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.
LITTLE KNOWN REFERENCE OF ALI HUJWIRI’S TOMB IN LAHORE
FROM CHANDAR BHAN BRAHMAN, MUNSHI OF DARA SHIKOH
Chandar Bhan Brahman, Munshi of Prince Dara Shikoh visited Lahore on leave of absence from the Emperor and mentioned various things. Originally from Lahore himself, he even had his own house here. The first thing he did here was to visit the Mausoleum of Ali Hujwiri for spiritual blessings. And about the Mausoleum complex of Hazrat Ali Hujwiri in Lahore, he says:
“Even though there are yearly and monthly impromptu performances throughout the city’s precincts, especially at the tombs and shrines of the giants along the path of esoteric Truth (buzurgan i rah i haqiqat), the Thursday gatherings at the blessed tomb of that knower of mystical stages, Pir Ali Hujwiri, creates an especially remarkable commotion. Darwishes and other free spirits, literati, poets, and all manner of people gather there to observe the spectacle of Divine Creation.”
No mention of general public, but Chandar Bhan Brahman goes on to say another remarkable thing. He reports that one Ishwar Dass, the Minister of Architecture “had demonstrated his great competence and excellent taste with respect to every heavenly building”. An Hindu administrator for upkeep of every Mughal monument in Lahore, and as a consequence not only the upkeep but the making of these complexes with excellent taste, including the Tomb complex of Pir Ali Hujwiri. In other words Prince Dara Shikoh had Ishwar Dass make the entire Tomb complex of Pir Ali Hujwiri and overhauled it, and as Dara Shikoh himself says, that he gave it a chaste white marble sarcophagus for same. In other words we can think of that white marble sarcophagus in line of tombs like Emperor Jahangeer as well as that of Tomb of Sahib Jamal (Anarkali). But for a Prince to change a sarcophagus only, was obviously not enough. Surely he had the building of the Mazar made again, or even relocated at some place.
Unfortunately the place for all this is not specified in any way. If a Mughal Tomb complex was designed in the 17th century, where is it now? Where is the grave stone of same? Disappeared in thin air. Although according to Mufti Ghulam Sarwar 2000 buildings in Lahore disappeared under the Sikh rule here, and a number of Mazars are recorded as having suffered the same. But Ranjit Singh was enamoured with Pir Ali Hujwiri. In fact three visits (1833, 1837, 1838) are on record, and he presented Rs 125 as ardas for the beggars and friars of the complex, along with amounts for Chajju Bhagat complex, and Mastan Shah. He is recorded as having prostrated at the grave at one time. One of his wife had even repaired the complex on her own.
But things get more interesting in the next year 1839. There was a need to rebuild the Gates and for added protection trenches outside the gates were to be made. A need was felt to clear the Bhatti Gate area. Outside Bhatti Gate was the area and mohalla of another famous Sufi of Lahore, that is Syed Shah Sharaf, on which was the mausoleum and mosque of that saint too. The mohalla was not that populated in Sikh times, and it was decided to clear the Bhatti Gate area, so both the mausoleum and Mosque of Syed Shah Sharaf were demolished under the orders of Ranjit Singh himself. Faqeer Aziz uddin was given the task of taking the body out of the learned Syed and then reburying it in the Hata of Haji Muhammed Saeed in Dulla Wari area, where the body is still there under a small construction.
In same year (after death of Ranjit Singh) orders were given by Kharrack Singh to vacate all areas within half a mile distance from the Gates and Wall of Lahore (one does not know how many came under the demolition drive, probably many), and as a result orders were also given to demolish the mausoleum and mosque of Shah Muhammed Ghaus Qadri outside Delhi Gate Lahore. An European Delaurax dismantled the mosque and started with the mausoleum. There was a huge hue and cry in the city (strange for Shah Ghaus and not for others), and it is reputed that Kharrack Singh died that very night. And people believed that it was the spiritual might of Muhammed Ghaus which did the same. But all this gives us no view about the Hujwiri quarters in Lahore. The same is also very near Bhatti Gate, and it is probable that this too was cleared. What happened?
Graves relocation is normal in history. It happened with Shah Bilawal of Shah Jahan’s time, too. When the present site of Pir Ali Hujwiri was made recently (only a few years back), a number of graves of holy men were dismantled and relocated elsewhere, and the whole process was done in the night. A number of graves within the site were just cleared and the tombstones sold in the market. How sad that how ruthless can administrators become? No compassion anywhere. But so many other mazars were cleared during the night, ruthlessly. Nothing seems to have changed. Ruthlessness has no religion.
The mystery deepens. Dara Shikoh mentions the grave of Pir Ali Hujwiri in the Lahore Fort. Chandar Bhan Brahman mentions a Tomb complex somewhere. A proper mausoleum made about 1861 (and remade over time) exists to this day. What are the secrets of Pir Ali Hujwiri? Only time will tell or it will never be found. No one really knows! I have seen manuscripts written at the tomb of Pir Ali Hujwiri, and two of them are in our library, one 17th century, and the other 18th century, but again no area is given in the colophon. One of them is by the Mujawir of the complex. Till something comes up, nothing definitely can be said by anyone. Speculation cannot be enough.
A theory can be evolved that Pir Ali Hujwiri was buried in the Lahore Fort. Dara Shikoh thought it not fit for the great saint and had a new Tomb complex made in the Hujwiri quarters, under Ishwar Dass, Administrator Mausoleums. That complex existed till the time of Ranjit Singh, and then Kharrack Singh had it demolished in 1839. With this demolition the remains of Pir Ali Hujwiri were shifted back to their original site in the Lahore Fort, where it still exists today. But that is a theory only. Research may bring more facts. But complexity remains. Obviously such mischief is left out of the pages of history.