While the founding fathers of the Constitution were framing the laws that would govern India, miles from the capital, Delhi, Nandalal Bose and his students in Santiniketan were sketching illustrations that would feature in the manuscript, and would encapsulate India’s rich history, diversity and unity. It was Jawaharlal Nehru who had reportedly proposed that Bose work on the Constitution of India, where the text, too, was handwritten by calligrapher Prem Behari Narain Raizada in flowing italic.
For the world’s longest written Constitution — now carefully kept in the library of the Parliament of India — Bose and his team designed a total of 22 illustrations. Borrowing from Indian miniature tradition, Ajanta frescoes and what came to be defined as the Santiniketan style, intricate frames surround the text. The depictions span different periods. If the initial part has the popular Indus Valley seal mark, the Zebu bull, the Vedic period is represented by a scene from gurukul. We see scenes from various eras, including the Mauryan and Mughal empire, and the dancing Nataraja from the Chola tradition. The freedom movement is portrayed with a figure of Mahatma Gandhi during the Dandi March, and another frame has Subhash Chandra Bose.
Our epics find representation, too. From the Ramayana, there is Ram, Lakshman and Sita returning home; a scene from the Mahabharata has Krishna and Arjun in conversation. Buddha and Mahavira are also part of the Constitution, where the varied geographical terrain of India is also celebrated.