Throughout its long history, India has remained a synthesis of incredible diversity. With a vast array of cultures, races, religions and languages, India is often referred to as ‘the epitome of the world,’ ‘the land of varieties’ and in V.A. Smith’s apt terminology, an ‘ethnological museum.’ As time goes by, technology advances and cities modernise; society refashions itself and on occasion we tend to forget the myriad of people and traditions, good and bad, that exist around us, and have been through the years since ancient times.
The New York Public Library archives were opened to the public in the form of their digital collections and exploring this historical treasure trove is an educating and fascinating walk down memory lane. In the past we’ve covered a collection of art representing the country’s races and tribes, and the Maharaja of Baroda’s menu for a dinner party that he hosted in 1897. Titled Indian Coloured Drawings, this collection presents us with 177 gouache paintings, on various mediums, and engravings depicting the different attire, trades and tradesmen, the celebration of different festivals and different modes of transport. Created between 1780 and 1858, these images give us a glimpse of the life lived by people of that period; we see the difference in cultural practices, such as an image depicting the rightly outlawed practice of sati, as well as the striking similarities.
Scroll down to see some of the paintings from the archives.
Male musicians and dancing girls
River festival procession
Festival procession with a figure of Hanuman
The Indian Zodiac
Visit The New York Public Library website to view the collection in its entirety.