Mughal treasures brought back to life

Mughal treasures brought back to life

Art exhibitions in the Capital are many but rarely does one comes across an exhibit with Mughal treasures. Self-taught artist Ravinder Dutt has created several artworks in mixed medium on world-renowned treasures of the Mughal era like hukkah, chessboard and cannons. Majestic and detailed –he revealed a few of these at the Lalit Kala Akademi.

Ravinder never had any formal training in art. “Art is a passion for me. In fact, sometimes I feel like I am art itself and the canvas is my extension.” With a penchant for history, he did his graduation in the same subject from Hansraj College and now dabbles in art to fulfill his passion.

“My grandfather also has a vast collection in antique objects. The monuments of Delhi, particularly Mughal architecture, always fascinated me. Sometime back I realised that I could easily combine my two passions – art and history and come up with something much more educative and nuanced than just paintings. Hence, the idea of ‘Mughal treasures’.”

It took him a full one year to research Mughal art and architecture and come up with accurate material and inspiration, to start work on this theme.

“Mughal emperors were great patrons of art and culture. You will be surp­r­­ised to know that they gro­u­nd real pearls into their plaster to make their fort walls shine! Inside, they had beautiful canals in which fishes were encrusted with diam­o­nd-studded nose rings so that they sparkled at night. They were known for their excellent jewellery designing (in Kundan for example) and even accessories like paandaan were amazingly ornate. Their fabric making is also exemplary and Noor Jehan herself introduced chik­a­n­k­ari in India.”

Ravinder has picked up some of these treasures and translated them into modern artwork. His Hukka woman for example, shows the smoking pipe which originated in Mughal courts and was later refined in Turkey, in a female form. It is in digital print and the metal chains and jewel­l­ery hanging out of the canvas to give it a touch of realism.

Then there is the War of the Worlds – best described as a ‘thinking’ artwork. It portrays Shah Jehan at the war fatigue, mounted on a decorated elephant out to conqu­er modern tanks and troops. It is all laid out on a chessbo­a­rd with an ancient map of India in the background.

Without revealing much on the other artworks in this series, which will be displ­a­y­ed at Azad Bhavan later this year, Ravinder says, “There are many interesting elements of the Mug­h­al era like the dominance of women in specific periods (a reference to Jodha Bai and Noor Jehan); Sufism as patronised by Akbar, their exquisite weaponry – carved swords and daggers which served a ceremonial as well as utilitarian purpose. All of these and more will feature in my next exhibition. I wish to make it as grand as the Mughal empire itself.” It will surely be something to watch out for.

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