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Home >> Illustrated Manuscripts >> Mughal Illustrated Manuscripts

Mughal Illustrated Manuscripts

The Mughal School of Painting is characterized with Indo Persian style. Mughal Emperors Akbar and Jahangir were great patrons of paintings and possessed innate sense to distinguish works of art. Akbar considered artists as equivalent to God as according to him they executed pictures, which resembled the exact image of the human beings who were a creation of God.

The episode between Jahangir and the English Ambassador Sir Thomas Roe provides an insight to the artistic merit of the Indian painters. Jahangir asked Roe to identify an original European painting placed alongside five copies of it made by the Indian painters. The brilliance and similarity of the paintings completely foxed the English Ambassador.

The Miniatures and Illustrated manuscripts mirror the cultural legacy and spirit of the Mughal art. Several Illustrated Manuscripts like Dastan-I-Amir Hamza, Tutinama, Anvar-I-Suhaili, Ramza-Nama, Babur-Nama, Akbarnama, and Tuzuk- I-Jahangiri executed during the Mughal Period are notable for their vivid pictorial documentation.

Mughal Art Painting
Black Buck with Does, Mughal,
Akbar Period, dated 1598 A.D.

Dastan-I Amir Hamza

Dastan-I Amir Hamza traces the romantic and fabulous adventures of Amir Hamza who was an Uncle of the Prophet. The story is composed in 12-14 volumes of a hundred folios each. The manuscript has been ascribed between1562 and 1582 A.D. The illustrations were executed under the supervision of Abdus Samad and Mir Sayyad Ali who were helped by the Indian artists.

The earlier pictures of the illustrated manuscript carry the strong influence of the Persian Safavid tradition however the later illustrations are indigenous in subject and treatment. Besides the depiction of blossoming plums, peaches and amber foliage of Persia, the pervasive influence of the Indian flora and fauna like the mango, banyan, and pipal trees and the portrayal of the black bear found only in Kashmir, pictures of birds, cows and monkey with Indian treatment are found in the manuscript.

An exposure to the western influences is also visible in the illustrations. In the illustration ‘Amir Ayaz witnessing the death of Qamir’ a peacock is shown, which is a symbol of Resurrection in European themes.

Manuscript of Tilasm and Zodiac

This is a collection of talisman of practices for the fulfillment of various human desires. The manuscript has 32 pages and illustrated with 157 paintings. The manuscript is ascribed to a period between 1567-1570 AD. The highlight of this work is the vivid representation of birds and animals. Though several refined studies of animals and birds were executed in the late Akbar’s period and especially during the reign of Jahangir, this work stands out for its powerful portrayal of fauna in vivid color scheme with an ambience of black ritualism and drama infused in it.

The illustrations carry the refinement, simplicity and naivety of the Indian artists who were groomed by their Persian masters.


Tutinama is based on translation from the Sanskrit classic Sukasaptati (Seventy tales of a Parrot). It was composed between 1560-1568 AD. This work has a close proximity with Hamza Nama but by and large the idiom is indigenous. Indian Mughal artists like Daswant and Basawan contributed in the execution of these illustrations. The work shows the influence of the CPS group style and the Chandayana Group Style.

The birds like parrot, peacocks, owls, cranes and animals like monkey, tigers, lions, panthers, antelope, and jackals are naturally rendered.


Anvar-I-Suhaili is an illustrated fable book, which depicts animals and birds in their natural surroundings with human like emotions. There is a strong influence of indigenous idiom however the Persian convention is also retained. In many of the illustrations both the flora and fauna are genuinely Indian in treatment and feeling. The depiction is natural, lively and even combines the element of humor.


Iyar-I-Danish is an illustrated book of fables for instruction of Princes. The story is based on the struggle for superiority between the owl and crow is rendered with charming vitality. The presentation is quite similar with that of Anvar-I-Suhaili.

Noah’s Ark

The illustration of Noah’s Arc is a good example of naturalistic and realistic style, which characterizes the later Mughal paintings. The picture consists of all the species of the animals like lions, leopards, tigers, camels, cat, elephant, rabbit, monkeys, parrots, owls, etc. Each of them appears to be aware of the all-encompassing deluge and is submerged in profound anxiety, however at the same time they are assured of the present.The illustrations are authentic in presentation.The leaf “Noah’s Ark’ is taken from a lost manuscript.

Babur celebrating the birth of his son Humayun in Char-Bagh at Kabul

Two Magpies

This illustration shows birds occupying a vertical position on a rocky elevation and looking at each other lovingly. The birds bear natural characteristics in their forms, colors, and expressions.

The illustration was composed in the year 1580 AD.

Literary Manuscripts

Gulistan of Sadi, Diwan of Anwari, Diwan of Shahi, Diwan-I-Hafiz, Baharistan of Jami, Khamsa of Amir Khosrau Dihlavi are few of the notable literary manuscripts where flora and fauna are beautifully rendered in small panels among the text of the poems.

Gulistan of Sadi

This is a beautifully illustrated manuscript where each page is decorated with several birds drawn endearingly among several plants and flowers. Several birds that are illustrated bear close resemblance with the hill birds.

Diwan of Anwari

This illustrated manuscript shows succession of pictures painted with birds, beasts and flowers in golden arabesques. The color tones are refreshing and illustrations are refined.


This is one of the notable illustrated manuscripts where the charms of flora and fauna are beautifully shown. A miniature from this manuscript depicts the grazing sheep patterned in the form of folded hills while rocks and mountains give the illusion of animals.

Baharistan of Jami

This is another illustrated manuscript consisting of many striking palettes. The one, which is widely remembered, is that of Mulla rebuking a Dervish for his humbleness. A pair of peacocks echoing the same emotions is also shown in the picture.

Khamsa of Amir Khosrau Dihalvi

This illustrated manuscript carries vivid illustrations of the flora and fauna. Paintings of Basawan show the use of trees in exploring spaces. He is also appreciated for the using the technique of perspective in the illustrations.


This is a work on natural history in which bird subjects are drawn authentically with natural tints. A work called ‘A Study of Cranes’ sketched out by Kanha and painted and finished by Mani is noteworthy. The illustration stands out for the depiction of its minutest details of animals


The Mughal Emperor Akbar had a profound interest in religion and literature, which encouraged him to get the Hindu epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata get translated into Persian. Many illustrated manuscripts of Hindu Classics were also produced. One of the illustrated manuscripts is of Ramayana, which is given an Indian treatment though influence of Persian tradition is also conspicuous. A miniature shows Hanuman carrying a Mountain of Healing Herbs and a complete chaos with badly shaken trees and frightened animals is also vividly portrayed. The animals are drawn very naturalistically.

Razm Nama

Razm Nama is an illustrated manuscript, which carries a collection of stories from Mahabharata. Several Razm Namas were produced. The miniatures of this manuscript carry the Persian tradition however flora and fauna are naturalistically depicted. A close observation of the nature by the artists is conspicuous in the paintings.

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