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Benefaction of Emperor Akbar On Indian Miniature

Updated: Mar 27

Abul Fazal commenced writing the renowned Ain-e-Akbari when Mir Syed Ali had already completed his paintings for the Album Dastan-e-ameer-hamza. As previously discussed, these paintings were a testament to the influence of Indian traditional art and formed the cornerstone of the Mughal style. The intricate details in these Iranian paintings evoke memories of Durer's works, while their vibrant colors, characteristic of Indian tradition, continue to captivate us.

Following the Iranian Kalam period, Indian traditional art was incorporated into Mughal paintings with greater freedom and self-assurance. The fusion of native Rajput and Persian styles created a new form that scholars later recognized as Mughal Miniature - an art genre with its own unique identity, now known as 'Gharana' in India.

In this article, I have compiled a selection of masterpieces from this legendary Album to showcase their magnificence! Click on each painting to enlarge it and appreciate its finer details.

The inquiry at hand is how an unconventional method could be swiftly assimilated into the Indian style, which seemingly presents a significant challenge to any community. This feat was only achievable by Emperor Akbar and his son Jahangir, who facilitated the interaction of their artists with contemporary Indian artists and generously encouraged collaboration on shared paintings. As a result, both sets of artists were bestowed equal status as royal artists in the king's court. Consequently, we witness renowned Indian artists from that era, such as Keshu Das, Dyshant, and Vasawon, collaborating with exotic counterparts like Mir Syed Ali and Abdus Samad.

Portrait of Akbar by Manohar
Portrait of Akbar by Manohar

It is widely known that despite being primarily illiterate, Akbar possessed an insatiable curiosity for a wide range of topics ranging from flora and fauna to history, philosophy, and human excellence. He had a delicate appreciation for all things merit-based and was blessed with a strong memory. His passion for hunting in the deep forest was only matched by his thirst for knowledge concerning humanity. To gain access to this knowledge, he devised innovative methods such as commissioning royal artists to illustrate books so that he could understand their contents better. 

Additionally, he enjoyed hosting debates in his court where wise persons from different communities discussed various topics, including philosophy, religion, literature, music, and painting. Through these debates, he gained valuable insights that helped him penetrate the philosophical sense behind various religions and illustrate stories and folktales mentioned in spiritual scriptures, all of which can be found documented in Abul Fazal's treatise Ain-e-Akbari.  

It is noteworthy that Babur and Humayun, exotic figures with no ties to Indian art or culture, possessed a deep-seated passion for the arts. This hunger drove them to delve into the realm of Indian artistic expression in addition to their Persian influences. On the other hand, Akbar was born and raised within India's diverse cultural milieu, which naturally drew him closer to his country's rich civilization.

Following his ascension to the throne, Emperor Akbar was keenly aware of the unfinished Dastan-e-ameer-hamza. He promptly commanded the Iranian artists responsible for its creation to illustrate this Album. In addition, he recruited accomplished Indian artisans to collaborate with their Iranian counterparts to complete this project. The Album was subsequently renamed 'Hamzanama,' with its first painting composed in 1562 and finally completed in 1577. This magnificent masterpiece serves as a significant historical artifact of Indian artistry, reflecting an evolutionary process that spans several stages. It comprises twelve sections containing over 1400 standard-sized paintings that demonstrate how Persian style has been adapted by Indian influences, ultimately yielding a new form known today as Mughal Miniature Art - characterized by its versatility, emotional depth, and vivid use of coloration. It stands out among Emperor Akbar's many notable contributions and is referred to in Persian as "Murakka," which translates simply into Album. This is the Benefaction of Emperor Akbar On Indian Miniature paintings.

May I inquire about your opinion on the Hamzanama paintings? Have you observed the unconventional perspective that diverges from the typical Western notion of spatial distance? Feel free to share your thoughts.

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