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The Legacy of Islamic Empires and their Arts


Under the Mughals, India was the heart of a great Islamic empire and a prolific center of Islamic culture and learning. According to historian Gavin Hambly, the Mughals provided the setting for a brilliant court and a vigorous cultural life which was equal to Isfahan under the Safavid Shahs or Istanbul under the Ottoman Sultans.

The Mughals lived and reigned in India from 1526 to 1858 AD. Their dynasty was the greatest, richest and longest-lasting Muslim dynasty to rule India. This dynasty produced the finest and most elegant arts and architecture in the history of Muslim dynasties.

The name Mughal, writes art historian Barbara Brend (1991), is an Indian version of Mongal; to dwellers in India, the term referred to anyone from Central Asia. Hambly notes that the favorite cities of the Mughals included Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri and Lahore.

The Mughal state was well aware of the declamatory power of architecture and used it as a means of self-representation and an instrument of royalty, write scholars Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom (1994). The most remarkable monuments of the great dynasty of the Mughals included:
  • Humayun's tomb at Delhi;
  • the tomb of Khan-i Khanan in south Nizamuddin;
  • the Red Fort at Agra;
  • the mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandara outside Agra;
  • the tomb of Jahangir at Shahdara across the Ravi from Lahore;
  • the tomb of Itimad al-Dawleh at Agra;
  • the Taj Mahal at Agra;
  • the tomb of Aurangzeb's wife at Aurangabad; and
  • the Nawab Safdar Jang's tomb at Delhi.
Eurpoean envoys

Shah Jahan frequently received European envoys bearing gifts and seeking trading privilages.

Courtesy: Stone, C. (1997). "The Most Splendid Manuscript". Aramco World. 48 (6), 18-31

The main objectives of this research project are to: discuss in detail the great dynasty of the Mughals and its lavish patronage of the arts; provide detailed vignettes of the daily life of the Mughal emperors and the members of their entourage; demonstrate the profusion of skills the craftsmen and artists of the Mughals had at their disposal; and explore the remarkable monuments and beautiful artistic objects of the great Mughals.

This researcher wishes to express his heartfelt gratitude to all the libraries in the states of Minnesota, Ohio, and Washington D.C. and to the private collectors who have generously granted him permission to use their books and other precious objects. This researcher also would like to thank Ms. Rebecca Hauge for her advice and assistance in locating materials and Ms. Lee Jansen for her help in editing this research project.

Sources used for this research project:
  • Begley, W. E. (1979). "Amanat Khan and the Calligraphy of the Taj Mahal". Kunst de Orients. Begley, W. E. (1989). Taj Mahal: The Illuminated Tomb. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Brend, B. (1991). "Islamic Art". Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Blair, S. and J. Bloom (1994). "The Art and Architecture of Islam: 1250-1800". New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
  • Crowe, S., et al (1972). "The Gardens of Mughal India". London.
  • Hambly, G. (1968). "Cities of Mughal India". New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.
  • Holy Qur'an: "Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur'an in the English Language". A Summarized Version of At-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir with Comments from Sahih Al-Bukhari. Summarized in One Volume. Riyadh: Maktabat Dar-Us-Salam.
  • Moynihan, E. (1979). "Paradise as a Garden in Persia and Mughal India". New York.
  • Okada, Amina and M. C. Joshi (1993). "Taj Mahal". Photography by Jean-Louis Nou. New York: Abbeville Press.
  • Papadopoulo, A. (1979). "Islam and Muslim Art". New York: Harry N. Abrams.
  • Stone, C. (1997). "The Most Splendid Manuscript". Aramco World. 48 (6), 18-31


Khalid Mubireek
February 1998

Last updated:    Tuesday August 26, 2003
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