Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tomb of Itimad ud Daula

The emperor Akbar (1556–1605) built largely, and the style developed robustly during his reign. As in the Gujarat and other styles, there is a combination of Muslim and Hindu features in his works. Akbar constructed the royal city of Fatehpur Sikri, located 26 miles (42 km) west of Agra, in the late 16th century.

The various structures at Fatehpur Sikri best illustrate the style of his works, and the great mosque there is scarcely matched in elegance and architectural effect; the south gateway which is known as Boland Darwaza, from its size and structure excels any similar entrance in India.

The Mughals built impressive tombs, which include the fine tomb of Akbar's father Humayun, and Akbar's tomb at Sikandra, near Agra, which is a unique structure of the kind and of great merit.

Under Jahangir (1605–1627) the Hindu features vanished from the style; his great mosque at Lahore is in the Persian style, covered with enamelled tiles. 

At Agra, the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula completed in 1628, built entirely of white marble and covered wholly by pietra dura mosaic, is one of the most splendid examples of that class of ornamentation anywhere to be found. Jahangir also built the Shalimar Gardens and its accompanying pavilions on the shore of Dal Lake in Kashmir. He also built a monument to his pet deer, Hiran Minar in Sheikhupura, Pakistan and due to his great love for his wife, after his death she went on to build his mausoleum in Lahore.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb

In the time of Shah Jahan, the Deccan had been controlled by three Muslim kingdoms: Ahmednagar (Nizams), Bijapur (Adilshahi) and Golconda (Qutbshahi). Following a series of battles, Ahmednagar was effectively separated, with large portions of the kingdom ceded to the Mughal and the balance to Bijapur. One of Ahmednagar's generals, a Hindu Maratha named Shahaji, joined the Bijapur court. Shahaji sent his wife Jijabai and young son Shivaji in Pune to look after his Jaggier.

In 1657, while Aurangzeb attacked Golconda and Bijapur, Shivaji, using guerrilla tactics, took control of three Adilshahi forts formerly controlled by his father. With these victories, Shivaji assumed de facto leadership of many independent Maratha clans. The Marathas harried the flanks of the warring Adilshahi and Mughals, gaining weapons, forts, and territories. Shivaji small and ill-equipped army survived an all out Adilshahi attack, and Shivaji personally killed the Adilshahi general, Afzal Khan. With this event, the Marathas transformed into a powerful military force, capturing more and more Adilshahi and Mughal territories.

Just before Shivaji Raje's his coronation in 1659, Aurangzeb sent his trusted general and maternal uncle Shaista Khan the Mughal Viceroy to the Deccan to recover lost forts occupied by the Maratha rebels. Shaista Khan drove into Maratha territory and took up residence in Pune. In a daring raid, Shivaji attacked the governor's residence in Pune during a midnight wedding celebration. The Marathas killed Shaista Khan's son, even hacking off most of Shaista Khan's hand. Shaista Khan however barely survived and was re-appointed as the administrator of Bengal and was a key commander in the war against the Ahoms.

Aurangzeb ignored the rise of the Marathas for the next few years as he was occupied with other religious and political matters including the rise of Sikhism. Shivaji captured forts belonging to both Mughals and Bijapur. 

At last Aurangzeb sent his powerful general Raja Jai Singh of Amber, a Hindu Rajput, to attack the Marathas. Jai Singh won fort of Purandar after fierce battle in which the Maratha commander Murarbaji fell. Foreseeing defeat, Shivaji agreed for a truce and meeting Aurangjeb at Delhi. Jai Singh also promised the Maratha hero his safety, placing him under the care of his own son, the future Raja Ram Singh I. 

However, circumstances at the Mughal court were beyond the control of the Raja, and when Shivaji and his son Sambhaji went to Agra to meet Aurangzeb, they were placed under house arrest, from which they managed to effect a daring escape.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Akbar Religious Policy

Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, also known as Shahanshah Akbar-e-Azam or Akbar the Great (15 October 1542 – 27 October 1605, was the third Mughal Emperor. He was of Timurid descent; the son of Humayun, and the grandson of Babur, the ruler who founded the Mughal dynasty in India. At the end of his control in 1605 the Mughal Empire enclosed most of the northern and central India and was one of the most powerful empires of its age.

Akbar, as well as his mother and other members of his family, are believed to have been Sunni Hanafi Muslims. His early days were spent in the backdrop of an atmosphere in which liberal sentiments were encouraged and spiritual narrow-mindednness was frowned upon. From the 15th century, a number of rulers in various parts of the country adopted a more liberal policy of religious tolerance, attempting to further communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims.

 These sentiments were further encouraged by the teachings of popular saints like Guru Nanak, Kabir and Chaitanya, the verses of the Persian poet Hafez which advocated human sympathy and a liberal outlook, as well as the Timurid ethos of religious broadmindedness that persisted in the polity right from the times of Timur to Humayun, and influenced Akbar's policy of tolerance in matters of religion.

One of Akbar's first actions after gaining actual control of the administration was the elimination of jizya, a tax which all non-Muslims were required to pay, in 1562. The tax was reinstated in 1575, a move which has been viewed as being representative of vigorous Islamic policy, but was again repealed in 1580.

Akbar adopted the Sulh-e-Kul concept of Sufism as official policy, integrated many Hindus into high positions in the administration, and unconcerned restrictions on non-Muslims, thereby bringing about a composite and diverse character to the nobility. As a mark of his respect for all religions, he ordered the observance of all religious festivals of different communities in the imperial court.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Iranian Paintings

There are nearly numerous numbers of traditional teahouses throughout Iran, and each region features its own unique cultural presentation of this ancient tradition. However, there are certain character which is common to all teahouses, especially the most visible aspects, strong chai (tea) and the ever-present ghalyan hookah.

Almost all teahouses serve baqleh, steam boiled fava beans (in the pod), served with salt and vinegar, as well as a variety of desserts and pastries. Many teahouses also serve full meals, typically a variety of kebabs as well as regional specialties.

Throughout the history of Persia, both men and women used make-up, wore jewellery and colored their body parts. Moreover, their garments were both detailed and colorful. Rather than being marked by gender, clothing styles were distinguished by class and status.

Women in modern Iran (post 1935 "Persia") are of various mixes and appearances, both in fashion and social norm. Traditionally however, the "Persian woman" had a pre-defined appearance set by social norms that were the standard for all women in society.

The Persian ladies' hair is very luxuriant and never cut. It is nearly always dyed red, or with indigo to a blue-black tinge. It is naturally a glossy black. Fair hair is not esteemed. Blue eyes are not uncommon, but brown ones are the rule.

A full moon face is much admired, and a dark complexion is the native idea of the highest beauty. The eyebrows are widened and painted until they appear to meet, and color is used freely in painting the faces.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Scrovegni Chapel

Giotto's most famous works are the mural paintings in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. These were painted sometime between 1303 and 1310. The Scrovegni Chapel is frequently called the Arena Chapel because it is on the site of a Roman arena.

Giotto was "commissioned “by a rich Padua man called Enrico degli Scrovegni. Enrico built the chapel and had it painted as a place to pray for the soul of his dead father. It was next to a very old palace that Enrico ws restoring to live in. The palace has gone now, but the chapel is still standing. The outside of the building is very plain, pinkish-red bricks.

The inside of the chapel is also very simple. It is long, with a chancel at one end where a priest can say the mass, an arched roof and windows down one side. The walls have been painted with three tiers of pictures. The "theme" in the pictures is God's Salvation of people through Jesus Christ.

In the usual way for churches of that date, the wall above the main door has a huge painting of the Last Judgement. At the other end of the building, on either side of the chancel archway is paintings of the Annunciation. One side shows the Virgin Mary and the other side show the Angel Gabriel who is bringing her the message that she will have a son, Jesus.

Around the walls, early at the top layer, are scenes which tell the life of the Virgin Mary. Under them, in two layers, are the stories of the life of Jesus. There are 37 scenes altogether.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Children’s Puppet Show

Puppetry is an extremely ancient art form, thought to have originated about 30,000 years ago. Puppets have been used since the earliest times to animate and communicate the ideas and needs of human societies. Some historians maintain that they pre-date actors in theatre. There is evidence that they were used in Egypt as early as 2000 BC when string-operated figures of wood were manipulated to perform the action of kneading bread. Wire controlled, articulated puppets made of clay and ivory have also been found in Egyptian tombs.

Hieroglyphs also describe "walking statues" being used in Ancient Egyptian spiritual dramas.
The oldest written record of puppetry can be found in the written records of Xenophon dating from around 422 BC.

Evidence of earliest puppetry comes from the excavations at the Indus Valley Civilization. Archaeologists have unearthed terracotta dolls with removable heads capable of manipulation by a string dating to 2500 BC. Other excavations include terracotta animals which could be manipulated up and down a stick, achieving minimum animation in both cases.

The epic Mahabharata, Tamil literature from the Sangam Era, and various literary works dating from the late centuries BC to the early centuries of the Common Era, including Ashokan edicts, describe puppets. Works like the Natya Shastra and the Kamasutra elaborate on puppetry in some detail.

 The Javanese Wayang Theater was prejudiced by Indian traditions. Europeans developed puppetry as a result of extensive contact with the Eastern World. Some scholars trace the origin of puppets to India 4000 years ago, where the main character in Sanskrit plays was known as "Sutradhara", "the holder of strings". China has a history of puppetry dating back 2000 years, originally in "pi-ying xi", the "theatre of the lantern shadows", or, as it is more commonly known today, Chinese shadow theatre. By the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), puppets played to all social classes including the courts, yet puppeteers, as in Europe, were considered to be from a lower social stratum.

In Taiwan, budaixi puppet shows, somewhat similar to the Japanese Bunraku, occur with puppeteers working in the background or underground. Some very knowledgeable puppeteers can manipulate their puppets to perform various stunts, for example, somersaults in the air.