With the transformation of the Golconda kingdom into a Moghul protectorate due to the Inkiyat Nama or the Deed of Submission signed under the duress by Abdullah with Shah Jahan, Mughal style gradually pierced into the Golconda paintings and a perceptible impact of the same can be gleaned from the paintings ascribed to and after Abdullah Quli. Consequently, at times to distinguish the Golconda paintings from a provincial Mughal miniature, a certain efficacy became essential. At the same time, a linear accent, a patch of colour, waving a cloth or characteristic turban… distinguished dreary Isfahani or Mughal school-piece from a LYRICAL work of Golconda genius11.

The Procession Painting of Abdullah (1660) preserved at Vienna Museum is one of the elegant and exquisite Deccani brush works of Abdullah Qutubshah’s reign. Two more paintings carried out around 1670 and existing in the Hermitage Museum, represent similar stylistic features. A Member of the Royal Clan returning home after hunting while many ladies were picnicking in a garden placed at the Prince of Wales Museum was another fantastic portrait of that time. Apart from this, a painting portraying Abdullah sitting majestically on his throne also belongs to the Golconda school of painting. Again Abdullah’s life-size picture measuring 56/3 preserved in the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad emulates an excellent example of Golconda or the Dakhni miniature. A picture describing the social set-up at Golconda dated between 1630-35 and captioned as Holy Family being found at the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington was also attributed as a painting to Abdullah’s period due to its similarity with the stylistic paintings of Golconda. Again the finesse of a mature bust size painting of Abdullah (1650 A.D.) is now at Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi. Yet another monumental work of this period is Akbar Hydari, the composition of several paintings of Abdullah Qutubshah by Sir Akbar Hydari 12. Abdullah Qutubshah was the only ruler of Golconda, who used to hold a Deccani sword in his hand and wear an Angavasthram (a Hindu dress). Also, Abdullah’s pencil-thinned mustache and his head-dress which is designed like that of the Shah Abbas of Persia are some of the peculiar features in his portraits that make it easy to recognize him from the rest of the Qutubshahi Sultans13.  Whilst, other paintings warrants the influence of the Mughal mode of attire, the distinguishing feature of Golconda from the Mughal miniatures is the embroidered band and pearls on Abdullah’s cap as an embellishment slanting a little to the left side of his head.

Diwan and Hafiz (1643), the five miniatures at the British museum mainly reproduced the scenes of the royal palace with an immature ruler holding the typical Deccani sword. The peculiar characteristics ostensible from most of the Qutubshahi paintings are the sky etched in gold and a group of girls dancing in acrobatic styles14.  Inspired by the hygienic religious environs prevailing at Golconda in 1660 A.D., Amir Khusrau portrayed the adoration of the Qutubshahis towards the sages and the Sufis in the form of paintings.

Abul Hasan Tanashah’s reign left a landmark in the Deccani Golconda pictorial current due to the creation of stunningly original and sumptuous paintings.  Encouraged by Abul Hasan Tanashah’s fascination to promote painting, skilled painters of several countries shifted and settled down at Golconda. The Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad and the Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay are the treasure houses of a few paintings, which were starkly coloured with the portraits of Tanashah. Nevertheless, the kinetic genius in the pictures of Abul Hasan Tanashah’s period enormously images the substratum of the socio-cultural and historical scenario of Golconda.

Lawrence Pit, a Dutch envoy visited Golconda when Tanashah was the reigning King. Lawrence Pit carried to Holland, a Golconda school album containing the paintings of all the eight rulers and some of the high-ranking officials of Golconda in 1686 i.e., a year before Golconda’s collapse, and the album was later housed at Amsterdam in the Rijksprentenkabinet15. The dress appearance of Abul Hasan Tanashah in the portraiture of this album makes it apparent that this album was executed by a group of eminent painters under the instructions of Abul Hasan Tanashah himself, because, the traditional hindu angavasthram was substituted by flowery bordered sheet, which was also worn on the shoulders. Abul Hasan Tanashah seated on horseback, Portrait of Akbar Shah — author of famous `Sringara Manjari’, Abul Hasan walking in a Garden between 1670-80, Archaeological Survey of India Collection, Portraits of Akkanna and Madanna, etc., are the other important paintings of Tanashah’s period, which elevated Golconda as one amongst the principal centres of Deccani paintings.

The Persian, Vijayanagar, and Moghul attunement thus culminated into a typical Golconda school of painting under Abul Hasan Tanashah. They exhibited the imperial height of the Qutubshahi kings’ archaic passion for painting and represented their paintings as the quintessence of composite cultures that developed at Golconda. As such, the composite civilization that evolved came to be known first as the “Deccani Culture” and later became popular as the Hyderabadi Culture16.

Hence, a glimpse into the Golconda paintings, on the whole, confirms the representation of a superficial mixture of Deccani, Hindu, Islamic, and Persian cultural features in the early pictures and the peculiar style of Jahangir as well as Shahjahan in the later paintings.


  1. Vemuri Jagapathirao, Mana Rashtraala Katha, (Machilipatnam, 1993), p.10.
  2. K.S.S. Seshan, Hyderabad – 400 Saga of a City, (Hyderabad, 1993), p. 77.
  3. Sivaramamurthi, Indian Painting, (New Delhi, 1970), p.97.
  4. Vedagiri Rambabu, The Story of a Great City, (Hyderabad, n.d.), p. 41.
  5. Mark Zebrowski, Deccani Painting, (New Delhi, 1983), p. 155.
  6. Marg, p. 23.
  7. Mark Zebrowski, n. 5, pp. 155-57.
  8. H.K. Sherwani, Cultural Trends in Medieval India – Architecture, Painting, Literature & Language, (Bombay, 1968), p. 61.
  9. John Guy and Deborah Swallow, Arts of India, (Britain, 1990), p. 111.
  10. Anju Poddar and R. Tandon, “Golconda Painting”, Helen B. Butt ed., The Composite Nature of Hyderabadi Culture, (Hyderabad, n.d.), p. 40.
  11. Marg, p. 7.
  12. Stella Kramrisch, A Survey of Painting in the Deccan, (Hyderabad, 1937), p. 159 ff.
  13. Shahbaz A. Safrani, Golkonda and Hyderabad, (Bombay, 1991), p. 60.
  14. Albert Skira, Treasures of Asia, Painting of India, (Ohio, 1963), p. 123.
  15. Krishna Chaitanya, A History of Indian Painting, Manuscript, Moghul and Deccani Traditions, (New Delhi, 1979), p. 77.
  16. … …… Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art, 15, p. 31.

Ms. V. Prabhu Kumari
Ph.D. Research Scholar, Department of History
Loyola College, Chennai

Source: Journal of Indian History and Culture, September 2000

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