Reviving the art of Calligraphy

Baradari – House of Arts & Crafts is an Islamic art store based in Lucknow. It was established in December 2016 by former journalist and writer Irena Akbar. The objective of the store is to promote Indo-Islamic heritage. ‘Calligraphy’ or ‘Khattati’, which was originated around 13th century in India is one of the rare art. It was given patronage by the rulers of Delhi Sultanate, Mughal dynasty & Regional  dynasties.

India is home to many beautiful historical monuments such as Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Red Fort and several others. These monuments, built by Muslim rulers, are engraved with Islamic calligraphy on their walls and roofs. Islamic calligraphy is the art of writing the verses of the Quran in beautiful, artistic styles. This form of art flourished during Muslim rule in India, and is evident in the many monuments that dot the country. The Taj Mahal, for example, has entire chapters of the Quran on its walls. Delhi, Lahore and Lucknow were the prominent centres of calligraphy. It reached the zenith in Awadh under the Nawabs, whereas evidences of calligraphy are found at tomb of Sheikh Ibrahim, Nadan Mahel which happens also to be the oldest surviving monument of Lucknow. Chota Imambara is one of the best example of calligraphy on monument.

Calligraphers were well-paid artists in the Mughal courts and used their art not just for decorating monuments but also transcribing court documents. Abdul Halim Sharar has given details about the same in his legendary book ‘Guzishta Lucknow’. Contribution of Munshi Nawal Kishore Press is also outstanding in promoting this art. After British colonisation and Partition, Islamic calligraphy, which is a very important aspect of Indo-Islamic heritage, began to decline.

The Hindustani word ‘Baradari’ means ’12 doors’ and signifies multiple-door monuments in Lucknow, itself a seat of Nawabs who spent a lot of time and money on the arts, including calligraphy, as can be seen in the city’s buildings. Irena is working to revive popular interest in Islamic calligraphy. Her store, Baradari, has tied up with veteran calligraphers, to write down verses of the Quran which are then coloured and printed on canvas. This way, the black-and-white calligraphy on paper gets converted into coloured calligraphy on canvas. In May 2017, Baradari held a very successful Islamic calligraphy exhibition at Lalit Kala Academy in Lucknow. Baradari aims to take Indo-Islamic art across the world and sells across online platforms and on its own website to a global audience.

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11 thoughts on “Reviving the art of Calligraphy

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