The Mughal Empire was an imperial power in the Indian subcontinent from about 1526 to 1757. At the height of their power in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, they controlled most of the subcontinent - extending from Bengal in the east to Balochistan in the west, Kashmir in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south. The V&A's collection of Mughal court arts includes some of the most important pieces in the world.
India before the Mughals
Before the Mughal invasion of 1526, the north of the subcontinent was divided up into several independent Hindu and Muslim kingdoms. Many of these were culturally very sophisticated, and paintings and architecture from many different areas survive to illustrate this.
The Age of the Mughals
The Mughals originated in Central Asia, and were descended from the Mongol ruler Jenghiz Khan and Timur (Tamburlaine), the great conqueror of Asia. They were immensely proud of their pedigree, and it was the memory of Timur's raids on India in the fourteenth century that spurred Babur on to invade.
Life and Art in the Mughal Court
Most of the objects and paintings on display in the V&A's South Asia gallery are not concerned with the bare facts of history but with the way people lived at the Mughal court. These works of art, made for courtly patrons, have survived because they were highly prized and kept carefully over many years.
The region of South Asia covers the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afganistan. The collections from South Asian collections include textiles, paintings, sculpture, jewellery, popular culture, architecture and photography.