Friday, December 9, 2011

Asian History is Incomplete without The Paan!

The paan leaves are generally chewed either by itself or in combination with slaked lime, betel nuts (areca variety) and other spices like aniseed and sometimes tobacco etc.

Preparation of paan is an art and the secret technique is passed down from generation to generation. Chewing the leaves and nuts promotes red colored stimulating salivation. This has been in practice for thousands of years. It was a craze among aristocrats.

There are several ways a paan can be folded. This is a special branch of the paan culture. Asian history is incomplete without the paan.

Paan is an antiseptic that freshens the breath and is also an ayurvedic aphrodisiac medicine. Myriad are the uses of paan. It cures headaches, joint pain and arthritis as well as toothaches. In some places it serves the purpose of an antibiotic and a digestive medicine. It cures constipation, congestion and helps in lactation. It even helps in ridding the body of worms. Unani stream of medicine claims that paan is a sweet smelling stimulant that prevents flatulency. It stops bleeding. Applying heated paan as a foment, especially in the case of children cures stomach troubles. Drinking betel leaves boiled with black pepper can cure indigestion.

Reference to the use of betel leaf goes back more than two thousand years, in an ancient Pli book of Srilanka, ‘Mahawamsa’. In the Vedas too there is reference to paan being the first offering to the guru. Paan is found in Shrimad Bhagavat as Lord Krishna used to chew. This evidence is of 5000 years ago. In the Shrimad Bulath Pdhaya is a special dance mentioned in the Kohomba Kankariya of Srilanka. Here the sacred and practical are entwined in poetic beauty excellence. 

The Tradition of eating paan was popularized by Noor Jehan, the mother of Emperor Shah Jehan.Empress Noor Jehan discovered that by adding some ingredients to paan and eating it gives a natural red colour to the lips, catechu (Kattha) and quick lime (chuuna).

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Veil as Ghunghat & Purdah - a Hindu & Muslim dress

Ghoonghat or Ghunghat is a Hindi word which describes a type of veil or headscarf worn by Indian women to cover their head. The Sari grew in length with one end used to cover the bosom, the head and the face. This allowed women to work in the fields beside men or even ride a horse like men. Traditionally, in some parts of India, women are supposed to have a Ghoonghat in front of the family elders and men, except husbands and close family members.
Sushila Singh, a professor at Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India, explains the Urdu language terms of purdah as well as hijab:  “Hijab may be understood as the dignity of woman.  Purdah is practiced to protect the dignity of woman” (Singh NP).  Although the behavioral rules of purdah are complex and depend upon the particular context and region, purdah is generally a cultural practice that confines women within the four walls of their homes.  If they must leave the house, they are required to observe purdah by wearing ‘burqua’ – a dress that covers Islamic women from head to toe.  Muslims practice this particular form of purdah, while Hindu women do not

In fact, purdah originated in the culture of Islam and is an alien phenomenon to Hindu women (Singh NP).  Singh explains, “In the mythic past of Hindu culture, all women figures as exemplified by different goddess statues are bare-headed and their faces are never veiled” (Singh NP).  However, with the Muslim invasions came the purdah system for Hindu women to practice.  Although this system was established for the protection of Hindu women just as it protects Islamic women, this purdah took a different form.  “Veiling one’s face, or “ghoonghat,” came into practice” (Singh NP). 

Through the ritual of “ghoonghat,” Hindu and Islamic women are forced to communicate with “outsiders” from behind a screen.  According to Singh, “other than the husband and children, all are outsiders – including the other family members” (Singh NP).

Unlike Muslim and Christian traditions veil has very recent history in Hindu culture and society.  
According  to  the  German  scholar  Albrecht Weber Indian literature is one of the oldest literatures in the world but the Vedic or pre-Vedic period has no record of veil or “ghunghat” (the word used for veil in Hindi). The  veil  appears  for  the  first  time  in  16th  century  literature  written  in  Hindi language. Weber’s  observation  supports  my  argument  that  veil  in  Indian subcontinent was introduced only after Muslim invasions. 

A famous incidence in history  of  Rajasthan  can  be  seen  as  an  evidence  of  how  veil  started in  Indian subcontinent. In fourteenth century one of the Muslim invaders Alahuddin Khilji visits a Rajput King Rana Ratansen of Chittor Garha. The female quarter of the palace, though  distant,  was  just  opposite  the  quarter  where  the  sultan  was installed.  A  small lake  divided  his  abode  and  the  Rani’s  palace.  By  chance  he sees the Rani Padmini’s uncovered face in the lake water and falls in love with her.  He  plans  to  win  her  and  returns  back  to  attacks  Chittor Garh  to  steal  the queen but what he gets are the ashes of this beautiful queen who decides to die then to submit to his lust. As a consequence the women in Rajasthan started to cover their face to avoid attracting specifically the Muslim invaders.

Strong  evidence  in  favor  can  be  seen  by  the  absence  of  veil  among women  in  Southern  India  where  there is  no  insistence  on  head  cover  or  other such practices neither in public nor in private places. In contrast, in most northern states, the women are forced to cover their faces both in public and in privacy of their houses. 

Veil transforms as an imposed identity  specifically for the married woman. In most families she is not only  supposed to  cover her face but is also prohibited to talk  even to  her  son in law  (who is  normally of  her own  children’s age). With time women have learned to use the veil as an instrument to enhance their beauty and what has been the means of silencing them seems became the aspect of attraction. A woman in veil generates much more curiosity than the one with uncover face as it sexualizes her more.

The  absence  of  Veil  in  Sanskrit,  Prakrat  or  Apbhransh  literature  shows that  the  use  of  veil  in  India  is  neither  religious  nor  cultural.  In  contrast  to  the Classic  Sanskrit  Literature  the  sixteenth  century  Hindi  Literature is full of portrayals that shed light on the use of veil in medieval period in India. The period is known for two mainstream literatures. The one called the RitiKal (which comes close to the courtly poetry in English) offers images of veil in more sensual way and the other known as Bhaktikal that presents veil in a philosophic way.

Contrary  to  the  sexualizing  of  veil/  gunghat  by  Ritikalin poets  the Bhaktikalin poet uses it in philosophic way and the veil emerges as the requisite mediating  object  between the  physical  and  spiritual  worlds.

The famous Sufi poet Malik Mohammed Joyce in his epic Padmavat use it in a metaphoric way. Following the Sufi tradition he does not see veil as an instrument for enhancing female beauty but as a barrier between the soul (which is always feminine contrary to the Sanskrit tradition where it is masculine) and the God; the ignorance and the knowledge. In 15th and 16th century Hindi literature such use of veil was quite common among most poets of Bhakti Movement.

Another very well known Bhakti poet, Kabir Dasa, writes his poems in a form known in Indian poetics as “dohas”. He follows Jayce and in his very famous doha “Ghunghat ke pat khol re tohe piya milenge” uses the veil/ghunghat as a symbol of ignorance. In this famous doha Kabir asks one to uncover/the veil of ignorance and assures that by doing so he/ she will meet his dear.

Concluding the debate I feel that the imposition of veil on Hindu woman (specifically on the women of North India) comes as a defense mechanism against the Muslim invaders but the society ended up adopting this and even forcing the women to wear a veil even when there are no invaders. Christian woman, except the nuns, are free from imposition. Whereas the situation of Muslim women is becoming more problematic as on one hand it is the natural desire to be free from this imposed identity but on other hand it is the question of one’s cultural identity. In current politicized atmosphere it is hard to say how many Muslim women will openly admit that veil is a religious, cultural and social imposition. 

The political enforcement by some European countries has got severe reaction. More Muslim women are trying to defy the law and are appearing in public with their headgear. The specific identity of a nun in Christianity is her dress that covers her head and body but she never became the target of such polemic discussion.

The same law makers in European country who are fighting against the use of veil by Muslim woman never raised their voice or tried to strip of a nun of this specific identity. The veil has been used by the women of Muslim origin for centuries in such a way that it has become their only identity which I feel even they are scared to strip off.

It is the use of psychology of fear that helps in the religious imposition of veil and makes her see unveiling as an act of disrespect. It seems that by politicizing the veil on the pretext of democracy  and equa  rights the Western law  makers are trying to remove this fear but on the contrary they are depriving a woman of her right and her freedom. She should be given the freedom to decide and chose her dress. Sudha Swarnakar:

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Garment of Modesty from the Mughals to the Indo-Pak Sub-Continent Today

Shalwar Kameez traces its origins to the Mongols and was once considered a Muslim Dress. Shalwar Kameez is a traditional garment worn by the people of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It is worn by both men and women due to its modesty with Muslim values, comfort and freedom of movement. Differences exist between Men’s and Women’s Shalwaar Kameez.

The Shalwar Kameez has a very significant place in the History of the Textiles and traces its roots back to the invasion and subsequent rule of the Indian subcontinent by central Asians as far back as 400 CE.  Evidence of Persian influence on Textiles and Clothing in India can be traced to the Kushan dynasty (001 AD). Coinage and stone palettes found from the Indo-Scythian/Parthian period show Greek and Persian influences in clothing. The palettes depict people dressed in caps or head-bands, ruched long sleeved Tunics, calf-length Coats worn loose crossed-over from right to left and secured with leather or metal belt and baggy trousers.

The Timurids (Muslim Dynasty of Turko Mongols) who invaded the northern part of the subcontinent in the 12th century brought with them their traditional nomadic Attire with its Persian and Turk Mongol influences. The descendants of the Timurids established the Mughal Empire (derived from Mogulistan or Land of Mongols- AD 1526-AD 1857). 

The Mughal emperors are renowned for their impassioned interest in painting, architecture, jewellery making literature and poetry, textiles. Textiles flourished remarkably under the Mughals. Various techniques of weaving, crinkling, dying, patterning and embroidery were developed and encouraged. Interestingly, each emperor maintained his own contemporary style of dressing in court and otherwise.

Badshah Babar who laid the foundation for the empire came from the cooler climate of Samarkand, retained the costumes of his homeland. The most popular Garments in his period were a long Coat called Chafan and a sheep-skin Overcoat called Postin worn with Pajama-like trousers. His son, Humayun introduced Persian elements in the court costumes. A patron of arts and painting and passionately interested in astronomy, he is said to have sought the help of planetary movements in choosing what to wear. He also maintained a special treasure house in his palace to accommodate Textiles and Garments.

Humayun's successor Jalaluddin Akbar led the empire to its classic and most flourishing period in history. This Classic period saw the spread of the empire from the north to most areas of the Indian subcontinent. His reign encouraged a synthesis of Persian and Indian styles in everything from architecture to clothing. This led to the flowering of classical forms, styles and shapes that later became an integral part ofIndian Dress Design. Akbar took the initiative of introducing local textiles, which were best suited to the hot climate of the region. He commissioned workshops for carpet making, textile design and was devoted himself to making haberdashery which he considered a pleasant pastime!  He himself took interest in the fashioning of Court Dresses and introduced the Chakdar Jamah to his court, which is a cross over Tunic, with slits around the skirt and an asymmetrical hemline. The men dressed in a Tunic called Jamah and was worn with close fitting Pajama trousers called Izar and later known as Shalwar. Although it was in fashion in India since medieval times, Akbar restyled the garment and developed it into a formal gown by removing slits, rounding the hemline and increasing the fullness of the Skirt. The Tunic was tightened at the waist by a belt of fabric with tassels called Patka. The Jamah which was knee long in the beginning, reached up to the ankles (referred to as Sarbgati meaning that which covers the entire body) in the later Mughal days. The women's Dress of the empire consisted of close fitting trousers paired with a bodice (a variation of Jamah called Angharakha or Qameez) that came down to the end of the Shalwar and worn with a half-sleeved embroidered open Jacket with a delicate transparent Shawl (called Paramnarm meaning extremely soft) draped like a sari.

During subsequent reigns of Shah Jahan and Aurangazeb the royal garments became more decorated with heavy embellishments of floral designs. Motifs were outlined with gold thread coupled with ‘Pietra-dura’ effect of the precious stones. Block printing and the art of Kalamkari (meaning pen work) were rejuvenated with Persian influences of Persian flower motifs and designs by the 17th century.

The Mughal rule is considered a ‘golden age’ of textile crafts in the Sub-continent. By the seventeenth century, Jamah, Chogha(cape) and Anghrakha remained the height of fashion along with accessories for men such as the Atamsukh (a long, loose garment worn like an overcoat in winters), Turban (the style of tying the turban varied according to social status), Patka, Jutis (shoes) and Farji (kind of a coat) etc. The precursor of the current Cummerband was another popular piece of clothing (called Kamarbandh meaning waistband) worn as girdle or waistcoat by both men and women to enhance the bust-line. The court Garments of era were marked by intricate patterning of clothing and delicate handmade embellishments.

The form of dressing followed by Indian classical Kathak dancers is a near accurate portrayal of the styles of clothing in the Mughal period and shows vividly the influences in the fashion world in the Indian subcontinent today.

The present day Shalwar Kameez in its various styles is an adaptation of the clothing of Mughal era.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The "Princely" Nawabs of Bahawalpur of 17-Gun Salute!

The rulers of Bahawalpur were Abbasids who came from Shikarpur and Sukkur and captured the areas that became Bahawalpur State. They took the title of Amir until 1740, when the title changed to Nawab Amir. 
Muslim rulers almost all used the title "Nawab" (the Arabic honorific of naib, "deputy," used of the Mughal governors, who became de facto autonomous with the decline of the Mughal Empire), with the prominent exceptions of the Nizam of Hyderabad & Berar, the Wali/Khan of Kalat and the Wali of Swat.
Other less usual titles included Darbar Sahib, Dewan, Jam, Mehtar (unique to Chitral) and Mir (from Emir).
More prestigious Hindu rulers (mostly existing before the Mughal Empire, or having split from such old states) often used the title "Raja," or a variant such as "Rana," "Rao," "Rawat" or Rawal. Also in this 'class' were several Thakur Sahibs and a few particular titles, such as Sar Desai.
The most prestigious Hindu rulers usually had the prefix "maha" ("great", compare for example Grand duke) in their titles, as in Maharaja, Maharana, Maharao, etc.

A Princely State (also called Native State or Indian State) was a nominally sovereign entity of British rule of India that was not directly administered by the British, but rather by an Indian ruler under a form of indirect rule such as suzerainty or paramountcy.

At the time of Indian independence, only five rulers—the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Maharaja of Mysore, the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir State, the Maharaja Gaekwad of Baroda and the Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior—were entitled to a 21-gun salute.

Five more rulers—the Nawab of Bhopal, the Maharaja Holkar of Indore, the Maharana of Udaipur,  the Maharaja of Kolhapur and the Maharaja of Travancore—were entitled to 19-gun salutes.

The most senior princely ruler was the Nizam of Hyderabad, who was entitled to the unique style Exalted Highness.

Other princely rulers entitled to salutes of 11 guns (soon 9 guns too) or more were entitled to the style Highness. No special style was used by rulers entitled to lesser gun salutes.

As paramount ruler, and successor to the Mughals, the British King Emperor of India, for whom the style of Majesty was reserved, was entitled to an 'imperial' 101-gun salute—in the European tradition also the number of guns fired to announce the birth of a (male) heir to the throne.

All princely rulers were eligible to be appointed to certain British orders of chivalry associated with India, The Most Exalted Star of the Order of India and The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire. Even women could be appointed as "Knights" (instead of Dames) of these orders. 

The Royal House of Bahawalpur is said to be of Arabic origin and claims descent from Abbas, progenitor of the Abbasid Caliphs of Baghdad and Cairo. Sultan Ahmed II, son of Shah Muzammil of Egypt, left his country and arrived in Sindh with a large following of Arabs in 1370.

He married a daughter of Raja Rai Dhorang Sata, receiving a third of the country as a dowry. Amir Fath'ullah Khan Abbassi is the recognized ancestor of the dynasty. He conquered the Bhangar territory from Raja Dallu, of Alor and Bahmanabad, renaming it Qahir Bela. Amir Muhammad Chani Khan Abbasi entered the imperial service and gained appointment as a Panchhazari in 1583. At his death, the leadership of the tribe was contested between two branches of the family, the Daudputras and the Kalhoras. Amir Bahadur Khan Abbasi abandoned Tarai and settled near Bhakkar, founding the town of Shikarpur in 1690. Daud Khan, the first of his family to rule Bahawalpur, originated from Sind, where he had opposed the Afghan Governor of that province and was forced to flee.

The princely state of Bahawalpur was founded in 1802 by Nawab Mohammad Bahawal Khan II after the breakup of the Durrani Empire. The city claimed to be one of the largest states of British India more than 451 kilometres long. Nawab Mohammad Bahawal Khan III signed a treaty with the British on 22 February 1833, guaranteeing the independence of the Nawab. 
During the first Afghan war, the Nawab Muhammad Bahawal Khan III assisted the British with supplies and allowing passage and in 1847-8 he co-operated actively with Sir Herbert Edwardes in the expedition against Multan. For these services he was rewarded by the grant of the districts of Sabzalkot and Bhung, together with a life-pension of a lakh. On his death a dispute arose regarding succession. He was succeeded by his third son, whom he had nominated in place of his eldest son. The new ruler was, however, deposed by his elder brother, and obtained asylum in British territory, with a pension from the Bahawalpur revenues; he broke his promise to abandon his claims, and was confined in the Lahore fort, where he died in 1862.
In 1863 and 1866 insurrections broke out against the Nawab and was succeeded by his son, Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan IV, a boy of four. In 1879, the Nawab was invested with full powers, with the advice and assistance of a council of six members. During the Afghan campaigns (1878–80) the Nawab placed the entire resources of his State at the disposal of the British Indian Government, and a contingent of his troops was employed in keeping open communications, and in guarding the Dera Ghazi Khan frontier. On his death in 1899 he was succeeded by Muhammad Bahawal Khan V, who attained his majority in 1900, and was invested with full powers in 1903. Although the title was abolished in 1955 by the Government of Pakistan, the current head of the House of Bahawalpur (Salahuddin Muhammad Khan) is referred to as the Amir.

"The Foundation Stone of Sadiq Public School Bahawalpur was laid by the late Ala Hazrat Nawab Sadiq Mohammad Khan Abbasi -V, on March 04, 1953. The School was intended to produce young men with high moral principles, who should be self-reliant and self- confident, with qualities of initiative, sense of responsibility, selfless devotion to duty, religious outlook and burning desire to serve the cause of Islam and the country. This great project was taken up under the advice and guidance of Makhdumzada Syed Hasan Mahmud, the Chief Minister of Bahawaipur State and was executed with the blessings of the Ala Hazrat. The School started functioning on January 18, 1954 when the Ala Hazrat performed its opening ceremony."


Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Nizam of Hyderabad & A Princess of the Ottoman Caliphate

Her Imperial Highness The Princess Hadice Hayriye Ayshe Dürrühsehvar Sultan, (Khadija Khayriya Ayesha Dürrühsehvar, خدیجہ خیریہ عائشہ در شہوار or Turkish: Hatice Hayriye Ayşe Dürrüşehvar), also known as HIH Princess Durru Shevar was born in Turkey when the Ottoman Empire was passing through its last phase. Her father, Caliph Abdülmecid II, went into exile in the Paris, France after the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924.

On the family's exile to France in 1924, she was sought by the Shah of Persia and King Fuad 1 of Egypt as a bride for their respective heirs, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Farouk, and by Prince Azam Jah(1907 - 1970), the eldest son and heir of the last Nizam of Hyderabad State, Osman ALi Khan, Asif Jah VII, whom she married in Nice, France, on 12 November 1931. Her first cousin Princess Niloufer, was married to Prince Moazzam Jah, the second son of the Nizam. It has been suggested that through these dynastic marriages, Osman Ali hoped to acquire the Caliphate for his descendants.

The marriage of the princess was performed, in the south of France, by the good offices of Maulana Shaukat ALi, brother of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, the leader of the Khilafat Movement in India.
It was believed at that time that the matrimonial alliance between the Nizam, the richest ruler in the world of his time, and the deposed Caliph would lead to the emergence of a Muslim ruler who could be acceptable to the world powers in place of the Ottoman sultans. Princess Durru Shahvar, whose father was raised by a branch of the Ottoman monarchy deeply interested in modernizing reforms and believed in modern education for women including his wives and daughter, became a popular public figure after her arrival in Hyderabad. 

Following the birth of her sons Prince Mukarram Jah in 1933 and Prince Muffakham Jah in 1936, she took charge of their upbringing, the two princes being educated in Britain  and also marrying Turkish ladies. The last Nizam later bypassed his own son and nominated her first son and his grandson, as his successor.The Princess became the first woman to inaugurate an airport when she inaugurated the airport in Hyderabad in the 1940s. She is also credited with inaugurating the Osmania General Hospital. She set up the Durru Shehvar Children's Hospital for women and children in the old city of Hyderabad. Her last public appearance in the city was when she presided over the opening ceremony of the Nizam’s Silver Jubilee Museum in 2000. She last visited Hyderabad in 2004. She divided her time principally between Hyderabad and London. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Royal Patronage of the Nizams of Hyderabad & the Asif Jahi Dynasty

“The star of destiny shines on the forehead of your son”. Mir Qumaruddin displayed considerable skill as a warrior and at the age of nineteen, the Emperor  Aurengzeb bestowed on him the title “Chin Fateh Khan”.

At 26, he was appointed Commander in Chief and Viceroy, first at Bijapur, then Malwa and later of the Deccan. Viceroy Farukh Siar who was the Mughal Emperor for a brief tenure conferred on Mir Qumaruddin the title Nizam-ul-mulk Fateh Jung. He thus became the first Nizam. A subsequent Emperor, Muhammad Shah bestowed on him the title Asif Jah. The dynasty of the Nizams of Hyderabad thus came to be known as the Asif Jahi Dynasty. After gaining independence, Asif Jah came to be known as Nizam-ul-Mulk. He first set up his capital at Auragabad but later moved to Hyderabad, which became the capital of the Asif Jahi dynasty.

Asif Jah's second son Nasir Jung was supported by the British whereas Muzafar Jung, grandson of Asif Jah, was supported by the French. Nasir Jung succeeded; but after a brief rule he was slain in 1750 in an encounter with the French troops at Arcot. Thereupon, Muzafar Jung ascended the throne. In the following year he was murdered and his son Salabath Jung was put on the throne. In 1762 Salabeth Jung was dethroned by his brother Nizam Ali Khan, and confined at Bidar where he died in 1793.

Hence, Nasir Jung, Muzafar Jung and Salabath Jung, who were contestants for the sovereignty of the Deccan in the short span of thirteen years between the death of Asif Jah and accession of Nizam Ali Khan, have not been historically recognised as reigning Nizams.

Nizam Ali Khan ascended the throne in 1763 and he ruled Hyderabad for almost forty years. This was one of the eventful periods in the history of India. Foremost among competitors for supremacy in the Deccan were the Marhattas and it was during this period that the famous French adventurer Monsieur Raymond was employed by Nizam Ali Khan.

The succession of Sikandar Jah as Nizam was undisputed and he appointed Mir Alam as his Prime Minister. With the accession to the throne by Sikander Jah and end of war with the Marhattas, there commenced an entirely new era for Hyderabad. Sikander Jah was succeeded by his eldest son Nasir-ud-Daula. It was during his reign that Salar Jung was appointed as the Minister in 1853. Salar Jung guided the affairs of the Deccan with great wisdom and introduced several reforms to improve the finances of the Dominion.

On 17 May 1857 Afzal-ud-Daula became the fifth Nizam. This was the first time the first war of Indian Independence was fought in the North and there was general disorder in the Deccan.

Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, who was born on 18 August 1866, was the only son of Afzal-ud-Daula. He was installed on the masnad by the British Resident and Sir Salar Jung, who also acted as the co-regent. Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh and the last Nizam of Hyderabad ruled for 37 years (1911 - 1948). His Dominion was lager than England and Scotland put together, with an area of 86,000 Sq. miles.

The seventh Nizam led a very simple life, yet he was one of the richest men in the world. He donated generously to every cause in India as well as abroad irrespective of caste and religion. If it was the Muslim theological school at Deoband which received financial help, it was also the privilege of the Benaras Hindu University. His list of donations included Rabindranth Tagore’s Shantiniketan and several other institutions including hospitals, schools, for famine relief, etc. The golden temple in Amritsar also enjoyed an annual donation.

The Nizam’s rule saw the growth of Hyderabad economically and culturally. Electricity, railways, roads and airways developed. Huge reservoirs and irrigation projects such as the Tungabhadra, and Nizamsagar were completed. The early work on Nagarjunasagar was undertaken. The Osmania University, Colleges and Schools were founded throughout the state. Nearly all the public buildings currently in such as the Osmania General Hospital, High Court, Central State Library, Assembly Hall, Jubilee Hall and other buildings in the Public Garden were built during Osman Ali Khan’s reign.

Soon after India gained independence in 1947, all princely states were invited to join the Republic. Nizam VII was reluctant to do so; but in 1948, after the Police Action, Hyderabad state was merged into the Indian Union. Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam, died on Friday 24 February 1967. It was end of the princely era.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Henna Use As Adornment & Healing in Muslim Tradition

Henna occupies a unique place in the Moslem world.

Botanists believe the henna plant, Lawsonia inermis, originated in Persia. It grew extensively in Egypt and was carried to India where it was used since at least 700 AD for decorating hands and feet.  Some sources claim that the Moguls took the use of henna to India in the 12th Century C.E., centuries after use in the Middle East and North Africa. There is evidence to support that the tradition of mehndi originated in North Africa and the Middle Eastern countries during ancient times.

One of the earliest documentations of henna use comes from ancient Egypt, where it is known to have been used to stain the fingers and toes of the Pharaohs prior to mummification. 

Historically henna has also been used for medicinal purposes, to dye cloth and leather as well as hair, to color the manes of horses and other fur of other animals. In many eastern places, henna is thought to hold special medicinal or even magical properties. It is used to help heal skin diseases, prevent thinning hair, and cool the skin to reduce swelling in hot climates. It is made into a beverage to heal headaches and stomach pain. Newly purchased homes in Morocco often have their doors painted with henna to wish for prosperity and chase away evil. Henna is used as a protection against the “evil eye”. The foreheads of bulls, milk cows, and horses are sometimes decorated with henna for their protection. Tombstones in graveyards are sometimes washed with henna to please the sprits.

Henna is used in celebrations of betrothals, weddings, births, circumcisions, religious holidays (similarly for Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians and other religions) and National festivals. 

Henna was incorporated into the customs of Muslims in the 6th century CE. Henna traditions were long established in Arabia, and henna was used by Prophet Mohammed and all of his wives. As Islam expanded quickly into other countries, eastern Mediterranean henna traditions followed.

Henna was grown and used in Spain, by Christians, Jews and Moors from the 9th century AD until 1567 when the Spanish Inquisition outlawed it.

Muslims worldwide continue to celebrate the “Night of the Henna” and regard henna as a beautiful and suitable ornament for women to the present day.

Some of the most complex and elegant hennaes ever created were done between 900 to 1700 CE in the Islamic countries. Many miniature paintings and pottery pieces show elegantly patterned red and black henna during this period. Delicate and expressive henna patterns reached their peak in medieval Persia, incorporating calligraphy, multiple applications and varied colors. Persian henna artists achieved blacks, reds, browns, golds, oranges, even blue and green tints with additional herbs, spices and unusual techniques!

The henna paste is carefully applied and must remain undisturbed on the skin for several hours to create a strong dark stain. Most recipes contain some combination of sifted ground henna leaves, strong black tea, lemon juice and a few drops of eucalyptus oil. The thickness of the paste determines the ease of application. Factors which influence the intensity of the final design include heat, warmth which darkens the stain, and length of time the henna paste is left on the skin. Once the paste is applied it will dry and eventually crack. Today some artists still use sticks or toothpicks to apply it, though many prefer homemade plastic cones or large syringes. 

The leaves, flowers, and twigs are ground into a fine powder, and then mixed with hot water. Various shades are obtainable by mixing with the leaves of other plants, such as indigo, tea, coffee, cloves, tamarind, lemon, sugar, and various oils are also used to enhance the colour and longevity of design.

Generally, Arabic (Middle-eastern) mehndi features large, floral patterns on hands and feet, while Indian (Asian) mehndi uses fine line, lacy, floral and paisley patterns covering entire hands, forearms, feet and shins; and African mehndi art is large, and bold with geometrically patterned angles. African mehndi patterns usually use black henna while Asian and Middle Eastern mehndi is often reddish brown.

It is also a common custom in many countries to step into the mehndi, or simply apply the paste without creating a pattern in order to cool, protect or treat the skin (sometimes referred to as a “henna-shoe").

Henna is still in use in all the Middle Eastern and North African countries, though in some areas henna fell out of favor in the 20th century as women sought to emulate European and American fashions.

In the early Mughal courts of India, Persian women with elaborate black henna patterns are depicted alongside Indian women with red-tinted, although unpatterned hands. By 1700, the bridal celebration of the “Night of the Henna” was a well-established part of Muslim India’s traditions, and married Muslim women in India frequently used henna for adornment, for luck, and to enhance sensuality. A portrait of Mumtaz Mahal has one of the earliest Indian patterned hennaes.