The flawed reasoning in the Santhara ban

When the Supreme Court sits on appeal over the judgment, it must rethink its age-old doctrine of essential practice, that has substantially weakened religious freedom in India.

The Rajasthan High Court, in a judgment on the August 10, 2015, declared the Jain practice of Santhara, which involves a voluntary fast-unto-death, an offence punishable under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This decision in Nikhil Soni v. Union of India, is likely to have far-reaching consequences, not only amongst the Jain community in Rajasthan but also across the country. Unfortunately, it conflates several important issues of constitutional law, and symbolises the confusion over the fundamental guarantee of religious freedom in our constitutional jurisprudence.

BELIEF DENIED:The judgment has held that Santhara, as a religious practice, is not an essential part of Jainism. Picture shows a Jain devotee offering prayers at the Hutheesing Jain temple in Ahmedabad on the first day of Parushan Parva, the eight-day festival, celebrated with fasting and the observance of silence. —PHOTO: AFP

The court’s judgment is superficially reasoned, misconstrues findings of the Supreme Court, and, most significantly, ignores vital considerations that go to the root of a person’s right to ethical independence.

It is undeniable that Indian secularism — a form quite distinct from western conceptions of the term — envisages the intervention of the state in matters of religion, where general social welfare or substantial civil liberties are at stake. But, what our Constitution, properly interpreted, does not permit is the bestowal of any specific discretion on the courts to tell us which of our beliefs and practices are essential to the following of a religion. By directing the State government to move towards abolishing the practice of Santhara, and by holding that the practice is tantamount to an attempt to commit suicide, punishable under Section 309 of the IPC, the High Court in Nikhil Soni has created a damaging precedent, which requires immediate re-examination.

Santhara, which is increasingly widely practised by Jains in India, is a voluntary tradition of fasting till death, that Jains believe will help them attain ultimate salvation. As pointed out in The Hindu ( “Santhara in the eyes of the law”, August 15) by Shekhar Hattangadi, Santhara is embedded in deeply philosophical beliefs. The practice is premised on a foundational idea that the act of fasting, as an exercise of bodily autonomy, allows a believer to attain a state of utter transcendence. However, the court has now found that such matters of integrity, of choosing how one wants to lead life, do not enjoy any constitutional protection, and that voluntary fasting is nothing but a performance in self-destruction. By any reasonable construction, fasting ought to be considered indistinguishable from an act specifically aimed at ending one’s own life.

Effectively, the judgment in Nikhil Soni is predicated on two primary grounds. First, that the guarantee of a right to life does not include within its ambit a promise of a right to die, and therefore, that the practice of Santhara is not protected by Article 21 . Second, that Santhara, as a religious practice, is not an essential part of Jainism, and is hence not protected by Article 25 , which guarantees a person’s right to religious freedom and conscience. While on the first ground, the court’s reasoning is difficult to accept, on the second ground, the court’s finding is premised on a wrongly considered doctrine, carved by the Supreme Court in its earliest rulings on the right to freedom of religion.

As the Rajasthan High Court correctly recognises in Nikhil Soni , Section 309 , which criminalises the attempt to commit suicide, has been found to be constitutionally valid by the Supreme Court, in 1996, in the case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab . However, the Supreme Court was concerned here primarily with the unnatural extinguishment of life. To die through an act of suicide, the court held, is not an extension, or a recognised corollary, of one’s right to life under Article 21. But contrary to what the High Court holds in Nikhil Soni , as a recent intervention petition filed by the Delhi-based Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy points out, the Supreme Court in Gian Kaur explicitly recognises that a person’s right to life also partakes within its ambit the right to live with human dignity. “…This may include the right of a dying man to also die with dignity when his life is ebbing out,” the court wrote, in Gian Kaur . “But the “right to die” with dignity at the end of life is not to be confused or equated with the “right to die” an unnatural death curtailing the natural span of life.”

A dignified choice

The Jaina practitioners contend that Santhara is not an exercise in trying to achieve an unnatural death, but is rather a practice intrinsic to a person’s ethical choice to live with dignity until death. These arguments were brushed aside by the Rajasthan High Court. It simply found, based on an incorrect reading of Gian Kaur , that there is no dignity whatsoever in the act of fasting, and that therefore, there exists no freedom to practise Santhara as an extension of one’s right to life under Article 21. But, perhaps, even more damagingly, the court in Nikhil Soni also rejected arguments that sought to locate such liberty in Article 25. Here, though, the folly in its reasoning wasn’t as much a product of its own making, as it was a consequence of a vague doctrine established by the Supreme Court.

Plainly read, Article 25 guarantees to all persons an equal entitlement to freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practise and propagate religion. The right is subject only to public order, morality, and health, and other recognised fundamental rights. However, as the debates in the Constituent Assembly demonstrate, these community exceptions were included purely to ensure that the guarantee of religious freedom did not come in the way of the state’s ability to correct age-old social inequities. It wasn’t the Assembly’s intention to allow organs of state any substantial latitude in determining which religious practices deserved constitutional protection. But, in practice, perhaps out of an anxiety to ensure that the state is not constrained in passing legislation to remedy social evils, the Supreme Court has interpreted Article 25 in a manner that has greatly restricted the scope of religious liberty.

Interpreting religious practices

The court’s constriction of this freedom has been achieved by invoking a rather curious principle: that Article 25 protects only those exercises that are considered “essential religious practices.” Through the 1960s, this doctrine, which was first envisaged in the Shirur Mutt case, decided in 1954, ingrained itself as an integral part of India’s constitutional theory. The court, on a case-by-case basis, often examined individual religious canons to determine what constituted an essential religious practice. Significantly, the court began to examine whether a particular exercise was indispensable to the proper practice of a religion.

This interpretation has allowed the court authority to determine for the people what their religious beliefs and practices, through a correct reading of their religious texts and customs, ought to comprise. Invariably, the determination of what constitutes an essential religious practice, therefore, amounts to a very particular form of moral judgment — a form of cultural paternalism that is quite antithetical to a liberal democracy.

It is this authority, which the High Court in Nikhil Soni , has invoked to rule that the criminalisation of Santhara would not breach a Jain’s right to religious freedom. “We do not find that in any of the scriptures, preachings, articles or the practices followed by the Jain ascetics, the Santhara…has been treated as an essential religious practice, nor is necessarily required for the pursuit of immortality ormoksha ,” the judgment states. This analysis, as is evident, does not consider whether a person indulging in Santhara performs the act out of an intrinsic belief that the practice flows from his religion, but rather adopts an almost-avowedly paternalistic outlook. It tells followers of Jainism that under a purportedly proper interpretation of their religious texts, Santhara is simply not an essential practice. As a result, the question of whether a Jain’s right to religious freedom is violated by prohibiting Santhara is examined in a wholly unsatisfactory manner.

If, and when, the Supreme Court sits on appeal over the judgment in Nikhil Soni , it must ask the right questions: of whether any social inequities arise out of the practice, of whether any other right of its practitioners are violated through Santhara, of whether the rights of any other person are infracted when a person goes on fast. In so doing, the court must also reconsider its now age-old doctrine of essential practice, which has caused a substantial weakening of the state of religious freedom in India.

Source: The Hindu

#2015, #august

Periyar’s brush with the mockingbird

An account of Periyar E.V. Ramasami’s little known encounter with the Scottsboro Boys Case that influenced the writing of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Imaging: Satwik Gade

In December 1931, Periyar E.V. Ramasami, the leader of the Self-Respect Movement, set out on a European tour. By the time he returned to India a year later, he had travelled the breadth of Europe, visiting Soviet Russia, Germany, Britain, Spain and Portugal. This tour brought him in touch with several progressive movements of the time. His three months in the Soviet Union gave him a sense of the achievements of the socialist republic, in industry and in social engineering, even as the world was reeling under the Great Depression. In Germany, he met with the Comintern-inspired League Against Imperialism that had motivated anti-colonial nationalists across the world, Jawaharlal Nehru not excepted. During his travels, Periyar encountered various radical groups such as the Nudists, Free Thinkers, Atheists, émigré revolutionaries, Communists and socialists across the continent. These were undoubtedly exciting times. What is unknown is that during this tour he encountered the race question for the first time.

While in Britain in the summer of 1932, Periyar spent 20-odd days interacting with Shapurji Saklatvala, the first British Communist Member of Parliament and Clemens Palme Dutt, a founder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and elder brother of the more famous Rajani Palme Dutt (who played an influential role in the affairs of the Communist Party of India), among others. He also visited the offices of various Communist fronts and organs such as the League Against Imperialism, Workers’ International Relief and the offices daily of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), the Daily Worker. Periyar met Saklatvala on the fourth day of his English trip, and spent the rest of his time in Britain in his company. He also addressed a massive workers’ rally where he roundly criticised the British Labour leader George Lansbury.

It was during this brief interlude in Britain that Periyar had a brush with the dramatis persona of the celebrated Scottsboro case that is said to have inspired Harper Lee’s cult novel To Kill a Mockingbirdin 1960.

On March 25, 1931, nine African–American youths boarded a train at Chattanooga, Tennessee in the U.S. Soon they were arrested on the charge of raping two white women who were dressed as male “hobos” or migrant workers. Given the racial bias of the times, when lynching of accused African-Americans, all-white juries, and frame-ups were commonplace, the arrested youths did not stand a chance of a fair trial. All but one were condemned to death. The American Communist Party, however, intervened and played a stellar role in their defence.

Ada Wright, mother of two of the defendants, Roy (14) and Andy (17), was approached by the Communist party and asked to carry forward the legal battle. A massive international defence campaign was launched, analysed in Susan D. Pennybacker’s intensely researched From Scottsboro to Munich: Race and Political Culture in 1930s Britain.

Ada Wright was a most unlikely star of this campaign. Born circa 1890, she was the granddaughter of a slave and, like Calpurnia in Harper Lee’s novel, was a domestic help. A member of the Primitive Baptist congregation, she had little to do with politics until then. By force of circumstance, Wright, who had lost her husband eight years earlier, and who until then had not even crossed the borders of her home state, began a tour of Europe. In the long months leading up to her visit to England, British communists mobilised various organisations to extend support. Saklatvala played a key role, and Pennybacker devotes a full chapter to him. A month before Wright’s visit, the Daily Worker reported that a Scottsboro Day had been organised on May 7, 1932. A massive protest demonstration was also planned at Trafalgar Square on June 19, and included members from the Negro Welfare Association and the League Against Imperialism. But Ada Wright’s visit did not take place easily. Initially, the British Foreign Office stopped her from landing in Britain and she could not join the aforementioned protests. The authorities later relented but Wright was given a visa for exactly 10 days.

These 10 days coincided with the few weeks that Periyar spent in Britain before he was hounded out of the British Isles by the police. On June 28, 1932, immediately after Wright’s arrival from Paris, a workers’ meeting in solidarity with the Scottsboro boys was held at the Club & Institute Hall, Clerkenwell, London. According to the Daily Worker of June 30, 1932, ‘inspiring scenes were witnessed’ as Wright opened her campaign in Britain. As she walked to the platform, she was escorted by ‘Negro and Indian comrades’ and ‘the audience broke into rounds of cheers and spontaneously rose and sang the International’. ‘The toil-worn woman’, ‘the Negro mother told her story as only a mother can. Just a simple story of life at home, the departure of the boys in search of work, and then — prison, the menace of the electric chair,’ reported the paper.

In the 500-strong crowd was the bearded Periyar, then aged 53 with Saklatvala. He was among the audience which ‘strained to catch every word’, though we do not know what Periyar made of Ada Wright’s words as she ‘spoke quietly in the soft, pleasant drawl of the South’. But when she uttered the fervent words, ‘I appeal to you all here tonight to free my two boys and the other seven boys. When you are fighting for the Scottsboro’ boys, you are fighting for the class war prisoners all over the world,’ it moved the audience.

Indian parallel

Saklatvala, in his speech to the gathering, referred to the ‘many Scottsboros’ taking place in India. He criticised the reformist trade unions in the U.S., which barred African-Americans, and declared proudly that only the Communist trade unions admitted all workers regardless of race. Many others from the CPGB spoke. A deputation was elected to convey the resolution to the American Embassy. The speaker who impressed Periyar the most was Isobel Brown (of Workers International Relief), who concluded the meeting by outlining practical ways to continue the fight by trade unions.

Jim Headley of the London Negro Seamen, who chaired the meeting, appealed for a collection: a total of 13 guineas was raised. An auction followed. Periyar, ever the penny pincher, was impressed enough to buy a German silver chain for the not inconsiderable sum of half a pound.

Periyar’s avowed purpose in setting out on his European tour was to enrich his new movement by engaging with other progressive movements around the world, and the serendipitous encounter with Ada Wright and the Scottsboro case perhaps added one more dimension to his understanding of social inequalities that plagued the world.

Source: The Hindu

#2015, #august

In a break from tradition, Yakshagana mandali cuts down show time

It is in keeping with the changing times, says Veerendra Heggade

The ancient art form popular in the coastal districts is traditionallyperformed throughout the night.— FILE PHOTO: H.S. MANJUNATH

In an effort to adapt to the changing times and taste in arts, Dharmasthala Manjunatheswara Krupaposhitha Yakshagana Mandali, a professional Yakshagana touring troupe well over 100 years old, will not perform all-night shows from the current touring season, starting in November-December.

Instead, it will perform shows from 7 p.m. to midnight. D. Veerendra Heggade, Dharmadhikari, Dharmasthala, made this announcement on Thursday. With this, the duration of the yakshagana performance of the most popular mela in this region would be cut by about three hours.

The ancient art form popular in the coastal districts is traditionally performed throughout the night. The shows start around 9.30 p.m. and end at 6 a.m.

Mr. Heggade said the show duration is being reduced due to “inevitable factors”. The decision has been taken after three years of thinking and deliberations over it and by consulting all stakeholders, he said.

He said that many Yakshagana melas (troupes) were facing dearth of audience who did not watch the shows after midnight. With various modes of modern entertainment platforms being available now, Yakshagana melas were not attracting mass audience.

Many such traditional performing arts have vanished in the changing times.

Mr. Heggade pointed out that the melas were also facing dearth of open grounds to present “bayalatas” (open-field shows).

There were instances of people, especially in semi-urban and urban areas, objecting to loudspeakers making noise all through the night disturbing their sleep.

It was on July 16, 2013, that stakeholders of different Yakshagana melas came together at Dharmasthala to discuss the possibility of cutting down the duration of shows.

But the meeting did not arrive at a consensus, though some voted the move. But many participants in the meeting had suggested that the ideal time for staging shows would be from 6.30 p.m. to 11 p.m. By doing so, children, women, employees, workers and the general public could attend to their regular chores the next day.

The new form will eliminate gap-filling scenes in the night-long performances. It will help improve the quality of per-formance within the given time of five hours

 Source: TH

#2015, #21, #august

THE DECCANI SCHOOLS (CIRCA 1560-1800 A.D.)

Though no pre-Mughal painting from the Deccan are so far known to exist, yet it can safely be presumed that sophisticated schools of painting flourished there, making a significant contribution to the development of the Mughal style in North India. Early centres of painting in the Deccan, during the 16th and 17th centuries were Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda. In the Deccan, painting continued to develop independently of the Mughal style in the beginning. However, later in the 17th and 18th centuries it was increasingly influenced by the Mughal style.

1. AHMEDNAGAR

The earliest examples of the Ahmednagar painting are contained in a volume of poems written in praise of Hussain Nizam Shah I of Ahmednagar (1553-1565) and his queen. This manuscript known as the ‘Tarif-in-Hussain Shahi and assigned to a period 1565-69 is preserved in the Bharat ltihas Samshodaka Mandala, Poona. One of the illustrations depicts the king sitting on the throne and attended by a number of women. The female type appearing in the painting belongs to the northern tradition of Malwa. The Choli (bodice) and long pigtails braided and ending in a tassel are the northern costume. But the long scarf passing round the body is in the southern fashion. The colours used in the painting being rich and brilliant are different from those used in the northern paintings. The Persian influence can be seen in the high horizon, gold sky and the landscape.

Some other fine examples of the Ahmednagar painting are the “Hindola Raga” of about 1590 A.D. and portraits of Burhan Nizam Shah II of Ahmednagar (1591-96 A.D.) and of Malik Amber of about 1605 A.D. existing in the National Museum, New Delhi and other museums.

Pahari, Kangra School, Hindola Raga, 1790-1800 A. D

Prince of Bijapur ., Deccani School of painting

2. BIJAPUR

In Bijapur, painting was patronised by Ali Adil Shah I (1558-80 A.D.) and his successor Ibrahim II (1580-1627 A.D.). An encyclopaedia known as the Najum-al-ulum (Stars of Sciences), preserved in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, was illustrated in 1570 A.D. in the reign of Ali Adil Shah I. This manuscript contains 876 miniatures. The ladies appearing in the illustrations are tall and slender and are wearing the South Indian dress. One of the miniatures illustrated here shows the “Throne of Prosperity”. There is influence of the Lepakshi mural painting on the female types. The rich colour scheme, the palm trees, animals and men and women all belong, to the Deccani tradition. The profuse use of gold colour, some flowering plants and arabesques on the top of the throne are derived from the Persian tradition.

Ibrahim II (1580-1627 A.D.) was a musician and author of a book, the Naurasnama., on the subject. It is believed that a number of the Ragamala paintings were commissioned in various museums and private collections. A few contemporary portraits of Ibrahim II are also available in several museums.

3. GOLCONDA

The earliest paintings identified as Golconda work are a group of five charming paintings of about 1590 A.D. in the British Museum, London, painted in the period of Muhammad Quli Quta Shah (1580-1611) Golconda. They show dancing girls entertaining the company. One of the miniatures illustrated shows the king in his court watching a dance performance. He wears the white muslim coat with embroidered vertical band, a typical costume associated with the Golconda court. Gold colour has been lavishly used in painting the architecture, costume, jewellery and vessels etc.

Other outstanding examples of the Golconda painting are “Lady with the Myna bird”, about 1605 A.D. in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, an illustrated manuscript of a Sufi poem (1605-15 A.D.) in the British Museum, London and a couple of portraits showing a poet in a garden and an elegantly dressed young man seated on a golden stool and reading a book, both signed by a certain artist Muhammad Ali in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Early Deccani painting absorbed influences of the northern tradition of the pre-Mughal painting which was flourishing in Malwa, and of the southern tradition of the Vijayanagar murals as evident in the treatment of female types and costumes. Influence of the Persian painting is also observed in the treatment of the horizon gold sky and landscape. The colours are rich and brilliant and are different from those of the northern painting. Tradition of the early Deccani painting continued long after the extinction of the Deccan Sultanates of Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda.

Lady smokingHooka, Golconda painting

A lady with made, Vilaval Ragini, 18th century A.D.

4. HYDERABAD

Painting in Hyderabad started with the foundation of the Asafjhi dynasty by Mir Qamruddin Khan (Chin Qulick Khan) Nizam-ul-Mulk in 1724 A.D. Influence of the Mughal style of painting on the already existing early styles of Deccani paintings, introduced by several Mughal painters who migrated to the Deccan during the period of Aurangzeb and sought patronage there, was responsible for the development of various styles of painting in the Deccan at Hyderabad and other centres. Distinctive features of the Deccani paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries are observed in the treatment of the ethnic types, costumes, jewellery, flora, fauna, landscape and colours.

A miniature showing a princess in the company of maids is a typical example of the Hyderabad school of painting. The princess is reclining on richly furnished terrace covered with a canopy. The style of the painting is decorative. Typical characteristics of the Hyderabad painting like the rich colours, the Deccani facial types and costumes can be observed in the miniature. It belongs to the third quarter of the 18th century.

5. TANJORE

A style of painting characterised by bold drawing, techniques of shading and the use of pure and brilliant colours flourished at Tanjore in South India during the late 18th and 19th centuries.

A typical example of the Tanjore painting, in the collection of the National Museum, is an illustrated wooden panel of early 19th century showing the coronation of Rama. The scene is laid under elaborately decorated arches. In the middle Rama and Sita are seated on the throne, attended by his brothers and a lady; In the left and right panels are seen rishis, courtiers and princes. In the foreground are Hanuman, Sugriva who is being honoured and two other vanaras opening a box probably containing gifts. The style is decorative and is marked by the use of bright colours and ornamental details. The conical crown appearing in the miniature is a typical feature of the Tanjore painting.

Source: CCRT

Krishana, Tanjore painting, 18th century A.D

THE MUGHAL SCHOOL (1560-1800 A.D.)

The origin of the Mughal School of Painting is considered to be a landmark in the history of painting in India. With the establishment of the Mughal empire, the Mughal School of painting originated in the reign of Akbar in 1560 A.D. Emperor Akbar was keenly interested in the art of painting and architecture. While a boy he had taken lessons in drawing. In the beginning of his rule an ateliar of painting was established under the supervision of two Persian masters, Mir Sayyed Ali and Abdul Samad Khan, who were originally employed by his father Humayun. A large number of Indian artists from all over India were recruited to work under the Persian masters.

The Mughal style evolved as a result of a happy synthesis of the indigenous Indian style of painting and the Safavid school of Persian painting. The Mughal style is marked by supple naturalism based on close observation of nature and fine and delicate drawing. It is of an high aesthetic merit. It is primarily aristocratic and secular.

An illustrated manuscript of the Tuti-nama in the Cleveland Museum of Art (USA) appears to be the first work of the Mughal School. The style of painting in this manuscript shows the Mughal style in its formative stage. Shortly after that, between 1564-69 A.D. was completed a very ambitious project in the form of Hamza-nama illustrations on cloth, originally consisting of 1400 leaves in seventeen volumes. Each leaf measured about 27″x20″. The style of Hamza-nama is more developed and refined than that of the Tuti-nama.

Akbar’s return, Mughal painting from Ain-i-Akbari

Hamza – nama illustration on cloth, Mughal School of Painting

The Hamza-nama illustrations are in a private collection in Switzerland. It shows Mihrdukht shooting arrows at the bird on a multi-staged minaret, from the upper storey of a pavilion. In this miniature one can observe that the architecture is Indo-Persian, the tree types are mainly derived from the Deccani painting and female types are adapted from the earlier Rajasthani paintings, Women are wearing four comered pointed skirts and transparent muslim veils. Turbans worn by men are small and tight, typical of the Akbar period.

The Mughal style was further influenced by the European paintings which came in the Mughal court, and absorbed some of the Westem techniques like shading and perspective.

The other important manuscripts illustrated during the period of Akbar are the Gulistan of Sadi dated 1567 in the British Museum, London, the Anwari-Suhavli (a book of fables) dated 1570 in the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, another Gulistan of Sadi in the Royal Asiatic Society Library copied at Fatehpur Sikri in 1581 by Muhammad Hussain al-Kashmiri, a Diwan of the poet Amir Shahi in the Bibliotheque Nationale, of the Diwan of Hafiz, one divided between the British Museum and the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin and the second in the Persian section of the Chester Beatty Library, another manuscript of the Tuti-nama in the same Library, theRazm-nama (Persian translation of the Mahabharata) in the Maharaja of Jaipur Museum, Jaipur, the Baharistan of Jami dated 1595 in the Bodleian Library, the Darab-nama in the British Museum, the Akbar-nama (circa 1600) in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Tarikh-i-Alfi dated 1596 A.D. in the Gulistan Library in Tehran, a number of the Babar-nama, a manuscript executed in the last decade of the 16th century, the Twarikh-e-Khandane Taimuria in the Khuda Baksh Library, Patna, the Jog Vashisht dated 1602 in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin etc. Moreover, a number of paintings of court and hunting scenes and portraits were also executed during the period of Akbar.

Peacocks, Mughal School of painting

Portrait of Jahangir, Miniature painting, Mughal School of painting

The list of Akbar’s court painters includes a large number of names. Some of the famous painters other than the two Persian masters already mentioned are Dasvanth, Miskina, Nanha, Knha, Basawan, Manohar, Doulat, Mansur, Kesu, Bhim Gujarati, Dharam Das, Madhu, Surdas, Lal, Shankar Goverdhan and Inayat.

Under Jahangir, painting acquired greater charm, refinement and dignity. He had great fascination for nature and took delight in the portraiture of birds, animals and flowers. Some important manuscripts illustrated during his period are, an animal fable book called Ayar-i-Danish, the leaves of which are in the Cowasji Jahangir collection, Bombay and the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, and the Anwar-i-sunavli, another fable book in the British Museum, London, both executed between 1603-10, some miniatures in the Gulistan and a Diwan of Hafiz both in the British Museum. Besides a number of durbar scenes, portraits, bird, animal and flower studies were also executed during his period. The famous painters of Jahangir are Aqa Riza, Abul Hasan, Mansur, Bishan Das, Manohar, Goverdhan, Balchand, Daulat, Mukhlis, Bhim and Inayat.

The portrait of Jahangir illustrated is a typical example of miniature executed during the period of Jahangir. This miniature is in the collection of the National Museum, New Delhi. It shows Jahangir holding a picture of the Virgin Mary in his right hand. The portrait is remarkable for its superb drawing and fine modelling and realism. There is liberal use of gold colour on the borders which are decorated with floral designs. Text in Persian appears along the border. The portrait is assigned to 1615-20 A.D. Following the example of the Mughal Emperor the courtiers and the provincial officers also patronised painting. They engaged artists trained in the Mughal technique of painting. But the artists available to them were of inferior merit, those who could not seek employment in the Imperial Atelier which required only first-rate artists. The works of such painters are styled as “Popular Mughal” or ‘Provincial Mughal’ painting. This style of painting has all important characteristics of the Imperial Mughal painting but is inferior in quality. Some notable examples of the Popular Mughal painting are a series of the Razm-nama dated 1616 A.D., a series of the Rasikapriya (1610-1615) and a series of the Ramayana of circa 1610 A.D., in several Indian and foreign museums.

An example from a series of the Ramayana of the early 17th century in the typical popular Mughal style, from the collection of the National Museum, New Delhi. It shows a fight between the armies of Rama and Ravana in Lanka. Rama with his brother Lakshmana is seen in the foreground to the left while Ravana is seen in his court conversing with the demon chiefs inside the golden fort. The drawing is fine but not as refined as observed in the Imperial Mughal painting. The human facial type, demons, the tree types and the treatment of rocks are all in the Mughal manner. The miniature is marked by the spirit of action and dramatic movement created in the fighting scene.

Under Shah Jahan the Mughal painting maintained its fine quality. But the style, however, became over-ripe during the later period of his rule. Portraiture was given considerable attention by his painters. The well-known artists of his period are Bichiter, Chaitaraman, Anup Chattar, Mohammed Nadir of Samarquand, Inayat and Makr. Apart from portraiture, other paintings showing groups of ascetics and mystics and a number of illustrated manuscripts were also executed during his period. Some noteworthy examples of such manuscripts are the Gulistan and the Bustan of Sadi, copied for the emperor in the first and second years of his reign and the Shah Jahan Nama 1657, at Windsor Castle.

A miniature in the collection of the National Museum depicts a gathering of Sufis (Muslim divines) who are seen seated in an open space and engaged in discussion. It displays supple naturalism of the Mughal style of the Shah Jahan period. The drawing is refined and the colours have subdued tones. The background is green and the sky is in golden colour. The borders show floral designs in golden colour. The miniature is assigned to circa 1650 A.D.

Shahjahan on a globe, Mughal School of painting

Aurangzeb was a puritan and therefore did not encourage art. Painting declined during his period and lost much of its earlier quality. A large number of court painters migrated to the provincial courts.

During the period of Bahadur Shah, there was a revival of the Mughal painting after the neglect shown by Aurangzeb. The style shows an improvement in quality.

After 1712 A.D. the Mughal painting again started deteriorating under the later Mughals. Though retaining the outer form it became lifeless and lost inherent quality of the earlier Mughal art.

Source: CCRT

THE WESTERN INDIAN SCHOOL (12th – 16th centuries).

he Western Indian style of painting prevailed in the region comprising Gujarat, Rajasthan and Malwa. The motivating force for the artistic activity in Western India was Jainism just as it was Buddhism in case of the Ajanta and the Pala arts. Jainism was patronised by the Kings of the Chalukya Dynasty who ruled Gujarat and parts of Rajasthan and Malwa from 961 A.D. to the end of the 13th century. An enormous number of Jain religious manuscripts were commissioned from 12th to 16th centuries by the princes, their ministers and the rich Jain merchants for earning religious merit. Many such manuscripts are available in the Jain libraries (bhandaras) which are found at many places in Western India.

The illustrations on these manuscripts are in a style of vigorous distortion. One finds in this style an exaggeration of certain physical traits, eyes, breasts and hips are enlarged. Figures are flat with angularity of features and the further eye protruding into space. This is an art of primitive vitality vigorous line and forceful colours. From about 1100 to 1400 A.D., palm-leaf was used for the manuscripts and later on paper was introduced for the purpose. TheKalpasutra and the Kalakacharya-Katha, the two very popular Jain texts were repeatedly written and illustrated with paintings. Some notable examples are the manuscripts of the Kalpasutra in the Devasano pado Bhandar at Ahmedabad, the Kalpasutra and Kalakacharya-Katha of about 1400 A.D. in the Prince of Wales Museum. Bombay and the Kalpasutra dated 1439 A.D. executed in Mandu, now in the National Museum, New Delhi and the Kalpasutrawritten and painted in Jaunpur in 1465 A.D.

Source: CCRT

Malwa painting, Rajasthan School of painting

Maniature Painting

THE PALA SCHOOL (11th to 12th centuries)

The earliest examples of miniature painting in India exist in the form of illustrations to the religious texts on Buddhism executed under the Palas of the eastern India and the Jain texts executed in western India during the 11th-12th centuries A.D. The Pala period (750 A.D. to the middle of the 12th century) witnessed the last great phase of Buddhism and of the Buddhist art in India. The Buddhist monasteries (mahaviharas) of Nalanda, Odantapuri,Vikramsila and Somarupa were great centres of Buddhist learning and art. A large number of manuscripts on palm-leaf relating to the Buddhist themes were written and illustrated with the images of Buddhist deities at these centres which also had workshops for the casting of bronze images. Students and pilgrims from all over South-East Asia gathered there for education and religious instruction. They took back to their countries examples of Pala Buddhist art, in the form of bronzes and manuscripts which helped to carry the Pala style to Nepal, Tibet, Burma, Sri Lanka and Java etc. The surviving examples of the Pala illustrated manuscripts mostly belong to the Vajrayana School of Buddhism.

The Pala painting is characterised by sinuous line and subdued tones of colour. It is a naturalistic style which resembles the ideal forms of contemporary bronze and stone sculpture, and reflects some feeling of the classical art of Ajanta. A fine example of the typical Buddhist palm-leaf manuscript illustrated in the Pala style exists in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, England. It is a manuscript of the Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita, or the perfection of Wisdom written in eight thousand lines. It was executed at the monastery of Nalanda in the fifteenth year of the reign of the Pala King, Ramapala, in the last quarter of the eleventh century. The manuscript has illustrations of six pages and also on the insides of both wooden covers.

The Pala art came to a sudden end after the destruction of the Buddhist monasteries at the hands of Muslim invaders in the first half of the 13th century. Some of the monks and artists escaped and fled to Nepal, which helped in reinforcing the existing art traditions there.

Source: CCRT

The stupa

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