‘Tale of two Ramayanas’: Indian art in the Mughal Era
The Mughal Empire ruled the majority of India from the early 1500s to the mid 1800s when the British dethroned the last Mughal King in 1858. The Mughals were Islamic and of Central Asian descent. In fact, they traced their lineage the great conquers Genghis Kahn and Timur. The fundamental differences between Hinduism and the Islamic religion of India’s foreign rulers were bound to create conflict. However, the Mughal King Akbar, endorsed Hindu culture and sought to be as religiously tolerant as possible.
The Mughals introduced many new things to Indian culture, one being monumental tomb architecture such as the world-famous Taj-Mahal. Hindus and Buddhist always cremated their dead so burial was a new custom all together. Along with this came the written word of sacred manuscript text in the form of decorative calligraphy. Beautiful Arabic passages from the Qur’an are inscribed throughout the Taj-Mahal.
A very interesting way in which Hinduism and Islam were reconciled in Mughal India was through religious art, particularly in the form of the classic Indian epic, ‘The Ramayana’. ‘The Ramayana’ tells the story of the great prince/god, Rama, who is actually and incarnation of Vishnu, and his quest to save his beautiful wife, Sita, from the terrifying demon-king, Ravenna. During this time, ‘The Ramayana’ was depicted by both the Hindu Rajputs and the Islamic Mughals, which shows the adaptability of ‘The Ramayana’, of which there were in fact many different versions. The Mughals produced a version of ‘The Ramayana’ in 1600 and the Rajputs produced theirs in 1720. The Mughal King, Akbar, had a Persian translation of ‘The Ramayana’ created which is known as ‘The Freer Ramayana’.
The Rajput style of art depicting ‘The Ramayana’ was more of a traditional Indian style and used large areas of sold, bright colors with more simple and less realistic looking figures and objects. The Mughal style used to depict...
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