Category Archives: asian art

Mandu : a city with a love story

            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.

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Baz Bahadur and Rani Rupmati, painting, Mughal (Murshidabad) school, 18th century.Rani Roopmati Mahal,MANDU.JPG

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Rani Rupmati Pavillion, Mandu.

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Rewa Kund, Mandu.

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Jahaz Mahal or Ship Palace, Mandu.

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Inside Jahaz Mahal, Mandu.

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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 lotusRupmati, 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…..

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Baz Bahadur’s Palace, Mandu.

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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.

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The defeat of Baz Bahadur, painting from Akbarnama, late 16th century.

 

References :

  •  wikipedia.org
  • 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.
  • Images from Wikimedia Commons

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

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Arabesque in architecture : glimpses from Mughal India

        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.

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Emperor Akbar, miniature painting,  17th century, MFA, Boston, U S A

Related imageTomb of Emperor Akbar, 17th century, Agra.

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Detail, tomb of Emperor Akbar, 17th century, Agra.

Ceiling detail, ”muqarna”, tomb of Akbar, 17th century, Sikandra, Agra.

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Ceiling detail, ”muqarna”,tomb of Akbar, 17th century, Sikandra, Agra.

Inlay panels on South Gate, tomb of Akbar, 17th century, Agra.

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               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.

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I’timad-ud-Daulah, painting, 18th century.

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Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Detail, 8-pointed star pattern, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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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.

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Gate, arabesques on spandrelsTomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Jaali design with 6 point stars and arabesques on the sides, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Arabesques on exteriors, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

 

 

References :

 

 

 

Posted by

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

 

 

 

 

Ajanta Caves : some glimpses of sculptures

          Deep cut or excavated caves in the Aurangabad district of Maharastra in Western India are the now well-known Ajanta Caves. Made into a 75 metre wall of rock, between 2nd century B. C and 5th century A.D these caves are a marvel in art, sculpture and rock-cut architecture. The earliest caves are believed to have been excavated during the Satavahana period and belong to the Hinayana tradition of Buddhism. During the reign of King Harisena (r. 460-478 A.D)  of the Vakatakas, whose feudatories and minister supported the ”sangha”, the Mahayana Buddhists contributed to over 20 impressive cave excavations at Ajanta. These were embellished with mural art, sculpture and great architecture. The caves are cut into a mountain wall above the Waghora river.

Image result for ajanta caves art and architectureView of Ajanta Caves, 2nd century B.C to 5th century A.D, Maharashtra.

        The architecture of the caves were customised to the monastic needs of the Buddhists to include assembly halls, living quarters and spaces for meditation. A few caves are from the pre-Vakataka period. Some glimpses from sculptural marvels from the caves are showcased –

Cave 1 – Made under Harisena, this cave has an elaborate carved facade, with relief sculptures on the entablature and ridges, and most surfaces embellished with decorative carving. There are scenes carved from the life of the Buddha, animals, as well as a number of decorative motifs.

Frieze, Cave 1, Ajanta.

Cave 4 – This cave is squarish, with a large image of the Buddha in preaching pose flanked by bodhisattvas and celestial nymphs hovering above. It consists, of a verandah, a hypostylar hall, sanctum with an antechamber and a series of unfinished cells. This monastery is the largest among the Ajanta caves and it measures nearly 970 square metres.

Buddha and bodhisattvas, Cave 4, Ajanta.

Cave 6 – It is two storeyed monastery  made up of a sanctum, a hall on both levels. The lower level is pillared and has attached cells, the upper hall too has subsidiary cells. The sanctums on both level feature a Buddha in the teaching posture.  The Miracle of Shravasti  and Temptation of Mara is depicted in the lower level walls. Only the lower floor of cave 6 was finished. The unfinished upper floor of cave 6 has many private votive sculptures, and a shrine Buddha.

Buddha and bodhisattvas, Cave 6, Ajanta.

Cave 7 – a monastery of a single storey having a sanctum, a hall with octagonal pillars, and eight small rooms for monks. The sanctum Buddha is shown in preaching posture. There are many art panels narrating Buddhist themes. This cave has a grand facade with two porticos. The veranda has eight pillars of two types. One has an octagonal base with amalaka and lotus capital. The other lacks a distinctly shaped base, features an octagonal shaft instead with a plain capital. The veranda opens into an antechamber. On the left side in this antechamber are seated or standing sculptures, those of 25 carved seated Buddhas in various postures and facial expressions, while on the right side are 58 seated Buddha reliefs in different postures, all on lotuses.

Buddhas, antechamber, Cave 7, Ajanta.

Cave 19 –  This structure was completed during the Vakataka rule which which is grand chaitya hall. It has a courtyard with attached cells. It has an elaborate facade and a single entrance to the cave having a portico with pillars. It has a circular window  with lot of decoration around the opening. There are decorated pilasters and cornices. The grid has many sculptures, mostly Buddha figures. There is Naga group on the facade.

Entrance, Cave 19, Ajanta.

Naga group, facade of Cave 19, Ajanta.

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Entrance sculptures, Cave 19, Ajanta.

Cave 9 – This cave has a distinct apsidal shape. The aisle has a row of 23 pillars. The ceiling is vaulted. The stupa is at the center of the apse, with a circumambulatory path around it. The stupa sits on a high cylindrical base. It is a chaitya or worship halls from the 2nd to 1st century B.C, the first period of construction,  reworked upon at  the end of the second period of construction in the 5th century. Many sculptures adorn the facade, mostly Buddha images.

Cave 9, entrance, Ajanta.

Cave 9, Buddha with Ananda, Ajanta.

Cave 9, apsidal hall with stupa, Ajanta.

Cave 11-  It is monastery and the cave veranda has pillars with octagonal shafts and square bases. The ceiling of the veranda shows evidence of floral designs and eroded reliefs. The center panel is of the Buddha seen with votaries lining up to pray before him.

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Exterior, Buddha with a devotee, Cave 11, Ajanta.

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Elephant, Cave 16, Ajanta.

 

Cave 26 – It is  a worship hall or chaitya, with elements of a vihara design. The interior view of the cave gives a general appearance of a Mahayana vihara. An inscription states that a monk Buddhabhadra and his friend minister serving king of Asmaka, gifted this large cave. It has two upper stories and four wings of the cave were planned, but these were abandoned and only the carved Buddhas on the right and left wall were completed. The cave consists of an apsidal hall with side aisles for circumambulation . This path is full of carved Buddhist legends, three depictions of the Miracle of Sravasti in the right ambulatory side of the aisle, and seated Buddhas in various mudras. At the center of the apse is a rock-cut stupa with an image of the Buddha in front, 18 panels on its base, 18 panels above these, a three tiered torana above him. On top of the stupa is a nine-tiered harmika, a symbolism for the nine samsara in Mahayana cosmology. The walls, pillars, and brackets are intricately carved with Buddhist themes.

Entrance, Cave 26.

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Side shrines, Cave 26, Ajanta.

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Reliefs, Cave 26, Ajanta.

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Column designs, Cave 26, Ajanta.

Chaitya hall with stupa, Cave 26, Ajanta.

The enshrined Buddha is sitting in the pralambapadasana posture, with his legs down, maybe representing Maitreya, the future Buddha.

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View, Chaitya hall with stupa, Cave 26, Ajanta.

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Stupa, Cave 26, Ajanta.

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Capitals, Cave 26, Ajanta.

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Aisle, Cave 26, Ajanta.

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Pariniravana of the Buddha, Cave 26, Ajanta.

 

 

References :

  1. The art of ancient India/Huntington, Susan,L,New York : Weatherhill, 1985.
  2. wikipedia.org
  3. Images from Wikimedia commons

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

Ganjifa : playing cards from medieval times

       Playing games is an important part of many world cultures including India. Children play naturally and devise games of their own. Adult games have been devised using creative skills and artistic expression.  The word ”ganj” means treasure or treasury which went on to refer to granary in Persian. The term represents playing cards and card games in India, Nepal, Iran, Turkey and few Arabian countries. Card playing was and still is popular in India and many other countries. Ganjifa cards were circular or rectangular, and traditionally hand-painted by artisans. The earliest references are to the Mamluk cards from Egypt, first mentioned in Annals of Egypt and Syria by Yousuf ibn-Taghribirdi, an Egyptian historian born into the Turkish Mamluk elite of Cairo in the 15th century. The Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey has a set of Mamluk playing cards datable to 1500s. The set consists of four suits of 13 cards each; cups,swords, coins and polo sticks including one Malik or king, a Naib and Thani Naib – Governor and Vice- Governor. These actually depict the officers at the court of a Mamluk Sultan or Amir; the cup-bearer, the commander of the palace guard, the exchequer and the polo-master or jukandar.  Mamluk, Italian, Persian and Indian cards might have a common origin; the exact source is not clear. it might have originated in the West or the East. The pack of cards is sometimes believed to have its origins in the four sided chaturanga, a dice game and a precursor of chess. King Shah Abbas II of Persia had banned the game (1642-67).

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Mamluk playing cards  or kanjifah, from left to right: 6 of coins, 10 of polo sticks, 3 of cups and 7 of swords, 16th century.

     The earliest playing cards known in India were most probably introduced by early Muslim rulers. The game became popular at the Mughal court during the 16th and 17th century, and lavish sets were made, from materials such as precious stone-inlaid ivory or tortoise shell ; darbar-kalam, by court artists. The game later spread to the general public, and less expensive sets; bazaar-kalam by other artists would be made from materials such as wood, palm leaf, stiffened cloth or pasteboard.

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In the royal palace of Sawantwadi, skilled craftsmen hand painting Ganjifa cards, Maharashtra, maybe early 20th century.

     Mughal Ganjifa was similar to the Safavid game in terms of suits and ranks. In the 17th century ”Dashavatara” ganjifa was created to appeal to the Hindu populace. The main development of  the game of Ganjjfa happened in India. The Indian cards depict variety and the number of suits can vary from 8 to 10, 12 or 20. Ganjifa cards have coloured backgrounds, with each suit having a different colour. The compositions on many Ganjifa cards resemble small miniature paintings. Different types are found, the designs, number of suits, and physical size of the cards can vary considerably. With the exception of Mamluk kanjifah and the Chads of Mysore, each suit contains ten pip cards and two court cards, the king and the vizier or minister. The backs of the cards are typically a uniform colour, without patterning. Card players expect a constancy in design in packs. The Rajasthani cards show a Mughal influence, Mysore and Cuddapah depict Nayak styles and the cards from Odisha have folk patterns. It is called dashabatar taas in Bishnupur, West Bengal. The painters of the cards are called chitrakars. 

 

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 A king handing a ”Royal Document” to his minister, King of the Barat or Document suit, playing card from a Mughal Ganjifa set, Rajasthan, India, LACMA, U S A,19th century.

       Playing cards are put in painted boxes which are made of light wood and have different subjects painted on them ranging from flowers, women, mythological themes and animal figures. However, slowly by the end of the 20th century printed cards became popular. The modern printed packs made the older hand painted cards obsolete and so also the games associated with them.

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Ganjifa box with ornate designs, 19th century. Image source : Michael BackmanLtd, U.K.

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Five galloping elephants, Number six of the Gajpati or Lord of Elephants suit, playing card from a Mughal Ganjifa Set, Rajasthan, India, 19th century, LACMA, U S A.  

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Lord Krishna preparing to decapitate King Kamsa, King of the Krishna suit, playing card from a Dashavatara ganjifa set, Sawantwadi,  Maharashtra, mid-18th century, LACMA, U S A.

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Enthroned and crowned Buddha holding Lotuses, King of the Buddha suit, playing card from a Dashavatara ganjifa set, Rajasthan, India, 19th century,  LACMA, U S A.

       There are many variants of Ganjifa. The Mughal Ganjifa, the Dashavatara Ganjifa, the Ramayan Ganjifa, the Rashi Ganjifa, The ashtamalla Ganjifa, the Naqsh Ganjifa, the Mysore Chad Ganjifa. Ahli Shirazi wrote Rubaiyat-e-ganjifa’ for each of the 96 cards in a eight suit pack. The game is mentioned in Ain-i- Akbari, the record of Emperor Akbar’s reign. In fact there was a variety of Ganjifa called Akbar’s Ganjifa.

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Mughal ganjifa playing cards, early 19th century,  Wovensouls Textiles and Arts Gallery.

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Playing cards made with the traditional pattachitra technique from Puri, Odisha, India.

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A king in an elephant-drawn carriage, King of the Ghulam or Slave or Servant  suit, playing card from a Mughal ganjifa set, 19th century, LACMA, U S A.

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A woman with Seven Documents, number seven of the Barat or Document suit, playing card from a Mughal ganjifa set, Rajasthan,  19th century, LACMA, U S A.

 

References :

  • Ganjifa: the playing cards of India/Leyden, Rudolf Von, London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1980
  • wikipedia.org
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Posted by:

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

Decorative book covers : some Indian images

         Books have always been an important part of human culture used to  communicate, inform and entertain. There are different types of books, some printed and some in manuscript form. The decorative element in book covers and book binding has been important in bindings of yore. Combining beauty and strength has been a historical practice.  One  of the definitions of book binding states it as a term applied to any process for making a book by fastening together printed or un-printed sheets of paper and providing them in this compact form with a suitable covering. Book covers can be made of paper, cloth or leather. Around 100 B.C in India religious sutras were bound together which were written on palm leaf  which were numbered, had a hole and a twine passing through them. From then on book-binding travelled a long way, with the introduction of the codex, leather tooling, wood covers giving way to pasteboards, dust jackets, cloth covers, case bindings, gild bindings, glass bindings and ornate bindings using ivory.  In India, writing was done on stone, metal, shells and earthenware.  Also wooden board,  birch-bark palm-leaves, cotton cloths and paper was used. Engraving, embossing, painting and scratching methods were used for writing. Showcased are some book bindings from the Indian subcontinent.

      This pair of wooden covers protected the palm-leaf folios of a Buddhist sacred text. One cover has the nine Buddhist goddesses, each holding a staff surmounted by the wish-fulfilling jewel or chintamani, while the other cover has the five transcendental Buddhas flanked by four bodhisattvas. Painted on the interior, the iconography offers a protective field to the holy text within, in this case likely the Perfection of Wisdom text, the Ashtasathasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra.

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Wooden cover of manuscripts, Met Museum, New York , Public Domain image.

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Palm leaf manuscript, Bhagavat Gita, Grantha script, 18th century, Public Domain image.

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The middle figure is “an Indian scribe” who is writing on palm leaves, engraving from F. J. Bertuch’s ‘Bilderbuch fur Kinder’, Weimar, 1790-1830, Public domain image.

      The book cover is of lacquer binding with central floral design of an illustrated and illuminated copy of the collection of poems or divan by Shams al-Din Muḥammad Hafiz al Shirazi (flourished during 13th century AH / 14th century,  produced in India, most probably Kashmir, in the 19th century.

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Book cover, Divan of Shiraz, Kashmir, 19th century.

Source : Walters Art Museum, Public domain image.

     The image below depicts a binding from most probably the 13th century AH/19th century. The binding is composed of lacquer and is decorated with a floral design covering the whole surface of the boards.

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Book binding, 19th century, India.

Walters Art Museum [Public domain or Public domain]

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Wooden Covers of palm leaf manuscript and with symbols of sixteen pilgrimage sites, Sri Lanka,19th century, LACMA, U S A , Public Domain images.

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Seen above is the end board of a Sinhalese palm-leaf manuscripts transcribed in 1874. This example is of a lac-worked Kandyan book cover comprising the traditional motifs of a string knot at either end with a single vine scroll between the punched holes and a flower around each hole with a diamond chip motif  border, Sri Lanka, 19th century, Wellcome images, Public domain image.

 

References :

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

©author

Tree of life : images from Golconda textiles

           The art of Kalamkari  originated in Machilipatnam, Pallakolu and other places along the Coromandel coast during the 17th century.  It originated as a religious tapestry and later became a secular craft under Muslim rule. The kingdom of Golconda in the Deccan, India was a trading centre for diamonds, gems and textiles. The word Kalamkari or working with the pen evolved when the Golconda Sultans called the craftsmen as ‘kalamkars‘. ‘Kalamkari‘ thus literally means, art work done using a pen. The craft continues to this day with many families devoted to this art. Natural substances from plants, trees and seeds are used in the art and called painted using resist and mordant technique. Depicted are some images using this technique, of the tree of life, a unique and universal concept.
    The tree of life is a concept mainly from mythology, a sacred belief connecting all forms of creation. it is depicted in various cultures and traditions of the world. The tree of life is thought of as related to the eternal, a destroyer of sorrow, health, fertility, wisdom and calmness. In the Hindu faith it is the wish fulfilling Kalpavriksha which grants every wish. In Christianity the tree is the source of eternal life. The tree of life is the tree of immortality in Islamic faith. The concept spans across cultures. It is asymbol of connectivity, having roots with the soil; the leaves and branches reaching to the sky, receiving the sun and air. The tree of life represents continuity as it grows from a seed and creates a fruit with seeds, which again gives birth to the new. The tree of life is a symbol of rebirth, the leaves fall in autumn or hibernate in winter and in spring the new leaves appear like being born again.
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Tree of life,  Tent Hanging or Curtain, late 17th century, Golconda, LACMA, U. S. A.
      Charles Darwin proposed a tree of life which is symbolic of the source of all living things. In Chinese mythology,a dragon and phoenix are depicted in the tree of life. The dragon represents immortality. The Bodhi tree is the wisdom tree under which Siddharta Gautama attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. This tree is seen as one where once can seek refuge from worldly desires. the Celtic tree symbolises the forces of nature joining together to maintain balance in the universe. Many animals are are also seen in the tree of life depictions. Birds too are seen on the branches. sometimes the underworld is shown with a water-monster. All forms of life are connected and humans should live in harmony with the world. Everyone has a right to exist and grow as we are children of the Universe.

                The block-printed and dyed textile from the Coromandel coast depicted below consists of a tree of life within ovoid medallions, flanked by cobras and peacocks, the border is of a continuous floral garland. Originally this technique of painted resist and mordant happened under the rule of the Golconda kingdom (1512-1687). However the practice continued in the following centuries with ups and downs, but continues to this day though the designs have changed over the years. The technique was called Kalamkari which is still prevalent.

A PALAMPORE COROMANDEL COAST, SOUTH INDIA, SECOND QUARTER 19TH CENTURY The block-printed and dyed decoration consisting of a central tree within ovoid medallions, flanked by cobras and peacocks, the border a continuous floral garland, small inventory or shipping stamp to a corner 116 ½ x 91in. (296 x 231cm.

Palampore, painted resist and mordant, dyed textile, Coromandel coast, 19th century.

Image sourced from Christie’s.com

       Palampores were a regular feature of the 18th-century chintz trade to Europe, where they were used as wall hangings and bed-covers and table-cloths. The embroidered palampore below was chain stitched in silk on cotton to create a painted effect. The craftsmen have worked out white silk stitches within the flowers to simulate the tiny white  patterns that appear on painted textiles. Instead of shown as emerging from the usual hilly mound, this tree grows out of an interpretation of a Chinese scholar’s rock, highlighting the overlapping of Chinese, Indian, and European motifs in 18th-century exotic textiles from the East.

* Palampore Cotton embroidered with silk mid-18th century (Coromandel Coast), for the European market Embroidered Palampore was chain stitched in silk on cotton to imitate a painted palampore with remarkable precision. The embroiderers even used white silk stitches within the flowers to simulate the tiny white reserve patterns that appear on painted examples.

Palampore, embroidered textile, cotton with silk, Coromandel coast, mid-18th century, Met Museum, U S A

        Palmapores depicting the tree of life show a central flower-and-fruit-bearing serpentine tree emerging from a hillock with stylized peaks or rocks. In addition to those produced for the Dutch and English markets, a class of smaller palampores was made expressly for the intra-Asian trade. This painted version depicted below was originally sourced to Sri Lanka, maybe produced for the European communities in Batavia and Colombo.


Palampore, Cotton (painted resist and mordant, dyed), India (Coromandel Coast), for the Sri Lankan market

Palampore, painted resist and mordant, dyed textile, Coromandel coast, early 18th century, Met Museum, U S A.
The textile piece below is a tree of life depicting the mound, peacocks and flowering tree. The border is an ornate double floral scroll. Done using the Kalamkari technique it is an exquisite work.

Olive-Multicolor Cotton Hand Painted Kalamkari Wall Hanging 46in x 32.5in
Tree of life, Kalamkari hanging, 21st century.

Image : Jaypore.com



References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • wootandhammy.com
  • spiritualray.com
  • old-earth.com
Posted by:
Soma Ghosh
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Silver Filigree art : images from Karimnagar

      The thought of silver or argentum as it is called in Latin, reminds us of stars, the lining in a cloud, lightning in the sky and snow on mountains and tree tops. Beautiful jewellery, decorative objects and utility items are made from this amazing metal which is soft. lustrous, both malleable and ductile making it highly suitable for use in craft. Silver has technological applications in photography and in the medical world too. Silver is an investment too and figures in the bullion market. Filigree work using silver has been there in Europe, Persia and Central Asia. Ancient Greeks and Romans too were fascinated with this metal and created works of art. Silver is a metal with positivity and hope, augmenting a good future…..every cloud has a silver lining !

  An exquisite silver craft which is over 200 years old from the area of Karimnagar in Telangana State in South India is the silver art of filigree. It is believed to have its origins in Elagandala village , around 10-11 kilometres from Karimnagar city. Elgandala, which is situated on the banks of river Manair, was popularly known in earlier times as Bahudhanyapuram, Tellakandula and Veligandula and later came to be called Elgandal. The history of the place is traced to the Old Stone Age and much later ruled by the Mauryas and Satavahanas. Kotilingala in Karimnagar district was the first capital of the Satavahanas. Later to that, the region was ruled by five dynasties; the Kakatiyas, Bahmanis, Qutub Shahis, Mughals and Asaf Jahis. During the  VIth Nizam, Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan’s reign (1869-1911), the district headquarters was shifted from Elgandal fort to the present Karimnagar town in 1905. During the Nizam rule, the name Karimnagar was named for a village by an Elgandal Qiladar, Syed Karimuddin. Inscriptions of the Kakatiyas have been found in the region.

Elgandala Fort in Karimnagar

Teen-minar, Elgandal fort, Karimnagar, Telangana.

         The craft was introduced and  practised by a well-travelled goldsmith Kadarla Ramayya and his family at Elgandala and it was a well guarded technique, in the 19th century. It is called Venditeega pani in the local language, Telugu. It was patronised by royalty and wealthy businessmen; Muslims used to give silver articles as part of dowry, so its demand was always there. After Indian Independence in 1947 the craft faced a setback but by 1956, the co-operative movement helped revive the amazing craft of filigree. The two co-operatives were Tarakashan and Zagaram Osmania which merged as one in 1953 as Tarakashan Society.   The type of articles made using this technique include trays, pandans or betel boxes, attardans or scent holders, purses,jewel boxes, glass holders, jewellery like earrings, necklaces, bangles, rings and pendants, figures of popular deities, handbags, photo-frames, spice containers, lamp stands, baskets, rose-water sprinklers among many others.  The designs are intricate and cause awe and a sense of wonder.  

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Silver filigree bowl, Karimnagar,Telangana.

Image source : The Hindu

  The trellis-like work or jaali  as it is called, is made of thin silver wire. The designs include fauna, geometric and floral designs with creepers in delicate exquisite workmanship. The equipment is that as used by a goldsmith or silversmith’s tools. In modern times, a wire drawing machine is also used. Pure silver blocks are made into thin wires and wrapped around a charkha and flattened, later fashioned into the required design. The Government of India had accorded the Geographical Indicator or GI status to this craft of silverwork which augurs well for the future of the artisans and the art. The silver items make excellent gifts for all festive occasions. The craft is sold online, at retail outlets and emporia. Exhibitions are held at urban centres to encourage and promote this art.

                                           Silver tray with , Karimnagar silver filigree.

Image source : http://sifka.org/

              An ornate palanquin model in silver filigree, Karimnagar, Telangana.

Image source : The Hindu

 

Silver tray, filigree work, Karimnagar, Telangana.

Image source : The Hindu

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Filigree box, Karimnagar, Telangana.

Pic sourced from https://www.christies.comFiligree Work Silver Cuff (Ajustable)

                               Silver filigree cuff from Karimnagar, Telangana.

Image source : Jaypore.com

 

References :

 

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

 

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