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Muhammad Husayn al-Katib (c. 1560-1620)

Folio from a Mughal album (Calligraphy by Muhammad Husayn; A Group of Goraknathi yogis by Dasvanth). 1590 - 1610

37.0 x 24.0 cm (folio dimensions) | RCIN 1005062

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  • Recto:

    Dictum by Shaykh Abul Qasim Gurgani written in by Mughal calligrapher Muhammad Husayn Kashmiri in large nastaliq script on pale blue coloured paper decorated with large and small gold flecks.

    Signed: 'Written by the least of the slaves Muhamad Husayn. May God forgive his sins'.


    A Gathering of Yogis by the Mughal artist Dasvanth.

    A group of Goraknathi (also known as Kanphata) yogis, identifiable by their thick hoop earrings and the small horns hung on sacred threads around their necks. Five young acolytes go about their tasks, preparing food and stitching garments. Their trident-bearing leader in a tall conical hat sits in front of a dhuni fire. He glances apprehensively at the emaciated ascetic slumped to his left. What is striking is that this yogi is not wearing earrings, but instead has a large drooping hole where one once was.

    The verse above and below the painting by the Sanai explores the theme of an old man contemplating youthful beauty, a common trope in Sufi literature. Many Sufi tales of ascetics expounded the notion that, in order to attain true knowledge, as well as renouncing all worldly possessions, one must also relinquish all intrusive thoughts and desires.

    The painting is ascribed to the artist Dasvanth. A passage in the Ain-i Akbari describes Dasvanth as the son of a palanquin-bearer who caught the emperor's attention when painting on the palace walls. He was trained in the Mughal atelier and became ‘matchless in his time and the most excellent’ but shortly before the court moved to Lahore in 1584 'the darkness of insanity enshrouded the brilliance of his mind’ and he committed suicide.


    Likely acquired by George II before 1728. For further information on this album see RCIN 1005039.

  • Measurements

    37.0 x 24.0 cm (folio dimensions)

    31.6 x 18.5 cm (panel)

    28.6 x 19.6 cm (panel)

    21.3 x 19.4 cm (image)