Indian History Carnival – 46: Master Painters of India, Dastangoi, Gaspar de Gama, Harikatha

  1. “ ‘Wonder of the Age’: Master Painters of India, 1100-1900” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art showcases 800 years of Indian art. NYTimes has a review of this exhibition and Alain Truong has some samples.
  2. Mahmood Farooqui writes about Dastangoi, a lost and old art form of storytelling.
  3. The word Dastangoi refers to the art of storytelling, it is a compound of two Persian words Dastan and goi which means to tell a Dastan. Dastans were epics, often oral in nature, which were recited or read aloud and in essence were like medieval romances everywhere. Telling tales of adventure, magic and warfare, Dastans mapped new worlds and horizons, encountered the unseen and protected the hero through many travails and lovers as he moved on his quest. The hero’s adventures could sometimes parallel the mystic quest, at other times the story narrated a purely profane tale.

  4. Maddy has the fascinating tale of Gaspar de Gama, a Polish Jew who ended up as a slave in India, worked for the king of Bijapur as a Muslim, met King Manuel as a Christian and became one of the first Europeans to set foot in Brazil.
  5. Whether by intent or not, Gaspar was the person who provided Gama with large doses of misinformation, he explained that most of India was ruled by Christian kings (see CHF blog on this subject) including the Vijayanagar kingdom. He was later to become the person who arranged the meeting of Cabral with the King of Cochin and thus become the primary reason for the later problems of Malabar after the Portuguese were welcomed at Cochin. But let us see how this interesting meeting came about. I would assume that he was thus the reason for the Gama to fall somewhat out of favor with King Manual some years after he got back.

  6. Sriram has a brief introduction to Harikatha, a form of story telling which evolved in the 18th century
  7. The Maratha kingdom of Thanjavur was where it came up as a result of several important influences. The art of Katha Kalakshepam or passing of time by listening to stories was already a powerful presence in the area, but it existed more as a form of religious discourse where learned scholars would take up a topic and embellishing it with some shlokas, speak on the subject for a few hours. Based on the type of subject matter, such discourses looked to different works for material. Thus if the subject matter was the Periya Puranam, the Kanda Puranam or Kamba Ramayanam, it was called prasangam and had quotes from the Tiruvachakam, the Tevaram and similar Tamil works. If the subject matter was from the Puranas, there were quotes from the Bhagavatam, the Maha Bharatham and the Ramayanam.

Thanks: Sandeep V & Fëanor
If you find interesting blog posts on Indian history, please send it to @gmail or as a tweet to @varnam_blog. The next carnival will be up on Nov 15th.

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