All poets, in all ages, have placed a premium on timely themes, verbal dexterity, and esthetic innovation, but in late sixteenth-and early seventeenth-century South Asia there was a heightened sense of newness in the air. By the end of the great Emperor Akbar’s long reign, the Mughal Empire was well established, and Akbar’s own rule of nearly five decades (1556-1605) had seen the consolidation of composite cultural trends that had, in many cases, been centuries in the making, but now received a more explicit political and administrative formulation than ever before. An atmosphere of religious tolerance, a respect for scholarly inquiry and the arts, the rationalization of bureaucratic and administrative policies, and a welcoming respect not only for the cultural diversity of the subcontinent itself, but also for the intellectual and commercial capital brought by travelers from around the world, were all hallmarks of the Mughal state ideology of “universal concord” (s:ulh: -i kull). Of course, the term s:ulh: -i kull was not itself new-it had been a key concept in the normative Indo-Persian political and ethical vocabulary since at least the Aḵẖlāq-i Nās: irī of the great medieval polymath Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī (1201-74)—and thus it is worth emphasizing that, for all their innovation, the Mughals’ notion of a new political and cultural order did not preclude a respect for medieval and classical traditions. In fact, the intellectual foundations of Mughal culture and politics rested precisely on the dual sense of both continuity with multiple classical traditionse.g. the Islamicate, Indic, Persian, Turko-Mongol, and Greco-Hellenic-and the equally strong belief that by integrating these cultural streams into a composite world view, safeguarded by Mughal power, they were crafting an empire of unprecedented dynamism and social harmony.1