Saturday, November 23, 2019

Dagger with Nilgai (Blue Bull) Hilt, from the Shahjahani era

This beautiful dagger is dated from 1640, during the reign of Mughal emperor Shahjahan. Shahjahan's rule, based out of Agra and Delhi, lasted for 30 years. It was a period of great cultural and artistic flowering. Some of India's most beautiful monuments belong to this period; but Shahjahan also patronised the arts and crafts. This beautiful nephrite and steel dagger reflects not only the Mughal appreciation of craftsmanship, but also of the natural world. See how wonderfully the grey-green nephrite showcases the delicate ears of the Nilgai!

The dagger is currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The description on the museum website says "Daggers such as this one were sometimes awarded to officers who had distinguished themselves in military victory and were worn at court as dress accessories indicating royal favor. Animal-headed hilts were especially favored, and the realism of their rendering conveys the keen appreciation for nature by Mughal artists.

On this dagger, the hilt portrays a nilgai, or blue bull, one of the most beautiful animals found in India, and terminates at the base with a leafy scroll and lotus flower. Carved from a bluish-green nephrite that approximates the color of the animal, this hilt not only demonstrates the artist's thorough mastery of hard-stone carving, but also displays a level of accuracy and sensitivity that suggest close observation of a model, perhaps one of the captive animals kept in the imperial zoo."

The dagger found its way into the personal collection of Nasli Heeramaneck, a Parsi dealer of antiquities and art objects, who died in 1985. His personal collections were bequeathed to various museums. Around 200 objects from Heeramaneck's Pre-Columbian and Western Art collection was gifted to the National Museum in Delhi, where you can see it displayed even today. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

"Study Abroad" Tours in Delhi

Delhi has a lot of interesting things to experience if you are coming on an educational tour. It's a great place for understanding Indian political history; and even more interesting if you want to understand the multiple cultures and faiths that co-exist in India. And of course, there are many museums, workshops, art and music shows, and interesting cuisine experiences as well.

Here's our lovely group of 25 students from Johannesskolen Denmark. They have been touring Delhi with us for the past 4 years. We enjoy their openness to new cultures and willingness to explore. In the foreground you can see the local college students from Delhi, who took them around. The interaction with local students provides very rich opportunities for mutual understanding.

On this visit we arranged multiple experiences for them in Delhi:

- A survey of living conditions in the Ram Nagar area. Ram Nagar in Shahdara is one of the oldest residential areas of Delhi. Students did a survey of residents, with a questionnaire. We taught them basic Hindi to prepare for this : - ) The people were very welcoming of the students, inviting them for tea and being so hospitable!

- An exploration of Old Delhi using the Metro, rickshaw and walking. Students visited and volunteered at the Sikh Gurudwara, learnt about different faiths and cultures of India, saw the Metro in operation, and explored the famous traditional bazaars.

- A look at recycling industry in Delhi, and understanding the education system and daily life in a low-income neighbourhood.

Through interactions with local college students of Delhi, the Johanneskolen students gained a deeper understanding of the realities of modern Delhi. Similarly, our college students learnt about the Danish people.

We look forward to Johanneskolen's visit again next year.