Insha' (Literary Composition or Letter)


This calligraphic fragment belongs to a series of 22 insha' (literary compositions or letters) written by the calligraphers Mir Kalan, Khan Zaman (son of Khan Khanan), Qa'im Khan, Lutfallah Khan, and Mahabat Khan. Judging from the script (Indian nasta'liq), a seal impression bearing the date 1113 AH (1701−2), and a letter mentioning the city of Janpur, it appears that these writings were executed in India during the 18th century. The calligrapher of this fragment is identified by the inscription “raqamahu Mir Kalan” (written by Mir Kalan), which appears at the top of both recto and verso. If this were to be the same Mir Kalan as the renowned painter active during the mid-18th century in Lucknow, then this identification would further support the theory that this calligraphic series in the Library of Congress collections is a corpus of materials produced by several writers active in 18th-century India. The calligraphies are typically written in hasty nasta'liq on white paper, framed in blue, and pasted to pink or salmon cardboard. They stand out for being in rather poor condition, in many cases badly damaged by worm holes and/or water stains. Some bear squiggle marks in the margins, while others include seal impressions that were cut out and pasted onto the cardboards. In most cases, an attribution to a calligrapher is written at the top, preceded by the expression raqamahu or khatt-i (the handwriting of). The text of the fragment is composed of both nazm (poetry) and naskh (prose), a combination typical of the art of composition. The author begins with two bayts (verses) of poetry, then complains about the hardships of separation, invokes the shawq and ishtiyaq (passion) of friendship, and ends his maktub (letter) by stating that he offers it as a flower to his loved one. This calligraphic letter's verso also contains a seal impression in the lower center bearing the name Sayyid 'Ali Taqi Khan. In the lower-left corner appears a squiggle design as well. The text itself begins with a praise of God huwa al-'aziz (he is the Glorified) and a poetical excerpt on the pain of being separated from a friend. Then come the contents of this 'irfani (deeply spiritual) letter; the author insists he has not forgotten his friend, that his love is—like an inscription on a stone–ineffaceable. He assures him that he sees him everywhere he looks (even in the walls) and that he is engaged in continuous dhikr (remembrance) of him. Finally, he apologizes for not being able to visit him due to weakness and fatigue, but promises that, as soon as he gets well, he will run to him with passion.

Last updated: July 31, 2014