The long-forgotten Afghan kingdoms of Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda in the Deccan left little trace of their 200-year-rule except for a few ruined cities and 200 great paintings known as Ragamala (the necklace of ragas), which set the standard for miniature painting in India. These invaluable paintings are distinguished by the cultural and aesthetic synthesis of the delicate rhythms of Persia, the lush sensuality of South India and the restraint of European and Ottoman Turkish portraiture. According to art historians, the Bijapur paintings rival the finest Safavid and Mughal work in its expression and technical refinement. Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1579-1627), a poet and musician, gripped with passion for both Hindu and Muslim thought, was its most dedicated patron. Like other hybrid arts, it bloomed vigorously and then abruptly vanished in the 19th century.

One of the stunning characteristics of Deccani paintings was its palette dominated by blue, pink and mauve. This painting, done in Raga Hindola, beautifully captures the romance of the moment, Deccan 1710
One of the stunning characteristics of Deccani paintings was its palette dominated by blue, pink and mauve. This painting, done in Raga Hindola, beautifully captures the romance of the moment, Deccan 1710
A lovesick maiden waits for her lover. Rain and peacocks were poetic symbols of unrequited love as depicted in the Raga Malkaunsa painting circa 1700
A lovesick maiden waits for her lover. Rain and peacocks were poetic symbols of unrequited love as depicted in the Raga Malkaunsa painting circa 1700


The hookah was routed to India from Persia in the early 16th century. In 1640 Asad Beg brought with him a jewelled pipe from Bijapur to Akbar’s court. Later the hookah became a craze, as is amply illustrated in this delightful miniature titled Soldiers Smoking Hookah, Deccan 1725
The hookah was routed to India from Persia in the early 16th century. In 1640 Asad Beg brought with him a jewelled pipe from Bijapur to Akbar’s court. Later the hookah became a craze, as is amply illustrated in this delightful miniature titled Soldiers Smoking Hookah, Deccan 1725
Prince Playing Holi in his harem, Golconda 1720. Note the Chinese porcelain vase in the right corner.
Prince Playing Holi in his harem, Golconda 1720. Note the Chinese porcelain vase in the right corner.