We have launched a new website and are reviewing this page. Find out more
Open daily 10.00 to 17.45 Admission free Menu
Map showing regional courts in Mughal India

Map showing regional courts in Mughal India

In the 150 years between the beginning of the Mughal empire and its greatest extent, the Mughal armies had to overcome opposition from local rulers in many parts of India. An important and powerful community was that of the Rajputs of western India. The Rajputs were Hindus and were fiercely opposed to the rule of the Muslim Mughals. The Rajputs controlled major strategic land routes in present-day Rajasthan, and were highly regarded as brave warriors.

For these reasons, the emperor Akbar was keen to subjugate them but also to keep them as loyal allies. He succeeded in doing this by arranging marriages between Mughal and Rajput families, and by giving Rajput princes important positions in his armies. Although the Rajputs were to some extent influenced by the luxury of their Mughal overlords, they nevertheless maintained their Hindu culture and continued to worship their family deities and observe Hindu holidays.

The paintings commissioned at Rajput courts such as those at Jaipur, Jodhpur or Bikaner show an interest in portraiture which comes from Mughal court painting, but they also use the bold colours and line associated with earlier Hindu painting.

Raj Singh II attending a night entertainment in the palace, Udaipur, India, about 1755, opaque watercolour on paper, eight 47.2 cm x width 41.4 cm. Museum no. IS. 77-1990

Raj Singh II attending a night entertainment in the palace, Udaipur, India, about 1755, opaque watercolour on paper, eight 47.2 cm x width 41.4 cm. Museum no. IS. 77-1990

Other small Hindu kingdoms in the Punjab hills were more remote and, although nominally under Mughal rule, were relatively isolated from Mughal influence. Their paintings and embroideries continued to illustrate Hindu mythological subjects, although they took to portraiture of local rulers.

The Sikhs of the Punjab plains followed their own religion. They, like the followers of Islam, worshipped one God, but they also gave great prominence to the succession of Gurus - teachers - who were the link between God and humankind. At first on relatively good terms with the Mughals,the Sikhs became a militant power as the Mughal rulers grew less tolerant of other religions. Ranjit Singh, one of the most famous Sikh leaders, set up an independent kingdom in the Punjab in 1801, which survived until the British annexed it in 1849.

To the south, the Mughals' main opponents were the small Muslim kingdoms, the sultanates of the Deccan plateau, which finally fell to Aurangzeb in 1686-7. The rich cities of Bijapur and Golconda had been important cultural centres since before the Mughal conquest, and beautiful paintings, textiles and metalwork were made there. Many examples of their fine craftsmanship were now made for Mughal patrons.

Embroidery showing the marriage of Krishna and Rukmini, Punjab Hills, India, around 1800, cotton, embroidered with silk. Museum no. 2096-1883

Embroidery showing the marriage of Krishna and Rukmini, Punjab Hills, India, around 1800, cotton, embroidered with silk. Museum no. 2096-1883


International Training Course

The Victoria and Albert Museum welcomes applications for ‘Creating Innovative Learning Programmes’, its new one week intensive course. This is a unique training opportunity for museum professionals from overseas who are interested in attracting and programming for a range of museum audiences.

Find out more