Yin and yang. Negative and positive. Feminine and masculine. Dark and light. Two sides which together make a whole.
Sidi Saeed, an Ethiopian who found his way to the Gujarat Sultanate’s army via Yemen, way back in 1572, seemed to have some inkling of this. Armed with 45 sculptors, “the nobleman who helped the poor and had a large collection of books,” created a series of jalis or stone screens as part of the Sidi Saeed Mosque in the heart of Ahmedabad. The most exquisite was the “tree of life” with its swirling, leaf-lined, abloom branches, topped with a palm motif; its beauty heightened when seen from both the outside and inside. It was hard put to decide which side was a lovelier sight.
Little did Saeed know his work of art would become the very identity of the city 450 years after his death. That it would be used by the elite IIM Ahmedabad, heritage walks, consumer brands, and even contribute to the declaration of the old town as India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City.
The mosque, commissioned by Sultan Muzaffar Shah III, comprised 11 screens in total in its original plan. But the Mughals invaded Gujarat during Shah III’s reign, the Gujarat Sultanate fell, and the three-sided mosque was passed on to posterity with only four screens instead. But more importantly, with its “tree of life.” The yin and yang. The branches and leaves. The outer physical beauty and the light streaming in. ❤