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Sanctity, Authority, and Material Culture: Neʿmatullahi Shrine Networks between Iran and India, 1400–1700

Peyvand Firouzeh | Getty Foundation & American Council of Learned Societies

Interior of the Shrine of Shah Ne'matullah Wali in Mahan, Iran

My book project deals with the questions of the authority of sacred sites, politics of sacred patronage, as well as the correlations between material culture and formation and appropriation of religious identities and dynastic legitimacy. It covers the history of the foundation and development of particular shrines in southern Iran and the Deccan of India, and their connected visual and textual cultures from 1400 to 1700. These shrines are part of a network associated with an order of Sufis (generally defined as Islamic mystics) called the Neʿmatullahis; descendants and followers of the poet–Sufi Shah Neʿmatullah Vali (d. 1431) who came to be an influential familial Sufi order in Iran, and flourished in the Deccan later in the fifteenth century. These sacred sites had never been studied together from a transregional perspective in their Indo-Iranian contexts, neither in light of the politics of their patronage.

Because of Sufis’ mobility, their changing relationships with ruling authorities, and their agency in the circulation of material cultures, the history of Sufi orders, their spaces, objects that were shaped in between their geographies, and their key role in the shaping of globalism within and beyond the Islamic world unravel the histories of their patrons from an interesting vantage point; one that moved between marginality and centrality several times throughout their history. The history of the Neʿmatullahi Sufi order in particular, due to their Indo–Iranian connections, is closely tied with several influential dynasties of post–fifteenth century Islamic world (namely, the Timurids, Turkmen dynasties, Bahmanids, Safavids, Deccan Sultanates and Mughals) who ruled vast territories in Iran, Central Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent. Within this cross–cultural and political context, I structure the story of this family of Sufis and their connected dynasties, their scribal, literary and artistic traditions, around a broad range of materials; monumental architecture and urban development projects, a group of paintings and manuscripts, coins, metalwork, and fragments of a carpet.

 

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