by Abdulmalik J. Merchant, Editor, Simerg
Editor’s Note: The image above is that of a poster which was designed and published by the late A. J. Lakhpaty during the Diamond Jubilee of Aga Khan III. It was an individual effort, as he notes, for the love of his Imam. By producing this image, Simerg does not endorse the contents of the poster or its accuracy. Its publication here is meant to illustrate some of the ways by which members of the Ismaili community sought to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of their Imam in their own individual ways.
In this series on Aga Khan III, we have invited viewers to submit anecdotes and photos related to the 48th Ismaili Imam, and several local Jamati members in my hometown, Ottawa, as well viewers from abroad responded generously. Abdulmalik Thawer and his family invited me over to their home to check out a very old reprint of the poster that was designed and published by Major A. J. Lakhpaty of Bombay, India, some 65 years ago to celebrate Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah’s Diamond Jubilee. Having previously seen poorly reproduced prints and electronic images of the same, I was apprehensive and almost declined their invitation. But Abdul and I have a great friendship going back some 25 years and he is also one of the most generous and sincere persons I have ever met. I could show up at his place anytime, without any notice or forewarning, and not feel uneasy. And once (anyone) is at the Thawer home one is invited to stay for the best part – and you guessed it – the food! So it would have been silly of me not to accept his sincere calling, considering there was no detour for me to take to get to his home, as my place is only a little further away.
Major Abdullah Jaffar Lakhpaty
Major Abdullah Jaffar Lakhpaty (1884 – circa April 13, 1947) is regarded as the founder of the Ismaili Volunteer Corps. He discharged his duties most devotedly and courageously and was a tower of strength to the movement. He was also a literary figure and possessed intellectual flair and wisdom. His attendance at literary gatherings was taken as granted. Major Lakhpaty was also a brilliant painter, and many of his works adorned covers of periodicals of the time. The poster shown here is one of the many he produced during his lifetime. He died on Sunday, April 13, 1947 at 8.20 a.m. in the hospital at the age of 63 years. His death caused widespread grief and was mourned by all communities. He was laid to rest in the midst of thousands of mourners.
As I entered the Thawer residence, I was guided to Major Lakhpaty’s work that hung prominently on a wall in the hallway. At first glance, from some distance, I still carried that sense of misgiving and apprehension about the poster’s quality. But as I drew my eyes as close as possible to the frame, I realized how well the Thawers had looked after it. The intriguing details in the poster started unfolding one by one and to my amazement I began observing layers upon layers of graphics and images embedded with verses from the Quran and Hadith, historical and theological notes and slogans, references to dozens of Prophets, some of whom I had never heard of, concentric circles containing small diamond circles representing the forty eight Imams and so on. The center of the poster features a remarkable portrait of Aga Khan III within a diamond setting, and also includes a cap in the shape of a diamond on top of the Imam’s head. There is, I must say, an incredible wealth of information in this painstaking work that was done some 65 years ago! Only Major Lakhpaty or one of the associates working with him would be able to share all the details and features that went into this stunning piece of art work. The Major writes at one side of the poster that it was done “In Love to Thee and Thy Holy Descendants.”
The Thawer print, due to its age, could not be extracted from the frame without possibly damaging it. A photograph I attempted to take had to be discarded because of poor quality from the reflected glass. So I resolved to do what I had done with the framed Golden Jubilee Stamps – give it to a professional studio.
Despite the rush for Christmas and New Year’s that is now underway, Guy Martin and his team in Orleans at Ottawa’s East End, worked on it in their studio for several hours and the result of their photographic talent is shown here. What Guy produced, I think, finally does justice to the art work Major Lakhpaty created in the 1940’s. Please view the poster on your screen carefully and note the many artistic and textual details that make the composition of this poster unique and quite intriguing.
Please click the following thumbnail for a high resolution image of the poster. Use magnifying feature on your browser to observe details more closely (or download and open with image program Paint, Photoshop etc):
A note to all readers:
Please visit the What’s New page for all articles posted in this website. There is an interesting (special) series on Aga Khan III underway. Please see the most current reading:
Literary Reading: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – The Diamond Jubilee: “An Incomparable Occasion in the World”
And do go to the Home page if this is you first visit to the website.
Since there is only one comment on this beautiful work of a single devotee, I feel compelled to write that as a young infant after returning from Diamond Jubilee Celebration in Dar-es-Salaam my family had a print of this work for years on the main wall of the living room as one entered our humble rented home. I now know that the creator passed away in 1947, soon after the celebration our family attended. Many would remember this poster, I am sure. A lovely article, Mr Merchant, as usual.
Intriguing indeed – a truly fine work with details that need to be examined carefully. Well reproduced on your website and very clear – especially the high resolution image.