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Crafting the Conclusion: Final Thoughts on Manuscript Art

Here, I want to crafting the Conclusion as the final Thoughts on Manuscript Art that delves further into the topic of Vaishnava[1] manuscripts, which is a crucial aspect of our ongoing discussion. Regrettably, it seems that no substantiated research has been conducted on the artistic value of these manuscripts. Consequently, locating authentic copies proves challenging. Although there exists a possibility that some of the oldest Vaishnava manuscripts may be found in West Bengal's Bankura district, no documented evidence has been published concerning such findings.


Despite the challenging situation described above, we can readily identify several crucial Vaishnava scriptures that are considered some of this tradition's oldest manuscripts. These include Bhagavadgita, Ramayana, Mahabharat, and Garuda Purana. However, without conducting thorough research on this topic, I cannot provide specific references regarding Vaishnava manuscript art at this time.


Bhagavat Purana (Vaishnava Manuscript)  ca 1620 to 1660
Bhagavat Purana (Vaishnava Manuscript) ca 1620 to 1660 B.C.E.

Since ancient times, Mathura and Vrindavan have been India's epicenter of Vaishnava culture. These two cities hold great significance as they are not only the birthplace but also the spot of upbringing for Lord Krishna. This region, known as Vraja-bhumi and BrajaBuli by locals, represents a significant sect of Hinduism. Historians have noted that during the Gupta era (375-413 CE), many kings adopted Vaishnavism and even referred to themselves as Parama Bhagavata - meaning most beloved of Lord Vishnu. The influence of Vaishnavism has had a profound impact on Indian culture throughout history, including its contribution to manuscript art; however, without proper references, further elaboration on this crucial chapter is not possible at this time.


Despite the unavailability of Indian paintings in manuscripts from the 8th to 1500th centuries, historians faced challenges in adequately documenting the revolution that occurred in Indian painting. Nevertheless, evidence of reciprocation is apparent through the influences of the Indian style found in Chinese and Tibetan art. Historians have affirmed that the streamy pathway of Indian style was from India via Khotan to China and later from China via Korea to Japan. For instance, a historical event has been brought forth by historians wherein two Indian Buddhist mendicants met with Yean-Tee, the emperor of China (605 - 617). The names of these mendicants were Kabhod and Dharma Kuksha. Subsequently, numerous artists from India and other countries visited China; however, it is essential to note that Chinese art had its own distinct style, already establishing itself as a benchmark for artistry. Based on the subject matter alone, Chinese art can be categorized into seven segments such as, -

1. Historical 2. Spiritual (Buddhist art) 3. Landscape. 4. Flower 5. Wildlife 6. Birds 7. Portrait


To a certain extent, Indian art influenced the spiritual component of Chinese art among its six other facets. While I previously asserted in another section of this blog that China adopted the painting grammar of India, it is indisputable that Chinese artists cultivated their distinct style and language known as "Chinese art."


Rajput Painting. Krishna Lifting up Mount Govardhan. circa 1690
Rajput Painting. Krishna Lifting up Mount Govardhan. circa 1690

As previously mentioned, the manuscript art form was a precursor to the Indian miniature style. However, it was not until the Mughal style mingled with native Rajput elements that the distinctive Indian aesthetic emerged. Despite numerous talented Hindu artists flourishing during this era, their contributions were overlooked mainly due to a common saying: "A prophet is not recognized in his own land." It wasn't until Emperor Akbar graciously welcomed and showcased several Rajput artists at his court that their work gained widespread recognition. One telling example of this shift occurred when Muhammad Bin Qasim[2] conquered Sindhu province and was approached by local artists requesting commissions for portraits of him and his officers. This instance illustrates how portraiture became fashionable during this period despite political upheavals disrupting such trends. Nevertheless, with continued support from successive rulers, Indian art eventually reached its pinnacle of achievement.


The discourse has now concluded, and I thank you for your keen interest in this topic. Due to insufficient information, it was challenging for me to delve further into the matter; nevertheless, I am eager to hear your valuable opinion on Indian manuscript art. Do you believe that Indian manuscript art served as a precursor to modern book illustration? Can other sources substantiate the world's first concept of book illustration? Kindly share if you possess any substantial information regarding manuscript painting. Furthermore, I require details on Vaishnava manuscripts as my knowledge concerning them is limited. Would you happen to have any insights on this particular subject?


If you find my efforts worthy of admiration, kindly disseminate the discussions on your preferred social platforms to broaden their reach among your followers and acquaintances. I appreciate any help you can provide.


 

Addendum 

1. Vaishnavism (Vaishnava dharma) is one of the major traditions within Hinduism, along with Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smarthism. It is also called Vishnuism (paternal), its followers are called Vaishnavas (maternal), and it considers Krishna the Supreme Lord.

The tradition is notable for its avatar doctrine, wherein Krishna is revered in one of many distinct incarnations. Of these, ten avatars of Vishnu are the most studied. Rama, Krishna, Narayana, Kalki, Hari, Vithoba, Kesava, Madhava, Govinda, Sri Nathji, and Jagannath are among the famous names used for the same supreme being. The tradition has traceable roots in the 1st millennium B.C.E., as in Bhagavatism, also called Krishnaism. Later developments led by Ramananda created a Rama-oriented movement, now the largest monastic group in Asia. The Vaishnava tradition has many sampradayas (denominations, sub-schools) ranging from the medieval Dvaita school of Madhvacharya to the Vishishtadvaita school of Ramanuja. The tradition is known for its loving devotion to an avatar of Vishnu (often Krishna), and it was crucial to the spread of the Bhakti movement in South Asia in the 2nd million. Em CE. Key texts in Vaishnavism include the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Pancaratra (Agama) texts, and the Bhagavata Purana.


2. Muhammad Bin Qasim was an Umayyad general who conquered the Sindh till Multan along the Indus River and then controlled for a short period of 4 years for the Umayyad Caliphate. He was born and raised in Ta'if (in modern-day Saudi Arabia). Qasim's conquest of Sindh up to the southernmost parts of Multan enabled further Muslim conquests on the Indian subcontinent. A member of the Thaqif tribe of the Ta'if region, Muhammad bin Qasim's father was Qasim bin Yusuf, who died when Muhammad bin Qasim was young, leaving his mother in charge of his education and care. Umayyad governor Al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf Al-Thaqafi, Muhammad bin Qasim's paternal uncle, was instrumental in teaching Muhammad bin Qasim about warfare and governance. Muhammad bin Qasim married his cousin Zubaidah, Al-Hajjaj's daughter, shortly before going to Sindh.

 


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