Lambadi Woman, Gramya, 2005

The Colour of India

In Travel, Art by tony6 Comments

Featured image Lambadi Woman, Gramya 2005

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 23 March 2016


The Colour of India

Introduction

Having just visited India in February/March 2016. I’m inspired again by the wonders of India, even though the NGOs I’m aware of despair at the the excesses of the current central government.

In mid-2010 the South Coast Pastel Society (New South Wales, Australia) got in touch with me because of a contact with PhotoAccess to help inspire their artists about India. The theme for their major exhibition of the year was on India or more specifically: works that reflect or respond to in some way, the culture, history, environment or art of India.

Udaipur, 2008

Udaipur, 2008

I was flattered to be invited and inspired myself to think of what and how to present a series of photographs on India that would help artists in preparing for an exhibition. One of the artists had the temerity to ask whether he could borrow one of the photographs to draw. I naturally said, ‘yes!’ which proved to be embarrassing later on, as I was asked to be one of the judges and in the final round this pastel was one of the finalists. I was forced to stand aside from the ultimate decision but the pastel was a standout and won easily.

The photograph mentioned is given as the featured image.  Now some years later I still feel that I did a reasonable job of conveying the flavour or colour of India. Despite some minor quality issues with the earlier photographs, I think they represent what I feel are the positive attractions of India.

Sadhu, Pushkar, 1995

Sadhu, Pushkar, 1995


Let’s get rid of the negatives all at once

I don’t want to suggest that all of India is positive far from it. I’ve always had a love hate relationship with the country. Many politicians are venal and corrupt and this flows on. The bureaucracy is awful. The contradictions no longer stand up to scrutiny. The cities are traffic choked, dusty and polluted. The rivers running through cities beggar description, but are universally black in colour.

Palace of the winds, Jaipur, 1992

Palace of the winds, Jaipur, 1992

The poor and the vulnerable are cheated, looked down upon and exploited. The upper middle classes ignore the squalor and unfairness and think they live in the best place on Earth, yet they are callous and lazy, and getting richer on the backs of the oppressed. (Rukmini chastised me and said this is inaccurate. She says of the Indian middle class: Some are busy climbing the ladder, others work hard not to slide back and some are changing the world! which is equally true.)

Monuments are treated like toilets, disposable, dirty and unmaintained. An intelligent doctor once said to me proudly, we don’t care for physical things (meaning monuments), we are a spiritual people.

Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, 1992

Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, 1992

In contrast the countryside where it hasn’t been disturbed too much is a haven of biogenetic diversity still. The peasant farmers, the poor and the tribal people are often (but not always, as times change) amongst the nicest people you will ever meet, despite being downtrodden for generations.

The above suffers of course from stereotyping and over-generalisation, but it isn’t entirely untrue. Don’t let’s get started on violence against women.


The colour of India

I am adopting a different approach here. Offering a few photographs but also an instant link to a slideshow.

Calcutta Street, 2009

Calcutta Street, 2009


1 Overview

These photos are a smattering of places across India, not the best known sights but also not obscure.

Calcutta (Kolkata) is India’s second largest city. It is the capital of West Bengal on the East Coast situated on the delta of the Ganges Brahmaputra Rivers but inland.

Village Sudarbans, 2009

Village Sudarbans, 2009

To its South are the swamps of the Sundarbans which are the largest area of halophytic mangrove forest in the world, a UNESCO world heritage site and once renowned for its man-eating tigers. The larger part of the Sundarbans are in southern Bangladesh.

Maharajah's summer palace, Mandvi, Gujarat, 1995

Maharajah’s summer palace, Mandvi, Gujarat, 2008

Mandvi is the seaport of Bhuj in the Rann of Kutch District of Gujarat on the Arabian Sea. The Maharaja’s summer palace is a wooden palace a few kilometres out of town. It was decorated inside in Indian art deco style and probably hadn’t changed much since the thirties. Jaipur, Jodhpur and Pushkar are in Rajasthan (a popular tourist destination). Mamallapuram is south of Chennai (Madras) in Tamil Nadu. The others are scattered widely.

Camel Fair, Pushkar, 1995

Camel Fair, Pushkar, 1995

The Pushkar Camel Fair or Ka Mela is held over five days in November or October and concludes on the full moon. With the demise of the nomadic lifestyle the fair has changed and is more a tourist event. Most of the trading of camels, cattle and horses by Rajasthani farmers occurs in the days leading up to the fair.

The fair was heading this way in 1995. Nevertheless, it is still quite a spectacle.

Gwalior Fort (8th C), Madhya Pradesh, 1995

Gwalior Fort (8th C), Madhya Pradesh, 1995

Gwalior Fort in Madhya Pradesh is an amazing survivor. When we were there the superintendent embarrassed by the dirt was on his hands and knees in his clean white trousers scraping up dirt with two pieces of cardboard. This might be a common scene in Japan but extraordinary in India. One hopes the man got on in life.

Overview Photos

(Click on photo to scroll; Click on 3 vertical dots for slideshow top right; ESC to exit; left arrow top left to return to site)


2 Cloth

Antique Embroidery on Infant's Cap, Bhuj 1995

Antique Embroidery on Infant’s Cap, Bhuj 1995

I unfortunately know people who are experts in this area and my knowledge is limited, but we are mainly looking at colour. Cloth is made all over India. Until the British killed off the Indian Cotton trade and exported India’s cotton to the mills of Industrial Britain, Indian textiles had been traded internationally for more than a thousand years.

Village Woman, Rann of Kutch, 2008

Village Woman, Rann of Kutch, 2008

A marvellous exhibition at the Australian National Gallery in 2004 Sari to Sarong: 500 years of Indian and Indonesian textile exchange documents such trade brilliantly.

I haven’t covered Saris and Salwar Kameez, which make Indian women so colourful or Indian clothing in general.

Applique, Gujarat 2002

Applique, Gujarat 2002

For the beginner, the Bhuj or Kutch area of Gujarat and Rajastan are good places to start. Then there is the famous double ikat village of Patan elsewhere in Gujarat. Although when we went there in 2008 there were only two families left in the trade. Pochampally village out of Hyderabad, Telangana is also famous for ikat. The Calico Museum in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s former capital and largest city is also a must see.

Hindu Bride, Rann of Kutch, 2008

Hindu Bride, Rann of Kutch, 2008

The photographs are a small sample from two trips. Denise and I went to Bhuj before the earthquake and travelled extensively in Rajasthan in 1995 and I joined some friends on a three week textile tour of Gujarat and Rajasthan in 2008. Bhuj had changed dramatically.

Cloth Photos

(Click on photo to scroll; Click on 3 vertical dots for slideshow top right; ESC to exit; left arrow top left to return to site)


3 Mughal Architecture

Taj Mahal, Agra 1995

Taj Mahal, Agra 1995

The highlights of India are Hindu and Mughal Architecture. The Mughal Empire conventionally began with Babur’s conquest of India in 1526, reached its zenith geographically under Aurangzeb who died in 1707 and declined thereafter, finally quashed by the British, after what was called by them The Indian Mutiny, in 1858.

Akbar's Tomb, Sikander, near Agra 1995

Akbar’s Tomb, Sikander, near Agra 1995

The Taj Mahal of Shah Jahan is the most famous Mughal monument but Mughal remnants are scattered across northern India, in particular around Agra, in Delhi, Kashmir and Lahore (in Pakistan).

Floor Lahore, 1995

Floor Lahore, 1995

Mughal Architecture Photos

(Click on photo to scroll; Click on 3 vertical dots for slideshow top right; ESC to exit; left arrow top left to return to site)


4 Colour

Sweets in the Bazaar, 2005

Sweets in the Bazaar, 2005

The photos for colour come from the bazaars, fruit stalls and other common places across India.

Flower Market, Calcutta 2009

Flower Market, Calcutta 2009

Colour Photos

(Click on photo to scroll; Click on 3 vertical dots for slideshow top right; ESC to exit; left arrow top left to return to site)


5 Khajaraho and Ranakpur

Khajuraho 1986

Khajuraho 1986

Khajaraho in Madhya Pradesh is a group of Hindu and Jain Temples completed between 950 and 1050 AD. Khajaraho is a remote location which kept it from the depredations of the Mughals. Although some temples were desecrated. It is the most beautiful and renowned temple complex in India and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The temples are made of sandstone with a granite foundation.

Ranakpur 1992

Ranakpur 1992

Ranakpur is a Jain Temple Complex out of Udaipur in Rajasthan. It is one of the most beautiful and spectacular Jain temple sites in India, also in a remote location. The temples are constructed of white marble and were built from 1437 to 1458.

Ranakpur 1992

Ranakpur 1992

I have better shots of both places but I think that the earlier photographs were pivotal to my joy of discovery.

Khajaraho and Ranakpur Slideshow

(Click on photo to scroll; Click on 3 vertical dots for slideshow top right; ESC to exit; left arrow top left to return to site)


6 Shekhawati Paintings

The Shekhawati region of Northern Rajasthan is most famous for its extraordinary painted havelis (merchant houses). It is less visited than other parts of Rajasthan though long day tours are run out of Jaipur. The mystique of the area are single-track roads that run through the desert and connect the tiny towns where the havelis are found.

Two havelis, Churu 2007

Two havelis, Churu 2002

The Marwaris from Marwar were an influential business community in the Shekhawati region until early in the 19th century because of trade routes across the country. From the 1820s many of the community migrated to Calcutta, Bombay or Madras and prospered under British rule.

The Shekhawati art developed when these traders returned to their traditional havelis and painted scenes of the wider world both inside and outside their walls. Though superficial the comment that this was a form of 19th C television is perhaps indicative of why these rich merchants decorated their ancestral homes.

I was fortunate on my visit to Shekhwati in 2007 that I shared the compartment of the train from Delhi with a well-off Jain pharmaceuticals manufacturer, who was going back to Churu to open a school. I spent my first day in Churu being ferried from post to post in an interesting but rather exhausting recapitulation of my host’s career. However, he had to go back to Delhi while I spent the week being cosetted by his servants and staying in his palatial thirties house, decorated very similarly to the Bhuj  Maharajah’s Summer Palace in Indian Art Deco style. Most days I hopped onto a local bus to explore another Shekhawati town.

Shekhawati Art 2007

Shekhawati Art 2002

The painting appears to be a cross between the winged-chariot of the Gods and a European car.

In Churu one day I met with some of my host’s relatives who proudly showed me a rather ancient haveli where there had been a wedding between Bombay and Madras. They were most amused to seat me on the wedding bed. The bed and floor were still strewn with rose petals. They took my photograph, while I was transported into the 17th century.

The downside I discovered in Pushkar. I’d picked up some slow festering stomach bacteria in these travels from the food and lay in a fever for five days wondering if I was going to die. Fortunately, in a nice-haveli style hotel.

Ilay Cooper The painted towns of Shekhawati Prakash 2008 (first published 1987) is the definitive guide to the subject and contains comprehensive photographs. The photo images on the Net leave something to be desired in general, including the stock images. I’ve included one stock image library below. (It makes me think I should resurrect and scan my photographs.)

Shekhawati Photos

(Click on photo to scroll; Click on 3 vertical dots for slideshow top right; ESC to exit; left arrow top left to return to site)


7 My India

Man with his bullocks, Pastapur, Andhra Pradesh 1995

Man with his bullocks, Pastapur, Andhra Pradesh 1995

My India is a bit of an indulgence but still on theme. It presents photographs that are important to me because of meaningful events or pivotal reminiscences, but they are perhaps no more important than any of the other photographs.

Gramya school for Lambada and BC girls, Devarkonda, Andhra Pradesh 2006

Gramya bridge school for Lambadi & BC girls, Devarkonda, Andhra Pradesh 2006

My India Photos

(Click on photo to scroll; Click on 3 vertical dots for slideshow top right; ESC to exit; left arrow top left to return to site)


Comment

I hope you’ve enjoyed this voyage across India in space and time and find it as meaningful as I do and as The South Coast Pastel Society seemed to.


Key Words: Colour, India, Art, photography, South Coast Pastel Society, Overview, Cloth, Mughal Architecture, Khajaraho, Ranakpur,  Shekhawati Paintings, My India, PhotoAccess, Gramya, Deccan Development Society, slideshow, Calcutta, Sundarbans, Mandvi, Rajasthan, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Badami, Hampi, Orchha, Gwalior, Pushkar, Hyderabad, Sari to Sarong Exhibition, Ikat, Double Ikat, Patan, Pochampally, The Calico Museum, Amber Fort, Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Khajaraho, Ranakpur, Thar Desert, Konark Sun Temple, Pastapur, Bhuj, Rann of Kutch, Wankaner, Poshina, Little Rann of Kutch, Wild Indian Asses


Further Information

Overview

Calcutta

Sundarbans

Mandvi

Rajasthan

Jaipur

Jodhpur

Udaipur

Badami

Hampi

Orchha

Gwalior

Gwalior Fort

Pushkar

Pushkar

Pushkar Camel Fair Wikipedia

Pushkar Camel Fair Site

Hyderabad

Hyderabad State

Hyderabad


Cloth

Sari to Sarong Exhibition

Clothing in India Wikipedia

Ikat Wikipedia

Double Ikat Patan Gujarat

Gaatha.com

Clothroads.com

Pochampally near Hyderabad, Telangana

Wikipedia

Pochampally.com

The Calico Museum Ahmedabad

Wikipedia

The Calico Museum


Mughal Architecture

Wikipedia on Mughal Architecture

Wikipedia on the Mughal Empire

Amber Fort a mix of Hindu & Muslim influences

Wikipedia

Jaipur.org


Khajaraho and Ranakpur

Khajaraho

Ranakpur


Shekhawati Paintings

Wikipedia on Shekhawati

Wikipedia on Shekhawati Painting

Shutterstock.com stock library on Shekhawati

Ilay Cooper The painted towns of Shekhwati Prakash 2009


My India

Thar Desert between Jodhpur and Jaiselmer, Rajasthan

Thar Desert

Jaisalmer

Konark Sun Temple, Orissa

Konark Sun Temple

Pastapur, Medak district, Telangana

DDS (Deccan Development Society) Field Head Office, Pastapur

Bhuj, Mandvi, Rann of Kutch

Mandvi

Bhuj

Rann of Kutch

Wankaner

Dargabadh Palace, Poshina village

Little Rann of Kutch

Little Rann of Kutch

Wild Asses Little Rann of Kutch

Gramya Bridge School Devarkonda

Gramya Resource Centre for Women

(posted in Chiang Mai, Thailand)

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Comments

  1. Nina poulton

    Thank you for such a wonderful depiction of India and representing many facets and facts. I was fortunate to have spent time last November in the Rajasthan & Gujarat regions. My time although short took in many of the colours & sights. I was fortunate enough to meet both the brothers of the silk sari hand loomed cloth thanks to my hosts. I am a pastel society member and did exhibit in that particular exhibition. Kind regards Nina

  2. Author
    tony

    Hi Nina

    Thanks for the vote of confidence. Rajasthan and Gujarat are hard to beat. I really enjoyed my interaction with the pastel society and am glad that I have finally acknowledged it!

    Regards
    Tony

  3. Rukmini Rao

    The photographs are wonderful Tony but your comments about the middle class in India need moderation. Some are self centered,others struggling to survive and keep up on the treadmill while yet others want to change society.

    1. Author
      tony

      Rukmini, I agree my comments were intemperate but as I said at the bottom not entirely untrue and I was trying to encapsulate the negatives of India all at once from an outsider’s point of view.
      However, thank you for defending the Indian middle class. Your comments are entirely accurate.
      Tony

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