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Hybrid Manuscript Paintings

April 09, 2019 2 min read

A few weeks ago the surprise of hybrid paintings had already stung me when I saw a  Hindu manuscript with illuminated paintings scripted in Gurmukhi.

Antique Sikh Manuscript Indian Miniature Painting Gurmukhi

1358 Set of 10 Bhagvat Gita Folios with Gurmukhi Script

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My use of the word “hybrid” which means born of two unique & different elements is not entirely correct since at the time of their birth, these paintings were from a single culture. It is only from my vantage point today – dozens of decades later  that the two elements of script  & content belong to separated cultures.

But this error was a useful one as it alerted me to the idea that in some cases, tracing back the history of 2 divergent cultures along the cone of time brings us to a common starting point.

Another example is a pair of painted folios  that also have ‘hybrid’ character – only this time the script is Urdu.  The  figures do not look muslim but the script was Urdu. I’ve wondered about these for the 10-15 years I have these but neglected to find out more.

My recent exploration into Sikh / Hindu manuscript 1358 reminded me of this similar hybrid and I took it out again to pay the attention that was overdue.

297 Antique Indian Miniature Painting Urdu Din I ilahi

297 Antique Indian Miniature Painting

To solve the mystery I got help from a friend to read it and he translated the bits that he could read.

The signed text is written in a poetic meter and mentions Din-i-Ilahi specifically and goes on to elaborate on the punishment to be meted out to a criminal.

Now Din-i Ilahi is the religion which was propounded by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1582 AD and the elements were drawn from Islam and Hinduism primarily and also Christianity, Jainism,and Zoroastrianism with an intention to reconcile the differences that divided his subjects.

So that explained the presence of non-muslim characters in a muslim script or muslim script in a narration with non-muslim characters.

Akbar. Planning Integration – not by bridging the divide between two religions but instead by creating a third religion. Clearly  a very ambitious king who not only dreamt of the impossible but also evolved the idea to maturity and implemented it. Unity in Plurality.

But the world was not ready for it then.

Will the theistic world ever be ready to unite?

Until we find the answer we can at least examine remnants of  historical examples through 297 The Din-i-ilahi Folios or  1358 Set of Gurmukhi Bhagavat Gita Folios and learn from the mistakes that led to disintegration.

That way, we can avoid those mistakes and make our very own freshones!



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