India Insight

First pictures of Taj Mahal to ‘Hairy family of Burma’: subcontinent photos from 1850-1910

A new exhibition in India’s capital showcases some of the earliest photographs from South Asia, taken between 1850 and 1910 when the region was under British rule.

Around 250 images from India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal are on display at the “Drawn from Light: Early Photography and the Indian Sub-continent” exhibition in New Delhi.

Dr. John Murray’s images of the Taj Mahal are recognized as the first-ever photographs of the monument. The surgeon, who was employed with the East India Company, took the pictures between 1858 and 1862.

“[The exhibition] shows there was great conflict. We’ve got photographs of the famine that was hitting India while the elite cultures were developing. On the other hand they showed a kind of confluence of cultures because there were European artists or photographers who were documenting the royalty and the rising middle class,” said Rahaab Allana, the exhibition’s curator.

The photographs were collected by the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts from various sources over the years including through auctions, dealers and donations.

Indian eatery run by murder convicts praised for politeness, hygiene

As India’s capital baked under a heat wave this month, banker Gaurav Gupta sat down for lunch at a new air-conditioned restaurant, and was greeted by a smiling waiter who offered him chilled water and took his order — a traditional “thali” meal of flatbread, lentils, vegetables, rice and pickle.

Nothing unusual, except that the employee, like most of his co-workers, is a convicted murderer serving time in South Asia’s largest prison complex.

“Tihar Food Court” on Jail Road in west Delhi is part of a wide range of reform and rehabilitation initiatives undertaken at the Tihar prison. It opened in the first week of July on an “experimental basis” while waiting for formal clearances, and is located half a kilometre from the prisoners’ dormitories.

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