The eclectic but relatively neglected art of southern India during roughly 400 years till the 19th century when the peninsular belt was particularly cosmopolitan will be on display at the National Museum (NM) from next week.
Titled Nauras: The Many Arts of the Deccan, the 53-day exhibition starting on January 27 is being
organised in collaboration with The Aesthetics Project which is a platform of academics, artisans and performers to explore a variety of topics on India’s art history and its aesthetic heritage.
The show, curated by art historians Preeti Bahadur and Kavita Singh, will have all but one of its 120-odd objects from the museum itself - a chunk of them from its reserves. An exquisite selection of the famed Ragamala painting will be loaned from Delhi’s National Gallery of Modern Art, making it yet another joint venture for NM in the recent past.
The exhibition will also throw broader academic light on vintage Deccani arts, as NM and Aesthetics Project are hosting a two-day symposium in the Capital on January 28 and 29. That event at Indian International Centre (IIC) will feature 10 presentations by leading art historians of the country. NM Director-General Venu Vasudevan noted that Nauras holds special relevance given that the exhibition would be the first-ever showcasing Deccan’s art between the 16th and the 19th centuries when the region witnessed a lot of give-and-take in its culture.
“While exhibiting the arts, we are also outlining the fascinating history of the region,” he said. “The exhibition is the result of six months of work. It must trigger fresh academic and general interest on Deccani culture of the yore.” Split into six sections, Nauras highlights Deccani cosmopolitanism, its singing sultans, perfumes, the Mughal Presence, trade goods and royal lineages. Objects at Nauras include a painting of al-Buraq (a marbled painting from Bijapur showing Rustom capturing a horse), leaves from an early Ragamala from Ahmednagar or Bijapur, a Kalamkari coverlet from Bijapur of 1630, an 18th-century Qanat from Burhanpur, an embroidered temple hanging from Vijayanagara, the Kitab-i-Nauras manuscript from Bijapur, Deccani copies of the Ajaib al Makhluqat, a book of the wonders of the world, and the armour of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who spent years fighting military campaigns in the Deccan.
The IIC symposium will have five speakers each on the two days. The talks by scholars Navina Haidar, Naman Ahuja, Deborah Hutton, Mark Richard Brand, Katherine Butler Schofield, Jagdish Mittal, Omana Eappen, Susan Stronge, Ali Akbar Husain and Emma Flatt will be followed by conversations with experts.