Exhibition Review: Mughal India @ British Library

The Mughals were the proud descendants of Genghis Khan and ruled over India from 1526 to 1858 but many people know little about them other than their legacy of architectural landmarks such as the Red Fort, and most famously the Taj Mahal.

This exhibition explores every aspect of their reign including daily life, warfare, politics, science, arts and culture. It’s an immersive experience that welcomes visitors with sitar music and then hits them with everything they could ever want to know about Mughal India, and more.

The layout is well designed with the central section dedicated to chronologically recounting the lives of the 15 Mughal emperors, their unique personalities and the hardships they had to overcome as the empire rose and fell.

There is a wealth of books, drawings and paintings on display ranging from many colourful chaotic battle scenes through to a five metre long panoramic view of Mughal Delhi. But it’s not all paper based and there is an intimidating armoured horse and cavalry soldier and an exquisite jade terrapin on display as well.

The Mughal legacy may be one of culture and religious tolerance — as Muslims, they were a minority ruling class — but this exhibition doesn’t shy away from the flaws that led to their downfall and the many betrayals, often between family members.

It also explores the Western impact on India, with depictions of missionaries visiting the emperor’s court and Indian artists attempting to recreate the Renaissance imagery of Jesus.

Visitors could easily spend two hours absorbing the wealth of information on display. It’s an excellent history lesson full of remarkably well preserved artefacts.

Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire is on display at the British Library until 2 April. Tickets are £9 for adults, concessions available.

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