The internet here in Brunei is still pretty problematic, so I am writing this articles in stages – I will add the images later and typing the article beforehand as it would be more practical. For your information, I am writing this in the middle of the night while watching the EURO football match of England vs. France and the connection is simply pathetic.
Next in the series of articles on my visit to the Islamic Art Museum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is the Indian Gallery post. The gallery is pretty much just next to the China Gallery and somewhat across the Malay World Gallery. The Indian exhibition were small-ish compared to the China and Malay World galleries – it looks like it is put in some sort of a niche or a corner, flanked by walls featuring Jaalis (more on that later). However, the collection is not as small as it features many artifacts from the Central Asian region from glorious stone carvings to delicate fabrics and embroideries to intricately decorated weapons and armours. The artifacts, like many other displays in the museum, are encased in glass.
The Stone Jaali
From the Malay World Gallery (and just in front of the China Gallery) you are greeted by a redstone latticework mainly found in Pakistan and India called Jaali. This one Jalli window with a smaller window in the middle of it evokes the imagery of the Red Fort in Delhi, India.It has grooved arches unlike Persian or Middle Eastern arches – an apparent influence from the Hindu architecture of India. The stone latticework is surrounded by intricate floral carving and the ubiquitous eight-pointed star motif.
One of the Miniature Painting exhibited inside the Gallery
Inside the gallery-niche you would find many artifacts as I mentioned before. Some were weapons and armors (I still remember this lance or spear, perhaps ornamental weapon, with a fluffy white hair-like object near the blade of the spear, displayed prominently in the middle of the gallery) and many were miniatures, such as this one. The miniature are similar to the Persian ones, although newer ones, from the Mughal empire, are distinctly Indian, with a more realistic facial features and different art style – perhaps an influence from the Renaissance paintings?
A pair of calligraphic Tile
Apart form weapons and armors and miniatures there were also painted this. This particular ones, I can imagine could be one taken from the Wazir Khan Mosque, as it is painted in such a way very similar to the ones used in that mosque. It is different than the Middle Eastern calligraphy tiles particularly due to the techniques and colours employed. The tiles were painted warm colours of yellow and brown, and unlike the Middle Eastern ones, which has calligraphy perfectly painted on,the calligraphy on these tiles were somehow made without any calculations or guidelines.
A brightly coloured Islamic tapestry
On one wall there is this display of tapestries, fabrics and embroideries framed and hung. This one is the largest and, like the hairy spear, displayed prominently in the middle of the wall. Again, the colour preferred are warm colours and for this piece, a bright, sunny yellow was used. I didn’t remember if it was merely painted or embroidered but there is a line of calligraphy in the middle of the cloth in green. Around the calligraphy are flower medallions although I am not sure either whether it is painted or embroidered.
Stone Jharokha sculpture
Upon exiting the exhibition, overlooking the stairs is an elaborate stone sculpture of a pavillion. If I remember well, this is called a Jharoka, a particularly exclusive feature of the Mughal Architecture. The Jharokha essentially serves the similar purpose like the Mashrabiya though in Jharokha’s case, it is made of stone instead of wood and thus much heavier. It is also often decorated with Jaali so women in Purdah could conceal their identities whilst looking from the Jharokha.