THE ENIGMA OF A MISSING GATE OF LAHORE CITY
A SECOND RATIONAL ATTEMPT AT IDENTIFICATION
In a journal in France, there appeared a gate of Lahore, which we could not identify easily. Our first guess was its similarity to the Roshnai Gate in Lahore, but the sketch was of three storeys, and Roshnai Gate is only two storeys, although in similar design. We surmised overhaul of same in 1900 with visit of Lord Curzon to Lahore Fort. Further research makes us look into the matter again.
The Wazeer Khan Serai existed and is on photographic record in 1904. We have published photographs of it. Check our book on Wazeer Khan Mosque. In fact Lord Maclagen in his writings describe the Serai as having ANGELS on its doorway in the same spirit as the Lahore Fort as well as the Wazeer Khan hammam. We now feel that the drawing is Gateway to the Serai of Wazeer Khan. It has real similarities with the gateway of the Wazeer Khan Mosque. Check our analysis!
THE OBSESSION OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI WITH STUDY OF VAN GOGH
THE BOOK, THE FILM, THE URDU TRANSLATION ALL IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS
We entered the Van Gogh Museum in reverence, after waiting in a long line, for entrance tickets. And this was all in rain itself. People thronged at Van Gogh when there was hardly any Van Gogh inside. Paintings of his times, of his students and other things. The SUN FLOWER waited for us to be unraveled. A mad artist who cut his ears, attempted suicide, and who could not sell his works even for the price of an empty canvas. Now he is worshiped by the West at discovery of interest in him. And comparing his career with that of M.A. Rahman Chughtai is like a contrast of nowhere. M.A. Rahman Chughtai was a success from day one to day last. But the agony of the artist M.A. Rahman Chughtai could understand. He was fascinated with the life of Van Gogh.
We would find M.A. Rahman Chughtai deeply involved in reading the letters of Van Gogh and his brother. Perhaps it was due to the fact that M.A. Rahman Chughtai was himself deeply involved with his own brother Abdur Raheem Chughtai. The brothers loved each other immensely and according to their own wishes are even today buried side by side. In some ways like a loyal slave, the brother served M.A. Rahman Chughtai twenty four hours a day. The two artists we hear of most in the studio of Chughtai were two names of Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Both were loved for different reasons.
Fascinated we would attempt Van Gogh and others ourselves. Works by children of that period is in existence. But our hearts were in American comics and cartoons. And we drew that all the time. The interesting part is that drawing and painting were like fevers in our house. Even the servants got the fever all the time and some of the servants work is really touching. The children of the house drew fantastic imagery. Unfortunately being an artist in Pakistan and surviving is one of the most difficult things possible.
THE STRANGE COINCIDENCE OF ASIAN ART AND ARTISTS ON SIMILAR TRAIL
M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI AND MAI TRUNG VISIT TO FRANCE IN 1937-1938
Mai Trung an artist from Vietnam visited France in 1937 and stayed there till the end of his life. M.A. Rahman Chughtai an artist from Lahore visited Paris in same year. It is reputed that Chughtai met a lot of artists in Paris, and discussion about art took place there. Unfortunately this time Elza Huiffner was not there with him. He was all alone this time. His Dutch friend Rose Cera had also opted for Paris on her own, and even she was not there with him. He bade her good-bye in London itself. This we do know that he was short of money and conspired with his brother in law, Gulzar Chughtai to sell some of his pencil sketches on the bank of the river Sienne. This was to be a secret sale so that nobody would know that the artist was making these works. Probably he was making Western responsive things for the French market. Gulzar Chughtai told us how he was able to sell all of them on condition of the artists name. M.A. Rahman Chughtai resented that Gulzar Chughtai had divulged his name in Paris.
Dr Abdullah Chaghatai, his brother, was also in Paris the same year, for his doctrate on the Taj Mahal of Agra. Abdullah had gone and met Pablo Picasso on his own and presented him with a copy of the book Murraqqa e Chughtai, the drafting of which Pablo Picasso liked very much. Paris was a hot bed of art and artists, and there is a chance that these two artists met each other. But there is no record of the name of artists he met there. In any case both would recognize each other and see that they were meeting in the cross roads of Asian Art in a foreign land. Maybe more comes out later.
In any case M.A. Rahman Chughtai died in 1975, and Mai Trung in 1980. It looks like they were both blessed in same time frame of life.
WHEN NATIONS START BELITTLING CULTURAL EFFORTS OF OTHER NATION
THE HIDDEN STORY OF THE SHAH JAHAN PAVILION IN THE RED FORT DELHI
At one time or the other, it was decided by the Government of British India to survey the vast Architectural resources in the country. One of the major persons involved in this survey was Henry Hardy Cole, and he gave reports to the authorities about the state of preservation of architectural monuments in the region. In 1882, Cole reports about the Hall of Public Audience in the Red Fort and says:
“The great pillared DIWAN-I-AM, with its fine marble mosaic canopy and throne, is used as a canteen, and on the right of the throne is a bar for serving out liquor! To the left of the throne is an enclosure of bamboo screen-work in which Nubbi Bux keeps a soldier’s coffee-shop! Above and at the back of the throne is a small open apartment, the walls of which are faced with the celebrated black marble mosaic work; but this work, as well as the inlaid patterns on the throne, have been villainously repaired in coloured plaster, and the arrangement of the panels is not as formerly. Some of these panels were removed by Sir John Jones at the time of the Mutiny, and are at the India Office Museum in London. They might be brought to this country and placed in their original position. “
At the orders of Lord Curzon, the missing panels were brought back and restored in the apartment in 1903. However Henry Hardy Cole issued a complete drawing of same in 1882, and one can only wonder with what conjectures did he complete the same, particularly when panels were missing from site, and even wrongly placed on wall. Perhaps he put two and two together on his own. Nobody questions the obvious!
In 1841 when Antonio Zobi of Florence and a specialist of Pietra-Dura, enquired, about the same from the Resident of Delhi, Charles Metcalfe issued an inquiry into the whole Pietra-Dura work in the Mughal buildings. A 100 years old Mughal Prince, namely Dilawar Mirza Shah (Mirza Jugroo), who was an actual nephew of Emperor Muhammed Shah, informed Charles Metcalfe that this apartment was commissioned by Bhao Biswap Rao, a Maharatta Chief, who had seized the Royal Palace in 1760. A clear cut assertion and present as documentary evidence.
Ebba Koch is a great scholar and indeed a lovely person. But love of country clouds the eye to many things. The burden on many Westerners is there to prove that the Mughals did not know many things and the Europeans taught them the finer things of life. That is a plain statement. We need not refine it but it can be refined with hundreds of examples how westerners tried to lower the evaluation of our monumental works. W. Sleeman a bureaucrat is just one example. Ebba Koch is obsessed in proving that the Mughals knew nothing about Pietra Dura and the Masters of Florence taught them many things. A survey of past is helpful to us.
Some authorities claim that Stone inlay work had origins in the land of Pharaohs in Egypt. But it is a known fact that this kind of work was known as PERCHEEN-KARI in the Muslim world. Although similar inlay work with glass was known in the Arab world as Al-Fusai Fasa. The famous writer, poet and traveler, Nasir Khusrau (died in 1088 AD), refers to use of Percheen-kari in the Muslim world, in the course of his travels across such countries. The origin of Pietra Dura starts from the East, and brought from Phoenicia to Greece, and thence to Rome, which were the ancient provinces of Byzantine Empire. From Rome it came to Florence and was known as Pietra Dura. The most famous stone layer family was the Cosmati family who started same in 16th century. In Florence the Master Stone layers were in the ateliers of Saracchi, Annibale Fontana and Miseroni, all around 1580 AD. Very simple the origin of Percheen-Kari in this region comes from our Turkish sources. Ancient inlay work of stones has been found in buildings pre-dating the Mughals by a long period of time.
The Hall of Public Audience in the Red Fort was commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan and it took ten years to build. It was completed in 1648, and the architects and planners included Ustad Ahmad Mimar and Ustad Hamid Mimar, according to official histories of the period. Later histories include the name of Lutufullah Ahmad Muhandis, son of Ustad Ahmad Mimar. All known facts. The canopy in the Hall of Public Audience is a seat for the throne of Emperor Shah Jahan. And we can believe that birds could be adorned in the background, and even human figures (no issues) if we choose to believe same. But Orpheus with a DOG near his legs is IMPOSSIBLE for us to believe. No Mughal Emperor would like the back of his throne adorned with a picture of a dog. Honestly, who believes it otherwise? Dogs are absent from the Mughal point of view. And the placement of the panels are in no Euclid mode.
So what actually happened? We know from old histories that MUMTAZABAD was a market for all kind of goods, coming from all over the world. Mosaic from all over the world as well as Central Asia used to be sold there. Indeed western merchants must have brought cabinets from Florence to sell there. They must have caught the imagination of the Maharrata Bhao Biswap Rao and he ordered a couple of Florentine cabinets dismantled and put as panels on a small apartment to reflect his own taste. Certainly dogs were liked by the Maharratas and we have seen dogs in their court drawn miniatures. Is that so hard to believe? The esteemed Ebba Koch herself says that she tried her best to find out the Orpheus reference in Mughal histories but was not able to find any clue to same. Imperial Ideology she understands yes, but she should also find out about the Mughal tastes on a natural level. The Maharrata miniatures include representation of boars (pigs). Orpheus also played to pigs. Would the discovery of a pig mosaic lead us to believe that pigs were patronised by the Mughals? Certainly not.
Florence was a great cultural country and we have written books on the influence of Islamic art on Florence itself. More on that later!