Asian and African studies blog

38 posts categorized "Islam"

03 December 2015

The Twenty Attributes of God in Malay: Sifat Dua Puluh

Sifat Dua Puluh, the ‘Twenty Attributes’ of God, is a popular subject of Malay texts on Islamic instruction. Ultimately deriving from the exposition in the famous work Umm al-Barāhīn, ‘Mother of all Proofs’, by Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad b. Yūsuf al-Sanūsī (d. 1490), there are many different Malay compositions on the attributes of God, both lengthy and abbreviated, and written in both prose and in verse. Manuscript copies mostly date from the 19th century but there are also many early printed editions, and the text is still commonly taught, read and sold today.

Islamic works on sale in Lorong Kulit market, Penang, with two copies of Sifat 20 visible. Photograph by A.Gallop, 1995.
Islamic works on sale in Lorong Kulit market, Penang, with two copies of Sifat 20 visible. Photograph by A.Gallop, 1995.

Among the recently digitised Malay manuscripts in the British Library are three texts on Sifat Dua Puluh, which illustrate well how this subject can be treated either very succinctly or in more detail. The first example occupies just one page in a compendium of tracts on religious subjects in a manuscript from Aceh (Or. 16767), and comprises a list of the twenty attributes with one- or two-word Malay translations; thus the first attribute, wujūd, ‘existence’, is simply explained by the Malay word ada. The second example, also in a composite volume from Aceh (Or. 14194), gives a little more information, translating each attribute and giving its opposite or inadmissible (mustahil) attribute: wujūd ada artinya ada lawannya tiada, ‘wujūd means existence, and it has an opposite, non-existence’. The third text is much longer and fills the whole manuscript (Or. 13716), giving a full paragraph on each attribute and its opposite, and providing proof (dālīl) from the Qur’an. The text is written in fully vocalised Malay, strongly suggesting an origin in Java, because Javanese in Arabic script (Pegon) is always vowelled, whereas Malay in Arabic script (Jawi) is rarely written in this way. According to the colophon, this manuscript was completed on 10 Maulud [ie. Rabiulawal] 1301 (9 January 1884), and at the top  of the right-hand page below is the name 'Ujang', probably of an owner of the manuscript.  A later owner was G.A.J. Hazeu (1870-1929), who was based in Batavia from 1898 to 1915, in 1907 succeeding Snouck Hurgronje as Adviser for Native and Arab Affairs.

List of the Twenty Attributes (Sifat Dua Puluh), with Malay translations, in a manuscript from Aceh, 19th century. British Library, Or. 16767, f.103v
List of the Twenty Attributes (Sifat Dua Puluh), with Malay translations, in a manuscript from Aceh, 19th century. British Library, Or. 16767, f.103v  noc

Twenty Attributes (Sifat Dua Puluh) of God, together with their opposites, in a manuscript belonging to Abdullah, son of Abdul Rashid, of Tanoh Abee, Aceh, 19th century. British Library, Or. 14194, ff. 80v-81r
Twenty Attributes (Sifat Dua Puluh) of God, together with their opposites, in a manuscript belonging to Abdullah, son of Abdul Rashid, of Tanoh Abee, Aceh, 19th century. British Library, Or. 14194, ff. 80v-81r  noc

Sifat Dua Puluh, Malay manuscript from Java, 1884. On the right hand page, a classification of the attributes into two groups; on the left-hand page, explanations and proofs of the first three attibutes, wujūd, ‘existence’; qidam, ‘state of non-origination’ and baqā’, ‘permanence’. British Library, Or. 13716, ff. 2v-3r
Sifat Dua Puluh, Malay manuscript from Java, 1884. On the right hand page, a classification of the attributes into two groups; on the left-hand page, explanations and proofs of the first three attibutes, wujūd, ‘existence’; qidam, ‘state of non-origination’ and baqā’, ‘permanence’. British Library, Or. 13716, ff. 2v-3r   noc

In addition to original manuscripts held in the British Library which have now been digitised, the Endangered Archives Programme provides online access to a number of important collections of Islamic manuscripts held throughout maritime Southeast Asia. The project EAP153, ‘Riau Manuscripts: the gateway to the Malay intellectual world’, led by Jan van der Putten and Aswandi Syahri in 2007, surveyed private collections of manuscripts held in the Riau archipelago. These islands, located between Singapore, Sumatra and Borneo, are widely regarded as a cradle of Malay-Islamic culture and learning. 13 collections of manuscripts from the islands of Penyengat, Bintan and Lingga were digitised, including three copies of Sifat Dua Puluh.

Kitab Sifat Duapuluh, from a collection of manuscripts, printed books and correspondence assembled by historian, journalist and author Aswandi Syahri, Tanjung Pinang, Riau. British Library, EAP153/3/14, images 12-13
Kitab Sifat Duapuluh, from a collection of manuscripts, printed books and correspondence assembled by historian, journalist and author Aswandi Syahri, Tanjung Pinang, Riau. British Library, EAP153/3/14, images 12-13

Sifat Dua Puluh, from a collection of manuscripts temporarily held by the dealer Khairullah, Kampung Ladi, Pulau Penyengat, Riau. British Library, EAP153/5/1, images 55-56
Sifat Dua Puluh, from a collection of manuscripts temporarily held by the dealer Khairullah, Kampung Ladi, Pulau Penyengat, Riau. British Library, EAP153/5/1, images 55-56

Sifat Dua Puluh, another manuscript copy from the Khairullah collection, Penyengat, Riau. British Library, EAP153/5/1, image 13
Sifat Dua Puluh, another manuscript copy from the Khairullah collection, Penyengat, Riau. British Library, EAP153/5/1, image 13

Also digitised through the EAP is a lithographed copy of Sifat Dua Puluh, composed in 1884 by the well-known Batavia scholar Sayyid Uthman (1822-1914). The British Library holds several early printed copies of different compositions on this subject, including one in verse (syair) form by the eminent Johor writer Captain (later Major) Haji Muhammad Said, published in 1920.  The first quatrain reads: Ujud artinya ada / sifat wajib Tuhan yang esa /tiada permulaan adanya Dia / tiada kesudahan kekal dan sedia, 'Ujud means 'existence' / a necessary attribute of the One God / no beginning has He / nor end, eternal and ever-there'.

(Left) Kitab Sifat Dua Puluh, by Uthman bin Abdullah bin Yahya, composed in Batavia in 1304 (1886/7), this undated lithographed copy printed in Bombay. British Library, EAP153/8/13 (Right) Syair simpulan iman, iaitu meringkaskan pelajaran sifat dua puluh, by Kapitan Haji Muhammad Said bin Haji Sulaiman. Singapore, 1920. British Library, 14653.d.24 (Left) Kitab Sifat Dua Puluh, by Uthman bin Abdullah bin Yahya, composed in Batavia in 1304 (1886/7), this undated lithographed copy printed in Bombay. British Library, EAP153/8/13 (Right) Syair simpulan iman, iaitu meringkaskan pelajaran sifat dua puluh, by Kapitan Haji Muhammad Said bin Haji Sulaiman. Singapore, 1920. British Library, 14653.d.24
(Left) Kitab Sifat Dua Puluh, by Uthman bin Abdullah bin Yahya, composed in Batavia in 1304 (1886/7), this undated lithographed copy printed in Bombay. British Library, EAP153/8/13
(Right) Syair simpulan iman, iaitu meringkaskan pelajaran sifat dua puluh, by Kapitan Haji Muhammad Said bin Haji Sulaiman. Singapore, 1920. British Library, 14653.d.24

References

Mohd. Nor bin Ngah,  Kitab Jawi: Islamic thought of the Malay Muslim scholars.  Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1983.
Martin van Bruinessen, Kitab kuning: books in Arabic script used in the Pesantren milieuBijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 1990, 146(2-3): 226-269.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, British Library  ccownwork

22 October 2015

Marking the Aftermath of the Massacre at Karbala: New manuscripts of the Mukhtarnamah

Muḥarram is the first month of the Islamic lunar Hijrī calendar and considered, along with Ramaz̤ān (the ninth month) and others, to be one of the sacred months marked for pious observances. Culminating with the day of ʿāshūrāʾ (literally, the ‘tenth’ day – this year falling on Friday, 23 October 2015), the first ten days of Muḥarram hold particular significance. This period coincides with remembrances of the military confrontation between two rival factions claiming legitimacy over the political succession and moral leadership of the early Islamic community.

Muharram festival. Gouache on mica. Benares or Patna style, 1830-40 (British Library Add.Or.401)

Muharram festival. Gouache on mica. Benares or Patna style, 1830-40 (British Library Add.Or.401)
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Two important figures in the Arabian peninsula, 1) Imām Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī, the grandson of the Prophet Muḥammad, and 2) ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr (d. 73/692), a distant relative, refused to submit to the authority of Yazīd ibn Muʿāviyah (d. 64/683), the newly succeeding Umayyad caliph ruling in Damascus. Angered by this, Yazīd dispatched southward a large force to eliminate all rebels. Invited to take power in Kufa in place of Yazīd’s appointed governor, Ḥusayn, his extended family, and a small military contingent departed Medina via Mecca, but were confronted en route at Karbala, then a desolate and arid desert location. On the tenth day of Muḥarram or ʿāshūrāʾ, Ḥusayn and his companions were massacred (10 Muḥarram 61/10 October 680), leaving only a few survivors.

Celebrating the exploits of Amīr Abū Isḥāq Mukhtār ibn Abū ʿUbaydah ibn Masʿūd al-Thaqafī (d. 67/687), an early rebel leader of the southern Iraqi city of Kufa, a previously unknown version of the Mukhtārnāmah has recently come to light. Read for its narrative of events connecting to ʿāshūrāʾ commemorations, the Mukhtārnāmah’s importance extends beyond pure biography to encompass political, religious, and ethical themes of perennial interest to Muslim communities across the world.

The Mukhtārnāmah records how, learning of the atrocities while in Kufa, Mukhtār joined the wave of revulsion reverberating through the region. He later came to challenge competing Umayyad and Zubayrid claims for the caliphate by ruling Kufa and other parts of Iraq as an independent emirate, while pursuing revenge against the named perpetrators of atrocities against Ḥusayn and his family. Although his rebellion did not last long, Mukhtār’s doomed stand against tyranny and reverence for the Prophet Muḥammad’s family were admired by contemporaries and preserved in various literary forms for later generations to honour as part of annual ʿāshūrāʾ commemorations.

Opening page from the recently discovered Mukhtārnāmah  dating from the early nineteenth century. Though decorated with an illuminated headpiece and interlinear gilding, the slightly awkward scribal quality of the nastaʿlīq hand continues throughout (British Library IO Islamic 3716, f. 1v)
Opening page from the recently discovered Mukhtārnāmah  dating from the early nineteenth century. Though decorated with an illuminated headpiece and interlinear gilding, the slightly awkward scribal quality of the nastaʿlīq hand continues throughout (British Library IO Islamic 3716, f. 1v)
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The recently discovered manuscript of the Mukhtārnāmah (IO Islamic 3716) is an anonymous version in simple prose, completed by Aṣghar ʿAlī Bayg known as Sangī Bayg for Mirzā Khudā Bakhsh Bayg Khān, 19 Muḥarram 1228/22 January 1813. Though it lacks a preface or introduction, the narrative is arranged into several majālis or gatherings, which help contextualise the work’s recitation in ʿāshūrāʾ-related gatherings in mosques and imāmbārahs.

The British Library holds another older copy (Or.10948), also in prose, dated 1[0]96/1684-5, the text of which is similarly arranged into majālis. Crucially, its narrative differs from IO Islamic 3716 in style and occasionally in points of detail, as well as unsatisfactorily beginning without the first complete majlis (singular of majālis). The later Mukhtārnāmah (IO Islamic 3716) presents a more complete narrative and deserves to be studied closely.

Opening from the earlier Mukhtārnāmah , showing the original late-seventeenth-century illuminated text transcribed in naskh on the left (f. 2r), and a simpler near-contemporary replacement folio, also in naskh, on the right (f. 1v). Though both versions are in prose, the content of this version differs from the recently discovered Mukhtārnāmah (above) (British Library Or.10948, ff. 1v-2r)
Opening from the earlier Mukhtārnāmah , showing the original late-seventeenth-century illuminated text transcribed in naskh on the left (f. 2r), and a simpler near-contemporary replacement folio, also in naskh, on the right (f. 1v). Though both versions are in prose, the content of this version differs from the recently discovered Mukhtārnāmah (above) (British Library Or.10948, ff. 1v-2r)
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Sâqib Bâburî, Asian and African Studies
 CC-BY-SA

 

05 June 2015

British Library loans to Sultans of Deccan exhibition in New York

A superlative exhibition Sultans of Deccan India opened at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in April with an important accompanying catalogue (Haidar and Sardar 2015).  The arts of the Deccan (upland peninsular India) are among the rarest survivals from Muslim India and the exhibition concentrated on its greatest period, namely 1500-1700, so that the quality of the exhibits was uniformly high.  The three major sultanates emerged from the earlier Bahmanid kingdom around 1490 and survived until conquered by the Mughals in the 17th century, when most of their paintings and manuscripts seem to have perished. The British Library has an outstanding collection of this rare material and several of the key pieces from it were lent to the exhibition.

Chief among them perhaps is that rarest of all survivals, an illustrated Deccani manuscript from the 16th century (Add. 16880).  This is the Pem-nem, a Sufi romance in Dakhni Urdu written by Hasan Manju Khalji under the pen name of Hans, and dedicated to that great patron of the arts, Sultan Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah II of Bijapur (r. 1580-1627) in 999/1590-91 (an unfortunate typo in the New York catalogue (no. 29) gives the date as 990/1590-91).   This seems to be both the autograph and the only known copy of the text.   Three campaigns of illustration can be discerned in the manuscript in three varying styles over perhaps a period of 20 years.

Shahji wanders in search of his beloved Mahji, whose image is ingrained on his heart.  Hand A, Bijapur 1591.  British Library, Add. 16880, f.49v.
Shahji wanders in search of his beloved Mahji, whose image is ingrained on his heart.  Hand A, Bijapur 1591.  British Library, Add. 16880, f.49v.  noc

The story concerns Prince Shahji of Kuldip and his love for Mahji, a princess from Sangaldip, a love so ingrained in the prince that in a striking visual metaphor the beloved’s portrait is always present painted on his heart.

Shahji weeps streams of tears on realising that Mahji is only a reflection of the image in his heart. Hand B, Bijapur c. 1610.  British Library, Add. 16880, f.90v.
Shahji weeps streams of tears on realising that Mahji is only a reflection of the image in his heart. Hand B, Bijapur c. 1610.  British Library, Add. 16880, f.90v.  noc

Having found his beloved, he believes that she is only a reflection of the ideal image that he has borne on his heart and he rejects her.

Flames of unrequited passion arise from Mahji  as she mourns for her lost beloved.  Hand C, Bijapur c. 1600.   British Library, Add. 16880, f.138.
Flames of unrequited passion arise from Mahji  as she mourns for her lost beloved.  Hand C, Bijapur c. 1600.   British Library, Add. 16880, f.138.  noc

They separate each to a year of mourning and reflection, but eventually Shahji comes to realise that she is the true beloved not an idealised image and the two are reunited in wedlock.

Shahi lifts Mahji into the bridal palanquin.  Hand A, Bijapur 1591.   British Library, Add. 16880, f.213v.
Shahi lifts Mahji into the bridal palanquin.  Hand A, Bijapur 1591.   British Library, Add. 16880, f.213v.  noc

A full account of the story and its meaning along with illustrations of all the miniatures is given in a paper by Deborah Hutton (2011).  The tale is typical of the Prem kahani variety of Indian Sufi literature in being a metaphorical account of the search of the adept for God and in this instance not realising it when he has found it.

A royal picnic possibly of Burhan II Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar (r. 1591-95).  Ahmadnagar, 1590-95.  British Library, Add.Or.3004
A royal picnic possibly of Burhan II Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar (r. 1591-95).  Ahmadnagar, 1590-95.  British Library, Add.Or.3004  noc

Among the greatest rarities of Deccani art are drawings or paintings from the third of the successor states to the Bahmanid kingdom, that of Ahmadnagar.  The British Library is fortunate in possessing a masterful drawing of an enthroned ruler in a garden enjoying an al fresco picnic (Add.Or.3004, Haidar and Sarkar no. 17).  The sultan is gazing fixedly at the musicians to his right, while abstractedly accepting pan from one of his pages.  Others listen to the music or supervise the preparation of food and wine.  The hawk and the bow seem more pictorial accessories than employed on a hunting expedition, suggesting perhaps the drawing is a study of different groupings rather than a finished composition.  The central grouping of the ruler and the page is closely linked to the great contemporary painting in the Bibliothèque Nationale showing an Ahmadnagar ruler again possibly Burhan II being offered pan by a page (ibid., no. 14).  This artist’s technique is wonderfully fluent in his calligraphic, expressive lines and his use of stippling and shading.  Influence from Mughal art has been suggested as a key element in his style, perhaps when Burhan was a refugee at the Mughal court from 1585.   The influence however comes from the early Akbari style of the early portraits and the Hamzanama (in train 1564-77).  More remarkable still are the pronounced Hindu elements of the style such as the vestiges of the projecting further eye of mediaeval Indian painting, the eyelashes protruding into space, the continued use of the Hindu full-profile portraiture tradition and the totally Hindu pose of the Sultan whose legs are arranged on his throne in the classic padmasana posture.   All of this suggests an artist tradition plucked from Vijayanagar after the fall of that Hindu empire to the combined Deccan sultans in 1564.
A Mullah.  Bijapur, c. 1610.  British Library, J.25, 14.
A Mullah.  Bijapur, c. 1610.  British Library, J.25, 14.  noc

More paintings survive from Bijapur at this time than from Ahmadnagar and Golconda, all commissioned under the cultured rule of Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah.  One of his major artists, his name unknown, was a superlative portraitist.  He was responsible for another of the Library’s loans to New York, a portrait of a mullah wearing a distinctive turban wrapped round a red cap and an undyed shawl over this shoulders (ibid., no. 41).  The mullah’s upright bearing, staff and book seem the very embodiments of rigid orthodoxy but his keen and engaged gaze suggests an intelligent and enquiring mind.   He would have needed it in Ibrahim’s court, as the Sultan’s writings and images indicate an open mind towards Hinduism being devoted to Sarasvati, the goddess of music and learning.   The sternness of the portrait is relieved by the delightful touches of magical, all blue irises rising near his feet and two partridges busy hunting for food.

The colophon pages of a Qasida written by Mullah Nusrati in praise of ‘Abdallah Qutb Shah of Golconda (r. 1626-72).  Calligraphy by the son of Naqi al-Din Husaini.  Bijapur,  mid-17th century.  British Library, Or. 13533, ff. 28v, 29
The colophon pages of a Qasida written by Mullah Nusrati in praise of ‘Abdallah Qutb Shah of Golconda (r. 1626-72).  Calligraphy by the son of Naqi al-Din Husaini.  Bijapur,  mid-17th century.  British Library, Or. 13533, ff. 28v, 29  noc

Finally also lent to New York were four folios of a spectacularly illuminated manuscript (Or. 13533, ibid., no. 61) of a qasida or panaegyric by Mullah Nusrati, the court poet of Bijapur under Sultan ‘Ali ‘Adil Shah II (r. 1656-72).  The qasida is in praise of Sultan ‘Abdallah Qutb Shah of Golconda (r. 1626-72).  Although Bijapur and Golconda were often inimically disposed towards each other, amity descended for a while after the marriage in 1633 of the Golconda Sultan’s sister, Khadija Sultana, to Sultan Muhammad ‘Adil Shah of Bijapur (r. 1627-56), and this apparently early work of Nusrati may reflect this state of affairs.  Every page is elegantly calligraphed by ‘Ali ibn Naqi al-Din Husaini against a gold ground and illuminated with cartouches, lozenges or boldly drawn flowers in brilliant colours in the typically Deccani palette of chocolate, lilac, pink and green.   Naqi al-Din was the famous calligrapher whose name is signed several times on the Ibrahim Rauza, the exquisite tomb of Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah built ca. 1627-35.

Further reading:
Haidar, N., and Sardar, M., Sultans of Deccan India 1500-1700s: Opulence and Fantasy, Metropolitan Museum, New York, 2015

Hutton, D., ‘The Pem-Nem:  a Sixteenth-Century Illustrated Romance from Bijapur’ in Haidar, N., and Sardar, M., eds., Sultans of the South: Arts of India’s Deccan Courts, 1323-1687, Metropolitan Museum, New York, 2011, pp. 44-63

Additional blogs of interest:
Rare portrait of Iklas Khan, the African Prime Minister of Bijapur, acquired by the British Library

An Album of Maratha and Deccani Paintings

 

J.P. Losty, Curator of Visual Arts (Emeritus)  ccownwork

16 April 2015

Malay manuscripts from south Sumatra

Think ‘Malay manuscript’, think ‘Jawi’ – the modified form of the Arabic script used in Southeast Asia – but this is not invariably the case. Manuscripts in the Malay language from the interior regions of south Sumatra are often written in local incung scripts of Indian origin, which read from left to right. Apart from the rare Kerinci script, the two main variants of incung script encountered in manuscripts from south Sumatra are Lampung and Rejang (or rencong). In addition to paper, manuscripts are written on pieces of bamboo and strips of tree bark folded in concertina form. Most such manuscripts probably date from the late 18th and 19th centuries, but a bark book in Lampung script was given to the Bodleian Library in Oxford by Jo. Trefusis in 1630, making it by far the earliest dateable south Sumatran manuscript known (reproduced in Gallop & Arps 1991: 71).

Syair perahu, ‘The poem of the boat’, Sufi poem in Malay in rencong script. British Library, MSS Malay A 2
Syair perahu, ‘The poem of the boat’, Sufi poem in Malay in rencong script. British Library, MSS Malay A 2  noc

Among the Malay manuscripts in the British Library that have recently been digitised are four manuscripts from south Sumatra. Shown above is a folded tree bark manuscript of Syair perahu, ‘The poem of the boat’, written in Malay in rencong script (MSS Malay A 2). This Sufi poem comparing the mystical path to a voyage in a boat, based on the system of the ‘seven grades of being’ (wahdat al-wujud), was formerly attributed to the Sumatran mystic Hamzah Fansuri. However, Braginsky (2004: 676) has distinguished two distinct Syair perahu, neither of which is by Hamzah; the first - as in the present manuscript - which has only survived today in rencong script, and was probably composed in the second half of the 17th century by Syamsuddin of Pasai or one of his disciples; and a second, better-known, version, currently preserved in Jawi manuscripts.

A brief unidentified text, perhaps an incantation, with drawings, at the end of the manuscript of Syair perahu. MSS Malay A 2
A brief unidentified text, perhaps an incantation, with drawings, at the end of the manuscript of Syair perahu. MSS Malay A 2  noc

Two other manuscripts are both written on bamboo. One incomplete text in rencong script, comprising 31 strips of bamboo, contains a tembai (myth of origins) and teremba (genealogy), in the form of a metrical litany narrating the descent of the soul from its prenatal state in the land of the souls (MSS Malay D 11). According to the Dutch linguist and authority on Sumatran langauges, Petrus Voorhoeve, ‘It is a curious document of the syncretism of animistic and Muslim ideas that is characteristic for South Sumatra in the period of transition from the old religion to Islam. In such a composition one cannot expect a strick adherence to the rules of logic.’  Voorhoeve further notes that the last part of the text 'refers to the reluctance of the soul to be born, caused by the premonitions of death that it feels during the last nine days before birth. On each of these days it entreats its parents to avert this threatening danger. Reflection on its eternal origin, purification with citrus-juice, sacrificial meals and prayers are the means to reach this end. Their effect is that the soul feels "a little better", and though the text ends abruptly in the middle of the last day we may suppose that the soul is at last persuaded to take its abode in this world of "time" and "death". Perhaps this litany was recited during the ceremonies which were performed in the last days before the birth of a child.'

Tembai and teremba, Malay manuscript in rencong script on bamboo. The first lines of the text have been read by Voorhoeve: Anjut parahu dari ulu / pisang rukama kanan pari / tambai kutahu dari guru / taraba kapun barahi. British Library, MSS Malay D 11, f. 1r
Tembai and teremba, Malay manuscript in rencong script on bamboo. The first lines of the text have been read by Voorhoeve: Anjut parahu dari ulu / pisang rukama kanan pari / tambai kutahu dari guru / taraba kapun barahi. British Library, MSS Malay D 11, f. 1r  noc

The second manuscript on bamboo is Seribu maksa (Or. 12986) concerning a conversation between the Prophet (Nebi Rasululah) and Sayih Wali Mahemat. The text is in south-Sumatran literary Malay in Lampung script, which can be distinguished from rencong script by the presence of a symbol for the vowel ĕ pĕpĕt (like the initial 'a' of 'alone'). Digitised together with the manuscript is a typed sheet containing Voorhoeve's revision of the order of the bamboo strips, based upon the same text as found in the National Library of Indonesia, Jakarta, MS E 86.

Seribu maksa, in Malay in Lampung script. British Library, Or. 12986
Seribu maksa, in Malay in Lampung script. British Library, Or. 12986  noc

The fourth manuscript (MSS Malay A 4), and the only one on paper, is a collection of pantun or quatrains entitled Surat pantun cara Lampung, written in parallel columns of the Lampung dialect in Lampung script and Malay in Jawi script. The manuscript, which is dated 1812, contains poems used by young people in courtship. It was probably written for a European, perhaps in Bengkulu, where the East India Company had a base.

Surat pantun cara Lampung, courtship poems, 1812. British Library, MSS Malay A 4, ff. 2v-3r
Surat pantun cara Lampung, courtship poems, 1812. British Library, MSS Malay A 4, ff. 2v-3r  noc

To this small collection of four Malay manuscripts from South Sumatra in the British Library, we are very pleased to have added a fifth, thanks to the generosity of Christopher and Zissa Davidson. Chris worked in Lampung in the 1980s, and when he and Zissa left in 1988 they were given a bark book as a leaving present by very close Dutch friends. The book had earlier been acquired by these friends in a small tourist shop selling some local artefacts in a hotel beside Danau Ranau, a volcanic lake in the northwest of the province. Zissa first contacted the British Library in 2002 to find out some information about the manuscript. After some discussions, earlier this month she and Chris most kindly came up from their home in Hampshire to donate the manuscript to the British Library, where it has been given the shelfmark Or. 16936. The contents have not yet been identified (alas, Dr Voorhoeve passed away in 1996), but the ruled lines dividing the pages suggest that this may be a compendium of short texts. We hope to be able to digitise the manuscript soon so that it can be studied by the few people still able to read Lampung script.

Lampung manuscript on folded tree bark. British Library, Or. 16936
Lampung manuscript on folded tree bark. British Library, Or. 16936

The Lampung manuscript (Or. 16936) donated to the British Library by Chris and Zissa Davidson, 1 April 2015
The Lampung manuscript (Or. 16936) donated to the British Library by Chris and Zissa Davidson, 1 April 2015

Further reading:

Vladimir Braginsky, The heritage of traditional Malay literature. Leiden: KITLV Press, 2004; on 'Sufi poems of the boat' see pp. 676-688.
Mark Durie, ‘Ancient links: the mystery of South Sumatra’ in: Illuminations: the writing traditions of Indonesia, ed. by Ann Kumar and John H. McGlynn. New York: Weatherhill; Jakarta: Lontar, 1996, pp. 247-52.
Annabel Teh Gallop with Bernard Arps, Golden Letters: writing traditions of Indonesia / Surat Emas: budaya tulis di Indonesia. London: British Library; Jakarta: Yayasan Lontar, 1991
P. Voorhoeve, Critical survey of studies on the languages of Sumatra. ‘s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff, 1955.  

Download MSS.Eur.C.214 contains a synoptic romanized text of MSS Malay A.2 by P.Voorhoeve.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia   ccownwork

24 March 2015

From Anatolia to Aceh: Ottomans, Turks and Southeast Asia

The British Academy-funded research project Islam, Trade and Politics across the Indian Ocean, which ran from 2009 to 2012 adminstered by ASEASUK (Association of Southeast Asian Studies in the UK) and the BIAA (British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara), set out to investigate all aspects of links between the greatest Middle Eastern power – the Ottoman empire – and the Muslim lands of the Malay archipelago in Southeast Asia over the past five centuries. The project culminated in a conference held in Banda Aceh in 2012, as well as a travelling photographic exhibition produced by the British Library which toured the UK, with a Turkish version which travelled to Istanbul and Ankara, while Indonesian versions were displayed in various venues in Aceh and in Jakarta at the Bayt al-Qur'an & Museum Istiqlal. Now one of two books arising from the project has just been published – From Anatolia to Aceh: Ottomans, Turks and Southeast Asia, edited by Andrew Peacock and Annabel Teh Gallop – as the auspiciously-numbered 200th volume in the series 'Proceedings of the British Academy', published by Oxford University Press.

TJ-15076_From Anatolia to Aceh copy

The first direct political contact between Anatolia and the Malay world took place in the 16th century, when Ottoman records confirm that gunners and gunsmiths were sent to Aceh in Sumatra to help fight against Portuguese domination of the pepper trade across the Indian Ocean. In later years the main conduit for contact was the annual Hajj pilgrimage, and many Malay pilgrims from Southeast Asia spent long periods of study in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, which were under Ottoman control from 1517 until the early 20th century. During the era of European colonial expansion in the 19th century, once again Malay states turned to Istanbul for help. It now appears that these demands for intervention from Southeast Asia may even have played an important role in the development of the Ottoman policy of Pan-Islamism, positioning the Ottoman emperor as Caliph and leader of Muslims worldwide and promoting Muslim solidarity.

The 14 papers in this volume represent the first attempt to bring together research on all aspects of the relationship between the Ottoman world and Southeast Asia, much of it based on documents newly discovered in archives in Istanbul. The book is presented in three sections, covering the political and economic relationship, interactions in the colonial era, and cultural and intellectual influences, with an introduction by the editors and a historiographical survey by Anthony Reid, whose seminal 1969 article, ‘Sixteenth century Turkish influence in western Indonesia’ (Journal of Southeast Asian History, 10 (3): 395-414), could be seen as the starting point for modern research on this topic. A full list of the contents of the volume can be found here: Download 00_Anatolia to Aceh_i-xvi.

Mawlid sharaf al-anam, 19th c. Reproduced courtesy of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 2014.5.14.
Mawlid sharaf al-anam, 19th c. Reproduced courtesy of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 2014.5.14.

The beautiful manuscript which adorns the front cover of the volume exemplifies well the myriad interactions documented in the volume: it was copied in Mecca by a Malay calligrapher from the 'Jawi' community of Southeast Asians resident in the Hijaz, and adorned with late Ottoman-style illumination. It is a copy of the Mawlid sharaf al-anam, ‘The birth of the noblest of mankind’, an anonymous compilation of devotional prayers on the Prophet, and the Arabic text is accompanied by a small interlinear translation in Malay. The scribe is named as Ibrahim al-Khulusi ibn Wudd al-Jawi al-Sambawi, his nisba indicating his origins on the island of Sumbawa in eastern Indonesia.

Final pages of Mawlid sharaf al-anam, 19th c. Reproduced courtesy of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 2014.5.14.
Final pages of Mawlid sharaf al-anam, 19th c. Reproduced courtesy of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 2014.5.14.

Although the colophon gives the date (in thinly-inked numerals) of 1042 AH (1632/3 AD), this is most likely erroneous and numerous factors indicate that the manuscript was probably copied in the mid-19th century. By coincidence, among the documents in the Prime Ministry Ottoman Archives ((Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi, BOA) in Istanbul relating to Southeast Asia discovered in the course of the research project was an Arabic letter of 1849/50 to Hasib Pasha, the Ottoman Governor of the Hijaz, thanking him for facilitating the Hajj pilgrimage, signed by ten Malay and Yemeni scholars (‘ulama) resident in Mecca. Among the signatories to this letter is one ‘Ibrahim bin Wudd al-Jawi’, whose seal impression reads Ibrahim al-Khulusi ibn Wuddin. Comparing the name ‘Ibrahim’ in the manuscript and the letter leaves little doubt that they were written by the same person.

Letter in Arabic from Southeast Asian religious scholars in Mecca to Hasib Pasha, the Ottoman Governor of the Hijaz, 1849/50, with Ibrahim's signature and seal fourth from the left. BOA İ.DH 211/12286.
Letter in Arabic from Southeast Asian religious scholars in Mecca to Hasib Pasha, the Ottoman Governor of the Hijaz, 1849/50, with Ibrahim's signature and seal fourth from the left. BOA İ.DH 211/12286.

Detail of the signature of Ibrahim (left) in the letter of 1849/50, and (right) in the colophon of Mawlid sharaf al-anam, with the same concave-convex shape of ba-ra, and the letter alif bisecting the ha-ya ligature in both examples.  Detail of the signature of Ibrahim (left) in the letter of 1849/50, and (right) in the colophon of Mawlid sharaf al-anam, with the same concave-convex shape of ba-ra, and the letter alif bisecting the ha-ya ligature in both examples.
Detail of the signature of Ibrahim (left) in the letter of 1849/50, and (right) in the colophon of Mawlid sharaf al-anam, with the same concave-convex shape of ba-ra, and the letter alif bisecting the ha-ya ligature in both examples.

Further evidence locating this ‘Ibrahim’ as a master Malay calligrapher in the Hijaz in the mid 19th century is found in a letter in Malay and Arabic written in Mecca in 1866 by Abdul Rahman bin Muhammad Saman of Kelantan to Sultan Abdul Hamid of Pontianak on the west coast of Borneo (Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 1998.1.3680). In the letter, Abdul Rahman states that he had come to Mecca to study the ‘Istanbul style’ of writing (menyurat Istanbul), and that he is currently being considered the successor to his ‘late teacher Shaykh Ibrahim al-Khulusi al-Sanbawi’ in teaching ‘Istanbul writing’ (patik ini … sudah dilatih? orang besar2 di Mekah akan bahwa patik inilah jadi ganti … al-marhum guru patik tuan Syaikh Ibrahim al-Khulusi al-Sanbawi yang masyhur itu … pada pihak tolong mengajarkan segala muslimin menyurat Istanbulnya). Together, these sources suggest that Ibrahim al-Khulusi died in Mecca probably sometime in the early 1860s.

Detail from a letter written by Abdul Rahman of Kelantan in Mecca in 1866 giving the name of 'my late teacher the great Shaykh Ibrahim al-Khulusi al-Sanbawi' (al-marhum guru patik Tuan Syaikh Ibrahim al-Khulusi al-Sanbawi yang masyhur). Reproduced courtesy of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 1998.1.3680.

Detail from a letter written by Abdul Rahman of Kelantan in Mecca in 1866 giving the name of 'my late teacher the great Shaykh Ibrahim al-Khulusi al-Sanbawi' (al-marhum guru patik Tuan Syaikh Ibrahim al-Khulusi al-Sanbawi yang masyhur). Reproduced courtesy of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 1998.1.3680.

Ironically, the Ottoman-Malay mawlid manuscript of Ibrahim al-Khulusi only came to light in 2014, well after the completion of the research project, and so is not discussed in the book itself.  (The manuscript is currently held in the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, and we are most grateful to the IAMM and its Director, Mr Syed Mohamad Albukhary, for permission to reproduce the manuscript on the front cover of the book).  But it is just such a discovery as this which raises hopes that, from time to time, yet more new evidence will emerge of the connections between the Ottoman empire and Southeast Asia, across the Indian Ocean from Anatolia to Aceh.

Annabel Teh Gallop
Lead Curator, Southeast Asia, British Library & Co-Director, 'Islam, Trade and Politics across the Indian Ocean'

With thanks to Tim Stanley for comments on the illumination.

From Anatolia to Aceh: Ottomans, Turks, and Southeast Asia
Edited by Andrew Peacock and Annabel Teh Gallop
OUP/British Academy | Proceedings of the British Academy Vol. 200
300 pages | 22 illustrations | 234x156mm
978-0-19-726581-9 | Hardback | 05 February 2015
Price:  £70.00
Available from Oxford University Press

13 February 2015

Southeast Asian manuscripts digitised through the Ginsburg Legacy

The world of scholarship has been revolutionised by numerous digitisation programmes undertaken in libraries throughout the world. Now, instead of having to travel thousands of miles for expensive and extensive visits to cities where unique historical sources are housed, it is ever more possible to make a detailed study of a manuscript from one’s own home, in any country, via the internet. Digitisation programmes are usually shaped both by the interests of patrons and the strengths of an institution’s collections, and among the exciting projects to digitise material from the Asian and African collections of the British Library are those of Malay manuscripts in collaboration with the National Library of Singapore supported by William and Judith Bollinger, Thai manuscripts funded by the Royal Thai government, Persian manuscripts in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation, and Hebrew manuscripts with the Polonsky Foundation. However, with the emphasis on large projects, it is not always easy to prioritise the digitisation of other important manuscripts from smaller language groups, or from regions for which funding proves difficult to source.

Note in the Bugis language and script, from the diary of the king of Bone, south Sulawesi, 1775. British Library, Add. 12354, f. 2r (detail).
Note in the Bugis language and script, from the diary of the king of Bone, south Sulawesi, 1775. British Library, Add. 12354, f. 2r (detail).

The Southeast Asia section of the British Library is fortunate in that a legacy from the estate of the late Henry D. Ginsburg (1940-2007), who was for over thirty years the Library’s curator for Thai, Lao and Cambodian collections, has enabled the digitisation of a small number of significant manuscripts, some representing writing traditions rarely accessible on the internet. In 2013, seven of the most important illuminated and illustrated manuscripts in Vietnamese, Burmese and Javanese were digitised. In 2014 we completed the digitisation of a further 15 manuscripts from Southeast Asia, in Vietnamese, Burmese, Shan, Khamti, Lao, Thai, Bugis, Javanese and Arabic, which this month have been made accessible through the Digitised Manuscripts website.

Artistically, the highlights are probably six Burmese folding book (parabaik) manuscripts, all lavishly and exquisitely illustrated. Three of the manuscripts depict scenes from the Life of the Buddha (Or. 4762, Or. 5757 and Or. 14197) while the other three contain Jataka stories (Or. 13538, Or. 4542A and Or. 4542B, and MSS Burmese 202).

The Jātaka stories about the previous lives of the Gautama Buddha are preserved in all branches of Buddhism. These stories show how he gradually acquired greater strength and moral stature as his soul passed from one incarnation to the other. Shown above is a scene from the Latukika Jataka. The Bodhisatta, the leader of the elephants (gilded) protects the offspring of a quail who had laid her eggs in the feeding ground of the elephants. British Library, Or. 13538, ff. 20-22
The Jātaka stories about the previous lives of the Gautama Buddha are preserved in all branches of Buddhism. These stories show how he gradually acquired greater strength and moral stature as his soul passed from one incarnation to the other. Shown above is a scene from the Latukika Jataka. The Bodhisatta, the leader of the elephants (gilded) protects the offspring of a quail who had laid her eggs in the feeding ground of the elephants. British Library, Or. 13538, ff. 20-22.

Also in folding book format is a lavishly decorated Buddhist manuscript, Buddhānussati, in Shan language (Or. 12040), a copy of Tamrā phichai songkhrām in Thai language (Or. 15760), and a rare Lao dictionary in three volumes from the 19th century (Add. 11624).

This Shan folding book (pap tup), dated 1885, with the title Buddhānussati contains a text on recollections of the Buddha, explaining mindfulness with the Buddha’s virtues as objects. The embossed gilded covers are studded with multi-coloured mirror glass for ornate floral decoration. British Library, Or.12040, front cover.
This Shan folding book (pap tup), dated 1885, with the title Buddhānussati contains a text on recollections of the Buddha, explaining mindfulness with the Buddha’s virtues as objects. The embossed gilded covers are studded with multi-coloured mirror glass for ornate floral decoration. British Library, Or.12040, front cover.

Folio 16 of the Tamrā phichai songkhrām, explaining various appearances of sun and how to interpret them. This Thai divination manual for the prediction of wars, conflicts and natural disasters also contains explanations of the shapes of clouds, the moon and planets. British Library, Or.15760, folio 16.
Folio 16 of the Tamrā phichai songkhrām, explaining various appearances of sun and how to interpret them. This Thai divination manual for the prediction of wars, conflicts and natural disasters also contains explanations of the shapes of clouds, the moon and planets. British Library, Or.15760, folio 16.

Another rarity that has been digitised in this project is a bound and scrolled paper book (pap kin) in Khamti Shan script, Kuasala Ainmakan (Or. 3494). The book, dated 1860, is sewn in a blue cotton wrapper with a white and pink braided cotton string. It contains the Mahāsupina Jātaka about the dreams of King Pasenadi, the King of Kosala.  

From the Vietnamese collection was selected ‘The Northwards Embassy by land and water’, a rare pictorial manuscript map, Bắc Sứ Thủy Lục Địa Đô (Or. 14907), illustrating the journey from Hanoi to Beijing in 1880. This manuscript is currently on display in the exhibition ‘Geo/Graphic: celebrating maps and their stories’, at the National Library of Singapore (16 January – 19 July 2015).

Tai Ping City , located by Gu Fang Mountain. The city was well fortified with a fortress and could be dated back to the Ming dynasty.British Library, Or. 14907, f. 11r.
Tai Ping City , located by Gu Fang Mountain. The city was well fortified with a fortress and could be dated back to the Ming dynasty.British Library, Or. 14907, f. 11r.

Two very different Javanese manuscripts were digitised. The first, Serat Jaya Lengkara Wulang (MSS Jav 24), contains ethical teachings of the royal house of Yogyakarta, with many fine examples of illumination. The other manuscript (Sloane 2645) is a work on Islamic law, Mukhtasar Ba Fadl or Muqaddimat al-Hadrami, here going under the title Masa'il al-ta'lim, written in Arabic with interlinear translation and marginal commentary in Javanese in Arabic (Pegon) script. The manuscript, which is dated 1623, is from the founding collections of Sir Hans Sloane, and may be one of the earliest dated examples of a Javanese manuscript in Pegon script, and written on Javanese paper dluwang) made from the bark of the mulberry tree.

Illuminated architectural section heading from a Javanese manuscript, Serat Jaya Lengkara Wulang, Yoygyakarta, 1803. British Library, MSS Jav. 24, f. 22v.
Illuminated architectural section heading from a Javanese manuscript, Serat Jaya Lengkara Wulang, Yoygyakarta, 1803. British Library, MSS Jav. 24, f. 22v.

Start of a new chapter (bab) in Masa'il al-ta'lim, in Arabic with interlinear translation in Javanese, 1623. British Library, Sloane 2645, f. 34r (detail).
Start of a new chapter (bab) in Masa'il al-ta'lim, in Arabic with interlinear translation in Javanese, 1623. British Library, Sloane 2645, f. 34r (detail).

The final manuscript, also from Indonesia, is in the Bugis language and script (Add. 12354). This is the personal diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih Syamsuddin of Bone, in south Sulawesi, covering the years 1775-1795, and written in his own hand. The diary contains a wealth of detail on the social, political, economic and cultural life of Sulawesi in the late 18th century.

Entries for the first few days of August 1781, in the Bugis diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih. British Library, Add. 12354, f. 52r (detail).
Entries for the first few days of August 1781, in the Bugis diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih. British Library, Add. 12354, f. 52r (detail).

Annabel Teh Gallop, San San May, Jana Igunma, Sud Chonchirdsin

Southeast Asia section curators

13 October 2014

Indian Music in the Persian Collections: the Javahir al-Musiqat-i Muhammadi (Or.12857). Part 2

The second of two posts on the Bijapur manuscript Javāhir al-mūsīqāt, c.1570/c.1630 by guest blogger Katherine Butler Schofield of King’s College London. This manuscript has now been digitised and is available to read online on British Library Digitised Manuscripts. Follow the links below to go directly to the relevant folios.

This manuscript has now been digitised and is available to read online on British Library Digitised Manuscripts. Follow the links below to go directly to the relevant folios. - See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/#sthash.TcGz4966.dpuf

The replacement frontispiece of the Javāhir al-Mūsīqāt-i Muḥammadī, reused from elsewhere. (British Library Or.12857, f. 1v)
The replacement frontispiece of the Javāhir al-Mūsīqāt-i Muḥammadī, reused from elsewhere. (British Library Or.12857, f. 1v)
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In my last post, I concluded that Shaikh ‘Abd al-Karim’s musical masterwork, the Javāhir al-Mūsīqāt-i Muḥammadī, is a multilingual palimpsest of three treatises: a translation c. 1570 of the 13th-century Sanskrit Saṅgītaratnākara into 16th-century Dakhni, probably for ‘Ali ‘Adil Shah of Bijapur (r.1558-80), which was split apart and its paintings reused by Shaikh ‘Abd al-Karim to form the central thread of a more elaborate 17th-century Persian translation dedicated to ‘Ali’s great-nephew, Muhammad ‘Adil Shah (r.1626-56). This unique work is culturally significant for several reasons. For one thing, when placed in wider geographical context it testifies to a significant vernacularisation of Sanskrit music theory in the 16th century, preceding by nearly a century its recodification in Persian under the Mughals (see Brown below).

Deskar, the fourth rāginī of Megh (British Library Or.12857, f. 119r)
Deskar, the fourth rāginī of Megh (British Library Or.12857, f. 119r)
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A number of other noteworthy vernacular music treatises made their appearance in this century: e.g. a miniature Awadhi verse treatise inserted into Qutban’s Sufi romance the Mṛgāvatī (1503) produced in Jaunpur (Behl, pp. 131-133); a Braj rāgamālā called the Mānakutūhala, traditionally attributed to Raja Man Singh of Gwalior (d.1516)[1]. ; and a Marathi translation of the Saṅgītaratnākara with paintings of very similar style and date to the Jawāhir (Zebrowski, pp. 60-4). The production of a substantial Dakhni recension of the Saṅgītaratnākara in Bijapur thus confirms a growing picture of a vernacularising 16th century in north and central India’s independent courts.

But a major reason this work is of importance to music and cultural history is Shaikh ‘Abd al-Karim’s systematic integration of ideas from the Islamicate sciences about the power of sound and its effects in human affairs into a work of Indic musicology. We already know from work done on the great astrological treatise written in Persian for ‘Ali ‘Adil Shah, the Nujum al-‘ulūm (1570) – whose paintings are used to date the Jawāhir’s – that ‘Ali ‘Adil Shah, and later Ibrahim ʻAdil Shah II (r.1580-1626), freely mixed Hindu and Muslim symbology and theories of supernatural power, including those associated with music, and incorporated them into their courtly ideologies (see Flatt; Leach, v.2, pp. 819-89; Hutton, pp. 51-2 and fig. 2.14; Zebrowski, pp. 60-4).

Asavari, the second rāginī of Malkausik (British Library Or.12857, f. 102r)
Asavari, the second rāginī of Malkausik (British Library Or.12857, f. 102r)
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Although Muhammad ʻAdil Shah is sometimes characterised as more narrowly orthodox, this generous attitude remains primary in Shaikh ‘Abd al-Karim’s vision. Strikingly, with respect to music’s origin myths and explanations of its power to regulate the universe, he treats the philosophies of “ ‘Arabia, ‘Ajam and Hind” as effectively equal in truth value (f. 5v).

More important, though, is his systematic appropriation of the Indian rāgas into the Greco-Islamicate system of humoral medicine known as Unani ṭibb. Every rāga and rāginī in the Indic system is supposed to have a specific effect on the listener’s psychological state, their physical wellbeing, or indeed on the wider natural world. Rāginī Dhanashri, for example, is supposed to evoke feelings of loss and longing caused by the absent beloved. Rāg Megh, one of the six main rāgas, has the power to bring the monsoon rains; the coming of the rains is furthermore associated with the joy of union with the beloved.

Rag Megh, the third rāga (British Library Or.12857, f. 112v)
Rag Megh, the third rāga (British Library Or.12857, f. 112v)
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In Shaikh ‘Abd al-Karim’s rāgamālā he systematically attributes the essential emotional flavour of every rāga to one of the four elements of Islamicate natural sciences – fire, earth, air and water. He furthermore describes the effect of each of the four kinds of rāga on the physical and mental state of the listener in terms borrowed from Sufi teaching and ethical literature (akhlāq): fiery rāgas ignite passionate love (‘ishq) in the listener’s heart; earthy rāgas enlighten the listener with the mystical knowledge (‘irfān) of their true selves; airy rāgas overwhelm the listener with longing for the absent beloved (firāq); and watery rāgas annhilate the listener in union (viṣal) with the great Existence (ff. 66v-8r). 

The iconography of rāgamālā paintings is supposed to intensify and enrich the rāgas’ affective associations using visual and imaginative rather than aural means. The c.1570 rāgamālā paintings of the Javāhir belong to a time when rāga-rāginī sets were clearly not yet standardised. Although it uses the same six rāgas as the contemporaneous “Painters system” – Bhairav, Hindol, Megh, Malkausik, Shri and Dipak – I have not before encountered its particular configuration of rāginīs. In addition, the classic iconography we are accustomed to was clearly not yet settled. Some rāgas had already acquired their standard form. Rag Megh, for example, is of course watery in essence, and listening to it engenders loving union; singing this rāga may cause clouds to gather in the heavens or rain to fall, powerful lightening to strike and frogs to start croaking. In the rāgamālā text and painting Megh is depicted as a dark-skinned lord dressed in green and riding a black buck, with the monsoon rainclouds gathering above his head and two pied cuckoos in the background.  Ragini Dhanashri, on the other hand, is not depicted in her now customary form: a woman consumed with longing, gazing at a portrait of her absent beloved as she is consoled by her girlfriends.  The mood of viraha or firāq is nonetheless sustained in the Javāhir pictorially by Dhanashri’s loose dishevelled hair, her chin resting disconsolately on her hand as she sits on a bed waiting for her lover’s return. And Shaikh ‘Abd al-Karim makes it explicit in the Persian text: Dhanashri is an airy rāginī, and thus listening to her overwhelms the listener with longing (ff. 99r-100r).  
Dhanashri, the first rāginī of Malkausik (British Library Or.12857, f. 100r)
Dhanashri, the first rāginī of Malkausik (British Library Or.12857, f. 100r)
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In this way the rāgas and their rich aesthetic and affective powers are here recruited to the service of Sufi devotion and appropriated as medicinal and supernatural formulae, thus giving excellent grounds for a Muslim ruler like Muhammad ‘Adil Shah to use the rāgas in regulating and maintaining order in the body politic. It is important to note that the elemental associations of the Javāhir rāga descriptions are not in the Dakhni text. Their relation to the paintings is thus an early- to mid- 17th-century interpretation, undertaken in a more Persianate universe. I thus want to speculate in conclusion about the impact this text, and perhaps other Bijapuri treatises like it, now lost, had on the Mughal recodification of śastric music theory in Persian during the reign of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb ‘Alamgir (1658-1707) (see Schofield below).

The evidence is circumstantial, but cumulative and therefore tantalising. From the first brief Mughal formulation of saṅgītaśāstra in Persian, Abuʼl-Fazl’s chapter on saṅgīt in the Ā’īn-i Akbarī (1593),  Mughal music theorists all venerated the south and especially the Deccan as the arbiter of authority in Indian music.  Political and cultural emissaries were sent regularly between the Mughal and Bijapur courts from the time of ‘Ali ‘Adil Shah, and in the first decades of the 17th century the two powers came into direct conflict, and then more peaceful accommodation, over the collapse of the Nizam Shahi state of Ahmadnagar.  Akbar and Jahangir certainly knew of Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah’s musical prowess; Jahangir even made note of Ibrahim’s famous song collection, the Kitāb-i nauras, in his memoir, and welcomed one of his musicians to the Mughal court.  And Ibrahim in turn was fascinated by Akbar’s great musician Tansen and the quality of Akbar’s relationship with him. 

What, then, of Muhammad ‘Adil Shah and his connections with his exact Mughal contemporary Shah Jahan (r.1628-58) and his Deccan viceroy Aurangzeb, the future emperor ‘Alamgir? Shaikh ‘Abd al-Karim portrays Muhammad ‘Adil Shah as a great lover and connoisseur of music  – and to my knowledge, the Javāhir is the earliest extant full-scale Persian work of Indian musicology from the Mughal period. Why write it in Persian not Dakhni? We know that the miniature paintings of Muhammad ‘Adil Shah’s reign draw to an unprecedented extent on Mughal inspiration, which included importing Mughal artists.  Did Shaikh ‘Abd al-Karim’s choice to write a great treatise in Persian similarly reflect his patron’s aspirations to Mughal recognition, in a subject in which Bijapur was already renowned as the authority? Conversely, what impact did the Javāhir’s unapologetic mixing of Indic musical science with Islamicate natural and esoteric sciences and mystical and ethical teaching have on the explosion of music theory in Persian at ‘Alamgir’s court in the 1660s and 70s? It is suggestive that the first full-scale Indian music treatise in Persian for a Mughal emperor – Qazi Hasan’s Miftāḥ al-surūd (1663-4) – was written in Daulatabad for ‘Alamgir, and has many similar features.  More importantly, the humoral explanation of the rāgās’ potency is fundamental to several treatises written at ‘Alamgir’s court itself. 

We do not have the evidence to say definitively that Mughal connoisseurs and intellectuals were inspired to translate Indian music theory into Persian by what they saw coming out of Bijapur. What we can say is that the Javāhir al-mūsiqāt-i Muḥammadī is a precious landmark in Indian musicology: the earliest known musicological work in Dakhni, and the earliest full-scale Persian work on Indian music from the Mughal period still extant. Yet it is just one of hundreds of Indian musical treasures held today in the British Library’s collections.


Further reading

K B Brown [Schofield], “Hindustani music in the time of Aurangzeb,” unpublished PhD thesis (SOAS, 2003).
K B Schofield, “Reviving the Golden Age again,” Ethnomusicology 54.3 (2010), pp. 484-517
A Behl, The Magic Doe, W Doniger, ed. (Oxford, 2012).
M Zebrowski, Deccani painting (London, 1983).
E J Flatt, “The authorship and significance of the Nujūm al-‘ulūm,” JAOS 131.2 (2011), pp. 223-44.
L Y Leach, Mughal and other Indian paintings from the Chester Beatty Library (London, 1995).
D Hutton, Art of the court of Bijapur (Oxford, 2011).
J P Losty,  “Early Bijapuri musical paintings”, in An Age of Splendour, Islamic Art in India, ed. K. Khandalavala (Bombay, 1983), pp. 128-31.


With thanks to the European Research Council; and to Molly E Aitken, Yael Rice and Margaret E Walker for art-historical, codicological and dance-historical advice. Any errors are mine.

Katherine Butler Schofield, King's College London
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[1] Mānakutūhala (Oriental Institute, Central Library, Baroda, acc. no. 2125). I am grateful to Nalini Delvoye for drawing my attention to this manuscript

07 October 2014

Indian Music in the Persian Collections: the Javahir al-Musiqat-i Muhammadi (Or.12857). Part 1

The first of two posts on the Bijapur manuscript Javāhir al-mūsīqāt, c.1570/c.1630 by guest blogger Katherine Butler Schofield of King’s College London. This manuscript has now been digitised and is available to read online on British Library Digitised Manuscripts. Follow the links below to go directly to the relevant folios.

The third type of the ād-sanj position (British Library Or.12857, f. 171r)
The third type of the ād-sanj position (British Library Or.12857, f. 171r)
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The dancer sinks into a deep plié, both heels raised with her toes planted on the ground, her shins at a distance of one hand span above the floor, both shoulders parallel with her knees, and the thumb and forefinger of each hand completing the circle of the haṃsāsya hand gesture, the “wild-goose beak”, as she demonstrates the third of three ād-sanj positions[1]. As the dancers who follow her show more taxonomically, this scene is straight out of the Saṅgītaratnākara, the greatest Sanskrit music treatise of the second millennium CE, which the Kashmiri pandit Śārṅgadeva wrote for the Yadava king Siṅghaṇa (r.1210-47) at his court of Devagiri, now Daulatabad, in the Deccan. Śārṅgadeva’s work was considered seminally important in both North and South Indian musical traditions in the 16th century when this dancer was painted – a mārga (universal) treatise for all times and places. Yet the page across which she dances is also rooted in a particular desh (region): the text is Dakhni and in Arabic script, betraying its regional roots in the Muslim Deccan; and the dancer is indisputably trained in South Indian traditions. Not for her the flowing ankle-length robes and pajamas and cypress-like stance of her counterparts at the Mughal court. Bare-legged and sharply angled, she wears a short wide skirt like Baz Bahadur’s Mandu dancers, forced to perform in captivity for Akbar in 1561; and the longer skirts of her sisters in subsequent paintings are pulled up between their legs like trousers, in a manner reminiscent of today’s Bharatanatyam dancers. Both costumes are designed to accommodate legs bent wide in plié – still the iconic basic posture of South Indian dance today.

The first and second of the “single hand” gestures as established in the Saṅgītaratnākara: patāka “flag” and tripatāka “three-finger flag” (British Library Or. 12857, f. 174v)
The first and second of the “single hand” gestures as established in the Saṅgītaratnākara: patāka “flag” and tripatāka “three-finger flag” (British Library Or. 12857, f. 174v)
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She may be dancing her way through a Sanskritic taxonomy of mudrās and maṇḍalas (hand gestures and body postures), but her male companion is dressed in visibly Persianate robes and is sporting the tight conical turban characteristic of the 16th-century Muslim Deccan, specifically the ‘Adil Shahi court of Bijapur. This figure is slightly more difficult to interpret: is the rod in his right hand indicative of authority, perhaps of instruction? That he is apparently exemplifying the haṃsāsya gesture to the dancer – a gesture that was itself used in the Saṅgītaratnākara to signify “instruction” – certainly underlines that impression. Is he, perhaps, the dancer’s instructor? If so, is that not a little intriguing: a courtier embracing the Persianate styles of the ‘Adil Shahi court teaching the universal way of the Sanskrit treatises to someone trained in the regional dance forms of the South? The multilinguality of the codex that yields this image, too, is as complicated as the painting’s cultural mixture: choice morsels of Dakhni scattered through a weighty Persian dish poached in a Sanskrit reduction and seasoned with judicious pinches of Sufi-infused Arabic (See Aitken below). Added to which there is confusion over its date: the paintings have the unmistakable savour of the court of ‘Ali ‘Adil Shah c.1570 – based largely on the blatant similarity of the paintings to the Chester Beatty Nujūm al-‘ulūm completed in 1570 for ‘Ali ‘Adil Shah (Michell & Zebrowski, p. 162 and Flatt below) – but the codex’s Persian dedication is to his great-nephew, Muhammad ‘Adil Shah (r.1626-56). How might we make sense of this work?

For the past few years, I and my team on the European Research Council project “Musical Transitions to European Colonialism in the Eastern Indian Ocean” have been compiling information about all the major texts on North Indian art music and dance produced c. 1600–1900. The British Library possesses by far the largest and richest set of materials on North Indian music we have yet encountered. These include hundreds of paintings of the melodic modes of North Indian classical music – the male rāgas and female rāginīs – as heroes, heroines, jogis and deities, alone or collated together into sets called “garlands of rāgas” or rāgamālās. The rāgamālā paintings that form the centrepiece of Shaikh ‘Abd al-Karim bin Shaikh Farid Ansari al-Qadiri Jaunpuri’s masterwork, the Javāhir al-Mūsīqāt-i Muḥammadī, are quite possibly the Library’s oldest.

Bangālī, the third rāginī of Rag Bhairav (British Library Or. 12857, f. 76r)
Bangālī, the third rāginī of Rag Bhairav (British Library Or. 12857, f. 76r)
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The Javāhir al-Mūsīqāt-i Muḥammadī, the “jewels/essences of music belonging to Muhammad”, is not the British Library’s most beautiful Indian musical manuscript; its 48 miniatures have been deemed a crude, if charming, footnote to the productions of ‘Ali ‘Adil Shah (r.1558-80) (Michell & Zebrowski) and its calligraphy is somewhat slapdash. But it is undoubtedly one of the Library’s rarest – this is the only known copy[2] – and one of its most important, for several reasons.

In my next post I will talk about the Javāhir’s wider cultural resonances; here I want to focus on the manuscript’s literary and musicological significance. The codex is largely in Persian, but it contains within it the earliest known Dakhni work on music theory, c.1570, predating the famed Kitāb-i Nauras of Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah II (r.1580-1626) by several decades (Haider). Until now, the Javāhir has only really passed under the eyes of art historians, whose firm dating of the miniatures to 1570s Bijapur has been confounded by the “perplexing dedicatory note on fol. 4a to Sultan Muhammad Adil Shah”, who came to power more than 50 years later (Michell & Zebrowski). A close examination of the codex reveals what I think is the likely process of this unique work’s construction:

1) Firstly, in c.1570 an anonymous author prepared a densely illustrated Dakhni translation of the 13th-century Saṅgītaratnākara probably for ‘Ali ‘Adil Shah of Bijapur, but with the replacement of its rāga chapter with a much newer iconic rāgamālā. All the miniatures have passages of Dakhni prose on the reverse. These do not correspond to the painting on the front, but to the next painting in the section.

Bangālī, reverse folio. The text describes the fourth rāginī of Rag Bhairav, Ragini Bairari (British Library Or. 12857, f. 76v)
Bangālī, reverse folio. The text describes the fourth rāginī of Rag Bhairav, Ragini Bairari (British Library Or. 12857, f. 76v)
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By using digital images of the folios, it is possible to reconstruct large portions of the original treatise. The section on the seven notes of the scale (swara) – which has unique paintings of the swaras personified like rāgas – and the dance section are patently literal translations of the corresponding subchapters of the classic Sanskrit work of music theory, the Saṅgītaratnākara.

The first note of the scale, Sa (ṣadj), whose sound derives from the cry of the peacock, and its four microtones (śrutis) (British Library Or. 12857, f. 39r)
The first note of the scale, Sa (ṣadj), whose sound derives from the cry of the peacock, and its four microtones (śrutis) (British Library Or. 12857, f. 39r)
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2) Around 1630 or so, Shaikh ‘Abd al-Karim, a Qadiri Sufi whose family hailed originally from Jaunpur in the north, split the Dakhni treatise apart and reused its paintings in a more elaborate and refined Persian translation for Muhammad ‘Adil Shah, with a Suficate preface and six chapters: the origins of sound; the musical scale; the rāgas and rāginīs; two chapters on the rhythmic system (tāla); and dance. This essentially forms the manuscript we have now. Shaikh ‘Abd al-Karim calls the work he is translating the Kitāb-i Sangīt, the “Book of Music” (e.g. Javāhir, f. 69v). This designation may refer to the Saṅgītaratnākara itself; the more traditional sections compare almost exactly. However the remaining Dakhni is also followed very closely, though with key interpolations from the Islamic sciences (see my next post). Sticking my neck out I would suggest Kitāb-i Sangīt refers to the Dakhni text. Even what remains indicates its textual portions were originally much more extensive.

3) At some point comparatively early in its long history, through wear and tear the manuscript lost its colophon, and the first few pages became so degraded that a second headpiece was reused to replace the original – you can see where the previous text was cut out – and the first few pages were retranscribed on newer paper.

The retranscribed dedication to Sultan Muhammad ‘Adil Shah (British Library Or. 12,857, f. 4r)
The retranscribed dedication to Sultan Muhammad ‘Adil Shah (British Library Or. 12,857, f. 4r)
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4) Finally, by the time the codex was bound in its current form, what is now the third folio ended up bound out of place (folio four runs on from folio two), and several pages in the middle – all the rāg-rāginī illustrations for Rags Shri and Dipak and the beginning of the fourth chapter – had sadly gone missing. Where the English pencil folio numbering (followed for citations here) goes from 123v to 124r, the oldest Persian numbering skips from 141 to 177. Suddenly, from enjoying a description of Shri Rag, we find ourselves in the middle of a sentence describing the Sanskritic notation system for poetical and musical metre.

The Javāhir is thus a multilingual palimpsest of three treatises layered up like an onion: a translation of the 13th-century Sanskrit Saṅgītaratnākara into 16th-century Dakhni, which was split apart and its paintings reused to form the central thread of a more elaborate and aspirational 17th-century Persian translation.

This remarkable manuscript constitutes the earliest work of Indian music theory in Dakhni that we know of. But it is also the earliest music treatise in Persian that we still possess from the Mughal period. I will discuss the wider cultural and historical significance of this text in my next post.
 


[1] The term Ād-sanj appears to be a distortion of the Sanskrit term, asaṃyukta, for the “single hands” section that follows, but at the moment it’s not clear where the three subpostures come from.

[2] The British Library copy of the Ghunyat al-munya is often cited as unique, but there is at least one other: Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, owns a copy (Cambridge University Library, Corpus no. 884).


Further reading

Śārṅgadeva, Saṅgītaratnākara, S S Sastri, ed. (Madras, 1943), vol. i, pp. ix-x
M E Aitken, “Parataxis and the practice of reuse,” Archives of Asian art 59 (2009), 81-103, pp. 82, 97-100 for the comandeering of the Indian culinary term khichṛī, a rich stew of rice and lentils, to describe cultural and religious mixing in early-modern India.
G Michell & M Zebrowski, Architecture and art of the Deccan sultanates (Cambridge, 1999).
E J Flatt, “The authorship and significance of the Nujūm al-‘ulūm,” JAOS 131.2 (2011), 223-44.
N N Haider, “The Kitab-i Nauras,” in N N Haider, ed., Sultans of the South (New York, 2011), 26-43.
N M Titley, Miniatures from Persian Manuscripts) a Catalogue and Subject Index of Paintings from Persia, India and Turkey in the British Library and the British Museum (London, 1977) pp. 1-2.
J P Losty,  “Early Bijapuri musical paintings”, in An Age of Splendour, Islamic Art in India, ed. K. Khandalavala (Bombay, 1983), pp. 128-31.


With thanks to the European Research Council; and to Molly E Aitken, Yael Rice and Margaret E Walker for art-historical, codicological and dance-historical advice. Any errors are mine.

Katherine Butler Schofield, King’s College London
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