Invasion of India



With the sustained invasion of India by Islam, beginning with the conquest of Sind by Arab traders in in AD 712, and catching thrust in the twelfth century, fabled cities of   India like Kannauj, Somnath and Mathura fell before the iconoclastic Muslim armies. Many times, cities were burnt, temples despoiled and images broken down into stepping stones for mosques. In 1192 AD, Lalkot (as Delhi was then known) under the Rajput king Prithviraj,fell to the raiding Afghan army of Mohammed Ghauri. His General, Qutub-ud-din-aibak built the majestic Quwwat ul Islam (might of Islam) mosque at the site of Delhiís largest Hindu Temple. Using the traditional Hindu corbelling techniques and the services of Hindu artists, for Islamic motifs and inscriptions on this mosque, gave birth to a fusion art form. The Qutub Minar was also erected to caste the shadow of victory over Hinduism.

Before the arrival of Mughals in the 16th century, several Muslim invaders including Mahmud of Ghazni, the Tughlaqs, the Sharqis, and the Lodhiís, briefly appeared on the Indian historical scene and impressed on the Art of that time.

In early 16th Century, with the onset of the Mughal   empire, Persian painters  were brought over to India who under the patronage of Humayun started what became known as Mughal School of Indian Paintings. It flourished under successive Mughal rulers with the credit of its establishment going to Akbar who delighted in music, poetry and painting. Both Hindu and Muslim artists, poets, musicians and writers were honoured in his court.   

Akbar is also credited with the royal city of Fatehpur Sikri.

In 1571, he commenced the building of this magnificent city in honour of a Muslim saint near Agra, a project that took 15 years of labour. Elaborate palaces, tombs and a mosque, with royal courts and entertainment sites were erected using a deliberate blend of Indian and Persian styles.The project however suffered from water scarcity and royal distraction towards the latter part and was  therefore, abandoned. Akbarís love of the arts and his patronage to literature and cultural synthesis was manifest in his royal library which consisted of over 24 thousand illustrated manuscripts.  

The tradition of painting a collection/folio of paintings   illustrating the various events related to the life of a king or great man, with the text written on the back to enable court reading was also established under the artistic patronage of Akbar.  Hamza Nama, Khamsa pf Amir Khusrau,  Akbar nama and Babur Nama were created in this fashion as also were the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. 

This new school of Miniature blended the decorative aspects of Persian painting with the elements of space and activity from Indian style. Akbarís liberal attitude towards art, as towards religion, was opposed by his orthodox courtiers, who protested against the portrayal of human form, which is prohibited by Islam. Nonetheless, he continued his support to this amalgamation, even encouraging the introduction of European realism to the earlier blend of Persian decorativeness and Rajasthani liveliness. 

Jehangir, Akbarís son and successor was also a true connoisseur of art, continuing the royal Miniature Painting tradition to the extent that it became a very accurate documentation of the history of that time. 

 Architecture was the primary artistic interest of Shah Jahan, which culminated in the creation of the masterpiece called Taj Mahal, a mausoleum for his queen. This mammoth yet ethereally delicate monument is famed for its beauty the world over. Surrounded by formal jade gardens, with the river Yamuna in the backdrop, itís shimmering white marble facades and minarets give an otherworldly vision of beauty and grandeur. Inside, the white walls are studded with beautiful Persian-type floral motifs worked out in semi-precious stones with a technique called pietre dura. This exacting technique which involves fitting of multicoloured stone-cut motifs into accurately carved niches on a slab of marble, flourished during the reign of Shahajahan. Shahjahabad (now old Delhi), the Red fort and the Jami  Masjid were also raised his reign. 

After Aurangzebís orthodox Islamic rule, where Art, just like his Hindu subjects underwent devastation, the Mughal empire began to shrink to regions around Delhi and showed imminent decline. In 1719 AD, Muhammad Shah came to power and under his patronage Mughal painting was once more revived briefly, called the Muhammad Shahi Revival. This elegant style depicted romantic characters set in luxuriant portrayals of nature, belying the violent turmoil of the period of its evolution. In the Hindu kingdoms the exclusiveness of religion and the Sanskrit tradition was shattered by the Mughals and gave way to the emergence of a new approachability of the common man to the religious scriptures and texts about this period.


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