Chanchal Dadlani is an assistant professor in the Department of Art at Wake Forest University, where she teaches the history of Islamic and South Asian art and architecture. She will give a talk titled “Architectural Representation and the Construction of the Mughal Past: the Amal-i Salih of 1815” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on the early modern Islamic lands and South Asia, with an emphasis on Mughal visual culture.
In 1815, the Mughal emperor Akbar II commissioned a lavishly illustrated manuscript of the Amal-i Sālih. This classic historical work narrated the reign of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, Akbar II’s ancestor and the patron of the Taj Mahal. It was also one of the first Mughal manuscripts to include folios exclusively dedicated to the representation of architecture. In portraying these buildings, the manuscript creators constructed a historical canon of Mughal architecture that consciously drew on the political achievements of the Mughal past. This important manuscript can be situated in relation to a longer tradition of architectural histories that were produced locally. By evaluating these narratives in relation to each other, this talk calls into question established historiographies of South Asian architectural history, which tend to locate its beginnings in the mid-nineteenth-century scholarship of British colonial agents and the activities of the Archaeological Survey of India.