Can you imagine a non-Muslim building a mosque in 21st century India? May sound impossible today. But, two far-sighted Jains built one of the earliest mosques in Gujarat, a state that has seen some of the worst post-independence communal riots.
And, all this for the sake of business. Between 1178 and 1242, Vastupal and Sheth Jagdusha built mosques in Cambay and Bhadreshwar in Kutch to attract Arab and Turkish traders, who would bring in foreign exchange. While Vastupal was the commissioner of Cambay port, Jagdusha was a merchant of Bhadreshwar port in Kutch. Jains have been an important business community from the earliest time till today.
‘History of International Trade And Customs Duties In Gujarat’, a book by historian Makrand Mehta, says Vastupal encouraged Muslims to settle down in Cambay and Anhilwad Patan, the capital of the Solanki-Vaghela rulers of Gujarat.
The accounts of Arab travellers like Masudi Istakhari Ibn Hauqal and others, who visited Gujarat between the 9th and 12th centuries, amply testify to the settlements of Muslims in Cambay and other cities of Gujarat.
“But the Muslims settlements could hardly have developed without the support of the Solanki rulers. In fact, they attracted the Arabs and Persians to Cambay and Vastupal did it by constructing mosques for them,” says Mehta.
Jagdusha was not officially designated as a customs collector but he had cultivated excellent relations with ship captains and customs staff. Although a devout Jain, as a staunch businessman he understood the value of foreign exchange. “For this reason he also constructed a mosque in Bhadreshwar, his hometown,” according to the book.
source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Ahmedabad / by Ashish Vashi & Harit Mehta / TNN / February 10th, 2010
Gulam Mohammed Sheikh creates images of mystics alongside demons
The idea of the Ram Janmabhumi came to artist Gulam Mohammed Sheikh from a mural in Mattancherry Palace depicting three mothers: Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra giving birth — a majestic portrayal of motherhood, as he describes it.
The dapper artist, who defies labels, borrowed the image and incorporated it alongside a picture of the Babri Masjid demolition in one of his ‘Shrine’ series of works, shaped like a Rajasthani ‘Kavad’, a portable miniature box-shrine, in the aftermath of the darkest day of Post-independence India.
He was in Kochi on Monday to take part in the ‘Let’s talk’ programme organised by the Kochi Biennale Foundation. In a conversation with The Hindu at Fort Kochi, Mr. Sheikh said the ills that gnawed at Indian society today boiled down to beliefs. Hence you also see demons in his shrine besides great mystic poets like Kabir Das, as if in contrast. “Our great poets have rarely been painted, you know,” points out the art historian, poet and teacher, who exerted a profound influence on the Indian art scene by mentoring several generations of artists who studied Fine Arts at the University of Baroda.
In the early 1960s, when Ratan Parimoo went on an academic sabbatical, then dean N.S. Bendre suggested Mr. Sheikh, still doing his post-graduation, teach in junior classes. He went on to teach art history, which he continued even after his return from the Royal College of Art in London. “Though trained as a painter, I was dabbling in art history as a member of the faculty. I was teaching the ‘story of art’, which was compulsory for students in all fine art disciplines. In a smaller institution, you have instruction at a personal level. It was a great learning experience for me, too, as they were all from different background and faced different types of problems…For a practising painter, the greater challenge was to keep yourself apart and enter into the mind of another artist all the same! But I found the challenge rather fulfilling. I also learnt to articulate myself,” he says.
It was the era of the Beat generation and language was being radicalised. It all came to a point where it hit the wall, appoint of no return. In our case, we were looking up to cinema, film-makers like Fellini, Godard and Bunuel for inspiration and were eager to discover a new idiom for creative expression, he says.
On return to India after hitchhiking across Europe, he saw his old pals doing different things. He went around the country and was struck by the tradition of Indian narrative painting. “I felt that the most traditional art is regional and personal. When you are personal you become confessional.”
Along with Bhupen Khakhar, he stumbled upon the idea of evolving an idiom to contextualise their times. While Khakhar turned to popular art of India to develop his language, Mr. Sheikh fashioned an idiom for ‘wanderlust’.
On an off, Mr. Sheikh dabbed in Guajarati poetry and prose as well. “Poetry and painting can coexist. Some things can only be written while some others can only be painted,” he says, insisting that he is open to all genres. “What is important in a work is how you articulate it.”
Even before magical realism and fragmented narrative found examples in Indian English writings, Khakhar’s and Sheikh’s works explored those.
‘Going Home’, a series on home just happened after his return from England. Based on the notion of home (originally, Surendranagar in Kathiawar where he spent the first 18 years of his life), he realised that ‘home’ was an idea he kept returning to, as it changed continuously. “There are homes; there are homes that you yearn for and those that don’t let you go,” he says.
In modern times, when art became a commodity post-liberalisation and communalism became endemic to society, he offered resistance by way of his works. “You got to retain your sanity, acutely aware as you are that we as a society are capable of destroying ourselves. But it’s a collective battle. In fact, it is a fantastic challenge when all spheres are appropriated by fanatical forces. You don’t do activism. But every artist worth his grain will sympathise with the victim and you gain strength from inside. There’s always a way out,” he says.
source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by S. Anandan / Kochi – March 18th, 2014
Abdul Jabbar Mohammed Khatri is not a name urban dwellers are familiar with, but many get to wear garments made from the natural-dyed, ajrakh-printed fabric that comes from his workspace in Dhamadka near Bhuj, Gujarat.
As one enters the muddy lane leading to his workshop, one can spot several metres of fabric, in different stages of dyeing and printing. The workshop has a large outdoor area where water from the borewell is filtered to rid its iron content, a boiling unit where fabric is treated several times during printing and dyeing and a printing room lined with tables and innumerable wooden blocks intricately carved with ajrakh patterns.
A part of Khatri’s storehouse has stock that has to be sent to Fabindia. He’s a national-award winningajrakh printer and this is the 10th generation of a family of ajrakh printers that moved from Sind to Dhamadka. “Ajrakh requires running water and my forefathers moved here because of the river Saran, which dried up in 1987. Now we draw water from a depth of 200ft and it has more iron content,” he says.
In the initial stage, an indigenous ‘harda’ root is used as a mordant for the fabric (pomegranate skin and acacia nut skin are the other mordants). The ‘harda’, says Khatri, can react with iron in the water and turn the fabric black. “We use a filtering unit that has a bed of sand, coal, small and large stones to filter the water; iron particles gather on top,” he explains.
The dye varies from alizarine, madder or indigo, according to the colour desired. A mixture of lime and gum is used as a resist dye to keep the white portions intact.
Ajrakh printed saris, dupattas and stoles are now a fashion statement. Khatri recalls that a few generations ago, those who reared animals were the primary customers buying lungis and towels. Double ajrakh or printing on both sides, now a niche domain, was done to make the fabric more useable. “If one is wearing a lungi that flutters in the desert wind, one wouldn’t want the inner side to be not colourful,” says Khatri. Double ajrakh requires precision and is done only by master craftsmen.
If naturally dyed ajrakh printed fabric comes at a premium, it is because of the work that goes into it. In Ajrakhpur village in Kutch, several craftstmen specialise in block prints. “Each tribe has specificpatterns of ajrakh and communities do not copy patterns,” smiles Khatri.
Jabbar Khatri will be demonstrating ajrakh block printing at the International Workshop on Natural Dyes organised by ANGROU in Hyderabad from March 5 to 7.
Weft, warp and a legacy
Visitors to Bhujodi village near Bhuj would be surprised by the number of award-winning weavers in the village. Among them is Vankar Shamji Vishram Valji, known as Shamji bhai, who will also be participating in the International Workshop on Natural Dyes in Hyderabad next week. He gives us an insight into the Bhujodi settlement and its new quake-resistant and weather-proof houses and looms and moves on to talk about indigenous wool from the sheep he uses for weaving shawls, throws and bedspreads. Shamji bhai’s family weaves a small number of shawls in chemical-dyed, acrylic wool for commercial purposes but the larger focus is on indigenous wool and kala (black) cotton that grows in the area and natural indigo for dyeing.
“I get indigo from Auroville and Hyderabad,” he says, showing us his indigo vat, a 3.5ft clay pot placed partially within the ground. “We use excreta of goats at the base to maintain the temperature of the vat. Goats feed on salty leaves and hence their excreta does not attract ants,” he reasons. One of the vats he now uses has a four-year-old indigo dye that gets replenished after each dyeing process. Date, lime and water are added to the vat from time to time. “A vat can be used up to 20 years if it is in good condition. One has to use the vat each day,” he says. These vats, explains Shamji, are smaller than those used in Rajasthan to dye saris.
Shamji and his brothers work in spaces designed with an understanding of wind and sun direction so that they use minimum or no electricity. “We moved here from Rajasthan 10 generations ago, invited by members of Rabari community. The Rabaris are herders and their garments were the yardstick of their wealth,” he explains. Traditionally, Rabaris wore black and white while Ahirs (farmers) wore multicoloured garments. “The Rabaris wear black to mourn the death of one of their kings (the black shawls worn by Deepika Padukone in Ram Leela is an example) and the Ahirs, believed to be descendants of Lord Krishna, like colours,” adds Shamji.
Today, Shamji’s family weaves cotton and wool shawls, stoles and furnishings and has a clientele that extends beyond Gujarat. He shows us prized, award-winning weaves by him and his father, valued at more than Rs. 2 lakh each. “My dream is to open a gallery to showcase such pieces,” he says.
(The writer was in Kutch as part of a textile trail conducted by Jaypore-Breakaway Journeys).
source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Features> MetroPlus> Events / by Sangeetha Devi Dundoo / Hyderabad – Bhuj, February 27th, 2014