Wednesday, July 29, 2020

History, histories, memories

Dr Ghulam Yazdani was the first to photograph Ajanta paintings, and initiated the first serious conservation of Ajanta and Ellora. His work on the two sites was exhaustive and was published in two volumes. But he did much more than that, and he studied and helped conserve several Indian historical sites, including those in Warangal, Mandu and Bidar. His efforts and scholarship were enabled by the Nizam of Hyderabad. 

Please read this article:

Here's a smaller personal anecdote. In the summer of 2016), I had the good fortune of travelling abroad the Deccan Odyssey, a train that went around Maharashtra, stopping at sites of artistic and historic significance such as Ajanta and Ellora, and also at two wildlife reserves, Tadoba and Pench. 

I wrote the magazine article without mentioning the sadness and moments of unease, given the light sprinkling of Islamophobia in the air. The architecture and art is exceptional. That's why people of all faiths come to visit, after all: to admire and perhaps gain some knowledge. But aside from the glory of the sites, most conversations from local guides tended to emphasize the role of the British in conserving the sites, when actually this was territory controlled by the Nizam and it was his administration that conserved and documented much of whatever still remains. 

Some guides attempted to twist the history of Daulatabad; I was traveling with a book ('Aurangabad with Daulatabad, Khuldabad and Ahmadnagar' - Pushkar Sohoni) and was able to note some of these discrepancies. Some people were mouthing the usual falsehoods, describing all medieval-era mosques as having been built over temples. The fact of architectural synthesis was twisted to serve the narrative that something had been destroyed or re-purposed. 

I first heard of Dr Yazdani at Ellora. I had walked away from my own group and guide, and was walking past another group when their guide mentioned the Nizam of Hyderabad. I stopped to listen and as the group began to walk further, I rushed to their guide and asked: what were you saying about the Nizam? 

He told me about Ghulam Yazdani's enormous work, and the state of Hyderabad preserving these Buddhist, Jain and Hindu sites. I expressed surprise because our guide had not mentioned this at all. The young man smiled, as if he understood something secret.

We had out respective jobs to do, though. So I thanked the younger guide and exchanged names. It was a Muslim name. Before he turned away, there was that smile again, rueful. And I understood this time what it suggested: it is not so much that accredited guides don't know but that they want to forget, to discredit and disengage. He knew, and he had this Muslim name, so the positive role played by Indian Muslim rulers and scholars mattered to him.

I have forgotten the guide's name now, but I have not forgotten the look in his eyes, that rueful smile. He may have read some recognition in my name too, and in the rueful smile I returned before turning away. 

1 comment:

aditya said...

Nice post thanks for share article. Frases

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