Mughal India

The Mughal Empire in northern India was founded by Bābur in 1526. He was of Turko-Mongol lineage, and like his forbear Tīmūr (Tamerlane) he was devoted to the arts of the book and keenly appreciated Persian literature. The court language was Persian, and under the patronage of Mughal rulers a sophisticated and cosmopolitan Indo-Persian culture emerged. Persian poets and painters were attracted to India, where rewards for their services were often greater than in their homeland.

Interest in both books and spirituality had increased during the reign of Emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605), with patrons adding to their collections of romances and histories other works with mystical Sufi themes and inner meanings.

Persian themes of love and devotion were taken up enthusiastically, with popular romances such as those of Yūsuf and Zulaykhā, Laylá and Majnūn and other Sufi allegories copied in numerous manuscripts. By the 18th and 19th centuries, some of these stock Persian themes had been adopted by provincial centres and extended as far as the traditional Hindu courts, outside the Mughal realm.

Love and Devotion exhibition poster
Back to top