WHO FOUNDED ALHAMRA LAHORE?
OBVIOUSLY M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI
Memory loss of bureaucracy
Chughtai Museum has always stated things backed by documentary evidence. Nowadays the evidence is the will of the Master, whoever the Master may be. Let us restate the role of M.A. Rahman Chughtai as the FOUNDER OF ART IN PAKISTAN. Not content with the position of being ‘the greatest living Master of India’ (as stated by Bombay Times itself), he wanted to do everything for Art in Pakistan. The Art Department at University of Punjab was his idea, and the first Head, Anna Molka was appointed with his consent (record there). A lot of designs were being asked from him by Liaquat Ali Khan, on behalf of the Quaid e Azam himself. The Quaid himself approved many designs within his lifetime. But this essay is not about that. There was no cultural centre in Pakistan and M.A Rahman Chughtai knew it well. A meeting was held at the house of Begum Shahnawaz to thrash out this issue, even before partition, and it came in the papers then.
Resident Director Shahnaz Arshad wrote a brochure on the foundation of Alhamra and we reproduce the first page. All these records were there, now perhaps thrown to the ‘Radi’ wala. In any case on 10th March, 1949, Alhamra was inaugurated by Governor General Khawaja Nazimuddin with a show of Chughtai’s Art works. That is all on record. The insignia was designed by Chughtai, as well as the name itself, given by him. The name personified the Modernism in a Muslim Cultural Centre, by linking it with Alhamra of Spain. One of the greatest achievements of Muslim Civilization. He was instrumental in requesting the Government to allot the place for this Centre, and on the basis of this Centre, other centres came up in Karachi, Peshawer and Dacca. And the amusing part is that even those were inaugurated with Chughtai shows, and we have documentation about them too. M.A. Rahman Chughtai was so obsessed with the giving of a special status to the Centre, that he even took plants from his home, and planted them there. A number of Mango trees were planted by him there with his own hands, and most flourished for years.
There was phenomenal Cultural Activity in Alhamra in those days. Troupes came from all over the world and performed there. And this was not done with abundant of resources, but will of the people. A comment came in a newspaper report of that period and it is on record. The journalist said that he asked Secretary Khaleel Sahafi why there was no TEA served at the inauguration when the Governor General came, and Khaleel Sahafi confessed, that they actually had no money to serve even plain tea to guests. Will power creates nations, not resources, and Pakistan is the example of same.
This show was attended by people from all over the world. A delegation of VICE CHANCELLORS from AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES was there, as well as a State Visit by the Shahenshah of Iran , Reza Pahalwi. It put Pakistan on the Art map of the world. A number of diplomats came from Karachi to attend the show. Colonel Majeed Malik of the Press Information department was doing his part of the job.
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