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The 81.5 x 68 cm kalamkari coverlet shows an India of 1630 — more cosmopolitan than what one would expect. Dressed in Persian attire, the Deccani king is seated in his opulent palace, accepting wine from a woman in a European hat. He has around him, men who appear to be from different parts of the word, from West to South East Asia, painted in floral surroundings. The detail has a yogi inspecting a pineapple.
“Pineapple was the new thing those days, introduced to the Indians by the Portugese,” shares Preeti Bahadur. The art historian has displayed the 375-year-old artwork as one of the central pieces in the exhibition “Nauras: The Many Arts of the Deccan” curated by her and
Dr Kavita Singh of Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Comprising 120 objects, this celebrates the rather neglected Deccani advances in music and the arts, which had an influence on Indian art in the north as well. The six themes — Deccani Cosmopolitanism, The Singing Sultans, Perfume in the Deccani Garden, The Mughal Presence in the Deccan, Out of the Deccan: Trade Goods made in Deccan, Royal Lineages and Ideal Kings — cover almost 400 years of exquisite paintings, manuscripts, metal ware, textiles and arms among others.
If Al-Buraq (1770-75), a marbled painting from Bijapur, has Rustom —the hero of the Persian epic Shah-nama —capturing the horse Raksh, in another section there is documentation of huqqa bases made of bidri ware that were a speciality of the Deccan — in silver, gold and inlaid in zinc alloy — and sent to the North. An embroidered temple hanging from Vijayanagara has Ram and Sita seated on the throne for coronation.
Also in attendance are sages and gods. “The iconography of Ram, Sita, Brahma and Indra follow pan-Indian models. But the Narasimha evokes local tradition,” says Singh, explaining how the real tales are in the details.
The exhibition at National Museum, Janpath, Rajpath Road Area, is on till March 20. Contact: 23792775