Category Archives: Arts & Culture

Romanticisation alone is not helping our heritage

In 2003, during a visit to Fatehpur Sikri, we were taken to the private residence of the caretaker of the Saleem Chishti Dargah located inside the complex. Once inside, we were warmly received by the caretaker, an elderly gentleman and his family. We were served sharbat and shammi kababs. Soon after, in our presence, the caretaker received another group of Indian men and women, all dressed in expensive clothes and they spoke to each other in English with a distinct American accent.

“Ye sab sap hi logoN ka to hai,” [This all, is all yours only] the caretaker said to them before introducing the family to us. We were delighted to discover that they were direct descendants of Akbar, the emperor who built the magnificent complex.

We spent some time with them and left the residence to take a round of the complex. In the central courtyard, I was horrified to see carts of vendors selling bangles, cosmetics and cheap snacks. The carts were stationed in front of the Dargah and all the vendors were Muslims. In another section of the complex, I saw banana peels, discarded footwear and paan stains on the walls. I left the complex disappointed. Read the rest of this entry

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New research finds Allah and Ali in Viking Age patterns

Viking age patternsWHAT was previously thought to be typical Viking Age patterns in silver on woven bands of silk in Viking Age graves are actually geometric Kufic characters as per a new research at Sweden’s Uppsala University. The Arabic characters appear in burial costumes in Viking Age boatgraves, as well as in the chamber graves clothing of central Viking Age sites such as Birka in Mälardalen.

“One exciting detail is that the word ‘Allah’ is depicted in mirror image,” says Annika Larsson, researcher in textile archaeology at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University. “It is a staggering thought that the bands, just like the costumes, was made west of the Muslim heartland. Perhaps this was an attempt to write prayers so that they could be read from left to right, but with the Arabic characters they should have. That we so often maintain that Eastern objects in Viking Age graves could only be the result of plundering and eastward trade doesn’t hold up as an explanatory model because the inscriptions appear in typical Viking Age clothing that have their counterparts in preserved images of Valkyries.”

It was while working to recreate textile patterns for the Viking Couture exhibit at Enköping Museum, Enköping, Sweden, that the researchers discovered that the woven bands contained ancient Arabic script, Kufic characters, invoking both Allah and Ali. The Kufic characters were found in the Viking Age in mosaics on burial monuments and mausoleums, primarily in Central Asia. Similar Kufic characters appear in the grave costumes in Viking Age chamber graves in central sites such as Birka in Mälardalen, as well as in boatgraves in the area around Gamla Uppsala. Read the rest of this entry

Muqeem Ahmad: Restoring heritage with love

muqeem ahmadMUQEEM Ahmad comes across as a quiet man but is a mason par excellence. A resident of Amroha in UP, Muqeem singlehandedly renovated and at times recreated structures and floral designs on some old Imambadas and the Shia Jama Masjid in the town.

Born in 1956, Muqeem has been working for the last 45 years. He worked a few months in Delhi and Punjab before moving to UP.  Since the last 25 years or so he has been mostly working on naqqashi or floral decoration. Read the rest of this entry

Diwali in Red Fort under the Mughals

DIWALI was known as the Jashn-e-ChiraghaaN under the Mughals and was celebrated with great enthusiasm. The Rang Mahal in Red Fort was lit up with Diyas on Diwali.

Rang Mahal Read the rest of this entry

“Sufism is Not an Innovation but a Classical Tradition of Islam”

Sadia Delvi

Sadia Dehlvi

SADIA DEHLVI is an Indian author and activist. Her most recent book is ‘The Sufi Courtyard: Dargahs of Delhi’. Her first book was ‘Sufism: The Heart of Islam’. In a telephonic interview with Inam Abidi Amrohvi, Muslims Today, Sadia speaks on Sufism, women’s rights and Indian Muslims in general.

How satisfied are you with the progress of Indian Muslims during the last 20 years or so?

Well that’s a very tough question because lot has happened during the last two decades, and I think Muslims have progressed a lot.

When I was growing up, I remember, there was hardly a Muslim middle-class. Just after the partition when we had the landed elites and the poor, you never came across Muslims who were doctors, lawyers, engineers, young politicians, etc. I distinctly remember, I had gone to boarding school in Shimla and I was the only Muslim girl there.

When I look now, I see that things have changed a lot for the better. Today, you see a whole new generation of Indian Muslims who are educated and empowered in the true sense. They are engaged in sports, film industry, media, legal, arts and medical profession. So there has been a tremendous growth during the last twenty years, undoubtedly. But, on the other hand it’s not good enough. We should have progressed much further and become a bigger part of India’s growth story. A lot needs to be done at the grassroot level. You know there are many issues at stake. I find that there is a tremendous thirst for knowledge, to work and be financially independent, in the poor people I work with in the Muslim community, especially amongst the women. So there is a tremendous change in their mental attitudes which is a good sign. They want to progress and are looking for opportunities. Unfortunately the opportunities are not enough. Read the rest of this entry

“We continue to make Urdu as a Muslim Language.”

SALEEM Kidwai is a medieval historian and works in the area of culture conservation. His work includes the translation of Malika Pukhraj’s autobiography in English. In an exclusive interview with Muslims Today, Kidwai shares his thoughts on Awadh and its culture.

Picture of Saleem Kidwai

Saleem Kidwai

MT: What was the Lucknow of the 50s and 60s like? Any fond memories or interesting incidents that you would like to share.

SK: I’ve memories of a slow and very civilised city. But, even then I felt there was something that Lucknow needed. Perhaps that’s why I chose to stay away from the city for 34 years.

MT: What changes do you see in the city and is there something that worries you?

SK: I found it worse. The state has become politically very active. To me Lucknow is a very provincial town, not just in being a small town but also in attitudes. One one level I find the people extremely tolerant and kind and on the other not open to new ideas and change. Read the rest of this entry

Exhibition on calligraphy organised

LUCKNOW. INTACH (Indian National Trust for Arts & Cultural Heritage) Lucknow chapter, in association with Rashtriya Lalit Kala Akademi, Lucknow, is organising an exhibition “Lucknow ki Sarzameen”.

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The seven day exhibition on calligraphy is being organised at Rashtriya Lalit Kala Akademi. Calligraphy thrived as an art during the Nawabi period. Today it’s finding difficult to survie and very few are practising the art in the digital age. There is a tremendous need to create awareness and to save this art for future generations.

The exhibition is open to public from the 8th till the 14th of July.

Artists whose is being displayed at the exhibition include Pankaj Gupta, Syed Azeem Haider Jafri, and Vishnu Narain Agrwal.

A new book explores Lucknow

Book launch of Fida-e-Lucknow

Book launch of Fida-e-Lucknow

NEW DELHI. The Vice President of India Hamid Ansari recently released a book entitled “Fida-e-Lucknow – Tales of the city and its people” authored by Parveen Talha, former Member UPSC. Addressing on the occasion, he also said that many renowned authors and poets have written about Lucknow and its culture earlier. There is something special in the roots of Lucknow that a cultural civilization grew there.

The book, a collection of 22 short stories, is peeped in the flavours and textures of life in Lucknow. Woven through these stories is the history of its Ganga-Jamuni culture and the changes which came over the city and its people in the post-Independence period. It is also the story of Lucknow’s women.

Life of a Painter

DOCUMENTARY ‘Road Map of Yasin‘, produced by Aseem Asha Foundation, is based on 85 years old veteran artist Mohammed Yasin.

Yasin’s most important contribution goes to the art of calligraphy. He chose to work in an abstract symbolic manner. Geometrical elements – the circle within the square, concentric circles, comprise the basic structure emphasising a symmetrical arrangement and abstract formal values, calm and quiet they are nevertheless active fields. They seem to be deeply influenced by Buddhist art. They generate impulses of colour and focus attention on the images- the symbolic images- they contain.

His early works have explored all available mediums from lithography, etching, aquatint, engraving, dry point, serigraphy, mezzotint water colors, oils, gouache and egg tempora. His works are very poetic and also dramatic.

Tantric symbolism, Sufi mysticism, echoes of the miniature schools, shades of thankas and pictorialised Arabic calligraphy – all these inspirations could be identified in Yasin’s work.

Commemorative postage stamp on Sahir Ludhianvi

The President and other dignitaries at the release function.

The President and other dignitaries at the release function.

“PATLAA hai haal apnaa, lekin lahuu hai gaaRaa
Phaulaad se banaa hai, har naujavaaN hamaaraa
Mil-jul ke is vatan ko, aisaa sajaayeiNge ham
Hairat se muNh takegaa, saaraa jahaaN hamaaraa”

THE President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, released a commemorative postage stamp on late Sahir Ludhianvi on March 8th. The occasion was his birth anniversary.

Born as Abdul Hayee, Ludhianvi was a popular Urdu poet and lyricist of the Hindi film industry. He passed away on October 25, 1980, at the age of 60.

Speaking on the occasion, the President said that Ludhianvi was widely acclaimed as a people’s poet who wrote on the trials and tribulations of the everyday life of the common man with great intensity and deep empathy. He was recognised as the poet of the young because of his writings on love and beauty. He wrote with great sensitivity on the values and social concerns of the contemporary period.

The President added, “One of Sahir’s greatest contributions was to converge Urdu poetry into film songs.” He also fought for recognition for lyric writers through the Film Writers Association.

In recognition of his services, The legendary poet was awarded the Padma Shri in 1971.