Indo-Persian Culture: A Very Brief Introduction


Mughal-era carpet

Indo-Persian culture refers to the wide range of practices, texts, architectural styles, and other artistic, political, and literary expressions that grew out of the centuries-long encounter of Indic and Perso-Islamicate traditions in medieval South Asia. It comprises poetry, history, statecraft, architecture, painting, and other forms of cultural production. Although its most celebrated flowering occurred under the Mughal Empire (1526-1858), earlier periods such as that of the Delhi Sultanate contributed much to the development of this complex composite culture. Since its expressions often blend Hindu and Muslim mores, Indo-Persian culture is typically associated with an ethos of pluralism and tolerance. But such an association must be viewed against the backdrop of plunder and warfare that also characterizes periods in which this culture flourished.

The following texts are helpful resources for learning more about Indo-Persian culture.

General texts

Ahmad, Aziz. Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964.

Alam, Muzaffar. The Languages of Political Islam: India 1200-1800. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

_____, Francoise ‘Nalini’ Delvoye, and Marc Gaborieau, eds. The Making of Indo-Persian Culture: Indian and French Studies. Manohar: Centre de Sciences Humaines, 2000.

Eaton, Richard M., ed. India‘s Islamic Traditions, 711-1750. New Delhi; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Ikram, S.M. Muslim Civilization in India. Edited by Ainslie T. Embree. New York: Columbia University Press, 1964.

Mujeeb, Mohammad. The Indian Muslims. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2003.

Persian Poetry in India

Faruqi, Shamsur Rahman. Early Urdu Literary Culture and History. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Gabbay, Alyssa. Islamic Tolerance: Amir Khusraw and Pluralism. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Sharma, Sunil. Amir Khusraw: The Poet of Sufis and Sultans. Oxford: Oneworld, 2005.

_____. Persian Poetry at the Indian Frontier: Mas‘ūd Sa‘d Salmān of Lahore. New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2000.

Hindu-Muslim Interaction

Eaton, Richard M. The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760. Berkeley; Los   Angeles: University of California Press, 1993.

Gilmartin, David and Bruce B. Lawrence, eds. Beyond Turk and Hindu: Rethinking Religious Identities in Islamicate South Asia. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000.

Political and Military History

Jackson, Peter. The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1999.


Ernst, Carl W. Eternal Garden: Mysticism, History, and Politics at a South Asian Sufi Center. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

Lawrence, Bruce B. Notes from a Distant Flute: The Extant Literature of Pre-Mughal Indian Sufism. Tehran: Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy, 1978.

Nizām al-Dīn Awliyā’. Favā’id al-fu’ād. Translated by Bruce B. Lawrence as Nizam ad-din Awliya: Morals for the Heart: Conversations of Shaykh Nizam ad-din Awliya recorded by Amir Hasan Sijzi. New York: Paulist Press, 1992.


Kausar, Zinat. Muslim Women in Medieval India. Patna: Janaki Prakashan, 1992.