The Three Dimensional Art of Calligraphy

A study of Irshad Farooqui's calligraphic art

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Old manuscript with Tibetan script (2018-06-01) by UnknownDastkari Haat Samiti

A history of Indian calligraphy

Handmade paper is extremely popular among artists and calligraphers. One would think the uneven texture would not allow for smooth writing. Old Tibetan manuscripts written on fairly rough, textured handmade paper proves this impression incorrect. Japan, China, Thailand and Nepal have used handmade paper from rice, the mulberry plant, the argeli plant and Egypt created paper out of the papyrus plant for its exquisite Arabic calligraphy.

The calligraphy workshop The calligraphy workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

Calligraphy, the art of writing has many names in India. Called su-lekhan (su meaning beautiful and lekhan meaning writing), khushan visi, su-lipi, sulekh kala, in Hindi, khushkhati, khush nafisi, kitaabat, suloos, and khattaati in Arabic, Persian or Urdu, they all refer to the beautiful art of writing.

These find a true partner in handmade paper especially when the texture does not soak in too much ink from a pen.

Calligraphy with bamboo pens (2018-06-01) by Rajeev KumarDastkari Haat Samiti

Brushwork, writing with bamboo pens, or even a simple sketch pen gives highly aesthetic and beautiful results when a calligrapher’s sure and thoughtful flourish lights up the paper.

The calligraphy of Japan, China and Korea where a few black brush strokes bring magical art to rich cream-coloured paper.

India’s calligraphy flourished during Mughal times, when Persian calligraphers wrote manuscripts illustrated and illuminated by Hindu painters or vice versa.

One of the processes in paper making at the Elrhino factory (2018-06-01) by Elrhino Eco Industries Pvt. Ltd.Dastkari Haat Samiti

Paper making happened in many parts of India at that time, in spite of having 22 official languages, 13 scripts and over 700 identified dialects, Independent India has never been known internationally for its calligraphy.

It has many forms of classical and folk art, but although artistic sensibilities of its creative communities are high and widespread, they never extended to calligraphy.

Boxes Boxes by Mohammad RahisDastkari Haat Samiti

Perhaps this was largely because the communities that painted or crafted did not value or feel the need for being literate. The skills of writing were left to those upper classes that served temples, kings or governments.

Calligraphers who continued valiantly were all Muslim, as the value of writing was originally attributed to the fact that the Prophet Mohammad’s sacred words needed to be written beautifully, so all holy sayings were inscribed lovingly and artistically on whatever surface was chosen.

Calligrapher Jamyang Dorjee demonstrates his skill (2018-05-01) by Jamyang DorjeeDastkari Haat Samiti

Calligraphers practicing in multiple Indian scripts are few, but, in the 21st century, there are a growing number, demonstrating, displaying and selling their art works in galleries, schools and at prestigious international events.

The papers acquired from hosiery waste, elephant and rhinoceros dung and the argeli plant were given to four prominent calligraphers of India, Jamyang Dorjee, Rajeev Kumar, Qamar Dagar and Irshad Farooqi, and Sanjhi paper artist Ram Soni, to enhance the visual and tactile experience of exploring handmade paper with their art.

Calligrapher Irshad Farooqi (2018-07-01) by Irshad FarooqiDastkari Haat Samiti

Irshad Farooqi's calligraphic art

Gold-medallist and first national award winner for calligraphy on wood, Irshad Hussain Farooqi is well-known for his finely wrought wooden art and devotion to sacred scripts in his works.

Calligrapher Irshad Farooqi goes home (2018-07-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Irshad Hussain Farooqi is well-known for his finely wrought wooden art and devotion to sacred scripts in his works.

Farooqi walks down the lane in Zakir Nagar in south Delhi leading to his home and workspace.

Calligrapher Irshad Farooqi (2018-07-01) by Irshad FarooqiDastkari Haat Samiti

Irshad Farooqi learned calligraphy from the Ghalib Academy in Hazrat Nizamuddin, in Delhi, and later decided to explore a new realm – of three-dimensional calligraphy.

The traditional thugra design made on paper had to be modified to follow formal rules but achieve different dimensions.

He works on handmade paper against the backdrop of his award-winning wooden piece with a finely carved arrangement of Quranic scripts.

Calligraphers tools (2018-07-01) by Irshad FarooqiDastkari Haat Samiti

Farooqi’s work tools are a few brushes, bamboo pens and a large collection of pencils for him to sketch calligraphy designs he will translate into wood.

Calligrapher working on handmade paper (2018-07-01) by Irshad FarooqiDastkari Haat Samiti

As calligraphers prefer paper that suits their style, Farooqi uses handmade paper of jute fibre and textile from Sanganer’s famed handmade paper-manufacturer Salim Kagzi with his hand-carved bamboo pen.

He chose to write the many names of Allah to demonstrate his style. He has also calligraphed the Gayatri mantra, an ancient Vedic hymn dedicated to the Sun deity, and created art works in wood amalgamating the icons of major religions.

Rolls of paper at calligraphers home (2018-07-01) by Irshad FarooqiDastkari Haat Samiti

Some of Farooqi’s works on jute paper made in preparation for the wooden carved version, await transformation into masterpieces.

In old times, the main raw material for papermakers were worn gunny bags made of jute Corchorus capsularis or Corchorus olitorius, bought from the pack animal drivers along trade routes.

Calligrapher Irshad Farooqi (2018-07-01) by Irshad FarooqiDastkari Haat Samiti

Near the master calligrapher’s home is the Moti Masjid, where he goes for Friday prayers along with members of his community.

He works on his calligraphy to write,
'La ilahaillallahMuhammadur Rasulullah' meaning ‘There is only one God, that is Allah, and Mohammad is his Messenger’ which is the shahada, the crux of Islamic belief.

He takes inspiration from the scripts on the wall behind him.

Calligrapher at work on rhino dung paper (2018-07-01) by Qamar DagarDastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about calligraphy in India:
-Calligraphy in Sikkim
-Rajeev Kumar
-Qamar Dagar

Credits: Story

Text: Jaya Jaity
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri, Subinoy Das, Charu Verma, Rajeev Kumar,
Artisans: Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute, Salim Kagzi,Vijender Singh Shekhawat, Mahesh Bora, Borung-Polok, Jamyang Dorjee, Rajeev Kumar, Qamar Dagar, Irshad Hussain Farooqi, Ram Soni
Ground Facilitator: Jaya Jaitly, Charu Verma, Subinoy Das
Documentary Video: Charu Verma, Chirodeep Chaudhuri, Subinoy Das, Jaya Jaitly
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Read more about handmade paper industry in India here:

-Research and Technology
-Rajasthan Story
-Assam Story
-Sikkim Story

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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