Vignettes that bring alive the Mughal era

If History is your pet subject and the Mughal era happens to be your favourite area of study, then this exhibition is meant just for you. Roli Books, in collaboration with IGNCA and British Library, London, is holding ‘The Mughals: Life, Art and Culture,’ an exhibition of rare paintings, manuscripts and maps from that time.

The exhibition, a facsimile edition of the much-acclaimed original Mughal India: Art, Culture And Empire curated by Dr Malini Roy, showcases the British Library’s extensive collection of illustrated manuscripts and paintings that were commissioned by Mughal emperors and other officials and depict the splendour and vibrant colour of Mughal life.

Pramod Kapoor, Founder and Publisher, Roli Books, says, “As Roli Books turns 35 this year, we felt it fitting to bring an exhibition of rare Mughal works from the British Library to India for the first time. These manuscripts, maps and paintings are not easily accessible as they are not on general display at the British Library. I hope many will take this opportunity to visit the exhibition at the IGNCA and join the celebrations with us.”

The artwork cover a variety of subjects, from scenes of court life including lively hunting parties and formal portraits of emperors to illustrations of works of literature which effectively convey complex storylines in a single image, and dramatic panoramas of Indian landscapes. The development of the Mughal style of art can be traced through the illustrations, as can the influence of European styles, originally, as imported exotica.

Many of these works have never been published. Some of the rare exhibits on display include Shah Jahan’s recipe book, Notebook of Fragrance, an 18th century manuscript ‘Book of Affairs of love’ by Rai Anand Mukhlis, Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi by Thomas C Metcalfe, illustrated by Muzhar Ali Khan, a route map from Delhi to Quandhar, the earliest Indian Atlas, a map of Delhi, a riverfront map of Agra, a bird’s eye view of Red Fort, and some extraordinary portraits and Mughal miniatures. Housed in a library and not a museum, most of these art objects are stored in vaults and rarely seen. This exhibition provides a unique opportunity for Indian viewers to be a part of their own history.  

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