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Looking closer at Indo-Islamic art

If Indo-Islamic art and architecture intrigues you, sign up for a five-day evening course by professor Smita Dalvi

Akbar was just 26 years old when he commissioned the construction of Fatehabad, the capital of the Mughul Empire from 1571 to 1585. The Mughul emperor took great interest in the construction of the city, now known as Fatehpur Sikri, influencing its style and aesthetics. “He also hired painters and calligraphers to illustrate books and Persian poets to translate Indian classics such as the Ramayana, Yoga Vasistha, Harivamsa Purana and Ramayana into Persian,” informs professor Smita Dalvi, who will be conducting a five-day course on Islamic Art and Architecture, starting October 27.

Chameleon by Ustaad Mansur in the tasveerkhana of Jehangir
Chameleon by Ustaad Mansur in the tasveerkhana of Jehangir

Dalvi, who teaches architecture at the Pillai College of Architecture and aesthetics at Mumbai University and Jnanapravha, says the course will introduce participants to the various themes, subjects and styles that were present in Islamic art and architecture.

Akbar inspecting the construction of Fatehpur Sikri, from Akbarnama
Akbar inspecting the construction of Fatehpur Sikri, from Akbarnama

The course is divided into five sessions, the first being on aesthetic themes in Islamic art and architecture, which outlines several themes within Islamic art such as abstract ornamentation, depiction of the natural and man-made world, and the human body. It’s followed by two sessions on Indo-Islamic architecture, where she will explore the monuments built by the Mughul emperors as well as Deccan rulers in Bijapur, Ahmednagar and Golconda in South India.

Professor Smita Dalvi
Professor Smita Dalvi

But Islamic art and architecture, wasn’t only about the grandeur of palaces and monuments. The fourth session will look at the art of making books, which prospered at Muslim courts in medieval India. “We will look into manuscripts and paintings that were produced in imperial kitabkhanas and tasveerkhanas (library workshops) as well as the noble families of the Muslim courts in India,” she says, adding that Akbar and Jehangir had hundreds of calligraphers and painters working on books, manuscripts, and paintings in these workshops.

Dalvi informs that most of the book work done in the Muslim courts was collective, where Hindu and Muslim artists worked together, thereby creating a cosmopolitan style. “They produced several magnificent works including Akbarnama, Hamzanama, and Razmnama, which was a Persian poetic translation of the Mahabharata by Faizi, a poet in Akbar’s court. Jehangir, who was a naturalist, commissioned several paintings of flowers, plants, and animals, which are intact till today,” she adds.

The course will conclude with a tour of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (previously Prince of Wales Museum), which contains a special collection of book works from different styles and places in India.

From October 27 to 31, 6 pm to 8 pm
At Somaiya Centre for Lifelong Learning, second floor, Somaiya Bhavan, 45/47 Mahatma Gandhi Road, above KitabKhana Flora Fountain, Fort.
Call 61702270 (spot registration open too)
Email learn@somaiya.com
Fee Rs 1,500

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