Mughal India – Art, Culture and Empire

publication date: Dec 5, 2012
author/source: Julia Bairstow
Mughal Carousel Crown

The Mughal India – Art, Culture and Empire exhibition currently at the British Library is fascinating and well worth a visit.  It celebrates more than 300 years of the Mughal Dynasty from 1526-1858. At its peak, the Mughal Dynasty incorporated most of India, as we know today, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Visitors can see the extent of this vast empire on a map, together with significant information about the Mughals and their dynasty. This is situated at the entrance to the exhibition.

Moving into the actual exhibition itself there are over 200 paintings, objects and manuscripts, which reflect the rich cultural heritage of the Mughals. Their interest in art, science, nature, medicine, literature, politics and religion as well as aspects of daily life, eg how to design gardens, recipes for both foods and fragrances and on what days to do one's washing etc are all shown in the exhibits. I was particularly impressed with some of the wonderful manuscripts and their intricate, colourful designs and calligraphy.

The fact that the Mughal Dynasty was so powerful and important is evident through all these exhibits, as well as the building of fortresses, palaces, mausoleums and religious institutions, many of which still survive in India today. The most important of these are probably the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Red Fort in Delhi, both of which were commissioned by Mughal Emperors and are shown in paintings in the exhibition.

A few of the exhibition highlights to look out for:-

  • A panorama of Delhi by Mazhar ‘Ali Khan (1846)
  • Mid 17th century Mughal cavalry man and horse armour
  • The ex-king of Delhi, Bahadur  Shah II, awaiting trial in May 1858 (the only documented photograph of the last Mughal emperor)
  • Bahadur Shah's  elaborate crown
  • The Notebook of Fragrance (1698) - a unique manuscript of aspects of household management and activities

The exhibition lasts until 2 April 2013 and as well as the exhibits, there are some events taking place, including half-term family activities from Tuesday 12 to Thursday 14 February 2013.

PWT rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The cost of the exhibition is £9 for an adult (£10 including gift aid) and free for under 18s
For further information, visit Mughal India