Wine, tobacco, cannabis and opium: for the first time, the Museum for Islamic Art will stage an exhibition of Indian paintings from the 16th to the 19th centuries whose subject is the pleasurable use of intoxication. The pictures introduce us to the widespread consumption of drugs at the courts of the ruling families of India: princes smoke water-pipes, ladies-in-waiting sip from wine bowls, lovers feed each other with betel quids. Opium was also indulged in at court: dissolved in wine or water, or swallowed as pills. Only much later did it become fashionable to smoke the drug by means of a pipe.
What appears, today, as decadence of a ruling elite was, at the time these paintings were made, the "done thing”. Express religious reservations to the contrary, the passing round of intoxicants was customary at banquets, both at the Mughal court of Muslim India, the Deccan, and among the princes of the Hindu Raj. People drank and smoked, recited poetry and listened to music in the relaxing atmosphere created by these intoxicants.
Sensual pleasures also had a social and religious component: betel, for instance, was offered on important festive occasions, such as births, marriages, and deaths, and used as a sacrificial offering at shrines and in temples. Wine was praised in song by poets, along with opium and hashish. All three substances permitted the user to reach a state of delirium: images of orgies and mystical (Sufi) gatherings suggest the expansion of perceptions, and the experiencing of the Divine. And all such states of altered perception may be seen in this delicious small exhibition, mostly drawn from two private collections (Habighorst and Reichart) and supplemented from the collections of the Museum of Islamic Art.
Please note: Pergamonmuseum is exclusively entered through James-Simon-Galerie!
Site plan: Entrance to the Pergamonmuseum and Neues Museum (PDF)
All groups meet at the information desk at the upper foyer in James-Simon-Galerie, entering by using the big stairway.
Advice for group visits to the Pergamonmuseum an the Neues Museum (PDF)
Due to a technical issue, the lift is out of service until further notice, meaning the Museum für Islamische Kunst is not currently wheelchair accessible. The major architectural exhibits – such as the Processional Way, featuring the Ishtar Gate and the Market Gate of Miletus – are still accessible to people with mobility issues.
U-Bahn U6 (Friedrichstraße)
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Bus TXL (Staatsoper); 100, 200 (Lustgarten); 147 (Friedrichstraße)
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