The History, Art and Architecture of the Mughal Empire

Archive for May, 2012

Assignment 7 / II

There has recently been a debate on whether Wikipedia should be used as a source in scientific writing. It would be difficult to dispute the answer is affirmative in regard to cases where Wikipedia itself is the subject of a scientific problem. Elsewhere, its usefulness may be less obvious, notwithstanding the absurdity of appeals to have an outright ban on quoting it. If we are to have a climate of free scientific inquiry, what sources are used must be left to the discretion of each individual author. It is not for his peers to decide what and how he must write, though once his work is shared, they will be in the position to critique it. We cannot rely on getting our hypotheses or methods perfectly right, but we must certainly rely on their receiving reasoned critique, against which their staying-power and (and validity) is measured. One’s freedom to advance any argument in any fashion using any evidence whatsoever is as much a part of scientific discourse, as is the freedom of others to reject the work as inadequate. If one uses sources that fail to stand up against critical scrutiny of one’s peers, one’s own argument is at a loss – and one would have perhaps been better advised to use sources that inspire confidence. After all, one is trying to provide credible evidence for and against conjectures. We cannot establish absolute truth, but the critical peer process of conjectures and refutations, as Popper called it, is still the best we have of at least eliminating falsehoods. And Wikipedia, in this respect, is lacking. Indeed, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, himself acknowledges:

just because a hundred people claims something, it doesn’t mean it’s true. But when a hundred Wikipedians claim something, it might be worth having a closer look at.”

Investigated, that is, not relied upon. In this sense he seems to agree with Maren Lorenz, a fierce critic of the use of Wikipedia in scientific discourse, who recognises Wikipedia can be useful

as an initial orientation, especially regarding subjects unknown to [her], or to find at the bottom of the article links to more reliable sources.”


Assignment 7 / I

Searches in Historical Abstracts for the following terms:


Yassa (0 results)

Chingis Khan (0 results)

Illumination Philosophy (21 results)


Quite surprised to find no articles tagged with the keywords Yassa and especially Chingis Khan — and only one relevant article on Illuminaiton Philosophy.


Sadly, according to searches in Teilkatalog Zeitschriften und Serien des Österreichischen Bibliothekenverbunds and Elektronischen Zeitschriftenbibliothek the most interesting result (Divine Illumination, Mechanical Calculators, and the Roots of Modern Reason. Detail Only AvailableBy: Dear, Peter. Science in Context. Sep2010, Vol. 23 Issue 3, p351-366) is apparently not available in Vienna.

Narcotics and Drugs

Jahangir enthroned, holding wine goblet / Radiate sun, surrounded by legends in four compartments (1614-15)

Meena Bhargava’s new article “Narcotics and Drugs: Pleasure, Intoxication or Simply Therapeutic—North India, Sixteenth— Seventeenth Centuries” in the latest issue of The Medieval History Journal

Narcotics,1 in this article, has been used as synonymous with drugs and drug-like products including mild stimulants and intoxicants like opium, tobacco, alcohol and alcoholic preparations. All three commodities, of great commercial significance, were also major items that were chewed and consumed to generate euphoria, stimulation and intoxication. Seen as symbols of power and authority, they were considered to be facilitators of social bonding and social interaction. Consumed by a wide variety of people, it was around narcotics that hierarchies of class and gender were built. Although used as a therapy in some instances, narcotics came to be linked to health hazard, disease and death. With such a diverse trajectory, narcotics become an integral and an interesting medium to discover and study the lives of many in pre-colonial India.

Exercise 6

Database Directory – Vienna University Library

Database Directory – Austrian National Library


Conqueror of the World


The controversy of Aurangzeb’s religious policies still holds currency in current political debates on the subcontinent. In his attempt to vindicate the emperor, Habib Saddiqi ‘explains’ the confusion compounded by school books.

He has been hailed as anyone from a “Saintly or Pauper Emperor” to one who “tried hard to convert Hindus into Muslims.” Depending on one’s religious rearing, one will favor one view over the other.

But while he sets out to ‘untangle the myth’, Saddiqi appears disabled by a myopia not unlike that which features so prominently (and not at all implausibly) in his initial diagnosis. Claims of Aurangzeb’s intolerance, he rages, are to be put down to an intellectual dishonesty

…more explosive and more damaging than nuclear bombs. We have already seen its hideous effect with the destruction of Muslim historic sites (including the Babri Mosque) and recent riots in India that killed thousands of Muslims.

Assignment 5

ideology mughal

Akbar mughal

Jahangir mughal

Illumination mughal

architecture mughal

Akbar’s tomb

religion mughal

sufism mughal


The OBV results based on searches for the above key words proved useful and led me to some literature I had not encountered before, in addition to the more common works which I had expected to find. This includes Muḥammad ʿAbd-al-Ġanī’s books on the history of Persian language and literature at the Mughal court, Richard Eaton’s book on India’s Islamic traditions and R. Nath’s book on Mughal sculpture. I was also thrilled to find that Raizul Islam’s book on Indo-Persian relations is available at the OAW. The results were both accurate and manageable in number, so I’ll be using the OBV catalogue more often in the future.


Assignment 4

The Encyclopedia Britannica contains an extensive series of articles on the significance of the Mughal Empire, though the accompanying bibliography has not been updated in recent years. It includes overview articles on the establishment of the empire as well as subsequent reigns of individual emperors, highlighting a variety of political, cultural and religious topics.

A more up-to-date reference, though more limited in scope, is the Encyclopaedia Iranica, which includes numerous articles on Iranian culture on the Indian Subcontinent, including on Mughal architecture, Indo-Persian historiography, and important personalities from the empire, such as individual emperors, men of letters and religious personalities.

Among more specialized reference works, the most comprehensive series dealing with ‘modern’ Indian history in the English language is The New Cambridge History of India. Of the 23 volumes it contains, three are dedicated specifically to the Mughals: Vol. 1.3. (Mughal and Rajput Painting by Milo Cleveland Beach), Vol. 1.4. (Mughal Architecture by Catherine Asher) and Vol. 1.5. (The Mughal Empire by John F. Richards). These volumes provide a good introduction into the respective areas. Vol. 1.5. offers an overview of the empire generally, as well as a bibliographical guide for further reading, organized according to individual topics.

As an overview, the abovementioned Vol. 1.4. on Architecture was preceded by another volume that remains a definitive reference for Mughal architecture, namely Ebba Koch’s Mughal Architecture: An Outline of its History and Development (1526–1858)Vol. 1.5. was followed by Annemarie Schimmel’s overview The Empire of the Great Mughals – History, Art and Culture.

An Indian analogue to ‘Western’ scholarship on Mughal architecture can be found in R. Nath’s History of Mughal Architecture in four volumes.

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