Posted on: 6 July 2013

Painted scroll, 'pata'. Fifty-four registers illustrating the story of miracle-working Muslims saints, including Gazi and Manik. One of the scenes shows a rich merchant's ocean-going ship under sail. Other registers show a figure riding a tiger and carrying a serpent-staff, who is probably the Muslim saint Gazi Pir; the tomb of a Muslim saint, attended by a devotee (hanging above the tomb is a cloth, apparently made up of scraps of different-coloured textile sewn together, which is the cloth given by a senior Sufi to his disciple as a mark of continuity of teaching); a composite figure which might be Chaitanya (Krishna beyond and Radha) or maybe the joint Vishnu and Śiva deity, Harihara; a river crocodile, perhaps meant to represent the vehicle of the goddess of the Ganges; or a saint (probably Manik Pir), wearing the distinctive robe of the Sufi, carrying manuscripts beneath his arms and causing the barren cow to give milk. Painted on paper, mounted on cotton.

© Trustees of the British Museum

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Curator's comments: Scrolls such as this were used as visual props in storytelling performances.Blurton 1996: The Gazi Scroll is one of the great documents of Indian folk art. It tells the story of at least two Muslim saints, 'pirs', although the precise details are not apparent today. We can identify the 'pir' in the painted scenes on account of his beard and above all his dress: he wears a 'lungi' (single piece of cloth like a 'sarong') or sometimes trousers, and a cap, but never a 'dhoti'. Further, his charismatic character is clearly indicated by the fact that people bow down before him, he waves a wand of peacock feathers and he has power over animals: a cow miraculously lactates when he touches its nostrils; he charms the greatest and most feared denizen of the Bengal jungle, the tiger, to be his mount; and cobras are at his beck and call - he even carries one as his staff. The Muslim, though specifically Bengali Muslim, context of these holy men is also indicated by the depictions of Muslim shrines in the scroll - they are constructed in Bengali-hut style with down-curving thatch roofs, but there seems no doubt that they are meant to represent Islamic holy places. No images are seen in these shrines, the centre usually being taken up by a garlanded and censed tomb, illumined by lamps. Elsewhere, a fantastic and composite winged animal, with a human head (crowned), peacock's tail-feathers and a body that is part tiger, part camel, is perhaps meant to be a 'buraq' - the mount of the Prophet. But this extraordinary beast appears to be carrying a catafalque with two turbans on it, so if it is indeed the 'buraq' of tradition, it is in a different context to that of orthodox Islam. The Muslim element is further emphasized in another register where a naked Sufi is shown circumcized. However, it is important to record that Hindus also appear scattered throughout the narrative, reflecting the historically mixed and interpenetrated nature of Bengal society, especially in the countryside. At one point we see a blue-coloured male figure accompanied by a female, who are presumably Radha and Krishna in the mystically joined form popularized by Chaitanya. This reminds us that in the early modern period Bengali authors, writing of figures such as the holy men seen in this scroll-painting, have suggested that the gods of the Puranas, above all Krishna, and the god of the Qur'an are one and the same and should thus receive the equal homage of the people. This is the same philosophical ground as is still occupied by the Bauls, the itinerant singers known for their desire to reveal the 'man of the heart'. Famously, the Bauls try to go beyond the sectarian divide of Muslim or Hindu in their understanding of the divine. All these clues suggest that the narrative we are dealing with concerns one of the redoubtable saints who brought Islam to the remoter parts of Bengal, particularly the Sunderbans, the densely forested and watery region of the Ganges delta. Here legends have been recorded of a 'pir', sometimes called Gazi, although this seems to be no more than a generic name for 'warrior-saint' or similar. This 'pir' not only brought the new faith to the virgin forest but also settled new converts in these remote areas, cutting down the impenetrable jungle and taming the wild animals, above all the tiger. Still today this battle between man, the animal world and the fruitful - as well as devastating - river continues. This is a theme that the Bengali author, Amitav Ghosh, has so powerfully evoked in his novel 'The Hungry Tide' (London, 2004). Identifying all the scenes in this extravagantly lengthy tale, as depicted in the scroll, is also difficult because of the way in which some episodes about the 'pir' - especially his connection with tigers - are duplicated in the stories of other, Hindu saints or demi-gods. Satya Pir (also known as Satya Narayan, Narayan being a name for Vishnu) is one such example. Another constant of this scroll is the presence of the water, either the sea or the tributary rivers of the great delta, which geographically dominate the area of undivided Bengal. Sea-going ships, as well as boats suitable for the inland waterways of the Ganges-Brahmaputra system, are frequently and knowledgeably illustrated. This suggests a mercantile and riverine background to the narrative further emphasized by the many depictions of fish and other aquatic creatures in the painted registers, including, impressively, a crocodile. The mercantile element, also found in the two stories presented above, has been noted by Dineshchandra Sen, the well-known scholar of the oral literature of Bengal, in his pioneering volume 'The Folk Literature of Bengal', published in 1920. He specifically linked the maritime elements to a much earlier - perhaps even a Buddhist stratum - of the folk literature of eastern India. Since this giant scroll of the story of Gazi was first published in 1989, one series of scenes has, however, b


I'd love to see one of these in performance!


This is majestic, indeed.


Patawas a medium of expression of medieval time, but some too traditional ritualists believe it was a Buddhist creation in Nepal such false ideas are to be evaded with proofs to them...because unfortunately some academic authority also are mesmerized to upgrade their knowledge in Nepal due to their own lack of knowledge....This above mentioned pata is not just one specimen but a tradition of astral chart is also another specimen for such medium of expression that emanates from the scroll tradition of Ancient Egyptian papyrus trend.

He had massacred millions of Hindus and raped women. This is hardly a tribute to this rogue: "Other registers show a figure riding a tiger and carrying a serpent-staff, who is probably the Muslim saint Gazi Pir..." ???

इतिहास वीर शिरोमणि को भुलाये, पीर मजारों को पूजने वाले मूर्ख हिंदू पूजते है खूनी व बलात्कारी को... पूर्वी उत्तर प्रदेश में एक शहर है... बहराइच । बहराइच में हिन्दू समाज का सबसे मुख्य पूजा स्थल है गाजी बाबा की मजार। मूर्ख हिंदू लाखों रूपये हर वर्ष इस पीर पर चढाते है।इतिहास का जानकर हर व्यक्ति जनता है कि महमूद गजनवी के उत्तरी भारत को १७ बार लूटने व बर्बाद करने के कुछ समय बाद उसका भांजा सलार गाजी भारत को दारूल इस्लाम बनाने के उद्देश्य से भारत पर चढ़ आया । वह पंजाब ,सिंध, आज के उत्तर प्रदेश को रोंदता हुआ बहराइच तक जा पंहुचा। रास्ते में उसने लाखों हिन्दुओं का कत्लेआम कराया, लाखों हिंदू औरतों के बलात्कार हुए, हजारों मन्दिर तोड़ डाले। राह में उसे एक भी ऐसा हिन्दू वीर नही मिला जो उसका मान-मर्दन कर सके। इस्लाम की जेहाद की आंधी को रोक सके। परंतु बहराइच के राजा सुहेल देव पासी ने उसको थामने का बीडा उठाया । वे अपनी सेना के साथ सलार गाजी के हत्याकांड को रोकने के लिए जा पहुंचे । महाराजा व हिन्दू वीरों ने सलार गाजी व उसकी दानवी सेना को मूली गाजर की तरह काट डाला । सलार गाजी मारा गया। उसकी भागती सेना के एक एक हत्यारे को काट डाला गया। हिंदू हृदय सम्राट राजा सुहेल देव पासी ने अपने धर्म का पालन करते हुए, उदारतापूर्वक सलार गाजी को इस्लाम के अनुसार कब्र में दफ़न करा दिया। कुछ समय पश्चात तुगलक वंश के आने पर फीरोज तुगलक ने सलारगाजी को इस्लाम का सच्चा सन्त-सिपाही घोषित करते हुए उसकी मजार बनवा दी। सलार गाजी हिन्दुओं का गाजी बाबा हो गया है। आज उसी हिन्दुओं के हत्यारे, हिंदू औरतों के बलात्कारी, मूर्ती भंजक दानव को अंधा हिंदू समाज एक देवता की तरह पूजता है। पीर मजारों को पूजने वाले मुर्ख हिन्दु अपने ही पूर्वजो के हत्यारे और बलात्कारी की पूजा कर रहे हैं. अत्यन्त दुखदायी सत्य यह है कि हिंदू वीर शिरोमणि सुहेल देव पासी सिर्फ़ पासी समाज का हीरो बनकर रह गएँ है। और खूनी सलार गाजी हिन्दुओं का भगवन बनकर हिन्दू समाज का पूजनीय हो गया है। अब गाजी की मजार पूजने वाले ,ऐसे हिंदूओं को मूर्ख न कहें तो क्या कहें? — साभार - भीष्म शर्मा