Port of Surat
Port of Surat
Folio - 3 from an illustrated manuscript of Anis-al-Hajjaj.
This is the earliest illustrated and complete manuscript of Anis-al-Hajjaj. There are two other manuscripts– one in the Raza Library at Rampur and the other, belonging to the mid 19th century, in the British Library, London.
Anis-al-Haj or Anis-ul-Hajjaj is a travelogue by Safi bin Vali Qazvin who was patronized by Zeb-un-Nisa, the daughter of Aurangzeb who sent him to perform the Haj. The author embarked on his journey in 1676 A.D. and on his return he meticulously recorded the details of the preparations and the journey in this travelogue.
The manuscript has twenty eight paintings, illustrating various episodes of the journey. It starts with the map of the Port of Surat from where he boarded the ship to Jeddah.
The paintings depict topographic details in illustrations of important locations, and interesting details in the depiction of gatherings, processions, and other scenes. This may lead us to surmise that the artist may have some reference by way of drawings for him to be able to paint these so vividly.
This illustration depicts the port of Surat in a conventional style. The fort on the bank of the river Tapti was repaired over and over again by the Mughal kings including Emperor Akbar. The inner fortification, with four bastions, was the central area of activity during the 16th to the 18th century, till the Bombay harbour was developed. Three masted ships are anchored on the bank with life boats. The highly stylized sails appear almost like balloons. The Hajis or the Haj pilgrims are lined up on the upper deck. The ships seem to have special cabins at the stern. The fort wall around the city, may not have been a perfect rectangle as is shown here, though the six gates are authentic. The city had a special jetty for the ships travelling to the Haj known as the Makka Ovaro, a place which is still in existence. The artist seems quite familiar with the harbour and the surrounding areas. The six gates starting from the left are named Majura, Navsari, Sara, Variavi, Burhanpur and Bharuch.
The composition of the paintings, their draughtsmanship, the use of colours and the costumes– all these reveal affinity with the Deccani style of painting.
The colophon gives some information about the book. It says: “The treatise named Anis-al-Hajjaj by the hand of the weak servant Safi, son of Vali Al-Qazwini and it was arranged and written in port of Surat on his return from the visit to the holy Kaba and the holy city of Madina. Its scribe is the poor Alaptageen. Ameen.”
Another manuscript of Anis-al-Hajjaj is preserved in the Raza Library, Rampur.
Indian Miniature Paintings
Opaque watercolour on paper
Dated A.H. 1087= 1666 CE
Painting: 22.2 x 34.9 cms, Folio: 22.5 x 39.5 cms.