30 January 2015

Akbar’s horoscopes: how to become a Leo if you are not

Akbar’s horoscopes: how to become a Leo if you are not

Or_12988_f034v

The birth of Timur showing astrologers on the right, drawing up his horoscope. From an imperial copy of Abu l-Fażl’s Akbarnāma, c. 1602. Painting ascribed to Sūrdās Gujarātī (Or.12988, f. 34v)
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Editor: On 31 October 2014 we held a successful one-day symposium ʻBritish Library Persian Manuscripts: Collections and Researchʼ at which Dr. Stephan Popp of the Institut für Iranistik, Vienna spoke on ʻHoroscopes as propaganda under Akbar and Shāh Jahānʼ. Although he is planning an expanded version of his paper for future publication, he has kindly agreed to summarise it for us here.

In the 16th century, astrology was still an approved science both in Europe and in India, and many princes between Lisbon and Dhaka relied on the counsels of astrologers. Especially so the chronicle of the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605), the Akbarnāma by Abu l‑Fażl, which uses the emperor’s horoscope extensively to prove his claim to power. Akbar claimed to be the mujaddid (restorer of Islam) of the second Islamic millennium and the pre-destined perfect ruler. But first, some remarks on Mughal astrology and how it was supposed to work.
For this reason, let us then have a quick look at Akbar’s horoscope as it appears in the Akbarnāma:

Screenshot 2015-01-18 20.32.43Akbar’s nativity as drawn at his birth by the astrologer Maulānā Chānd (Akbarnāma, p. 70)

A horoscope is a diagram showing the sky over a given place at a given time. It consists of: 1) the zodiac, 2) the houses, i.e. a second zodiac constructed with the ascendant (i.e. the point that is just rising) as the starting point, and 3) the planets at their places for that particular time. This horoscope is constructed on a square grid, with the east on top (modern horoscopes are in the form of a circle, with the north on top). The twelve fields are not the zodiac signs but the houses. They are equated with the zodiac sign their first degree falls in, although this is at the very end in the case of Akbar. House I is top centre, and the other houses follow counter-clockwise. The planets are entered, but without their exact position in the zodiacal sign. Aspects, i.e. significant angles between objects that strengthen or weaken their power, are not indicated in this horoscope but are mentioned in the text where necessary. Moreover, several kinds of subdivisions of zodiac signs also have properties that strengthen or weaken a planet, which in turn strengthens or weakens a house.

Thus, a horoscope contains ca. 250 interrelated data, and the art of the astrologer consists in picking the right influences and interpreting them in an appropriate way. This is obviously highly subjective, even if the planets had influences. No wonder, as Abraham Eraly has observed (Eraly, p. 109), astrologers have been called the psychiatrists or confessors of the Mughal Empire.
Akbar’s horoscopes

This blog will show how astrologers acted not only as the psychiatrists but also as the spin doctors of the Mughal Empire. Abu l‑Fażl ibn Mubārak, Akbar’s mentor on policy and official chronicler, had a genuine interest in astrology. That he regarded it as a fully-fledged science is clear from the fact that he comes up with four different horoscopes of Akbar and discusses their differences (Akbarnama, pp. 119–123). Eva Orthmann (p. 108 below) proves that the horoscopes are based on genuine calculations and not made up by Abu l‑Fażl. Abu l‑Fażl writes that an Indian and a Western horoscope were cast at Akbar’s birth in 1542 by Jyotik Rai and by Maulānā Chānd. The results were different due to the different definitions of zodiacal signs in Vedic and Western astrology. Indian astrology defines the zodiac as the constellations in the sky whereas western astrology defines the zodiac as the ecliptic divided into twelve equal parts beginning from the spring point (where the sun rises at the spring equinox). The spring point, however, slowly moves backward through the constellations, so that at the present time it is at the end of Pisces, not in Aries.

Equinox_path

The precession of the spring point (0° Aries) in the last 6000 years. Kevin Heagen via Wikimedia Commons
CC-BY-SA

Because of this movement, Abu l‑Fażl says, the Vedic results were 17° behind the Western ones in Akbar’s time (whereas now they are 25° behind). Thus, Akbar’s ascendant fell in Leo according to the Indians, which suited an emperor, but in the Western horoscope, it fell in Virgo. Abu l‑Fażl discusses this difference, effectively discrediting the Indian astrologers (pp. 119–122). Still, as acknowledged by Orthmann (p. 110), ‘royal’ Leo would have been a much more suitable ascendant for an aspiring emperor than Virgo.

When the great scientist and physician Fatḥullāh Shīrāzī joined Akbar’s court in 1583, Abu l-Fażl asked him to correct the two horoscopes. Instead, Fatḥullāh cast his own, using the old “star tables of the Greeks and Persians” of ca. 830 AD instead of the new ones of Ulugh Beg. In this way, he arrived at the ascendant falling at the very end of Leo (28°36’) instead of 7° Virgo. Abu l-Fażl calls this “the most reliable horoscope” (p. 94) although containing outdated data, and devotes two chapters to its description and predictions.

Screenshot 2015-01-18 20.26.28
How Fatḥullāh Shīrāzī managed to put the ascendant back into ‘royal’ Leo. The old tables shift the house grid 9½ degrees back. The grid has also passed over Venus, so that it is at the beginning of the second house now, not at the end of the first.

When the diagram was ready, the task of the astrologer was to pick those influences that suited successful rule. Combining the right influences from the vast data, Fatḥullāh Shīrāzī sings Akbar’s praises (p. 111):

As this (4th) house is a Fixed Sign, and its lord (Mars) is in exaltation and has a beneficent aspect, territory will continually be coming into the possession of the King’s servants…,

and even (p. 108):

The Native will exceed the natural period of life, viz., 120 years.

Or_12988_f015r

Abu l‑Fażl’s chapter describing Fatḥullāh Shīrāzī’s horoscope.  Although the diagram has been left blank, the details are all supplied in the Persian text (Or.12988, f. 15r)
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Overall, the horoscopes emphasize Akbar’s success in conquest, acquiring wealth and in administration, and his supreme reason by which he guides the state and settles disputes. Moreover, the astrologer Maulānā Chand argues that Akbar is greater than Timur because Akbar’s Mars is stronger (p. 79). That the horoscopes contradict themselves is only superficial, Abu l‑Fażl concludes, for, he claims, God hides Akbar’s greatness from the undeserving (p. 123):

Owing to the jealousy of God, the truth of the holy nativity remained under the veil of concealment and was hidden behind the curtain of contradiction. But… if each of the horoscopes be looked at with the eye of judgment… it becomes plain that… there is nothing equal to them.

A person deserving special mention was, according to Abu l‑Fażl, Akbar’s father Humāyūn, an accomplished astrologer and “by the perfection of his personality enlightened by flashes of forthcoming events” (p. 124). Humāyūn danced with joy when he read the horoscope, Abu l-Fażl says. In this way, he tries to make his readers believe that if they see nothing but contradiction, this is because they do not see well enough. Even the astrologers, accomplished scientists, did not see everything. But they did their very best to combine their data in the way that Akbar and Abu l‑Fażl wanted them to: to “discover” that Akbar was the king of kings.

Further reading
Abu l‑Fazl ʿAllāmi: The Akbarnama of Abu-l-Fazl, tr. Henry Beveridge. 3 vols. Calcutta 1897–1939 (1907 reprint digitised by Google available here).
Abraham Eraly: The Mughal World, Life in India’s Last Golden Age, New Delhi: Penguin, 2007.
Kushyār Ibn Labbān: Introduction to astrology, ed. and transl. by Michio Yano, Tokyo: Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, 1997.
Māshā’allāh Ibn Asari: The astrological history of Māshā’allāh, ed. E. S. Kennedy and David Pingree. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1971.
A. Azfar Moin: “Challenging the Mughal Emperor: The Islamic Millennium according to ʿAbd al‑Qadir Badayuni”, in Metcalf, Barbara: Islam in South Asia in Practice, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.
Eva Orthmann: “Circular Motions: Private Pleasure and Public Prognostication in the Nativities of the Mughal Emperor Akbar,” in: Günther Oestmann, H. Darrel Rutkin, and Kocku von Stuckrad (ed.): Horoscopes and Public Spheres, Essays on the History of Astrology, Berlin: de Gruyter, 2005, pp. 101–114.

Stephan Popp, Institut für Iranistik, Vienna (email: stephan.popp@oeaw.ac.at)

– See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2015/01/akbars-horoscopes.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29#sthash.7GWm9kTY.dpuf

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True story of Mughal emperor who built Taj Mahal makes London debut Staging of Dara by Shahid Nadeem is first time the National has adapted an original south Asian production for a British audience

By Petersen

Thursday 29 January 2015 07.00 GMT

The story of Dara, the newest production to take to the boards at the National Theatre, is one that begins thousands of miles away from the concrete jungle of London’s South Bank.

It is a play that made its debut four years ago in the Pakistani city of Lahore, before being seen in Karachi, Islamabad and all across India.

It dramatises the true story of Shah Jehan, the Mughal emperor famous for building the Taj Mahal, and the victory of his radical elder son Aurangzeb over his moderate and liberal younger brother, Dara Shikoh, to succeed him.

It is a unique production for the National to stage, the first time it has taken an original South Asian production and both translated and adapted it for a British audience.

Dara review – epic drama depicts battling sons of man who built Taj Mahal
3 / 5 stars
The fascinating story of a 17th-century power struggle in the Mughal empire feels like a slightly earnest history lesson, writes Michael Billington
Read more
The journey of collaboration between the Pakistani playwright Shahid Nadeem, his theatre company Ajoka and the National took four years to complete.

The decision to stage the production came out of series of discussions inspired by the controversy and accusations of racism and racial stereotyping levelled at the theatre’s 2009 play England People Very Nice, written by Richard Bean.

It was here that Anwar Akhtar, founder of the online platform the Samosa – which facilitates cooperation and discussions between Britain and Pakistan and the British Pakistani community – brought the work of Ajoka theatre company, and particularly Dara, to the attention of the National’s director, Nicholas Hytner.

Taking an interest in the compelling and very current narrative of a moment for Pakistan and India when the seeds of partition were first sown, and the resulting religious schism which still reverberates today, Hytner commissioned for the play to be translated from Urdu and performed at the National.
Plan your week’s theatre: top tickets
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“It was a very brave commission by the National, and I think it is a moment of key cultural significance,” said Akhtar, who acted as a consultant for the production.

“Britain has two million descendants of partition, so this represents so much of our British Asian communities’ own history and still has such relevance today.

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“This idea that there is one overarching, overbearing school of Islam is not the reality and crucially this play explores this multiplicity of the history of Islam.

“Dara does what all great history plays do which is entertain, educate and inform us about our past but also our present.”

For the acclaimed Pakistani playwright Nadeem, Dara is a play that holds much more than simply entertainment value.

It is central to his work as a campaigner for human rights and justice in Pakistan from the 1960s, which left him exiled for over 20 years.

Indeed, grappling with disputes between the Salafi and Sufi forms of Islam, and exploring the extremist mullah ideology, it is a play that does not shy away from the issues currently overshadowing much of both the Arab and Asian Muslim world.

“It is as much about contemporary debate in the Muslim world as it is about events of 300 years ago,” said Nadeem.

“For Pakistan and south Asia, history is not just history – it is also present and it is also future because history affects us so overwhelmingly.

“All of the present problems, they all owe their origins to the creation of Pakistan and to Indian-Hindu-Muslim heritage which actually took a very significant turn during the times of the events of Dara and which is the focus of this play.

“So for us, Aurangzeb is not just a character from history but he is also the role model and prototype of the present day fundamentalist Taliban – he is still regarded by Islamic extremists as an icon.

“In the history books in Pakistan, it is the Aurangzeb version of history which is projected and Dara has been relegated to a footnote.

“So we are trying to reclaim our heroes and rectify the distortion of our history. This play was a part of that.”

The journey to adapt and translate Dara took writer Tanya Ronder and director Nadia Fall to Lahore and across Pakistan and India, first to see the play in its original incarnation and then to visit the historical sites of Mughal India at the heart of the tale.

The play has been an enormous success in both India and Pakistan, a fact Nadeem put down to particularly Pakistani audiences being “starved of meaningful and politically engaged entertainment on stage”.

In a political climate of extremism, he said audiences had revelled in the more humanistic and more embracing depiction of Islam.

Nadeem recalled the reaction of Ronder and Fall when they watched the first performance of Dara in Lahore, complete with an enthusiastic and vocal Pakistani audience.

“They were amazed to see how the audience were very much of the play,” he said.

“They were participating and punctuating the performance with loud applause and shouting, showing what they believed and what they have always wanted to be expressed but have never been given the chance.

“It is very different to the National Theatre audiences, so I think it was quite a shock for them.”

The process of adapting the play for a British audience unfamiliar with the story and ensuring the translation stayed true both to the story and the sensitivities around the issues of Islam was not without its challenges, said Nadeem.

“In Pakistan we do not differentiate between different genres, so for us dance and music and comedy and tragedy are all part of our theatrical experience, whereas the National’s production is more Shakespearean in nature, with families, and sibling rivalries.

“But the sense of the play, the structure of the play, the story are all the same and universal in theme.”

Nadeem said he was thrilled to be able to bring to the west an accurate insight into the history of Islam and break away from negative western stereotypes of extremism, violence and fundamentalism.

“No play written in the contemporary context will be as relevant and as contemporary as Dara is, because all the issues which began 300 years ago are still unfortunately unresolved,” he said.

“In many Muslim countries the state or the rulers are still actively promoting extremism and violence and prejudice and this hatred for all non-Muslims.

“And the fight against Islamic extremism, either in the west or in the Muslim countries from Isis or Boko Haram or al-Qaida or the Taliban, is as important for Muslims as it is in the west, so they are a common enemy.

“In that way it is good to understand the real spirit of Islam and how the lessons of history can enable us both to fight this battle and win this battle.”

• Dara will run at the Lyttelton Theatre at the National Theatre until 4 April 2015

The Conference of Birds: Beautifully Illustrated Story of Belonging Based on an Ancient Sufi Poem

by

What a hopeful hoopoe bird has to do with the deepest truths of the human condition.

As a lover of children’s books with timelessphilosophy for grown-ups and of obscure children’s books by famous authors of adult literature, I find it a rare delight to stumble upon an inversion of sorts — poetic books for grown-ups by beloved authors of children’s literature. Such is the case of The Conference of the Birds(public library) by the celebrated and prolific Czech-born children’s writer and illustrator Peter Sís — a lyrical, heartwarming adaptation of the classic 12th-century Sufi epic poem of the same title. The story unfolds in a landscape reminiscent of the sentimental cartographyworld: Thirty birds, led by the hoopoe, set out on a journey across the seven valleys of Quest, Love, Understanding, Detachment, Unity, Amazement, and Death in a quest to find their true king, Simorgh.

At its heart, it’s a story about belonging and homecoming to the deepest of inner certitude as the avian heroes, drawn from all species, perish and persevere on their momentous quest, only to find at the end that Simorgh is, in fact, each of them and all of them — a beautiful allegory of a beautiful human truth to which Sís’s soft yet evocative illustrations add delicate dimension.

Birds!
Look at the troubles happening in our world!
Anarchy — discontent — upheaval!
Desperate fights over territory, water, and food!
Poisoned air! Unhappiness!
I fear we are lost. We must do something!
I’wve seen the world. I know many secrets.
Listen to me: I know of a king who has all the answers.
We must go and find him.

http://www.brainpickings.org/2012/05/01/the-conference-of-birds-a-lyrical-story-of-belonging-based-on-an-ancient-sufi-poem/

Bazm and Razm Feast and Fight in Persian Art February 17–May 31, 2015

Two folios from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp

Details from two folios from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp. Iran, Safavid period, ca. 1525–30. Opaque watercolor, ink, gold, and silver on paper. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., 1970 (1970.301.9 and 1970.301.15)

The exhibition is made possible by The Hagop Kevorkian Fund.

Bazm and Razm

Feast and Fight in Persian Art

February 17–May 31, 2015

Purchase advance tickets to avoid waiting in admission lines. Exhibitions are free with Museum admission.

For centuries, Persian kingship was epitomized by two complementary pursuits: bazm (feast) and razm (fight). The ruler’s success as both a reveler and hunter/warrior distinguished him as a worthy and legitimate sovereign. The pairing of bazm and razm as the ultimate royal activities is an ancient concept with roots in pre-Islamic Iran. It is a recurring theme in the Shahnama (or Book of Kings)—the Persian national epic—as well as other poetic and historic texts.

This exhibition will feature some three dozen works of art in various media, created between the fifteenth century and the present day. Works from the Museum’s Department of Islamic Art that illustrate the linked nature of bazm and razm will be displayed alongside corresponding works—primarily Persian—from the departments of Asian Art, Arms and Armor, and Musical Instruments. The exhibition will chart the gradual shift in meaning and usage of this pairing as it emerged from a strictly royal, or princely, context and became more widespread.

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2015/bazm-and-razm

The Spirit of Indian Painting by BN Goswamy review – an out-and-out masterpiece

A book that recovers and celebrates entire dynasties of forgotten painters will rank among the greatest works on Indian art ever written
William Dalrymple
Saturday 24 January 2015 12.00 GMT

Sometime in the late 18th century an Indian painter, clearly frustrated with his patron, scribbled a small prayer in the margins of a manuscript on which he was working: “Protect me O Lord, from oil, from water, from fire and from poor binding,” he wrote. “And save me from falling into the hands of a fool.”

Most historians of Indian art have tended to look at their subject from the point of view of the patron. The great master bronzes of southern India are known after their Pallava and Chola patrons; the most accomplished court miniatures, such as the Padshahnama of Shah Jahan, tend to be seen through the prism of the Mughals who commissioned them. The patronage of individual rulers – the emperor Jahangir, Ibrahim Adil Shahi II of Bijapur, Maharaja Man Singh of Jodhpur – are the subject of detailed academic studies and exhibitions. But until recently, few scholars have attempted to look at the production of Indian art from the point of view of the artists who actually held the brushes and burnished the paper.

There is a reason for this: very little evidence survives to illuminate the lives of Indian artists. In particular, there is no Indian Vasari providing the kind of detail that has illuminated lives of the artists of the Renaissance: the hot-blooded womanising of Fra Angelico, say, or Uccello’s passion for geometry. All we have to go on is a series of minute inscriptions, often hidden in the details of paintings, sometimes in a deliberately humble position: the Mughal master Abu’l Hasan, who won from Jahangir the title Nadir al-Zaman, “wonder of the times”, deliberately chose to sign his name on the spade used to clear up the dung of his patron’s elephant.

Raja Balwant Singh's Hunt by Nainsukh Mughal Painting of Raja Balwant Singh Performing Puja Jammu Pahari

BN Goswamy, the highly respected historian of Indian painting, has been trying for nearly five decades to look down the other end of the art historical telescope. Like an Indian avatar of Bernard Berenson, who dug in the Tuscan Ducal archives to unearth the bills of exchange between the artists and patrons that would enable him toprovide attributions to a host of anonymous canvases, Goswamy has succeeded in reconstructing whole dynasties of previously obscure artists, given them names, and restored their identities and honour.

This is no easy task: many painters came from the humble carpenter caste, in ancient India ranked alongside lowly musicians and dancing girls. There survives in the Jahangir album, now in Berlin, a heartbreaking self-portrait of the Mughal master painter Keshav Das coming in old age to beg for assistance from his former patron. The old artist shows himself ragged, hollow-chested, bowed and emaciated. In his hands he holds a petition to the emperor who had once numbered him among the greatest talents of his court – but before the old man can present himself, a lathi-weilding attendant advances on him, stick raised, driving him back. In a similar mood, a moving letter found by Goswamy was written by the 18th-century painter Shiba asking his patron Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra for permission to return home, “for your humble servant here has fallen on bad days. Your servant has been living on debts, but now no one will give him a loan. He is helpless and goes without food.”

In 1968, Goswamy wrote a ground-breaking article, “Pahari Painting: The Family as the Basis of Style”. Employing a combination of detective work and intuition, he managed to marry the evidence from inscriptions on the back of miniatures with 18th-century pilgrim records kept in the Ganges holy town of Haridwar. In this way he reconstructed the entire family network of arguably the greatest of all Indian painter families: that of Pandit Seu and his sons, Nainsukh and Manaku, as well as their numerous artist grandchildren.

Mughal Painting of Raja Balwant Singh Performing Puja Jammu Pahari c1750
Detail of a Mughal painting of Raja Balwant Singh Performing Puja Jammu Pahari, c1750. Photograph: Stapleton Collection/Corbis
He then showed how many members of the family shared a common style, and that their mobility between different noblemen effectively made nonsense of the existing system of categorising miniatures by courts and patrons. What was important, Goswamy made clear, was not where a particular painting was produced, or who paid the bills, but which artist, or family of artists, was holding the brush. Court styles could vary hugely, depending on who was at work; but families had recognisable techniques and stylistic idiosyncrasies.

Since then Goswamy has been working at reconstructing the lives first of the painters of the Punjab hills, and then of those elsewhere in India. The culmination of his work was the Master Painters of India show three years ago, which travelled from Zurich to New York and which amounted to a dramatic re-evaluation of the human and biographical reality behind Indian painting.

Now, in The Spirit of Indian Painting – a book that is in many ways the summation of Goswamy’s whole career – he tries to get inside the heads of those artists, to understand what made them paint the way they did, how they came to choose their iconography and what were the daily circumstances of their lives.

The process was painstaking. As Goswamy writes, we are dealing with “a world of silence in which one has to strain very hard to pick up whispers from the past … a layered world that does not reveal all its treasures immediately … One has to fall back on one’s own resources … to piece things together, the willingness to construct a narrative, the imagination to flesh it out … One needs to make an effort to receive from these paintings all the riches that reside within.” But if we strain hard, he says, it is still possible to “feel the breath of those times – even if lightly – upon our skin”, and so gain access to the highest state of pure aesthetic pleasure – to experience what Indian aesthetic theory describes as romaharshana, meaning literally: “the hair on my body has become happy”.

In the Hindu scriptures, “time moves in a cyclical fashion, making bends and loops, turning back on itself”. As a result, the art of the Hindu courts, and even more that of the Mughals, often shows the same figure appearing more than once in the same frame; this indicates that the artists are “completely at home with the notion of time as manipulable and elusive”.

We follow Goswamy into the workshops of his painters as they collect their materials – brushes made from a single hair from a calf’s ear or a squirrel’s tail – or as they grind their pigments from Afghan lapis, saffron derived from the flower of the palash tree (which later gave its name to the battle of Plassey) or the gaogoli yellow, concocted from the urine of cows fed on mango leaves. Goswamy also carefully teaches us the difference between paintings produced in the family workshops of the Rajput or Pahari courts, where the artists worked at home and all generations lent a hand, and that of the Mughal ateliers, where the best talent from across the empire was deployed under the strict discipline of a master ustad.

As with any sweeping survey, there are insights one can quibble with, here perhaps the lack of space Goswamy gives to India’s rich tradition of mural painting, which is dismissed in a single paragraph: this is a book exclusively about works on paper. His distinction between the Rajput and Mughal ateliers is too absolute – later Mughal master artists such as Ghulam Ali Khan, while proudly calling themselves “palace born”, had the freedom to travel around Hindustan taking commissions from other nobles and East India Company officials. These were men who went where they pleased. Equally, the suggestion that even the grandest Mughal painters were sometimes treated as chattels is countered by their own self-portraits: Jahangir’s beloved master painter, Govardhan, for example, portrayed himself as an eager, sharp-eyed and intelligent young man with raffishly long sideburns and a carefully trimmed moustache, an immaculate white jama and dashing black cape. Govardhan knew he was the crown prince’s protege, and proudly depicted himself as such.

Yet these are small matters. Old age, Goswamy writes, referring to a specific Mughal portrait of an old man, is often a time when “the meaning of things begins to dimly unfold”. Certainly the historian, now in his 80s, has never been more prolific, lectured so brilliantly or written so well. The Spirit of Indian Painting is that rarity: an out-and-out masterpiece, and will undoubtedly come to be looked on as one of the greatest books ever written on Indian art.

• William Dalrymple’s most recent book, Return of a King: An Indian Army in Afghanistan, is out in paperback from Bloomsbury.

• The Spirit of Indian Painting is published by Allen Lane India

Art. My East is Your West. Artists from India and Pakistan at Venice Biennale 2015

Art. My East is Your West. Artists from India and Pakistan at Venice Biennale 2015

Art. The Gujral Foundation presents My East is Your West. Artists from India and Pakistan collaborate for Venice Biennale 2015. 5 May – 31 October 2015.

Official Collateral Event of the 56th International Art Exhibition – Venice Biennale 2015. Shilpa Gupta (India) and Rashid Rana (Pakistan).

New Delhi, 21 January 2015: The Gujral Foundation is delighted to announce My East is Your West, an official collateral event of the 56th International Art Exhibition – Venice Biennale, which unites for the first time at the Biennale the historically conflicting nations of India and Pakistan in a collaborative exhibition by artists from both countries.

Internationally recognised artists Shilpa Gupta (India) and Rashid Rana (Pakistan) will work together on a shared presentation located in the Palazzo Benzon, in the centre of Venice on the Grand Canal. As neither India nor Pakistan have a permanent national pavilion at the Venice Biennale, this presentation will provide a unique platform for artists from the Indian subcontinent to enter into a dialogue through the arts. My East is Your West is conceived by Feroze Gujral, Director and Founder of The Gujral Foundation, with Natasha Ginwala as Curatorial Advisor and Curator of Public Programming. The Gujral Foundation have partnered with the Fondazione Antonio Mazzotta on the project with Head Curator, Martina Mazzotta, programming collateral events in Italy.

The Gujral Foundation will be presenting a discussion about their project for the 56th Venice Biennale ‘My East is Your West’ at the YES Bank Spotlight Series at the upcoming 7th edition of India Art Fair 2015 on 30 January 2015 at 3.30pm. The speakers for this session are Feroze Gujral (Founder & Director, The Gujral Foundation), Shilpa Gupta (Artist, India), Rashid Rana (Artist, Pakistan) and Natasha Ginwala (Curatorial Advisor and Curator of Public Programming).

Born out of the desire to reposition the complex climate of historical relations between the South Asian nation-states of India and Pakistan, My East is Your West will present these two countries as a singular region within the context of the Venice Biennale. The thought of how the world would have been different had India and Pakistan not been measured by borders lies dormant but is ever present. In view of their practices, and as one artist from each country, Gupta and Rana have been invited to work together to create a unique presentation that will express the integral essence of a people divided, a history which spans antiquity, colonial modernity and a cosmopolitan present entangled in conflict.

This journey towards conceiving a shared platform in Venice builds on the artists’ concerns to negotiate between the individual and the communal in relation to the ‘everyday’ experiences of collective consciousness. Within their practices both artists explore notions of location and dislocation, transnational belonging, and the impact of cultural and political conditioning in determining our relationship to geographical and national territories. With works that challenge the modern nation-state and its divides, Gupta and Rana have developed a material aesthetic that surveys the potential of a common region, separate from the state and its model.

Feroze Gujral (Founder & Director, The Gujral Foundation) comments:

“Whilst we share a common history, we have a divided present. We are now working together for a more collaborative future.”

http://yareah.com/2015/01/21/art-east-west-artists-india-pakistan-venice-biennale-2015/