. Akbar did not participate in the construction of this building.
The rest of the buildings constructed during his time were raised under his patronage and represent his ideas and personality. Akbar constructed the forts of Agra, Allahabad and Lahore and many buildings within these forts. But, his finest buildings were constructed at Fatehpur Sikri, the city which he himself established.
Many buildings constructed within the fort of Allahabad have been destroyed but most of the buildings within the fort of Agra and Lahore and at Fatehpur Sikri are existing. Red stone was used for the construction of these buildings and Hindu and Islamic architecture have been freely combined in their construction. The fort at Agra was constructed during a period of fifteen years.
The fort at Lahore was also constructed during the same time while the fort at Allahabad was constructed a little later. The outer walls of these forts have been constructed so strong that even a thin hair cannot pass through the joint of two stones. The fort at Agra had four gateways but two of them were closed afterwards. Among the other two, one is called the Delhi gate and the other one is called the Amar Singh gate.
The fort has a circumference of nearly one and a half mile within which Akbar constructed nearly five hundred buildings. Many of them were either rebuilt or reshaped by Shah Jahan. Among them, the prominent ones are Jahangiri-Mahal and Akbari-Mahal. The general design of the fort at Agra can be favourably compared with the fort at Gwalior constructed by Raja Man Singh. The buildings inside it also exhibit deep influence of Hindu architecture.
The planning of the fort at Lahore is similar to that of the fort at Agra but buildings inside it are more beautiful. But the most magnificent buildings constructed by Akbar are at Fatehpur Sikri, 26 miles west of Agra.
Diwan-i- Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Panch Mahal, palace of Turki Sultana, Khas Mahal, Jodha Bai Mahal, Miriam Mahal, Birbal Mahal, Hiran Mahal, Jami Masjid, Hathi Pole, Buland Darwaza and the mausoleum of Shaikh Salim Chishti are but some fine buildings raised by Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri.
There are hundreds of buildings there and all are beautiful. It is probably difficult to find out so many beautiful buildings at one place. The Panch Mahal is a pyramidal structure of five storeys each storey being designed as an open pavilion supported on clusters of pillars.
The ground floor has eighty-four pillars but these have been diminished in every successive upper floor so that the topmost one has only four pillars. But the novelty is that every pillar is somewhat different from another and each of them has been decorated by carving flowers, leaves, bells etc. in it.
The palace of Turki Sultana is so beautiful that Percy Brown described it as ‘the Pearl of architecture’. The Jodha Bai Mahal gives us a hint concerning the living of the members of royal household. The Miriam Mahal has been certainly designed on the Persian art. Its walls and pillars were decorated by carving out figures of animals like monkey, elephant and tiger as well as figures of human beings.
The Jami Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri occupies a place among most renowned mosques constructed in India. The Buland Darwaza is a complete structure by itself. From the terraced platform to the final it is 134 feet in height, the total height, including that of the supporting terrace, being 176 feet. The width of its front is 130 feet, while from front to back it measures 123 feet.
The main tomb of Shaikh Salim Chishti in Sikri was constructed not by Akbar but by Nawab Qutb-ud-din Khan but is a beautiful tomb of that period. Its wooden canopy over the cenotaph, consisting of four pillars supporting a handsome dome, is inlaid with ebony and sipa (mother of pearl).
Thus, all buildings in Fatehpur Sikri are among the best buildings of the Mughul period in grandeur, beauty and art. V.A. Smith has remarked- “Nothing like Fatehpur Sikri ever was created before or can be created again. It is ‘a romance in stone.’ ”
Jahangir was more interested in painting than architecture. He was also fond of gardens. Therefore, he himself neither planned nor constructed any building. But, he completed the mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandra, five miles west of Agra. It was planned by Akbar. Jahangir brought about certain changes in it and completed it. The circumference of the area covered by the building and the garden in it is nearly a mile.
The mausoleum is in the centre of the garden and has five storeys, every storey gradually diminishing in scale as they go up. Four storeys including the ground floor have been constructed of red stone while the topmost and the fifth one has been constructed of chaste white marble. There is no tomb over the building. The top storey has an open terrace.
The building is simple but grand. E.B. Havell writes- “Akbar’s tomb is a worthy monument of one of the greatest of Indian rulers.” It has been regarded as a specimen of a happy blending of Islamic art with Hindu and Christian art or more than that with Buddhistic art. Another building constructed by Jahangir is his own mausoleum at Lahore. But it is not very beautiful.
Another beautiful building which was constructed during the reign of Jahangir is the mausoleum of Itimad-ud-Daula, father of Begum Nur Jahan. This building provides a link between two important phases of Mughul architecture, namely those of Akbar and Shah Jahan. The main building has been constructed mostly of white marble and, thus, it is the first of this kind.
Besides marble, some other precious stones were also used in its construction. It has beautiful carvings which have been extensively done in its every part. It is a double-storey building and has an extensive garden around it. Many people have placed it only next to the Taj Mahal in beauty. Percy Brown described it “one of the most perfect of its kind.”
Mughul architecture reached its perfection during the reign of Shah Jahan. Its style and spirit also changed. It is clearly reflected in the striking contrast offered by their respective buildings. The manly vigour, the direct simplicity and the varied originality of Akbar’s buildings stand widely apart from the extreme and almost effeminate grace and the sumptuous appearance that characterise the pretty creations of Shah Jahan.
Besides, red sandstone was substituted by white marble and other precious stones, maximum carvings were attempted and costly colours were used to beautify buildings. It is all different from the buildings of Akbar.
Of course, Shah Jahan failed to bring out any new or superior architectural style, yet he succeeded in adding beauty to his buildings. He constructed not only several new buildings but also rebuilt several buildings of Akbar in the forts of Agra and Lahore.
Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i- Khas, Machhi Bhawan, Shish Mahal, Khas Mahal, Anguri Masjid, etc. were either constructed or rebuilt by him in the fort of Agra. He also constructed the Jami Masjid at Agra. Another Jami Masjid and Red Fort was constructed by him at Delhi. Many buildings were constructed by him in the Red Fort at Delhi.
Among them are Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Moti Mahal, Hira Mahal, Rang Mahal, Nahre-i-Bahist. etc. He constructed Diwan-i-Aam, Shah Burj, Shish Mahal, Naulakha Mahal, Khwabgah in the fort of Lahore. He got constructed many buildings at Kabul, Ajmer, Kandhar, Kashmir, Ahmedabad and other places as well. All these buildings have been regarded fine specimens of Mughul architecture.
Among the buildings constructed in the fort at Agra by him, the most beautiful is the Moti Masjid. It is built of chaste white marble and is as beautiful as a pearl. The buildings in the Red Fort at Delhi are so beautiful that someone was forced to comment as is written there that if there be a paradise on earth it is this, it is this, it is this.’ But among all buildings constructed by Shah Jahan, the best one is the Taj Mahal at Agra which has been regarded as one of the seven wonders of the world.
He constructed this, mausoleum on the grave of his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal. As usual, Taj Mahal is encircled by a beautiful garden except that from the back side where the river Yamuna flows. The main building is constructed on a marble platform a little over 22 feet in height from the garden level and is exactly 313 feet square. Its central dome is nearly 187 feet high. At each corner of the main platform is a minaret.
From the level of the garden the total height of each minaret is 162 feet. The entire facade is richly ornamented by inscriptions of Quranic texts in black letters on white surface within rectangular bands, flowers, arabesques and other patterns in precious inlay. The interior arrangements of the building are equally elegant and illustrate the sense for a unified and balanced design.
S.K. Saraswati has remarked:
“By its stately and perfect proportions, the delicacy and purity of its lineaments, its milk-white texture assuming different hues and tones at different times and under different conditions, the flawless execution of the structure and of its varied ornaments, and, lastly, by its picturesque setting aided by the ingenuity of man, the Taj Mahal at Agra stands as a creation of superb beauty and magnificence, not only in Mughul architecture but in Indian architecture as a whole.”
E.B. Havell also writes- “It is a great ideal conception which belongs more to sculpture than to architecture.” Many designers and architects participated in the construction of Taj Mahal, the chief being Ustad Isa while the planner of its garden was a Hindu named Ranmal. The main building has been constructed in pure white marble- stone.
Aurangzeb had no taste in fine arts including architecture. Therefore, no good building was constructed during the period of his rule. Architecture could make no progress later on.
Of course, many buildings were constructed by rulers of provincial dynasties but most of them have been ruined. Among those which exist now, the best ones are the Man-Mandir at Gwalior, Govindadeva temple at Vrindavan, Hava Mahal at Jaipur, Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur and the Golden Temple at Amritsar.
Thus, architecture progressed well during the rule of the Mughuls and a large number of mausoleums, mosques, etc. were constructed. It occupies a most significant place in the history of Indian architecture. It also influenced provincial architectures of its times. It would be wrong to say that the Mughul architecture was primarily foreign.
On the contrary, it is nearer to the truth that it was basically Indian though, of course, it accepted and merged foreign influences within it. The buildings which Mughul emperors erected are certainly, different from the buildings constructed in Turkey. Persia and Central Asia.
The construction of Taj Mahal could be possible only in India and attempt to copy it has not been possible in other countries. Therefore, the Mughul architecture was thoroughly Indianised and produced some finest buildings ever produced in India.
Painting had made tremendous progress in India prior to the coming of the Turks in India and as Hinduism and Buddhism spread over a larger part of Asia, it penetrated into other countries through them and influenced the art of painting there.
But during the period of the Delhi Sultanate it practically vanished in larger part of India because the Turk and the Afghan rulers prohibited it in deference to the direction of Koran. But, the Mughul emperors revived this art and once again it reached the stage of perfection.
The Mughul school of painting represents one of the most significant phases of Indian art. In fact, the school developed as a result of happy blending of Persian and Indian painting both of which had made remarkable progress independently of each other Persia first learnt the art of painting from China and Mongolia but, later on, Persian painting made itself free from foreign influences.
Babur and Humayun came in contact with this Persian art and tried to introduce it in India. Akbar gave protection to many foreign painters particularly from those of Persia. But, he did not remain satisfied with that only. He encouraged Indian painters as well and employed a large number of them in his service. When Persian and Indian artists got an opportunity to work together, they learnt and influenced each other.
Thus, the Persian and Indian school of painting influenced each other which resulted in the growth of the Mughul school of painting. The Mughul school of painting gradually made itself free from foreign influence, pursued its own independent course and, in this process, was Indianised.
That is why it has been said that Akbar established a national school of painting. Jahangir patronized this art and helped in its further progress. Shah Jahan was more interested in architecture than painting.
Yet, he continued to provide it state-patronage. Aurangzeb accepted the direction of Koran in this respect, turned out painters from the court and even destroyed certain paintings. The Later Mughul emperors did not remain in a position to encourage any fine art.
But, by that time, painting had received patronage of several provincial Hindu and Muslim rulers which resulted not only in the survival of this art but also in its progress and growth of several regional schools of painting as well.
Babur and Humayun did not accept the prohibition of Islam concerning the art of painting. When Humayun got shelter in Persia he came in contact with two disciples of the famous Persian painter Bihzad namely Abdul Samad and Mir Sayyid. He invited them to come to him. Both of them joined him when he reached Kabul and came to India along with him. Humayun and Akbar took lessons in painting from Abdul Samad. But, it was just the beginning.
When Akbar became the emperor, he encouraged painters at his court and helped in the growth of this art. He established a separate department of painting under Abdul Samad and ordered to prepare paintings not only on books which was the usual practice so far but also to prepare frescoes on palace-walls in Fatehpur Sikri.
He invited renowned painters from China and Persia, employed the best talents of the country at his court, assigned them work according to their individual taste and aptitude and provided them all facilities to make use of their capabilities.
These facilities provided by Akbar helped hundreds of talented artists to grow and mature their art, resulted in the preparation of thousands of paintings and in the formation of that school of painting which we now call the Mughul school of painting.
There were at least one hundred good painters at his court among whom seventeen were prominently recognised by the Emperor. Many of them were Persian, but a large number of them were Hindus. Abdul Samad, Farrukh Beg, Jamshed, Daswant, Basawan, Sanwaldas, Tarachand, Jagannath, Lal, Mukand, Harivansh, etc. were among the most prominent painters at his court. Thus, the credit of origin of the Mughul school of painting goes to Akbar. He also prepared the way for its growth.
Jahangir was not only interested in painting but was also its keen judge. Mughul painting marked the zenith of its rise during the period of his rule. Jahangir established a gallery of painting in his own garden. Surely, there must have been other galleries as well in other palaces. The cause of the progress of painting during the reign of Jahangir was not only this that he was interested in it and patronized artists at his court but because he himself possessed knowledge of that art.
He wrote in his biography, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri:
“As regards myself, my liking for painting and my practice in judging it have arrived at such a point that when any work is brought before me, either of a deceased artist or of those of the present day, without the names being told to me, I can say at the spur of the moment that it is the work of such and such a man. And if there be a picture containing many portraits, and each face be the work of a different master, I can discover which face is the work of each of them. If any person has put in the eye and eyebrow of a face, I can perceive whose work the original face is, and who has painted the eye and eyebrows.”
We may regard this statement of Jahangir as an exaggeration, yet we have to accept that the emperor was not only interested in painting but also a good judge of the art. Jahangir attracted many artists at his court. He also got completed the works taken up by the artists during the life-time of his father. He rewarded the artists well.
Abul Hasan was given the title of Nadir-uz-Zamat while Mansur was titled Nadir-uz-Asar. Among his prominent court artists were Aga Raza, Muhammad Nadir, Muhammad Murad, Bishan Das, Manohar, Madhav, Tulsi ana Govardhan.
Shah Jahan was more interested in architecture than painting. Yet, he provided patronage to painting. The art of colour-combination and portrait suffered but the art of designing and pencil-drawing developed during the period of his rule.
Aurangzeb withdrew the royal patronage which was given to the artists. He turned them out of his court and even destroyed certain paintings because the practice of this art was prohibited by Islam. The art of painting, thus, suffered at the court of Aurangzeb. But it brought out some advantage indirectly.
The painters dismissed from the Emperor’s court found shelter in the courts of different Hindu and Muslim provincial rulers. It resulted in the growth of different regional schools of art and brought this art closer to the people. Among the Later Mughul emperors, some tried to encourage painting but they lacked sufficient resources.
Thus, the Mughul school of painting received a serious setback after the rule of Shah Jahan and continued to deteriorate afterwards. During the later part of the eighteenth century it was influenced by the European painting which harmed it further and it lost its originality.
The Mughul school of painting once grew to perfection and therefore, occupies a respectable place in the history of Indian painting. A large number of paintings of varied types were prepared under the influence of this school of art. Portraits of emperors and nobles, court and hunting scenes, figures of birds, animals, gardens, flowers, leaves etc. were prepared by painters.
The Mughul emperors and, following their example, the nobles and courtiers got their portraits prepared in different poses. Portraits of queens, princesses and other ladies were also prepared. But, the portraits of females in most of the cases could not be original because of the rigid purdah system among the Muslims.
Court-scenes, figures of birds and animals, gardens, flowers etc. were also prepared by the painters at the spot. The artists were expected to prepare what they saw themselves and not copy anything. That is why the paintings of the Mughul period were mostly original and near to reality.
The painters did not attempt to depict religious stories of Islam in their paintings but the Hindu and Christian tales were freely used as mediums of their paintings. The artists also attempted to depict lives of great emperors through their paintings. They attempted to produce Hamzahnama,/ Baburnama, Timurnama, Razamnama, Shahnama, Lilavati, Akbarnama, and the story of Laila-Majnu in their paintings.
Emperors and nobles in their best dresses, well- furnished rooms with beautiful carpets, women offering drinks, saints and philosophers in meditation, etc. were painted so beautifully by the artists that these have received praise from all quarters. The art of painting on the books also flourished during this period. The Mughul school of painting began its life during the reign of Akbar and reached its perfection during the period of rule of Jahangir.
The only defect from which it suffered was that lives of common men were not accepted as mediums to depict the art. Therefore, the art did not come close to lives of common men. It remained limited and close to the court of emperors and provincial rulers and their nobles. Yet, the Mughul school of painting occupies a most remarkable place in the history of Indian painting.
Painting progressed in South India as well during the period of the rule of the Mughuls. It was influenced by the Mughul school of painting. Besides, different schools of paintings developed at Nathdwara, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bundi, Kishangarh, Datia and other places. They all come within the Rajput school of painting but all of them were influenced by the Mughul school of painting.
However, the Kangara school of painting developed independently during this very period and occupies an important place in the history of Indian painting. Thus, on the whole, the period of the rule of the Mughuls has been regarded as a distinguished period in the history of Indian painting.
3. The Rajput School of Painting:
The study of the progress of painting during the rule of the Mughuls is not complete without referring to the progress of Rajput school of painting because the period of rise and growth of both the schools is virtually the same. The Rajput school of painting rose to prominence in the later half of the sixteenth century and continued to flourish for nearly two hundred years.
Like Mughul rulers, the Rajput rulers, princes and nobles also got their portraits painted. They were painted reclining on mats, looking from windows and often smoking hukka. Frequently sadhus and saints were also painted. Of course, the Rajput school of painting was influenced by the Mughul school of painting, yet, it had its distinct quality, it drew its inspiration from religion.
Many incidents from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were taken for its themes particularly, Krishna in all his varied activities was the central figure of Rajput paintings. The lover and the beloved took the form of Krishna and Radha respectively in Rajput paintings. Besides, Siva and Parvati and other Hindu deities were also represented by artists in their paintings.
Scenes of Nature and animals like cows, deer, peacocks, elephants, etc. were also chosen as their themes by painters of this school but with a difference from the Mughul school of painting. While the Mughal school depicted most of these animals and birds in forests and hunting scenes, the Rajput school depicted them engaged in peaceful pursuits and close to human beings.
Besides, the Rajput school of painting was largely a folk-art which was near the lives of common people. It depicted the life of an Indian villager, his religion, familiar market-scenes, occupation of craftsmen, fields, incidents of journey like mid-day rest or sojourn in a serai, etc. Thus, the Rajput painting was mostly the art of the people and was closely associated with religion, thereby depicting spiritual and human emotions of individuals as well.
4. Music and Dance:
Music also progressed during the period of rule of the Mughuls. Babur and Humayun both loved music. Akbar patronized musicians and invited the best among them at his court. Tansen was his best court- musician. He was educated at the music school at Gwalior which was established by Raja Man Singh and his teacher was Hari Das who resided at Vrindavan. He invented many new styles of music.
Baba Ram Das was another famous court-musician. Surdas had indirect connections with the court. Baiju Bawra was not connected with the court but, probably, was a contemporary musician of Tansen. Music both vocal and instrumental progressed during the reign of Akbar. Jahangir also patronized musicians at his court. Among them, Jahangir Dad, Parwez Dad, Khurram Dad, Hamzan and Chattra Khan were most prominent.
Shah Jahan himself was a fairly good musician and patronized others at his court. Jagannath, Ramdas, Sukhsen, Sursen, Lal Khan and Durang Khan were among the famous musicians at his court. Aurangzeb, however, turned out all musicians from the court. Yet, the provincial rulers extended patronage to musicians and singers.
Dance also progressed along with music during the period of the Mughuls. In fact, music and dance are so closely linked with each other that the one can not exist without the other. Therefore, if one progresses the other is bound to progress.
The Mughul emperors, therefore, provided equal patronage to dance. All Mughul emperors except Aurangzeb, provincial governors, other rulers and Rajput kings patronized both music and dance and, therefore, both progressed.
However, there remained one drawback concerning the profession of music and dance. This drawback is primarily due to Islam which prohibits music and dance. While the Hindus regarded them pre-eminently religious arts and therefore, people devoted to these professions were not socially degraded, the Muslims enjoyed them primarily for the sake of sensual pleasure and therefore, people engaged in these professions were looked down socially particularly so during the later period of the Mughuls. This was the reason which divided the singers and dancers into two parts, one the professionals and the other artists.
5. Other Arts:
Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan extended their patronage to sculpture as well though only small idols particularly of ivory could be prepared during this period. The art of pottery and jewellery also made good progress. Besides, all Mughul emperors were fond of gardening and many gardens were developed at different places by them. Gardens were developed around all their tombs and other buildings.
Besides, Babur developed a garden named Nur Afsan at Agra. It is now called Ram Bagh. The Shalimar Garden in Kashmir was developed by Jahangir while the Shalimar Garden at Lahore was developed by Shah Jahan. Aurangzeb planted no garden but many other gardens were planted by nobles and provincial rulers during this period.
Thus, there was all-round progress during the period of the rule of the Mughuls. It continued till the empire remained powerful. The great Mughul emperors participated in the cultural growth of India. Thus, the Mughul period occupies a remarkable place both from political and cultural point of view in the history of India.