Naan Wa Halwa : A Manuscript
Naan Wa Halwa : A Manuscript


Naan wa Halwa (Bread and Sweets), is a an illustrated manuscript about the merits of the ascetic life. It was composed in Persian by the Sufi poet Muhammad Baha’al-Din ‘Amili (I547-I62I). This illustrated version of the text reveals the lively and fertile mixture of Mughal, Rajput, and Deccani painting traditions that co-existed in Aurangabad at the end of the seventeenth century. The manuscript consists of twenty-four folios. Four depict episodes from the poem (in this case, with considerable wit) inside richly painted borders; several of the text folios are illuminated with appealing floral motifs; and one fly leaf bears a striking panel of anthropomorphised calligraphy in the form of a face.

Bound in leather, this manuscript’s pages are illustrated using Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold and dates back to approximately 1600 AD.


The text of this book is a series of moralizing poems on the merits of the ascetic life.

The story told here in one of the frames, is that of a recluse, who spends his time in praying on Mount Lebanon. One day, after starving through the night, he receives some bread from an infidel (depicted here as the English monarch Charles II). As the recluse prepares to walk away, a malnourished dog catches on to his robe and chides him for accepting food from an infidel and not having waited for God to provide. The recluse, humbled by this encounter observes, “He who has no faith is less than the dog of the infidel”. The beautiful birds in the margin of the page compete for attention with the witty illustration.

Other paintings include one which accompanies a poem on the regrets of a life spent learning useless information; the artist has shown a school where only the sciences are taught, its teachers dozing, meditating and drinking.

A final image accompanies a poem about hypocrisy—it shows the widow Bibi Tamiz praying, although she is known to be a prostitute.


The manuscript was part of the collection at Sotheby’s (London) till it was sold to the The Met.

Resource Credit : The Met


The Heritage Lab is a digital platform connecting museums & citizens through campaigns, public-engagement programs & free access content for youth, families and kids.

Comments are closed.

Pin It