A heroic epic illustrated in India around 1570

60 Paintings tell a Story
The Hamzanama is based on a story from a centuries-old oral tradition. It tells of Hamza ibn Abdul-Muttalib (c. 569–625), the uncle of the prophet Muhammad (c. 570–632). The historical Hamza was opposed to Islam at first until he converted in 615, after which he became one of its most ardent advocate. The historical facts were embroidered over the centuries with a variety of fictional events. The tales of the Hamzanama are about the struggles of the Muslims against the “infidels” and the attempt to convert them; likewise legendary sorcerers, demons and fairies, daring heroes, brave women and trickster spies, who are said to have played a role in the life of the Amir Hamza. They were commissioned by Akbar, the “Great” (r. 1556–1605), probably the most influential of all Mughal rulers, and were created between 1557 and 1577 in his court workshops. It is renowned as one of the most important works of painting in the Islamic world. Today a total of 200 out of the original 1 400 folios of Akbar’s Hamzanama have been preserved in various collections worldwide. The MAK has the greatest quantity, with 60 folios. This incongruence in preservation and the many oral versions of Hamza’s story prevent a more precise determination of the sequence of the folios.

Emissaries bring news from the provinces of Khaybar and Chin to Anoshirvan

Anoshirvan sends an army against Bahram

Umar foils a plot against Hamza during a campaign against Greece

Feridun Shah, the king of Greece, converts to Islam and marries his daughter to Hamza

Landhaur, the son of the king of Ceylon, is abducted in his sleep by a demon

During a campaign Hamza kills the leader of the Qaf, people who have elephant ears

Landhaur frees Hamza's grandson from prison

Hamza's son Rostam and Mihrafroz are warned by startled birds

Hamza's son Rostam fighting Malafard

Sherafgan breaks a talisman

Shahrashob seizes the Amir [...] and puts [him] in a boat

Umar gets into a boat and goes after the Amir and [...]

Ayjil aand Alamshah are made acquainted, and Khwaja Nu'man's first trick in Takaw

Mahlaj shows his skill to Zumurrud Shah and runs a spear through a tree

Shahrashob brings the captured Hamza to Takaw

Hamza is brought to prison

Yunus meets Umar on the sea

Baba Junayd helps Hamza's companions and fends Shahrashob off

Umar makes a tunnel and gets out of prison and rescues the Amir


Umar escapes from bondage and shaves the beard from Kamran's face

The Amir, Umar, and Umar Ma'dikarb come to the foot of the Noshad fortress

The coming of a veilded youth and the killing of Marku' Boar-Tooth

Malik Qasim jumps into the river to save Badi'uzzaman

Surkhab comes out of the mountain fortress and places his head on the Amir's foot

Tahmasp grapples with Marzban, and Umar throws a stone at Tahmasp's head

Tul Zangi and Farrukhsuwar are captured by Tahmasp

Hamza fights Tahmasp

Umar hits the foot soldier on the head with a staff, and the messages come out

Hamza is released from prison by his companions

The Amir breaks his bonds, and Umar kills the witch Barvezan

In combat, Qasim beheads Kayhur's Rhinoceros

Two brothers pick up an elephant on the field; Farrukhnizhad goes, picks the elephant up, and converts them to Islam

Hamza, Landhaur, and Zumurrud Shah stand bound before Lakman's throne

The Amir seizes the Queen of Zarduhusht and makes her Muslim

Several thousand urns appear, and all of Zumurrud Shah's soldiers get on the urns

The veiled youth brings Malik Bahman out

Songhur Balkhi and Sabukpa Egi get up onto Qimar's Fortress with Lassos

The Khwaja puts Bihbud, Qalmas , and Khwarmah into chests together with Pabus Ayyar

Malak Mah comes to the camp of Islam by night, sees Sa'id Farrukhnizhad, and falls in love with him

Malak Mah kills Ambar Zangi at the prison door, and the Amir's Ayyars get him out

[...] in Arzan Ibrahim [overthrows] As Zangi [...]

Mahiya and Zambur render Ghazanfar unconscious and throw him from the fortress into the sea

Princess Malak Mah and Hamza's spies search for Sa'id, when she is kidnapped by a sorceress

Songhur Balkhi and Lulu are welcomed by the spy Baba Bakhsha

Khosh-Khiram cuts off Kajdast Ayyar's head

Malik Bahman meets with Sa'id's sons

A hand appears and carries off Umar Amali

Hamid gets out of the city, Hamraq and Tamraq go after him and are killed, and [...]

Mihrdukht shoots an arrow and sends the foot soldiers after it; she gets into a boat with an old man and sails away

Hamid achieves union with Mihrdukht

Umar brings Hamza the ring of Zumurrud Shah

Umar is thrown over the wall but is unharmed

Prince Badi'uzzaman fights Kharatish

Hamza tries to help Umar, but discovers the man is only an impostor

Prince Badi'uzzaman fights Iraj

Prince Rostam frees Khurshed Khawari from the captivity of a demon

Umayya frees Umar, who has been imprisoned by Iraj

Iraj fights Hamza's friend Asad

Umar defeats a dragon

Duel between a Muslim hero and a warrior astride a rhinoceros

MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art
Credits: Story

MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art

Credits: All media
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