Sultans of Deccan India at the Metropolitan Museum
To anyone interested in the rich and exotic art, culture and history of south India, the exhibition “Sultans of Deccan India: Opulence and Fantasy” is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. The landmark exhibition being held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from April 20 showcases some of the finest works of art from the five Deccan Sultanates of south India that existed between the 15th and 17th century. Nazmiyal Collection encourages you to view these beautiful works of Indian art.
The Sultans of Deccan India exhibition features 200 works from the collections of major international, private and royal collectors, according to the museum. Many of the items featured have been brought on loan all the way from India, which is a remarkable feat in itself. This makes the art exhibition the most comprehensive museum presentation of Deccan art yet, which is one more reason for art lovers to visit the exhibition.
The purpose of the exhibition, as it has been made clear, is to explore the unmistakable character of classical Deccan art presented through various media, such painting, textile and Indian carpet designs, and metalwork. In addition to all the known masterpieces, the items on display include several new discoveries and a glittering array of diamonds that were excavated from the mines of the Deccan plateau.
In order to fully appreciate the works displayed at the exhibition, it is important to have some knowledge of the Deccan sultanates. The Deccan Plateau is a large plateau that makes up most of the central and southern part of India. Rising about a kilometer above the Indian Ocean, it is a beautiful land of mountains, valleys, lakes, rivers, forests and great cities teeming with people.
The Deccan plateau has given rise to some of the greatest ruling dynasties in the history of India, including the royal dynasties that ruled the five sultanates that rose from the rubbles of the Bahmanid Sultanate, the first independent Islamic kingdom in south India. Located in the western part of the plateau, these kingdoms came into being in the last decade of the 15th century and lasted until they were conquered by the Mughal Empire in 1686/87.
The sultanates of Ahmadnagar, Bidar, Bijapur, Berar and Golkonda fought among themselves and with neighboring Hindu kingdoms for supremacy as well as to defend their borders. But court intrigue and warfare were not the only passions of the sultans. The sultans lived in great opulence, thanks largely to the sale of diamonds that were so prized by European traders. Until the late 18th century, when diamonds were found in Africa, the Deccan plateau was the only source of diamonds in the world. Several of the sultans actively patronized poets, painters, sculptors, musicians and performing artists.
The sultans of Ahmadnagar and Bijapur patronized Persian miniature paintings, several fine specimens which exist today in the possession of Indian and Western collectors. The metalworkers of Bidar invented an important class of metalwork called Bidri, which has intricate pattern designs made of silver, brass or copper on a black metal, mainly zinc. The Golkonda sultans were patrons of literature and invited many poets and scholars from Persia.
Many of the great works of art, including miniature paintings and metalwork, along with the most famous diamond of all, the Koh-i-Noor, were taken to Europe and America during the British Raj. But a great many works of art still remain in India. The exhibition, “Sultans of Deccan India: Opulence and Fantasy at the Metropolitan Museum,” has brought together 200 of them for the first time. A treasure-trove of Deccan art and design, it’s an exhibition that no one who is interested in oriental art should miss. The exhibition will last until July 26, 2015.