Museum objects, artifacts, and archival items from the Sarmaya collection.

Copper-Plate Inscription, Madurai

This is an eighteenth-century copper plate with a village grant inscribed in Tamil. In 1733 CE, villages named Suriyan Kuttam and Sembikuttam from Kuruchikadu in Madurai mandalam (province) were granted to Anand Iyengar, son of Narayana Iyengar from Nettoor by Kumaramuthu Ragunatha Sethupathikatha Thevar, the son-in-law of Ragunatha Sethupathi (r. 1713-1725 CE), who ruled the… Read more »

Khedda Silver Medal, Mysore

This silver medal dates back to 1960 and is attributed to the Mysore Khedda (Elephant Stockade). Khedda was a practice for centuries in India, where wild elephants were captured to be tamed and domesticated. In the Mysore Khedda, in Southern India, the Kabini river was a permanent capture site given its topography and having one… Read more »

Copper-Plate Inscription, Thiruchendur

This is an eighteenth-century copper plate inscribed in Tamil. It is a record dating back to 1760 CE that states the traders of villages, including Kottaru Aloorupettai, Sivakasi Virudhugupetti, and Sivathondu Maanadupettai, gave their monthly expenses for cotton, tobacco, and kaalchattai (trousers), as well as for the puja (worship ritual) of Maheshvara in the month… Read more »

Letter, Gulam Muhammad Sultan Sahib to Captain Peacock , 1868

This is a letter written by Prince Ghulam Muhammad Sultan, the fourteenth son of Tipu Sultan (1751-1799), the ruler of Mysore. The letter, dated 21st August 1868, is addressed to a British government official, Captain Peacock. After Tipu Sultan’s defeat in Seringapatam, the British deported the Sultan’s remaining family members to Calcutta. Prince Ghulam Muhammad… Read more »

A Lion Hunt

This is a brush drawing from the 18th century depicting a lion hunt and is attributed to the Mughal style. As symbols of imperial wealth and power, the Mughal painting tradition frequently depicted elephants and lions as subjects, especially in hunting scenes. This visual documentation suggests that artists from the Mughal ateliers accompanied the Emperor… Read more »

Elephant Rattle

This elephant rattle is made from bamboo and was used at the Mysore Khedda (Elephant Stockade). These devices, used as elephant rattles, are traditional percussion instruments known as bamboo clappers. Bamboo clappers are common across India and are known by different names. They are made from a thick piece of bamboo, which is split halfway… Read more »

The Birth of Christ

This later Mughal miniature shows the ‘Birth of Jesus Christ’ by an unidentified artist. True to the realm of Mughal miniatures of this time produced around European themes, the setup and backdrop remain entirely Indian. Women dressed in native ensembles and veils cater to the newborn as Mother Mary lies on a bed wrapped up… Read more »

Les Civilizations De L’inde

This illustrated book with over 350 engravings and photogravures, authored by the French polymath Gustave Le Bon (1841-1931), was published in 1887. Gustave Le Bon was sent to India by the Ministry of Public Instruction (now, Ministry of National Education), Government of France, to methodically research and report on the arts and culture of the… Read more »

British India

This is a decorative map of British India published in 1851 by John Tallis and Company, renowned for their intricate maps, prized for their decorative vignettes showing the people and landscape of the region.  In this map the Madras, Calcutta, and Bombay Presidencies are indicated, along with planned railway lines. While the first passenger train… Read more »


This Gond-Pardhan painting is an acrylic on canvas work, made by artist Mayank Shyam (b. 1987) This painting depicts a body of water teeming with fish. Mayank Shyam found inspiration in the folktale of the Bada Dev, the main deity of the Gond-Pardhan community, that is believed to have been born as a fish in the water. The… Read more »

Carte De L’Inde en deca du Gange comprenant L’indoustan & c

This map titled ‘Carte De L’Inde En Deca Du Gange Comprenant L’Indoustan &C.’, produced by a French cartographer Jacques Nicolas Bellin (1703-1773) was published in Petit Atlas Maritime, a part of a five-volume atlas published by him. It illustrates Northern region of the subcontinent of modern-day India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. By the late eighteenth century,… Read more »

Line of march of Bengal Regiment of Infantry in Scinde

‘Line of March of Bengal Regiment of Infantry in Scinde’ is illustrated by  Frederic Peter Layard (1818-91), who was enlisted as an ensign in the East India Company’s armed forces. Layard shared a passion for art with many of his colleagues in the civil and military services of the East India Company. This book illustrates… Read more »


The Untitled Gond-Pardhan painting is an acrylic on paper work, made by artist Sukhnandi Vyam (b. 1983). This painting illustrates a passage from a mythology in the Gond community about Kammalheero, the queen consort of the king of Heergadhi. Kammalheero, disguised as a cow, travels to the enemy realm in search of her husband’s body after… Read more »

Ancestral histories/ stories #1

This artwork titled Ancestral Histories/ stories #1 is by Saju Kunhan (b. 1983)  It is one of seven works from the Home Ground series, each of which imagines a historical event connected to the artist’s ancestors. Saju Kunhan has incorporated characters into stories he has heard when he was a  child by using pictures and… Read more »

Alamgir II, Silver coin of Gwalior Mint

This double-die-struck silver coin from the Gwalior Mint (Madhya Pradesh) was issued by Alamgir II in 1753-54. Mughal Emperor Alamgir II (1699–1744), also referred to as Aziz–ud–Din Muhammad, ruled Delhi between 1754 and 1759. Regarded as a “puppet” monarch, Alamgir II was manipulated by other court officials and rulers. His four-year tenure saw a rise… Read more »

Golconda Fort (Inside view)

This is a photograph of the interiors of the Golconda Fort complex in Hyderabad by an unidentified photographer. During the Qutub Shahi Dynasty (16th-17th centuries), the Golconda Fort became a prominent power house. Ibrahim Qutub Shah (1518-1580) significantly strengthened the fort with stone and mortar during his reign, and it was subsequently fortified throughout succeeding… Read more »

Herschel’s Galaxy I

This artwork composed using gold leaf on paper is by Desmond Lazaro (b. 1968). It is inspired by the first modern image of the Milky way produced by William Hershel (1738-1822), a British astronomer, in 1785. Herschel mapped his observations from 600 locations while plotting the night sky section by section to create the model.… Read more »

Diwan-e Khas, the Dewas Khan, Palace of Delhi

This hand-painted engraving by an unidentified artist shows a view of the Diwan-e Khas with a red, decorated canopy inside the Red Fort, Delhi. The Diwan-e Khas is a rectangular marble structure that was given the name Shah Mahal by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan (1592–1666) and embellished with gilded gems, inlay work, and floral patterns.… Read more »


This untitled Bhil painting is by contemporary artist Lado Bai (b. 1954) depicting flora, fauna and a human figure. For the Bhil tribe of Madhya Pradesh, art is a device for marking events, preserving memories and capturing the community’s deep connection with nature. The fundamental theme of Lado Bai’s artwork is the symbiotic relationships between… Read more »

“Love Is Contraband in Hell”

This composition in watercolour on wasli paper is by  artist Varunika Saraf (b. 1981). Varunika Saraf believes that the only means of combating societal prejudices, bigotry, and discrimination is through the power of love. This work is inspired by the poem “Love is contraband in Hell” written by Assata Shakur(b. 1947), an American civil rights… Read more »