Origin and Development

Mughal School of art Mughal School of art is not a new style in itself but it was the same Indian school of art which was well refined and polished by the Persian artist it the help of Indian Artists. Actually, Mughal art is the mixture of Indian (Rajajasthani traditional art + Persian art = Mughal art. In fact, Mughals were very much impressed by the Indian style of art but the general ornamentation and border decoration was of Persian style.

The origin of Mughal School of painting is considered to be a land mark in the history. Anew culture of painting developed under the patronage of Mughal rulers of Taimur dynasty in Bukhara and Samarkand and it reached its peak during the 15th century. Taimur gave due regard and importance to the artists in his court. Bihjad was the best artist among all the painters of that time.

Babur was from Taimur family, founder of Mughal Empire in India. Babur was mostly in the battle field and died in 1530 A.D. His son Humyun had to spend 13 years in exile in Iran after being pushed out by SherShahSuri from India. Humayun was also busy in battle but he got the painting of Dastan – a- ameer Hamza done his time. He had two famous artists in his court who came from Kabul namely Saiyyad Ali (of Tabrez) and Khawaja Abdussamad (of Shiraz) from Bihjad School of art. Humayun died in 1555 or 1556 A.D. after ascending the throne of Delhi and left his son Akbar, only child as his successor. Akbar was only 13-year-old at that time. Emperor Akbar was keenly interested in the art of painting and architecture as well as sculpture also. Akbar had a broad vision. The Mughal School of painting was organized at its zenith during this time. A large number of Indian Artists from all over India were recruited to work in his court. There are many manuscripts that were illustrated in his time. They are………


According to the Ain-e -Akbari of Abul fazal, during that period, about 1400 events had been painted, out of which few are available now. Akbar had started a new religion Deen – e- Ilahi the aim was of which was to compromise or Suleh Kul. He became very popular in a very short time because of his greatness and liberality. Mir Saiyyad ali, Khwaja Abdussamad, Bihzad, bhag, Miskin, Basavan, Manohar, Daulat, Mansur, Kesu, Lal, Dasawan, Shankar Goverdhan and Inayat etc. are very impartment and famous painters of Akbar’s court or atelier.

Jahangir, son of Akbar, was a great lover of art and nature. The Mughal miniature reached a very high level of excellence in his period. He encourages his painters. As a result, a number of paintings were painted of birds, flower, and animals in his time. Portrait painting became very popular during his time and attained heights of refinement. We even find some portraits of ladies illustrated in his time.  Famous painter of Jahangir’s times is Ustad Mansoor (bird’s painter), Abul Hassan (Animal and portrait painter), Bichitra (Symbolic painter), Bishan Das, Balchand, Mukhlis, Daulat, Riza, Bhim, and Inayt. Under Jahangir’s patronage, Painting acquired greater charm, refinement and dignity. He had great fascination for nature and took delight in the portrait of birds, animals and flowers. The anwar –e –sunahli, is another fable book. The portrait of Jahangir illustrated is a typical example of miniatures executed during the period of Jahangir. This miniature is in the collection of the national museum, New Delhi. After the death of Jahangir, shahjahan became the emperor of the Mughal Empire in 1626. But he did not patronize painting like his father he was a lover of architecture. He got so many forts, palaces and mosques constructed. The Taj Mahel, red fort of Agra etc. the art of painting went on in Jahangir style in Shahajahan’s time also. But the standard was not as high as it was during Jahangir’s period. The art of painting saw downfall in the time of shahjahan because of the traditional and hackneyed style.

Aurangzeb came as a fanatic Muslim ruler. He was a bitter enemy of painting and music. Most of the artist went to hills where they got shelter and after reaching there they invented a rare new style of painting which is known as Pahari School of art. In this way the Mughal painting saw its end during the time of Aurangzeb.

During the period of Bahadurshah, there was a revival of Mughal painting after the neglect shown by Aurangzeb. The style showed an improvement in quality. After 1712 A.D. the Mughal painting again started deteriorating under the later Mughals. Though retaining the outer form, it became lifeless and lost the inherent quality of the earlier Mughal Art. Finally, the glorious period of Mughal Miniatures Art came to an end the early 18th century. So, we can say that Mughal Art originated with Mughals, developed with Mughals and ended with Mughal rule in India.


Mughal painting came with the Mughals, developed with the Mughals and ended with end of Mughal rule in India. When Mughals came in India and saw Indian (Rajasthani) painting they gave a great honour to the Indian artist. This resulted in creation of new style by the combination of India and Persian style which began to be called the Mughal style and undoubtedly unique. The following are characteristic of Mughal art….

Profile faces – Profile of face is the main characteristic of Mughal School. Almost all the portraits are EK CHASHM.

Special decoration with border – This is the main effect of Iranian art on Mughal painting. All the paintings have been decorated with the borders around it which are more ornamented.

Royal splendor – The Mughal emperors craved for royal splendor and discipline. We find typical atmosphere of royalty even in the gathering for pleasure.

Historical scenes – Mostly historical scenes have been painted in Mughal School. Maximum painting of historical scenes was done in Akbar’s time, because he gave much importance to the manuscripts paintings such as Kissa – amir- Hamza.

Fine line drawing – The beautiful thin   thick fine lines can be judged by portraits of the style. The artist has tried to paint each and every facial hard of the persons which is really wonderful.

Portrait painting – There is abundance of portrait painting in the Mughal school. Portrait of saints have also been painted along with emperors. Maximum portrait paintings were done in shahjahan’s period.

Garments – Garments are beautifully and ornamentally painted in the Mughal painting. Transparent chunni have been painted. Most of the garments are of summer season. The male figures are shown wearing Angarkha and chudidar pajamas. The use of stripling (pardaz) is shown with delicate shading.

Religious themes – There is depiction of Indian epics, mythology and love stories such as THE RAMAYANA, THE MAHABHARAT, THE NAL DAMYANTI AND PANCH TANTRA stories. There was also depiction of Islamic, Arabian and Persian episodes.

Depiction of nature – Trees, plants, rivers and mountains etc. have been beautifully depicted in Mughal art. The natural scenes painted show hunting scene battle scene, if there had been three types of trees in a painting, their leaves were painted differently with accuracy.

Ornamental designs – All the paintings of court we find, have beautiful ornamental design on walls of palace, ceiling and floors. The designs are geometrical. Floral and creepers are rhythmic and smooth.

Expression of ideas – The different sentiments have been beautifully painted in the paintings. The depiction of sad emperor, obedient servant, restless queen and nervous boatman are noteworthy. Similarly, every idea is clearly visible in the painting.

Golden and silver colours – Golden and silver colours have been mostly used in painting. In the necklaces and footwear, the golden and silver colours are used with care. N border also there is wonderful use of golden colour.

The use of calligraphy – Calligraphy on it black ink. Even artist’s name has been written beautifully.

Depiction of animals and birds – Animal and birds paintings depictions are also one of the main characteristic of Mughal art. Ustad Mansoor was the best bird painter. A falcon on a perch (bird rest) is matchless painting. Elephant fights, camel fights have been painted beautifully. Lions, tigers, horses and goats etc. have been depicted marvelously.

Natural colours – Mostly mineral and natural colours are used which are attractive in the beginning flat colours were used but later on one can also see the depth with delicate shading of colours. The appropriate colours have been applied with great care in painting.

Silent feature
  1. The art of court, secular and eclectic in its character.
  2. The use of calligraphy with artist name.
  3. The portraiture-delineation of fine likeness.
  4. The representation of minute details.
  5. The depiction of nature as a special study (fauna and flora).
  6. The faces are usually painted profile (EK-chasm)
  7. The use of mineral and natural colours with silver and golden.
  8. Painted border decoration used in Arabic script.
  9. The delicacy is maintained in figures and architectural forms.
  10. The depiction of court scenes, hunting and battle scenes, music and dancing scenes, processions and wedding scenes etc.
  11. The depiction of foreign and religious stories especially Islamic and Indian epics like The Ramayana, The Mahabharata, Nal- Damyanti etc.
  12. The Naturalistic treatment of landscape borrowed from European paintings.
  13. The use of stripling (Pardaz) and delicate shading.

Paintings Description

Birth of Salim


This painting is one of the illustrations from the “Akbarnama” an official chronicle written by Abul fazal on Akbar’s life and reign in 1564, Akbar lost his new born twin sons from one of his wives after which he was worried about having a male successor for his empire. He visited the Sufi sheikh Saleem Chishti at Sikri and prayed for a son.in early 1569, one of his wives became pregnant. She went to Sikri and gave birth there to a son who was named Salim after the sheikh. He later became the emperor Jahangir.

Artist, Title and medium – This painting is one of the illustrations from AKBARNAMA, an official chronicle written by Abul Fazal on Akbar’s life and resign. In 1564, Akbar lost his new born twin sons from one of his wives after which he was worried about having a male successor for his empire. he visited the Sufi sheikh Saleem Chishti at Sikri and prayed for a son. 1569, one of his wives became pregnant, she went to Sikri and gave birth there to a son who was named Salim after the sheikh. he later became the emperor Jahangir.

This painting is based on the rejoicings at the birth of prince Salim at Fatehpur Sikri. It is a combination of three scenes, an arrival view of the zenana and the birth chamber, a central courtyard where musicians play music and outside the wall where alms are distributed to beggars.

The upper portion shows Akbar’s wife surrounded by midwives. The royal heir is being taken care of by all the ladies present. It is an arrival view of the encloser as we can also see the rooftop where a peacock is preached. beyond this is a Persian style rocky landscape. The central compartment is lined by a white wall which also act like a back ground for musicians playing instruments in its front. On the right side a lady attendant passes a tray of sweets to the male servants breaking the good news. The enthusiasm of the servants and the musicians is portrayed by their dynamic poses playing all kinds of instruments of that time from percussion drums to trumpets. The lower compartment separated with the brown boundary wall has crowed surging ahead with blessing and praises for the new born and the king. The court servants are seen distributing alms to all present. There is an atmosphere of excitement and celebration all over.
There is strong colour contrast in draperies, skin tones, architecture and interiors. This multicolour composition has light and shade in all its visual imagery that came as a European influence through Britishers. The maturity of treatment in all aspects of the composition shows that Akbar’s artist had by now comfortably absorbed the foreign influence from Persia as well as Europe and made them a part of their own characteristics style.

Description in30 words –

This tempera painting has been composed vertically by “Ramdas” from Akbar’s atelier. In this division of space has been made successfully and more than one episode   has been depicted in one painting by using ideal perspective.

Krishna lifting Mount Govardhana

Artist, Title and Medium –

Miskin, Period- 1585-90A.D., medium – tempera on paper (water colour) School Mughal (Akbar) School of art.

Subject Matter –

This painting is based on the story of lord Krishna. this paintings theme has been taken from Bhagavata Purana. this painting scene is of that time when Krishna once lifting Goverdhan mountain on his little finger to save the people of Gokul from the wrath of Indra. who had let loose heavy rains?

Description –

It is an early painting of Akbar’s time. In this vertical painting Krishna was shown lifting mount Goverdhan on the lifting on the little finger on his left hand. A big multi coloured mountain with deer, monkeys, trees, shrubs and grassy has been painted. The handling of the huge mountains shows Persian influence. Under the mountains, all “Brijvasi” have gathered with their cattle to get shelter from the deluge by the angry rain God Indra. On the top, sky is shown with blue colour. Even under the mountain dark blue colour sky is shown. Lord Krishna is painted in large size (Virat Roopa). Krishna is dressed in his “pitamber” (Deep yellow) with a large garland of white flower s, standing in a relaxed posture lifting the huge mountain effortlessly. Mostly figures are one and half chasm which an influence of Persian art. is also on the right side of Krishna, a tree is shown in bright green colour.

Human Values –

@ Stay united with your group for facing a calamity.

@ Keep your loyalty to the leader and your team.

@ Leader is responsible to guard his people.

@ Respects and tolerance for other religions for social harmony (Mughal ruler got a painting made on a Hindu theme).

Description in 30 words –

This tempera painting made by “Miskin” in Akbar’s period. He has shown Krishna lifting Govardhan on his little finger without any effort. Brijvasi crowd has shown under the Goverdhan in regional dress. Everything is natural with Iranian effect.

Falcon on Bird Rest

Artist, Title and medium –

Ustad Mansoor, period – 1618-1620 A.D. (Jahangir’s time), medium – tempera on paper (water colour), School – Mughal school of art.

Subject Matter –

This painting is based on Jahangir’s love for birds and animals. he was a keen falconer and treasured fine specimens of falcons brought from different places. A superb falcon brought from Persia was moulded by a cad and died. Jahangir asked his painter to paint his precious pet falcon to be preserved in Jahangirnama.

Description –

Ustad Mansoor knew the fondness of emperor for his pet falcon. In this painting a tamed falcon is sitting on a cushioned bird rest. On the bird rest, Nadir – ul – As is signed by Ustad Mansoor who was awarded this title. The cruel eye of falcon can be seen in this painting. The falcon is painted in white against a yellow background with brown details of its folded wings, a sharp beak and round vigilant eyes is painted in light brown and yellow ochre deep colour.
Three words Jahangir Patashah at top, Bahari near the falcon and Uttam on the bottom are written. Bahari means falcon and Uttam means excellent.

Description in 30 words –

This tempera painting is made by “Ustad Mansoor” of Jahangir court. He painted a tamed falcon resting on a cushions bird rest with highly realistic manner for “Jahangir Nama”. some calligraphy is shown in this painting.

Kabir and Raidas

Artist, Title and Medium 

Faquirullah khan, Period – 1640 A.D., (Shahjahan’s time), Medium – tempera on paper (water colour), School – Mughal School of art.

Subject matter –

The painting belongs to era of Dara Shikoh who respected all religion equally. this painting shows to prominent saint of that time Kabeer and Raidas. Dara Shikoh being the Muslim has shown Hindu saints in the painting. This painting is one of the master peace of that time.


This horizontal painting of saint KABEER shows him weaving a garment on his loom, in a meditating mood. The other saint, RAIDAS sitting closed by, is also in the same mood. Both are meditating on a same religious topic. The painting brings simple and peaceful Indian village life, where work is worship. The huts of the saints are in rural Indian villages. The colours used are brown and light blue. The border of the painting is light brown and shades are very fine. DARA SHIKOH (son of shahjahan) resected both Hindu and Muslim saints. This is the master piece of the paintings painted during that time.

Human Values –

@ Simple living and high thinking.

@ Humanity.

@ No superficial life styles.

@ Two religious’ leaders in a peaceful exchange of ideas without competing for supremacy.

@Dignity of labour – no work is small or menial.

@ Oneness of divine though means and ways to reach him differ.

Description in 30 words –

This horizontal painting made by “Ustad Faqueerullah” from shahjahan court. Here saint Kabir is waving a cloth in front of saint Ravidas .it Reflects the simple and peaceful environment of village. They both are discussing on any spiritual topic seriously.

Marriage procession of Dara Shikoh

Artist title and medium – 

This painting “Marriage procession of Dara Shikoh made by “Haji Madni, Period – 1750 A.D. (Oudh – Mughal) Tempera on paper (water colour) school

Subject Matter –

This painting is based on marriage procession of Dara shikoh . this painting suggests that the artist was aware of historical account of dara shikoh fabulous marriage involving a cost of rs. 32 lacs than half of which amount was spent by his elder sister jahnara begum. Dara shikoh got married to “Nadira”begum in 1633A.D.


This magnificent painting, an all-time master piece, is a vertical brilliant depiction of the marriage procession of Dara Shikoh who is riding alert on a decorated horse. While his father is also riding on another decorated horse, just behind Dara Shikoh’s horse. He is followed by three attendant one bearing a candle, the second one holding the horse and the third one is carrying a chowri. The royal people are shown riding horses and some are on foot proceeding towards the bride’s house. A large gathering of men and woman is joyfully receiving the Barat. All the figures are ek-chasm.
Marvellous depiction of various types of fireworks can be seen in the background. Well decorated border is there. White, Red, Green, Maroon, Turquoise blue with a touch of Greyish black colour have been used. Golden colour has also been used at important places. This meticulously done painting brings forth all the gaiety and joy of the festive occasion.

Human Values –

@ Discipline in the conduct.

@ Mutual respect for each other in the bride and groom’s family.
@ Welcome the guests with an openhearted.  

Description in 30 words –   

This tempera painting made by “Hazi Madni” from (Oudh).  Hera well-dressed “Dara Shikoh” is shown riding on a decorated horse he is leading his marriage procession. A crowded BARAT is shown carefully.