Mughal painting refers to a particular style of painting, generally confined to miniatures either as book illustrations or as single works to be kept in albums, which emerged from Persian miniature painting, with Indian Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist influences, and developed largely in the court of the Mughal Empire.
Though there are references of miniatures from the Delhi Sultanate period it was Emperor Akbar who encouraged and revived the tradition of paintings which are world famous today as Mughal miniatures.
He said that contrary to opinion of religious scholars that painters tried to rival God’s creation, they in fact felt more humble as they knew they reproduced only lifeless art and could not infuse life into them, which only God could do.
Persian artists Abd-us-Samad and Mir Saytyed Ali were the mainstays of his painting kharkhana. They had initially been invited by Humayun (1530–1540 AD) to teach this art to himself and to his son Akbar to Kabul with Humayun (where he was in exile) and in later years shifted to Delhi when he won back his empire. More than 100 painters were employed under them. They were Hindus from Gujarat, Gwalior and Kashmir and it developed into a unique Mughal for of miniature painting.
Paper was initially imported from Iran and later produced in India.
The paint was made from animal,mineral and vegetable substances. Brushes were made from animal hair.
Akbar established a workshop under them to produce miniature paintings in Fatehpur Sikri.
The first project was illustration of the 14th-century Persian series of 52 stories by Naksahabi :Tutinama or Tales of the Parrot.
An illustrated version containing 250 miniature paintings was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor,
and Urdu translation version by Al-din Nakhshabi Ziya, Saiyid Haidar Bakhsh, (1875), English translation by George Small.
The illustrators were Mir Sayyid Ali
and Abdus Samad. It is now in the Cleveland Museum of Art .
In Iran, as in India, parrots (in light of their purported conversational abilities) are popular as storytellers in works of fiction.
The Parrot addresses Khojasta, a scene from the Tutinama (1556–1565) paintings
The adventure stories narrated by a parrot, night after night, for 52 successive nights, are moralistic stories. the Tuti-nama.
“A Young Woman Visited by the Sultan’s Viziers”
India, Mughal; c. 1570
The next project was The Hamzanama or Dastan-e-Amir Hamza -(Adventures of Amir Hamza) narrates the legendary exploits of Hamza bin Azrak, a brave man who lived in the Banu Abbas reign.These are fanciful romantic tales and lend themselves beautifully to illustration.
Though Babur, described the Hamzanama as “one long far-fetched lie; opposed to sense and nature”, his grandson Akbar, who came to throne at the age of fourteen, enjoyed it so much that he commissioned his court workshop to create an illustrated manuscript of the Hamzanama.
The project was conceived on such an unusually large scale that it took fourteen years, from about 1562 to 1577, to complete. It had 1400 paintings.
The Gulistan by Saadi was illustrated in Fatehpur Sikri in 1582
in a Rose garden, from a Mughal manuscript of the Gulistan.
The Khamsa of Nizami in the British Library, is a lavishly illustrated manuscript of the Khamsa or “five poems” of Nizami Ganjavi, a 12th-century Persian poet, which was created for the Mughal Emperor Akbar in the early 1590s by a number of artists and a single scribe working at the Mughal court.
But it was the Persian translation Ramayana and Mahabharat which were the highlight miniature painting in Akbar reign
According to Abul Fazl, these translations were ordered by Emperor Akbar to dispel the fanatical hatred between Hindus and Muslims as he was convinced that it arose only from mutual ignorance.
The first Ramayana in Persian was by Mulla’ Abdul Qadir Badayuni. In AH 992 (1584 AD) Emperor Akbar asked him to translate it from Sanskrit.
In 1574, Akbar had established a translation bureau (maktab khana) at his capital of Fatehpur Sikri. Here, the emperor’s top scribes and secretaries were given the task of translating a range of Sanskrit texts. Mahabharata,the epic comprises approximately 100,000 verses, the endeavor was formidable and the result is an abridgment rather than a strict translation of the entire text. Titled the Razmnama (Book of War), the copiously illustrated imperial manuscript—completed between 1584 and 1586—is housed in the City Palace Museum in Jaipur
The battle of Duryodhana and Bhima (among others.) From the 1616-1617 edition of the Razmnama.
The challenge was in painting the epic characters in Mughal settings and clothes!
depiction of Hindu and Muslim scholars translating the Mahabharata from Sanskrit into Persian. This is another example of an attempt to contemporize the text. From the 1598–99 copy of the Razmnama.
Image source: The Free Library of Philadelphia
A folio from a 1616 copy of the Razmnama in which: “Asvatthama Fires the Narayana Weapon (Cosmic Fire) at the Pandavas.”
Krishna and the Golden City of Dwarka” a miniature from a different translated Sanskrit text called the Harivamsha (Geneology of Vishnu,) also commissioned by Akbar. 1585.
Image source: Sackler Freer Gallery
See more here