'Delhi Durbar’: Exhibition traces trajectory of Delhi through three British durbars from 1877 to 1911
The British held their first durbar in 1877 to declare Queen Victoria Empress of India at Delhis Coronation Park, a moment in history that can be revisited through a collection of photographs and sketches currently on display at an exhibition here.Titled Delhi Durbar Empire, Display and the Possession of History, the exhibition at DAG, curated by Swapna Liddle and Rana Safvi, is showcasing an important part of Delhis history through a selection of photographs and memorabilia associated with the three grand durbars held by the British in 1877, 1903 and 1911.
The British held their first 'durbar' in 1877 to declare Queen Victoria Empress of India at Delhi's Coronation Park, a moment in history that can be revisited through a collection of photographs and sketches currently on display at an exhibition here.
Titled 'Delhi Durbar: Empire, Display and the Possession of History', the exhibition at DAG, curated by Swapna Liddle and Rana Safvi, is showcasing an important part of Delhi's history through a selection of photographs and memorabilia associated with the three grand durbars held by the British in 1877, 1903 and 1911. The second durbar, in 1903, proclaimed the succession of Queen Victoria's son King Edward VI and the third, in 1911, proclaimed King George V as the emperor, also marking the first time a ruling British monarch had visited India.
The visual imagery of the durbars drew heavily on the heritage of the city: on Mughal courtly ceremonies of the past—as the very name 'durbar' indicates—as well as the stately architecture of the Mughal and sultanate periods. Safvi said that the three durbars were important events in the history of Delhi as they were held to shape the perception of British rule. ''I have tried to show that how there is a continuity and even though the Mughal emperor had been removed when the British came, they chose to keep the word Durbar which is very much a part of the Mughal vocabulary and the architecture and everything they tried to copy, the domes and the minars etc," Safvi told PTI. Beginning with 'Delhi Darshan', showing some of the great monuments of the city through paintings, photographs and postcards of the time, the exhibition then moves to images of Delhi in 1857, before proceeding to the three imperial durbars in turn.
The first segment shows monuments such as the Qutub Minar, the of Nizamuddin, mausoleum of Humayun, Red Fort, Purana Qila, Chandni Chowk, Safdarjung's tomb, among others. The exhibition also features a section on the revolt of 1857, showcasing sepia-tinted photographs and paintings of events of the uprising, including of the 'subzeemandee piquet', the 'Crow's Nest battery', the tree in Red Fort under which 119 Europeans were killed during the mutiny, and an 1860-book on the history of the Indian mutiny, written by one Charles Ball. The section titled 'The Imperial Assemblage, 1877' features portraits of Queen Victoria, Begum of Bhopal Sultan Shah Jahan, Maharaja of Mysore Chamarajendra Wadiyar X, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Gaekwad of Baroda, and Maharaja of Jaipur Ram Singh II among other dignitaries who attended the durbar. Similarly, the sections for Delhi Durbar 1903 and 1911 show photographs of the invited guests as well as of the grand procession of armed guards on horses and elephants, and the tented camps where the guests were accommodated.
Liddle said the exhibition is about recognising the importance of Delhi in the politics of India. "It is about how Delhi from the end of the Mughal dynasty, 1857, from then onwards how did the British reinterpret or come to appreciate what Delhi stands for in the Indian imagination. Ultimately, it comes right up to 1911 when the decision is made to transfer the capital to Delhi. So it is that whole circle from the end of the Mughals to the beginning of Delhi again as being the capital," Liddle said. The exhibition includes other objects relating to the time period, from medals, souvenirs, postcards, official durbar directories, admittance tickets and books. "History, in India, has been shaped by collective memory, but in recent times the rich repository of archives and their material culture have become useful tools for the dissemination of differing views and perspectives of the past. Revisiting history through material culture adds a fresh layer of understanding of what has passed before," said Ashish Anand, ceo and managing director at DAG.
The six-week long exhibition will come to an end on November 6.
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