In 1436, Mahmud Khilji, the first of a powerful Muslim line, had taken Malwa, later engulfing part of Rajasthan and the Deccan, and while these circumstances might well have depreciated art, there are two respects in which his rule is significant. 'Sooltan Mahmood', Ferishta states 'was polite, brave, just and learned and during his reign, Mahomedans as well as Hindoos were happy and maintained a friendly intercourse with each other.' Already therefore, conditions for the blending of Muslim and Indian styles of painting were emerging. A second factor, however, is more political and concerns Mahmud's relations with outside kingdoms. In 1467, he received an embassy from the Timurid ruler of Bukhara, a Muslim capital in north-east Persia, and in return composed a poem 'in the Indian language' for presentation to its king. This poem, Ferishta states, 'gratified the King of Bokhara more than any of the numerous rarities which the ambassador brought.' Ferishta does not state in what precise language the poem was written but the observation is important since it reveals Mahmud's literary tastes -tastes which are illustrated by the fact that 'his leisure hours were devoted to hearing the histories and memoirs of the court of different kings of the earth read.'3 It also proves the existence of cultural connections between Malwa and Bukhara in the mid-fifteenth century; and it is these connections which develop even further during the reign of his son and successor, Ghiyas-ud-din (1469-1501). Ghiyas-ud-din Khilji is famous on two accounts—his delight in pleasure and his 'city of women'. 'Shortly after his accession', Ferishta writes, 'the King gave a grand entertainment on which occasion, addressing his officers, he stated that as he had during the last thirty-four years been employed constantly in the field, fighting constantly under the banners of his illustrious father, he now yielded the sword to his son in order that he might enjoy ease for the rest of his days. He accordingly established within his seraglio all the separate offices of a court and had at one time fifteen thousand women within his palace. Among these were school-mistresses, musicians, dancers, embroiderers, women to read prayers and persons of all professions and trades. Five hundred beautiful young Toorky females in men's clothes and uniformly clad, armed with bows and arrows, stood on his right hand, and were called the Toorky guard. On his left were five hundred Abyssinian females also dressed uniformly, armed with firearms'. Such arrangements may at first sight seem merely domestic and to have no implications for art. We must remember, however, that in stressing 'the importance of living', Ghiyas-ud-din had also abandoned warfare and for a quarter of a century, Malwa maintained its territorial integrity without a single battle. If peace fosters art, Ghiyas-ud-din ensured it. It was his zest for women, however, which had the chief artistic consequences. Following his father Mahmud's tolerance of Hindus, Ghiyas-ud-din not only scoured his own territories for shapely girls but 'obtained them at great trouble and expense from all parts of India', Khurasan and Bukhara. Women do not necessarily mean artists but we can hardly doubt that in this ceaseless scouring of other regions, especially those of Persia and Bukhara, the trading and cultural connections initiated by his father were expanded and the way prepared for Persian infiltration.
In 1501, Ghiyas-ud-din died and it is under his son, Nasir-ud-din (1501-1512), that Persian styles of painting affected Malwa. In 1503, a copy of the Persian poem, the Bustan of Sadi, was written at Mandu by Shahsawar, a calligrapher, and illustrated by the artist, Haji Mahmud. Its forty-three paintings are in possible Bukhara manner and although this style had no general effect on Mandu, one idiom—that of a rectangular band filled with floral scrolls — became a permanent feature in Malwa painting.
It is a second manuscript, however, which is a turning point in Indian art. The book is termed a nimatnama or 'book of delicacies' and comprises Ghiyas-ud-din's favourite recipes as well as those of his successor. The book was probably compiled shortly after Ghiyas-ud-din's death and possesses fifty illustrations.7 The style, with its lush vegetation, formalized leaves and profuse grandeur, is basically the Shirazi style of Persian painting as it had developed under the Turkmans towards the end of the century. At the same time certain very definite Indian elements are present. Although many women appear as men in Persian dress — a concession to Ghiyas-ud-din's whims—others are frankly Indian both in costume and physique. In certain cases Indian trees such as mangoes are introduced and these are rendered with new and lively naturalism. Above all, many poses of the girl attendants reveal an Indian delight in sumptuous form quite opposed to that of the boy-loving Persians. Such adjustments are due to two distinct reasons. The naturalistic trees and certain of the women are based on observation of Mandu and its inhabitants. On the other hand, certain ways of transcribing the female form are influenced by Jain painting, in particular by the idioms employed in the Jaunpur manuscript of 1465. The jutting veils, rounded contours and large eyes all spring from this tradition and while the Persian style is still ascendant, it is clear that Jain painting in the 'Jaunpur' manner was also strongly flourishing. Cross-fertilizations in fact are commencing and these are to continue in the next reign.