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An exhibition in the UK explores the rise and fall of the Mughal empire through more than 200 exhibits
The end of the Mughal empire was marked not just by the deposition of the then Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, but also the bidding of his treasures. Among the British officials who returned home with the valuable relics was Major Robert Tytler. In his luggage, the officer with the 38th regiment of Native Infantry carried the throne chairs of the emperor as well his crown in gold, encrusted with precious jewels. Acquired by Queen Victoria, the ornate crown that is part of the Royal Collection is now on public display at an ongoing exhibition called "Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire" at the British Library in the UK.
"The exhibition covers the entire period from 16th to 19th century, providing a historical overview and introducing 15 major Mughal emperors," says Malini Roy, curator of the exhibition that explores the rise and fall of the Mughal empire through 211 manuscripts, paintings and objects. Majority of the collection belongs to the British Library. However, some works have also been borrowed from national institutions and private collectors. "At present, the main focus is on Indian modern and contemporary art. This exhibition fills a void — providing a context as well as an introduction to the historical side of Mughal art (as distinguished from Indian art in general)," adds Roy.
While the central section of the exhibition introduces the 15 emperors and their personalities, the outlying display ranges from court life to religion, literature and science. Persian language specialists were approached to translate the manuscripts and select the objects. One of the highlights of the display is Mazhar Ali Khan's five-metre-long painted panoramic view of Delhi, as seen from the southern exterior tower of Lahore Gate of Red Fort. "The 360-degree overview provides a pictorial record of the local area and the Mughal city and palace complex, just 10 years before many of the interior buildings were damaged or completely destroyed in the aftermath of the 1857 Uprising," notes Roy. Also on display is arguably the only documented photograph of Zafar, and a horse armour on loan from the Royal
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