Breaking religious barriers, Suresh Arbol travelled over 300 kilometres from Jammu to display the rare Quranic manuscripts and different calligraphic works in Srinagar.
He displayed the rare objects at “Shireen Qalam” exhibition at the conference hall of the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) here.
Despite being a Hindu, Arbol has preserved thousands of manuscripts, 120 Quranic verses on Vellum (animal skin or ‘membrane’ used as a material for writing on), and 130 on paper, jewelry items and paintings.
He runs Shashvant Art Gallery, which is focused on preserving ancient art objects and religious manuscripts of the State.
While exhibiting the rarest 90-year-old handwritten Holy Quran on the 4.5 feet by 5 feet long Kashmiri cloth, Arbol explains the importance of the ancient Quranic manuscript that his family has held on to for 90 years.
He said the Quranic manuscripts including the two holy Qurans on a paper and cloth are special as they are handwritten.
He has brought two handwritten holy Qurans. One is written on 4.5 feet by 5 feet cloth and the other on a 5 feet paper. “I have also displayed a 'Shajrah- e-Nasab' of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) which is about 24-feet-long with pure gold illumination,” said Arbol.
His great-grandfather who was a jeweler of the royal family of Maharaja Hari Singh had collected thousands of religious manuscripts including rare Quranic manuscripts, calligraphy works, jewelry, paintings and other rare art objects.
“Initially, we faced a problem in recognizing the ancient Quranic scripts and paintings. But after approaching the experts and scholars from Kashmir we were able to recognize them,” said Arbol.
He said the experts and scholars recognized the pattern and style of the manuscript writing and the paper. “Experts recognized the manuscripts, calligraphies and painting belonging to Kashmir. They recognized the colors of painting as well. At that time colors like stone, vegetable and other colors were used in the painting,” he said.
Arbol said his grandfather was interested in collecting the manuscripts and other art objects which we have preserved in Shashvat Art Gallery.
“My father would also save and preserve these ancient manuscripts and other art objects. After he passed away I am taking care of these ancients objects in Shashvant Art Gallery,” said Arbol.
Arbol said at that time calligraphers and the writers would not mention their names on their scripts. “But the handwritten copy of Quran in the rarely used and delicate Arabic language Diwani font makes it more special.”
“We have displayed around 40 calligraphies, 2 holy Qurans and verses of holy Quran on vellum,” he said.
The unique exhibition-cum-workshop stands a memorial to the ancient times as more than 100 manuscripts and 100 calligraphies are displayed in the hall.
The rare manuscripts include ‘Majooma-Ilm-Ikhlaq’, which is a nicely written manuscript in the Persian language in 1882 AD.
Another type of manuscript is ‘Sad Pand Luqman’ of Hakeem Luqman, which is a Persian manuscript scribed by Peer Baksh of Punjab in Khate Nakhoon on ethics.
This manuscript written in 1870 AD is specially ornamented with gold and the borders are decorated with pictures of animals and birds.
Among the rare manuscripts, the oldest manuscript was the holy Quran in Kashmiri calligraphy by Fathullah Kashmiri in 1237 AD.
Among other gold-illuminated manuscripts, Shajra-Maqadasa of Islam's prophets, a Quran dated 961 AD which is handwritten on Samarqandi paper and a Persian translation of the Quran by Mir Saeed Andrabi in 1850 were also displayed.
The exhibition titled ‘Sheerin Qalam' is being organised by J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Language in collaboration with Directorates of Tourism, Libraries, Archives, Archeology and Museum, INTACH Kashmir Chapter and Shashvat Art Gallery, Jammu.