Interreligious Dialogue: Mogul Emperor Akbar to M.F. Hussain
The Muslim emperor Akbar in 1578 invited two Jesuit priests to his court to come along with the Christian Bible. That was the beginning of three missions to the Muslim court, where they were altogether well received, specially under Akbar, who held interreligious dialogue every Thursday with different Groups of Muslims, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Jains and the Jesuits. He welcomed the Bible engravings and got his Palace and numerous miniatures painted with Christian themes, which he cherished very much.
Later Mogul kings even compared the virgin Mary with the mother of the Mogul dynasty in miniature paintings. the nephew of Francis Xavier, the apostle of Asia stayed 20 years at Akbar’s court and produced many books in the Persian language including one on the life of Christ but adapted to Muslim taste with more than 20 illustrations.
Although Islam is in general not positively inclined towards paintings, M.F. Hussain from an ordinary middle class Muslim family became the most important Indian painter in modern times. His art includes Hindu and Christian subjects. Particular mention should be made of his art works depicting Mother Teresa. He voluntarily, without any recognition from the Christian side, made roughly 150 oil paintings of her. The Icon of art is meeting the Icon of charity. He could not find a proper way to depict her faith. Finally he left it blank and she is recognised by the White sari with the blue border. He saw in mother Teresa his own mother whom he lost in childhood. He also painted Windows in a modern church in Mumbai.
Dr Gudrun Löewner is a German Lutheran Pastor. She has a PhD from Heidelberg University on Religion and Development in Sri Lanka and wrote a dissertation on A comparative study between the Christian and the Buddhist Engagement in development. She was the German embassy chaplain in New Delhi from 1998-2007. After teaching shortly at the Seminary in Wuppertal, Germany, she returned to India.
She is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Mission and Ecumenics at the United Theological College, and Chaplain to the German speaking congregation in Bangalore since 2011. In 2008 she received the Cross of Honour from the German Government for her outstanding contributions to the dialogue between Germany and India.
Her largest publication in English co-edited with Anand Amaladass is entitled, Christian Themes in Indian Art, Manohar New Delhi 2012. In 2014 she published an article on “Art and Architecture in Asia” in the 2014-published Oxford Handbook of Asian Theology, edited by Felix Wilfred.