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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. Maharaja of Patiala. A patron of art and culture in the Punjab.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.


  1. I was privileged to befriend the Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur who was the daughter of Maharani Cooch Bihar. My daughter and I stayed at the Rambagh Palace Jaipur now turned into a hotel but we were invited on most evenings to Lilypool the residence of Maharani Gayatri Devi in 1989. Why was a copy of the Murraqa placed on the grace of Ghalib? I am astonished.

    1. Our role is to keep filling the gaps in information. The next blog on same is getting ready too.

    2. Tom Mix you are indeed a great guy and I love you. But from past some years you are becoming judgemental, jumping to conclusions. Some time back you found fault with an image of palm trees in Sicily, and dear Zebu nisa gave you an actual history of same for your clarification. Now you are criticizing the tenderness of the artist. Murraqqa is all about Mirza Ghalib and the artist spent months discussing him with his intellectual friends. It was an act of love and homage that he actually wrote the note on being indebted to Ghalib for everything. Strange for you, very sensitive subject for him. It might be astonishing for you, very natural for us. The copy of Amal he had reserved for grave of Iqbal is still with us. I have placed all my publications on his grave myself. THAT IS US. No need to be surprised by soul bonding across dimensions.
      Your trusted friend
      The Lone Ranger.

    3. I was lucky to befriend two arch enemies, Indira Gandhi and Gayatri Devi. Both invited me to stay with them. I never went to both places. But Gayatri Devi came here twice to the museum. Once she was invited as a Chief Guest but Govt of Pakistan did not allow same in 1979. But both were exceptional ladies. And will remain exceptional even after they are no more in this world.

  2. Salaam Arif Bahi,
    I been collecting prints and Muraqa and Naqash plus Amal e Chughti…
    I have a copy of “ Version bind 2a” with all the illustrations I am so fortunate to have that plus other copies, and old collotype prints.

    1. Version 2a and 2b are not merely on the First edition. The same are also there on the popular edition valued at Rs 17 after wards. The big difference is that First Edition there are plates of the book, the other edition the images are printed on full size Art paper. Details will follow. You can send image to my email for proper authentication. Best of luck in your collection!
      I am now the only authority on Chughtai Art. And without exaggeration the greatest and most reliable one. Trying to do my utmost to keep him fresh and alive.

      1. I have heard that Ms Marcella Sirhindi came to the museum in late 1970s, totally lacking any information about Chughtai sahib, and you helped her in all ways. And I am told is actually working on Chughtai art not as a subject but as an art to follow. So much enamored with Chughtai art, that reputation is that she is a selling artist herself. People are researching on same in Kansas, USA. The late Justice Rahman knew about this.

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