The many shades of Islamic craftmanship on display in Delhi

  • Henna Rakheja, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 11, 2015 17:31 IST

Stars in Bollywood films are often seen tying wishing threads at Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, popularly known as Ajmer Sharif. The significance of the same is, however, ­depicted in the calligraphic scroll by contemporary artist Yusuf Husen Gori.

The ­exhibit showcasing the artist’s work illustrates ­traditions of ­roshni (light), langar, music and mannat – synonymous with sufi ­culture in India. The ­handmade paper ­artwork, that is estimated to last for atleast 300 years, is ­accompanied by exhibits that ­portray intricate craftsmanship of Islamic art.

The ­ongoing exhibition— Islamic Art and Craft: Indo-Iranian Enterprise for Preservation and Promotion—by Iran Culture House, displays fine examples of Islamic culture. “Most of the exhibits are made by ­contemporary Indian artists under the supervision of Iranian experts,” says Sahiba Zaidi of Premchand Archives. Placed right at the entry of the gallery, a huge Quran makes it difficult for us to believe that the same is true.

“Considered as the ­biggest Quran in India till date, it was damaged during the torrential rains in Gujarat and is now being restored by contemporary artists,” she adds. A few steps ahead is another big exhibit, but this is just one folio (8x4 feet) of Quran. “Once ­complete, this will be the ­biggest Quran in India. All this is done by girls,” says Zaidi, feeling the thick golden rope bordering the folio of this Quran in making.

The framed calligraphic phrases, to be hung on walls, have the sheen of real gold, twisted and twirled threads of zardozi. “There is no ­presence of images in these calligraphic texts since Islamic culture prohibits it,” she explains, as the creatively written words on camel skin awe the ­onlookers.

To add to the visual treat are the ­astrolabes (used to measure time in olden times) and few wall plates that too display Islamic ­calligraphic art. “When we keep the art form alive, only then can we keep the ­tradition alive,” adds Zaidi.

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