Read this article to learn about the system of education, literature, arts, music and architecture during the mughal period!

System of Education and Its Motivations:

All the Mughal emperors were great patrons of learning and gave their full encouragement to the spread of education in their dominions.

Babur was himself a great scholar and public works department (Shuhrat-i-Am) established by him, which, also continued to exist under later Mughal emperors, was on trusted along with other responsibilities to that of building the schools and colleges.

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His son, Humayan had great love for study of books especially in astronomy and geography. He constructed a Madarsa at Delhi and converted the pleasure-house built by Sher Shah in Qila Kohana also called Purana Qila into a library.

The reign of Akbar, well known for improvement in various other domains, also constitutes a new epoch in the growth and improvement of education. He established a number of colleges for high learning at Agra and Fatehpur Sikri and also attempted to revise the curriculum of education.

Abul Fazal writes, “All civilized nations have schools for the education of youth; but Hindustan is particularly famous for its seminaries”. Akbar also encouraged the Hindus to join the madarsa and learn Persian, the court language.

Jahangir was himself a great scholar of Turki and Persian and had written his memories known as the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri. It is stated that soon after his sitting on the throne, he got repaired many old madarsa, which had ceased to function for quite a long and filled them with pupils and their teachers.


Towards the close of his reign, he also promulgated an order that if a rich person or traveller died without heirs, his property would escheat to the crown and be spent on the construction and maintenance of madarsa and monasteries, etc.

Shah Jahan had great fascination for study of the Turkish language and had a regular habit of study at night for a short while. He repaired an old institution called Dar-ul-Boqa (Abode of Eternity) and found a new college at Delhi. His son, Dara Soukoh, also patronized every educational activity. Aurangzeb encouraged the education of the Muslims and founded colleges and schools” (Keene).

Education: A Private Affair:

Dr. Srivastava writes, “The Mughal government did not consider it to be its duty to educate the people. It had no department of education and did not allocate a portion of the public revenue for the spread of literacy. Education was thus in Mughal India a private affair, a hand-made of religion and if the Mughals took interest in it, it was to earn religious merit and not to advance the welfare of the people.

The public made their own arrangements for the education of their children and considering the age and circumstances of the time, the arrangements were fairly satisfactory.” Both the Hindus and the Muslims had their separate institutions for education of their children.


The Hindus sent their children to the school usually at the age of five but the Muslims performed the maktab ceremony at the auspicious day of the child completing four years, four months and four days. The syllabi and curriculum of studies as well as the medium of instruction used by the communities were different. Obviously, their institutions of higher learning were also located separately and the subjects of their research and higher studies were also different.

Hindu Education:

The Hindus had their primary schools attached to the temples. These schools were maintained by grants or endowments and no fee was charged from the pupils. There were no printed books and the children wrote the alphabets on wooden boards or on dust of the ground with fingers.

Classes were usually held under the shade of a tree. The students were taught the religious scriptures after they finished their alphabets and these were usually, according to Bernier, the Puranas. The centers of higher learning or universities were scattered all over the country, largely near the places of pilgrimage. These were Banaras, Nadia, Mithila, Mathura, Tirhut, Paithan, Karhad, Thatte, Sirhind and Multan.

Bernier states, “Banaras is kind of university; but it has no college or regular classes as in our universities, but resembles rather the school of the ancients, the masters being spread over different parts of the town in private houses”. Nadia was the second great centre of Hindu learning after Banaras.

Vasudeva Sarvabhauma founded a school of Nyaya there in the sixteenth century which even out rivalled Mithila. The University of Mithila, however, continued to be a prominent centre of learning during the Mughal period. Mathura was another famous centre of learning with its specialization in Hindu philosophy and there were more than ten thousand students.

Thatte was equally important and had, according to Hamilton, four hundred colleges. The subjects of theology, philology and politics were taught there. Multan was well known as a centre of specialization in astronomy, astrology, medicine and mathematics. Sirhind had an important school of medicine.

The subjects of study in all these Hindu centers of study were grammar, logic, philosophy, history, poetry, astronomy, astrology, medicine including veterinary science and mathematics also including study of physics and chemistry.

Muslim Education: Madarsah and Maktabs:

The Muslims sent their children to Maktabs located in the mosque and these schools, according to the Italian traveller Delia Valle, existed in every town and village. The basic course of study at the primary standard was the Quran which every child had to learn by rote. After completing their study of Quran, the pupils were taught Gulistan and Bostan of Sheikh Sadi and poems of Firdausi.

The institutions of Higher learning called Madarsahs where at Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Jaunpur, Gujarat, Sialkot and Ahmedabad. Agra was the biggest centre of learning were there were numerous Madarsahs including the college of Jesuits. Delhi was the second largest centre of education.

It had also a number of madarsah, the prominent being Humayun’s madarsah, Maham Anaga’s madarsah, called Khair-ul- Manzil and Darul Bana built by Shah Jahan. The Khan-ul-Manzil was big residential college where students lived in the rooms of both the storeys and classes were conducted in the main hall.

Jaunpur as a great centre of learning was known as the ‘Shiraz of India’, where students came from far and wide. The Madarsah Faiz Safa and Langar-i-Den/vazda Imam (now called Bara Imam ka Kotla) located in Gujarat and Ahmedabad respectively were reputable centers of learning in the Western India.

Lahore as an important centre of education attained its eminence during the reign of Aurangzeb. Kashmir was also a place of attraction for scholars because of its pleasant climate and beautiful environment.

Among other places of education, Gwalior, Sialkot, Ambala and Thaneswar were quite famous. The courses of study in these institutions of learning consisted of grammar, rhetoric, logic, theology, metaphysics, jurisprudence and literature. Mathematics, medicine and astronomy were also studied under the impact of Hindu scholars. The medium of instruction usually was Persian or Arabic.

The Aim of Education:

“The aim of education” writes Prof. S.M. Jaffar, “was to bring out the latent faculties of students, to discipline the forces of their intellect and to develop their character, to equip them with all that was required for their material as well as moral improvement. Education was regarded as a preparation for life and for life after death and hence it was that religion was at the root of all study”.

The education thus did not equip a student only to obtain his employment under the state but attempted at the development of his faculties of head and heart. These were no regular examinations for a student to be promoted to the next standard and the teacher was the sole judge to ascertain his suitability for promotion to the higher class.

The educational institutions also did not award certificates or degree and it was enough for a student to have been taught at a reputed school or by a well known learned teacher. This made the admission to the reputed institutions a big burden and according to Dr. P.N. Chopra, it was with great difficulty that Mullah Shah Badakshi agreed to take Jahan Ara as his pupil.

Course Content and Libraries:

It cannot be said with certainty as to whether the duration of the courses in all the educational institutions was fixed according to a standard pattern. It seems that the study for ten to sixteen years was considered enough for education of a person equivalent to the degree examination in own universities.

All those who wanted to adopt teaching profession or otherwise desired to pursue higher studies were placed under the specialists. There students also visited the other centers of learning both in the country and abroad as a part of their curriculum. There were big libraries for use of these students in every madarsa but certain libraries like that Madars Feiz Safa were highly reputed.

The biggest library was, however, the Imperial library containing the Emperor’s collection of books. The Mughal princesses Salima Sultana and Zib-un-Nisa had built their own libraries. The high nobles and other courtiers also attempted to work on the royal work on the royal example. Faizi had a collection of 4,600 books in his library.

Abdur Rahim Khan Khana employed ninety five persons to take care of his collection of books and rare manuscripts. The library of Maharaja Jai Singh contained all books on astronomy used by the Hindu Scholars. Bernier saw a big hall at Banaras University, which was full of books on philosophy, medicine, religion and history etc.

Women Education:

Along with the education of men, the education of the women did not obtain proper priority during the Mughal period. Most of the women did not get an opportunity to read beyond the primary standard and it was only the few nobles and rich people who were able to engage private tutors for education of their daughters at home.

The institutions of education of females were, however, absent. According to Dr. Datta, regular training was given to the ladies of the royal household during the reign of Akbar. The ladies of the royal blood thus excelled themselves in education and statecraft.

Gulbadan Begam, Salim Sultana, Zeb-un-Nisa and Zinat-un-Nisa excelled themselves in the literary field where Nur Jahan and Jahanara played an important part in politics.



During this period Akbar brought Persian at the level of state language, which helped in the growth of its literature. Besides, all Mughal emperors, except Akbar, were well-educated and patronized learning. Babur was a scholar.

He wrote his biography, Tuzuki-i-Babri, in Turki language and it was so beautifully written that it was translated into Persian three times. He also wrote poems both in Turki and Persian and his collection of poems Diwan (Turki) became quite famous. Humayun had good command over both Turki and Persian. Besides, he had sufficient knowledge of philosophy, mathematics and astronomy.

He patronized scholars of all subjects. Akbar himself was not educated but he created those circumstances which helped in the growth of literature during the period of his rule. He gave encouragement to Persian language and famous works of different languages like Sanskrit, Arabic, Turki, Greek, etc., were translated into it. He established a separate department for this purpose. Many scholars rose to eminence under his patronage. Jahangir was also well-educated.

He wrote his biography, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri himself by for the first seventeen years of his rule and got prepared the rest of it Mautmid Khan. Not much was done concerning translation work but a few original works of repute were written during the period of his rule. Shah Jahan also gave projection to scholars.

His son Dara Shukoh was also well-educated and arranged for the translation of many Sanskrit texts in Persian. Aurangzeb was also a scholar though he hated writings of verses and books on history. During the period of the later Mughals, Persian remained the court-language till the rule of Muhammad Shah. Afterwards, it was replaced by Urdu. Yet, good works produced by many scholars in Persian even afterwards. Thus, Persian got the maximum incentive to grow during the rule of the Mughals and, therefore, made very good progress.

Largest numbers of good books written in Persian were either autobiographies or books on history. Among writings on history, Tuzuk-i-Babri written by emperor Babur, Humayuna Nama of Gulbadan Begum, Akbarnama and Ain-i-Akbari of Abdul Fazl, Tabkhat-i-Akbari of Nizamuddin Ahmad, Tazkirautal-waqiat of Jauhar, Tauja-i-Akbarshahi alias Tarikh-i-Sher Shah of Abbas Sarwani, Tarikh-i- Alfi which covers nearly one thousand years of history of the Islam and was written by the combined efforts of many scholars.

Muntkhba-ut-Twarikh of Badayuni, Tarikh-i-Salatin-Afghana of Ahmad Yadgar, Tarikh-i-Humayun of Bayaqzid Sultan and Akbarnama of Faizi Sarhindi were written during the period of the rule of Akbar except the first. Jahangir wrote his biography Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri.

Mautmid Khan completed it and also wrote Ikbalanama-i-Jahangiri.Massara Jahangir of Khawja Kamgar Makazzam- i-Afghani of Niamatullah, Tarikh-i-Farishta of Muhammad Kasim Farishta and Massare-i-Rahini of Mulla Nanvandi were also written during the period of Jahangir. Among the famous work written during the period of reign of Shah Jahan were Padshahnama of Aminai Qazvini, Shahjahanama of Inayat Khan and Alam-i-Saleh of Muhammad Saleh. Aurangzeb discouraged writings of history.

Yet a few good works were produced during his rule. Among them, the most famous ones were Muntkhab-ul- Lubab of Khafi Khan, Alamgirnama of Mirza Muhammad Qazim, Nuike-Dilkusha of Muhammad Saki, Fatuhat-i-Alamgiri of Iswar Das and Khulasa-ut-Tawarikh of Sujan Rai.

Historical works were written under the patronage of the later Mughals as well as provincial ruler. Among them, the most reputed were Sidrul-Mutkharin of Gulam Hussain, Tawarikh-i-Muzaffari of Muhammad Aliand Tawarikh-Cahar- Gulzar-i-Suzai of Harcharan Das.

Besides original work, books in other languages were translated into Persian. Among the Sanskrit text, Mahabharat was translated by the joint efforts of Naki Khan, Badayni, Abdul Fazal, Faizi etc.

Badayuni translated Ramayana into Persian. He also started translating Atharvaveda while it was completed by Haji Ibrahim Sarhindi. Faizi translated Lilavati, Shah Muhammad Sahabadi translated Rajtarangini, Abul Fazl translated Kaliya Daman, Faizi translated Nal Damyanti and Maulana Sheri translated Hari-Vansha.

All these works were translated during the period of rule of Akbar. During the reign of Shah Jahan, his eldest son, Dara Shukoh provided incentive to this work and got translated Upanishads, Bhagvata Gita and Yogavasistha.

He himself wrote an original treatise titled Manjul- Bahreen in which he described that Islam and Hinduism were simply the two paths to achieve the same God. Many texts written in Arabic, Turki and Greek were also translated into Persian during the rule of the Mughal emperors. Bible was translated in it. Aurangzeb with the help of many Arabic texts got prepared a book of law and justice in Persian which was titled Fatwah-i-Alamgiri.

Poems in Persian were also written during this period though this type of work could not achieve the standard of prose-writing. Humayun wrote a few verses. Abul Fazl named fifty nine poets at the court of Akbar. Among them Faizi, Gizali and Urfi were quite famous. Hahangir and Nur Jahan were also interested in poetry. Jahan Ara daughter of Shah Jahan and Jebunnisa, daughters of Aurangzeb were also poetesses.

The letters written by the emperors and nobles also occupy important place in the Persian literature of that time. Among them, letter written by Aurangzeb, Abul Fazl, Munir, Raja Jai Singh, Afzal Khan, Sadulla Khan, etc. have been regarded as good literary value.


Original good works in Sanskrit could not be produced during the rule of the Mughals. Yet as compared to the age of the Delhi sultanate, Sanskrit literature made good progress during the period. Akbar gave recognition to scholars of Sanskrit. Abul Fazal has named many scholars of Sanskrit who received the patronage of the emperor. A dictionary of Persian Sanskrit titled Farsi- Prakash was prepared during his rule.

Besides many Hindu and Jaina scholars wrote their treatises outside the patronage of the court of the emperor. Mahesh Thakur wrote the history of the reign of Akbar, the Jain scholar Padma Sundar wrote Akbarshahi-Srangar-Darpan and the Jain Acharya Siddhachandra Upaddaya wrote Bhanuchandra Charita. Deva Vimal and many other also wrote their treatises in Sanskrit.

Jahangir and Shah Jahan maintained the tradition of Akbar and gave protection to scholars of Sanskrit. Kavindra Acharya Saraswati received patronage of Shah Jahan and Jagannath Pandit who wrote Rasa Gangadhar and Ganga Lahri was also at his court. Aurangzeb stopped court protection to scholars of Sanskrit. Of course, Sanskrit continued to receive patronage from Hindu rulers, yet, its progress was checked later on.

Regional Languages:

During this period, regional languages were developed due to the patronage extended to them by local and regional rulers. They acquired stability and maturity and some of the finest lyrical poetry was produced during this period.

The dalliance of Krishna with Radha and the milkmaids, pranks of the child Krishna and stories from Bhagwat figure largely in lyrical poetry in Bengali, Oriya, Hindi, Rajasthani and Gujarati during this period. Many devotional hymns to Rama were also composed and the Ramayana and the Mahabharata translated into the regional languages, especially if they had not been translated earlier.

A few translations and adaptations from Persian were also made. Both Hindus and Muslims contributed in this. Thus, Alaol composed in Bengali and also translated from Persian. In Hindi, the Padmavat, the story written by the Sufi saint, Malik Muhammad Jaisi, used the attack of Alaudddin Khilji on Chittor as an allegory to expound Sufi ideas on the relations of soul with God, along with Hindu ideas about maya.

Medieval Hindi in the Brij form, that is the dialect spoken in the neighbourhood of Agra, was also patronised by the Mughal emperors and Hindu rulers. From the time of Akbar, Hindi poets began to be attached to the Mughal court.

A leading Mughal noble, Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, produced a fine blend of Bhakti poetry with Persian ideas of life and human relations. Thus, the Persian and the Hindi literary traditions began to influence each other. But the most influential Hindi poet was Tulsidas whose hero was Rama and who used a dialect of Hindi spoken in the eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh. Pleading for a modified caste system based not on birth but on individual qualities, Tulsi was essentially a humanistic poet who upheld family ideals and complete devotion to Rama as a way of salvation open to all, irrespective of caste.

In south India, Malayalam started its literary career as a separate language in its own right. Marathi reached its apogee at the hands of Eknath and Tukaram. Asserting the importance of Marathi, Eknath exclaims: “If Sanskrit was made by God, was Prakrit born of thieves and knaves? Let these earrings of vanity alone. God is no partisan of tongues. To Him Prakrit and Sanskrit are alike. My language Marathi is worthy of expressing the highest sentiments and is rich, laden with the fruits of divine knowledge.”

Fine Arts:

Major Schools of Painting:

Mughal period was the golden period for the development of painting in India. This period practiced the arts of different schools of painting which are as follows:

1. School of Old Tradition:

Here old tradition is referred to the ancient style of painting which was flourished in India before sultanate period. After the eighth century, the tradition seems to have decayed, but palm-leaf manuscripts and illustrated Jain texts from the thirteenth century onwards show that the tradition had not died. Apart from the Jains, some of the provincial kingdom, such as Malwa and Gujarat extended their patronage to painting during the fifteenth century.

2. Mughal Painting (School from Persian Influence):

This school had been developed during the period of Akbar. Jaswantand Dasawan were two of the famous painters of Akbar’s court. The school developed centre of production. Apart from illustrating Persian books of fables, the painters were soon assigned the task of illustrating the Persian text of the Mahabharata, the historical work Akbar Nama and others.

Indian themes and Indian scenes and landscapes, thus, came in vogue and helped to free the school from Persian influence. Indian colours, such as peacock blue, the Indian red, etc., began to be used. Above all, the somewhat flat effect of the Persian style began to be replaced by the roundedness of the Indian brush, giving the pictures a three-dimensional effect.

Mughal painting reached a climax under Jahangir who had a very discriminating eye. It was a fashion in the Mughal school for the faces, bodies and feet of the people in a single picture to be painted by different artists. Jahangir claims that he could distinguish the work of each artist in a picture.

Apart from painting hunting, battle and court scenes, under Jahangir, special progress were made in portrait painting and paintings of animals. Mansur was the great name in this field. Portrait painting also became fashionable.

3. European Painting:

Under Akbar, European painting was introduced at the court by the Portuguese priests. Under their influence, the principles of fore-shortening, whereby near and distant people and things could be placed in perspective was quietly adopted.

4. Rajasthan School of Painting:

The Rajasthan style of painting combined the themes and earlier traditions of western India or Jain school of painting with Mughal forms and styles. Thus, in addition to hunting and court scenes, it had paintings on mythological themes, such as the dalliance of Krishna with Radha, or the Barah-masa, that is, the seasons, Ragas (melodies).

5. Pahari School of Painting:

The Pahari School continued the Rajasthani styles and played an important role in its development.


During Mughal Period music was the sole medium of Hindu-Muslim unity. Akbar patronized Tansen of Gwalior who is credited with composing many new melodies (ragas). Jahangir and Shah Jahan as well as many Mughal nobles followed this example. There are many apocryphal stories about the burial of music by the orthodox Aurangzeb.

Recent research shows that Aurangzeb banished singing from his court, but not playing of musical instruments. In fact, Aurangzeb himself was an accomplished veena player. Music in all forms continued to be patronized by Aurangzeb’s queens in the harem and by the nobles.

That is why the largest number of books on classical Indian music in Persian were written during Aurangzeb’s reign. But some of the most important developments in the field of music took place later on in the eighteenth century during the reign of Muhammad Shah (1720-48).

Architectural Developments during Mughal Era:

Mughal period was the period of glory in the field of architecture. They also laid out many formal gardens with running water. In fact, use of running water even in their palaces and pleasure resorts was a special feature of the Mughals.


Babur was very fond of gardens and laid out a few in the neighbourhood of Agra and Lahore. Some of the Mughal gardens, such as the Nishal Bagh in Kashmir, the Shalimar at Lahore, the Pinjore garden in the Punjab foothills, etc., have survived to this day.

A new impetus to architecture was given by Sher Shah. His famour mausoleum at Sasaram (Bihar) and his mosque in the old fort at Delhi are considered architectural marvels. They form the climax of the pre-Mughal style of architecture, and the starting point for the new.


Akbar was the first Mughal ruler who had the time and means to undertake construction on a large scale. He built a series of forts, the most famous of which is the fort at Agra. Built in red sandstone, this massive fort had many magnificent gates. The climax of fort building was reached at Delhi where Shah Jahan built his famous Red Fort.

In 1572, Akbar commenced a paiace-cum-fort complex at Fatehpur Sikri, 36 kilometres from Agra, which he completed in eight years. Built atop a hill, along with a large artificial lake, it included many buildings in the style of Gujarat and Bengal. These included deep caves, balconies, and fanciful kiosks.

In the Panch Mahal built for taking the air, all the types of pillars used in various temples were employed to support flat roofs. The Gujarat style of architecture is used most widely in the palace built probably for his Rajput wife or wives. Buildings of a similar type were also built in the fort at Agra, though only a few of them have survived. Akbar took a close personal interest in the work of construction both at Agra and Fatehpur Sikri.

Persian or Central Asian influence can be seen in the glazed blue tiles used for decoration in the walls or for tiling the roofs. But the most magnificent building was the mosque and the gateway to it called the Buland Darwaza or the Lofty Gate, built to commemorate Akbar’s victory in Gujarat. The gate is in the style of what is called a half-dome portal.

What was done was to slice a dome into half. The sliced portion provided the massive outward faade of the gate, while smaller doors could be floor meet. This devise, borrowed from Iran, became feature in Mughal buildings later.


With the consolidation of the empire, the Mughal architecture reached its climax. Towards the end of Jahangir’s reign began the practice of putting up building entirely of marble and decorating the walls with floral designs made of semi-precious stones. This method of decoration, called pietra dura, became even more popular under Shah Jahan who used it on a large scale in the Taj Mahal, justly regarded as a jewel of the builder art.

Shah Jahan:

The Taj Mahal brought together in a pleasing manner all the architectural forms developed by the Mughals. Humayun’s tomb built at Delhi towards the beginning of Akbar’s reign, and which had a massive dome of marbles, may be considered a precursor of the Taj. The double dome was another feature of this building.

This devise enabled a bigger dome to be built with a smaller one inside. The chief glory of the Taj is the massive dome and the four slender minarets linking the platform to the main building. The decorations are kept to a minimum, delicate marble screens, pietra dura inlay work and kiosks (chhatris) adding to the effect. The building gains by being placed in the midst of a formal garden.

Mosque-building also reached its climax under Shah Jahan, the two most noteworthy ones being the Moti Masjid in the Agra fort built like the Taj entirely in marble, and the other the Jama Masjid in the Agra fort built like the Taj entirely in marble, and the other the Jama Masjid at Delhi built in red sandstone. A lofty gate, tall, slender minarets, and a series of domes are a feature of the Jama Masjid.


Although not many buildings were put up by Aurangzeb who was economic-minded, the Mughal architectural traditions based on a combination of Hindu and Turko-lranian forms and decorative designs, continued without a break into the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Thus, Mughal traditions influenced the palaces and forts of many provincial and local kingdoms. Even the Harmandir of the Sikhs, called the Golden Temple at Amritsar which was rebuilt several times during the period was built on the arch and dome principle incorporated many features of the Mughal traditions of architecture.