An Assembly of Dervishes
Jahangir inherited Akbar’s interest in sadhus and saints, sufis and dervishes. He is recorded to have visited sufis and dervishes, presented books to the sheikhs in Gujarat and got his artists to document his meetings with them in their paintings. He also had them portrayed on different occasions. Practice of depicting holy men in paintings continued even after Jahangir, probably due to Dara Shiko’s interest in philosophy.
The painting seems to be the left side page of a double spread illustration in an album. The right side or the facing page would probably be a depiction of a holy place in front of which the dervishes are praying. There are two principle figures– a bearded sheikh dressed in a white cassock and a striped garment over it, whereas a shaven-headed dervish in full green gown is seated with a yoga patta. Both of them are engrossed in deep prayer for the mercy of God. The other figures are looking on attentively probably at a scene which must have been illustrated on the opposite page. These five seated figures, three of whom have a book with them, are dressed in different coloured garments breaking the monotony of the bare background. A young lad, standing behind, curiously looking at the scene in front, must be an attendant or a follower of one of the dervishes. A man seated right near the red railing has a fruit basket in his hand probably brought as an offering. There is an atmosphere of gloom, may be an hour of trial, for which God’s intervention is sought. Plain vast spaces covering almost half the painting on top expresses humbleness of man before the immensity of the Infinite whose mercy is prayed for.
The name of the artist Hunhar is inscribed at the bottom left corner of the painting. The Qita in Nastaliq on the reverse is written in Persian. It is designed by the famous calligrapher of Akbar’s court, Muhammad Hussain Ali Kashmiri. Praising his calligraphy, Abul Fazl writes, “ The artist who in the shadow of the throne of his Majesty, has become been honoured with a title of Zarin Qalam, a gold pen. He surpassed his master Maulana Abd-Al-Aziz in Maddat (enclosures) and the Dawair (curvatures) show proper proportion in each other and art critic considered him equal to Mulla Mir Aziz.”
From the Muraqqa of Nana Phadnis.
Indian Miniature Paintings
Opaque watercolour on paper
1620 –1630 CE
Full page: 35 x 55.8 cms. Painting: 14.6 x 22.8 cms.