LAST OF THE GREAT NAQASHS
HUJRA OF WAZEER KHAN MOSQUE
When the Wazeer Khan mosque was completed, a set-up was put in place. This set-up took into account the future needs of repair, maintenance and changes in the mosque. The corner hujra inside the mosque was given by Nawab Wazeer Khan to the family of Lutuf-ullah Ahmad Muhandis. The family was to take responsibility for the mosque aesthetic requirements. The hujra changed hand within the family in time and in the Sikh period, it was occupied by Umar Din Naqash. Umar Din is mentioned by Nur-ud-din Chisti too, in his famous book ‘Taqeeqat-Chisti’. There is an agreement between Raheem Baksh Mimar and his brother Elahi Baksh (Natha) dated 23rd June, 1858, on the sharing of property on the death of their father, Mian Muhammed Salah Mimar on 11th May, 1958. Elahi Baksh was the father of Umar Din Naqash.
Umar Din had one son by the name of Baba Miran Bakh. He was the husband of Karam-un-nisa, sister of Mian Kareem Baksh Mimar, father of M.. Rahman Chughtai artist. Baba Miran Baksh was hence the PHUPHA of our artist.
It is interesting that there are photographs of the Baba in archives. A photographic portrait made by the artist M.A. Rahman Chughtai. A group of photographs made by the family of Abdullah Mussavar of Sikh Court. And there are photographs of the Court of Wazeer Khan mosque, showing the naqashi students running about in the compound, including the Chughtai brothers. All four brothers, Hussain, Abdur Rahman, Abdullah and Abdur Raheem were students of the Baba at one time or the other. This is quite clear.
Most of the work of the Baba is not preserved. There are bits and pieces here and there.For instance the famous writer of Lahore Ghulam Sarwar Lahori, has mentioned the contribution of Baba to the dust cover of his book, as well as a sketch for the published Harmain-ul-Shareef. It is in our archives. We have a couple of nikah-namas made by him, including a naqashi for Barkat Ali. But we do know that his output was extra-ordinary and uncharted works must be at many places. His father’s work is represented by a sumptuous Quran with many pages of Naqashi, and his son’s work (Muhammed Hayat naqash) is represented in the collection of Lahore Fort Museum. All these are well know.
The Baba was an avid music lover and played the Sitar all the time. On a sharing of CUP OF KAVA in front of his hujra, a gathering used to be held, to listen to him playing the Sitar. The concept of Sitar playing in a mosque seems strange in these times, but it was very normal then. There are hadees(s) about music recitals in the Quran in many ancient times, including those of the Caliphs.
We are told of incidents in his life. Dr Abdullah Chaghatai used to recall a time when on Eid day, the Baba had no money at all, and sold the ‘sonay-day-warq’ (gold leaves in artist’s cup) for Rs 2 to celebrate the occasion. In any case Baba Miran Baksh was the FIRST TEACHER of the artist M.A. Rahman Chughtai and that is a record in itself. The student excelled the Baba and became a Master Naqsash of his times. Dr James Dickie used to say that the naqashi work done by the artist excelled the naqashi work done at the court of Emperor Jahangeer and that indeed is a fact to understand.
The working instruments of the Baba are with his family as well as some with us. Some of his works still exist with members of his family.