Mughal Series|Utopian Visions In Mughal Painting [B]

Mughal painting as a heterotopic space

In theory, Mughal emperors pursued a policy of religious tolerance and openness to non-shari’a religious ideas, however, an opposite tendency contesting the inclusive tradition was always present. Scholar Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi was one of the opponents against the imperial policy. He insisted the necessity of attack upon the heterodox and the non-Muslim. He criticized Akbar in his letters to the notables and students.[40] When Jahangir ascended the throne, the tension was accelerated by the emperor prisoning Sirhindi. A more critical viewpoint was from theologian Bada’uni. He was strongly opposed to Hindu and Shia sect. In his Muntakhab at-tawarikh, his charge against Akbar’s religious innovation was severe. Plus, in the court, far from harmony and stability, wars of succession happened in every transition of Mughal power, and the imperial power of the rulers were constantly challenged. For example, rivalry between prince Salim and his son Khusrau last from the time of Akbar to Salim’s accession as emperor Jahangir. In the hope of succeeding his grandfather’s throne, Khusrau initiated a rebellion in 1606. Overall, conflicts and oppositions were present throughout the history of Mughal Empire. The utopian visions were brought by the non-shari’a oriented Mughal rulers and partially realized, but cannot be fully achieved.

In such a context, the manuscript painting served as a heterotopic space where an apparent attempt at Mughal utopia was represented. Foucault presented the notion of heterotopia first in a lecture in 1967 pointing out that some places interrupt or subvert the ordinary everyday space, literally “other places”.[41] Heterotopic sites are the actual spaces of difference in which the utopia is effectively enacted. Heterotopic sites are present in every culture, Foucault writes, they can have multiple or changing functions; they can bring together several incompatible things as a microcosm; they can juxtapose time across time or enclose time in an immobile place.[42] In short, heterotopia are spaces of alternative spatial and social relations where difference is both encountered and ordered.[43]
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Mughal Series|An Examination of Mughal Hunting Scenes (Part B Jahangir and Shah Jahan)

Part A Introduction and Akbari hunting images

Hunting Scenes Under Jahangir’s Reign

Unlike his father, Jahangir’s commissions of hunting scenes did not concentrate on actions and movement. Instead, human personalities and individuality are emphasized. Jahangir inherited Akbar’s royal library and workshop, and dismissed a number of painters. His atelier was smaller than that of his father due to his higher standards. To Jahangir, his passion for the observation of the nature affected his artistic taste. His interest in animals and plants was shown in the paintings of his period. He observed the beauty of flowers and the precious birds he saw in Kashmir. He ordered the artists to paint pictures of them. He is considered as the connoisseur among the Mughal rulers. One single artist with greater responsibility in the workshop determined the final appearance of a painting, which made artist’s individuality shown in the painting more possible. Like his predecessors, Jahangir was eager to claim his Timurid heritage. The inscription on a monumental column he erected in 1605 tells Jahangir’s lineage down to Timur. Though during Jahangir’s reign, the empire was stable, the Mughal legitimacy was still needed to be established. Linking his rule to Timurid tradition underlines his divine kingship and undoubted power.

Jahangir is an emperor with a complex personality. He was a keen naturalist, who studied animals and precious birds when he was traveling in his kingdom. Two cranes were taken to his court at the age of one month, and given the names of Layla and Majnun who are the tragic lovers of Persian literature. Jahangir devoted himself studying the cranes from their daily routine, mating, to the hatching of the eggs, and all details were carefully recorded. On the other side, he loved killing animals. In 1617, he listed 28,532 animals killed by him at the age of fifty, including mountain goat, sheep and deer, wolves, wild fox and boar, pigeons, hawks, pelicans, a total of 86 lions, 3473 crows and 10 crocodiles.[18]
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