19th Century Photography

Where do we go from here?

Faced with the ravages of the global pandemic, we’re all seeking comfort, beauty and a way to strengthen that inner light no storm can disturb. ‘Shifting Selves’ offers the balm of art and history as it documents this journey inward

The Qutub Minar, Delhi

Pictured here is the 239-foot Qutub Minar, the highest brick minaret in the world. Construction on this iconic tower of victory was begun by Qutb-ud-Din Aibak (r.1206-1210), the first Sultan of Delhi and founder of the Slave Dynasty, and later continued by Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish (r.1211-1236). Accompanying the adjacent Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, the minaret rises in five… Read more »

The Asoka Rock, Junagadh

Pictured here is the Girnar Rock Edicts in Junagadh, Gujarat, photographed by D. H Sykes in 1869. Located on the foothills of the Mount Girnar in Gujarat, the Girnar Rock Edicts, also known as the Junagadh Rock Inscriptions, are collections of 14 significant Prakrit edicts or inscriptions credited to Ashoka, the 3rd century Mauryan King.… Read more »

Ceylan (Ceylon)

This undated photograph from Sri Lanka was taken by photographer WLH Skeen’s eponymous studio – a leading photography studio in the country during the colonial-era. Since the Anuradhapura Kingdom, founded in 377 BCE (and lasting until 1017 CE), and until the Kandyan Kingdom of 1591-1815, Sri Lanka has seen a continual string of monarchies for… Read more »

Hoshang Shah’s Tomb (Jama Masjid), Mandu

The photograph documents the north eastern profile of the structure known as the Tomb of Hoshang Shah, a powerful Pathan Sultan ruling the Kingdom of Malwa. A commanding structure in the 16th century, the tomb is seen here in a ruinous condition. The photo is mistakenly identified as the Jama Masjid of Mandoo because the… Read more »

Jahaz Mahal, Mandoo

This photograph documents a close up of the facade of the Jahaz Mahal or the ‘Ship Palace’ at Mandoo (Mandu) in Madhya Pradesh. The main entrance to the fortress called the Delhi Darwaza leads directly to the Jahaz Mahal. The exact dates on which the palace was constructed are unknown, but historians attribute it to… Read more »

Qutb Shahi Tombs, Hyderabad

Here is a view of the Qutb Shahi Tombs in Hyderabad, as captured by Lala Deen Dayal. Located near the historic Golconda Fort, the tombs are an indelible part of Hyderabad’s skyline. Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah founded the city in 1591 by, moving away from the historic capital at Golconda. The Qutb Shahi empire was… Read more »

Khandala Railway Station

This photograph of the Khandala railway station in the Bombay Presidency (today in Maharashtra) is attributed to Alice Tredwell, a mid nineteenth century railway contractor and photographer. She had arrived in India with her husband, Solomon Tredwell, a railway contractor in 1859 for working on the completion of the Bhor Ghat section of the Great… Read more »

Northern Gate of Sanchi Stupa

This photograph is of the Sanchi Stupa, which is one of the oldest and finest examples of Buddhist architecture synchronizing with the rise and fall of Buddhism in India. It was taken in 1882 by Lala Deen Dayal. The Sanchi Stupa is one of the oldest and finest example of the architecture of the Shunga… Read more »

Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath

This is a photograph of the Dhamek Stupa at Sarnath. Taken by Francis Frith & Co, it shows the dilapidated state of the ancient Buddhist structure in the village of Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh. Sarnath is among four major sacred places of pilgrimage for Buddhists in India, which are based on four major events in… Read more »

Hosainabad, Lucknow

The Hussainabad Imambara (Hosainabad, Lucknow), more commonly known as the Chhota Imambara at Lucknow was built between 1837 and 1842 by Nawab Muhammad Ali Shah. The structure was built both to function as a congregation hall for Shia Muslims but also as a mausoleum for the Nawab and his mother. A prominent gilded dome sits… Read more »

The Holy Trinity Church, Murree

The Holy Trinity Church is located in Murree, a hill station in present-day Pakistan established by the British for the sake of troops in Peshawar riddled with excruciating heat, disease and other dangers of the frontier. Construction on the Holy Trinity Church began in 1848 when the British administration took over Punjab Province. It was… Read more »

Bodhgaya Temple, Gaya (Mahabodhi Temple)

Bodh Gaya is an important Buddhist site, known primarily as the place where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment. The Buddhist complex at Bodh Gaya has a history of worship that goes back 2300 years. The oldest monumental remains here date back to the Mauryan period, during the reign of Asoka. The first Director-General of the Archaeological… Read more »

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur

Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II of Jaipur reigned from 1835 to 1880. A self-taught photographer, he was always up-to-date with the latest camera models and accessories. He would often be found in his small retreat called the ‘photu ka karkhana’ or ‘tasveer khana’ – taking pictures, processing them, fixing his chemicals or making regular journal… Read more »

Untitled CdV Album

This CdV photo card album comes with a maroon cover, and a raised golden decoration on its binding. It contains 40 photographic prints inside card mounts that have gilded edges. This album contains images of Maharajas of different regions, some saints, other men and women of prominence, as well as of their servants. Some of… Read more »

Major General Henry Tombs

This albumen photograph is of Sir Henry Tombs (1825-1874) as captured by Felice Beato. Tombs was born on 10th November 1825 in Calcutta, India. His father, Major General John Tombs, was a soldier and commanded the 3rd Bengal Cavalry at the Siege of Bhurtpore from 1824. Sir Henry completed his education and entered the Royal… Read more »


This photograph, captioned ‘Mahars,’ was captured by William Johnson. The Mahar caste traditionally belonged to the lowest caste in the Hindu caste system in the Bombay presidency. This image initially formed a part of William Johnson’s ‘Photographs of Western India’ (1855-1862) and reappeared in his later publication ‘The Oriental Races and Tribes, Residents and Visitors… Read more »