CENTRAL INDIAN PAINTING
Following the death of Nasir-ud-din, Malwa passed to Mahmud II (1512 31). This ruler had shown a marked liking for Hindus and aided by his Hindu minister, Medni Rai, had begun to liquidate the Muslim nobility. 'On the king's return to his capital he was guided entirely by the advice of Medni Ray, who was daily employed in the destruction of one or other of the Mahomedan chiefs. They were frequently put to death without cause, their houses plundered and their estates confiscated. At last the king evinced his dislike for all the nobles, and for Mahomedans in general, so that most of the officers who held situations under the late Nasir-ood-Deen and Gheias-ood-Deen were put to death and their offices filled by Rajpoots. The very Mahomedan females who had been educated in the seraglio of Sooltan Gheias-ood-Deen now became the mistresses of Medny Ray and the rest of the Rajpoot officers.' Such an onslaught on the previous order inevitably incurred the wrath of Mahmud's Muslim neighbours and in 1531 the Muslim ruler of Gujarat attacked Mahmud, captured Mandu and ended the Khilji succession. Such a debacle may well have deranged cultural life. Yet painting itself continued if only in the 'armpit secrecy' of Jain households or among surviving Muslims devoted to poetry and art. And it is these two circumstances which prepare us for the sudden efflorescence of painting which occurs ten years later.
Between 1535 and 1561, Malwa was ruled by a new dynasty, the Pathans, and during this period its greatest and most powerful style emerges. The pictures in question comprise illustrations to the Sanskrit love-poem, the Chaurapanchasika or Fifty-four Stanzas, a version of an Avadhi romance, the Laur Chanda and a Ragini, the sole survivor of a series interpreting the love-poetry of music. In general manner, the pictures are clear extensions of the 'Jaunpur' style as it had developed in central India. The cliche of Jain painting - the grotesque projecting eyehas been discarded but the square-shaped heads, large eyes, jutting veils and red backgrounds all derive from this one style. At the same time, other elements are present and just as the 'Jaunpur' style explains aspects of the Book of Delicacies, the Mandu manuscripts of Nasir-ud-din are obviously responsible for notable ingredients. The women's jewellery, the arrow-like chevrons on eaves and pillars and the formalized trees, compounded of Shirazi herbage, are taken from the Book of Delicacies; while the band of floral scroll-work, marking the Laur Chanda is a Persian motif introduced into Mandu in the book of 1503. The style, then, is 'Jain' but enlarged and altered by contact with Persian painting. It is the total impression of these pictures, however, which is their most startling aspect. Their subject, romantic passion, represents a sharp break with both the Jain tradition of scripture-stories and the Persian manuscripts of Nasir-ud-din. In Persia, romantic themes had sometimes been illustrated in a mild and gentle manner but Jain painting had been exclusively religious and puritanical. The new style was nothing if not passionate. Ladies were shown with provoking veils, sharply jutting noses, great romantic eyes and proudly cut physiquesthe essence of artistocratic charmwhile red backgrounds were used to symbolize their passionate desires. A similar emotional excitement coloured execution. Distortions already present in the 'Jaunpur' style were magnified and there is a new air of lithe vigour and majestic assurance. So revolutionary an achievement can only have been attained at the instance of a patron himself devoted to romantic love and in Baz Bahadur, Pathan prince and subsequent ruler of Malwa, we have a person exactly fitted for this role.
Following Mahmud II, Baz Bahadur was only tepidly Muslim in outlook and like the Mughals, Akbar and Jahangir, did much to Indianize his character. His special glory was his infatuation for the lovely Hindu courtesan, Rupmati. Their love had probably commenced long before his succession in 1554, and so intense was their attachment that it was often celebrated in later poetry and painting. Besides cultivating Rupmati's charms, Baz Bahadur was also devoted to music and poetry. His knowledge of the latter included Persian, Avadhi and Hindi and when he himself wrote poems, he 'used to pour out his heart in Hindi poems descriptive of his love.'5 We meet, in fact, a character in whom the twin cultures of Malwa are entangled and whose great romance, his passion for Rupmati, is itself a blending of Muslim and Hindu.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7