White Mughal raises the Deccan question
By Kruthi Gonwar | ENS | Published: 12th September 2012 08:33 AM |
William Dalrymple’s very name reminds one of the Mughals and now it turns out, he’s just as passionate about Deccani culture.
Naturally, he’s disappointed, for a majority of Hyderabadis aren’t aware of their own cultural heritage.
“The Deccan remains a major lacuna. For every book on the Deccan Sultanates, there are a 100 on the Mughals. For every book on Hyderabad, there is a shelf on Lucknow,” he pointed out.
The author, who delivered the inaugural lecture at the Centre for Deccan Studies at the Maulana Azad National Urdu University here Tuesday, believes no serious work has been done till date on the Deccani courts.
“In an age when every minute contour of the landscape of art history appears to be rigorously mapped out by a gridiron of PhDs, this gap is all the more remarkable,” he felt.
He is not impressed by Hyderabad either.
William Dalrymple, who had visited the city earlier in 1998, observed, “since then, the city has changed a great deal. I am an admirer of history and I am really saddened by the fact that the city is shedding its historical and cultural significance.
History is not being saved, even before it is being studied.
Heritage buildings were destroyed, art pieces lost and the native fabric has lost its charm.” To buttress his argument, he cited the Raymond’s Tomb and the Moula Ali lake.
“The Raymond’s Tomb is not there anymore. The Moula Ali lake is being encroached and many such incidents have occurred. When there is so much to be studied and be a part of, there is destruction everywhere! I guess only little has been done in the past 20 years,” he said.
The author pitched for fresh efforts to preserve the Deccani culture and put the onus on the people.
“A lot of effort has to be put in by people to popularise the culture, literature, language and history. There are a lot of books and journals written by eminent scholars, which have to be made available to the people so that they will know the city better and also learn to value it,” he suggested.
But for a man who is so much into the culture of the Mughals and interested in Deccan, does he speak Urdu? “I am ashamed I cannot speak Urdu or Persian. I have been working on it,” he confessed.
Over 500 people listened with rapt attention to his engrossing lecture and he seemed to have a struck a good rapport with them.
There was applause when he said it may be too late to save what had been lost but it’s not late enough to research and study our culture.
He was referring to the inauguration of the Centre for Deccan Studies.
Named after renowned Indian historian and author Haroon Khan Sherwani, the centre assumes special significance as it aims to develop as a resource centre that helps scholars researching on the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
In his inaugural lecture titled, The Syncretic Civilisation of the Deccan, William Dalrymple dwelt at length on the pluralistic civilisation of Deccan.
“It was not just a product of the mix of Hindu and Indian Muslim cultures. There were more exotic elements in the mix too,” he said.
The author referred to the accounts of historians and travellers and pointed out that they felt Hindu and Muslim cultures and customs were strongly influenced by each other.
“The whip lashing during Muharram and Bonalu, the architecture, the clothes and many more are a result of this fusion.One can easily differentiate between a Hindu from a Muslim in Mughal Delhi, but not in Deccan,” he said.
Before signing off, he interacted with the media and answered the obvious question.
What’s he doing these days? “I will be co-curating a major exhibition on late Mughal art, “Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857” and am working on my next book, The Return of a King: Shah Shuja, the Great Game and the First Battle for Afghanistan, which is about the 1839-42 First Anglo- Afghan War,” he replied.