Kolkata, February 10: The first day of the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival presented a captivating discussion between two stalwarts from Indian history and academia. Historians Swapna Liddle and Alka Pande discuss what lives on from the legacy of Mughal art and architecture. The session, ‘The Mughals and Us’, aimed to unravel the rich tapestry of Mughal art in modern times. Both historians conversed with Husna-Tara Prakash discussing the beauty of Mughal marvels.
The event started with moderator Husna-Tara Prakash introducing the guests and drawing parallels between the Mughal cosmopolitan outlook and that of Kolkata and the region of Bengal at large. The session’s primary focus was on the impact of Mughal art and architecture in contemporary India and how assimilation lies at the heart of it.
Speaking on discussing the beautiful city of Shahajanabad, also known as Purani Dilli. Shahajanabad, as Liddle put it, was “…a microcosm or a representation of the larger empire. This was a feature that defined Delhi throughout the Mughal period.”
While discussing the confluence of cultures with moderator Husna Tara Prakash, Swapna Liddle emphasized how people tend to characterize the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire simply as “Islamic dynasties”, overlooking the hybridity and assimilation of various cultural factors lying at the centre of it. Speaking on art and architecture, she added that Mughal architecture had the tenacity to adapt to pre-existing styles, making them a testament to the same assimilation.
Celebrated art historian Alka Pande in congruence with Swapna Liddle’s observations stated, “Hybridity was in the consciousness of Mughal rulers. This is supported by the fact that most Mughal rulers had Rajput mothers.” Connecting stories of the Mughal era with Bengal, she added how Wajid Ali Shah, the Nawab of Bengal, had brought with him not just 500 men but the culture and food of Awadh, as well.
In the contemporary context, she opined how “from the food we eat to the clothes we wear, like salwar, churidars and kurta, the Mughals are relevant even today.” The speakers and moderator agreed that the Mughal Empire was a great example of assimilation between Hindu and Islamic traditions. The session ended with Alka Pandey stating, “We Indians have the power to absorb different cultures but can still retain our individuality.”