Crossing Borders/Breaking Boundaries
The Arts of India, 1556-1658
June 23 - July 1, 2008
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Unit of Study:            Social Studies

Lesson Title:              Understanding the Mughal Dynasty through its Art

Discipline:                  Modern World History

Grade Level:              11th Grade

Author:                      Amy Pollin

County:                      Montgomery County, MD

Time Period:              Two 45-minute class periods



The Modern World history course begins around 1500 with a comparison of civilizations around the world.  However, before the students can compare Mughal India to Ming China, they need a basic understanding of the political, social and cultural characteristics of the Mughal period.  The students will gain this basic understanding through a critical analysis of Mughal paintings.  In order to show their understanding of the content and the artistic style of Mughal paintings, the students will also be responsible for creating their own artwork. 


Before learning about the political, social and cultural characteristics of Mughal India, the students will already have learned about the religions of Islam and Hinduism, the two main religions of the Mughal Empire.  They will also have learned about the Ottoman Empire, a Muslim empire in the Middle East with which they will see a number of similarities to the Mughal Empire regarding expansion, political problems, religion, and cultural achievements.


Hard copies of paintings for each group:

An Unidentified Battle, c. 1593
Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan with their ministers
A Garden Gathering with a Prince in a Green Jama
Prince Salim at a Hunt
The Women at the Well of Kanchinpur
King Suraghu visits Mandavya
Emperor Akbar and the Jesuits
Jahangir and Jesus

Powerpoint presentation and equipment
Worksheet “Understanding the Mughal Dynasty through Art”
Construction paper
Old magazines


Wright, Elaine. Muraqqa' Imperial Mughal Albums. Alexandria: Arts Services International, 2008.

Standards/Learn Outcomes:

Fine Arts Standards (Voluntary State Curriculum)
2.0 Historical, Cultural, and Social Context:  Students will demonstrate an understanding of visual arts as an essential aspect of history and human experience.
3.0 Creative Expression and Production:  Students will demonstrate the ability to organize knowledge and ideas for expression in the production of art.

Content Standards (Montgomery County Curriculum)
IO#1103- Identify relevant physical and cultural characteristics of the Mogul Empire of the Indian subcontinent c. 1500


Fine Arts Objectives

Students will analyze Mughal paintings through a “See/Think/Wonder” activity in order to see how art reflects life during the Mughal period.
Students will create their own scrapbook page that is in a similar style to muraqqa’ and illustrates at least three characteristics of Mughal India.

Content Objectives

Students will be able to describe the following characteristics of Mughal India:
Expansion, political leadership, life of the ruler, the role of women, religion in India, Akbar’s religious policy, and interaction with Europe during the 17th century.
Students will be able to synthesize the information they have learned in order to write a thesis statement that answers the following question:
What have you learned about the Mughal civilization’s rulers, values and interests from their paintings?


  • Mughal
  • Muraqqa’
  • Bureaucracy
  • Islam
  • Hinduism
  • Jainism
  • Sikhism
  • Zoroastrianism
  • Sufism


1. Ask students what they do with the pictures they take.

How do you save them? 
How do you share them? 
Why do we like saving pictures?

2. During the Mughal Dynasty, one way that artists presented their work was in albums called muraqqa’.  The Persian word muraqqa’ means “album” but more specifically, “patched” because of the style in which the album is prepared.  In a lot of ways it looks like a present day scrapbook.

What advantages does a scrapbook format afford?

3. Put the painting, Jahangir Receives a Prisoner, up on the projector for everyone to see.  As a class, brainstorm together using the “See/Think/Wonder” template. By first modeling the activity with a whole class, the students will feel more comfortable doing it later in small groups.

Scope and Sequence:

1.  Handout the worksheet, “Understanding the Mughal Dynasty through Art” to everyone in the class.
2.  Divide the class into 8 groups (approximately 4 per group).
3.  Give each group a hard copy of one of the paintings listed under materials.
4.  As a group, have them brainstorm together but each student should fill in the See/Think/Wonder chart individually on his/her own worksheet.
5.  Using the power point presentation, alternate between having the students present what they saw/thought/wondered about the painting and the teacher’s lecture on the corresponding topic.
6.  Throughout the presentation, have the students take notes and answer the questions on their worksheet.
7.  Conclude the lecture by asking the students to write a one sentence thesis answering the question: What have we learned about the Mughal civilization’s rulers, values and interests from their artwork?


The activity for the second class period (or homework assignment if there is not enough time) will assess the students understanding of both the artistic concept of the muraqqa’ and the content they learned about the Mughal Empire.

The students will each make their own scrapbook page that must fulfill the following requirements:         






Needs Improvement

Not Done

At least three significant aspects of Mughal period












Some text/calligraphy






Decorated frame






Scrapbook style











Total= ____/20


After completing their scrapbooks, the students will do a gallery walk so they can see what their peers completed and admire both the artistic creativity as well as re-emphasize the content.

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Sponsored by
the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies
and the Maryland State Department of Education