On Contemporary Extremism and Cultural Oppression

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In Medieval times, discrete attempts to diverge from authoritative ideology were tolerated by the Islamic ruling class for art’s sake, fostering a more liberal and independent society of artists. With the emergence of ISIS, we witness the complete suppression of critical thought and freedom of thinking

by Arielle Blattner
Graphic designer and MA Student of Islamic Art

As long as there have been religions, there have been sects. As long as there have been religions and sects, there have been vicious wars between sects. No matter which division, the proclamation of faith written on the flag of ISIS lā ilāha illā allāh (“There is no god but Allah”) is the same phrase written on Islamist medieval coins since the 8th century, and continues to be seen on the flag of ISIS. In addition to spreading Islam being the main goal of these regimes, the suppression of free thought (whether non-muslim…

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The Conferences of the Birds

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The encounter between fashion design and a mystical Persian poem: Conversation with Moroccan fashion designer Said Mahrouf

Interview

The Conference of the Birds, also known as The Language of the Birds is certainly the most celebrated work of the twelfth-century Persian poet, Farid al-Din Attar.
It tells the story of a flock of birds that set out to seek their king and god, the Simurgh. Only thirty of them survive the perilous path, on which they traverse seven dangerous valleys and reach their ultimate destination: a lake. There they see their image mirrored in the water and recognize themselves as the very god they were seeking.This mystical poem clearly lends itself to numerous interpretations and, even if the author is not himself a Sufi,, the tale is full of Sufi references and meaning.
The mystical and evocative nature of the plot has its visual counterpart in an exceptional medieval…

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A History of Mughal Cuisine through Cookbooks from The Heritage Lab

544322_10151555158737139_1234962013_nPreparation of betel for the Sultan Ghiyath al-Din, from The Ni'matnama-i Nasir al-Din Shah, 1495-1505 (opaque w/c on paper)from The Ni'matnama-i Nasir al-Din Shah, 1495-1505 (opaque w/c on paper)coffee_route_06_0h_sp2l_same_size_seq_or_stack_photo_2_of_4_high_res_bl_751430_mincing__lg-1024x714i_sp2l_same_size_seq_or_stack_photo_3_of_4_high_res_bl_751422_detail_c_lg-800x445j_sp2l_same_size_seq_or_stack_photo_4_of_4_high_res_bl_751431_2_lg-1024x527o_sp4l_high_res_bl_751431_sherbet_detail3_smshah-tahmasp-i-and-mughal-emperor-humayun-meet-mural-chehel-sotoun-palace-isfahansweetsa70459bc-b17d-4140-8df6-f16ebdd9600egoldspoonmughal

On any given weekend, my head is usually occupied with the thoughts of food. The taste buds have been working over time for a year now – ever since I started following my friend Richa’s amazing food stories. Turns out that Kings and Royalty had a thing for food too. The cookbooks of Akbar, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb give us an idea of the history of Mughal cuisine. Apart from royal food, you also get to look into their kitchen! For instance, the Ain-i-Akbari mentions that during the reign of Akbar, there was a Minister for Kitchen! He had his own budget, an independent accounts department and ran an army of cooks, tasters, attendants, bearers and other sundry designations. It is true – there was a time when people really lived to eat (and life sounded like Harry Potter books)!

More: http://www.theheritagelab.in/mughal-recipe-history/

Nasir Shah’s Book of Delights from the British Library Blog

To celebrate our new series of South Asian seminars and especially the focus on food with Neha Vermani’s talk this evening Mughals on the menu: A probe into the culinary world of the Mughal eliteI thought I would write about our most ʻfoodyʼ Persian manuscript, the only surviving copy of the Niʻmatnāmah-i Nāṣirshāhī (Nasir Shah’s Book of Delights) written for Sultan Ghiyas al-Din Khilji (r.1469-1500) and completed by his son Nasir al-Din Shah (r.1500-1510). We are planning to digitise this manuscript in the near future but meanwhile I hope some of these recipes will whet your appetite.

 

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More: http://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2016/11/nasir-shahs-book-of-delights.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

A stitch in time – Chester Beatty Blog

Chester Beatty Conservation

In August this year, a digitisation team from Ritsumeikan University’s Art Research Centre in Japan will travel to the Chester Beatty in order to digitise our Japanese printed book collection. The collection includes more than one hundred woodblock-printed illustrated books from the Edo period (c. 1603–1868). International collaborations with teams such as this one are key to enabling digital access to our collections, which in turn reduces the need to handle these objects so frequently ensuring their preservation.

A short condition survey of the selected items was carried out which highlighted a number of volumes with damaged and weakened sewing. As the sewing of these bindings is integral to their structure, it was essential that we carry out repairs to make the bindings suitable for handling during the digitisation process.

The fragmentary sewing was reinforced with lengths of new soft linen thread. This was joined to the existing silk or…

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Jainism in the early 19th Century: Drawings from the Mackenzie Collection by Jennifer Howes, Independent Art Historian from The British Library Blog

The British Library holds over a thousand Jain manuscripts, most of which were collected in the 19thCentury, by Indologists and East India Company officials. In a recent blog, Pasquale Manzo, the British Library’s Sanskrit curator, gives an overview of these manuscripts, and news that 33 of them have been digitised.

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One of the collectors mentioned in this previous blog is Colin Mackenzie, the first Surveyor General of India. There are 21 Jain manuscripts, 18 of which are palm leaf manuscripts from Karnataka’s Digambara tradition, in the British Library’s Mackenzie Collection.

More: http://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2016/07/jainism-in-the-early-19th-century.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

 

The Sixteen Sacred Lands of Buddhism, San San May, Curator for Burmese, British Library

Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was brought up to become a king, but he left his life of great comfort after encountering the ‘four signs’: an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and an ascetic. After six years of hardship, working to find the right spiritual path, he attained his ‘Great Enlightenment’, and became the Buddha. During the following forty-five years of his mission until he passed into Mahaparinirvana (the state of reaching the end of suffering) at the age of eighty, the Buddha walked widely throughout the northern districts of India, delivering his teachings to thebhikkhus (Buddhist monks) and laity in the places that he visited. The sixteen lands where he spent time during his long ministry can be found illustrated in many Burmese Buddhist cosmology manuscripts.

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Shown below is a depiction of the sixteen sacred lands in a Burmese folding-book paper manuscript. The Buddha is seated in Bhumisparsa mudra (earth-touching posture) on a throne under the Bodhi tree at the centre. Around him are depicted the sixteen lands, with indications of the distances between the centre and each of these regions, varying from one day to two months of travel. The sixteen lands are labelled (clockwise from the top) Mithila, Sankassa, Jetuttara, Takkasila, Savatti, Kosambi, Kalinga, Mudu, Koliya, Kapilavastu, Campa, Varanasi, Rajagaha, Vesali, Pataliputta, and Pava.

More: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2016/07/the-sixteen-sacred-lands-of-buddhism.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29