Volume 70 Number 1, September 2018

Scent upon a Southern Breeze: The Synaesthetic Arts of the Deccan

Edited by: Kavita Singh
Binding: Hardcover
Specifications: 156 pages, 100 illustrations
ISBN: 978-93-83243-25-9
Dimensions: 305 x 241 mm

The arts of the Deccan remained understudied for a long while, possibly due to their complex and hybrid nature. This was a coveted region, and many powers fought over its control. What survives of its turbulent history allows us to reconstruct only a fragmentary record of what might have been made in the Deccan. Even in what remains, it is not always easy to put one’s finger on what is "Deccani" in Deccani art. Now, in the wake of global art history and its interest in travelling objects and hybridity, Deccani art is increasingly coming into focus. Scholars are bringing new insights to Deccani objects that bear the marks of mixed styles, trade, and even damage and reconstitution.

Drawing from and going beyond the landmark 2015 symposium and exhibition Nauras: The Many Arts of the Deccan held at the National Museum, New Delhi, the essays in this volume explore the sense of wonder, 'aja'ib, that permeated textile design, manuscript illustration and perfume production in the Deccan. Through Ragamala paintings and treatises on magic, perfumery texts and garden architecture, exquisite bidri ware and kalamkaris, the volume shows the way objects and texts can yield an understanding of how beauty was experienced in the past not just through visual means but through sound and smell as well. The book breaks new ground for a sensory turn in Indian art history. Visual objects become crucibles for synaesthetic experiences, as we look upon them with new eyes, or with more than eyes.

Kavita Singh is Professor and currently Dean at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where she teaches courses on the history of Indian painting and the history and politics of museums.

Contents

Scent upon a Southern Breeze: The Synaesthetic Arts of the Deccan
Kavita Singh

Social Stimulants: Perfuming Practices in Sultanate India
Emma Flatt

Perfume and Pleasure in 17th-Century Deccan
Ali Akbar Husain

Bidri Ware: A Fascinating Craft of the Deccan
Jagdish Mittal

Music, Art and Power in ‘Adil Shahi Bijapur, c. 1570–1630
Katherine Butler Schofield

The Tree of Life and the World of Wonder: ‘Aja’ib Imagery on 17th-Century Kalamkaris
Sylvia Houghteling

Documenting the Fabulous: The ‘Aja’ib al-Makhluqat of the National Museum
Preeti Bahadur Ramaswami

Slave, Sultan, Scholar: Muhammad Qutb Shah and the Royal Library of Golconda
Laura Weinstein

Weddings and Hunts: A Visual History of Pleasure in 18th-Century Hyderabad
Srinayani Lankala

Index

Scent upon a Southern Breeze: The Synaesthetic Arts of the Deccan
Singh, Kavita
Vol. 70 No. 1, September 2018; ISBN: 978-93-83243-25-9, pp. 8–23

The introduction examines how the art of the Deccani sultanates offers the possibility of pushing the boundaries of the discipline of art history, where visual objects become crucibles for synaesthetic experiences, as we look upon them with new eyes, or with more than eyes.

Social Stimulants: Perfuming Practices in Sultanate India
Flatt, Emma
Vol. 70 No. 1, September 2018; ISBN: 978-93-83243-25-9, pp. 24–41

In this essay Emma Flatt attempts to reconstruct the "smellscape" of the sultanate courts of the Deccan by investigating contemporary perfuming practices and the theories behind them, as well as the meanings such practices carried for members of contemporary societies.

Perfume and Pleasure in 17th-Century Deccan
Husain, Ali Akbar
Vol. 70 No. 1, September 2018; ISBN: 978-93-83243-25-9, pp. 42–55

This essay is concerned with the aesthetic uses of perfume as elicited from a 17th-century perfumery text, the 'Itrya-i Nauras Shahi, written for Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah II at the sultanate of Bijapur, and how the pursuit of pleasure was part of the expression of the power of medieval Deccan’s rulers.

Bidri Ware: A Fascinating Craft of the Deccan
Mittal, Jagdish
Vol. 70 No. 1, September 2018; ISBN: 978-93-83243-25-9, pp. 56–67

Jagdish Mittal traces the origins and development of bidri ware in Bidar and other centres, suggesting that craftsmen probably arrived at this unique combination of inlay work, metal alloy and blackening paste in the early 17th century, when Bidar was under ‘Adil Shahi rule.

The Tree of Life and the World of Wonder: ‘Aja’ib Imagery on 17th-Century Kalamkaris
Houghteling, Sylvia
Vol. 70 No. 1, September 2018; ISBN: 978-93-83243-25-9, pp. 88–107

Sylvia Houghteling studies the 17th-century kalamkaris exported from the Coromandel coast to Southeast Asia, West Asia and Europe to show that thetree-of-life textiles epitomize a fantastical visual sensibility unique not to Europe, butto the cosmopolitan visual culture of the Deccan sultanate of Golconda.

Documenting the Fabulous: The ‘Aja’ib al-Makhluqat of the National Museum
Ramaswami, Preeti Bahadur
Vol. 70 No. 1, September 2018; ISBN: 978-93-83243-25-9, pp. 108–123

The essay focuses on a manuscript of the ‘Aja’ib al-Makhluqat wa-Ghara’ib al-Mawjudat that was produced for the Bijapur court in the 17th century (and currently housed in the National Museum, New Delhi) and describes its significance as exemplar of Arabic encyclopedism and literature, and the text’s career in the Deccan.

Slave, Sultan, Scholar: Muhammad Qutb Shah and the Royal Library of Golconda
Weinstein, Laura
Vol. 70 No. 1, September 2018; ISBN: 978-93-83243-25-9, pp. 124–139

The inscriptions left by Muhammad Qutb Shah of Golconda in his books offer a point of entry into the vibrant cultures of the book in the Deccani sultanates, and serve as a source of valuable information on a little-studied sultan.

Weddings and Hunts: A Visual History of Pleasure in 18th-Century Hyderabad
Lankala, Srinayani
Vol. 70 No. 1, September 2018; ISBN: 978-93-83243-25-9, pp. 140–153

A careful reading of the paintings of courtly life in Shah Tajalli’sTuzuk-i-Asafiya, in conjunction with the text, reveals a late 18th-century world of ceremony, sociality and pleasure. Arguing for images as a distinct form of historiography, Srinayani Lankala delves into a history of pleasure in Asaf Jahi Hyderabad.