The art of calligraphy was given a huge amount of respect. This can be seen from the fact that Ustad Amanat Khan Shirazi was the only artist involved in building the exquisite Taj Mahal who signed his work.
Calligraphy was taught as an art form in the medieval times as part of education.
One very famous calligrapher was Syed Mohammad Amir Rizvi, and according to Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, ‘he had no comparison in khat-e nastaliq and can be said to have revived this style. Each letter that he inscribes is a testimony to his skill.’
Such was his skill that each word written by him would sell for a rupee in those days. He would sit outside his haveli in Pahari Imli of Shahjahanabad and needy people would come to him and he would distribute beautiful pieces of calligraphy which they would sell in the Jama Masjid area.
After the fall of Delhi, on 14th September 1857, his house was attacked by the Company soldiers. He came out with a sword and was shot dead…
He is buried inside his house. It was with great difficulty that I was able to go in to see it and recite a fatiha for a brave and talented son of Hindustan.
The description of his haveli is from my book “Shahjahanabad: The Living City of Old Delhi”
“The haveli of Mir Panjakash, the famous calligrapher who was also the ustad or master of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, is the only mansion on this steep slope. His name was He was also an accomplished arm-wrestler, hence the title Mir Panjakash.
His haveli is quite extensive, stretching all the way up on the hillock. Today it has been divided into small workshops, an MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) school and some private residences.
Mir Panjakash was executed by the British, immediately after the fall of Delhi in September 1857, and is buried inside his house. Though it’s impossible to get inside, as the workshop owners and workers don’t like strange visitors, especially ones inquiring after old days, Sufiyan and I managed to go inside, once when the tenant was present, with his permission.
In a room lying towards the northern part of the haveli is a grave painted bright green. The room itself is dark, but Sufiyan and I shone our mobile torches on it and were able to photograph it, the words on the tomb were faded, but we managed to read them.
The translation reads:
This is the grave of one preoccupied with oppressions of the soul,
Syed Muhammad Amir Rizvi, Master of the Age,
May God forgive him.