The Seventh Spring

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn :: Four Orientals seated under a tree; bearded old men wearing turbans, seated in a half-circle on a terrace, one holding a cup, the other a book, a steep rocky outcrop behind. c.1656-1661 | Click image for larger view. | source:

Aftab Datta had promptly uploaded the following gems from his collection for the seventh anniversary of, and I am responsible for the tardiness of this post. Emerson says in Spiritual Laws, “If you visit your friend, why need you apologize for not having visited him, and waste his time and deface your own act? Visit him now.”

Happy Equinox!

muddat hu’ii hai yaar ko mihmaaN kiye hu’e
josh-e qadah se bazm chiraaghaaN kiye hu’e

it’s been some time since the beloved/friend was made a guest
[and] the mehfil illuminated with the fervor of the [wine] cup

Ahmad Ali and Rahmat Ali Khan – Shuddh Sarang
Amanat Ali and Fateh Ali Khan – Miyan Malhar
Moinuddin and Aminuddin Dagar – Durga (Khamaj Thaat)
Amir Khan – Megh (unpublished)
Anant Manohar Joshi – Mawra
Anoklal Misra – Teentaal (tabla solo)
Arnab Chakrabarty – Des (sarod)
Ashraf Sharif Khan – Chhayanat (sitar)
Azmat Hussain Khan – Shuddh Nat
Badal Khan – Bhairav Bahar (sarangi)
Bashir Hussain – Asavari (sarangi)
Begum Akhtar – morii ho tuut gayii
Bade Ghulam Ali Khan – Sohni (1954)
Bhimsen Joshi – Lalit
Bundu Khan – Tilak Kamod (sarangi)
Chand Khan – Marubehag
Fateh Ali Khan – Hamsadhwani
Fayyaz Khan – Bageshree (Tarana)
Gajananrao Joshi – Puriya
Govind Prasad Jaipurwale – Rageshree
Hamid Hussain – Madhkauns (sarangi)
Hiradai Barodekar – Todi
Ijaz Hussain Hazravi – albaila yaar russi russi janda
Ilyas Hussain Khan – Chandni Kedar
Inderlal Dhandra – Gaud Sarang (sarangi)
Ismail Azad – na hum daulat ke bhooke haiN
Jagdish Prasad – Abhogi
Kabir – Aimen (sitar)
Kalyan Mukherjea – Hansakinkini
Khadim Hussain Khan – Adana (Tarana)
Latafat Hussain Khan – Lalit (Drut)
Latafat Hussain Khan – Miyan ka Sarang
Mehdi Hassan – Desi (Ghazal)
Moinuddin Khan – Nand (sarangi)
Mujahid Hussain Khan – Puriya Kalyan
Nabi Bakhsh – Shahana (sarangi)
Nathu Khan – Lalit (sarangi)
Nazakat Ali and Zakir Ali Khan – Bilaskhani Todi
Nissar Hussain Khan – Todi
Swami Parvatikar – Todi (dattatreya veena)
Sharif Khan Poonchwale – Behag (sitar)
Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar – Lalit
Ramzan Khan – Nat Bhairav (sarangi)
Rashid Khan – Jog
Rasiklal Andharia – Shuddh Sarang
Naseeruddin Saami – Darbari, Drut in Adana (Lahore Music Forum)
Naseeruddin Saami – Mand
Sadiq Ali Khan – Shankara (been)
Nazakat Ali and Salamat Ali Khan – Alhaiya Bilawal (Radio Pakistan)
Salamat Ali and Sharafat Salamat – Kamod
Shahid Parvez – Shyam Kalyan (sitar)
Shakoor Khan – Kedar (sarangi)
Sharafat Hussain Khan – Raisa Kanada
Sultan Khan – Patdeep (sarangi)
Surendranath – Darbari (been)
Swami Vallabhdas – Jog
Tarapada Chakraborty – Marwa
Vasantrao Deshpande – Chhayanat
Vijay Raghav Rao – Abhogi (bansuri)
Zia Moinuddin Dagar – Bhairavi (been)

The Art of Living – Stanford Humanities

“In The Art of Living, a first-year Introduction to the Humanities course, three humanities professors examine great works of philosophy and literature to explore what it might take to lead a well-lived life.” — Stanford Humanities

1. Introduction to The Art of Living
2. Visions of Love
3. It is Not Hard at All to Challenge Socrates
4. A Life of Reason? Socrates vs. Alcibiades
5. Your Worm is the Only Emperor for Diet
6. Hamlet: Knight of Resignation
7. For Hecuba! What’s Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba that he should weep for her?…The play’s the thing.
8. Roundtable Discussion: Shakespeare
9. Abraham is the Knight of Faith: Faith versus Love, Morals, and Reason Itself
10. Was it So Easy a Matter Not to be Mistaken?
11. Abraham is the Knight of Faith: On Roles of Reason and Faith
12. What One Should Learn from Artists
13. Recurrence and Redemption or Why Science is Just as Necessary as Art
14. Morality Strikes Back
15. The Narrative Construction of the Self
16. The Flight of Self
17. It’s not about you living longer. It’s about how you live and why.

sarangi turns seven

A Gathering of Holy Men of Different Faiths - Mir Kalan Khan  (active ca. 1730–80) | | Click image for larger view.
A Gathering of Holy Men of Different Faiths - Mir Kalan Khan (active ca. 1730–80) | | Click image for larger view.


dauRe hai phir har ek gul-o-laalah par khayaal
.sad gulsitaaN nigaah kaa saamaaN kiye hu’e

again thought runs on every single rose and tulip
having made a hundred gardens measures for the gaze

On this pleasant occasion, we want to thank all the friends and visitors of for their contributions, comments, appreciation and encouragement. This project flourishes because of you. Music updates will be forthcoming everyday for the next seven days as a part of this seven-year celebration.

Warm regards,

PS See this post for the music update: The Seventh Spring


Section from a Quran Manuscript, 18th century Morocco or Tunisia. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper. | via | Click image for larger view.
Section from a Quran Manuscript, 18th century Morocco or Tunisia. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper. | via | Click image for larger view.

“it is as difficult to present a fixed image of a character as of societies and passions. For a character alters no less than they do, and if one tries to take a snapshot of what is relatively immutable in it, one finds it presenting a succession of different aspects … to the disconcerted lens” (Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time: The Captive, 373).

mudd’a anqa hai apne aalam-e taqrir ka – Ghalib

Anqa | Islamic Medical Manuscripts at the National Library of Medicine
Anqa | Islamic Medical Manuscripts at the National Library of Medicine

Anqa: A bird from Arabic story tradition, whose single defining trait is his not-there-ness. Whenever you try to catch him, he’s gone. — Frances Pritchett

For a detailed discussion of this ghazal, please visit Frances Pritchett’s site.

Frieze tile with phoenix, ca. 1270s Iran; probably Takht-i Sulayman; Fritware, overglaze luster-painted. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Creativity & Mental Illness

nah puuchh be-khudii-e aish-e maqdam-e sailaab
kih naachte haiN paRe sar bah sar dar-o-diivaar

don’t ask about the self-lessness of the enjoyment of the coming of the flood
for/since they dance, fallen, end to end– doors and walls {58,9} Ghalib

Even if there are connections between creativity and madness, it does not mean that madness is the premise. Mental illnesses are generally disabling, and it could be a chance occurrence that being human, exceptionally creative minds too have their share of them. Acute sensitivity can lead to fruitful distraction and mood lability, but chaos is nothing without kosmos and vice versa.

“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarathustra

Illness and Art – Arts & Academe – The Chronicle of Higher Education

The reason why a work of genius is not easily admired from the first is that the man who has created it is extraordinary, that few other men resemble him.  It is his work itself that, by fertilizing the rare minds capable of understanding it, will make them increase and multiply.  It was Beethoven’s quartets themselves (the Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth) that devoted half a century to forming, fashioning and enlarging the audience for Beethoven’s quartets, thus marking, like every great work of art, an advance if not in the quality of artists at least in the community of minds, largely composed today of what was not to be found when the work first appeared, that is to say of persons capable of appreciating it.  What is called posterity is the posterity of the work of art.  It is essential that the work (leaving out of account, for simplicity’s sake, the contingency that several men of genius may at the same time be working along parallel lines to create a more instructed public in the future, from which other men of genius will benefit)  should create its own posterity.  For if the work were held in reserve, were revealed only to posterity, that audience, for that particular work, would be not posterity, but a group of contemporaries who were merely living half a century later in time.  And so it is essential that the artist (and this is what Vinteuil had done), if he wishes his work to be free to follow its own course, should launch it, there where there is sufficient depth, boldly into the distant future.  

Marcel Proust, In Search Of Lost Time: Within a Budding Grove, page 142-143.

Islam – Illustrations & Calligraphy

Sample Of Calligraphy From An Album Made For Shah Jahan | Click image for larger view.

“The verses, calligraphed in black but outlined in red, are written in Persian.”

My god, if the entire universe should be blown by wind
Let not the light of fortune be extinguished
And if the entire universe should become flooded with water
Let not the mark of the unfortunate be washed away!

Source & Description: Aga Khan Museum I

Congregation Of Birds | Click image for larger view.

Source & Description: Aga Khan Museum II

An Aged Pilgrim | Click image for larger view.

Source & Description: Aga Khan Museum III

‘Art’ by Yasmina Reza

Set in Paris, the story revolves around three friends—Serge, Marc and Yvan—who find their previously solid 15-year friendship on shaky ground when Serge buys an expensive painting. The canvas is white, with a few white lines.

Serge is proud of his 200,000 franc acquisition fully expecting the approval of his friends.

Marc scornfully describes it as “a piece of white shit,” but is it the painting that offends him, or the uncharacteristic independence-of-thought that the purchase reveals in Serge?

For the insecure Yvan, burdened by the problems of his impending doom (wedding) and his dissatisfaction at his job as a stationery salesman, their friendship is his sanctuary…but his attempts at peace-making backfire. Eager to please he laughs about the painting with Marc but tells Serge he likes it. Pulled into the disagreement, his vacillations fuel the blazing row.

Lines are drawn and they square off over the canvas, using it as an excuse to relentlessly batter one another over various failures. As their arguments become less theoretical and more personal, they border on destroying their friendship. – Wikipedia

Bach for Breakfast – Flute Sonata in G minor

Landscape with Dancing Figures by Claude Lorrain, 1648 | Click image for larger view.

C. P. E. Bach – Sonata for Flute in G minor, BWV 1020, 1st mvt Allegro; Flute, Harp, Cello [download file]

We first came across this piece quite by accident when I asked a friend to download some harp music on his desktop. I’ve had the most soothing associations with it for over a decade. It is a sonata – now attributed to J.S. Bach’s son, C.P.E. Bach – composed for “Flute or Recorder and Harpsichord”, but in my opinion, this recording wouldn’t have been what it is without the airy harp and simple cello accompaniment, instead of a harpsichord which has a charm of its own as you can compare.

It may appeal to you differently and there are different versions on YouTube as well, but I wanted to put that particular one here and give it more than a fleeting tweet. I’ve taken the false but aptly nostalgic title Bach for Breakfast from the original file.

Kausa Ragaputra: Music For After Midnight

ca. 1700 CE. The bright yellow background colour was made from the urine of mango-fed cows | Click image for larger view.

The rise of the Mughal Empire (1526-1858 CE) called for the subjugation of numerous small states that had existed in India before the sixteenth century. Some of these principalities were already Muslim, while others, like those ruled by the warrior Rajput caste in northern India, belonged to a native Hindu heritage. Situated at the foothills of the Himalayas, the Rajputs’ were known for their military might, but even they, like many other indigenous groups in India, eventually faced Mughal domination. The Rajputs came to an agreement with the Mughal conquerors; the Mughals would allow them to rule their individual territories in exchange for their participation in Mughal military campaigns and their sending of an important member of their family to be raised at the Mughal court. In spite of their military talents, the Rajputs also cultivated the arts, producing distinctive painting styles, one of which included a bright yellow colour (made from the urine of mango-fed cows) and a stylised, flat quality, seen in this painting with two figures seated on a tilted carpet against a plain, bright yellow backdrop. This may have corresponded to the fact that Rajput paintings sought to illustrate an ideal world (Cummins 2006, p. 93). One of the most popular subjects in Rajput painting was the depiction of ragas, or musical modes, indigenous to the northern Indian region. These modes eventually became described through a new genre of writing and, later, through illustration, gathered into what came to be called ragamalas, or “garlands of ragas.” The paintings were meant to evoke the multilayered quality of the musical modes through visual representation and sought to create a similarly complex sensory experience for the viewer. Ragas were classified into family groups, headed by the raga or patriarch, and followed by his wives or raginis, sons, or ragaputras, and (occasionally) daughters, or ragaputris (ibid., pp. 95-6). This image, in which a man and woman are seated facing each other, each with a bird delicately perched on their hand, is an expression of the Kausa ragaputra, which belongs to the Malakausika raga family; the man in the painting is understood as the personification of the raga (Canby 1998, p. 167). It is an example of a ragamala illustration that is romantic in nature, inspired by the amorous side of Rajput culture (when not at war) and belonging to other such paintings that express the diversity of love, whether joyful or heartbreaking (Cummins 2006, p. 99). It is believed that ragamala illustration existed before the Mughal period. The Mughals, however, did not seem to adopt this form of painting, perhaps because of their greater interest in Persian music coming from Iran and Central Asia (ibid., p. 96). Nevertheless, ragamala illustrations exhibiting a Mughal aesthetic suggest that some paintings might have been produced by Mughal artists for non-Mughal clients, or by non-Mughal artists who integrated Mughal tastes with indigenous subjects. — Aga Khan Museum

Calligraphy by Darah Shikoh

Sample of Calligraphy by Prince Dara Shikoh | Aga Khan Museum | Click image for larger view.
1 April 2011. I have obtained an Urdu translation of this piece of calligraphy through the kind help of India’s ambassador to Ukraine, His Excellency Mr. Jyoti Pande, who contacted the Afghan embassy there to decipher the text.

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries witnessed a growing interest in art and the art of collecting in the three “gunpowder” empires, beginning with the Safavids in Iran and followed by the Ottomans and Mughals. Not only did more artists exhibit a hitherto rare sense of self-awareness by increasingly signing their works, but the royal and wealthy patrons who compiled or commissioned the albums had the chance to express their own taste and connoisseurship through their collecting. These extraordinary codices were filled with specimens of calligraphy, painting and drawing, including single-page, finished compositions as well as elements of illustrated manuscripts and calligraphy exercises. Artists’ and calligraphers’ works were recognized within the albums for their individual talents and styles – sometimes by glosses added by the patron himself. This folio contains writing samples by a Mughal prince whose royal training would have included learning the art of calligraphy. The Persian verses are signed by Shah Jahan’s preferred son, Muhammad Dara Shikuh (1615-59 CE) and dated 1041 H/1631-32 CE at Burhanpur in the Deccan; they were probably written while the Mughals were campaigning in that region. This sample was later mounted into an eighteenth-century album, another presumed page of which was copied in Burhanpur in 1631 CE and now belongs to the British Museum. — Aga Khan Museum

Islamic Art from the Khalili Collections

Frontispiece with a dedication to Sultan Khalil (detail). Iran, Tabriz, 1478 AD. Ink, gold and opaque watercolour on paper, 20.3 x 13.5 cm. Courtesy of the Khalili Family Trust

The sort of art that can possibly cause Stendhal syndrome – with Raag Darbari on flute to set a suitable backdrop of an ecstasy suffused with great calm.

In the winter of 2010/2011, De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam will present highlights from one of the world’s most renowned collections of Islamic art. Passion for Perfection will include some 500 objects from the collection of Professor Nasser D. Khalili. From 11 December 2010 to 17 April 2011, De Nieuwe Kerk will glitter with richly illuminated Qur’ans and manuscripts, paintings, gold, jewels, textiles, ceramics, glassware, lacquerware, metalwork, and wood carvings.

Folio from Akhlaq-I Nasiri

Folio From The Akhlaq-I Nasiri Of Nasir Al-Din Tusi: School Courtyard With Boys Reading And Writing. Lahore, Mughal period, circa 1595 CE. Ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper; Dimensions 23.9 x 14.1 cm. Aga Khan Museum | Click image for larger view.

This painting comes from one of the favourite manuscripts of Akbar (r. 1556-1605 CE), the Akhlaq-i Nasiri (Ethics of Nasir), a philosophical treatise on ethics, social justice and politics by the thirteenth-century mediaeval Persian philosopher and scientist, Nasir al-Din Tusi (d. 1274 CE). This folio (149r) may demonstrate the importance of knowledge as a form of authority although the text does not lend itself easily to artistic interpretation. On a raised, carpeted platform the master works with a young student, while other boys read independently or with tutors in the school courtyard. According to Verma, Khem Karan was “among the leading painters of Akbar’s court”, where he was active between 1582 and 1604 (Som Prakash Verma, Mughal Painters and their work, Delhi, 1994, pp. 216-19). The painting is rich in detail for the documentation of Mughal educational practices. — Aga Khan Museum


Sydney Parkinson (1745 - 1771) Pencil and watercolour on paper, 1769, © Natural History Museum

hai rang-e laalah-o-gul-o-nasrii;N judaa judaa
har rang me;N bahaar kaa i;sbaat chaahiye

the color of tulip and rose and eglantine is each one separate
in every mood/aspect/’color’, a proof of spring is needed

Ami and Fawad (before I was born). Common interest: flowers and gardening.

The World of Khubilai Khan

Khubilai Khan as the First Yuan Emperor, Shizu, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) China.
The Demon-Queller Zhong Kui Giving His Sister Away in Marriage | Yan Geng, 13th century Southern Song, China. Handscroll; ink on silk; 9 5/8 x 99 3/4 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Here, the legendary "demon-queller" Zhong Kui leads his sister to her new home accompanied by an escort of demons performing feats of martial prowess. The comic climax to this spectacle is Zhong Kui himself, stone drunk and propped atop a small donkey by three retainers while his sister sits helplessly astride a recalcitrant water buffalo. The painting illustrates a rebus: "marrying off one's sister" (jia mei) is a pun for "subjugating demons." Yan Geng may have derived inspiration from actual New Year's processions, during which costumed figures impersonating Zhong Kui and his band of demons circulated through neighborhoods and banished evil in return for payment. Paintings on this subject clearly enjoyed widespread appeal, perhaps serving as auspicious gifts for the New Year. | Click image for larger view.
Monk Reading a Sutra by Moonlight | Unidentified Artist, ca. 1332. Hanging scroll; ink on paper; 29 3/8 x 13 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Paintings of monks reading sutras by moonlight reflect the Chan, or Zen, emphasis on remaining forever mindful, even during daily activities, in order to achieve enlightenment. Here, an elderly cleric with scraggly hair and a sparse beard sits in a remote landscape, reading a sutra. He holds the text in his left hand and twirls one of his long eyebrows with his right. The delicate rendering of the face is complemented by the thick, dark brushstrokes in his clothing. The poem, composed and written by the monk Yuxi Simin (active fourteenth century), reads: Just this one fascicle of sutra, The words are often difficult to make out. When the sun comes up, the moon also sets, When will I finish reading it? | Click image for larger view.
The Daoist Immortal Yunfang Initiating Lü Chunyang into the Secret of Immortality | Yan Hui, ca. 1300. Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk; 42 11/16 x 19 3/4 in. Lent by MOA Museum of Art. The initiation of Lü Dongbin (Chunyang) by Zhongli Quan (Yunfang), both of whom were patriarchs of the Quanzhen order, is here shown as a powerful spiritual encounter set against a voided background, which enhances the intensity of the moment. The image stands in marked contrast to the more reserved representation of this scene in the Yongle Temple, which is set in a landscape. The scroll is attributed to Yan Hui, an artist known for his paintings and murals of Daoist and Buddhist subjects. Zhongli, with radiant blue eyes (a rarity in Chinese painting), stands as if poised to deliver an exhortation, raising his index finger as he hands over the secrets of immortality—indicated by the six characters on the scroll—to a deferential Lü. The soft, broad brushstrokes in the garments and delicate lines indicating hair and facial features recall conventions in Chan Buddhist paintings. | Click image for larger view.
Beneficent Rain | Zhang Yucai, early 13th–14th century. Handscroll; ink on silk; 10 9/16 in. x 8 ft. 11 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Zhang Yucai, the Thirty-eighth Celestial Master of Mount Longhu, was renowned for his paintings of bamboo and dragons. (It is only during the Yuan dynasty that Daoist worthies of such rank began to be recorded as artists.) Praised for his skills in bringing forth rain, he may have made this monumental scroll of four dragons—their bulging bodies vanishing into and emerging from the clouds and waves, their white eyeballs protruding from their heads—as part of a Daoist rainmaking ritual. Ink washes in a fine gray scale create effects of depth and light that contrast with the sharp white outlines of the dragons. | Click image for larger view.
Source: The World of Khubilai Khan – Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty
© 2000–2010 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A Facebook Account

On a serious note, I like facebook as it, among other things, even opens up a world of communities (pages, groups, etc.) and individuals I’m interested in but would not have otherwise come across and communicated or stayed in touch with after school, college and so on. I imagine a lot of people, if not all, would feel like that. I also make the distinction that we have different degrees of friendship, where the close ones are the most important, but the less close ones are not totally meaningless – not to mention that few human relationships follow linear patterns.

Having said that, most jokes rely on exaggeration, and the best ones also make us think while making us laugh out loud. Although there’s nothing really wrong if “Gina is eating other people’s food” and wants the world to know, I find this Jimmy Kimmel clip and the way William Shatner endorses it with something like a solemn, two-sentence philosophical haiku hilarious!

While most people appear to be impressed by the following take on Facebook, some also find it sad:

Night Herons in Afterlife

Papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Nakht (detail) | Thebes, Egypt, 1350-1300 BC | Click to enlarge.

Watching herons stand motionless beside a lake at night has been one of my pastimes. The night herons with their crests flowing in the breeze are particularly mesmerizing. They barely move unless they spot their prey in water, take a step forward, and most often capture it with a precise stroke.

I would spend several hours watching them with friends beside the lake in our college and we would talk about aspects of life – things of greater or lesser and temporally inconstant significance. That was a long time ago, but not as long as when these birds swarmed the fertile Nile valley and imagination, as seen in these lifelike Egyptian drawings through which they made their passage into an afterlife where we, these days, stop by at moments and shudder at their even greater stillness surrounded by the animated hieroglyphic narrative, disinterred from a state of suspended immortality.

Papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Nakht

From Thebes, Egypt
Late 18th Dynasty, 1350-1300 BC
British Museum

Agricultural scenes

Nakht was a royal scribe and overseer of the army (general) at the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty (about 1550-1295 BC). His Book of the Dead is a beautifully illustrated example.

This papyrus shows Spell 110, a series of addresses to deities who dwell in the ‘next world’, specifically in the Field of Offering and the Field of Rushes. The deceased was expected to undertake agricultural work in the Field of Rushes.

R.O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Book of t, (revised ed. C. A. R. Andrews) (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

R.B. Parkinson and S. Quirke, Papyrus, (Egyptian Bookshelf) (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

The Seagram Murals

The muses in these murals
are seams of days,
the singing ones who

do not stop the brink
and second skins
from staining sounds

carmine, black looms
from warping profuse
poppies with sears –

they knead expanse
into ceaseless shape
along the course

of arks and bones,
along the jaded side
of light, they levitate

the breeze, their ages pry
the imprint of a psalm
and lavish haze on eves.

5:16 pm 26 September 2010