Explicitly, the essay depicts how the history of art and cultural aspects practiced by the Mughal’s during the Mughal Empire portrays a degree of hybridity between Indian and Islamic art and culture. Precisely, the essay will offer a comprehensive introduction of the indo-Islamic period, discuss how Mughal Embroidery designs depicts infused indo-Islamic techniques, and pinpoint the specific characteristics which depict Indian and Islamic cultural fusion. The essay will draw evidence from the works of Bose and Jalal (2011), Shamar (2016) as well as Dahejia (1997) to offer a critical analysis and evidential support of the asserted claim. It will explicate how the chosen art and cultural elements depict a sense of Indo-Islamic hybrid culture.
Embroidery techniques showing a Combination of Indo-Islamic Culture
The Mughal embroidery and paintings depict an outstanding indo-Islamic cultural accommodation that developed in North and Central India under the patronage of Mughal emperors from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. It is an astounding, symmetrical, and decorative amalgamation of Indian, Persian, and Turkish embroidery designs marked with exquisite mixing of various elements and materials to decorate paintings, garments ornaments, and other materials. The new designs resembled a period of continuous cultural amalgamation and acceptance of both Islamic and Hinduism in embroidery techniques. Some well-known hybrid and new techniques such as the Zardozi, Chikankari, and Meenakari (ornamentation) embraced the mixing of materials such as insect’s fluid, tinny kittens fur as well as gold and silver threads to decorate paintings. Through a conclusive reference of the works of Bose and Jalal in Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy (2011), Dehijia’s Indian Art (1997), and Sharma’s Complex histories, Hybrid cultures (2016, Lecture), the amalgamation of Indian and Islamic culture in shaping embroidery techniques of the Mughal era is critically discussed.
The introduction of an Indo-Islamic culture in India was marked by what Sharma (2016) termed as the continuous invasion and conquering of North India by Turkish, Afghani, and Persian rulers. These Islamic states introduced their cultural content to north India through rulers and conversion of native Hindus to form a new Indo-Islamic culture. Being from the Turkish-Mongol lineage, the Mughal was well endowed with art skills and knowhow which could be seen through their paintings, handworks, and architectural designs (Dehijia, 1997). Embroidery and painting techniques in the Mughal era emerged as a result of Persian, Hindu, and Buddhist and Jain influences and assumed the form of a large book or single sheets preserved in several albums. The Indo-Islamic era under the reign of Akbar changed the landscape of painting and embroidery techniques in the subcontinent. The king recruited artists from different parts of India who were endowed with both exotic and local skills in embroidery and painting. Embroidery during the Mughal era was drawn from indigenous painting traditions of Hindus, Jains, and the sultanates that were infused with existing Islamic techniques (Dehijia, 1997).
As Indo-Islamic cultural embroidery progressed, various embroidery techniques continued to depict the landscape of both Hinduism and Islamic cultures. Religion and political life of the empire brought new accommodations to the embroidery techniques. Through hybrid and new techniques such as Zardozi which focused on making metallic garments and decorations, Mughal painters could make metallic garments for royal palaces and rulers. This technique was infused with the traditional Indian techniques in making silk clothes. The silk clothes were embroidered with Gold, copper, and silver threads which were common in traditional Islamic culture. The use of Persian and Hinduism techniques in embroiling garments presents indisputable evidence of Indo-Islamic Culture accommodation in the early days of the Mughal Empire (Bose & Jalal, 2011).
Besides, the Mughal Empire also focused on a stitching hybrid referred to as Chikankari stitches. The Chikankari technique was an existing skill in the Indian community who’s basic and common depictions included floral parts of a plant, animals, vines, birds et cetera. However, with the establishment of the Mughal Empire, the floral depictions in Chikankari were combined with geometrical patterns brought by Muslims. Even though the geometrical models and patterns were mostly preferred during the early reigns of the Mughal era, it is evident that they formed the basis of future indo-Islamic culture in embroidery. Even though the teaching of Islam holds that Allah cannot enter into a house with living images such as human beings, the naturalistic nature of indigenous Indian embroidery was widely accepted in the Mughal Empire. This can be seen in Miniatures drawn with Akbar and other emperors wearing garments painted with natural elements such as flowers, animals such as cheetahs, and lions. As a result, the hybrid of Chikankari embroidery depicts a period of Hinduism and Islamic cultural amalgamation. Bose and Jala (2011, pg, 202) referenced the origin of the Chinkankari embroidery in the emperor Jahagiri’s tomb–they present that emperor Jahangir’s father’s tomb had gateways surmounted by four slender marble minarets in which large floral designs created from white marble and multicolored stones stood’. This and other examples that followed the emperor Jahangir’s reign embraced Chinkankari as an essential hybrid of Indo-Islamic Culture. The Mughal Empire also introduced hybrid methods of coloring the surfaces metals, paintings, frames, ceramics, and other forms of ornamentations using the Meenakari embroidery technique. Meenakari was an Islamic art that originated from Persia and entailed the use of various colors to decorate various tye back of jewels? The introduction of this technique during the Hindu Islam cultural amalgamation created a new hybrid termed as reversible jewelry. The naturalistic aspects of indigenous artists could be used to paint floral, Venice fruit, and other elements in items through various Islamic geometrical patterns. Iranian and Persian designers made the initial items of through Meenakari, which were later passed to a specialized goldsmith then to an engraver who passed the artistic items to an Indian enamellist who applied the color. This initial change in the process of the Meenakari as well as the making of reversed jewelry depicts how the indo-Islamic culture was gradually accommodated in Islamic embroidery.
In conclusion, the embroidery techniques used in India after the Mughal era depict an undisputable period of Hindu and Islamic cultural hybridity. As witnessed through the early usage of Zardozi, Chikankari, and Meenakari embroidery techniques, Indian decorative embroidery infused both cultural elements. As a result, the extensive application of some of the Mughal’s era embroidery techniques is an indication of Indo-Islamic cultural accommodation.
- Bose, Sugata, and Ayesha Jalal. (2011). Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy. London: Routledge. Retrieved on June 4th, 2020 from http://asianart.class.arizona.edu/sites/asianart.class.arizona.edu/files/1_ART160A1-BoseJalal_IndoIslamic%20Culture.pdf
- Dehijia, V. (1997, December 17). Indian Art. Retrieved June 4th, 2020 from http://asianart.class.arizona.edu/sites/asianart.class.arizona.edu/files/2_ART160A1-Dahejia-MughalArt_0.pdf
- Sharma, M. (2016). Complex histories, Hybrid cultures: Material visual cultures of the Mughal
- Empire, seen in fashion, art, & architecture. Retrieved June 4th, 2020 from http://asianart.class.arizona.edu/sites/asianart.class.arizona.edu/files/5_ART160A1- Lecture4-Mughal%20hybridity-part1.pdf