Chronicling lives of ‘Maharanis’ through photographs

Kolkata, Oct 8 (IANS) Offering a peep into the lives of the ‘Maharanis’ of India’s erstwhile royal families, as many as 69 black-and-white photographs on display here, show how the women reinvented tradition and embraced modernity in the 19th century.

The ongoing ‘Maharanis: Women Of Royal India’ exhibition at the Harrington Street Arts Centre showcases an assemblage of photographs over a span of 50 years in the 19th century when the advent of photography opened up avenues to document changes.

Although Indian royalty have in the past formed the subject of several exhibitions and publications, the emphasis has been on the figure of the male ruler, or the Maharaja. As a counterpoint to these narratives, this exhibition focuses on the Maharanis and other royal women of erstwhile princely India,” Mondira Verma of the arts centre said on Thursday.

Organised in collaboration with Tasveer, an organisation committed to the art of photography, the assemblage features images from the archives of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), collections from across the subcontinent and other institutional and private collections both in India and abroad such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Amar Mahal Museum and Library in Jammu.

Verma said the photographs serve as windows into a time of great political and social change and “allow us to map the transforming modalities and conditions of the princely class, and its complex relationship with colonialism and the British Empire.”

The exhibition concludes on October 14.

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