EMPEROR AKBAR - GREATEST PATRON OF INDIAN PAINTINGS
by Dr.V.S.Gopalakrishnan Ph.D., IAS Retd.
This is about the great Moghul Monarch and Emperor, Akbar the Great.
Nearly everybody loves art, including you. Only the level varies, from near zero to infinity! If you turn the telescope on the night sky of Indian Art history, covering 2200 years from the beginning of Ajanta Art in 200 BC, till modern times, you will closely observe the galaxies of art patrons from the ancient Buddhist monks to modern art-gallery edifices. And when you try to spot the biggest star that ever promoted art in
Does this come as a surprise for you? You will ask me whether it is the same Akbar whose cruel heart failed to appreciate son Salim’s love for Anarkali, and had her buried alive by having walls built around and enclosing her even as she breathed her last. (Prince Salim was later called Jehangir, and Anarkali (pomegranate-bud) was the given name of Akbar’s court dancer, whose real name was Nadira or Sharfunnisa). Many historians have however doubted the Salim-Anarkali story as it is absent from the Moghul chronicles.
Akbar’s passion for women could only be guessed by the fact that there were nearly 5000 women in his harem. To make up this number, he had to be open to Hindu women too. Jodhabai was Jehangir’s Hindu mother. I consider that very often the love of art flows from the well-springs of intense romance.
This is not to say that the Pathan rulers before the Moghuls – such as the Khiljis, the Tughlaqs and the Lodis - would have been encumbered with much smaller harems! They however inherently lacked artistic taste, except that they built wonderful tombs. The Moghuls were of Turkish descent and were a class apart and were men of artistic taste.
Do you remember that the first Moghul Emperor Babur’s son Humayun was driven out of
Mir Sayyid Ali was not only a painter but a poet too. In
The eclectic Akbar, with a penchant for Hindu women, was not wanting in enforcing this miscibility in his court painters too. Indian painters were appointed to work along with Persian artists. Daswanth and Basawan were two such names and they were Akbar’s favourites. Akbar, with an eye for discovering talent, noticed the genius in the boy Daswanth and had him well trained. Akbar ordered that illustrations be carried out of the great Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Daswanth was the chief illustrator of Mahabharata, a group of 169 paintings. The great painter Daswanth, a legend in his life-time, had a sad end. He became mad and committed suicide.
Paintings in those days were a cooperative effort. The junior artists helped in making handmade paper and in preparing the colouring pigments. The senior artists drew the outlines and indicated the colours to be filled. The work was accomplished at the hands of junior painters.
Emperor Akbar personally used to inspect the paintings of his artists and confer rewards upon them. Abul Fazl has quoted Akbar as saying; “There are many that hate painting, but such men I dislike. It appears to me as if a painter had quite a peculiar means for recognizing God…”
Akbar’s son Jehangir had no less a passion for art. Indeed some rank him the most enthusiastic Moghul patron of paintings. His most famous artist Mansur has left immortal paintings of birds and animals. It is a needless controversy whether Akbar was a bigger patron of painting or Jehangir was. I would say, Akbar opened the sluice gates while Jehangir cut the field-channels.
the rang rasiya freedom of expression art competition aims to bring about a socio cultural movement which discovers new talent, and brings contemporary art into the discursive domain of the middle class. it attempts to create a domain for contemporary art outside the current dominant systems. working in network partnerships with galleries, auction houses and state run art institutions, the competition aims to bridge the aesthetics of the common man with ‘high art’ tradition in the true spirit of the master painter raja ravi varma. he succeeded in bringing art out of the clutches of the aristocracy and the and the orthodox temple priests. making art an integral part of popular culture. often celebrated as a reformer who brought god outside the confines of the temple, raja ravi varma was successful in radicalising and energising the relationship between the audience and the painted image.
organised by the 'infinity art foundation', the rang rasiya freedom of expression art competition, aims to push the newly developing notion of art, which goes beyond the traditional understanding of art as being (only) either in terms of painting or sculpture. the competition embraces and welcomes new media expressions in art (, performance, graphic design video, photography).
it gives me great pleasure to welcome the new year with the rang rasiya freedom of expression movement crossing the 3000 registration mark. maybe its a sign that freedom of expression will be the mantra for this year .
there has been participation from across the country, and from across class barriers. the response has been so great that we are thinking of extending our last day for registration and to increase our all india publicity buzz. when such a over whelming number of people join a platform, then there is an obvious need to make the platform larger.
if at all there are any changes in the date line as we extend the registration time line we will revert to you on the fifth with a new schedule.
till then lets soak in the new year with a song beautifully written by shirley erena murray
god of freedom, god of justice,
god whose love is strong as death,
god who saw the dark of prison,
god who knew the price of faith:
touch our world of sad oppression
with your spirit's healing breath.
rid the earth of torture's terror,
god whose hands were nailed to wood;
hear the cries of pain and protest,
god who shed the tears and blood;
move in us the power of pity,
restless for the common good.
make in us a captive conscience
quick to hear, to act, to plead;
make us truly sisters, brothers,
of whatever race or creed:
teach us to be fully human,
open to each other's need.
thanks for your comments.
art studies has been my hobby over four decades. it was only the putting together of known facts, from my notes.
this seems such a well researched work...u must have taken a long time over it...great..bnb