A HINDU FRIEND OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI
RAVISHANKAR RAVAL THE ARTIST FROM GUJARAT
The name of M.A. Rahman Chughtai swept over Hindustan and where there was opposition, there was also abundant love from other persons. Ravishankar Rawal, the famous artist from Bhavnagar Gujarat was eager to meet Chughtai the artist. A visit happened to Chughtais home in Lahore, and it was in June, 1939. Rawal Sahib made a sketch of Chughtai asrtist there and then, and it was Chughtai who signed it both in English and Urdu. This happened on 28th June, 1939, at the new residence of the artist.
“Ravishankar Raval was born on 1 August 1892 in Bhavnagar (now in Gujarat, India). His father Mahashanakar Raval was an officer in the British Communication Service. He spent his childhood in several towns as his father was transferred from one place to another. He wrote that he inherited his artistic instincts from his mother. He graduated from high school in 1909. During his first university year, at the local Arts College, his principal asked him to paint the stage sets for the college drama festival. He advised him to join arts by his Parsi professor Sanjana who was pleased with his artistic skills. Against his fathers non-approval, he joined Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay. He was trained under Cecil Burns, the principal of J. J. School.”
Bombay had no issue with Chughtai Sahib and the art of Chughtai was exhibited in Bombay many times and many collectors there collected Chughtai Art. One can only wonder if the sketch exists at anyplace. Obviously Chughtai presented his works to Rawal Sahib. Two civilizations sharing Art generate peace for each other. But one thing new happened. Rawal Sahib left the old realistic School and joined the Indian Art movement and it was perhaps Chughtai Art which brought him there.
GERMAN AMBASSADOR DR KLAUS TERFLOTH COMES CALLING
THE ART SHOW AT THE GERMAN EMBASSY IN ISLAMABAD
M.A. Rahman Chughtai was fascinated with Germany. The image of Germany in national environment was wonderful. Two World wars and Germany annihilated but recovered with determination and inner energy. Everybody appreciated that. The artist had seen Germany in 1932 as well as in 1938. He had met German artists, and intellectuals. he was always impressed with them. After partition Germans showed great interest in Chughtai Art. Dr Klaus Mehnert, the Professor at Columbia University was a good friend. So were many others. German diplomats called at Chughtai Home all the time.
The death of M.A. Rahman Chughtai on 17th January, 1975, was condoled by the German President, Walter Scheel. I visited Bonn and presented a painting to President Walter Scheel in 1976, where he gave us a State Reception. So it was natural that diplomat Rozini, the Cultural Attache at the German Embassy to call on us. He had written a book on our culture. Dr Klaus Terfloth visit followed, who came along with his lovely daughter. Ambassador wanted to take this interest much further. An exhibition show was planned in Bonn itself. As a step forward to it, a show of Chughtai Art was arranged at the German Embassy, and on special request, we allowed the exhibition to be without glass cover (a big concession from our part). I could not say NO to their request, and the show namely UNKNOWN CHUGHTAI was held at the Embassy. The exuberance from the Germans was tremendous and Dr Klaus Terfloth gave the opening address and said, “I HEARD ABOUT CHUGHTAI LONG BEFORE I HEARD ABOUT PAKISTAN”. It sent shock waves amongst the listeners and the sinister lobby led by nincompoops of Pakistan tried their best to sabotage the show. The Federal Minister for Culture was there and it was visited by around five Pakistanis, some has gone from Lahore to sabotage the proceedings. The next day the newspaper carried a news item written by a real Mir Jaffer, who was on active pay roll of the lobby. The German Ambassador was heart broken but I could see the reason behind all that. He was shocked that journalists in Pakistan could stoop so low.
Dr Klaus Terfloth hosted a dinner for me at the Embassy and the ruling Elite of Islamabad were invited to the show, including the Minister for Culture as well as various bureaucrats., Agha Nasir of PTV was also there. It was Zia ul Haque’s time and his Islamic revolution. Drinks were flowing all around, and people were having their fill with FREE ALCOHOL, the most desired concept in Pakistan, which is MUFT KEE SHARAB QAZI KO BE HILAL, which literally means free alcohol is legitimate for even the Islamic Judge. A couple of Waiters would come again and again in front of my group (myself and two companions from Lahore) and offer same to us. We would politely refuse and take an orange drink now and then. All of them started chatting with each other and then one finally came forward and said. It is all right to drink here, no one will look, no one will mind, no one will see. We said it is haram in our way of life and we do not partake haram, and Nobody may see or not, Allah sees everywhere., They were further perturbed, and said all those who were there had notions about enforcing Islam in the country. Is it a mere hypocrisy on their part! It was not possible to satisfy them.
We carry the banner of Pakistan. We are happy about it. We appreciate Germans interest in Chughtai Art all the time.
ALLAH THE AL-MUSSAWAR HAS MADE BEAUTY UNIVERSAL
THE BEAUTY OF PAKISTAN LIES IN ITS IDEA OF INCEPTION
The Holy Quran starts with Al-Hamd or simply that “Praise be to Allah who created so much proportions in the universe”. In a process of Evolution and Revolution, the cosmos are all beautiful, and of proportion by which we can only praise the Al-Mighty. And yet no land is same, it has different blends of beauty and things not so beautiful. Even human beings are not made the same. So much variety, much difference. And for what, to highlight beauty of everything. A song of solace for a tormented mind and soul.
Pakistan has much beauty, but so has the world, as well as the cosmos. So what makes Pakistan so special? The very idea of its inception. Yes, the Ideology of Pakistan. The first step towards fulfilling our commitment to Allah. So that peace and harmony can prevail in the world and between various nations. The message of the Quran was for all humanity, not only us as Muslims. The survival of Pakistan is not merely geography. It is its Ideology. It makes us united and it repulses our enemy and their paid agents here.
Pakistan is unique. Special. Outstanding idea. The message is simply this:
PAKISTAN’S FOUNDER, MOHAMMAD ALI JINNAH, HAD A VISION FOR PAKISTAN
MEDIA HYPOCRISY THERE AS TRUTH MATTERS TO NONE
YES, PRESIDENT ZIA UL HAQUE WAS CHERISHED BY MANY
The funeral of Zia ul Haque was the most heavily attended funeral in the history of Pakistan. The world came to mourn him. Attended by leaders and delegations from fifty countries. It is east to criticize him but more difficult to realize the obsession and the constraints he was working in. A remarkable thing he was trying to do was to revitalize the Department of Islamic Reconstruction made originally by Quaid e Azam and was ready to appoint the German convert Muhammed Asad to do the job of Ijjtehad in Islam. A gold medal was awarded to even G.A. Pervaiz for his contribution to the struggle for Pakistan as a trusted Adviser to Quaid e Azam himself. And it is projected that he was a mere Mullah. A Mullah cannot even conceive of people like Allama Muhammed Asad. With all his inadequacies, he was trying to do more than his share of work.
Why people are being allergic to him? The foreign lobbies do not like leaders talking about the Ideology of Pakistan. President Zia gave a new impetus to this Ideology and lost his life for it. In all ways he is a true shaheed, while this word is so loosely used by others to further their claim to immortality.
THE IMMORTAL CHUGHTAI PAINTING “TOO LATE” THAT STARTED IT ALL
LED TO FORMAL INTRODUCTION TO DR ALLAMA IQBAL OF THE ARTIST
It was around 1918. M.A. Rahman Chughtai was walking on the street with a painting in his hand when he met a dear friend of his on way to Dr Allama Iqbal’s house in Anarkali. That friend knew Dr Iqbal personally. The friend volunteered to introduce him formally to Dr Allama Iqbal. Dr Iqbal came on the terrace himself and received them. He asked Chughtai artist as to the nature of his profession. Chughtai Sahib replied I am a painter and I paint things. ‘What do you have in your hands” asked Dr Iqbal. Chughtai Sahib explained it was a painting and explained the nature of the painting. The visit of the beloved to the grave of the lover who was by that time dead, and the theme was that it was too late for any remorse now. In other words SOOZ AUR SAZ. Dr Iqbal was enamoured with the ideas of the artist and suggested a Quranic verse for the sarcophagus. The artist was pleased and went into deep thought himself. On way back home he tore the painting and made it again according to the suggestion of Dr Iqbal himself. Various versions of the work were made and were in possession of various collectors. Not known if any survive to this day. A reputed version with Nawab of Bhawalpur in his palace was attacked by termites and a portion of the work remained, which even that is not known to exist at all. From the first version around 1918 to the last version around 1931, the work made the relations of Iqbal and Chughtai closer to each other.
It led to a twenty years relation of the artist and the poet in their life time and a life long relation later, and the production of the greatest art book in the history of Pakistan, that is Amal-e-Chughtai, the magnum opus of the artist. Allah bless both icons of Pakistan!
A REMEMBRANCE OF MISS TARA CHOUDHRI CLASSICAL INDIAN DANCER
KNOWN AS ANNA PAVLOVA OF LAHORE AND ABDUR RAHMAN CHUGHTAI
On 14th December, 1940, there was a news in the Civil and Military Gazette Lahore, of the formation of an Indian Classic dance Institute in Lahore, on the Mall road Lahore, under the administration of A.R. Choudhri. The person who will teach the Classical dance was a Punjabi girl of Lahore, Miss Tara Choudhri, sister of the Director A.R. Choudhri, and only 16 years of age at that time. It was attended by 500 citizens of Lahore, and amongst the foremost reported was Khan Bahadur Abdur Rahman Chughtai, the international artist of Lahore, and patron also of all things cultural anywhere.
Miss Tara Choudhri performed for a long time in the institute. She also went in 1954 with a delegation to communist countries, such as USSR, Poland and Czechoslovakia, and even appeared in a Tamil film in 1948. She also joined the Dance company of the famous dancer Ram Gopal. Ram Gopal was a great friend of Abdur Rahman Chughtai, and we will cover that relation too. Torn between two countries, she opted for Pakistan, and involved in film dances with Madame Azuri for some years, but became unknown as her subject lost its interest in Pakistan. However she died in Karachi, around 21st September, 2013. A professional who lost her talent of years at the apathy of society.Even the legendary Ram Gopal seems to be forgotten, and his collection of Chughtai Art was eventually sold too. But that is for another blog.
THE TWO FRIENDLY CHATTERJEES IN THE LIFE OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI LAHORE
EDITOR MODERN REVIEW CALCUTTA AND PRINCIPAL MISSION SCHOOL GUJARANWALA
Principal Chatterjee of Mission High School, Gujaranwala requested Principal Lionel Heath of Mayo School for a Drawing Master. The choice was Abdur Rahman Chughtai recently out of Mayo School of Arts. The artist had cleared training in the Photo-litho department and was teaching lithography there to new students. Unhappy at leaving Lahore, Chughtai went to the city of Gujaranwala and taught there for some time. Principal Chatterjee was impressed with his drawings as well as finished paintings and told him of his connections with another Chatterjee, that is Rama Nanda Chatterjee, Editor of Modern Review Calcutta. The magazine was a pictorial one and carried works of Indian Masters. It was the IN art magazine of India.
On January, 1917, a work on Omar Khayyam by Abdur Rahman Chughtai, was printed in Modern Review, Calcutta, being the first published work of the artist. Interestingly the work was highly appreciated, noticed and the artist came under the gaze of the Tagores and the Bengal School of Art. Next month in February, a second work of Chughtai was printed and likewise noticed by all. The rewards were simple. Ten rupees royalty was paid for each publication, as well as 25 prints of the published work. A steady line of works by Chughtai got printed in Modern review and gained him great fame all over India.
The Calcutta Chatterjee was an elder journalist but the Gujaranwala Chatterjee was comparatively younger and was a Christian by his faith. Both had great regard for this young artist and we remember them with honour and dignity.
TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE ATTENDED THE CHUGHTAI SHOW IN ALHAMRA 1968-1969
THE LEVEL OF INTEREST SHOWN BY PEOPLE WAS TREMENDOUS IN THOSE TIMES
On 26th January, 1969, the Pakistan Times Lahore reported the end of Chughtai Show at Alhamra and concluded that ten thousand people saw the show. For a paintings exhibition in Pakistan, this was a tremendous figure. President Ayub Khan had inaugurated the show on 30th December, 1968, and it was reported nationally as well as internationally. It took Chughtai 30 years to produce the book on a promise made to Dr Allama Iqbal himself on his dying bed.
The book AMAL E CHUGHTAI created national history and is the greatest Art book produced in Pakistan to this date. Highly valuable it is the pride of any lover of Art to obtain and keep a record of the Ideology of Pakistan. More later.
OBVIOUSLY CHUGHTAI IS THE GREATEST ARTIST OF PAKISTAN, SAID EHRENFELD;
BUT I WILL MAKE HIM A HOUSEHOLD WORD IN ART WORLD OF USA BY MY WAY.
Dr William K Ehrenfeld was very fond of Indo-Pakistani art and had made a wide collection of various artists from this region. M.A. Rahman Chughtai fascinated him and he got in touch eventually directly with me. A lot of study went in his collection binge and he was not only a man of knowledge, but supported a passion for regional art. M.A. Rahman Chughtai truly fascinated him and he planned five shows of Chughtai in the USA. The first one was to be a one man show at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. A big catalogue was planned and a lady scholar selected from an American university to come here and stay at the museum and write the most comprehensive catalogue. The famous German scholar Bautze from Heidelberg University was also selected to write the same. Everything was going well according to his grand plan.
But fate sometimes play tricks on human endeavour. At the height of this show frenzy, Dr William K Ehrenfeld had a rare disease and a stroke which paralyzed him. The doctors gave him a limited time to live. We found this out much later from another German scholar. A rare opportunity was lost. But we remember him with love. He donated 13 works of M.A. Rahman Chughtai to the Asian Art Museum, which he had collected over a long time. The works were displayed in the lobby of the San Francisco museum for one year. A great honour for Pakistan. Nobody noticed it here, but the American art world was moved even after his death. God bless his soul!
ORIGIN OF LAHORE ACCORDING TO AHMAD HASAN DANI,
SCHOLARLY RESEARCH BY HIM ESTABLISHES “CITY ON RAVI”
In 1973 the legendary scholar of Pakistan Ahmad Hasan Dani delivered a lecture on Al-Beruni” in the city of Kabul. Amazing that Kabul is seen as hosting a Pakistani scholar. But Kabul was a city of intellect and arts for a long time. Not surprising that it happened then. Dani Sahib in his erudite way explains everything. His dismisses the so called connection of Loh son of Ram with Lahore and we attach the paragraph on same. Worthy of being read. But most interesting he isolates different Lahores and capitals and names. And he says that the city was founded near the river IRAWATI (present Ravi), and that is why it was called IRAWATIAWAR. It was later modified with use as RAVAWAR. He says Panini’s grammar tells us that RA and LA are interchangeable grammarian words, and that is why we have the word LAHAWAR, or presently LAHORE itself. Lahore is simply by tradition CITY ON RAVI.
Loh Mandir is a creation of British period in their attempt of Divide and Rule. Late Sikh period architecture, it is even made of British period bricks, and it is on the same level as street outside. Imagine fooling people with foolish stories. Absolutely no documentation.
Certainly Dani Sahib (1920-2009) was a great scholar and his words should be read with utter homage. We share this information with others now.