FROM JODH­PUR, WITH LOVE

Marwar - - Contents - Text Pooja Mu­jum­dar

The on­go­ing ‘Pea­cock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodh­pur, In­dia’ ex­hi­bi­tion in Amer­ica chron­i­cles trea­sures span­ning nearly four cen­turies from the Mar­war-Jodh­pur king­dom of Ra­jasthan. MAR­WAR brings you a photo es­say that of­fers glimpses of the ob­jects of In­dian courtly life on dis­play.

The on­go­ing ‘Pea­cock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodh­pur, In­dia’ ex­hi­bi­tion in Amer­ica chron­i­cles trea­sures span­ning nearly four cen­turies from the Mar­war-Jodh­pur king­dom of Ra­jasthan. MAR­WAR brings you a photo es­say that of­fers glimpses of the ob­jects of In­dian courtly life on dis­play, most of which have never left In­dia, un­til now.

In Ra­jasthan, in north-west In­dia, it is the forts that at­tract the vis­i­tors most, who come from all around the world. Ris­ing spec­tac­u­larly above the rocky ter­rain, these im­pos­ing struc­tures were safe havens for its in­hab­i­tants, their spiked doors and bat­tle-scarred ram­parts bear­ing wit­ness to hav­ing de­fied many en­emy at­tacks. It was in these forts that for cen­turies power and a sense of se­cluded el­e­va­tion com­min­gled with nat­u­ral splen­dour to take them to rare heights of lux­ury. The Mehran­garh Fort in Jodh­pur is a spec­tac­u­lar ex­am­ple, whose cor­ri­dors and pala­tial rooms ex­ude re­splen­dence and grandeur with mar­ble and stone carv­ings, foun­tains, me­dieval paint­ings, mu­rals and stained glass mo­saic adorn­ing them.

A trea­sure trove

The Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust of Jodh­pur may not ever suc­ceed in trans­port­ing the ma­jes­tic fort to the doorsteps of ad­mir­ers, but it has done the next best thing: col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Mu­seum of Fine Arts, Hous­ton, it has jointly or­gan­ised an ex­hi­bi­tion that dis­plays more than 300 rare ex­hibits in what is one of the largest ex­hi­bi­tions on In­dian art in North Amer­ica. Ti­tled ‘Pea­cock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodh­pur, In­dia’, these ex­hibits in­clude finely crafted arms and ar­mour, cer­e­mo­nial tents and canopies, in­tri­cately carved fur­nish­ings, sumptuous jewels, pre­cious paint­ings and lux­u­ri­ous tex­tiles from the Mar­warJodh­pur king­dom of Ra­jasthan, drawn pri­mar­ily from the huge

an­ces­tral col­lec­tions of the Rathores—the royal fam­ily of Jodh­pur—that are housed within the city’s Mehran­garh Fort and Umaid Bhawan Palace. Cu­rated by Karni Ja­sol, di­rec­tor of the Mehran­garh Mu­seum, they trace the king­dom’s rich artis­tic tra­di­tion from the foun­da­tion of Mehran­garh Fort in 1459 to In­dia’s in­de­pen­dence in 1947. It is the first time most of these trea­sures of al­most un­be­liev­able re­fine­ment have left Jodh­pur. The rest of the ex­hibits are care­fully se­lected ob­jects bor­rowed from other no­table col­lec­tions.

A story about a sin­gle rul­ing clan

The ex­hi­bi­tion il­lu­mi­nates the riches of the ma­hara­jas and ma­ha­ra­nis be­long­ing to the Rathore dynasty, ex­plor­ing in depth the pa­tron­age of a sin­gle royal In­dian clan from a desert land­scape for the first time. Ac­cord­ing to Karni Ja­sol, the ex­hibits on dis­play give a rare peek into how the Rathores ac­quired and com­mis­sioned ob­jects in the midst of crossoss­cul­tural ex­changes to lever­age con­quest, diplo­macy, omacy, mat­ri­mo­nial al­liances, pa­tron­age and trade. Jodh­pur was es­tab­lished as the walled cap­i­tal l city of the desert king­dom of Mar­war by the 15th cen­tury, ntury, with the im­pos­ing Mehran­garh Fort at its heart. rt. Its

founders were the Rathores, a Hindu clan that had mi­grated from their home­land fur­ther north to the desert tracts of western In­dia two cen­turies ago, in the wake of in­vad­ing armies. The city owed its grow­ing pros­per­ity to the Rathores’ con­trol over prof­itable trade routes. How­ever, this did not go un­no­ticed by two ex­pan­sion­ist em­pires who even­tu­ally ruled In­dia: First the Mughals, who ex­erted vari­able de­grees of con­trol from the early 16th to the mid-19th cen­turies, and then the Bri­tish, who ruled from 1858 to 1947.

An era of cul­tural ex­change be­gins

But how did these en­coun­ters im­pact the cul­tural land­scape of Jodh­pur, mould­ing ev­ery­thing from ar­chi­tec­ture and artis­tic pur­suits to lan­guage, re­li­gion and war­fare? Both pe­ri­ods not only in­creased the in­ter­ac­tion of the Rathores with the out­side world but also in­tro­duced ar­chi­tec­tural styles, ar­ti­sanal tra­di­tions, lan­guages, ob­jects, and sys­tems of ad­min­is­tra­tion from far­away lands to this desert king­dom.

Cul­tural ex­changes also oc­curred through mil­i­tary vic­to­ries and de­feats, strate­gic mar­riages and ex­change of gifts. ‘Pea­cock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodh­pur, In­dia’ is on view at the Mu­seum of Fine Arts, Hous­ton, from March 4 through Au­gust 19, 2018. Af­ter Hous­ton, it will travel to the Seat­tle Art Mu­seum and later to the Royal On­tario Mu­seum, Toronto.

From top: A 19th cen­tury ‘dhal’ (shield) from the col­lec­tion of Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust (Im­age by Neil Green­tree/Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust); Early 18th cen­tury ‘Huqqa vase’ from the col­lec­tion of Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust (Im­age by Neil Green­tree/Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust)

Left: An 1896 por­trait of Ma­haraja Sar­dar Singh by Bert Har­ris (Im­age by Neil Green­tree/Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust) Bot­tom: A mag­nif­i­cent ‘ma­hadol’ (palan­quin) crafted from gilded wood, glass, cop­per and fer­rous al­loys, from Gu­jarat, c. 1700–30, from the col­lec­tion of Mehran­garh Mu­seum (Im­age by Will Michels/Mu­seum of Fine Arts, Hous­ton)

Clock­wise from fac­ing page: A water­colour de­pict­ing Lord Shiva on his ‘vi­mana’ (air­craft) with Hi­malaya, Jodh­pur, 1827 (Im­age by Neil Green­tree/ Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust); A royal Ra­jput wed­ding pro­ces­sion on dis­play (Im­age by Will Michels/Mu­seum of Fine Arts, Hous­ton); An 18th cen­tury can­non in the shape of a ‘makara’ from the col­lec­tion of Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust (Im­age by Neil Green­tree/Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust); A 19th cen­tury ‘baradari’ (pav­il­ion) fin­ished with wood, paint, lac­quer and gold from the col­lec­tion of Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust (Im­age by Will Michels/Mu­seum of Fine Arts, Hous­ton)

Clock­wise from fac­ing page, top: A clas­sic 1927 sil­ver Rolls Royce Phan­tom from the per­sonal col­lec­tion of H H Ma­haraja Gaj Singh II of Jodh­pur (Im­age by Will Michels/Mu­seum of Fine Arts, Hous­ton); A 17th cen­tury ‘lal dera’ (red tent), the only sur­viv­ing Mughal tent in the world from the col­lec­tion of Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust (Im­age by Will Michels/Mu­seum of Fine Arts, Hous­ton); A throne with para­sol from the col­lec­tion of Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust (Im­age by Neil Green­tree/ Mehran­garh Mu­seum Trust)

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