The History, Art and Architecture of the Mughal Empire

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Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605) holds a religious assembly in the Ibadat Khana (House of Worship) in Fatehpur Sikri; the two men dressed in black are the Jesuit missionaries Rodolfo Acquaviva and Francisco Henriques.
Illustration to the Akbarnama, miniature painting by Nar Singh, ca. 1605

Gian Carlo Calza will be giving a lecture on Akbar and his religious nondiscrimination today at 18h at Palazzo Sciarra in Rome.


Akbar. Il Grande Imperatore dell’India

Akbar’s pilgrimage to Ajmer in thanksgiving for the birth of Prince Mirza Salim, 1590-1595 by Basawan. V&A

A show of over 130 paintings and artefacts from Akbar’s India organized by Fondazione Roma and curated by Gian Carlo Calza can be seen at the Palazzo Sciarra in Rome until 3 February 2013. This is, to my knowledge, the biggest exhibition on Akbar ever to be held in Europe and it contains numerous masterpieces, some of them shown for the first time outside their home institutions. It is a pity the exhibit is not receiving the attention it deserves here in Italy, not to mention abroad.

Author of one’s fate: Fatalism and agency in Indo-Persian histories

Ali Anooshahr’s new article in the latest issue of Indian Economic and Social History Review.

A shift of worldviews can be observed in the historical writings of three Indo-Persian authors ‘Abd al-Malik ‘Isami, Rizq Allah Mushtaqi and Nizam al-Din Ahmad. Whereas ‘Isami viewed history as the unfolding of events predetermined by divine fate; Nizam al-Din considered human agency to be the main mover of events. Mushtaqi displayed ambivalence between the two. His text can thus be read as the expression of a worldview under disintegration and re-composition in the transition from the Sultanate to the Mughal period. This change of attitude bears similarities to other ‘Early Modern Features’ of the late sixteenth century.

Muhammad Juki’s Shah-namah

Over at The Mughalist, a video-lecture by Barbara Brend on Muhammad Juki’s Shah-namah:

[tracing] the history of one manuscript of the Shah-namah–one likely commissioned by the Timurid prince Muhammad Juki (d. 1447), which later entered the royal library of the Mughals in India.

Universal Empire — A Comparative Approach to Imperial Culture and Representation in Eurasian History


Cambridge, 2012

Apologies for a repetition in illustrations, but there is another new publication that has the honour of bearing Jahangir’s Dream  on its cover. This is the recently published (August 2012) Universal Empire — A Comparative Approach to Imperial Culture and Representation in Eurasian History, edited by Peter Fibiger Bang and Dariusz Kolodziejczyk, with contributions from the editors themselves as well as Gojko Barjamovic, Rolf Michael Schneider, Garth Fowden, Judith Herrin, Dimiter Angelov, Ebba Koch, Velcheru Narayana Rao, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Evelyn S. Rawski, Justyna Olko, Peter Haldén, John A. Hall.

A preview from iPublishCentral is available here. You can buy the book, apparently only hardback for now, here.

The claim by certain rulers to universal empire has a long history stretching as far back as the Assyrian and Achaemenid Empires. This book traces its various manifestations in classical antiquity, the Islamic world, Asia and Central America as well as considering seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European discussions of international order. As such it is an exercise in comparative world history combining a multiplicity of approaches, from ancient history, to literary and philosophical studies, to the history of art and international relations and historical sociology. The notion of universal, imperial rule is presented as an elusive and much coveted prize among monarchs in history, around which developed forms of kingship and political culture. Different facets of the phenomenon are explored under three, broadly conceived, headings: symbolism, ceremony and diplomatic relations; universal or cosmopolitan literary high-cultures; and, finally, the inclination to present universal imperial rule as an expression of cosmic order.

The Symbolic Possession of the World: European Cartography in Mughal Allegory and History Painting

Jahangir’s Dream (around 1620) by Abul Hassan showing Abbas I and Jahangir standing on a globe.

Ebba Koch’s new article on European cartography in Mughal painting in the latest issue of the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient:

From their earliest contacts with Europeans, the Mughals sought to obtain maps, atlases, and globes. They were, however, concerned with cartography less as a scientific tool than as a means to convey messages of status and power. Both cartographically correct and cartographically manipulated globes feature prominently in the allegories of Emperor Jahāngīr. Emperor Shāh Jahān added another dimension: European cartographical devices were introduced into history painting, to structure the imperial landscape and to document the emperor’s conquests.

Justifying Defeat: A Rajput Perspective on the Age of Akbar

The Battle Preceding the Capture of the Fort at Bundi, Rajasthan (1577). From the Akbarnama, c.1590-95. V&A Museum

Another article of interest in the latest issue of  the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, this one by Cynthia Talbot:

This article explores a darker side of cultural dialogue—the experience of subjugation to a cultural “other”—through a case study of Rao Surjan of Bundi, a Rajput warrior who was defeated by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1569. Surjan’s surrender of Ranthambhor fort was celebrated in Mughal chronicles such as the Akbarnama but condemned in Nainsi’s Khyat and other Rajput texts. Drawing primarily on Surjanacarita, a Sanskrit poem from about 1590, this article examines the literary strategies that were employed to justify Surjan’s submission to Akbar and his subsequent career as a Mughal mansabdar (imperial rank-holder).

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