A rare collection of Persian and Iranian art and culture, comprising the finest collections from one of the oldest civilizations in the world, is enthralling visitors at a month-long exhibition in Mumbai.
Titled 'Building Bridges Of Love - Sulh-E-Kul - Peace To All', the expo covers eras of Khatamkari works, Minakari arts, Persian calligraphy, art photography and paintings and miniatures. It has been organised at the Cosmic Art Gallery in collaboration with Ajmer's Chishty Foundation and Mumbai's Iran Culture House.
"This is a rare expo, spanning the seven centuries-old Khatamkari works, or metal craftsmanship which is delicate and meticulous marquetry, with star-shaped incrustation patterns, and highlighted by thin sticks of different types of woods and camel bones, and other displays," said Jalpa Vithalani, a cosmic healer and director of south Mumbai's Cosmic Art Gallery.
At one time, it was so popular that princes and princesses learnt Khatamkari techniques like they learnt music or painting. Over seven centuries old, it is still perennial in Iran's Shiraz and Isfahan areas.
Also on display is Persian calligraphy, with the 35 letters of the ancient Iranian alphabet which was artistically expressed on animal skins, or adorning works of pottery, metallic vessels and historic buildings.
The collection of renowned Teheran calligrapher Bahadur Baghri on display is beautiful and simple with each painting carrying the universal verses/messages which touch the viewers' souls.
An important component of the exhibition is a special photo feature by Chishty Foundation Director Haji Syed Salman Chishty entitled 'Journey to Iran Zameen' with some striking images of Iran, its people, its culture, arts and history.
The 32-year old Haji Chishty, who is engaged in practical research on Sufi traditions and their impact on different cultures and traditions, has lectured around the world on the topic and made a journey of exploration of Iran when he took the pictures.
Persian handicraft at the expo (Photo: IANS)
"The underlying message is to promote spiritualism through harmony, peace and love for all, which was represented by the 11th century saint, Sultan-ul-Hind, Gharib Nawaz Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Hasan Chishty of Ajmer Sharif," Haji Chishty told IANS.
He is the 27th generation of 'Gaddi Nashin' of the world famous Dargah Khawaja Saheb - Ajmer Sharif - and the exhibition of Sufi Arts from around the world was his brainchild, but held only in Ajmer since 2009, to breathe new life into the dying Islamic arts.
"This is the first time the Sufi Arts exhibition is travelling out of Ajmer. With the advent of the digital era, Islamic art is dying without patronage; the great artists have lost their relevance and they did not pass on their knowledge to the next generation," he explained.
Vithalani said that the Sufi Arts Festival in Ajmer, coinciding with Prophet Mohammed's birthday celebrations, has now joined hands for the Persian art exhibition.
"Through the Sufi Arts Festival, we emphasise on understanding Islam from a creative perspective, which is not just restricted to religious teachings. Islam is a highly advanced religion and science, of which the new generation is unaware. Such exhibitions and more planned all over India soon can create that awareness," Haji Chishty said.
Haji Chishty's silent but powerful photographs capture different aspects of peace, love, the culture of Iran and how people and nature blend in that country, almost like visual poetry. (see Images).
One section displays the fine art prints of renowned Persian painter and miniaturist Mahmoud Farshchian, now 85, a native of Isfahan, the cradle of Persian arts and artists in Iran, currently living in the US.
"Master Farshchian's beautiful paintings depict a perfect synergy between mankind, animals and the surrounding nature and how they are inter-linked, inter-dependent and unified with each other. His paintings and miniatures are inspired by ancient literature and poetry, but are blended with modern techniques," Vithalani told IANS.
A lure is the Minakari collection - roughly meaning colours of heaven - or enamelling and decorating metals or tiles with colourful and baked coats with mina glaze, invented by ancient Persians and later spread to Mongolia, India and other parts of the world.
"This is the art of painting, colouring and ornamenting surface of metals by fushing brilliant colours over it, decorated in intricate designs or patterns of birds, animals, nature, flowers, in rich hues of light blue, green yello and red," Vithalani elaborated, showing the various breath-taking exhibits.
At the inaugural last week, Iran Culture House Director Mahdi Zare said art is one of the most ancient and most fundamental fields of crystallization and manifestations of human soul.
"Human activities in art got developed in various disciplines and people in different historical periods focussed on the artistic productions of each of these disciplines. These are the direct representation of the human identity and its compulsive emotional form," Zare told the august audience.