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

Shadows under my sky – 4

This artwork titled ‘Shadows under my sky – 4’ is a woodblock created by  Soghra Khurasani (b. 1983), contemporary artist based in Vadodara (Baroda), Gujarat. Landscapes are a significant feature in Soghra Khurasani’s work as inspiring, open spaces that can be explored. This woodblock was part of Khurasani’s solo show, Shadows under my sky, at… Read more »

Birth

Warli painting, traditionally mural art, is practised by members of the Warli community residing in Maharashtra and parts of Gujarat. Warli art often depicts scenes and aspects from occupations such as agriculture, fishing, hunting, and significant occasions such as festivals, weddings, and births to commemorate the community’s culture and beliefs. This Warli artwork titled ‘Birth’… Read more »

Pahuna (Esteemed Guest)

Gond is a celebrated, shared art tradition practised by the Gond-Pradhan community in India. The themes revolve around ritualistic idols and motifs and depictions of the natural world and its harmony and are painted in an elaborate pattern of lines and dots. In this painting titled ‘Pahuna’ (meaning an esteemed guest), artist Japani Shyam has… Read more »

Devnarayan ki Phad

‘Phad’ is a traditional scroll painting unique to the region of Bhilwara, Rajasthan. For many nomadic communities like the Rebari, Phad is a medium to worship their local deities ‘Devnarayan’ and ‘Pabuji’. It is believed that a thousand years ago, Devnarayan and Pabuji were kings of small villages whose stories later morphed into legends. Devnarayan… Read more »

An illustrated historical album of the Rajas and Taaluqdars of Oudh

This illustrated historical album of the Rajas and Taaluqdars of Oudh (Awadh, Lucknow) was produced in the late 19th century by Darogha Abbas Alli, an assistant municipal engineer in Lucknow active between 1860-1880. It is an important album that includes a series of portraits of governing land-holders, who were also the collectors of local revenue… Read more »

Untitled (Gond painting)

The Untitled Gond-Pardhan painting is an acrylic on canvas work, made by artist Rajendra Kumar Shyam. The artist paints a streak of tigers, seemingly running around in a loop. Two tigers appear to be adults, while the others look like cubs- one could presume that the artist has painted a family. Tigers are a common… Read more »

Das Mahavidyas

This painting represents the Das Mahavidya or the ten forms so Goddess Durga. The idols are painted on cloth using Ink and coloured pigments by Mithila artist Krishnanand Jha. Click here to see how artist Poonam Devi paints the same theme Dasa Mahavidya is associated with the Shakti cult in Hinduism and through it, ‘Tantrism’.… Read more »

Traders (Marwarree Brokers), Bombay

This photograph of traders from the Marwari community was taken by William Johnson in late 19th century Bombay. The port city of Bombay attracted early photographers, and the first official Indian photography organisation was founded here in 1854. William was a founding member of the Bombay Photographic Society and one of the first to produce… Read more »

Parsee (Parsi) Ladies, Bombay

This photograph of the women from the Parsi community was taken by William Johnson in late 19th century. With the British granting freedom of religion and equality before the law to migrants and minority communities, the city saw an influx of Parsis, who went on to play a pivotal role in the making of metropolitan… Read more »

Unidentified Prince of Rewa

This is a portrait of an unidentified prince of Rewa, an important princely state in Central India, second only to Gwalior.  Rulers in the Indian Subcontinent were typically chosen from the ranks of warrior nobility and given legitimacy by a council of ministers and nobility. Kingship was often hereditary and princes—and, less frequently, princesses born… Read more »

Chamarajendra Wadiyar X, Maharaja of Mysore

Wadiyars served as vassals of the Vijayanagara rulers but as that empire weakened in the 16th century, the they asserted their dominance as independent kings. After the final Anglo-Mysore war ( 1798–99) ended the era of Tipu Sultan, Mysore was returned to the Wadiyars to rule as a subsidiary to the East India Company. Chamarajendra… Read more »

Unidentified Woman, Bombay

This is a studio photograph of an unidentified woman by an unidentified photographer. Early Indian photography was defined by the gaze of the coloniser. So, these images are accompanied by information meant to serve the British administration in tidily cataloguing by community, profession or faith the diverse populations of the Subcontinent. Towards the end of… Read more »

A Group of Thugs, Simla

Derived from the Sanskrit’ sthagati’ for ‘he covers/deceives’, the word as it is used in the caption of this photo—’A Group of Thugs’—referred to men who were hereditary murderers and thieves. Some historians argue they killed to appease their deity, Goddess Kali, and the stealing was just incidental; others make the case that they were… Read more »

Jayajirao Scindia, Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior and his suite

This photograph is of Jayajirao Scindia (1834-1886), the Maharaja of Gwalior, with his counsels. The Maratha Confederacy was an invincible force in 18th-century India. Ranoji Shinde, a Peshwas lieutenant who was pivotal in the Peshwas’ fight against the Mughals in Malwa, was one of the army’s rising stars. In 1731, Ranoji established his rule in… Read more »

Sultan Shah Jahan Begum, Begum of Bhopal

This is a Carte de Visite portrait of the Begum of Bhopal, Shah Jahan Begum (1838-1901). The state of Bhopal was unique in Indian history for being ruled exclusively by women for over a hundred years. Their line began with the 19-year-old widow of the second Nawab of Bhopal, Qudsia Begum. A remarkable matriarch, Qudsia fought… Read more »

Palanquin Bearers, Bombay

This photograph of the Palanquin Bearers was taken by William Johnson in Bombay. The root-word for the English ‘palanquin’ is the same as the one for the Hindi ‘palang’: ‘palyanka’, Sanskrit for bed. Baked into the word itself is a promise of comfort. Palanquins were the transport of choice for wealthy travellers in 18th- and… Read more »

Talookdars of Oude (Taluqdars of Awadh)

Oude is the anglicisation of Awadh—itself a derivation of Ayodhya, capital of the ancient kingdom of Kosala. Awadh was one of the 12 original provinces or subahs defined by Mughal emperor Akbar. It was governed by a subedar, under whom sprawled a network of taluqdars, members of a land-owning aristocracy responsible for collecting revenues from… Read more »

Mir Mahboob Ali Khan Siddiqi, Nizam of Hyderabad

This is a Carte de Visite portrait of the sixth Nizam, Asaf Jah VI Mir Mahboob Ali Khan Siddiqi, who reigned from 1869 to 1911.  During this time, he developed the railways and established cotton and silk mills in the State. In popular culture, Mahboob Ali Khan is probably best remembered for his legendary collection of gemstones,… Read more »

Thakore Sahib of Morvi with Mahendrasingh, Prince of Morvi

This is a studio portrait of Thakur Sahib Maharaja Lakhdirji Waghji and the young Mahendrasingh of Morvi. They represent two generations of the Jadeja Rajputs who ruled the state of Morvi on the Kathiawar peninsula. In 1807, the East India Company declared the state of Morvi a British protectorate, a system by which local rulers… Read more »

Portrait of an Unidentified Woman

This is a studio portrait of an unidentified woman by Lafayette studios. In the late 19th century, a Dubliner called James Stack Lauder changed his surname and the name of the family photo studio to Lafayette. The rebranding was auspicious, and Lafayette Studio became the portrait studio of choice for the Irish aristocracy. In the… Read more »