Masters Thesis

The portrayal of Mughal women in the early Mughal art and analyzing the reasons for scarcity of their images

Sixteenth and seventeenth century Mughal art consisted of secular paintings for the Mughal emperors and their courtiers. Even a cursory glance at them reveals that there are few depictions of women. This thesis focuses on female representation and their near absence in Mughal painting. Our exploration is multi-faceted and takes into account cultural practices and religious atmosphere during the rule of Mughal Emperors, Babur (1526–1530), Humayun (1530–1540, 1555–1556 ), Akbar (1556–1605), Jahangir (1605– 1627), Shah Jahan (1627–1658), and Aurengzeb (1658–1707). This is followed by an analysis of indigenous beliefs regarding women's societal role prevalent at that time. This information is supplemented by a close study of the religious beliefs regarding women held by the Mughal emperors. My data analysis contradicts common perceptions that Mughal women were kept from portrayal in Mughal art on account of Islamic convictions. The study, in fact, proves that the scarcity is a result of a patriarchal mindset which cultivated possessiveness and cloistering of women resulting in a deliberate exclusion of the female gender from the paintings.