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The Mughal Empire

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The Mughal dynasty was the first one in the recorded history to take the control of almost a whole subcontinent. I got acquainted with the Mughal Empire with the help of a book containing a lot of images from the Emperor's Album. I enjoyed reviewing it in my childhood. Nowadays, Internet provides a good start for those that are supposed to do the research on the Mughal Empire. However, there is a lot of information about this Empire provided by the travel industry on-line. This business tends to distort some historical facts to attract tourists to the country. Therefore, only the sites hosted by universities, museums, or other scholarly institutions should be used for some research purposes. In this paper, we will compare four such web resources.

The University of California is hosting the Website A created by an Associate Professor of History Vinay Lal working at the History Department. This online resource provides “a scholarly yet readable narrative of some aspects of Indian history, politics, culture, and religion”. Since these fields are very sufficient, the site itself does not pretend to be comprehensive. Instead, the website’s content presents some author’s interests. Nevertheless, the chosen topics facilitate “understanding the history and evolution of Indian civilization”. Therefore, this website material can be used as the examples for lecturing on them. A part of this website is devoted to the Mughals and Medieval India. The main page of this part contains a brief history of the Mughal Empire. It has the links to the pages containing historical details of Aurangzeb, Barbar, Jahangir, and Shivaji. Barbar is a founder and the first monarch of the Mughal Empire, while Aurangzeb is the first monarch of this Empire during the reign of which the country and the Empire started to disintegrate. Jahangir is also one of its monarchs. Under Jahangir’s ruling, Mughal’s painting and gardening areas were flourishing. A lot of pages of this the website contain the images of these paintings illustrating their content. Shivaji was a leader of Maratha rebels fighting with Aurangzeb’s army. He as well as a majority of Marathas at that time belonged to the low caste called shudra. Besides, there are the links to the pages containing some details of Aurangzeb’s policies towards Hindus. Among the empire monarchs, the most tolerant was Akbar. There is the map on the main page of the website devoted to Mughals and Medieval India that illustrates the growth of the Mughal Empire in size in the seventeenth century. It shows the boundaries of the Empire in 1530, 1605, and 1707. These years were the last years of reign of Barbar, Akbar, and Aurangzeb respectively. There is no video on this site. However, the interface is very friendly. Since there are the links to all sites belonging to the part at hand on each page, and the navigation is easy. Among the sites chosen for the evaluation, this one is the easiest to use. The literature suggested for the further reading is written by such well known experts in the Indian History as Irfan Habib, John F. Richards, M. Athar Ali Ali, and Satish Chandra. The additional research is needed to verify the credibility of the in-text citations. Most texts are written by Vinay Lal, the known expert of the Indian History. Therefore, this site is a good resource for those students conducting the research on the Mughal Empire’s history. Moreover, it is the best site among the chosen ones.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the sponsor of the Website B. The aim of the former one “is to collect, preserve, study, exhibit, and stimulate appreciation for and advance knowledge of works of art that collectively represent the broadest spectrum of human achievement at the highest level of quality, all in the service of the public and in accordance with the highest professional standards”. Since Akbar was the first great Mughal art supporter, the primary focus of the website’s content is the time of Akbar’s ruling over the Mughal Empire. To provide the arguments for its conclusions, the site contains some interesting historical facts about the Mughal Empire. Among them, there are the details of “the real foundation of the Mughal Empire”. One of the essays linked to this page describes the attitudes to art by three consecutive Akbar’s successors. Another essay is linked to the last mentioned site and contains the information about the Emperor's Album created by several Mughal monarchs. This album “contains intimate nature studies, portraits of the royal family and various dignitaries, and fine examples of illuminated folios of calligraphy by renowned calligraphers”. In the second half of the sixteenth century, Sheikh Salim Chisti was “a living sufi saint”. Akbar did not have an heir after more than 10 years of his reign. He believed that Sheik Salim’s blessing gave a rise to the birth of his son Salim known to us as the ”emperor Jahangir” in 1569. Two years later, Sheikh died. In his commemoration, Akbar built a tomb and, around it, a new capital called Fatehpur Sikri (the “Place of Victory”). The most famous Mughal mausoleum is Taj Mahal constructed by Shah Jahan, who ascended to the throne soon after Jahangir. It was commissioned for Shah Jahan’s “wife after her death in 1631”. This site together with the related links contains some snapshots of these tombs, the image of the Hall of Public Audience constructed in Fatehpur Sikri during Akbar’s reign, the photo of Red Fort in Delhi, as well as the slide shows of images of art works created during the Mughal period.

This site assumes a lot of browsing. Therefore, some information can be easily missed. Other than that, the site is well designed, and all texts are understandable for an average user. Due to the scholarly reputation of museum, there is no doubt about the credibility of the presented material. Except for the citation on the sponsor of site, there is only the citation on Marika Sardar, the known expert in the field of fine art. The information presented in this site can be used only for the research related to the history of the Mughal art and its architecture. A suggested further reading is also closely related to this field.

The Website C is created as a part of the project on Plant Cultures. The aim of this project "is to convey the richness and complexity of links between Britain and South Asia, through the story of plants and people”. Only three pages of this site are devoted to Mughals. One page contains an essay about the history of the Mughal Empire; another one describes the Mughal arts; and the last one is devoted to the East Indian Company and contains some historical facts about the Empire. All of them contain the images of Mughal paintings. The site design assumes an easy navigation. However, the functionality of the site is restricted. Many links in the site including such are meant to enlarge the images and to provide the additional information on them being temporarily unavailable. The sponsor of the above mentioned project is the Culture Online Initiative. Since this Initiative has come to an end, it is unlikely that the functionality of this site is going to be restored in the near future. Therefore, among sites evaluated, this site can be ranked as the most difficult to use. Although the page with the authors’ list is temporarily unavailable, the quality of the essays concerning the Mughals is high, and these texts are comprehendible. This is possible due to the fact that among the partners of this project of Plant Cultures there are the persons with the high scholarly reputation in the field of history, i.e. the Museum of London, Leicester City Museums, and Liverpool Museum,. It can be asserted that the information presented on this site is credible. Though the amount of the information is limited, and this site can be used as an additional source for the research devoted to the history of the Mughal Empire. The site at hand was launched in February 2005, and its information update is assumed by the means of subscribing to a newsletter. Therefore, the attention should be paid as the latest findings about the Mughal Empire have been included in the content of this site. Since the history of this empire is not a fast changing field, we can assure that the presented information is current.

The Website D is created as a part of the project called Silk Road Seattle. The aim of this project “is to provide via the Internet materials for learning and teaching about the Silk Road”. Two parts of this site are related to the Mughals. The first part consists of two pages in a historical section. One page contains the autobiography of the first ruler of the Mughal Empire, Babur. It starts from his childhood and ends just before him conquering a large part of the Indian subcontinent. Hence, there is no information about this Empire in it. The second page contains the description of the travel of English entrepreneurs from Mughal India to Persia written by them. This trip took place in the time of Jahangir’s ruling over the Empire. This story contains the valuable information regarding the Mughal Empire’s trading policies. The first one of these pages contains many images of ancient paintings and maps that illustrate the content of story. The second one does not have any images, but it has a link to the map with a route of travel. Another part is devoted to a display of the Mughal art. To explain the Central Asian and Persian Influences on the Arts of the Mughal Court the main page of the site contains some interesting historical facts about the Mughal Empire. Among them, there are the details of Babur’s biography and Akbar’s art patronage. There are the images of six exhibitions on this page. They serve as the links that allow to enlarge them and to give an access to the texts describing the styles to which these works of art can be referred. Besides, there is a link to the map that shows the Empire boundaries during Akbar’s and Aurangzeb’s reigns. All texts in this part are either written by the Professor Daniel C. Waugh, the well known scholar in the field of the History of the Silk Road, or derived from the British Museum, particularly from its web page. Therefore, the information about the Mughal Empire provided by this site is credible also. Though all essays are well written, they contain the relatively small amount of information about the Empire. Therefore, the content of this site can only complement the material needed for conducting the fruitful research. A part of such material can be found in the suggested literature for further reading. It is difficult to navigate through the site. For instance, there is no direct link to the historical part and the art as well. Nevertheless, the interface is very friendly, and it is easy to use the site in this context.

Each of the discussed sources contains some specific facts about the Mughal Empire present not in all other sources. For instance, the fact that Barbur was interested in gardening can be found only on the Website A, and in his autobiography is available on the Website D, and the fact that Akbar is a real founder of the Empire is to be found only on the Websites B and D. Moreover, the fact that Persian was the Mughal court language can be read only on the Website C, and the fact that Shah Jahan is famous for his architectural achievements can be derived only on the Websites A and B. The richness of the Mughal Empire’s history accounts for this. Therefore, for the person conducting the research on this subject, it is a good idea to use as many sources as possible.

 

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