Category Archives: Deccani painting

Royal elephants – splendid images from miniatures

     Elephants have played a major role in the mythology and history of India. The use of the animal has been documented via sculptures, historical researches and miniature paintings. Though it is true that horses and camels were also part of  royal entourages to draw vehicles and carry goods, the elephant was used in warfare, hunting expeditions, for executions, entertainment, in  processions, for gifts and a display of prestige. Elephants have depicted in the Ajanta murals. The scroll decorations at the base of many temples in India using the elephant motif. Many fort remains of India still have the elephant stables intact. Discover the depiction of these awesome pachyderms in Indian paintings made during the  medieval and late medieval times !

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Battlescene from the Mahabharata, Kangra painting, 1800s.

The elephant is a beloved animal in India. Many schools of painting have depicted this animal which is symbolic of mountains, clouds,heaven, rainfall and prosperity. The God Indra in Indian mythology has the elephant Airavata  as his mount. Goddess Lakshmi as Gajalakhsmi also is associated with the elephant, gaja, meaning elephant. Lord Ganesha, a favourite deity from Indian mythology, has the head of an elephant. The events from the Indian epic Mahabharata have been captured by the Kangra artists, one of the Pahari school of paintings. The battlescene at Kurukshetra is depicted and can see the elephants as part of the cavalry.

File:The Pandava brothers' nephew Abhimanyu battles the Kaurava brother Duhshasana, from a manuscript of the Mahabharata.jpg

Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu of the Pandavas fights Dushashana of the Kauravas in the Mahabharata battle, Kangra painting, 1803 A.D.

However it was the artists at the Mughal atelier who celebrated the presence of the royal elephants. Persian painters trained the Hindu artists during Emperor Akbar’s reign (1556 – 1605). They captured them in action, as standalone depictions, in various stances like fighting which was a sport, with Kings on  their back and a mahout sitting on them.  The elephants had names like Khushi Khan was Emperor Akbar’s first elephant. Another elephant Dilsankar is associated with him. A elephant called Damodar was gifted to Bairam Khan. Emperor Akbar was a great lover of elephants who tamed the elephant Hawa’i  known to be temperamental. He had 101 personal elephants in his stables.  The Rajput courts like Kotah, near Bundi, were influenced by Mughal art and the rulers commissioned artworks by both Hindus and Muslims which depicted elephants. Emperor Jahangir had an elephant called Gajraj. Emperor Aurangzeb confronted Sudhakar in 1633. Bahadur Shah Zafar had an elephant Maula Baksh who fought in the war of 1857 A.D.  The Deccan courts had in their ateliers Mughal artists among others who have made remarkable paintings of the elephants of the Sultans.

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Emperor Akbar on his elephant Hawa’i, chasing another Ran Bagha, across a collapsing bridge of boats, 16th century, V and A Museum, London.

The War Elephants Citranand and Udiya Collide in Battle.jpg

War elephants, Chitranand and Udiya collide in battle, folio from Akbarnama, 16th century, V and A Museum, London.

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Prince Salim (later emperor Jahangir) with Emperor Akbar returning from a hunt, on an elephant, early 17th century, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia.

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Elephants as depicted in the Padshanama, a chronicle of Mughal Emperor Shahjahan, 17th century, British Museum, London.

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Prince Aurangzeb tackling elephant Sudhakar, Padshanama, 17th century, British Museum, London.

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Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur on his elephant,  Atash Khan, early 17th century, School of Ali Riza, Bijapur.

File:Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II Riding His Prized Elephant, Atash Khan.jpg

Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur from the Deccan on his elephant Atash Khan, painting by Farrukh Beg, 17th century, Met Museum, New York, U S A.

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An elephant in battle, Kota, Rajasthan, mid 18th century.

 

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Fighting elephants, Kota, Rajasthan, 19th century. 

Elephants are actually massive pachyderms who show a certain grace as they move and have a unique intelligence with a charming playfulness; have been decorated with ornaments and embellished textiles over the ages. The jhul (saddle blanket) and seeri (head-dress) are commonly seen. Elephants are a part of religious and some other processions in India, even today in the 21st century. Their bodies are painted decoratively along with trappings like the jhul and tinkling bells. The use of elephants represent pomp and ceremony since yore.

 

References

  1. wikipedia.org
  2. sahapedia.org/elephant-regalia-living-tradition
  3. ranasafvi.com/mughal-elephants/
  4. Images are via Wikimedia Commons
  5. smb.museum/en/exhibitions/detail/elephant-stories

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

 

Bijapur and Ahmadnagar paintings : regal splendour

Bijapur and Ahmadnagar were two important sultanates of the Deccan in medieval India. Both were powerful and contributed to the regions they ruled; built monuments whose remains are still seen. They were patrons of a unique painting forms which give us not only a historical record of those times but also contribute to the genre of Indian miniature painting. Bijapur paintings have survived in bigger number than those from Ahmadnagar.

The Bijapuri school flourished under Ibrahim Adil Shah II and his successors to some extent. Sultan Adil Shah I too was a patron of the arts and Shirazi, a immigrant from Persia who composed Tazkira-al mulk, worked in his kingdom during his reign. He patronised calligraphers and had a well stocked library.

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Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II, Bijapur, late 16th century.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Sultan-Ibrahim-Adil-Shah-II-of-Bijapur._Miniature._Deccan%2C_Bijapur%3B_c._1590._The_David_Collection..jpgBy Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Bijapuri school was influenced by the Mughal and European style to some extent. Males are seen wearing turbans and royal costumes. The women had South Indian features with elongated eyes,wearing gold jewellery and saris. The main works produced during Sultan Adil Shah I rule were on musical themes like the Javahir al Musiqat-i-Muhammadi.

Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II was a mystic,a calligrapher and a composer himself; he transformed Bijapuri painting. Highly sensitive, he was influenced by both Islam and Hinduism.The work produced during his reign is very strong on emotion; the word nauras meant everything to him which translates as ‘nine flavours of life’. His writings are collected in Kitab-i-nauras. Maulana Farookh Hussain was an important painter in his court who influenced all the artists of the time.  Bijapuri painting had paintings either with the garden of paradise  setting or a idealised form of a human figure. The clothes were reflective of the era. Muslin robes, Kashmiri shawls , golden slippers, conical headgear are all seen on royalty and noblemen.

The painting of Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah on his elephant, Atash Khan and his mate Chanchal are seen moving through  a meadow. Delicate flowers and trees abound; this painting has strong European influence.

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Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah on his elephant Atash Khan, Bijapur,1600-10.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/20/Sultan_Ibrahim_Adil_Shah_II_Riding_His_Prized_Elephant%2C_Atash_Khan.jpgBy Attributed to Farrukh Beg [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Aayat-ul-kursi, Bijapur,16th century.

By Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The throne verse in the form of a calligraphic horse, Bijapur, 16th century.(Aayat-ul-kursi). The painting style of Bijapur changed when Ahmadnagar was divided between Bijapur and the Mughals. Many Rajputs were serving as Governors in the Mughal administration om Bundi, Kotah and Bikaner. These princes brought their families and probably painters as well. Portraiture became popular and the works began to be dated and signed. Mughal artists too had come to Bijapur and influences are seen in the paintings. Slowly lot of North Indian influence came into the later works. Mohammad Khan and Abdul Karim were important artists during Sultan Mohammad Adil Shah’s reign.

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Sultan Mohammad Adil Shah with Ikhlas Khan, his prime minister, Bijapur, 17th century.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/84/Muhammad_Adil_Shah_of_Bijapur_and_his_African_Prime_Minister_Ikhlas_Khan_LACMA_M.76.2.35_%281_of_3%29.jpgSee page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Sultan Mohammad Adil Shah selecting a jewel, Bijapur,1650.

By English: thesandiegomuseumofartcollection (Flickr) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

During Sultan Ali Adil Shah reign florals and abstracts too were produced in addition to portraiture.

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Sultan Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur, Bijapur,1800.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/Ali_Adil_Shah_of_Bijapur.jpg See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Chandbibi was daughter of Hussain Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar and was married to Sultan Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur. She was  regent of Bijapur ( 1580-90) and regent of Ahmadnagar (1596-99). She fought hard against the Mughal forces to save Ahmednagar from their hegemony.

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Chandbibi, regent of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar, painting,Bijapur,18th century.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b7/ChandBibiHawking.png

By India, 18th century Deccan School (Sotheby’s, London, 06 April 2011, lot 248) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mughal and Deccani styles had amalgamated and continued during the reigns of Sultan Ali Adil Shah II and Sultan Sikandar Adil Shah; but the local styles re-emerged in the form of richer colours, prominent facial features and  graceful gestures.

During Sultan Ali Adil Shah’s reign florals and abstracts too were produced in addition to portraiture.

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Sultan Ali Adil Shah II, Bijapur painting, 1670.

By Unknown – http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/96048.html?mulR=5018, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9500020

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Chandbibi playing polo, Bijapur, 18th century.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/99/Chand_Bibi_playing_Polo_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgSee page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Painting in the Nizam Shahi court at Ahmadnagar(1490-1636) took place under the three Sultans; Hussain Nizam Shahi I, his sons Murtaza I and Burhan II. The art mainly lasted for a short time and only some specimens have survived for posterity. The Tarif-i-Hussain Shahi lauds Hussain and his queen Khanzada Humayun and the conquest of Vijayanagara kingdom. The illustrations include that of the court, the queen and a shalabhanjika/dohada theme of a tree bursting into flowers at the touch of a lovely maiden (most probably the queen herself)

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From the Tarif-i-Hussain Shahi, battle of Talikota, Ahmadnagar,1565.

By Aftabi – Template:Ta’rif-i Husain Shahi [1][2], CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41665109

Ragamala paintings were produced in Northern Deccan which are mostly assigned to Ahmadnagar. They  bear some  similarity to Tarif -i-hussain shahi vide its colour composition and and simple figures.

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Gauri ragini , Ragamala painting , probably Ahmadnagar,16th century.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Gauri_Ragini%2C_First_Wife_of_Malkos_Raga%2C_Folio_from_a_Ragamala_%28Garland_of_Melodies%29_LACMA_M.90.141.2.jpg

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Sultan Hussain Nizam Shah I, from the Tarif-i-Hussain Shahi, Ahmadnagar, 1565.

By Indischer Maler um 1565 – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=153074

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Sultan Burhan Nizam Shah II, Ahmadnagar,1591-95.

By Unknown – PORTRAIT OF BURHAN NIZAM SHAH II. (1591-95) of Ahmadnagar. Biblioteque Nationale, Paris, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24571824

Malik Ambar(1548-1626) was an important figure in Deccan politics. He was an Ethiopian  and sold as a slave and came to India. He organised his own army and became a prime minister at the Ahmadnagar Sultanate. He had an important military role against the Mughals. His portrait captures his complexion, his strong stature showing him with his head-dress, long robe and his sword.

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Malik Amber, Ahmadnagar, 1624-5.

By Hashim (made) (bridgeman berlin) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

References :

  • George, Michell and Zebroswki, Mark/The art and architecture of the Deccan Sultanates, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • wikipedia.org

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

Ⓒ author