Mughal contributions to literature and Music

Mughal contributions to literature and Music

Development of Literature during the Mughal Period


  • There was a tremendous development in the field of literature during the Mughal times. Babar and Humauan were lovers of literature.
  • Baber was himself a great scholar of Persian. He wrote a book known as Tuzek-e-Babari which is highly esteemed by the Turkish Literature.
  • Humayun got the treatise translated into Arabic. He too was a lover of learning and had establihsed a big Library.
  • Humayun Nama, tops the books written in his times. Akbar was very fond of leaning. ‘Akbar Nama’, Sur Sagar, Ram Charitamanas are prominent among the books written during his time.
  • Malik Muhammad Jayasis Padmavat and Keshav’s Ram Chandrika were also written during the same period. Jahangir greatly patronized literature.
  • Many scholars adorned his court. He too was a scholar of a high caliber and wrote his life story.
  • During Shah Jahan’s time there was a well known scholar named Abdul Hameed Lahori. He wrote Badshah Nama. The literary activities suffered during Aurangzeb’s time.
  • Urdu literature started developing during the last days of the Mughal emperor. This credit goes to Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan and Mirza Galib.
  • The language of Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan was very simple and impressive. His compositions inspired the other urdu writer Mirza Galib, who was a famous poet of his time. He made an important contribution to uplift Urdu poetry.
  • There were some other writers also who took interest in Urdu poetry and enriched the Urdu literature. Maulvi Altab Hussain Ali, Akbar Allahabadi and Dr. Mohammed Iqbal are some famous names.

Literature of Mughal Period

  • The Mughal Period was an period of growth of literature in India. The Indian Literature witnessed the golden age during the Mughal Rule.

Persian Literature in Mughal Period

  • The Persian Literature flourished during Mughal Period.
  • The tolerant and benevolent policy of Mughal Emperor Akbar and his patronage of learning, coupled with internal peace and prosperity and freedom from foreign danger, made possible the conditions in which art and literature flourished.
  • It is no surprise, therefore, that volumes of Persian literature were produced by scholars of outstanding ability.
  • Persian literature may be classified under two heads, namely,
  1. Original compositions and
  • Under the first category letters and poetry occupied a prominent place. It was a fashion with writers in that age to leave behind collections of letters which were considered to be models of literary style.
  • Shaikh Abu-al-Fazal-ibn Mubarak, also known as Abul-Fazl, was an extemely talented personality of Literature.
  • His contribution towards literature of Mughal period is outstanding.
  • Abul Fazl’s letters known as Insha-i-Abul Fazl, have been printed by the Nawal Kishore Press, Lucknow. They were regarded as models of epistolary composition and were imitated by scholars throughout the Mughal period.
  • Even the puritan emperor Aurangzeb, who condemned Abul Fail as a heretic, commended the latter’s style to his sons.
  • Many other collections from the pen of other distinguished essayists have come down to us and some of them are likely to yield material for a cultural history of the period.
  • Persian poetry occupied the next place. In fact, poetry was, in medieval age, the most popular vehicle of literary expression and Muslims, both Indian and foreign, were particularly fond of it. It served the Persians and the Mughals as an easy vehicle to give expression to their natural love of beauty.
  • There were many in Akbar’s days that practiced it as a regular profession, while others resorted to it as a means of relaxation, or in pursuit of culture.
  • Owing to the patronage extended to poetry, thousands of poets, both Indians and foreigners, flocked to Akbar’s court.
  • The Ain-i-Akbari gives the names of fifty-nine topmost Persian poets who had been patronized by Akbar.
  • There were fifteen others who, too, were supposed to belong to the first category had sent their poems to Akbar from various places in Persia.
  • Abul Fazl gives extracts from the poetic compositions of the fifty-nine best poets of Persian.
  • The most important of them was his own elder brother Abul Faizi. He is supposed to rank with Amir Khusrau and Amir Hasan Dehlvi, and was, thus, one of the three Indian poets of Persian whose works were read outside India.
  • Indian scholars are appreciate of the literary works of Mughal Period. The poets of the Mughal period writing in Persain paid more attention to their familiar theme, which, in most cases was love.
  • Many author of Persian Literature in India produced a commentary of the Quran. Some of these commentaries possess independent literary value.
  • The most important achievement of the Mughal age was translation into Persian of first-rate works of Sanskrit, Arabic, Turki and Greek.
  • Akbar wanted to bring about a fusion of the Hindu and Muslim cultures and in order to provide a common literature to the intelligentsia of the land, established at his court a translation department in which was employed high-ranking scholars of Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian.
  • The department functioned under his personal supervision.
  • The Tuzk-e-Babri, or the memoirs of Babur, were translated into Persian by Mirza Abdul Rahim Khan Khana.
  • Abul Fazl translated into Persian many outstanding Sanskrit works, such as, the Kishan Joshi, the Ganga Dhar, the Mahesh, the Mahanand and others.
  • The Mahabharata, Ramayana, Atharva Veda, Lilawati, Rajatarangini was translated into Persian.
  • Abul Fazl translated the Panch Tantra (Anwar-i-Sahili) and Faizi the story of Nal-Damayanti into Persian.
  • Among original compositions in Persian, historical literature easily occupied the first place.
  • Akbar’s inordinate love of history and patronage of historians became responsible for the production of many chronicles describing not only the events of the reign, but also the past history of the country. Among the notable works may be mentioned
  1. Abul Fazl’s Akbarnama and the Ain-i-Akbari,
  2. Nizam-ud-­Din Ahmad’s Tabaqat-i-Akbari,
  3. Gulbadan Begum’s Humayun-Nama and
  4. Jauhar’s Tazkiratul-Waqiat.

History of 1000 years of Islam was composed and known as the Tarikh-i-Alfi.

Hindu Poetry during Mughal Period

  • The Mughal period was the golden period for Hindi Poetry.
  • The influence exercised by his glorious and victorious reign, his well- known preference for Hindu thought and mode of life, together with his policy of complete religious toleration and recognition of merit, combined with peace, both internal and external, engendered a bracing atmosphere for the development of thought and literature.
  • The result was that many first rate Hindu composers such as Tulsi Das, Sur Das, Abdur Rahim Khan Khana, Ras Khan and Birbar.
  • The first place among the poets of the age, both Hindu and Persian, belongs to Tulsi Das who, however, was not known to Akbar personally.
  • He spent most part of his life at Banaras, and produced twenty-five works of high standard, the most well-known among them being the heroic poem, Ramcharitmanas, popularly known as the Ramayana.
  • The epic is divided into seven books, describing the life of Shri Rain Chandra, the king of Ayodhya, who is looked upon by the Hindus as an incarnation of God.
  • The next important literary work of Tulsi Das is Vinaya Patrika which consists of hymns or songs or prayers.
  • The Ramayana is a masterpiece and that Tulsi Das was a great genius.
  • Tulsi Das’s style varies with the subject and his characters, each of whom has a well-defined personality, live and move with all the dignity of a heroic age.
  • Tulsi Das is one of the most important talented figure in the whole of Indian Literature.
  • The next important Hindi poet was Sur Das who was even more prolific a writer than Tulsi Das.
  • He is particularly known as the author of Sur Sagar and of many songs. No other poet of Hindi, before or after him, had a greater knowledge of child psychology than Sur Das. Some critics looked upon him as even greater than Tulsi Das.
  • Probably he was attached to Akbar’s court and was popularly known as the “blind bard of Agra”. His father Ram Das was also a court poet of Akbar.
  • Many other Hindi poets graced Akbar’s court.
  • Akbar’s reign was also marked by the advent of Muslim poets in the field of Hindi literature and poetry.
  • In fact, some Muslim poets interpreted Indian culture so successfully that if their names were to be omitted from their composition, it would be indistinguishable from that of the Hindu scholars and poets.
  • In this respect the name of Abdul Rahim Khan Khana stands pre-eminent. Besides being a master of Persian, Arabic and Turki he was also a first-rate scholar of Sanskrit and a poet of Hindi and Rajasthani.
  • Several hundred verses from his pen have come down to us and are given an honored place in our poetical selections.
  • In fact, no history of Hindi poetry can be complete without reference to the contribution of that versatile genius.
  • He was a friend of Tulsi Das and had correspondence with him. Another Muslim poet of Hindi was Ras Khan, who was a devotee of Lord Krishna and an author of a large number of first-rate poems which depict Shri Krishna’s life in the woods of Vrindaban.
  • Many other courtiers of Akbar, such as, Birbar, Man Singh, TodarMal and others, were lovers of Hindi poetry.
  • Akbar himself loved Hindi poetry. He is even stated to have composed some verses in that language. It is not, therefore, surprising that Hindi poetry made a remarkable progress during his reign.
  • The most important feature of the Mughal age was that literary activities were not confined to the court and the nobles.
  • It was essentially a movement of the people, and a large number of scholars and poets of Hindi were found in the countryside and patronized mainly by local landlords and well-to-do public.
  • One has to turn to the pages of Mishra Bandhu Vinod and Ram Chandra Shukla’s Hindi Sahitya ka Itihas to appreciate the spirit of the age which was responsible for the golden period of Hindi poetry.

The Mughal Empire: Paintings and Music

  • The contribution of Mughals to the art of painting was remarkable.
  • The foundation for the Mughal painting was laid by Humayun when he was staying in Persia. He brought with him two painters – Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdal Samad to India. These two painters became famous during Akbar’s reign.
  • Akbar commissioned the illustrations of several literary and religious texts. He invited a large number of painters from different parts of the country to his court. Both Hindus and Muslims joined in this work. Baswan, Miskina and Daswant attained great positions as Akabar’s court artists.
  • Illustrations of Persian versions of Mahabharata and Ramayana were produced in miniature form.
  • Many other Indian fables became the miniature paintings in the Art Studio established by Akbar.
  • Historical works such as Akbar Nama also remained the main themes of Mughal paintings.
  • The most important work is Hamznama, which consisted 1200 paintings. Indian colours such as peacock blue, Indian red began to be used.



  • Mughal paintings reached its climax during the reign of Jahangir. He employed a number of painters like Abul Hasan, Bishan Das, Madhu, Anant, Manohar, Govardhan and Ustad Mansur.
  • Apart from painting the scenes of hunting, battles and royal courts, progress was made in portrait painting and paintings of animals.
  • Many albums containing paintings and calligraphy were produced during the Mughal period. Later, the influence of European painting could be seen.
  • Music had also developed under the Mughals. Akbar patronized Tansen of Gwalior. Tansen composed many ragas. Jahangir and Shah Jahan were also fond of music.

Music during Mughal Rule of Akbar

  • Like Babur, Akbar was devoted to music. Akbar paid much attention to music and was the patron of all who practice this enchanting art.
  • The Ain-i-Akbari, written by Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak, suggests that there were 36 musicians of high grate in the Mughal court of Akbar.
  • Akbar himself was a learned musician. He further studied Hindu vocalization under Lal Kalawant who taught him “every breathing and sound that appertains to the Hindi language.”
  • Tansen ( also Mian Tansen) was a great musician of Hindustani Classical music . He held a position of great importance in the court of Akbar.
  • Mian Tansen is also regarded as one of the best musician in the history of India.
  • Tansen is said to have invented some new ragas. He is even credited with the power of stopping the flow of the Yamuna with his music.
  • Another famous musician was Baba Ram Das. He seems to have been attached to Bairam Khan, who was so pleased with him on one occasion that he conferred upon him a big reward.
  • Another equally, perhaps more famous singer was Baba Hari Das who, though not mentioned in Abul Fazl’s list, was certainly a contemporary of Tansen and Akbar. Akbar is said to have paid a visit to him incognito at his hermitage in Vrindaban. Legend and folk tale have preserved the memory of this great saint and musician.
  • Sur Das, son of the celebrated singer Ram Das and one of the greatest Hindi poets of all times, was also a musician of Akbar’s court.
  • The emperor’s interest in and patronage of music led to great progress in the instrumental as well as the vocal art.
  • At his court Hindu and Muslim music mingled and became one.
  • The Mughals are credited for bringing about a fusion of two diverse systems of music and giving birth to the national Indian music.
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