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Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond

Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond

Mughal India

The Mughal Empire in northern India was founded by Babur in 1526. He was of Turko-Mongol lineage, claiming descent from two great leaders, Genghis Khan and Timur. Through the latter he inherited a devotion to the arts of the book and a keen appreciation of Persian literature. The court language was Persian, and under the patronage of Mughal rulers a sophisticated and cosmopolitan Indo-Persian culture emerged.

Persian poets and painters were attracted to India, where rewards for their services were greater than in their homeland. Manuscripts of classics and other works began to be copied and illustrated in great number, to the point that by the 17th century more Persian poetry was likely to have been written in northern India than in Persia itself.

Interest in both books and spirituality had increased during the reign of Emperor Akbar (r 1556–1605), with patrons adding to their collections of romances and histories other works with mystical Sufi themes and inner meanings. Manuscripts copied in Mughal workshops, and often directed by the emperor himself, included narratives and depictions of visits to holy men and Sufi teachers. In later years, when luxurious imperial albums were produced in increased numbers, outstanding examples of painting and calligraphy were bound together.

Persian themes of love and devotion were taken up enthusiastically, with popular romances such as those of Yusuf and Zulaykha, Layla and Majnun and other Sufi allegories copied in numerous manuscripts. By the 18th and 19th centuries, some of these stock Persian themes had been adopted by provincial centres and extended as far as the traditional Hindu courts, outside the Mughal realm.

Love & devotion in the UK

The Bodleian Libraries is showing its own presentation of the Love and devotion exhibition at the Exhibition Room, Bodleian Library, in Oxford, England, between 29 November 2012 and 28 April 2013.

Learn more about how you can visit this exhibition on the Bodleian Libraries website.


Love and devotion: Persian Cultural Crossroads

This two-day conference held in April 2012 featured distinguished international guests and Australian specialists exploring cultural convergences in literature, the arts and architecture, history and philosophy within Persia's cultural sphere and Europe, from the 11th century to the present day.

For information on keynote speakers & topics discussed, visit our conference page

Visit the exhibition

The Love and devotion exhibition took place from 9 March to 1 July 2012. In-depth information about the exhibits and themes can be found on this website.

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