THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Asian and African studies blog

18 July 2013

Book of Affairs of Love

Karnama-i ‘Ishq (Book of affairs of love) by the Hindu poet Rai Anand Ram Mukhlis (d. 1751) is a romance in Persian on the afflictions of a young man’s heart and the challenges he faces for eternal love. The poetical narrative is derived from an existing Hindi literary work, the exact source for which Mukhlis omitted to mention. Mukhlis, a disciple of the eminent poet Mirza Bedil, was attached to the Mughal court in Delhi, acting as a vakil (representative) for governors including Vazir I’timad al-Daula Qamar al-Din Khan (d. 1748). Based in the capital, he was a key witness of the events that led to the eventual decline of the empire including the invasion of Nadir Shah in 1739.

This presentation copy of the Karnama-i ‘Ishq was copied by the scribe Harkulall and is dated 25 Safar 1148/17 July 1735. The text is accompanied by thirty-eight illustrations by the artist Govardhan II along with a note on the flyleaf dated 1151/1738–9, recording that it took Govardhan five years to complete these miniatures.

The story unfolds with King Shahryar praying for the birth of a son. He hears from fakirs news of a young woman whom he will marry and who will conceive a child, although he is warned that at a mature age the son will fall in love and consequentially become mentally unsound.

Johnson Album 38, fol. 29v
Prince Gauhar on a hunting expedition  noc
By Govardhan II, 1734-9
British Library, Johnson Album 38, f.29v

At the age of 14 Prince Gauhar, the son of King Shahryar, takes a detour during a hunting expedition. In the distance he observes a graceful gazelle that has the head of a beautiful woman. He chases after her. Instead of catching up with the gazelle, he encounters a young man named Khiradmand.

 

Johnson Album 38, fol.42v
Prince Gauhar and his companion Khiradmand surviving the storm noc
By Govardhan II, 1734-9
British Library, Johnson Album 38, f.42v

The hand of the beautiful gazelle, who is really Princess Malika-i Zamani, can only be won by securing fruit from a mythical tree of emerald leaves and ruby flowers. Gauhar accompanied by Khiradmand embark on their journey faced by challenges including a storm at sea, imprisonment, and the island of the Fairy Queen Lal. In this illustration, adminst the chaos and a sea monster, Gauhar and Khiradmand appear calm as they drift on a plank of wood.

Johnson Album 38, fol.51r
Prince Gauhar and Khiradmand rescued by the simurgh noc
By Govardhan II, 1734-9
British Library, Johnson Album 38, f.51r

 

Johnson Album 38, f.105v
Marriage procession of Prince Gauhar noc
By Govardhan II, 1734-9
British Library, Johnson Album 38, f.105v

After finding the mythical tree and securing the fruit, Gauhar asks the neighbouring king for the hand of Malika-i Zamani. This scene features the elaborate marriage procession of Prince Gauhar, on horseback, on his way to his wedding. In the final scenes of this manuscript, Gauhar and Malika-i Zamani are married and of course live happily ever after!

Govardhan II, the sole artist of this manuscript, was one of the pre-eminent artists affiliated to Muhammad Shah’s atelier and predominantly painted scenes of princes and princesses languishing on terraces. His style is consistent and distinct from the work of his contemporaries. Female characters are always drawn as a specific type with heavy stippling, petal-shaped eyes (as characterized by Smart and Walker) and trim figures. The manner in which their transparent veils (odhani) are pictured displays his exceptional talent: these sheer pieces of cloth with gold trim fall in delicate waves over their heads. Of the eighteenth-century artists affiliated to emperor Muhammad Shah’s court, he is the only known artist to collaborate with a scribe to produce an imperial-quality manuscript. In addition to scenes of the romance, this manuscript also features a portrait of Muhammad Shah (ruled 1719-48) bestowing a turban jewel on Qamar al-Din Khan.

Karnama-i 'Ishq can be viewed by appointment in the British Library's Print Room, located in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

T. Falk and M. Archer, Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1981 - See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2013/07/spectacular-firework-displays.html#sthash.2YKECuu7.dpuf

 

Further reading:

J.P. Losty and M. Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, British Library, 2012

E. Smart and D. Walker, Pride of the Princes: Indian Art of the Mughal era in the Cincinnati Art Museum, 1985

T. Falk and M. Archer, Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library, Sotheby Parke Barnet, 1981

Malini Roy, Visual Arts Curator Creative Commons License


T. Falk and M. Archer, Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1981

Jahangir, Henry Beveridge, and Alexander Rogers. The Tuzuk-I-Jahangiri; Or, Memoirs of Jahangir. Translated by Alexander Rogers. Edited by Henry Beveridge. London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1909. p.385

J.P. Losty, "The Great Gun at Agra", 'British Library Journal', v. 15, 1989, pp.35-58

J.P. Losty and M. Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, British Library, 2012

- See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2013/07/spectacular-firework-displays.html#sthash.2YKECuu7.dpuf

T. Falk and M. Archer, Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1981

Jahangir, Henry Beveridge, and Alexander Rogers. The Tuzuk-I-Jahangiri; Or, Memoirs of Jahangir. Translated by Alexander Rogers. Edited by Henry Beveridge. London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1909. p.385

J.P. Losty, "The Great Gun at Agra", 'British Library Journal', v. 15, 1989, pp.35-58

J.P. Losty and M. Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, British Library, 2012

- See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2013/07/spectacular-firework-displays.html#sthash.2YKECuu7.dpuf

T. Falk and M. Archer, Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1981

Jahangir, Henry Beveridge, and Alexander Rogers. The Tuzuk-I-Jahangiri; Or, Memoirs of Jahangir. Translated by Alexander Rogers. Edited by Henry Beveridge. London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1909. p.385

J.P. Losty, "The Great Gun at Agra", 'British Library Journal', v. 15, 1989, pp.35-58

J.P. Losty and M. Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, British Library, 2012

- See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2013/07/spectacular-firework-displays.html#sthash.2YKECuu7.dpuf

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