Volume 63 Number 4, June 2012
Jannat: Paradise in Islamic Art
|Specifications:||144 pages, 120 illustrations|
|Dimensions:||305 x 241 mm|
Paradise is reflected in Islamic art and culture in distinctive ways with remarkable ideological continuity in the Muslim world. Related to eschatological and cosmological beliefs, its representations in Islamic art have evolved from descriptions of paradise and the cosmos in the Quran and early Islamic texts where paradise is seen as a maqam, abode or station, of everlasting peace, beauty, and bliss, without fear or fatigue. The term used to describe paradise often is jannat, or gardens.
This volume on Jannat in Islamic art celebrates earthly majesty to touch upon the mystery of the divine, presenting both renowned and lesser known images of paradise from the Indian subcontinent. It includes expressions in calligraphy and monumental inscriptions, landscaped gardens, chahar bagh mausoleums, mystic invocations, Dakhani romance, journey through the heavens in Persian verse, community hymns, and popular art. Concentrating on a theme not dwelt upon at length before, the writers here present an important contribution in the listing of Islamic art and culture and the Islamic presence in India.
Mumtaz Currim, the guest editor of this volume, is an independent scholar who lectures and writes on Islam in India to underline its intellectual, religious, and artistic traditions. She co-edited the Marg volume Dargahs: Abodes of the Saints (2004, reprinted 2011) with George Michell, and has been researcher for his volume on Mughal style. She is a visiting lecturer in the History of Indian Aesthetics, Islamic period, at the University of Mumbai.
Handwritten Qurans from Salar Jung Museum
Calligraphic Art by Salva Rasool
Islamic Cosmology and Paradise
"Enter Thou My Paradise": The Significance of Funerary Inscriptions
Imagining Paradise: The Legacy of Mughal Gardens
Paradise, Sovereignty, and Aesthetics under the Great Mughals
Supplying Water to Deccani Paradises, 1350-1650
A Woven Paradise: The Great Garden Carpet of Jaipur
Jannatpuri: Text and Context
Hussain S. Jasani
Gulshan-i Ishq: Nusrati's Gardens of Love
Ali Akbar Husain
Javid Nama: Iqbal's Heavenly Journey
Syed Khalid Qadri
Jannat ki Rail: Images of Paradise in India's Muslim Popular Culture
Paradise is reflected in Islamic art and culture in distinctive ways with remarkable ideological continuity in the Muslim world. Its representations have evolved from descriptions of paradise and the cosmos in the Quran and early Islamic texts where paradise is seen as a maqam, abode or station, of everlasting peace, beauty, and bliss, without fear or fatigue. The term used to describe paradise often is jannat, or gardens. This volume presents both renowned and lesser known images of paradise from the Indian subcontinent, including calligraphy and monumental inscriptions, landscaped gardens, chahar bagh mausoleums, mystic invocations, Dakhani romance, journey through the heavens in Persian verse, community hymns, and popular art.
Handwritten Qurans from the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad and calligraphic art works featuring the many names and qualities of Allah by Salva Rasool are included here.
This essay differentiates between scientific cosmology and religious cosmology and explains that the former is more concrete and realistic while the latter is imaginary. Yet the religious mind presumes that religious cosmology is primary and more real. An attempt has also been made briefly to outline the history of cosmological studies by the Muslims from early periods. The main landmarks of it have been indicated and the silent features of the most significant schools of Islamic cosmologists have been elucidated. Within the frame of Islamic Cosmology the Islamic concepts of Paradise drawn from the Quran and the most authentic collections of the prophetic traditions (Hadith) have been drawn while exploring their actual and metaphorical dimensions whether Paradise is a ‘dtate’ or ‘locality’. Lastly it has been pointed out that everything related to Paradise is ideal or in ideally beauteous form in the mind of a believer. Therefore, Paradise plays a cardinal role in shaping the aesthetic mind of a Muslim and resulting Islamic art.
Inscriptions are a significant arm of Islamic art and culture, for writing has ever been held in the highest esteem in the Muslim world. They appeal to aesthetic sensibilities and uphold concepts and values integral to Islam and its way of life. India is fortunate to have a rich heritage of inscriptions including both portable and monumental calligraphic specimens that provide an abundant resource to appreciate and study this art form. This essay concentrates on some leading funerary inscriptions and epitaphs found on tombs and monuments from different regions of India where text and visual impact hold equal importance. What makes their study valuable is their cultural, historical, social, and political importance as registers of their time in the Indian context.
The Arabic word for garden, jannah, translated into Persian and Urdu as bagh, is used in the Quran for paradise, the reward of the hereafter. At a symbolic level the garden represents the ideal environment in which the first humans subsisted close to the Divine and in balance and harmony with nature. This essay attempts to show that Mughal gardens were designed to enhance the quality of the environment, to ornament the landscape, to provide recreation and repose, and to symbolize authority as well as cultural and religious values and aspirations. Gardens and landscape architecture in Islamic societies have been an important expression of ethical notions about stewardship, ecology, and the presence of beauty in the design of the built environment. For the rulers who sponsored the gardens, it was primarily about the exercise of power and their notions of authority; however the combined effects of the form, sensibility, and meaning associated with the Mughal garden tombs, suggest that it may have been as much about wanting to remember paradise and be remembered as possible dwellers in it.
The Mughal emperors harnessed the desire for paradise to bolster their claim to rule as God’s vicegerents. Perceiving themselves as mediators between heaven and earth, their attributes for this role were manifested through their beneficent rule. The structure of ideas underpinning Mughal sovereignty and dynastic legitimacy was established by Akbar, and under Shahjahan paradise became the supreme visual metaphor for the emperor’s rule. Shahjahan further extended the role of the arts in the presentation of sovereignty, associating beauty with majesty, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal, designed as a prefiguration of heavenly paradise with palaces and gardens. This article examines how imperial patronage of the arts, through architecture, painting, and court etiquette, was designed to associate the emperors with paradisal imagery thereby manifesting their unchallengeable right to rule.
Ismaili devotional literature from the Indian subcontinent called ginan includes a long poetic composition by Sayyid Imam Shah (d.1513) – Jannatpuri, literally City of Paradise. In this ginan he describes his visit to paradise. The description is both vivid and inspiring. The imagery used is not identical to that in the Quran but one familiar to the audience to give jannat an indigenous touch. Rivers of fresh water, milk, honey and wine, as well as fruits and trees, may not have had as big an appeal to someone who has experienced these in plenty as would houris, precious stones, gold, and silver. Jannatpuri, thus, seems to highlight these more than the ones that would appeal to desert dwellers of the Arabian Peninsula. The article presents transliteration and translation of selected verses from Jannatpuri and highlights how the notion of paradise is translated in the Indian context.
Poets writing in Persian in medieval India were greatly responsible for thought and imagery that encouraged esoteric interpretation, a trend inherited by Urdu poetry in the North and the Deccan in medieval romances. Nusrati’s Gulshan-i Ishq (The Rose Garden of Love), though belonging to the same genre, is Dakhani in texture. The adventurous romance with wondrous events including many a supernatural element, based on the story of Manohar and Madhumalati, is representative of a Deccani court culture that embraced Persian and local elements. The masnavi, Persian poem in rhyming couplets, may be read as a progression of gardens centred on the conception of love – its kindling, longing, fulfilment, and intoxication and as a record of the culture’s engagement and relationship with nature. On another level, the gardens reflect the beauty of celestial gardens and the bond between man and the Divine.
From Dante’s Divine Comedy to Milton’s Paradise Lost and Goethe’s Faust, Europe has seen a number of grand poetic compositions with a cosmological perspective. Iqbal’s Javid Nama is a laudable work in the same tradition from Asia. A mystical fantasy or a spiritual trance unfolding against a cosmographical setting, it is a long, dramatic, and philosophical narrative in Persian. Iqbal sets out with a mission on a Time, Space, and Deity odyssey, passes through the seven spheres with Rumi as guide, and is troubled by the decay, inequalities, and loss of faith he observes. And when he reaches Paradise he tarries not with the virgins but seeks the vision of God. This article is an analysis of Iqbal’s magnum opus, studying both his verse and his concerns about the Muslim world which is in tune with his classical role as poet-Prophet and interlocutor between God and humans.
Although images of paradise have been discussed elaborately in the Quran, Hadith, and other Islamic literature, besides its earthly versions recreated in classical forms of paintings, architecture, and gardens, hardly anyone notices the visions of jannat popularly imagined in the vernacular literature and visual culture of South Asian Muslims. In India’s popular visual culture, Muslims exhibit a wide array of image practices such as calendar and poster art, framed pictures, wall murals and calligraphy, incorporating well known icons of Mecca, Medina, local Sufi shrines, saints, Shia symbols and Quranic verses. This essay looks at these popular visions, some of which play with the allegory of a train journey to paradise. These popular discourses are not only examples of art by themselves, but they educate the religious about the nuances of Islamic faith using day-to-day visual examples.