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Similarities And Differences Between Rajput And Mughal Paintings History Essay

2455 words (10 pages) Essay in History

5/12/16 History Reference this

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Indian Painting may be generally divided in to three great religious divisions- Buddhist [Fig1], Hindu [Fig2], and Islamic [Fig3]. The Hindu painting is referred to as Rajput, as it is connected with Rajputana and the Hill Rajput of the Punjab; whilst the Islamic art is referred to as Mughal, as it owed its existence to the support it had from that dynasty. [2] Buddhist and Rajput paintings were representative in demonstrating the religious life of India, the main message of both was religion, and the chief characteristic was mysticism. On the other hand, Mughal painting was truthfully sophisticated, and in nature realistic and diverse. Indian court paintings are famous for Mughal court paintings of the 16th Century. Rise of Mughal court paintings had a fusion of Indian, Islamic, Persian and to some extent European influence. The combination of all these created something new and unique which we distinguish as Mughal Art. The Mughal kingdom was not the first Islamic empire, and its court paintings were not the first court paintings in India. In order to understand the sources of these court paintings we must study the history and arts of India before the arrival of the Mughal Empire. This essay will account for the similarities and differences between Rajput and Mughal court paintings.


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Indian foundation of design started at Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra around the 5th Century. They contain paintings and sculpture believed to be masterpieces of Buddhist religious art. [6] The drawings at this site are the earliest substantial body of study of paintings seen in India. The scenes illustrated in Caves one (Fig 5) and two are mostly instructive, devotional, and decorative. The themes are from the Jataka stories (the stories of the Buddha’s former existences as Boddhisatva). [7] The 11th-12th century was the final flourish of Buddhist paintings. The next major body of art that developed in India was Jainism. This religion developed around the same period as Buddhism and unlike the latter still lives on. The Jainism style of painting developed in western and central India. Paintings that have been discovered from that period were drawn on palm leaves [Fig 1], since paper had not yet been introduced in to India. Paper, as a writing material, was hardly known in India before the 11th century AD. The main characteristic of a Jane painting is the distinct Jane 3rd eye [Fig 4]; an extended eye which is drawn even if they have illustrated a profile face. This shows that they were trying to illustrate different views of one image. They style of Jane paintings are in many ways similar to early Persian paintings.

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(Figure 4) [8] (Figure 5) [9] 

The aim of the Buddhist artist was to imagine the ethics of his belief, and to demonstrate by illustrative stories all the stunning emotions of the Buddhist religion. Rajput painting, although hopeful towards the same high principles, enclosed a larger ground. [10] Other than its explanation of the vast religious stories of Hinduism, Rajput art also reflects the faith and traditions of the ordinary people, as a result producing artistic legends of extraordinary importance. [11] 

Rajput painter was one of the people, a simple and unsophisticated craftsman; [12] the Mughal painter, living in a diverse ambience, was another type. He was seen as one of the followers of the court, and in a sense was a noble. In the direct employ of a king, he did his work according to the instruction of his master. He was perhaps not a paid servant, but possibly on the creation of a good piece of painting, he was given a generous present. [13] 

The Mughal Dynasty was established by Babur; it reigned over the greatest Islamic country of the Indian subcontinent. Humayun, Babur’s son and successor, was unsuccessful in transforming his father’s territorial acquisitions into an empire, and as a result soon surrendered the Mughal foothold in India. [14] After this Humayun was sent to Iran and during his time in Iran as a refugee, he spent a great deal of time in Tabriz staying at the court of shah Tahmasp (1524-76 CE) of Persia, at the studios inspecting their works. [15] Among the painters whom he met at Tabriz, two painters caught his attention, Mir Sayyid Ali Tabrizi and Mirza Abdu’s-Samad Shirazi. [16] When leaving Tabriz, he took back with him these talented Painters, whom did not disappoint him by training many hopeful painters in this complex art form. The Rajput painters are mostly invisible in history as none of their works are signed. However when examining Mughal paintings many of the artist, or the king himself, as the connoisseur in the courtly arts, signed the art works which he considered worthy enough to be added to his collection, and as a result we have come to know more about the Mughal court artists.

Akbar was Humayun’s successor, who reigned from 1556-1605. It is believed that it was at the time of Akbar’s reign that the Mughal courtly art really flourished. To Akbar, a miniature was a book inscribed in lines and colours. To his first son and successor Jahangir, a painting manifested the aestheticism inherent in a man. To Shahjahan, Jahangir’s descendant who was mostly interested in architecture rather than arts, it was a mirror palace and there he was in every glass-piece. [17] 

The art of Akbar’s era had a very realistic approach. He preferred illustrative painting serializing a theme. The early work of Akbar’s atelier, Hamzanama, is an exquisite example of his taste. [18] 

Under Jahangir, Akbar’s lively naturalism was advanced into a calmer and strongly realistic approach. He preferred graceful, small works with fewer illustrations worked singly by an artist. Pleasures and pastimes of court life, portraits, and studies of birds, animals and flowers, scenes derived from reproductions of European art, were now the more favoured subjects for painters. [19] Human portraits define another aspect of Jahangir’s search for documentation. Jahangir’s claim as a connoisseur of any paintings represented in his court is a reflection of the rise of the individual artist. [20] 

Instead of the art of painting, architecture was Shahjahan’s attraction. But, he continued with the court atelier and Mughals’ section of realism. Shahjahan was more interested in well-embellished portraits with exact likeness of the portrayed figures, so if one was to look at a painting of a group of individuals, each person would be easily distinguished to the incredible likeness the artists illustrated. [21] 

The most obvious way to tell between a Mughal and Rajput painting is to look at the script included in the paintings. There is an evident difference between the Persian and Indian calligraphies. Rajput paintings had Indian characteristics and traditions; on the other hand Mughal paintings had local traditions and a pictorial design. The degree of Mughal influence on Rajput design varied from court to court depending on where they were located geographically and politically, but as time passed we can witness that Rajput paintings were greatly influenced by Mughal art styles. [22] 

Mughal art was practised amongst the elite. Their miniatures were drawn horizontally on to an A4 size paper; they were not made to be framed. They were drawn on loose leafs and made in to an album, which was viewed amongst the elite gatherings. They were designed to be seen by a small number of people at any time. Some paintings were bound together to make a book. That is why Mughal art is sometimes referred to as the art of the book, as it had a lot of Islamic influence and Book Paintings are a long Islamic tradition. The Rajput paintings were not bound like the Mughal paintings, but pilled, wrapped in a beautiful cloth and ribboned to be put aside in their libraries and brought out only on special occasions.

Mughals had one court and they spoke Persian. Their religion was Islam. Their sources of design were from Indian paintings of 5th and 6th century. Our evidence of paintings before the 16th century is relatively limited as they have not survived. The Rajputs had many courts and were Hindu; the language spoken by them was Hindi. When looking at the Mughal and Rajput prospective and detail it can be seen that in Mughal paintings, the drawings are exquisitely detailed and finely drawn, there is an incredible attention to detail. Since the main influence of Mughal art comes from Persian art, we can see that the Mughals sense of prospective is like Persian miniatures, they also have a high view point when paintings, therefore looking down at the scene or objects that they want to illustrate. Rajput paintings on the other hand, tend to be much more two dimensional and much flatter, the figures tend to have a black outline. Less spatial recession can be seen and this tells us that Rajput artists tended to only look at what was in front of them. Mughal paintings were drawn vertically where as Rajput paintings were drawn horizontally.

Mughals had a wide verity of sources to paint on where as Rajputs were fairly limited. Mughal paintings often did not have a single point of perspective, and they used a variety of colours. Rajput paintings did not use a wide number of colours; they usually used very bold colours such as red, blue, yellow and green; resulting in an extremely solid colourful painting. When considering the subject matter of Mughal and Rajput paintings, we can notice great differences between them. The Mughal arts had a historical and mythical narrative. It displayed court scenes, life at court in a realistic or idealistic way. Their epical art narrative, illustrates Indian, Islamic and Persian epic stories and folk tale such as Hamzanama which as mentioned earlier was illustrated as requested by Akbar. The historical art narrative during Akbar’s reign included of actual events not accurate but a depiction of his own court. He wanted to create a pictorial of his own history and achievements. Historical painting was a new invention introduced in to the Mughal Empire under Akbar’s reign.

The Rajputs are far more interested in depicting religious narratives, such as Ramayana. [23] Gradually as time passed Rajput paintings were also drawn horizontally. Mughal paintings often have a beautiful elaborated illustrations of very realistic flowers or animal designs, were as Rajput paintings consist of very plain boldly coloured margins.

As mentioned earlier Rajput paintings have great emphasis on devotional religious epics, the message that one can observe by studying their arts works is highlighting how devoted and in love they are with their gods. They’re illustration of Krishna and Radha (Fig 6) is a metaphor for a loving loyalty with relation to the gods. Rajput paintings also tend to have many different scenarios in one painting making the observers eye wonder in many directions and perceiving many different stories from a single painting.

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(Figure 6) [24] 

In around 1580-1590 the Mughals were experiencing the European styles and art form. We must mention that the Europeans were never a main influence, but studying their work was a different kind of task for the court artists. As a result we can see a number of paintings which combine the European style with the Indian/Persian/Islamic art designs. Whilst Jahangir was the emperor Sir Thomas Roe visited the Mughal Empire and took with him a number of European paintings. Once at the court 5 of his portraits were copied by the court artists and once represented to him he was amused for not being able to distinguish between the original and copies made. [25] Presence of Foreign ambassadors tells us that Mughal rulers had dynamic trade connections with overseas countries.

Mughal and Rajput paintings paid keen interest to the details of the designs of jewels and drapes; the focus was on the exhibit of beauty. [26] These Court Paintings give us valuable details of the life and times of rulers of those times. Social and courtly customs as portrayed in these paintings illustrate the social hierarchy that separated these societies. Undeniably both Mughal and Rajput paintings are remarkable story tellers (Fig 7 & 8). [27] 

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(Figure 7) [28] (Figure 8) [29] 

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