A DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF LAHORE MAJOR JOHN CLARKE – AND MIAN RAHEEM BAKSH MIMAR, LINKS ALL NEW IN WORK – A STORY OF CHANGE AND THE COMING OF THE NEW AESTHETICS
Somebody was in possession of three letters. Major John Clarke. Deputy Commissioner of Sheikhupura in 1851, Deputy Commissioner of Gujranwala in 1855, and DC of Lahore in 1856. And it goes further when n 1862, he is Engineer in Chief, of Lahore Railway Station Works. He is getting the Railway construction work done, and in that respect, he is giving a certificate to Mian Raheem Baksh Mimar, alias Haemoo, related to his supervision of construction of the Railway Station. He says:
“I have pleasure in testifying to the detailed knowledge possessed by Haemoo of Masonry and Bricklaying. He has acted as Foreman of Mistrees at the Lahore Passenger Station and other buildings, understand a Plan thoroughly and is a very valuable person to have about building operations.” Dated 1st November, 1862.
A chance reference revealing a valuable truth. All envelopes had the original letters in them but now in some worldly collection. The most interesting fact is that Punjab is under the Bombay residency, as the address clarifies in depth. A different era of Lahore.
A CONCEPT KNOWN AS IQBALLIAN KHUDI OFFERS OF DONATION FOR CHUGHTAI MUSEUM
Five offers in 46 years is a record in itself
The house of M.A. Rahman Chughtai was not an easy one to grow in any way, for Iqballian principles flowed in the house. The artist was a student of the Quran and the permanent values of the Quran he understood very well. For us in the house there were plenty of dos and don’ts, but we were never afraid of them. We followed them to the letter in full spirit. An artist who could mutter Iqbal’s verses many times in the day would certainly have people listening to him. He always lamented about TERAY SADA BANDAY QIDAR JAHAIN, YAHAN SULTANI BE AIYARI HAI AUR FAQEERI BE. After taking his bath, he would spend some time in reciting such verses. One thing we were told again and again is that US RIZK SAY HAI MOAT BAHTAR JIS SAY ATI HAI PARWAZ MAY KUTAI. Yes, we understood difference between money which can lower your head in shame. That was the reason that I never learnt to spread my hand in front of anyone. I could never ask my father for any money., Any need of mine I would tell my mother and she would get the money from my father (who also never carried money and would ask my uncle). That attitude continued in life. I could never raise my hand in front of anybody. I learnt to give and give and I gave whatever I could and thousands can bear testimony to this, who walked in our museum anytime in life.
I remember Imran Khan used to collect donations and did not account them in the initial years. People took him to court and I thought how embarrassing it was, for someone to be asked to explain his finances. Pakistanis are not easy on artists or museums. They are in the habit of TAKING EVERYTHING FREE without BUDGING AN EYE. LIFE!. I know that and I experience that. But five times in 46 years, we were offered donations. The first was from a British Couple who were interested in knowing where the DONATION BOX was and wanted to drop a Ten Rupee note in it. It was very embarrassing and I told them WE DO NOT TAKE DONATIONS. Utterly surprised at my saying this to them. Second was a Pakistani lawyer who wanted to donate 100 Rs for ten small cypress trees to be planted on the premises. I could only laugh at that. Museums abroad receive millions to give this service to anybody, so our guy here was not only clever but also a first-rate miser. Third was a DESI MAIM from England, who was forcibly trying to give me a thousand Rs. The thing went to actual harshness when after refusing her again and again, she insisted on same. So finally, I told her to give this to some beggar walking outside the museum, if she wants to satisfy herself. Otherwise, I will not accept same. The fourth was an American Airline pilot from Saudi Arabia who offered me TEN DOLLARS and when refused, he made it TWENTY DOLLARS. It also led to unpleasantness but I refused him again and again. He would not understand how people can refuse money.
The fifth one was very recent. A dear friend Nusratullah Shah walked in with a WAD of Rs 5000 currency notes with a letter from his son in law, as a donation gift to the Museum. It utterly surprised me but made me feel good and humble. I told him how can we take a thing for which there is no account. When I cannot account for it, how can I take it? As a gentleman, he understood me well. If irritated he did not show it.
Not a single paisa taken from anyone in 46 years, a record in itself. On our own, for even the Government, federal or provincial had never even offered a single paisa to us. Curse be on that money which hampers your flight! We want to be falcons not greedy politicians who we cite every day in our life. Yes, we have survived on our own, with our abilities. My father gave me HAQ HILAL to eat and I have given HAQ HILAL to my children to eat. There is nothing to equal that. I walk tall. I know what KHUDI is in all ways something to pursue in life. I am grateful to my father for his lessons of life.
A FAMOUS HAKEEM OF LAHORE FROM FAMOUS HAKEEMS FAMILY – SYED BUZURG SHAH, WITH A KOCHA IN LAHORE NAMED AFTER HIM.
A certain part of the family of M.A. Rahman Chughtai lived in Kocha Buzurg Shah, just near the Chowk of Masjid Wazeer Khan. The closest was his phopha (father’s sister husband) Baba Miran Baksh, traditional naqash family of Lahore. Other relatives were also there.
Historian of Lahore Kanaya Lal mentions two Buzurg Shahs in Lahore. One related to Hakeem Inayat Shah of Hakeem Nathu Shah. There were three sons of Inayat Shah’s sister, namely Muhammed Shah, Bahadur Shah and Buzurg Shah. On other hand there was Wali Shah, whose sister too had three sons Buzurg Shah, Ahmad Shah, and an unnamed third son. I think it is Buzurg Shah, related to Inayat Shah. An inscription on a manuscript of Qasida Burda shows Buzurg Shah, to be son of Syed Ghulam Shah. Both citizens of Lahore in same time period.
Lineage starts from Syed Amir Baksh Al Hasni Al Hussaini Al Makki al-mashoor Syed Nathu Shah, reference manuscript “Intikhab Lateef” written (or copied) in 1179 AH, so it goes to 18th century, from 19th century. From him comes Syed Inayat Shah, a maqbara still existing in Kocha Buzurg Shah (although the area is almost demolished by now), and then from his sister, three sons.
We will eventually try to load an image, as present condition does not allow the same. The interesting part is that this maqbara was made by Raheem Baksh, grandfather of Chughtai artist, and maintained till 1913 by Mian Kareem Baksh his son. In fact, there were two Multani naqashi plates on the entrance, put there by Mian Kareem Baksh, as well as known to everybody then. All these families were interconnected. A large selection of books was discovered there as well as antiquity pieces. There was even a calligraphic qita written by Muhammed Hussain, step brother of M.A. Rahman Chughtai, which we will put up eventually. So, in all ways there was deep relations between two families. The famous municipal engineer, Mian Badar-uddin also lived in same mohalla. Another interesting part was a perhaps ten (or more) stories single room house, which was unimaginable at that time. Those who lived in it one thing, even looking at it made you dizzy. Like the tower of Pizza, even tilted at places. How mimars of that period managed the request cannot be understood, but it was an engineering feat of that time? So many unknown dimensions of Lahore.
THE ARRIVAL OF SHAHINSHAH OF IRAN IN LAHORE 1950 – THE EXHIBITION AT ALHAMRA OF PAINTINGS OF M A R C.
If I recall reading that the Shahinshah of Iran was the first foreign Head of State to visit Pakistan. Various press cuttings reveal his activities in Lahore. For example, on 5th March, 1950, he is practicing gun shooting at the Governors House Lahore, while being watched by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, and Governor General Khawaja Nazimuddin. A rare official photograph. There is a clipping related to his visit to the Lahore Fort. And then there was a visit to Alhamra Lahore, to see an exhibition of paintings of M.A. Rahman Chughtai.
In the photograph one can see the Shah of Iran, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, Governor Abdur Rab Nishtar and others, as well as the artist M.A. Rahman Chughtai. A rare moment in history. A painting was presented to the Shah of Iran. Later a show was planned in Tehran under RCD but that never happened due to bureaucratic inner struggles. More on that later.
The Shah of Iran carried love for Chughtai art, and it was passed on to his Queen Farah Deeba, who was willing to help Chughtai Museum through the Farah Deeba Foundation for the Arts. A royal invitation was extended to Chughtai Museum to participate in a show in Tehran, based on Chughtai’s work on Omar Khayyam. But due to political changes that never happened too. But certainly, the Iranians love of art was ever there, and love for Chughtai art more profound in same way.
DALU RAI, CHUTTA AMRANI; TWO BROTHERS DIFFERENT IN SPIRIT – STORY OF TWO WOMEN SUHAGHAN AND DUAGHAN IN AROR SINDH. – (BADI-U-JAMAL DAMSEL OF MERCHANT SAIF UL MALOOK)
The legend is simple. Dalu Rai was King of Aror, Sind, and was fond of deflowering a virgin every night. His own brother Chutta Amrani did not like the habits of his brother. Chutta Amrani embraced Islam, married a Muslim girl Fatima and even went on Haj. The difference in Ideology is very apparent and the story is documented in historical accounts as well as known to people even today. But for historians who worship tyranny and twist such accounts, it is just another day in their lives. Historical narrative is augmented by the fact that the mazars of Chutta Amrani, Bibi Suhaghan, and Bibi Duaghan, exist to this day in Sind.
The Mazar of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is perhaps the most famous place in Sehwan, Sind. And anybody buried at that place, or its vicinity, is held as very special and in all ways a person with determined Paradise in Sufi lore. Inscriptions in the Mazar prove to be of 754 AH, 757 AH, and 758 AH, and related to the constructions in time of Sultan Feroze Tughlaq. But some of these inscriptions are not original. The same were restored in times of Shah Jahan, Mughal Emperor. And there is proof of that. Syed Bowa alias Nawab Deendar Khan, local Governor of Sehwan, restored them in 1040-41 AH, and this inscription is still there. Not only did Nawab Deendar Khan restored these things, he also got constructed mosques and gateways there. One thing he as a lover of ideology, was to build a mausoleum for the Hindu convert, Chutta Amrani, and that mausoleum is there in Sehwan. Although Chutta Amrani belonged to Aror, Sind, his burial here, is proof that he was much loved and revered by the people. So much so that another inscription dated 1173 AH (1759 AD), tells us of the rebuilding and repair of the complex by Ghulam Shah Kalhora, another ruler of Sind. This inscription is in Sindi tiles, although wrongly placed in sequence. Love of Sindhi people for Chutta Amrani exists to this day.
Now about the two ladies Bibi Suhaghan and Bibi Duaghan, and their association with this legend. Obviously historical narrative is always not very precise but historical accounts, mention the arrival of a merchant Saif ul Malook and a maiden with him as Badi-u-Jamal. When Dalu Rai heard of the beauty of this woman, he requested that she be sent to him for his sexual exploits. The merchant delayed the event and this lady, perhaps with another companion, prayed to Allah to save their chastity. An earthquake came and Alor was destroyed in the process. Historical accounts also mention the destructive earthquake which saved these two ladies and the end of Alor as a major Sindh capital. The debauchery of the King ended his empire. The prayers of this pious woman as well as the other bride, ended in their supremacy, and mausoleum were built in their honour. And although in bad condition, they still stand today after centuries. The pseudo-Kufic calligraphy speaks of the age of these two monuments. A link to the past. The legend is even known today by the people of the area, and when legends are carried in books and memories of people, there can be no denying the fact that these narratives are true. The Blessings of Allah were upon these two damsels of the past, and Dalu Rai was accursed, and remembered for his debauchery in negative way.
THE AQUATINT BOX IN THE GODOWN SPEAKS OF AQUATINTING TECHNIQUE, OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI – FOOLISH EXPERTS DO NOT EVEN KNOW DIFFERENCE.
Dr William K Enhrenfeld was a good friend of mine. He had the notion of holding an exhibition of Engraving prints of M.A. Rahman Chughtai, in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. He hired a scholar from a University there, a lady who was to come here to Lahore, and write the catalogue on the ETCHINGS AND AQUATINTS OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI. Everything was in place, and I endorsed his printing of the catalogue, without any royalties. And then unfortunately, he had a stroke, and the doctors gave him a short time to live. His wife Trudy Ehrenfeld nursed him till the last and his three daughters were with him. But that opportunity was gone. A tragedy in all ways, for the Ehrenfeld promise was that he would take Chughtai to heights never experienced before by us.
We discussed the nomenclature of Etchings and Aquatints, and he consulted the top scholars in the field. And he was amused when he said it seems I have to guide people all the time. An etching is a difficult project, but an aquatint is an even more difficult things to manage on own. I need not talk about etchings here, but once the etching is made, the plate is put through a hand held resin blast in an aquatint box. I introduce our aquatint box for people to see. It is not as easy as it looks, for you have to control the density of the resin, its size as well as its whirling velocity. This resin blast makes the entire plate surface open to printing and the dark ink immediately tells you that. Check the etching plate of Black Pigeons and the Aquatinted plate. One understands things.
Aquatint is an intaglioprintmaking technique, a variant of etching that produces areas of tone rather than lines. For this reason, it has mostly been used in conjunction with etching, to give both lines and shaded tone. The wear and tear of aquatinted plates is much more than etching plates. That is why not used much. Only the extraordinary craftsmanship of M.A. Rahman Chughtai could produce magic here as attested by some of his most famous aquatints. We attach some of them.
THE MONGOLS, KHILJIS AND THE LAL MAHARA MONUMENTS – CAN THERE BY A REASONABLE ANALYSIS BASED ON HISTORY?
So much is there in Pakistan, but the passion of the scholars is missing now. Once upon a time Pakistan boasted of exceptional scholars and their analysis was always full of insight. But the two-nation theory daunts objective research. Historical distortion is inevitable because truth is not sought. And that is why truth does not set us free. It entangles in continued petty rivalries. We have an extensive library and excess to knowledge, and with back ground of scholars like Dr Ahmad Dani, Dr Muhammed Baqir, Maulvi Shafi, Dr Waheed Qureshi, Dr Abdullah Chaghatai and many others. And we are not afraid of giving our version for fear of ridicule from already ridiculed scholars. So, we start from an exceptional book on Sultan Allaudin Khilji by Dr Ghulam Sarwar Khan Niazi Sahib. And references to three contemporary scholars like Isami, Barani and Amir Khusro. And the close relation woven with the newly converted Muslim Mongols, and the new laws governing these relations. The narrative is quite different from the stereotype description of Mongols and Khiljis. But the findings are so new to be unbelievable.
It seems Sultan Jalaludin Khilji was a kind hearted King and when he received a delegation from the Alikhani’d Mongols in Tabrez, he welcomed them whole heartedly. He gave the Mongol leader Arghun Khan, the hand of his daughter, and living space in Mughalpura, Delhi. He also gave the ownership of four villages in North Western frontier to carve trade relations with them, and allowed them to remit profits back to Tabriz on their own. Such a deal cannot even be imagined today, for Mongols were not trusted in any way, and even though their conversion to Islam was there, they were considered dirty people. Changiz Khans four sons and eight daughters and an old mother (Hoelun) was full of problems. The women were even more strong than the sons and had vast armies of their own. In the course of a few generations, conversion to Islam was in their favour and they won the respect of Delhi Sultans. But when Jalaluddin Khilji was assassinated by mistake, everything turned upside down. Arghun Khan, grandson of Halaku Khan was heartbroken and long with his thousands of troops, lost faith in the New Sultan. Although defeated at times and given special favours, they were not trusted, and finally about ten thousand of these Muslim Mongols were blinded and assassinated in a massive way. Isami and Barani both commented on this injustice in their own way.
So, whose graves are there in Lal Mahara monuments in North West Frontier. If we look at the tradition of buildings at that time, we see the Mongol look in them. These villages were given to Alikhani’d by Sultan Jalaluddin Khilji. And when assassinated, probably they were commemorated with graves in their own traditions. If we look at the monuments built before and at that period, we see the Mongol look in them. And we also note the sad end to these Muslim Mongols as witnessed by many historians at that time. Today it reminds us of a period unknown to us and open to guess work only.
THE ACTUAL DATE OF DEATH OF AMANAT KHAN SHERAZI – ALIVE ON 14TH RABI UL AWWAL 1057 WITH NOTATION.
History does not record the date of death of Amanat Khan Sherazi. It is generally taken to be 1055 or 1056 AH, but in reality, it is not known. A newly discovered manuscript has the date 14th Rabi ul Awal 1057 on the colophon, that means he was alive by that date. Also, on the Eastern gateway of the Taj Mahal, his inscription records date year of 1057.
Wayne Begley, an authority on Amanat Khan Sherazi writes: “The exact date of Amanat Khas death is unknown, although the official history of Shah Jahan’s reign, the Badshah nama, states that he died in the Emperor’s eighteenth year, that is sometime between August 1644 (1055) and July 1645 (1056).”
Wayne Begley also asserts that: “I believe that the calligraphy on the Taj gateway, dates to 1057/1647, was completed by another unnamed calligrapher, after Amanat Khan’s death.” It seems that is not so, for a colophon on a manuscript clearly states 14th Rabi ul Awwal, 1057. Certainly, alive by that date.
AN UNKNOWN MARKET PLACE IN LAHORE, KATRA ABDUL GHAFUR, IN SIKH TIMES; INSCRIPTION SAYS BUILT BY MIAN RAHEEM BAKSH MIMAR IN 1820 A D, (1236 AH).
Market places and bazaars are common in Islamic civilization, and extensively designed such places exist in Iran, Afghanistan, as well as Hindustan. Some of them so unique that they merit attention and discussion even today. The bazaar in Herat is one example of same, as well as Bazaar Jahan Ara, known as Chandini Chowk in Delhi. The bazaar of Dara Shikoh in Lahore was another example. What standard Katra Abdul Ghafoor had is unknown. Suffice that great attention has been paid in designing its inscription in clay work. The period 1820 A D is a time of rising power of Maharajah Ranjit Singh in Lahore. There was a Katra in possession of Mian Kareem Baksh, son of Mian Raheem Baksh, near Moti Bazaar in Lahore. but at that time the many rooms in it were given on rent to the Christian cleaner community of Lahore. I have seen the place myself a few decades back.
So, we do not know anything about the Katra, nor do we know anything about Abdul Ghafur. We only know about Mian Raheem Baksh. But things do turn up with time. Abdul Ghafur must be of some wealth to have a market place designed for him in Lahore that early in Sikh times.
THE CONTROVERSY OF A MUGHAL BRIDGE AT BARA – MUGHAL INSCRIPTION PESHAWAR MUSEUM 1039 AH.
In 1908 archaeologist discovered an inscription on the facade of a mosque in Qissa Khawani Bazaar, Peshawar. The Pesh Imam told the scholar that it was an inscription his grandfather discovered on the edge of the Bara river, of a bridge which had fallen with time. It was removed to the museum and it is there still now. Very simply the inscription points to a bridge over the Bara river, ordered to be built by Mulla Abdul Latif for Governor Lashkar Khan and built by the architect engineer Lutufullah Ahmad Muhandis Lahori in the year 1039 AH. It was neglected as important news, till it caught the attention of scholars.
It was taken for granted that it belonged to the Mughal bridge on the river Bara, three miles from Peshawar. And written as such by some scholars. Then in 2002 scholar Ibrahim Shah came up with the idea that it was not the existing bridge on the river Bara, but a fallen bridge near to that place, on Zindai stream. He spoke of the presence of four bridges at same vicinity, but at least two fulfilled the requirements of the description of the statement. The other two due to time element were not possible as options. The scholar made the premise on his observations. But in truth, there is no proof as to which bridge is there as provenance for the inscription. It could be either of both. Dr Abdullah Chaghatai, Dr Abdur Rahman and others, took it as the existing bridge. Ibraheem Shah volunteered his views. Nobody else has taken the issue.
We sent messengers to check the place and take photographs. There is a defaced inscription on the existing bridge, and it is famous as the Sethi bridge on the Zindai stream, on the discarded flow of river Bara. Although broken at places, it is still intact, and perhaps restored at some period of time. Large trees accompany the bridge and there are hermits involved in living there. The fallen bridge is now a washing place for dhobis of the area. A regular working area, with cow dung (gobar) plastered on the broken parts which are normally used for cooking in the rural areas. A village using the broken parts for average use. Which is which?
We will try to do more research eventually. A detailed photograph of the inscription on the existing bridge could point out things.But it is the architectural reconstruction at least in drafting which can point out the period of Mughal construction. There are real differences in the Akbari construction and Shahjahani models. Even bricks are different. The existing bridge is petite in its own way, with a singular design element, not elsewhere. The fallen bridge is massive in its construction and to me speak of the might of Emperor Akbar himself. Ustad Ahmad Mimar Lahori is reputed to be crossing the river on Attock on regular basis, as there is a rawadari mention in Insha Harkiran of the same. It may be possible that the fallen bridge was constructed by Ustad Ahmad Lahori, and when river changed its course, it fell down. And here was a need for a new bridge, and Mulla Abdul Latif invited the son of Ustad Ahmad Mimar to construct a new bridge on the same river. Otherwise there seems to be no need for a new bridge when one was already existing there. When the older bridge fell, a new one was constructed. An additional point is that in 1039 AH, Lutufullah was a very young man, and a call to him to go to Bara for the construction, was way out in perspective. Unless there was a link to the older bridge of this young engineer. Extensive research can or may throw a light. But would anyone bother? It is indeed a difficult place to access easily. And till then the options are open to the reality of same.