Indian Royalty

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 »

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 »

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 »

Jagatjit Singh, Maharaja of Kapurthala

This is a portrait of Jagatjit Singh, Maharaja of Kapurthala from the album Delhi Coronation Durbar, 1st January 1903 by Wiele and Klein. Jagatjit Singh (1872-1949) carried his royal Sikh heritage with pride. He was the descendant of Sardar Jassa Singh, founder of the Ahluwalia dynasty, who led the various misls or ancestral warrior clans… Read more »

Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir

This is a Carte de Visite portrait of  the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Ranbir Singh (1830-1885). After the decline of the Mughals, power over Jammu was seized briefly by the Afghan Durrani dynasty who were defeated in the early 19th-century by the armies of the Lion of Punjab aka Ranjit Singh, the first Maharaja… Read more »

Nripendra Narayan, Maharaja of Cooch Behar

This is a portrait of Maharaja of Cooch Behar (present-day West Bengal), Nripendra Narayan (1862-1911). Bounded in the north by Bhutan, Cooch Behar was once a part of the ancient Indian kingdom of Kamarupa. Two centuries later, the East India Company would recognise the location as strategic to their imperial ambitions in Bengal and ally… Read more »

Chitra Thirunal Bala Rama Verma, One Fanam of Travencore Mint

The kingdom of Travancore was a Hindu feudal kingdom till 1858 and later an Indian princely state ruled by the lankini Travancore royal family. In ancient times, the region had been ruled by the Cheras, Cholas and briefly by the Vijayanagara dynasty, until it became an independent state in the mid-18th century. The Travancore royals… Read more »

History of Style

Class, caste, gender, faith, community, identity. We give away so much of who we through what we wear. Looking at 19th-century photographs and watercolour portraits from the Indian subcontinent, it might seem like our ancestors dressed more conservatively, seeking to hide everything but their social status which they wore like an armour. But we can… Read more »

Painted Photograph of Maharana Bhupal Singh of Udaipur

In the West, the hand-painting of photographs was limited to adding subtle highlights or making minor corrections. In India, however, the technique took a unique and characteristically vibrant turn. Despite their initial infatuation with the medium, Indian royals soon started to feel something was missing in black-and-white photographs. Something of the grandeur and magnificence of… Read more »

Unidentified group of women, Central India

This photograph of a group of unidentified women from central India was taken by PA Herzog and P Higgins. Herzog and Higgins were two Englishmen who worked in Central India. Herzog presumably learned the art of photography in Jabalpur from John Blees, who produced an instructional manual on the subject. Both Herzog and Higgins worked… Read more »

Maharaja of Hutwa

Hutwa Raj was a feudal estate belonging to the Bhumihar Brahmins of Baghochia dynasty and it was located in the Saran Division of present-day Bihar. Read about Indian kings and their fabulous jewels here. This studio portrait of the Maharaja is an albumen print mounted on a cabinet card. The front of the cabinet card… Read more »

Rama Varma, the Rajarshi of Cochin

The Kingdom of Cochin came into existence around the sixth century AD. According to tradition, Kochi’s first king was Vir Kerala Varma, a title held by the Rajas of Cochin even till in the early 20th century. This is an official portrait of Raja Varma, Rajarshi of Cochin who succeeded the throne in October 1895.… Read more »

Prince of Morvi, painted photograph

The tradition of painted photography was a syncretic visual culture that began in India in the 19th century, at almost the same time as photography made its debut here. This genre became extremely popular, particularly in Rajasthan and Gujarat, fuelled partly by a dissatisfaction with black and white photographs and partly by rising unemployment among… Read more »