THE VISIT OF ENGRAVER ARTIST HARRY NORMAN ECCLESTON IN 1980; REALLY MEMORABLE LECTURE ON ETCHINGS AT CHUGHTAI MUSEUM.
Etcher Paul Drury was a friend of artist M.A. Rahman Chughtai. We invited him to Pakistan. Due to health conditions, he was not able to make it. Instead of himself, he sent Harry Norman Eccleston to represent him here. This person himself was a famous etcher and artist, and President of the Royal Society of Painter, Etchers and Engravers. He was designer of Bank notes and worked for Bank of England itself. A very jovial and full of life person, he was a joy to behold here, giving a professional lecture to a first-time audience here. Surely some must be remembering same, as we ourselves do now. But he left a copy of his lecture to us, and we will upload the same on our blog soon. He also presented us with an etching of his own for our museum, as we presented some to him too. The same ended in the Victoria and Albert Museum as a gift from Paul Drury. Paul Drury died in 1987.
Harry Norman Eccleston 1923-2010, also recorded an interview here with us on Chughtai art. At end of his lecture, he says:
“One thing is certain, to know Chughtai art to appreciate him fully one must know both the paintings and the prints. Each in its own right unite to a remarkable body of work for an artist to have fully left; together they are truly astonishing achievement by a great artist.”
THE DESCENDANT OF USTAD AHMAD MIMAR AT LUCKNOW COURT; FOUND SERVING NAWAB YASMEEN MAHAL WIFE OF WAJID ALI SHAH.
The fore fathers of Ustad Ahmad Mimar are famous as having come from Herat, but trained in Turkey under Ustad Sinan, known as Ustad Yusuf Burkurdar, son of Muhammed Hussain. Ustad Yusuf is traced through his works at the city of Hisar, in Haryana. But Ahmad was born in Lahore, and is referred as Lahori all the time. Their children spread themselves to various Courts at Delhi, Shahjahanabad, Jaipur, Peshawer, Kabul and Lahore. It is also known to have extended themselves to Lucknow, mainly at the Court of Wajid Ali Shah.
A manuscript of recited Naats at the Court of Wajid Ali Shah, by Aulad Ali, son of Amir Ali, Naqsha Nawis Sultani. This is Amiruddin Ali, beloved son of Imamuddin Riazi of Shahjahanabad. Aulad Ali mentions being on the payroll of Nawab Yasmeen Mahal, African queen of Wajid Ali Shah.At same time he refers to his father as being a Naqsha Nawis Sultani, that is Royal draughtsman or architect to the Court. We do hear of an architect in Oudh namely Kifayatullah of an Imambara there, as being from the same family. There is an inscription in the building itself of his service to Royal architecture.
Aulad Ali also mentions working under English rule, as well as Bahadur Pratap Singh Rawat. He also served both of same in his capacity. In any case the missing link in Lucknow is put on record.
A STUDY OF LETTERS OF LEONARDO DA VINCI BIZARRE REVELATIONS, CONTACTS WITH TURKISH SULTANS AND OFFER OF HELP IN PROJECTS.
Lisa Jardine, the late scholar from the University of London, writes: “In a series of letters written around 1484 and preserved in one of his many notebooks, Leonardo reports to someone he calls Devatdar Kait-Bai, on the findings of a lengthy scientific mission conducted along the politically contested Turkish coast. (Was Leonardo there in Turkey?) But Sultan Qaitbay was in fact the cultivated and culturally ambitious Mamluk Sultan at this date.” It is understood that East and West were on the road to cross fertilization of aesthetics.
The Renaissance art between East and West is being thoroughly documented and exposes the bigotry of some scholars, for some such exchanges put their arrogance to shame. One such brilliant artist was Gentile Bellini, who worked at the Sultan’s court itself. But the most amazing is exchange of letters between Turkish Sultan Bayezid and Leonardo da Vinci in 1502. The reply to Leonardo da Vinci is kept in the Topkapi museum in Turkey. It has been published too, and we reproduce same. A bridge is being proposed by Leonardo to bridge the Bay in Turkey. Modern scholars have worked on the design of the bridge and found it utterly feasible. In fact, the same design was actually used elsewhere, and worked well. It is strange that this did not work out at that time, otherwise it would have been another wonder of the world. The Sultan was apprehensive of the engineering, and did not think much of this “Kafir” as stated in the letter. But Leonardo had assured him that it would work. And it would have. History did not accept that.
It was a letter asking for employment. In which Leonardo also claims to know how to build windmills and pumps to extract water from ships. Then he talks about the bridge over the Golden Horn.
“I, your servant, have heard of your intention to build a bridge from Istanbul to Galata. And that you have not yet built it because it is impossible to find one who can build it. I, your servant, know how to do it. One would raise it to the height of a building so that no one can cross it because it is too high. I will do it so that a ship can pass under it even with the sails raised. I would make a drawbridge so that when one wants, one can pass to the Anatolian coast. May God make you believe these words, and consider that this servant of yours will always be at your service”.
Up to now, we always though that The bridge for the Sultan that he designed was too far ahead of its times to work on those openings. Due to the limitations of the building materials. It resembles the Calatrava bridge in Venice. And, even more, it resembles (in a small way) an existing bridge in China, in Zhaozhou. Built between 589 and 618 with a single arch of 37 meters and with a rise of 7 meter. Or several other Chinese bridges built during the Song Dynasty.
THE FIRST VISIT OF PRIME MINISTER LIAQUAT ALI KHAN TO USA; A CHUGHTAI’S PAINTING PRESENTED TO TRUMAN AT BLAIR HOUSE.
History was in the making. So much fanfare was created by the first visit of a Pakistani Prime Minister to USA. A lot of photo snaps are on record, of both Prime Minister and his wife. It was reported at that time and it came in the newspapers later too, that a painting of M.A. Rahman Chughtai had been presented to the US President Truman. It set a tradition of presentations of Chughtai Art Works to foreign Heads of State. It was diplomacy at its height on that evening on 3rd May, 1950. On 25th, February, 1950, US Ambassador Avra M. Warren presented his credentials to Governor General of Pakistan, Khawaja Nazimuddin.
The interesting part is that very recently then Khawaja Nazimuddin had inaugurated an exhibition of M.A. Rahman Chughtai at Alhamra Lahore, which was also the inauguration of the Lahore Arts Council. And sometime later in 1950, on the visit of the Shahinshah of Iran, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan had also visited the exhibition. Prime Minister was well familiar with Chughtai Art and had expressed an interest in acquiring Chughtai Art works for presentation to Heads of State. So, it was done by the Foreign Office.
It was a great mission of peace but it did not go well. In fact, Avra M. Warren reported that:
“After hearing this from the U.S. Ambassador Avra Warren, Khan’s mood was much more aggressive, and he reportedly said: “Pakistan has annexed half of Kashmir without American support and would be able to take the other half too”.
לאחר ששמע את הדברים הללו משגריר ארצות הברית, אברה וורן, הפך מצב רוחו לתוקפני יותר ועל פי המדווח הוא אמר: “פקיסטן סיפחה את מחצית שטחה של קשמיר ללא תמיכת האמריקאים והיא מסוגלת להשיג את השליטה על החצי השני
The result we all know. A sad day for Pakistan, with the assassination of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Where is this painting now? We did contact the US State Department and they talk of four Chughtai Art works in the State Department itself, but could not provide images. We then contacted the Truman library too. No progress made. Although some other works are in account. Like the one presented by President Ayub Khan, is in the Kennedy Memorial in Boston, USA. Our job to keep track, and enrich our archives for the future. Yes, our job is well done!
TWO AMERICAN AMBASSADORS AT CHUGHTAI MUSEUM AT SAME TIME; YES, INDIA AND PAKISTAN AND LITERALLY FREE ATMOSPHERE IN 1987-88
Ambassador Arnold Raphael came to Pakistan at the end of 1987. Amongst the languages he knew, both Urdu and Persian were there. He was very interested in Art and called with a small group here. Wife Robin Raphael was there too. I presented him and Robin with a copy of Amal-e-Chughtai on themes of Dr Allama Iqbal. He was very happy with his visit and kept in touch. Indeed, he was an exceptional man.
Later John Gunther Dean, the American Ambassador to India was the guest of Arnold Raphael, and Raphael decided to bring Ambassador Dean to Chughtai Museum. It was a strange coincidence. Two American Ambassadors, to India and Pakistan, sitting with me in my office and freely talking about both countries. Ambassador Dean was very surprised when I presented a copy of Amal-e-Chughtai to him too. He never forgot and back in Delhi, he sent me a letter of thanks, which is in our archives. Another exceptional diplomat.
One could never know what would happen to them that year in 1988. Arnold Raphael died in a plane crash with President Zia-ul-Haque. Ambassador Gunther Dean revolted against the official policy of his country and was declared psychologically insane by the State Department. Later status restored. Both Ambassadors were of Jewish background and both blamed Israel for their troubles. The death of Arnold Raphael so much unsettled John Gunter Dean, that he left his job and went back. Strange indeed! The legend was that:
“Dean’s suspicions that Israeli agents may have also been involved in the mysterious plane crash in 1988 that killed President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, led finally to a decision in Washington to declare him mentally unfit, which forced his resignation from the foreign service after a thirty-year career. Later he was rehabilitated by the State Department, given a distinguished service medal and the insanity charge was confirmed to be phony by a former head of the department’s medical service.“
We love Pakistan and we sowed our love in both Ambassadors. And they in a sense sided with our view and both suffered in all way. God bless them! Both are dead by now. One buried in Islamabad, the other died in 2019 at age of 93. The memory is still strong!
THE GOLDEN PERIOD OF MUSLIM RULE IN HINDUSTAN, THE TUGHLAQ KINGS AND THEIR LEGACY OF THE QURAN: IRRITATING RELIGIOUS PRIESTS AND BEFRIENDING HINDUS.
Anybody’s quest for knowledge gets easily frustrated when seeking facts and figures, you get historical manipulation on most subjects. Searching for Muslim history even in the area of Hindustan drives you crazy. Most of the research say on Muslim Sultans is there with access to hundreds of Hindu writers. One can only wonder the obsession of Hindu writers to Muslim Sultans. When you try to look for Muslim writers, you hardly find any, or even if it is famous research, no copy of the book is available anywhere. Not even a free download. Not even in libraries. ACCESS to famous libraries costs a lot of money. This is fact, not speculation. But then it becomes an adventure. Unraveling facts from fiction.
Not much has been done on the Tughlaqs but there are important research books. Agha Mahdi Husain has an excellent book on Muhammed Tughlaq, “The Rise and Fall of Sultan Muhammed Tuqhluq”, and years after written, is still standard reading on subject. Habibullah of Allahabad University, as well as even Ameer Khusrow himself done a good version with the Tughlaq nama of olden times. Contemporary Muslim writers carry different views. The details are too many and there is no need to go through them. Our approach is to get the attitude of those people, and why the Muslims ruled in this region for a 1000 years and survived, and an extremist Prime Minister in India, with his extreme prejudices, is all set to break his country into pieces. The best reason is the dictates of Islam to have the patience and tolerance to co-exist with different ways of life.
It all starts with Malik Tughluq, who with his brothers came from Khurasan to this region. His son Ghiyasuddin Tughluq was one of the Turkish slaves of King Ghiyasuddin Balban, and was conceived through a local Jat family. In an inscription on a mosque he built in Multan, he himself says that he fought the Tartars 29 times, and after defeating them, came to be known as Malik Ghazi for his bravery. An old man himself, Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tuqhlaq was obviously a good warrior but had to become a good administrator too. He himself was tolerant to the Hindus, unless directly implicated in some plot. However the religious lobby were not happy with the Sultan. But he had fell foul of Nizamuddin Auliya himself. Nizamuddin Auliya was ordered to refund what he had received as gift from previous usurper. Nizamuddin Auliya was not in a position, or in a mood to do so. The next bold step was the Sultan’s order to Nizamuddin Auliya to vacate Delhi before his arrival there from Bengal. The famous quote DELHI HANUZ DUR AST (Delhi is yet distant) has become historically famous. And something unusual happened on the Sultan’s return from Bengal. A wooden canopy was constructed and in welcoming the Sultan through a parade of elephants, the canopy broke and the Sultan and one of his son died underneath the rubble. The incident is quoted as a conspiracy by all and it is attributed that the Sultan’s son Jauna Khan Ulugh Beg (later Muhammed bin Tughluq) as responsible for the parricide. Agha Mahdi Husain researches on the subject and tells us:
“All that is known about the character of Ulugh Khan, both as prince and Sultan, militates against the charges brought against him. He was much too strong a man to succumb to the temptation of murdering his father in order to win the throne. He would not have acted against his conscience even if his life had been at stake. But here neither his life was in danger nor his crown. He was decidedly the best of all the sons of Sultan Ghiyasuddin, and had been an heir apparent. There was no rival claimant to the throne. The case of Ulugh Khan was entirely different, for he was the acknowledged heir.”
The suspicions cast on the Prince simply was the reason of the quarrel with the Ulama. The highly coloured reports were no doubt generated by the disciples of Nizamuddin Auliya, who had taken offense at the popularity of the Sultan with the people. Few people were bold enough to speak on this aspect. Husam Khan, Sujan Rai and W.H. Sleeman took the bold step of saying that the Sultan came to grief because of his quarrel with the Saint. But even common sense dictates the fight between the Sultan and the Saint was an obvious link to the per-planned murder. It is past but it shows an important aspect, the Quranic rule versus the religious aspect and connotation. Let us first quote an incident mentioned by Ibn Battutta to prove the stature of the son himself.
The historian Peter Jackson writes the grand character of Muhammed Bin Tuqhlaq:
“An anecdote related by Ibn Battuta may carry greater weight. He tells how a Hindu chief brought a charge against Muhammad b. Tughlaq himself that he had killed his (the chief’s) brother without cause, and cited him to appear before the qadi. The sultan duly went, unarmed and on foot, having an advance forbidden the qadi to show him any of the deference due to his rank, and remained standing while the qadi gave judgement against him and ordered him to make reparation to his accuser. This is an isolated instance and the purpose of the story is to highlight the sultan’s humility and sense of equity, but it harmonizes with the general picture of Muhammad as a ruler who in the first half of his reign, took care to cultivate the Hindu, and if it embodies authentic fact, it demonstrates that one Hindu of some standing, recognized the authority of the Muslim qadi.” (page 281)
Even today the Quran battles against religious orthodoxy . It is not for us to pass judgement, but to analyze the facts available to us. Everybody can base analysis on factual information.
A CONTEMPORARY SUBJECT OF PAKISTANI GIRLS, MODERN PAINTINGS BY M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI
All three paintings are not with us but we carry archives of them. Number one was with the wife of Muhammed Ali Bogra, once Prime Minister of Pakistan. The Provence of the second one is not known but probably sold in Karachi to some collector. The third one was gifted to UNITED NATIONS by Raana Liaquat Ali Khan in 1954. It is no longer in the UNO Headquarters, reputed to be stolen from there by some staff of UNO, along with the other one that is “Sultan and the Saint”. The third one “Jahangeer and Nur Jehan” is still there according to last information.
Reported to Secretary General UNO as well as Pakistani Ambassador but no one took notice of the issue. If things can be stolen from there, imagine condition of other places. That is life! Our moronic leaders (more often) go to UNO many times, but no one even asks about the condition of the Gift of Government of Pakistan to United Nations. An unprecedented prestige at that given time, only four painters represented at UNO. Reviewed by leading American critic at that time, Jacob Baal Teshuva. The works were hung in an important place, in a cafe, just outside where the UNO meet in issues facing the world. Kofi Anan used to dance on New Year Ball in front of them. Memories are there with many, but originals where?
THE MOST REMARKABLE GRAVE IN ISLAMIC HISTORY; A SCULPTURE OF DOG ON GRAVE OF AN ARCHITECT.
Some things are unbelievable but as they exist, so record of them is essential too. This is more particular with narrations of Islamic architecture, and related to not only Emperors and Queens, but also more so with the greatest Islamic architects of history. Our reference is to the Shrine of Gazar Gah in Herat, now Afghanistan, and the Shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Ansari, the great Sufi of Afghanistan. And the grave of Qawamuddin Mimar, of Emperor Shah Rukh and Queen Gohar Shad.
Noticed by travelers from centuries, and mentioned in their travelogues, the grave has confused many. Some thought of it as a marble sculpture of a tiger. Legend has it that it is that of a dog. And so beautifully carved that it out do sculptures of lions in Islamic history. Yates mention same in his history book. Ferrier mentions same too, later in the years. Even guide books like ‘Lonely Planet’ stress same. What is the background of same? Abdullah Ansari the great saint of Herat was icon of many Emperors and Queens. Emperor Shah Rukh was a great follower of the Saint, and wanted an exceptional construction on his shrine. So, he requested Qavam ud din to do the same:
“The architect Qavam al-Din Shirazi had traveled from his hometown of Shiraz to the northern parts of Iran. Some of his work during this period includes the madrasa for Shah Rukh at Herat, the congregational mosque for Gawhar Shad at Mashhad, and the madrasa Ghiyathiyah at Khargird. By the time he was commissioned by Shah Rukh to build the shrine, he had developed his own architectural style that integrated Iranian, Turanian, and his own personal stylistic elements.”
Some buildings fell down in history, but some still survive in full. Shrine was damaged by flood and it was repaired in 1499, by architect Zain ud din. However, the name of the architect Qavam ud din is on one of the gateways itself. As the architect was a great admirer of the Saint, he requested his burial to be in front of the shrine, and requested that the statue of a dog be built on the grave, so that on the judgement day, he would be recognized as a dog of the Saint. And so, it was done, although he died much later after completing same in 1425, that was in the year 1438. In any case variations in years are there at various sources. It does not deter us from our fantasy of the architects grave with a dog statue on it.
ENGINEERING SCHOOL LAHORE 1853 UNDER ENGLISH ENGINEER; A LAHORI CHIRAGH DIN MIMAR ENLISTED SAME ON REGULAR PAY.
Tracing back Maclagan School of Engineering, nowadays Engineering University not an easy task. The college in Mughalpura was founded in 1921. The engineering school’s original name was Mughalpura Engineering College, which was renamed after Maclagan in 1923. But does one know that there was an Engineering School in Lahore inside Delhi Gate that existed as far back as 1853, and it was administered by an Engineer from Signals, namely Charles Marineau. This fellow had rented some rooms in Anarkalli around 1873 too. That shows a long stay here.
But the amazing thing is that this British engineer enlisted a local resident of Wazeer Khan Chowk for regular pay in his school, probably for work and teaching purposes, and this is in 1854. The man Chiragh din Mimar was related to Imam Bibi (perhaps father), who was from the famous Mimar family of Lahore. In fact, the certificate mentions a Kareem Baksh too. This could be Mian Kareem Baksh Mimar son of Mian Raheem Baksh Mimar, or Kareem Baksh Bindrigar, father of Azizuddin of Chowk Wazeer Khan, Lahore. Wedding nayondras in 1870s mention Chiragh Naqsha-nawees again and again, as well as Muhammed Khan Naqsha-nawees. And interesting an Englishman lives in the neighbourhood and attends the weddings too, and is known as Mirza Angrez. This is probably Charles Marineau. He has become like family to these people.
There is a letter related to Chiragh Din Mimar on a visit to build and restore a Bagh in the state of Jammu. On the back of the letter is a rough sketch of a Bagh. This is not dated, but certainly 19th century . That means this Mimar educated under a British engineer went far and wide in his work schedule. The request is allotment for land in Muzaffarabad for Shala Bagh, and there is mention of a British Colonel in it too. History is built on small documentation, when no one records it at that time. Interesting history of an engineering school in Lahore. Enjoy!
AN EXCEPTIONAL METAL ENGRAVER OF LAHORE NAMELY PIR BAKSH; MAKER OF FINE SWORDS AND POSSIBLY MAKER OF ASTROLABES TOO.
The end of 18th century as well as first half of 19th century was supposed to be a difficult period of Lahore. But we saw creativity blooming from 1750 to 1800 AD, and can wonder why? In many ways the troubled Sikh period of the three scavengers in Lahore were ruining the life of the citizens. But the streets of Lahore were named after professionals in various fields. Arms and ammunition makers abounded in Lahore. Bomb makers were here in form of clay grenades. Swords, bows, and arrows. Even gunsmiths making guns. This was before the British outlawed them and they shifted their working to the tribal areas. This may startle some people of the background of the gun making activity in tribal areas, originated in the city of Lahore, a place where even cannons were made in that period. Zam-zam is just one example.
Obviously, the best things were not made for common people but the elite of the city. A sword made on request of some Nawab Sahib is with us. The name of the Nawab has been erased for various reasons, but the mention of Nawab, ends with the name of maker as PIR BAKSH LAHORI. No date is written on same. There is an Astrolabe made by one Ustad Pir Baksh Lahore in 1841 in the Lahore Museum. He may be the same person and may be related to the famous Astrolabe family of in Mohalla Langar Khan, near old Anarkalli. We have manuscripts written in same mohalla in Mughal period.
In any case enjoy a rare sword with gold inlay. Unfortunately, someone has melted the gold and stolen it with time. But history remains intact minus the name of the Nawab who had the sword, who could be Nawab Adina Beg Khan himself. Enjoy!