The Sarmaya Guide to

Early Indian Maps

Early Indian Maps - Cartography, Indian Cartography, Indian maps, Maps, Shifting Selves

Ptolemaic map of South and Southeast Asia, 1670s. Miniature atlases like these were compiled and reprinted by geographer Philippus Cluverius in the 17th century

From the cosmograms of various theological systems to cartograms in an age of exploration, maps lay at the intersection of the arts and sciences.  Using maps from the Sarmaya collection, let’s have a look at how the boundaries and landmarks of the Indian subcontinent evolved in response to European economic and imperialist forays into the East. READ MORE.

Anatomy of a map

Any discussion of maps requires a basic knowledge of anatomy. Do you know your cartouche from your compass? Your legend from your scale? Click on the jumping red crosses on the maps below to understand the anatomy of a map.

Map below: Late 18th century map of India and Sri Lanka by Robert de Vaugondy. Titled: Peninsula of the East Indies, Comprising the Indostan or Empire of the Mogul, Different Kingdoms or States, The Vast Possessions of the English, and the other European Settlements, with the Great Roads.


Map below: 'Battle Of Cawnpore - A plan for the Second Battle of Cawnpore, during the Indian Rebellion, 6th December 1857'

Why all maps (including Google) are wrong

Short answer: it's impossible to represent a globe on a flat plane. Watch this video by Vox for a brief history of how the world map has evolved to take on the contours we are so familiar with

Trails & Tales

According to the prevailing view of cartography experts, maps can be categorised into two types: topographic or general maps, which might help you find your way around an area, and thematic maps, which serve to highlight specific features, for eg, the churches in a particular neighbourhood. Regardless of their type, all maps tell a story. Let’s listen to some tales from our cartography collection—click here to read more.

Why is north always at the top?

Early Indian Maps - Cartography, Indian Cartography, Indian maps, Maps, Shifting Selves

The 1569 Mercator map of the world (Credit: Wikipedia)

We are so used to picturing the North Pole at the top of the globe that few of us stop to wonder: if the Earth is a sphere revolving through space, how can a fixed spot always be on top? And what is top anyway? Doesn't it depend on where in the world you are standing? Every map we come across reinforces the notion that north is up and south is down. But apparently, the trend of orienting maps this was is only a few hundred years old. Read this fascinating history of how our modern view of the world has been shaped by a 16th-Century gent named Gerardus Mercator.