Updated: Oct 4, 2020
India has long been the centre of art and architecture. The Mughals earnestly bequeathed India a legacy that is still replicated today.
Among all the stories of monuments, accessions and wealth, is one of motifs. Mughal rulers, clad in ethnic finery, placed high importance on motifs that their apparels carried. More often than not, the motifs were symbolic of the different realms of their vast empire. Socio-economic, cultural or religious factors inspired these motifs.
The Mughals employed artisans and recruited them from as far as Persia. They employed the techniques of natural vegetation, birds and animals to adorn the surfaces of their court life. Safavid Persia's carpet dating back to 16th century depict wildlife against bright red background. Mughals adopted these traditions with enthusiasm and commissioned pictorial carpets with palm trees, ibexes, and birds. Decorative motifs, foliage, date palm trees and animals such as, deer, loins, flying birds ducks and swans were designed with rich strong compositions which all but sang the tunes of glory of the rulers who commissioned them. Designs with tree pattern, cypress, flower blossoms and leaves on border design were also part of the composition. Today, these very Mughals textiles provide a glimpse into the erstwhile royal life, and takes us through the courts, harems, audience halls and throne rooms. Jahangir famously versed "There were flower-carpets and fresh rosebuds, the wind fanned the lamps of the roses, the violet braided her locks, the buds tied a knot in the hearts."
There's an example of the 'Nadiri' or the hunting- coat wherein there was dense chain-stitch embroidery to render a waterfall whose gradations of blue silk floss appear to be shards of glimmering stained glass. They borrowed wispy cloud forms from Chinese textiles to represent air in motion and to show that the birds are caught in a swelling breeze. A lion, its limbs taut and its stomach bulging, tears into the bent neck of a deer.
Today, in 2020, the Mughal motifs have acquired a place in high-end designer boutiques across the globe. Haute Couture curators Stella McCartney and Dolce And Gabbana have made animal prints their signature. These prints enhance the diva persona of the celebrities they are known for dressing. All this brings about a deep epiphany that Mughals rule the fashion world to this day. Their rich use of animal motifs now make for stunning, head turning dresses one can see trailing on the stairs of the Met.