Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire

Instructional poem for pigeon-fanciers by Valih Musavi (1788) (c) British Library Board

Instructional poem for pigeon-fanciers by Valih Musavi (1788) (c) British Library Board

There is still time to rush out and see the British Library’s latest Exhibition “Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire”, which closes on April 2nd. It might not, at first sight, appear to be a natural stamping ground for Steppe readers, more interested in the lands further north. However, it goes without saying that the clue is in the name. The Mughal Empire was ultimately sprung from the Mongol and Turkic dynasties of Central Asia, descended from Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. Its founder, Babur (1483-1530) was born in Ferghana and briefly ruled in Samarkand, but was forced from his homeland by Uzbek invaders, and ultimately moved his power base to Kabul and then India. The exhibition shows beautifully how as a result the Indian Mughals were the heirs to the courtly culture of Central Asia, whether the gardens, the traditions of miniature painting which look back to the great artist Bizhad of Herat, or the love of mystical Persian verse. A giant terrapin carved from a block of jade the size of a pillow also reminds us that the Mughals looked not just to Central Asia but wider afield. Where else did the jade come from but the Chinese oases of the Taklamakan Desert via the opulent ways of the Silk Road?

For more information, visit http://www.bl.uk/whatson/exhibitions/mughalindia/index.html