The History, Art and Architecture of the Mughal Empire

Archive for June, 2012

Chahārbāghs, Palaces, and Mughal Court Routine in the Sixteenth Century

Gouache painting of the mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandra, by an anonymous artist working in the Rajasthan/Jaipur style, c. 1780-1800.

Laura Parodi’s recent lecture at the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University. Scroll to 2:10 for the start of her talk.


Strategy and imagination in a Mughal Sufi story of creation


Mughal Emperor Akbar shows deference to Sufi saint Sheikh Salim Chishti. Bikaner, circa late 18th – early 19th century. Opaque watercolour and gold on wasli. 12.5 x 20.5cm

New article by Muzaffar Alam in the Indian Economic and Social History Review:

This article examines a seventeenth-century text that attempts to reconcile Hindu and Muslim accounts of human genesis and cosmogony. The text, Mir’āt al-Makhlūqāt (‘Mirror of Creation’), written by a noted Mughal Sufi author Shaikh ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti, purportedly a translation of a Sanskrit text, adopts rhetorical strategies and mythological elements of the Purāna tradition in order to argue that evidence of the Muslim prophets was available in ancient Hindu scriptures. Chishti thus accepts the reality of ancient Hindu gods and sages and notes the truth in their message. In doing so Chishti adopts elements of an older argument within the Islamic tradition that posits thousands of cycles of creation and multiple instances of Adam, the father of humans. He argues however that the Hindu gods and sages belonged to a different order of creation and time, and were not in fact human. The text bears some generic resemblance to Bhavishyottarapurāna materials. Chishti combines aspects of polemics with a deft use of politics. He addresses, on the one hand, Hindu intellectuals who claimed the prestige of an older religion, while he also engages, on the other hand, with Muslim theologians and Sufis like the Naqshbandi Mujaddidis who for their part refrained from engaging with Hindu traditions at all.

Assignment 10

The search on H-SOZ-U-KULT and H-Net turned out three interesting reviews of recent publications. THe first is  Stephen F. Dales review of a collection of articles edited by Peter Fibiger Bang and C.A. Bayly, entitled Tributary Empires in Global History. Then there is Usha Sanyal’s review of Sufism and Society in Medieval India edited by Raziuddin Aquil. Finally, I found Anja Werner’s scathing review of Toby E. Huff’s book on Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution. A Global Perspective. The Wiki entry has been updated accordingly.

Assignment 9

Jahangir holding a picture of the Madonna, 1620

This was a useful exercise, which alerted me to two issues in particular. One is the language-specific aspect of search, something I had not been particularly mindful of, considering literature written on the subject of my research not only in English, but also in French, German, Russian and other languages, some of which I know well enough to make sense of the substance. The second thing I noticed was just how extraordinarily wide-ranging and deep the scope of Google is.

Considering the lack of a search function on the Fordham Zeitschriftenfreihandmagazin website, and the assignement’s time constraint, I decided it was better to proceed to other catalogues, hoping that items contained in the Zeitschriftenfreihandmagazin would be picked up by Google in the second half of this exercise.

The great thing about Historische Bibliographie Online was coming across some interesting German-language articles that one might not come across in the larger databases. Expecting few results, I used a more general search term, which had the benefit of harvesting a few unexpected hits, including one by Antje Flüchter entitled Transreligiöse Integration als Faktor von Staatsbildung? Der indische Großmogul Akbar und sein Gottesglaube in der europäischen Wahrnehmung and another on the role of Chinggisid ideology of rulership in Mughal India entitled Dschingis Khan. Dschingis Khan und die Dschingisiden: ‘Der Kaiser aller Menschen’, die Mongolen und Mogule by Ulrich Müller.

The Österreichische Historische Bibliographie provided results mostly relevant to the intersection of Austrian history with that of Mughal India, especially as concerns artefacts held in Vienna.

I’ve had for some time a predilection for Google Scholar for searches on this subject. On a number of occasions it yielded very relevant unpublished documents like typewritten manuscripts that none of the literature referred to, held in specialised libraries attached to private musea. The full-text search provides the advantage of finding references to the subject in very different contexts, many of which it might never have occurred to you to consider — in a way that seems to be doing the thinking for you — and which often may not have been indexed in any recognisable way in the usual catalogues.

Google continues to improve while you’re away. While you may not have come across certain items the first time,  a second search some time later may lead to better results. This time, for example, I came across a few references to Akbar’s tomb in a variety of titles I had not noticed before, including Humayun’s Tomb: Form, Function, and Meaning in Early Mughal Architecture by G.D. Lowry, The Indian Conquest of Catholic Art: The Mughals, the Jesuits, and Imperial Mural Painting, in which G.A. Bailey discusses the European paintings (of Jesus, Mary and Fr. Loyola) in the tomb’ central chamber. Little research has been done on these, so I was all the more excited to find an abstract of a 1964 article by J.C. Nagpall in the Science and Culture (Calcutta) noting the use of Prussian blue and lead chromate in these paintings, which for the early 17th century is surprising, and as the author notes, requires a wider investigation.

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