Dying Indian Calligraphy Hopes for Revival

In the digital age, when computers have shadowed everything, it is bringing tough times to the centuries-old art of traditional Indian calligraphy.

On the eve of World Painters day that will be celebrated Sunday, calligraphers in India say efforts are needed to save the art from extinction.

In the old section of the national capital, New Delhi, where calligraphers were available in plenty until a few years ago, the situation presents a gloomy picture.

Over the years, the number of professional calligraphers has slowly seen a decline in the capital with only a few artists keeping the art alive.

Mohammad Ghalib, 60, who has been a calligrapher for more than four decades, apparently the last calligrapher in old Delhi, told Anadolu Agency that he is on the verge of leaving the profession.

“This is no more a profession now where one can rely on it for living. The times have changed now because of the advent of computers,” said Ghalib. “There was a time when I used to be extremely busy during elections or festivals. Now we can predict the days when I would get the work.”

Known as Katibs, Indian calligraphers were usually hired to write documents and even books. Now, with a change in the situation, it has brought hard times.

Ghalib, who sits on a shop close to the iconic Jama Masjid, or main mosque, said calligraphy is called the “hobby of royals” and was considered a very noble profession.

“But now many have left this profession because it is no more a mode of earning,” he said. “People are only pursuing now it as a hobby.”

Mohammad Moshin Ul Haq, a calligraphy teacher based in Delhi, told Anadolu Agency that while the art is dying, there are signs that it would soon see a revival.

“You will not find many calligraphers now. There are some 25% left from the old ones here,” he said.

Haq, however, added, there is a lot of scope for a good calligrapher and over the years the younger generation has shown interest.

He said awareness about the art is required at a larger level.

“To see its complete revival, it needs more work on the ground. Awareness of this art among people is very important,” he said.

In other states, many experts echo those views.

“The government can play a big role in the revival. The Telangana (state) government has calligraphy as a subject in several schools which is a good sign. We need to take such initiatives in other states as well,” Mohammed Aslam, a calligrapher based in Hyderabad, told Anadolu Agency.

Amid the gloomy picture of calligraphy, there is, however, a good sign. In times of the coronavirus pandemic, people from different professions were coming forward to learn the centuries-old art.

“Because of the situation arising due to pandemic, people have opted for different courses as they remained idle. Many have come forward to use this art as a form of meditation,” Nidhi Gupta from the Delhi-based Likhavat Academy, a calligraphy institute, told Anadolu Agency. “People from different sectors are showing their interest to learn about it. For the overall calligraphy field, it is a positive sign.”

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