H-M synthesis: Muslim patronage was vital to the development of Hindu religious paintings

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H-M synthesis: Muslim patronage was vital to the development of Hindu religious paintings

Post by Rashmun on Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:34 pm

As the idea of a unified, secular India appears to be giving way to a divided and polarised one, the art of the past sends a special message: that India’s greatest artistic achievements arise out of inclusiveness, not division. Painters, musicians, dancers, writers, poets, textile-makers, builders, metal and stone workers, jewellers, cooks and other creative individuals have knitted India together over centuries, creating a fabric that reflects a blend of faiths and regions, and many foreign influences. Here are five masterpieces of the Mughal period to reflect upon. In doing so, let’s ask the question: Do we prefer the inspiring vision of India they provide, and celebrate the cosmopolitan reality that produced these treasures, or do we accept the intolerant and provincial alternative that is unfolding? The claim that India is a monolithic culture, as reflected in some imagined past, is belied by centuries of artistic production. The Mughal period brought together talented artists from all regions and religions together to create extraordinary works of art. In their time, these works provided pride, pleasure and education to their viewers. It is hoped that they will do so again here.

In 1574, Mughal emperor Akbar (reign 1556-1605) created a bureau of Records and Translation at Fatehpur Sikri. The aim was to translate important texts, including Hindu epics, into Persian and to illustrate them in the royal workshops. In order to accomplish this task, scholarly Mullahs and Pandits collaborated over several years as Sanskrit texts were reborn in Persian — the Mahabharata became the Razmnama; the Vishnu Purana and Kathasaritsagara were translated; and four illustrated versions of the Ramayana were made — three for different members of the Mughal royal family and one for a Rajput ally. For the artists at the Mughal court (which included Muslims, Hindus, Europeans and women painters), illustrating these manuscripts posed a special challenge because this was an almost entirely new type of imagery. For example, there is no surviving evidence that the Ramayana was illustrated in manuscript form before the 16th century. So, many of these paintings are innovations of the Mughal period.

One masterpiece from the Harivamsa depicts Krishna lifting Mount Govardhan to protect the villagers of Braj from the wrath of Indra. At the very centre of the painting stands the blue god, executed in the naturalistic Mughal style, but also bearing his attributes of blue skin, vanmala and peacock crown. The mountain is painted as a mass of stylised rocks, derived from Persian, and ultimately Chinese, painting, and is filled with plants, birds and animals. Clustered below are the villagers of Braj, along with a trio of Mughal courtiers. Among the old men, sadhus, young boys, and women, one female figure on the right is loosely based upon a European print image of the Madonna. Of equal interest is the group of cows in the foreground that are painted with great sensitivity and individualisation. While temple sculpture of the period tends to show Krishna using his little finger to lift the mountain, in this painting he performs the miraculous act with the flat of his palm. This small but significant detail shows that the unknown artist was in line with the earliest iconography of this subject, such as in the relief carvings at Mamallapuram (7th century). The miracle of this and other such works of its kind reflect a simple fact — that Muslim patronage was a vital key to the development of Hindu religious painting.


http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/ramayana-with-a-mughal-brush/article7823296.ece

Rashmun

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Re: H-M synthesis: Muslim patronage was vital to the development of Hindu religious paintings

Post by Rashmun on Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:37 pm

The tradition of illustrating Hindu subject matter at the Mughal court continued through the 17th century and, from the period of Shah Jahan (reign 1628-58), another great painting survives, attributed to Mughal master Payag in about 1630. The subject is the fearsome Devi Bhairavi, shown here in a cremation ground, with Shiva appearing as an ash-covered devotee. Seven funeral pyres burn around, and jackals edge close while the ground is filled with human bones and corpses. The devotee expels a fiery breath, possibly to indicate a mantra, while the goddess herself spews blood, wears skulls, and also varieties of Mughal-style jewellery. Remarkable for its conceptual depth and iconographical sophistication, a close study of the painting has revealed that Payag relied in part on 17th century European images of the Crucifixion to create the scattered bones in the landscape, and also to create the naturalistic modeling of the figures. The image of the Devi herself may have evolved from an early Mughal illustrated Devi Mahatmya series, although here the rich detail of the iconography is unprecedented. This painting was likely made for Shah Jahan as a gift for the Hindu ruler of Mewar, to which collection it later went and where it got its visible Devanagari inscriptions. This particular goddess is among the rarest images of the Hindu pantheon, yet has emerged in full force at the Mughal court.

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