A place in Kerala, south of India originally called Jatayumangalam has an interesting legend behind it. It is now called Chadayamangalam named after a bird Jatayu from the Indian epic Ramayana whose wings were clipped off by Ravana. Jatayu did the ultimate sacrifice by trying to stop Ravana, when Sitadevi was being carried off to Lanka by him. The rocks here hold striking carvings of Jatayu’s beak mark during his last breath and footprints of Lord Rama. The illustrations depicted capture the story and illustrate the bird’s devotion and supreme sacrifice to his object of worship !
The India epic Ramayana which is the story of Lord Rama, narrates the story of the sacrifice of Jatayu, the bird-vulture who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and knew that Lord Rama was his incarnation in human form. When Sita was found missing, Rama was highly aggrieved and he along with his brother Lakhsmana started searching the forests for her. She had actually been abducted and Ravana was waiting to avenge the humiliation of his sister Surpanakha by Lakhsmana.
As Sita was being carried off by Ravana in his flying chariot, she gave out loud wails for help to the forests with its all its flora and fauna. Nature heard her cries but no one could really help. At this time Jatayu was resting on a tree top. He heard the appeals of Sita and immediately flew off the tree and came close to Ravana’s aerial chariot. He tried to reason with him but Ravana was very angry and in no mood to listen. Jatayu then attacked him with his powerful beak and talons.
In order to foil the evil act of abduction by Ravana, a fierce battle followed between Jatayu and Ravana. Ravana was way much stronger to him, but Jatayu managed to offset some of Ravana’s weapons and bring him down to earth with his chariot. But this enraged Ravana further and he shot arrows at the bird and slashed his wings with his dagger. Jatayu could no longer fly and hit the gound too. Sita rushed to his help but Ravana carried her off again in his aerial chariot.
Jatayu with Lord Rama and Lakhsmana, painting, a local variation of Ramayana, Marwar, Rajasthan, 1820-40.
Jatayu’s attempt to foil Sita’s abduction, folio from a Vaidehisha-vilasa, Kalighat painting, LACMA, USA, late 19th century.
Jatayu-vadha, painting, Raja Ravi Varma, 1906.
Book illustration, Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists, Ravana fighting with Jatayu” by K. Venkatappa, 1914.
Sampati was Jatayu’s brother. On hearing of his sibling’s predicament from one of his tribe he rushed to his side. The sun was very scorching on that fateful day. Jatayu was lying wounded and would soon die; Sampati covered him with large wings so that he would be comfortable in his last moments. Rama and Lakshmana soon arrived on the poignant scene. With great difficulty Jatayu related his tale and informed Rama of the abduction and the route that Ravana was taking. This was of great help to him to understand Sita’s whereabouts in order to bring her back. Jatayu was thus the first informer. It is believed that Sampati’s wings got so scorched that he could not fly again. This is one version of the story. However Jatayu died and got liberation (moksha or mukti) from rebirth by the touch of Rama. Thus ended a saga of devotion and sacrifice in glory !
Jatayu sculpture, Jatayu Earth Centre, Chadayamangalam, 20th century, Kerala.
Ravana fights Jatayu, depiction at Bhabanipur Chandranath Chatterjee Lane Sarbojanin Durga Puja pandal, South Kolkata. Bengal School of Art. 2011.
Myths and legends in India Art/S.D Trivedi and Atul Jairath, Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan, 2009.
Lord Krishna is a much loved deity in Hinduism. His childhood as Balakrishna, youth as a cowherd; later revered as the mentor and charioteer of Pandava Arjuna in the Indian epic Mahabharata who advises him on the battlefield in which he has to fight his own cousins. His actions, words and feats including his Rasaleela at Brindavan with his beloved Radha and other has been captured in art, poetry and narratives. Find the story behind a celebrated feat of Lord Krishna – the Kaliyamardana in which he slays a multiple hooded serpent of astounding strength who is tormenting people and been depicted in many artworks found all over India and outside India.
The details of the story is found in the Bhagavata Purana, one of Hinduism’s 18 great Puranas.
Krishna dancing on the head of Kaliya, Mughal School, India, 1590-1595 A.D, illustration from the Harivamsa, an appendix of Razmnama, Balarama and people watch from the riverbank.
The story is very interesting and takes us to the banks of the Yamuna flowing through Brindavan in the north of India. Lord Krishna as a young lad who also lived nearby, played here along with his cowherd friends. The tenth canto of Chapter 16 describes an amazing feat of a young Krishna of subduing a serpent called Kaliya and the episode is referred to as Kaliyanaga-mardana. The depictions in art range from narrations in miniature paintings, stone sculpture, metal works and book illustrations.
Episode of Kaliyamardana, page from a dispersed Bhagavata Purana Series, late 18th century, Brooklyn Museum, U.S.A
Kaliya the serpent was originally from Ramanakadwipa and driven away from there because he was mighty afraid of Garuda the enemy of snakes. Garuda had been cursed by Sage Saubhari that if he ever came to Brindavan he would meet his end there. So Kaliya made Brindavan his home and lived there with his family. The giant serpent was residing in the river Yamuna and scared people away and nobody could go near to the site where he lived. He was also spilling deadly venom into the Yamuna which was frothing and bubbling over. One day Krishna and his cowherd friends were playing a game of ball. While playing the ball fell near the spot where Kaliya resided. Krishna’s friends urged him not to go after the ball. But Krishna jumped into the river and on seeing Krishna, Kaliya curled around his legs. Krishna’s mother Yashoda was very frightened of the serpent and asked Krishna to just come home. However Krishna stomped on his tail and warned Kaliya not to trouble anybody. Kaliya was a very strong serpent and pulled Krishna into the river. People gathered on the bank. Kaliya has got Krishna ensnared in its coils. However Krishna expanded himself forcing Kaliya to release him. After he was thus released, Krishna started dancing on the head of Kaliya which released the poison of the snake. Krishna took the weight of the whole universe and started beating him with his feet. Kaliya started to die and began vomiting blood. Kaliya’s wives came and begged Krishna to spare his life. Kaliya too surrendered and promised not to harass anybody again. Krishna did a final dance on his head and asked him to go back to Ramanakadwipa and assured him that Garuda would not trouble him again.
Kaliyadamardana, Krishna ensnared, Brooklyn Museum, U S A, painting, created between 1750 and 1780 A.D.
Image, Dharmshala, Khatu Mode, Mumbai.
Kaliya’s wives praying to Krishna to release their subdued husband serpent Kaliya, Kangra, Pahari painting, 1785-90 A.D, National Museum, New Delhi.
Carving of Lord Krishna subduing Kaliya, Sri Lakshminarayana Temple, Hosaholalu, Karnataka, 13th century.
Krishna subdues serpent Kaliya, – lintel over the main door of the outer East gopura, Prasat Muang Tam, Thailand, late 10th century.
Krishna rose from the river while dancing on Kaliya’s head. People too on seeing Krishna danced on his head and Kaliya was finally pushed into Patala where he stays to this day as it is believed.
Book illustration, Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists (1914), Nivedita, Sister, Coomaraswamy, Ananda Kentish, University of Toronto Digital Collection.
A astounding marvel in architecture of a step-well along with embellishments of 500 principal and 1000 other minor sculptural creations are waiting to amaze visitors at Patan in Gujarat, India. Built in the 11th century on the bank of the river Saraswati by Rani Udaymati, wife of Bhima I of the Chalukya dynasty. Hence it is called Rani ki vav or the Queen’s step-well.
Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
The step-well has seven levels of stairs with the panels embellished with sculptures. The themes are mostly religious or mythological. Udayamati was the daughter of Navavaraha Khangera and commissioned the step-well in memory of her husband Bhima I who ruled between 1022 and 1064 A.D. The step-well is well preserved because it was flooded by the Saraswati river and had got silted. This entire creation took 20 years to be made.
Ornamental pillars, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
Art historians Henry Cousens and James Burgess visited the site when it was totally in mud. They thought it was ahuge pit. However in the 1940s the excavations carried out under the Baroda State revealed the stepwell. In 1980s the Archaeological Survey of India took it further by more excavation and in 2014 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Avatars of Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
The entrance is located in the East while the well is located at the Westernmost end and consists of a shaft 10 m in diameter and 30 m deep. There is a compartmentalised stepped corridor with multi-storeyed pillared pavillions. The walls, pillars, columns, brackets and beams are all ornamented and embellished with carvings and scroll work, The niches too demand attention by their ornamentation with figures. There are 212 pillars in the step-well.
Lord Rama, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
Sculptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
The sculptures depict Gods, Goddesses, celestial beings, men, women, priests, birds and animals. Lord Vishnu image is the maximum form depicted here as ‘Seshasayi’ and ‘Viswaroopa’ and also as ‘Dasavatara’. Hindu deities Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, Gods Ganesha, Kubera, Surya, Indra and Hayagriva are also depicted here. One finds Uma-Maheshwara, Lakhsmi-Nararayana, Ardhnarishwara, Chamunda, Mahisasuramardini, the Saptammatrikas and the images of Navagraha or nine planets as well. This step-well brings out the sanctity of water as a life giving force. This step-well is a form of subterranean water architecture and is like an inverted temple, a water management system symbolising the technological height of the step-well tradition in India.
Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
Scuptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
Mahisasuramardini, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
There are also celestial beings like Apsaras and celestial dancers and a Naga princess. also common men and women doing their daily activities, women holding children. Every sculpture seems sublime and infused with a special quality. The expressions have beauty and balance to mesmerize the onlooker. The jewellery and hairstyles depicted are also unique and can be a study on its own !
Apsara , Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
Scuptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
Scroll designs and lattice patterns, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
Varaha avatar, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
It is a fine and exquisite stepwell, classified as a Nanda type. It is 65 m long, 20 m wide and 28 m deep. The fourth level is deepest and leads to a rectangular well. However at present the ground water levels have changed following the Saraswati river’s relocation.
Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
Avatars of Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.
Diwali is celebrated with great excitement and festivity in India. The day marks the return of Lord Rama to his capital Ayodhya with his wife Sita, brother Lakshmana and Hanuman, the leader of his vanarasena or monkey army after his win in battle over Ravana, the lord of Lanka.After the battle between Lord Rama and Ravana, Ravana was ultimately killed by Rama and Vibhishana, his brother was made the king of Lanka. It is recalled that the city was lit with thousands of lamps on his return.
Every year this day is commemorated across India. This is as mentioned in the epic Ramayana, the part of the story from Uttarakanda, the final chapter in the epic tale by Sage Valmiki. Lord Rama comes back in his Pushpakvimana to be coronated as king to Ayodhya. Presented here are some amazing depictions of the return of Rama and his coronation which led to his rule of thousand years also called Ramarajya, a glorious rule.
Lord Rama starting to return to Ayodhya, Kangra miniature, late 18th century, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, U K.
The Pushpakvimana has been described as a self-moving painted car, which was large with two storeys and few chambers in it, also with flags and colourful banners, and gave a melodious sound as it made its way across the sky.
Shri Ramachandra or Lord Rama seen on Pushpakvimana with his wife Sita, brother Lakshmana, Hanuman and others, print, Modern Litho Works, Bombay , early 20th century.
The Uttarakanda narrates that Lord Rama reached the kingdom of Ayodhya along with Lakshmana, Sita, Hanuman, Sugriva, Vibhishana and the host of monkeys. After he reaches his kingdom, his brother Bharata who has waited from him to come back restores the kingdom to his elder brother. After that the preparations for the actual coronation begin; royal barbers are called and Lord Rama and Lakshmana are bathed, shorn of their matted locks and dressed in splendid robes; Dasharatha’s queens deck Sita with jewellery and the priests give orders for the coronation to take place.
Return of Lord Rama, miniature painting, Sahib Din, 17th century, British Library, London, U.K.
”Making use of Ravana’s flying chariot, the exiles have left Lanka and flown swiftly northwards, the directional imperative now being from right to left. Reunited with Bharata and Shatrughna, who have kept Rama’s kingdom for him during the fourteen years of exile, they enter Ayodhya in triumph. They drive through the bazaars with their festive hangings to the palace where they are received by their mothers. Even Kaikeyi is forgiven. The monkey king Sugriva, his minister Hanuman and the other chief monkeys have assumed human form. Rama’s coronation begins his auspicious reign, a truly golden age for mankind – Ram-raj , Rama’s rule”…The British Library.
Return of Lord Rama in a pushpaka vimana and preparations for his coronation, miniature painting, Mewar, Rajasthan, 17th century.
The Uttarakanda further narrates that Lord Rama as king was visited by many sages from far and near,they came from east and west and north and south, led by Sage Agastya, and Lord Rama venerated them and provided them with seats of sacrificial grass and gold-embroidered deer-skin. Then the sages praised him as he had won the battle and also slain Ravana, the sons of Ravana, and had delivered men and gods from fear.
Lord Rama’s as King of Ayodhya, artwork, 1940s.
Woman holding sparklers, India, 19th century, Honolulu Museum of Art, U S A.
Images are from Wikimedia Commons, freepik.com (lamps image)
Mention Mandu and everyone recalls the famous love story of Baz Bahadur and Rani Rupmati. Located in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh, now in Dhar district. the place has some amazing history along with beautiful built structures which illustrate the romance. Rupmati is a shepherd girl who Baz Bahadur, met during one of his hunting trips. He was the last ruler of Malwa, son of Shuja’at Khan; he heard her singing and was smitten by her beauty. He asked her to come to Mandu, to which she agreed but asked to live at place not far from him and the Narmada river. This led to building of the Rupmati pavillion and the Rewa Kund. It is believed that they married as per Hindu and Muslim rites.
Baz Bahadur and Rani Rupmati hunting, painting, Nurpur, 18th century.
Unfortunately in 1561, the Mughal Emperor sent Adham Khan to conquer Mandu. Baz Bhadur fled to Chittorgarh to seek help. The army of Malwa was no match to the Mughal forces. Mandu was defeated in the battle of Sarangpur. Rani Rupmati did not want to be captured and poisoned herself.
The story of Rupmati was written by Sharaf-ud-Din Mirza in the Persian language. He collected 26 poems of her; the original manuscript changed hands and and was translated by L. M Crump in 1926, under the title : ‘The lady of the lotus – Rupmati, Queen of Mandu, a strange tale of faithfulness.
Excerpts from the translation :
……Her eyebrows are like unto the curves of the letter ‘Nun’ or unto rainbows in the heavens : to twin black fishes in the fountain of the sun, to the sword of that for the terror of infidels was sent down on earth : horns of the deer of sight are they or the sacred book of a temple of the idolaters : feathers of the wings of the falcon of vision or the invocation of the name of God. The painting of her eyebrows is as two crescent moons set each on other or twin daggers over twin swords : green sheaths are they of the sharp falcons of her brows or two green leaves of the tree of Paradise. The tail of her eyebrow is the sting of the scorpion or the point of the sword of the executioner. The line of her knitted brows is a gleaming blade or a ripple in the wine-cup of her charms.…
…..more often soon than late, for he neglected all things for her company, they would sing to each other the songs of love which they had composed, or, calling the musicians and the singing and dancing girls, listen to their songs of love and war. Fair was life to them evening after evening on the roof of the Ship Palace, in the heart of their dear city impregnable, looking out over mosque and tomb, dome and cupola of blue and green and yellow and of marble white, and beyond, to lake and wood, to hill and vale fair indeed, and all the fairer for the music in their ears and the love within their hearts. Yet was not Rup Mati slow to perceive that herein lay danger for Baz Bahadur. His nobles delighted to gather round him and ply him with wine, till he knew not night from day…..
Baz Bahadur’s Palace, Mandu.
Arcade, Baz Bahadur’s Palace, Mandu.
The songs and verses which are said to have been composed by Rupmati are dohas, kabittas and sawaiyas still sung in Mandu ! Also a part of translated work by M.L Crump, The lady with the lotus.
The defeat of Baz Bahadur, painting from Akbarnama, late 16th century.
The lady of the lotus – Rupmati, Queen of Mandu, a strange tale of faithfulness/ Ahmad -ul-Umari, tr. L.M Crump, London : Oxford University Press, 1926.
Tucked away in Ibrahimbagh in the historic city of Hyderabad in India, which was founded in 1591 by the fifth Sultan of the Qutub Shahi rulers of the Deccan Sultanate of Golconda; who ruled when Sultan Quli declared independence from the powerful Bahmani kingdom in early 16th century, is their necropolis in a beautiful garden setting. The Sultans ruled both from Golconda and Hyderabad at different points of time.The Qutub Shahis are remembered for bringing in new traditions along with immigrants from Persia, the founder Sultan Quli being from there who migrated to the Indian subcontinent. The Qutub Shahis mingled their culture with local sensibilities to usher in a ‘composite’ culture which paved the way for new ways of dress and etiquette, language, intoduction of beautiful calligraphy, art and architecture. A new idiom thewhich, Golconda school of miniature painting evolved during their reign who were great patrons of music and literature. The Sultans themselves composed poetry which is still cherished. They patronised the languages Persian and Telugu along with Dakhni, proto-Urdu. Many works of literture were produced. The dynasty ruled upto 1686 which ended with the siege by Aurangzeb in 1687. After an interim Mughal rule the Asaf Jahis ruled and developed the area which became part of the Indian Republic in 1956. The city of Hyderabad, now in Telangana State of India, has seen phases of growth under various rulers to become a major metropolis in south of India with expansion of the newer city of Hyderabad, the Secunderabad Cantonment, the last addition being Cyberabad. This write-up focusses on the amazing tomb complex at Ibrahimbagh in Hyderabad which is some distance from the Golconda Fort. Qutub Shahi architectural splendour is very prominent here with most features of Islamic architecture with components like arches, domes and minarets. The local influence can be seen in the liberal use of lotus-petal bases around the domes and minarets.
View of Golconda Fort on the way to the tombs |D. Vinod
The tombs of the Sultans along with other important people from the family and associates are at a royal necropolis or tomb complex at Ibrahimbagh near the Golconda Fort. The place was also called Bagh Safa. The tombs were built over time by various kings. Surrounding the tombs are gardens; beautiful gardens with shrubs and trees, a bagh setting amidst fountains and the timeless interplay of light and shade. Nature seems to be at its best with flowers, birds, bees, butterlfies and squirrels, abundant foliage, under the bluest skies.
Skyview, image | Dinesh Singh
Mentionable here are the eight sultans of the Qutub Shahi dynasty; Sultan Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk (1512–1543), Jamsheed Quli Qutb Shah (1543–1550), Subhan Quli Qutb Shah (1550),Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah (1550–1580),Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah (1580–1612), Sultan Muhammad Qutb Shah (1612–1626),Abdullah Qutb Shah (1626–1672) and Abul Hasan Qutb Shah (1672–1686). The last Sultan is not buried here as he was sent to Daulatabad after the Mughal siege by Aurangzeb and his forces in 1687.
Cistern at the bagh, image|Dinesh Singh
The architecture seen here is a beautiful blend of Persian, Indian and Pashtun influences. The tombs are mostly on a raised platform having domes and surrounded by arches. The tombs were much venerated during the Qutub Shahi times. The tombs of the Sultans had golden spires over them. People would read from the Holy Quran which used to be kept on pedestals. During the Qutub Shahi rule, there used to be Persian carpets on the floors inside the tombs with the perfume of incense wafting around. After the reign changed, the tombs were not much in focus. In the beginning of 19th century, Sir Salar Jung ordered for their restoration. He was an important prime-minister of Hyderabad-Deccan during the Asaf Jahi rule (1724-1948). The Aga Khan Foundation is restoring the tombs at present in the 21st century. There are displays which show the course of work that is happening here at the bagh.
One gets to see all the sturctures in the tomb complex along with the gardens and fountains, the well called Badi bowli, a neatly designed stepwell. The fine stucco on the structures leaves one amazed and the dainty designs on the minarets are very pleasing to the eye. The tomb of the founder of the dynasty Sultan Quli Qutub-ul-mulk is some distance away to the south west of the tomb of Sultan Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah. A fairly simple tomb structure built on a platform with an octagonal interior with a dome crowning the top. Sultan Quli’s tomb has the inscription Bade Malik or Big Master as he was addressed by that name. The tomb has two graves with another smaller one. Outside there are 21 graves on the plinth, maybe of people close to him. The tomb of Subhan Quli on the same plinth has a dome which being fluted looks very beautiful. Some distance away to the west of Sultan Quli’s tomb is his son Jamsheed Quli’s tomb, an octagonal structure which looks double storeyed with arches and projecting balconies. The balconies have rich ornamental balustrades.. The tomb of Mohammad Amin who died in 1596; who was the sixth son of Sultan Ibrahim Qutub Shah and father of Sultan Mohammad Qutub Shah at a young age of 25, is towards the west of the tomb complex. The tomb has two graves inside.
Tomb of Sultan Quli, founder of the dynasty|D.Vinod
The tomb of Sultan Ibrahim Qutub Shah is some distance away to the south west of Sultan Quli’s mausoleum.The tomb has two graves in the main chamber and another sixteen on the terrace most probably of his children. Sultan Mohammad Qutub Shah’s mausoleum has a circular dome and the central chamber is surrrounded by an arcaded gallery with seven exits or openings. The upper storey has five recesses.
The tomb of Sultan Subhan Ali, fondly called Chhote Malik or Little Master lies near his father Jamsheed Quli’s tomb. The other tombs are of the physicians or hakims of the Sultan Abdullah Qutub Shah, Nizamuddin Ahmed Jeelani and Abdul Jabbar Jeelani, tomb of Neknaam Khan who served in Sultan Abdullah’s army, tomb of Fatima Sultan sister of Mohammad Qutub Shah and Kulsoom , his grand-daughter. Also the tombs of courtesans Taramati and Pemamati. The tomb complex was once called Lagar-e-faiz-athar where songs, dances and drama were regularly staged.
There are also other tombs in the complex of members of the dynasty of the Qutub Shahis which have different architectural features from the main tombs but are very pleasing to the eye with ornate designs.
Tomb of Hayat Bakshi Begum, tomb complex, Ibrahimbagh, Hyderabad|Dinesh Singh
Tile decoration, Hayat Bakshi Begum masjid, tomb complex, Ibrahim bagh, Hyderabad|Dinesh Singh
Tomb of Sultan Jamsheed Quli, tomb complex, Ibrahimbagh, Hyderabad|D. Vinod
Tomb of Sultan Ibrahim Qutub Shah, Ibrahimbagh, Hyderabad|Soma Ghosh
Blue tile work remains, Tomb of Sultan Ibrahim Qutub Shah, Ibrahimbagh, Hyderabad|Asif Ali Khan
The tomb of Sultan Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah who died in 1612 is a striking structure with a double terrace. He was the fifth Sultan and is well rembered for constructing the Charminar at Hyderabad with the Char Kaman and founding the city of Hyderabad. The Sultan’s grave is in a crypt covered with black stone and is lower than the ground. The arcades around are unique and are very cool inside in contrast to the bright sunlight during daytime outside the tomb. The minarets at the corners have exquisite designs.
Tomb of Sultan Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah, tomb complex, Ibrahimbagh, Hyderabad|D.Vinod
Archways, tomb of Sultan Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah, tomb complex, Ibrahimbagh, Hyderabad|Soma Ghosh
The tomb of the seventh ruler, Sultan Abdullah Qutub Shah appears first to the vistor. The sacrophagus is in black basalt. There are still some traces of blue and green enamel on the minarets. The tomb overall is very impressive with its seven arches built in perfect alignment in its corridors giving a feel of infinity. After this on the left one gets to see the incomplete tomb but actually has the grave of Sultan Abdullah’s eldest son-in-law Mirza Nizamuddin Ahmed.
Some way from the entrance to the north-west one can locate the impressive tomb of Hayat Bakshi Begum or Ma saheba, who is the daughter of the fifth ruler, Sultan Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah and wife of the 4th ruler, Sultan Mohammad Qutub Shah. Her son was Sultan Abdullah Qutub Shah. She played an important role and was a strong presence in Deccan history of the time. She was fondly called Ma-saheba. Her tomb has seven arches on each side with beautiful minarets at the corners, her sacrophagus in black basalt with verses. Her tomb is ornate and its parapet displays a frieze of flowers.
The tomb of Mohammad Qutub Shah is near the tomb of Hayat Baksh Begum to the south. He died in 1626. The graves of his other six children are also in this tomb. The complex has the tombs of Taramati and Pemamati who were sisters and royal dancers and concubines. The mortuary bath is also at the complex where the bodies of the royals would be given a bath before burial; there were cisterns for both hot and cold perfumed water.
Tomb of Sultan Abdullah Qutub Shah, tomb complex, Ibrahimbagh, Hyderabad| Dinesh Singh
The Hayat Bakshi Begum’s mosque attached to her tomb at the north side of her tomb is an important structure of the complex. It has a prayer hall, a vaulted roof with sunken domes, a facade with five arches and finely designed minarets with pots at the ends on lotus petals. The dome at the centre has beautiful designs; the mihrab has an inscription containing Quranic verses in superb calligraphy around it on black stone. This masjid was built in 1667.
The tomb of the founder of the dynasty Sultan Quli Qutub-ul-mulk is some distance away to the south west of the tomb of Sultan Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah. A fairly simple tomb structure built on a platform with an octagonal interior with a dome crowning the top. The tomb has two graves with another smaller one. Outside there are 21 graves on the plinth, maybe of people close to him. The tomb of Subhan Quli on the same plinth has a dome which being fluted looks very beautiful. Some distance away to the west of Sultan Quli’s tomb is his son Jamsheed Quli’s tomb, an octagonal structure which looks double storeyed. The tomb of Mohammad Amin who died in 1596; who was the sixth son of Sultan Ibrahim Qutub Shah and father of Sultan Mohammad Qutub Shah at a young age of 25, is towards the west of the tomb complex. The tomb has two graves inside.
Lo ! some we loved..the loveliest and the Best
……………..one by one….crept silently to Rest.
……..from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
Archway at tomb of Sultan Abdullah Qutub Shah, tomb complex, Ibrahimbagh, Hyderabad|Dinesh Singh
An unfinished tomb started by Sultan Abul Hasan Tana Shah, houses the grave of Mirza Nizamuddin Ahmed, Sultan Abdullah’s eldest son-in-law. The royal tomb complex also has the mosque of Hayat Bakshi Begum and the dargah of Hazrat Hussain Shah Wali, Sufi saint and builder of the Hussain Sagar at Hyderabad. A mortuary bath in Turkish style exists opposite the tomb of Mohammad Quli. The tombs of the earlier Sultans are at the back of the bagh. The tombs of the Sultans have Quranic verses especially the ‘throne verse’, the aayat-ul-kursi and the Shia durud in calligraphy. The tombs look uniform in design but there are some differences especially in the size of the structures. The tombs are usually built on a raised plinth with an arcaded gallery around a square chamber. A ring of lotus petals are seen at the base of the bulbous dome over the structure which looks very ornate and decorative. Aurangzeb had mounted cannons on the tombs during his siege efforts in 1679 to destroy the fortifications of Golconda Fort.
When the sun sets here the silhouette of the tombs are seen against the evening sky; the breeze blows and one feels the whispering of tales of the centuries gone by. India’s poetess Sarojini Naidu has said of the tombs:
The royal tombs of Golconda
I muse among these silent fanes
Whose spacious darkness guards your dust
around me sleep the hoary plains
That hold your ancient wars in trust
I pause,my dreaming spirit hears,
Across the wind’s unquiet tides,
The glimmering music of your spears
The laughter of your royal brides,
The royal tombs of Golconda
In vain o Kings,doth time aspire
to make your names oblivion’s sport
While yonder hill wears like a tier
The ruined grandeur of your fort
Though centuries falter and decline
Your proven strongholds will remain
Embodied memories of your line
Incarnate legends of your reign.
O Queens, in vain old Fate decreed
Your flower-like bodies to the tomb;
Death is in truth the vital seed
Of your imperishable bloom
Each new-born year the bulbuls sing
Their songs of your renascent loves;
Your beauty wakens with the spring
To kindle these pomegranate groves.
References and image attributions
1.History of the Qutub Shahi dynasty/H.K Sherwani, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1974.
2.The art and architecture of the Deccan Sultanates/George Michell and Mark Zebrowski, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
3. The heritage of the Qutub Shahis of Golconda and Hyderabad/M.A Nayeem, Hyderabad: Hyderabad Publishers, 2006.
5. Images by are by Dinesh Singh, D. Vinod, Asif Ali Khan and the author.
The arabesque holds a special meaning. The Cambridge dictionary says that it is ‘a type of design based on flowers, leaves, and branches twisted together, found especially in Islamic art’. The architecture of Mughal monuments in India offers many examples of arabesque art. The Taj Mahal, tomb of Emperor Akbar, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, the Fatehpur Sikri, the Agra Fort, the Red Fort and several others. The arabesque has also been defines as a vegetal design consisting of full and half palmettes as an unending continuous pattern in which each leaf grows out of another. It is symbolic of the unity of faith of Islam.
The beautiful and striking designs created on many Mughal monuments are actually a combination of the arabesque-vegetal, geometric patterns and Islamic calligraphy. Islamic art is diverse and made up of stunning patterns, due to the absence of figures which could make it an object of worship, which is prevented in Islam. However the core of the art is symmetry and harmony. There is an effort to convey the structure of everything through pattern. Geometry is an important element, it is sacred geometry with an inner and outer meaning.
Arabesque art depictions, mostly combined with geometry and calligraphy have two types, the first is about the principles that govern the order of the world. Geometric forms have a built in symbolism.The principles include the basics of what makes objects structurally sound yet pleasing to the eye. The square has equal sides and represents the important elements of nature, earth, air, fir and water. The physical world is symbolised by a circle that inscribes the square and would collapse upon itself without any of the four elements. The second type is based on the flowing nature of vegetal froms, representing the feminine life giving force. The third type is the mode of Islamic calligraphy. it is also called the art of the spoken word. Many proverbs and passages from the Holy Quran can be seen in arabesque art. The coming together of these three forms create the arabesque in its entirety. The art is not just mathematically precise but beautiful and symbolic. Many Islamic designs are based on squares and circles, interlaced to form complex patterns. A common motif is the 8 pointed star made of 2 squares, one rotated 45 degrees with respect to the other. Another basic shape is the polygon, mostly pentagon and octagon. Islamic artwork is found in jaali work or trellis tilings, woodwork, kilims or rugs, leather book bindings, metalwork, ceramics and ceilings.
A glimpse into this fascinating world of visual art includes images from two important tombs in Agra, North of India, both from 17th century Mughal era.
Tomb of Emperor Akbar
Emperor Jalalluddin Akbar was the third Mughal emperor, born in 1542 A.D, who ruled from 1556 to 1605 A.D. Akbar’s reign significantly influenced the course of Indian history. During his rule, the Mughal empire tripled in size and wealth. Akbar promulgated Din-i-Ilahi, a syncretic creed derived mainly from Islam and Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity. His tomb is at Sikandra, Agra, a structure with ornate and stunning Islamic art and architecture.
Tomb of Emperor Akbar, main entrance with artwork, 17th century, Agra.
Emperor Akbar, miniature painting, 17th century, MFA, Boston, U S A
Tomb of Emperor Akbar, 17th century, Agra.
Detail, tomb of Emperor Akbar, 17th century, Agra.
Ceiling detail, ”muqarna”, tomb of Akbar, 17th century, Sikandra, Agra.
Ceiling detail, ”muqarna”,tomb of Akbar, 17th century, Sikandra, Agra.
Inlay panels on South Gate, tomb of Akbar, 17th century, Agra.
Jaali work, tomb of Akbar complex, 17th century, Agra.
Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah
Mirza Ghiyas Beg also known by his title of I’timad-ud-Daulah was a vizier in the Mughal empire, whose children served as wives, mothers, and generals of the Mughal emperors.He was the father of the famous ‘Nur-Jehan’ and grand father of ‘Mumtaz-Mahal’ of the Taj Mahal fame. He was made ”Vazir” after Nur Jehan ‘s marriage with Jehangir in 1611.
I’timad-ud-Daulah, painting, 18th century.
Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.
Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.
Detail, 8-pointed star pattern, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.
Detail, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, a quarter of each 6-point star is shown in each corner; half stars along the sides, 17th century, Agra.
Gate,arabesques on spandrels, Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.
Jaali design with 6 point stars and arabesques on the sides, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.
Arabesques on exteriors, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.