William Dalrymple is Codirector of the Jaipur Literature Festival and the author of The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857. His new book, The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company 1739–1803, will be published in September. (June 2019)

Follow William Dalrymple on Twitter: @DalrympleWill.


Painting the Cosmic Ocean

Varaha, the boar avatar of Vishnu, surrounded by illusions created by the demon Hiranyaksha; painting by Manaku from the Bhagavata Purana, circa 1740–1745

Manaku of Guler: The Life and Work of Another Great Indian Painter from a Small Hill State

by B.N. Goswamy

Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India

an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, March 4–August 19, 2018; the Seattle Art Museum, October 18, 2018–January 21, 2019; and the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, March 9–September 2, 2019
In the late 1820s a Mughal scholar named Khair ud-Din, who was working for the East India Company at its opium factory in Patna, began work on a monumental history. The Book of Cautionary Tales attempted to explain how a handful of traders from the furthest rim of Europe, “men …

The Beautiful, Magical World of Rajput Art

‘The Lovers Radha and Krishna in a Palm Grove’; miniature painting from the ‘Tehri Garhwal’ Gita ­Govinda (Song of the Cowherds), Punjab Hills, kingdom of Kangra or Guler, circa 1775–1780

Divine Pleasures: Painting from India’s Rajput Courts—The Kronos Collections

an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, June 14–September 12, 2016

Poetry and Devotion in Indian Painting: Two Decades of Collecting

an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, June 15–December 4, 2016
Rajput art used to be looked upon as a dim, provincial reflection of the sophisticated masterpieces produced by the Mughals in Delhi. The recent small but superb, jewel-like Metropolitan Museum exhibition “Divine Pleasures: Paintings from India’s Rajput Courts” demonstrated once and for all that that was never the case.

The Renaissance of the Sultans

Sultan Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah II in Procession; painting by the school of ‘Ali Riza, Bijapur, early seventeenth century

The Visual World of Muslim India: The Art, Culture and Society of the Deccan in the Early Modern Era

edited by Laura E. Parodi, with a foreword by Richard M. Eaton

Sultans of Deccan India, 1500–1700: Opulence and Fantasy

an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, April 20–July 26, 2015

The Mughal invasion of India took place in the mid-sixteenth century. The Mughals soon dominated early modern India, controlling all the rich lands from Kandahar down through Hindustan to the Vindhaya range in central India. Until recently they have also dominated the work of modern scholars: for every book on the Deccan sultanates, there are one hundred on the Mughals; for every book on Bijapur or Hyderabad there is a shelf on Delhi and Agra.

The Great & Beautiful Lost Kingdoms

A tower at the Bayon temple, founded by the Khmer king Jayavarman VII, Angkor, Cambodia, late twelfth–early thirteenth centuries

Buddhism Along the Silk Road, 5th–8th Century

an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, June 2, 2012–February 10, 2013

Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, Fifth to Eighth Century

an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, April 14–July 27, 2014
From about 400 AD to 1200 AD, India was a large-scale and confident exporter of its own diverse civilization in all its forms, and the rest of Asia was the willing and eager recipient of a startlingly comprehensive mass transfer of Indian culture, religion, art, music, technology, astronomy, mythology, language, and literature.

The Greatest Ancient Picture Gallery

A statue of the Buddha in one of the Ajanta caves, India
In 1819, a British hunting party in the jungles of the Western Ghats had followed a tiger into a remote river valley and stumbled onto what was soon recognized as one of the great wonders of India: the painted caves of Ajanta. In time it became clear that Ajanta contained probably the greatest picture gallery to survive from the ancient world.

Under the Spell of Yoga

Detail of ‘The Feast of the Yogis,’ from the Hindi Sufi romance Mrigavati, Allahabad, 1603–1604

Yoga: The Art of Transformation

an exhibition at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington, D.C., October 19, 2013–January 26, 2014; the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, February 22–May 18, 2014; and the Cleveland Museum of Art, June 22–September 7, 2014

The Khecarīvidyā of Ādinātha: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation of an Early Text of Haṭhayoga

by James Mallinson
By the sixteenth century, yoga and the secret bodies of knowledge that were associated with it had become part of the science of government in Indo-Islamic courts. The interest was as much practical as mystical: many sultans were convinced that extraordinary powers could be accessed through the practices of yogis.

Visions of Indian Art

Nainsukh of Guler: Balwant Singh’s Elephant Clawed by a Lion, 1752

Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India, 1100–1900

by John Guy and Jorrit Britschgi

Masters of Indian Painting, 1100–1900

edited by Milo C. Beach, Eberhard Fischer, and B.N. Goswamy
One morning in 1740, a thin young man could be seen heading down the steep cobbled road leading from the Kashmir Gate of the Punjabi hilltown of Guler, and making for the banks of the fast-running river Ravi far below. Nainsukh was just short of thirty, with a slightly hesitant …

Pakistan in Peril

Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia

by Ahmed Rashid
Lahore, Pakistan The relative calm in Iraq in recent months, combined with the drama of the US elections, has managed to distract attention from the catastrophe that is rapidly overwhelming Western interests in the part of the world that always should have been the focus of America’s response to September …