Royal Treatment,Almost

British Library brings its popular exhibition on Mughals to Delhi,but only a facsimile version

Written by Pallavi Pundir | Published: December 2, 2013 5:01:48 am

In 1527,a land grant,possessing Mughal emperor Babur’s “dynastic seal”,assigned an annual living allowance of 5,000 copper coins to a Muslim judge. This piece of document is possibly the earliest surviving Mughal document. Another documentation of the empire,the last such,is an 1858 photograph of Bahadur Shah Zafar awaiting trial in Red Fort for his role in the 1857 mutiny. These two were among the 200 artefacts from the Mughal era that were exhibited at a show organised by British Library (BL) in London last year. Titled “Mughal India: Art,Culture and Empire”,the show had never-seen-before objects that projected the dynasty’s cultural,artistic and administrative achievements and received rave reviews. BL,in collaboration with Roli Books and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA),has brought a facsimile version of the show to Delhi.

“It is the first exhibition that shows Mughal history and culture from the very beginning to the end. Most exhibitions concentrated on fine miniature paintings. But this doesn’t stop at that,” says John Falconer,curator for the Delhi leg,“We’d have loved to bring the originals here but organising the exhibition of this size becomes expensive and time consuming. ”

The London exhibition had items culled from personal BL collection as well as loaned from organisations such as the Royal Collection and the British Museum. The Delhi version has high-quality prints of miniature paintings,manuscripts,pages from books and maps among others. The most talked-about objects in the London exhibition,however,were artefacts such as a Bahadur Shah Zafar’s bejewelled crown acquired by Queen Victoria and kept in the Royal Collection,London,and an armour from the era. Three-dimensional objects such as these will unfortunately be missed here.

While Malini Roy,from BL London,is responsible for most of the material on exhibit,Falconer’s engagement with photography is evident from the last bit. “Photography was the new technology that took over from paintings at that time. That’s the closing stage in the exhibition,” says Falconer.

“We have signed an MoU with the Ministry of Culture to make more of our materials known,not just through exhibitions but also online,” says Falconer. Roli Books has also released a book on the exhibition by the same name.

The show is on till December 31

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