Jahangir the fourth Mughal emperor
(r. 1605-27), was a lover of beauty, be it that
of an artifact created by human hands or that
observed in nature, the work of god. His memoirs,
commonly known as Tuzuk-I-Jahangiri or, Jahangirnama,
are as much an album of his aesthetic experiences
as a chronicle of his reign. With his keen sensibility,
these experiences were a permanent source of joy
for him. Nature and beauty were preserved through
the brush of his artists.
Jahangir was also a naturalist
of the first order, with a strong curiosity for
facts. He maintained a rich menagerie and an aviary,
manned by expert officials and a team of workers
under his personal supervision. Regular records
were kept of each individual specimen, as also
such information as he desired to acquire. His
investigations have been found to be of immense
scientific value. The historian Henry Beveridge
opined that Jahangir would been a happier man
had he been the head of a museum of natural history.
The Zebra (Equus grevyi) was first
brought into India at Jahangir's court in 1621.
Jahangir's keen eye observed the intriguing correspondence
between the pattern of stripes of the zebra and
the tiger. The former, we are informed, "is striped
exactly like the black and yellow tiger, except
that this is black and white. Since some doubted
that the black stripes had been painted onto its
body, an inquiry was instantly ordered. After
inquiry into the truth, it became certain that
they (the lines) were by the creator of the World".
most valuable contribution to the knowledge of
zoology was a portrait of the Mauritian bird,
the dodo (Raphus cucullatus). An important link
in the evolution of ducks, this flightless, primitive
bird had become extinct by the end of the seventeenth
century, "thanks to the active gastronomic interest
taken in it by visiting European soldiers". Modern
scholars wishing to know its features had to depend
for long on a not very accurate drawing by the
Flemish artist Ronald Savery, made at Amsterdam
between 1626 and 1628, while the Mughal painting
(attributed to the great Mughal artist Mansur)
lay in oblivion. Dr. A.Ivanov of St Petersburg
(Leningrad) discovered it in the collection of
the Institute of Oriental studies of the Russian
Academy of Sciences. His paper created a sensation
at the XII International Ornithological Congress
at Helsinki in 1958; for this painting was found
to be the most correct representation of the dodo.
It was correctly made from a live specimen which
seems to have been presented to Jahangir by a
foreign visitor. Professor Erwin Stresemann has
dated this miniature to the last years of the
emperor's life when ill-health had stopped his
pen, and thus deprived the world of an eyewitness
account of an exceedingly curious bird by one
of the most interesting figures in Indian history
and a naturalist par excellence.
Accuracy achieved by well-defined
outlines and the rendering of maximum detail are
the chief characteristics of Mughal studies of
nature. Attention is paid to the use of pigments
that reflect the actual color of the subject.
One cannot fail to admire the minute observation
of the artists in which other characteristic physical
features of the various birds and animals - hairs,
ears, eyes, tail, fur or plumage- are so realistically
depicted as to enable one to identify the species
at first glance. The artists paint them after
careful study, as their creations are not merely
a copy of the external appearance of the animals
but objective illustrations of their mood. That
there is a typical conscious enlargement of the
figure in proportion to the space is clear. It
is the Mughal painter's special way of according
dignity to the subject of his painting.
art also includes depictions of animals which
are made up of human figures or other elements
from throughout nature - called Composite Animals.
These images invert the normal Indian approach
to interpreting form. These composites, made up
of disparate elements (animal, human, demon, and
so on) are found in India from the early Mughal
period onward, giving rise to the Mughal label.
The painters of the Mughal composites are able
to invent composite animals which may startle
us at first, but on close inspection seem so entirely
natural. This sheer naturalness of many of these
paintings is even more striking than the individual
elements. The playfulness inherent in these paintings
may mask some deep intent, but at the same time
this playfulness is enough to keep our interest
and inspire our admiration.
Mughal art also broke new ground
in the use and representation of the floral motif
in painting. While flowers were a common motif
and an integral part of design in Indian art from
very early times, it was only with the emergence
of the Mughal school that they became subjects
of paintings, rather than embellishments, and
here too, only from the start of the seventeenth
The first Mughal emperor Babur
expresses his love for nature in the following
"My heart, like the bud of
the red, red rose,
Lies fold within fold aflame;
Would the breath
of even a myriad Springs
Blow my heart's bud to a rose? "
His fascination for flowers, especially
the rose (gul in Persian) was so deep that he
named his daughters Gul-chihra Begum, Gul-izar
Begum, Gul-badan Begum, and Gul-rang Begum.
Babur's description of the panoramic
view of blossoms during spring in Sindh once again
testifies to his being a connoisseur of flowers:
" In some places sheets of yellow flowers bloomed
in plots; in others sheets of red flowers in plots;
in some red and yellow bloomed together. We sat
on a mound near the camp to enjoy the sight. There
were flowers on all sides of the mound, yellow
here, red there, as if arranged regularly to form
a sextuple. On two sides there were fewer flowers
but as far as the eye reached, flowers were in
bloom. In spring near Parashawar the fields of
flowers are very beautiful indeed" (account of
the year AD 1519).
flower paintings are typically meticulously drawn
twigs with leaves, buds, and flowers, in a variety
of arrangement, flawless in depiction and fully
conforming to the rules of naturalistic study
without losing its essential aesthetic appeal.
The background is mostly treated plain except
for a slight suggestion of aerial perspective
with the help of a fine strip across the top,
without defining the horizontal line. Total focus
is laid on the main subject which suggests the
artist's inclination to project it in all its
genuine objective form. In such paintings, in
order to enliven the surroundings and capture
a certain rhythm of movement, as well as to manage
the compositional aspects, the Mughal school prefers
to depict birds, butterflies, and other insects
hovering over the blossoms. This is done to achieve
a greater impact of naturalistic environment through
a kind of relational placement of the main object
and other minor living things (flying) in nature;
also, he introduces through the hovering objects
a sort of freedom of movement in the space around
a still-life exposure of the main object. Besides,
in the selection of the hovering objects, there
is an attempt not only to suggest the skyline,
but also to intensify the naturalistic impact
of the flower study through the addition of ecological
harmony that exists in nature. The pale background
does help in brightening up in relief the flowering
plant as a whole, and also enhances with ease
vertical movement without having to concentrate
much on spacing the sky as one might expect otherwise.
One may note that the clustering of the leaves
is composed with a deliberate purpose and design:
at the base it is denser, suggestive of the plant
being rooted in the soil; while in its upward
growth the leaves have generally a light openness
balanced by a bud, and then there is a full focus
on the flowers showing different folds of petals
concerting with various stages of blossoming.
The Mughal artist tends towards
a naturalistic rendering of flora and fauna. An
Indian element, that is, sympathy with the animal
world, further gave rise to emotions and feelings
in their representation. But in no way is the
animal world the subject of "adoration" in their
art as it is in the sculpture and painting of
ancient India. Mughal painters clearly aim at
the portrayal of physical reality where spiritual
and emotional matters hardly had a place, in other
words a scientific approach. This aspect of Mughal
aesthetics obviously lends their creations a quality
of earthly charm and pleasure. Grousset has rightly
remarked that Mughal studies of wildlife are frank
material, intended to give earthly pleasure. The
Mughal artist's approach finds expression in an
emphasis of objectivity in the presentation of
nature. This best suits studies of specimens intended
to depict maximum possible detail.
Key TakeawaysNature is a source of inspiration and beauty that has captivated artists and writers for centuries.Spending time in nature can have numerous physical and mental health benefits, including reducing stress, improving mood, and increasing creativity.Human actions have a significant impact on the natural world, and it is essential to protect and conserve the environment to ensure its long-term health and sustainability.Biodiversity is a critical aspect of nature, and preserving it is crucial for the continued survival of many species.Our connection to nature is essential, and we must work to cultivate a sense of stewardship and responsibility for the natural world.
Nature is a source of inspiration and beauty that has captivated artists and writers for centuries.
Spending time in nature can have numerous physical and mental health benefits, including reducing stress, improving mood, and increasing creativity.
Human actions have a significant impact on the natural world, and it is essential to protect and conserve the environment to ensure its long-term health and sustainability.
Biodiversity is a critical aspect of nature, and preserving it is crucial for the continued survival of many species.
Our connection to nature is essential, and we must work to cultivate a sense of stewardship and responsibility for the natural world.
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