A SCHOOL OF ART AT KAMRAN’S BARADARI IN LAHORE
WESTERN AND INDIAN SCHOLARS RELUCTANT TO CREDIT LAHORE
Unraveling the secrets of the Mughal Artists in Lahore
The two brothers Prince Humayoun and Prince Kamran grew up in the laps of Emperor Babar and both were blessed with literary abilities as well as passion for painting. Little of those times survive and when something is discovered, it poses more questions than answers. Information about them comes more from the writings of their sister Gul Badan Begum, then anybody else. The Humayoun nama of Gul Badan was of course handled by the Mughals themselves and illustrated copies exist to this day. But history remains more silent about Prince Kamran. Few things survive. There is even a letter from Babur written to Kamran. Portraits very rare. Buildings perhaps only one, namely the Kamran Baradari at Lahore. The Garden of his wife Mah Afroze at Lahore next to his own was obliterated by the ruthlessness of the Sikhs in Lahore.
We know that Prince Kamran was Governor of Kabul and Qandahar, but we forget that he was also Governor of Lahore. After the death of Emperor Babar in 1530, he annexed Lahore by strateygm, instead of resorting to fighting for same. Prince Humayoun was already very much displaced and allowed him to do so, and left him alone at that time.
Dr Abdullah Chaghatai in 1944 came across an exhibition of a manuscript which had come from Alwar State Museum. A two page comment was published in Islamic Culture Hyderabad in 1945. Although the manuscript had issues, there was something very unique about it. It was an illustrated copy of the Baburama and it had been done in the lifetime of Emperor Babur himself. This was clearly stated in the colophon which Dr Abdullah Chaghatai read himself and noted same. The unfortunate part was that in the 18th century it came in the hands of some person and he went ahead in making the manuscript new. A lot of margins were cut and a lot of works repainted in the 18th century style, and even a new golden binding was given. Only a few of the original works remained. I have not been able to access them but name of two painters come to light, one whose name was MUHAMMED and the other whose name was SAD UD DIN MUHAMMED. The inscriptions of same were copied from the edited pages of the manuscript. A lot of people refer to this manuscript by western scholars are poor at deciphering Chaghatay texts (Persian text was done by Abdur Raheem Khan Khanan in 1589/90). It is the earliest record of a MUGHAL SCHOOL which predates the School of Humayoun which came later. These painters were a continuation of the Sultanate School which existed in Hindustan as well as Lahore. Another probable folio, probably made in 1530 (last year of Babur), is in the Rampur State Library, where Emperor Babur is dictating his memoirs, but the work is certainly made in Hindustan. People think that it would be later, but the realism of the Emperor shows, that it was made in his life time. A masterpiece of the times.
Some decades back a manuscript came at auction in London. It was an illustrated manuscript and out of all odds, the colophon said it was made for PRINCE KAMRAN. Scholars have pinpointed the date of creation between 1530 and 1540. Amazing exactly the period when Prince Kamran was the Governor of Lahore, so in all ways it is a Lahori manuscript, well before the traditional Mughal School came into being. Little by little, our knowledge grows of those times but one thing is sure. Few Muslim Scholars at this job now and even those few working under the programmes of other lobbies. Obviously Indian and Western scholars have no sympathy for us and their bias works against us. It was the three brothers, M.A. Rahman Chughtai, Dr Abdullah Chaghatai and Abdur Raheem Chughtai who stood against them and they are all three no more.