How India Forgot Its Calligraphers

The artisans left their mark on historic monuments and manuscripts. Today, their reality is a far cry from that.

IMG20240524165957.jpg Calligrapher
Calligrapher Mohammad Ghalib at a bookstore in Urdu Bazaar, Old Delhi (Mir Umar)

Mir Umar


June 25, 2024


10 min

In 1631, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan wanted to build a mausoleum to commemorate his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The ruler requisitioned masons, stonecutters, painters, and other artisans from across the empire, as well as from Central Asia and Iran. Nearly 17 years later, the ivory-white Taj Mahal towered over Agra. 

Though countless craftspeople worked on the structure, you will find only a calligrapher’s name inscribed at its base: “Written by the insignificant being, Amanat Khan Shirazi.” The relic points to how India once held its calligraphers in the highest esteem. Today, things are far different. First, the printing press, then the typewriter and computer contributed to the decline of their work. And now, with digital media and digital dilettantes, they fear for their legacy.

Join today to read the full story.


Already a subscriber? Log in