The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) sees Kashmir as a ray of hope for the fast dying 7th century art of calligraphy - geometrical and floral representation of alphabets that adorns places like Taj Mahal and Humanyun Tomb. Calligraphy is fast dying in the rest of the country after centuries of visible presence.
"The introduction of computers for writing has struck a fatal blow to calligraphy in the country. The art, however, is very much prevalent and in use in the Kashmir valley," said GS Khawaja, Nagur ASI director for epigraphy, Arabic and Persian.
The ASI in collaboration with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) on Wednesday threw open first-ever exhibition 'Calligraphy through the Ages' in Srinagar's old city to sensitize the local population about the art form. The exhibition showcased the history of the art form from India's Turkish rulers to the Mughal period.
Calligraphy as an art form started from Iraq's Kufa area. Turkish rulers first introduced calligraphy in India in 12th century. The different styles like Kufi, cursive, Naskh, Thulth, etc., were very popular in India.
"The Muslim rulers would not inscribe living objects because of the religious prohibition. Instead, most structures and graves erected by Muslim rulers are decorated and ornamented by calligraphic art," said Khawaja.
The decline in Urdu, Persian and Arabic scripts in India pushed the art form to literature industry only. "With the introduction of Urdu sofwares, calligraphy has almost died in the country," said Khawaja.
The ASI director, however, sees taste for the art form alive in the Valley, where official language continues to be Urdu. "One can see calligraphic wall hangings and wood planks selling in Srinagar's Lal Chowk. People here have liking for the art. There is a hope for the art in Kashmir," said Khawaja.
Kashmir's calligraphic art is influenced from Persian region. The Valley people continue to decorate living rooms with the art form in different mediums. "I do not see any indigenisation or improvisation in calligraphy in Kashmir. It stays in its pure form for being practiced in old grammatical order," said Khawaja.
Dozens of visitors visited the Lal Ded museum at Habba Kadal today to see the rare exhibition, inaugurated by Kashmir University vice-chancellor Prof Talat Ahmad.
"The exhibition is meant to educate the local population of the old city about the art form. We have been practicing it for centuries but the exhibition provides a sense of continuity we maintain," said INTACH's Kashmir chapter head Saleem Beg.
The exhibition is on till December 6. It's part of the 150th year celebration of ASI. Such exhibitions will also be mounted in New Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal and Hyderabad. The exhibition also showcases Sanskrit-Dravidian calligraphy on monuments, papers and coins. Separate panels have been devoted to calligraphy on stone inscriptions, in holy Quran manuscripts, on paper and coinages of sultans of Delhi and Mughal emperors.