Tamil Nadu

Ootacamand (Ooty), Plan and Environs

This map presenting the plan and surroundings of Ootacamund (Ooty) was published in the Constable’s Hand Atlas of India by John Bartholomew & Co. Located in Tamil Nadu at an altitude of 2,240 mt above sea level, Ootacamund (Ooty) flourishes in the Nilgiri hills. Because of its cooler climate, Ooty, was considered an oasis by… Read more »

French Sepoy Regiment, Pondicherry

This late 19th-century photograph is of the French Sepoy Regiment standing in front of the statue of Joseph Francois Dupleix, Governor-General of the French establishment in India. Pondicherry, a port town on the Coromandel coast, was governed by numerous southern dynasties before European forces arrived in the 1600s, including the Pallavas, Pandyas, Cholas. Powerful European imperial… Read more »

Lake from Elk Hill, Ootacamund (Ooty)

This view of the Ootacamund in Tamil Nadu was taken by Samuel Bourne (1834-1912) in 1869. The Madras government’s headquarters were relocated to Ootacamund from April to October during colonial rule, making it the summer capital after the 1870s. Because of its cooler climate, Ooty, positioned above the Indian plains, was considered an oasis by… Read more »

East side of the Thanjavur Mahal Palace

This is a photograph of the east side of the Thanjavur Palace taken in the late 19th century. The Thanjavur Mahal Palace, locally known as Aranmanai, was built by the Nayakas in the 16th century and later inherited by the Marathas, whose descendants continue to call it home. During their reign, the Maratha rulers added… Read more »

Rock Temple, Mavalipuram (Descent of the Ganges ,Mamallapuram)

This photograph of an open-air sculptural relief at Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) is attributed to photographer John P Nicholas. Mamallapuram occupies a significant place in India’s cultural and historical landscape and has a rich presence of ancient caves, temples, and rock-cut structures. The sculptural relief in the photograph is dated to the 7th century CE and was… Read more »

Street View, Tanjore

This photograph, by Samuel Bourne (c.1834 – 1912), is of a street in Thanjavur (formerly Tanjore) from the late 19th century.  Since ancient times, Thanjavur, located on the Kaveri Delta, has seen several historical dynasties and rulers from the Cholas, Vijayanagara rulers, Nayakas, Marathas and the British. The name is derived from Tamil, where tanjam, which means “refuge,”… Read more »

Temple on the Seashore, Mahavellipore (Shore Temple, Mamallapuram)

This photograph by Francis Frith (1822-1898) & Co is of the Shore Temple of Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) in the present state of Tamil Nadu. Mamallapuram occupies an important place in the cultural and historical landscape of India due to the rich presence of ancient caves, temples, and rock-cut structures. The Shore Temple was built during the… Read more »

Madras Talkies – Reading List

Titles from the Sarmaya library that will draw you further into the heart of Tamil Nadu’s culture through music, architecture, photography and art

Thanjavur – Country of Gods & Kings

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, Thanjavur welcomed large communities of Telugu and Marathi speakers as a consequence of Nayaka and Maratha conquests in Cholamandalam. The result was a slow mingling and simmering of cultural influences, resulting in the unique artistic heritage of this temple town

Postcards from Madras

Postcards began at the end of the 19th century as a new kind of crossover between photography and the popular print market. In a collaboration with Picture Postcard Empire, we bring you a virtual exhibition of intriguing postcards from the city of Madras

The Making of Madras

The history of the Madras Presidency is also the history of an embryonic nation finding its identity under colonial rule. We take you through some key moments, movements and personalities that shaped Madras and what would in time become India

Trails & Tales

According to the prevailing view of cartography experts, maps can be categorised into two types: topographic or general maps, which might help you find your way around an area, and thematic maps, which serve to highlight specific features or a particular event, for eg, a battle plan. Regardless of their type, all maps tell a… Read more »

Family Portraiture: An attempt at reading a personal album

We dive into a study of family portraiture with a set of three albums belonging to John Sinclair, the First Lord Pentland, and the Governor of Madras between 1912 and 1919—and draw out the themes that emerge from this treasure trove of 20th-century photography

Aurangzeb, Silver Coin of Gingee Mint

Gingee was a formidable fort in southern Arcot in the erstwhile Carnatic region. It was captured by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1677 and remained in the hands of the Marathas until 1698. In this year, Shivaji’s son Rajaram Bhosle I ensconced himself in the fort in response to Aurangzeb’s advancing armies in the kingdom. Mughal… Read more »