19th Century Photography

World Photography Day 2023

 On 19 August 2023, on World Photography Day, we opened our archive to a group of photography enthusiasts to explore the journey of early photography in India.


For the 37th issue of Spotlight, we’re taking a look at disruptive technologies that made history. These include innovations in the field of photography, coin-making, art and publishing that didn’t simply change the game, they threw out the rulebook and gave the players superpowers!

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 »

The Nautch Bungalow, Shalimar Bagh, Srinagar

This photograph of the Nautch Bungalow at the Shalimar garden in Kashmir was taken by Burke and Baker in the late 19th century. Mughal king, Jahangir (r. 1605-1627) built the Nautch Bungalow for his beloved wife Nur Jahan in 1616. The garden is one of the few surviving Mughal gardens, based on the Persian ‘charbagh’ style.  To… Read more »

Residency at Chaderghat, Hyderabad

This photograph of the British Residency in Hyderabad is attributed to Lala Deen Dayal (1844-1905). The British Residency, located on the banks of the Musi river, was built between 1803–1806 as a Palladian palace by Samuel Russell of Madras Engineers. It served as the official residence of the British officers appointed as the Resident at… Read more »

Martiniere, Lucknow

This photograph of La Martiniere, the oldest college in Lucknow, was taken by photographer Felice Beato (1832-1909) in 1858. General Claude Martine (1735–1800), a Frenchman, constructed La Martinere in 1795. It was intended to be a country home and was given the original name Constantia. The place was later converted into a college and served… Read more »

Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II of Jaipur

Sawai Madho Singh II (1862-1922) was the adoptive son of Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur. On 30 September 1880, at the age of twenty, he ascended the throne of Jaipur. This is a hand-painted photograph of the Maharaja photographed by Gobindram and Oodeyram, preeminent photographers in Jaipur in the 1880s. The late 19th century… Read more »

Vindusagar tank, Bhubaneshwar

This late-19th century photograph of the Bindusagar lake was published in Antiquities of Orissa, authored by Indologist Rajendralal Mitra (1824 – 1891). The lake dating back to the 8th – 9th century is situated north of the Lingaraja Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in Bhubaneshwar. It measures about 1300 ft in length and 700 ft… Read more »

The Taj Mahal, Agra

When Arjumand Banu Begum (1593-1631), principal consort of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, passed away, a marble mausoleum was constructed to house her mortal remains on the south bank of the Yamuna. The Taj Mahal, originally named Rauza-i-Munawarah, took fifteen years from 1632 to be completed. Marble from Makrana, jasper from Punjab and jade from China… Read more »

Bhishtis (Water-Carriers)

Bhishtis were a community whose traditional occupation was to provide water to people. This included supplying drinking water and water for household use, animal maintenance, and the cooling of blinds in family residences. They were crucial to armies, supplying water to thirsty and wounded soldiers even during the thick of battle. The Bhisti’s trademark bag… 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 »