Friday, November 30, 2007

Islamic Art at a rural Fair: Posters showing Sufis, other Islamic imagery vanish from Muslim households in India

Man sells Islamic posters at a shop in North India
By Indscribe

Until the decade of eighties, the posters depicting Sufis and Islamic imagery were quite commonly seen in Muslim households in India.

The calendars showcasing Islamic art like photograph of a Sherwani-clad boy with a Turkish cap reading the Holy Quran were visible on the Muslim street.

At friends' or relatives' houses, such posters were found in drawing rooms. I even remember seeing posters showing 'Sufis' with halo around their heads. 

There were also some photographs with which certain sections among Muslims weren't exactly comfortable.

Particularly, the posters showing miracles or imaginary faces of Sufis dervishes. But they all started disappearing in the 90s. 

I think these posters vanished from houses and shops of Muslims just the same way as photos of freedom fighters began disappearing across India.

In the past photos of Gandhi, Chandrashekhar Azad, Subhas Chandra Bose and other freedom fighters were a common sight in homes, shops and offices. But all that started changing from mid-80s when the film stars replaced them.

Posters show a meeting of Sufis [1 & 2], praying woman [3] and Karbala battle [last]
Probably urban upwardly mobile Indians didn't find them chic enough to put up in the drawing rooms. Recently at a rural fare in Uttar Pradesh (UP), I was surprised to see many shops selling 'Islamic art'. There were buyers also at these shops. 

Seems there is still a market for this kind of art though the variety is less. Some of these posters have a unique old charm. Mr Yousuf Saeed has created an excellent site where you can see some of these beautiful posters. 

As far as thumbnails above are concerned, the first of these four photos shows an interesting encounter between a Muslim Sufi saint, who visits a Hindu yogi on the latter's invitation. That's Indian secularism at its best!!!

The second photo shows a woman praying, the third is an imaginary photo of the meeting of five great Sufi Saints and the last is photo of the scene of Karbala. 

One must see the photos in full size at Saeed Sahab's website along with their description.

Check more photos at Tasweer Ghar. It's a tremendous site and has links to Hindu Art as well.