THE LEGEND OF MURRAQQA E CHUGHTAI IS EVER THERE;
BUT HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE SEEN THE FIRST EDITION?
The legend is that there were 210 copies of the First Edition of the Murraqqa e Chughtai, drawn, printed and published by the artist M.A. Rahman Chughtai. It says so on the book itself. You read about it but no one has ever explored it, even in cursory manner. I was told by my uncle that there was an important separate file of the Murraqqa and he used to complain that his son had displaced it, or even sold it to the kabaria, not only by mistake but by deliberate action. Who knows the truth? I think I once saw a list of the people the book was given, either by presentation or by sale. That was a long time back, and that list may still be found.
However, my knowledge isolates these persons as possible owners of the First Edition:
- Dr Allama Iqbal. Presented to him, but he refused to accept it as a very expensive thing. Persuaded to keep it, he later presented it to a girl student, who we are told finally became Principal of a famous Girls School.
- Nizam of Hyderabad. It was dedicated to the Nizam himself, but by a terrible blunder created by Abdullah Chaghatai, its benefits could not be realized. The brother gave it to the Nizam after Friday prayers in an Un ceremonial way. Sir Akbar Hydari, Prime Minister got irritated with the brother, that the proper forum for presentation was the Court of the Nizam, whereas suitable rewards and presentations would have been given. Sibling rivalry manifestation.
- Maharani of Cooch Bihar Indira Devi. A business deal of the Maharani with the artist, through the goodwill of art critic of Madras, G. Venkatachalam, in which the Maharani had given Rs 5000 Rupees for the publication, in exchange for Fifteen of the original paintings. Not a bad deal for the Maharani.
- Mirza Ghalib. The first copy was presented to the late poet, by putting a copy on his grave, early in the morning. It is recorded who found it and later took it. A separate story by itself. In fact, the artist’s note in the book itself spotlights Mirza Ghalib clearly as a patron.
- Lahore Museum. A copy or even two were bought by the Curator of Lahore Museum for the library. Later various editions were also bought by the museum.
- Maharaja of Patiala. A patron of art and culture in the Punjab.
- Nawab of Bhawalpur. A destroyed copy, missing pages and illustrations, and crumpled bind is with a member of the family, descendent of the Nawab himself.
- Nawab Ahmad Yar Khan Daultana. A famous feudal political figure of Punjab and father of Mumtaz Daultana, was very much a fan of the artist Chughtai. There is an invitation from him to the artist at Shalimar Gardens on an important reception.
- Har Kishan Lal Gauba. The famous industrialist of Lahore (Owner of Shahdara Power House), provided the electrical connection to the house of the artist in Chabuk Sawaran, to enable him to run the press, to print the Murraqqa itself. His son Kanaya Lal Gauba, later Khalid Latif Gauba, was also a fan of Chughtai artist. Migrated from Lahore to Bombay.
- Kallianjee Hormuez. A famous collector of art in Bombay, requested purchase of the First Edition by letter on 17th, May, 1928. Must have been supplied.
Even today some leftover residues are with us, disjointed, without illustrations, but ready to be used for repair, or replacement. At least three First Editions, only one has a number to it. On box number is 30, on book it is 25. But I have seen the signatures on the First Edition, and it seems the signature has changed and matured if not at many, at least a few times. But the big news comes from the writing of the artist himself that forty copies were given to Abdullah Chaghatai for possible sale in Hyderabad Deccan, and were actually sold. Interesting part is that the Royal Palace of the Nizam, now an exclusive hotel, has the Royal library still there. Many volumes destroyed but a lot still intact and not removed. The First Edition is probably still there and perhaps with pencil notes of the Nizam.
Dr Abdullah Chaghatai has written minute details in production of the book, not everything is correct but still reliable as the only source of important background of production. Chughtai artist himself informs us in an article that the entire 210 copies edition were sold, but malignant and selfish traders had deprived him of important revenue for same. The only redeeming happening was that the entire paintings of the Murraqqa were bought, and that money led him to build his new house, and finally move from his at least 250 years old residence in Chabuk Sawaran Mohalla, Lahore. That next time!
The next popular edition evaluated at times at 5000 US dollars, can safely be said that the First Edition is in excess of 10,000 US dollars, with signatures.