Jasleen discusses the Leyli and Majnun dilemma

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Today I was visited by Jasleen Dhamija, the noted Indian textiles expert who wrote for us in The Rugs of War. We were discussing the ambiguities at the core of an image such as this.

While we accept Hossein Valamanesh’ translation:

The image on the right is of Leyli who is sitting on a pedestal / seat and the one on the left is Majnun. I think he has been depicted in this carpet as an emaciated man not unlike emaciated Buddha images (I have seen this image in a number of paintings; here’s a sculptural example) and I think the weavers have thrown in a couple of tanks and guns for good measure perhaps to raise the possibility of a sale. It is a fascinating carpet.

Jasleen declared:

but that does not look like the many Majnun figures I have seen! Surely he is both a folk hero and a military figure, loaded with guns and grenades, looking threateningly at the figure of Leyli seated on a throne!

I cannot help but agree, and refer to growing evidence of the integration of folk tales and religious symbols with symbols of the militarised present, one narrative ambiguously masking the other. And as one online account describes the story: “And so the two young lovers were forbidden to see each other anymore. This affected Gais so deeply that he went insane. People started calling him “Majnun” (madman).”

And so is it possible that this militaristic representation of the figure of Gais may also be a reference to him as a “majnun”, in relation to the current circumstances, and the experience of the destruction of references to a Buddhist heritage?

My previous questions about these images remain.

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Please note that later posts on the topic can be found here; click on titles for the full posts.

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