A Jainesque Sultanate Shahnama and the context of pre-Mughal painting in India 3907070143, 3907070232, 3907070224

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B. N.Joswamy 1/

A Jainesque Sultanate Shahnama and the Context of pre-Mughal Painting in India

Museum Rietberg Zurich 1988 Digitized by


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). . ./ R1etber9 Series on Indian Art. No 2

Additional monographs appeaftn9 1n the R,etberg Series on Indian Art edited by Eberhard Fischer and Andrea Isler

No I


B N Goswamy and E Fischer. Wonders of a Golden Age - Pam1ing at

the Court ol 1he Grea, Mughals. Zurich. 1987 ISBN-No 3-907070-14-3 No 3 Amina Okada. Versprochene Unsterbhchkel1 - 8 1ldmsse vom Hof der

Moghul-Ka,ser des 17 Jahrhunderts aus dem Musee Gu,met 1n Paris. Zurich. 1988 ISBN -No 3- 907070-21-6. No 4 Karuna Goswamy. The Glory ot 1he Groa1 Goddess - A n 1llus1ra1ed manuscript hom Kashmir from the Alice Boner Collecuon m the M useum R1etberg Zurich . Zurich . 1989 ISBN -No 3-907070-23-2

0 Museum A,etberg ZUnch For 1Hustra1,ons: Owners of the works

Cover design Fred Bauer. Kusnacht Lav-out I Wens1e,n ancf B Kammerer


M useum A,etberg Zurich

Gablerstrasse 15 CH-8002 Zurich Sw,tzcrland

ISBN-No 3 907070-22-4 Punted 1n Swnzedand

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f"' . I

' :

Editors· note



We thank the following institutions and private collectors for generously allowing us to reproduce paintings from their collections :

H.H. Pri nce Sadruddin Aga Khan Alvin 0 . Bellak. Philadelphia Private collection, Zurich Museum fur lndische Kunst. Berlin The David Collection, Copenhagen Mu see Gui met, Paris Museum Rietberg Zurich

Muni Punyavijayaji Collection. Ahmed abad Staatsbibl iothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz .Orientabteilu ng, Berlin Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul India Office Library, London Royal Asiatic Society, London Los Angeles County Museum of Art National Museum, New Delhi The New York Public Library M usee des Arts Decoratifs. Paris State Library, Rampur Himachal Pradesh State Museum , Simla Freer Gallery of Art, Wash ington

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45: pl. 14 5, 23: pl.8 40, 47: pl. 6. pl, 12. pl. 13. pl. 16 19,27,36: pl. 4, p l. 9 34, 37; p l. 3,pl. 5 6, 7. 9, 10. 11 . 12, 13. 14, 17. 20, 21 , 29. 32, 33. 44, 49. 50; pl. 1, p l. 2. pl. 7. pl. 10, pl. 11 , pl. 15, pl. 17 15

3, 53 28

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48 46

2 43 35

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A Jainesque Sultanate Shahnama and the Context of pre-Mughal Painting «As to style. it was the singular fortune of the Muhammadans to find themselves among a people their equals in conception. their superiors in execution, and whose tastes had been refined by centuries of cultivation. While moulding them. they were moulded by them. and, though insisting on the bold features of their own minaret and pointed arch, they were fain to borrow the pillared hall. the delicate traceries. and the rich surface ornaments of their despised and prostrate foe.» Hope & Fergusson. Architecture at Ahmedabad. 1866.

It is no tonger necessary to argue the fact of its exi stence'. but Sultanate painting - painting done by or for Muslims between 1200 and 1526 in lndia 2 - retains a character lacking in sharp definition. Very little is known still of the territorial extent within which certain styles prevailed; regional idioms are difficult to identify; it is rare to come by the name of a painter from this entire period ; and documents that have a secure date and provenance are few. It is all a little like leather shadowpuppets moving hazily behind a cloth screen with only occasionally one coming up to the surface to reveal the dazzling glow of its colours. Here we draw attention to an outstanding illustrated Shahnama-manuscript w hich came to light very recently and is already dispersed.' This Shahnama may have a deep bearing on our understa nding of th is period. and since it raises questions about context and attitudes. apart from providing us with insights. the recalling of that context briefly may serve a purpose. There is increasingly little doubt that the Sultanate period is rich in painting. if as yet inadequately known. In a sense this richness reflects the complex nature of the developments which were taking place in India in this period. The end of the 12th century had seen the intrusion of a power that. unlike many others preceding Digitized by


it. came to stay, and not only as a conquering force driven by the ideals of Islam and fed by desire for dominion and wealth. Subsequent centuries saw the estab lishment of Islamic hegemony over large areas in northern India. the rise and fall of dynasties based in Delhi. the founding of significant pockets of power under local Muslim Sultanates at Jaunpur. in Bengal. in Gujarat. in Malwa and. southwards. in the Deccan. All of this was possible only through the subjugation of the large native population. whether Hindu. Jaina or Buddhist. However. it was not all confrontation between the conquerors and the conquered. for the period is also marked by extraordinary attempts to reach out towards each other by the two great cultures on the Indian soil. Inevitably. there was extended contact. even interpenetration : elements of the other culture were sought to be understood and adapted by each group unless not utterly irreconcilable with its own ideas and values. The great meeting point of religions - Sufism - took firm hold of many minds. Architecture synthesized diverse elements. Language and literature showed marked re ceptivity. the native Indian groups absorbing much from Persian and Arabic. and quite remarkably. Muslims sett.led in India responded to. even appropriated. literary forms in Hindi and other Indian languages. Th,s development is best exe mplified perhaps in the c~ reer of the great Amir Khusrau (c. 1253-1325). poe t. mu• Original from


s,c,an. mys11candmnova10r.whowrotew,thequalgrace and ease m Persian and Hmd, • There were others , and n ,s nornble thai some of the best -known lyncal works m the local dialects. 1he Chandayana, the Mngavara. 1he Padmavat8. were all comp0sed by Mushm poets • The stale of pa;ntmg ,snot equally clear, and whole work m the native lnd,an tradmon wen1 on. developments m the Sul1anate world were comphcated by sh1hmg at1'tudes towards this art on the part of their Muslim rulers Desp,rn many references to painting ,n thehteratureofthepenod . there,shttlempa,nt,ng1hat 1s firmlyassoc1a tedwnh the ,mportant Delh, Sultanarn poss,blybecauseoftheorthodoxattotude,n thelslam,c world towards the art of pamhng some1h1ng that a ru le1hke FerozeTughlaq (1351 - 1388) upheld when he had traces ot all hgurat,ve pamtmgs removed from the walls of h,s palace He showed marked hostol,ty towardsallpa,nt ,ng, formstancebyhavor,gaBrahmm

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who was carrvmg around a p0rtable painted dev,ce obv,ously a 'picture showman· - bumed ahve for this cnme • However, m the other Sul1anates 1he rulers of wh,ch were not burdened with carrvmg the flag of lslam,c orthodOKV w,th the same zeal as the Sultan of Delhi. the annude towards pa,ntmg seems 10 have been far more to leranl as ,s evidenced by survovmg examples of Sultanate work The known ollustrated manuscnptsthatconsto1ute th,s work !all mto three different groups as class,fied by Lostv ' The first. • work m bas,c Iranian styles,. can be seentocons,stoltwoparts.theearl1errepresentedby a smal l groupofmanuscnptsolthePers,anclass;csin a clearly provmcoal versoon of Pers ian work hke the Shahnama from the collection of Jules Mohl in the Bm1sh L,brarvjOr 14031, ortheJavam,al-H,kayat. also,n 1he same l1brarv[Or 116761. and the second by manu scripts that are demonstrably connectedw,th spec,f,c

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centres of Sulrnnate power. works hke the Na11onal Museum Bus ran (No 48 6/ 4). the Bntosh Lobrary MdtahalFiuala IOr 32991. !he India Office Library N(mamama (Pers ,an Ms 149). and the Bnt,sh Library A1a1b as Sana·,(or 13718), all 1rom Mandu . the New York Pubhc Library select,ons from the Shahnama from Jaunpur (Spence r Collect,on). the 8nt1sh L,brary Sharafnama (t he lskandar Nama o! Nusrat Shah from Bengal. Or 13836I.andtherath er la1egroupfromtheOeccan. con sIstm9 of works hke the Smdbadnama (Persoan Ms 3214)mthe lnd,a0ff1ce L,braryandtheChester Beatty Nu1um al-Ulum (lnd,an Ms 2) Losty sets these works apart!rom theothersw,th,n1h,sgroupbecauseofthe p,onouncedlnd,ancha,actenstocstheypossess The second group m Losty"s class, !icat1on cons,s1s of a «smallnumberofmanuscnptsprobablyno1connected wnhanvMushmcourtbutproducedforotherpatrons • showing clear1racesof 14thcen1uryMamluk andln1u styles mterm,Kmg w oth med,eval lnd,an cha ractenstocs and best represented by1he Hanuanama(Or !ol 4181 ) and the Chandayana(O r fol 4181 ), both m 1he Staa ts-



1o1o i !ilt>c.,,t

b1bhothekPreuss1scherKulturbes1tz Berhn . thed1s• persed Khamsao1 Am,r Khusrau of Oelh, : and the now vanished lskandemama The thord group 1hat Lostv speaks of oons,sts of manuscnpts hke the Bombay Pnnce o! Wales Chandayana (No 511/1-68) and the Manchester John Rylands Library Chandayana (Hindustim, Ms. 1), works rm which Pers,an and Indian elements are thoroughly synthesized, CoeK1stongmlnd1aw,1hth1srangeofSultanatework. o! course . wasagreatd ealofpa,ntongmstylesfarmore lormlyrooted mthe lnd1antrad11m oO... M-...., •....,,.,_. ,,..d _..ot..., 11ionam.,.

peared. waslhuspenphera l orneghgoble Thefol1osmeasure319x249 cmandarem theusual lslam,c vemca l code, format The manuscnpt bore Oigib,ed by


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stgnsol,ge,nddamage neaily,!lleBV1:1sc.rrymg smell worm holes and 1orn Of !,eyed at the edges The edget, W9fe soughl 10 be rep,1red wtth hand-made Pl· per a long 1,me bad< Th,s ,s evoden1 l1om the I.ct tti.t ,long the 1epa1red me1gm1. HCIIOl'I headings ,n red -re t.m,lormly wntten m 1hroughout 1he manuscrrpl !heH-reaceu1111andapprOl)na11lytdent1hedthe see11on of the 1ex1 A1 places. where the beginning or end ot a line had been damaged or obhHtrated, words hadbeenpa1ns1'kmglyfllled1n1orestorethetex1 Th,s however. hke the seclJOn headings along the ma,g,ns, WH done u'I na:111/,q, whe11n the me,n body of the tex1 ,s,nna11kh lt,sclearthatthevolumehadbeen-11 and long used. for there were marginal notes contain mg correc1,on1 and minor add111ons The fly-leaf. hav,ng been handled more ohen than the lol,os that followed. needed more e•tlnSMI lll)lllf wh!Ch WH done ,1 lent oniwooccu,ons Astnpofpaperaddedtothemarg,n could be deartv seen u Eurapean mac:h1ne-milde paper with tome watennarks and only some letteis l•k• w and ,n lhe ne•t hne LL' could be discerned

,,._, • ....,1,.., ... - - . , .

The te)(I ,s wrouen ,n four columns, each w1th1n thm doublerules,nred. thepanelhHdoublerulesm1ed and one ,nblue Ina few pleces. vemcalcolumn -wide bands ere leh ba1e The consode11bly long pretace mmng PfON with verse and m the ume ti.Ind H 1he ta,rt ot the ep,c ooem wu ,110 m naskh ,nd was wnt1en aaon 1he page without being spht ,n10 columns Spread ove, th,s rubbed ,nd much-used irntOUfCnPt w,th ,ts compe1en1 but und,stmgu,shed calhgrephv were s1xtv s,x pa,m,ngs when IHI seen l11s theSC! J)ll1n1 ,ngs th.II 1edeem th,s manuscript and make 11 worthy of ,ece,v,ng 1he closes, p0ss1ble anen110n l1need11obesta1edat 1he0utSC!ttha11here,ss11ong evtdenc. wtlhm 1he paintings 1hemselves not only ot 1he11 lnfmly 1,a,ned m the lnd,im 1,ad,11on The facl

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tha1the1ext 1sthenatoonalep1co!Pers,adoesnotsuggest thecontrary. fort h1sc!ass1cwasobv1ouslywellloved. as much among the Muslims In India as else where Su1 there ,ssomuch ,n the style. thecolounng thevocabularyofconvent,ons, andtne,conography 1hat1s pronouncedly Indian One can p1ckalmostany pa,ntmg from 1he manuSCflp1 to make 1h,s po,nt the 1llustra t1on on 10110 73 v". m which the great hero Rustam Is shown k,11,ng the Wh,te O,vor demon. the In d1anconnect1onbecomes1mmed1atelyapparen1 Here agamsta11atverm1lionredbackgroundthatfillstheenureareaofthepa1nt1ngsaveforanarrowstnpof skyat the lop. Austam ,s seen slaymg the prost rate D,v. cu tung his heM open with a dagger as he presses down uponh1mw1thh1skneeand se,lesoneo1 h,sarmsm h1sownlefthand Thescene1ssetms ,d eacave The rocks, from which an occasiona l clump of grass or p lan t shoots up. fill1helefthalfofthelowe r partofthe page . theynselike bunched1endr1ls ,n flammg. curlicuedlormsold1fferen1hues-slate-blue.yel low.p1nk. mauve - , theor h,ghly Stylised outlines filled with 1all hookedlmesthatmakethemveryunlike1herocksone seesmthePe rs1anrangeo1sty leslnth1spa,nt,ngthe rocks sweep and mount towards the top. until they form.w 1ththe1rfantast1c.eart h-boundshapes. anarch thatservesasacave, thems1deofwh 1ch1smade fully v1s1b le 1ous by !he painter Two trees nse m the r,ght half oft hepamting.onerathe, tall , spanmngthehe1ght of1heent1repa1ntedareaandmfact extend,ngpas1the topborder1nto1hea,eaofthe1e• 1.andtheo1her. shorter .seemmglygrow1ngoutofthetallyellow,ocka tth e base of the cave Soth 1rees have s1ra1gh t yellow trunks. theor crowns are d1fferen1lyueated. eachhoweverw, thmadehnedout• line The ta ll tree has branches sproutmg within the frame of the crown from the main trunk. and a wonderlu l. decora11ve spray ol ashol