Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Dedicatory Inscription from a Mosque

Object Name:
dated A.H. 905/ A.D. 1500
Made in India, Bengal
Gabbro; carved
H. 16 1/8 (41 cm)
W. 45 5/16 (115.1 cm)
D. 2 3/4in. (7 cm)
Wt. 194 lbs. (88 kg)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Gift of Mrs. Nelson Doubleday and Bequest of Charles R. Gerth, by exchange, 1981
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 450
This dedicatory inscription in "tughra" script, dated A.H. 905/A.D. 1500, is from a mosque in western Bengal built for Prince Daniyal, a son of Sultan Husayn Shah. The inscription is an outstanding example of Indo-Muslim epigraphy: the regular pattern in which the vertical letters are arranged and the skillfully inserted, bowlike words that structure the pattern are typical of Muslim calligraphy in medieval Bengal and later in the Deccan
This inscription panel, made of grayish-black speckled stone (gabbro), is written in the distinctive Bengali tughra-style script, frequently described as "bow and arrow." The body of the text appears at the base of the panel, the sixty vertical shafts of the letters occupy approximately the upper two-thirds of it, and the arrangement of the rounded forms of select words near the top completes the elegant pattern. Elaborate interlacing of letters in the lower register makes the inscription seem difficult to read, but the similarity of its content to epigraphs across the Bengal region facilitates the task. The inscription, a hadith (saying) of the Prophet Muhammad, is found fairly commonly on mosque dedicatory panels in India, especially among those from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Bengal and elsewhere in the Islamic world.[2]
Stone sculpture from the pre-Islamic Buddhist Pala and Hindu Sena dynasties of Bengal is well known for its workmanship. It is likely that inscriptions were first designed by calligraphers, then carved by skilled local craftsmen who outlined them on stone either in charcoal or as lightly incised marks.[3] Numerous inscription panels in variations of the Bengali tughra style are found from the Sultanate period during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.[4] This calligraphic style is largely replaced with nasta‘liq-script inscriptions during the Mughal period, which follow the types seen elsewhere in north India. Tughra-style inscriptions appear later in the Deccan.[5]
Very little is known about Prince Daniyal, who is commemorated here. His name appears on another inscription, dated A.H. 903/1497–98 A.D., on the tomb of Shah Nafa in the fort of Monghyr (Munger), Bihar. He is also reported in medieval Persian histories as representing his father, ‘Ala’ al-Din Husain Shah of Bengal (r. 1493–1519), during negotiations with Sultan Sikandar Lodi of Delhi (r. 1489–1571) held about 1495 on the Bengal-Bihar frontier, which forestalled a possible invasion.[6] Husain Shah is reported as having eighteen sons, but only two others—Nusrat Shah (r. 1519–31) and Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud Shah (r. 1532–38)—are known by name, as they later attained the throne.
Qamar Adamjee in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
2. Hasan, Perween. Sultans and Mosques: The Early Muslim Architecture of Bangladesh. London and New York, 2007, pp. 60–61.
3. Siddiq, Mohammad Yusuf. Historical and Cultural Aspects of the Islamic Inscriptions of Bengal: A Reflective Study of Some New Epigraphic Discoveries. Studies of Bengal Art, 10. Dhaka, 2009, pp. 36, 39 nn. 22–23.
4. See ibid., chapter 6, pp. 107–90, and appendix 2, pp. 250–59, for dated examples of Sultanate-period inscriptions from Bengal.
5. One such example is in the Metropolitan Museum (acc. no. 1985.240.1).
6. Digby, Simon. "The Fate of Daniyal, Prince of Bengal, in the Light of an Unpublished Inscription." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 36, no. 3 (1973), p. 592.
Inscription: Inscribed in Arabic in Bengali tughra-style script:
قال النبي صلی الله علیه وسلم
من بنی مسجداً لله بنی الله له
قصراً مثله في الجنة في عهد السلطان علاء و الدنیا و الدین
ابو المظفر حسین شاه السلطان خلد الله ملکه وسلطانه
بنی هذا المسجد الجامع شاهزاده دانیال دام عزه في العشر من ذي الحجة
سنة خمس و تسعمائة
The Prophet — God’s blessings and peace be upon him — said:
“He who builds a mosque for God, God builds a palace the like of it in
paradise.” In the reign of the Sultan ‘Ala’ al-Dunya wa’l din Abu‘l-Muzaffar
Husain Shah al-Sultan, may God perpetuate his dominion and sovereignty.
Shahzada Daniyal, may his glory endure, built this congregational mosque on
the tenth of Dhu’l-Hijja in the year A.H. 905 [July 7, 1500]
possibly Thomas Hope of Deepdene, England; [ David Drey, London, before 1962; sold to Hodgkin]; Howard Hodgkin (British), London (from before 1962–81); [ Terence McInerney Fine Arts Ltd., New York, 1981; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "INDIA !," September 14, 1985, no. 74.

Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration," October 12, 1991–January 12, 1992, no. 354.

Swietochowski, Marie, Stuart Cary Welch, and Annemarie Schimmel. "Notable Acquisitions." The Metropolitan Museum of Art vol. 39 (1982). pp. 13-14, ill. (b/w).

Welch, Stuart Cary. "Art and Culture 1300–1900." In India!. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1985. no. 74, pp. 129-130, ill. p. 129 (b/w).

Levenson, Jay A., ed. Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration. New Haven and London: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1991. no. 354, pp. 494-495, ill. p. 494 (color).

Levenson, Jay A., ed. Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration. New Haven and London: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1991. no. 354, pp. 494-495, ill. p. 494 (color).

de Montebello, Philippe, and Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 6th ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992. pp. 328-329, ill. fig. 38 (b/w).

Schimmel, Annemarie. "Islamic Calligraphy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 50, no. 1 (Summer 1992). p. 52, ill. fig. 62 (b/w).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 240, pp. 339, 344-345, ill. p. 344 (color).

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