Ex­hi­bi­tion Pic­tures for a fu­ture

Domus - - CONTENTS - Text by Aditya Ruia

Paint­ing a story of the free­dom strug­gle

A re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion of painted col­lages made be­tween 1930 to 1960 found in Shekha­vati, Ra­jasthan, il­lus­trates the dis­sem­i­na­tion of the cause of na­tion­build­ing within lo­cal spa­ces and spheres. The painted back­grounds pri­mar­ily fol­low a for­mu­laic pat­tern pre­sent­ing a no­tion of an ideal na­tion

Shekha­vati, an area north of Jaipur, was home to a num­ber of Mar­wari 1 fam­i­lies who were staunch sup­port­ers of In­dia’s free­dom move­ment. In­flu­enced by Vaish­nava 2 phi­los­o­phy, these mer­chants were fol­low­ers of the Chai­tanya or Val­labha Sam­pra­daya 3. Shekha­vati is also the find spot of the col­lages in­cluded in the cur­rent ex­hi­bi­tion.

The col­lages ex­hib­ited in this show per­form the role of broad­sides 4, “top­i­cal broad­sheets and vis­ual im­ages,” 5 that “re­con­fig­ure the na­tional and the lo­cal”, 6 and aspire to ex­press a re­gional un­der­stand­ing of the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate in the coun­try dur­ing the 1940s and 50s. They dis­sem­i­nate the cause of na­tion-build­ing within lo­cal spa­ces and spheres. Cut–Paste, an ex­hi­bi­tion hosted by Chat­ter­jee & Lal and cu­rated by Aditya Ruia in 2013, also fo­cused on col­lages from Shekha­vati and the neigh­bour­ing ar­eas. These works were made in the 1920s and their sub­ject mat­ter cen­tred on the es­capades of Kr­ishna and clas­si­cal lit­er­a­ture, such as Nala and Damyanti by Kal­i­dasa, (a 5th-cen­tury text and part of the Ma­hab­harata).

The anony­mous artists who put to­gether these ma­nip­u­la­tions were de­cid­edly people with deep in­sights and thoughts into po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and cul­tural pro­cesses and who used their artis­tic agency to cre­ate lo­cal aware­ness and, through it, a ‘so­cial life’ for their in­ter­pre­ta­tions.

It is likely that these col­lages were put to­gether lo­cally in Shekha­vati, us­ing back­grounds painted in Nathd­wara by women artists7, or in ur­ban ar­eas where the own­ers of havelis (tra­di­tional man­sions in South Asia) lived. The prints seem to have come from di­verse sources such as Delhi, Bom­bay (now Mum­bai) and Cal­cutta (now Kolkata). One of the col­lages has the name of a Delhi framer with an over­print of Nathd­wara; an­other, fea­tur­ing Ganga Singh, has a la­bel of a fram­ing com­pany, Harnaryan and Sons from Jodh­pur. What is cer­tain is that they have been found in havelis of the Shekha­vati re­gion and it seems that the framers were be­ing used as mar­ket­ing or fram­ing agen­cies.

Ramesh Sharma of Khu­bi­ram and Sons, a lead­ing firm in Nathd­wara con­firmed, dur­ing per­sonal in­ter­views, that utopic im­ages used in the col­lages in this show were painted in large quan­ti­ties and used for “dec­o­ra­tion pur­poses” 8 by rich devo­tees who vis­ited Nathd­wara for pil­grim­age.

The topos of the col­lages fol­low two broad themes, ur­ban or ru­ral set­tings, and are very sim­i­lar in con­tent. They fol­low a for­mu­laic pat­tern, with a no­tion of the ide­alised, and sig­nify that which is de­sir­able. This al­lows for a read­ing that sym­bol­ises the ideal, the much as­pired Ram­ra­jya, and the prom­ise of an ideal na­tion.

By the mid-1940s, post World War II, it was ev­i­dent that the Bri­tish Em­pire could not con­tinue to hold its colonies and dis­mem­ber­ment was im­mi­nent, though the jour­ney and process had been long and ar­du­ous. These col­lages map the cusp, be­tween the fi­nal years be­fore In­de­pen­dence and the first few years af­ter In­de­pen­dence. Art his­to­ri­ans are able to make in­ter­est­ing read­ings of these broad­sides: metaphors such as Bharat Mata (both an­thro­po­mor­phi­cally and through land­scape); Kr­ishna; Rama; de­lin­eation of spa­ces and level; and the use of light and dark­ness to de­note time frames and events. These il­lus­trate the in­ten­sity of the fi­nal mo­ments to in­de­pen­dence and the ex­per­i­ments of a young na­tion, achieved through a long and me­di­ated process in­volv­ing nu­mer­ous groups, lead­ers, shift­ing al­liances and machi­na­tions. The con­struct that is ‘In­dia’ has a deep-rooted his­tory built by gen­er­a­tions and mil­len­nia.

The In­dian Na­tional Congress, es­tab­lished in 1885 in Bom­bay, was founded to lobby for greater eco­nomic reforms and a larger role in the mak­ing of Bri­tish pol­icy for In­dia rather than seek­ing In­de­pen­dence. In an at­tempt to bring about na­tional aware­ness, Ti­lak in­tro­duced the Gana­p­ati fes­ti­val as the na­tional fes­ti­val of the Maratha na­tion in 1895. He also started pro­mot­ing the idea of self-rule through the metaphor of ‘Ram Ra­jya’ (the ideal rule of Rama as ex­pounded in the Ra­mayana). Dhu­rand­har fa­mously painted Ram­ra­jya ab­hishekh around the 1900s; this im­age found mass cir­cu­la­tion in the form of lith­o­graphs from the Ravi Varma Press at Lon­avala. Ram­ra­jya be­came syn­ony­mous to ideal king­ship and re­mained so in the pop­u­lar con­scious­ness of the sub­con­ti­nent. The ide­alised back­grounds in the show are mark­ers of the ideal na­tion and lead­ers pro­vid­ing ideal gover­nance.

Con­cept of Bharat­mata

Bharata was the son of Nala and Da­mayanti and the first Chakravartin9 af­ter whom the land of the Ma­hab­harata has been named as Bharatavar­sha (In­dia). He was the founder of the Bharata dy­nasty and ruled Bharatavar­sha in an­tiq­uity. “The Con­sti­tu­tion of In­dia (1950) iden­ti­fies In­dia as ‘Bharata’ thereby dis­clos­ing a San­skritic, Aryan and Hindu moor­ing of this demo­cratic repub­lic.” 10 The Per­sian

vari­ant to the word ‘In­dus’ is ‘Hindu’ and the land be­yond the In­dus came to be known as Hin­dus­tan. In­dia it­self is in­spired from the Latin word ‘In­dus’ for ‘Sindhu’, its San­skritic form. The Arabs knew this land as Al Hind.

The geog­ra­phy of In­dia has wit­nessed ever-chang­ing bound­aries. Per­haps the clos­est to the Bharata we know to­day is the re­ligo-po­lit­i­cal bound­ary set by Adi Shankaray­charya when he es­tab­lished the four dhams of Badri­nath in the north, Puri in the east, Ramesh­waram in the south and Dwaraka in the west. This con­cept of Bharata dates to the 9th cen­tury C.E, be­fore the ad­vent of Is­lam into In­dia and af­ter the de­cline of Bud­dhism.

Bharat­mata, as we un­der­stand her in these col­lages, is fun­da­men­tally a novel, even un­ortho­dox, god­dess; though she is mod­elled on other god­desses of an­tiq­uity known to the Hindu mind. Her iconog­ra­phy bor­rows heav­ily from the re­quire­ments of hindu scrip­tural in­junc­tions, al­beit with re­gional flavours. Her ‘carto–sacral’ 11 body was cre­ated to be adored by her na­tion­al­ist devo­tees.

In or­der to shape her iconog­ra­phy, artists in­ter­preted writ­ings by var­i­ous na­tional lead­ers such as Tagore, Subra­ma­nia Bharati and oth­ers. The re­sult­ing im­ages bor­rowed from the im­memo­rial past rooted her in the present. Car­to­graph­i­cally she has been rep­re­sented as hav­ing her head and hair in the Hi­malayas, the East and West form­ing her arms, and the South form­ing her feet.

Cur­zon’s Par­ti­tion of Ben­gal in 1905, along re­li­gious lines, was a trig­ger to the In­dian Na­tional Congress’s Swadeshi move­ment. Mil­i­tancy in Ben­gal and other parts of the sub-con­ti­nent forced the colo­nial gov­ern­ment to re­scind its de­ci­sion and re­unite Ben­gal un­der Hardinge in 1911.

For the first time, Abanin­dranath Tagore de­picted and pre­sented Ben­gal as Banga Mata in his much pub­lished paint­ing. This icon de­picted a saintly woman in a Ben­gali style sa­ree hold­ing in her hands a sheet of cloth, a sheaf of rice, man­u­script pages and a rosary, sig­ni­fy­ing in­dus­try, agri­cul­ture, learn­ing and re­li­gious be­lief. (Sik­sha-Dik­sha-Anna–Bas­tra). Ben­gal al­ready had a tra­di­tion of Durga Puja, (the ven­er­a­tion of the god­dess Durga as the supreme mother) and por­tray­ing the moth­er­land as a divine mother caught the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion very quickly. Later this icon was to give rise to the idea of ‘Bharat Mata’ and her many avatars (man­i­fes­ta­tions). The con­cept of a moth­er­land had easy ac­cess to the na­tional con­scious­ness, of a people aware of mul­ti­ple god­desses.

In 1936, a tem­ple ded­i­cated to Bharat­mata was con­se­crated in Varanasi, the most sa­cred city of the Hin­dus, and her ‘re­li­gio–sacral, geo–body’ is the icon ven­er­ated in the tem­ple. By the 1940’s her re­li­gio – sacral body and her geo – body had be­come in­ter­change­able; her pre­dom­i­nant iden­tity be­ing of a com­pas­sion­ate and nur­tur­ing mother. How­ever, some hard­lin­ers rep­re­sented her as multi-handed, armed with var­i­ous war­like at­tributes.

In the avatar rep­re­sented in these col­lages, she ap­pears in the ‘shantab­hava’ (be­nign mood) be­ing ap­proached by her ‘Vaish­nava’ sons, rep­re­sent­ing a “Vaish­nava na­tion­al­ism” . In them, her body is vi­su­al­ized as bear­ing snow capped moun­tains, gush­ing streams, wa­ter­falls, dams, ver­dant grass­lands and lakes, “an aes­thetic char­ac­ter­ized as pa­tri­otic pas­trol.”

A mother so an­cient, yet of such re­cent ori­gin, needs a hymn, too; one that speaks of her an­cient and re­cent char­ac­ter­is­tics,

and Bankim Chan­dra Chat­terji com­posed just such a hymn around 1875 ti­tled ‘Vande Mataram.’ (I wor­ship the Mother). Rabindranath Tagore trans­formed it into a song in 1894 and sang it for the first time at the open­ing ses­sion of the In­dian Na­tional Congress in Cal­cutta, in 1896. Since then, the party’s na­tional con­claves and ses­sions be­gan with the singing of this hymn. In 1906, a flag with ‘Vande Mataram’ in its cen­tral band was also pro­posed. It has all the char­ac­ter­is­tics of an an­cient hymn. In 1950, it was for­mally in­stalled as the Na­tional song, though her “war­rior – as­cetic” sons had adopted it as a bat­tle cry. For the first time, the colo­nial state con­fronted the con­cept of the coun­try be­ing por­trayed as the ‘Moth­er­land’. Ar­rests and puni­tive ac­tion fol­lowed the singing of this hymn. “A ter­ri­to­rial and car­to­graphic act be­gan to be couched in an an­thro­po­mor­phic – sa­cred.” Re­gional trans­la­tions ap­peared soon and it started be­ing sung through­out the coun­try.

An icon had been en­gen­dered: a mother god­dess with a geo body; an an­thro­po­mor­phic sa­cred be­ing, that could be ven­er­ated, con­cep­tu­al­ized, imag­ined, adored and for whom lives could be laid down for. “A na­tion had emerged” .

The Mother and Her Sons

The story of In­dian in­de­pen­dence is one that evolved over a pe­riod of a cen­tury and many sons emerged and sac­ri­ficed them­selves in mul­ti­ple ways to achieve an in­dige­nous polity.

In these broad­sides, the prom­i­nent play­ers are Ma­hatma Gandhi (1869 -1948), Val­lab­hb­hai Pa­tel (1875 – 1950), Jawa­har­lal Nehru (1889 – 1964), and Subas Chan­dra Bose (1897 -1945).

Over four decades (1915 – 1954) they pro­vided other sons of Mother In­dia with a phi­los­o­phy to ven­er­ate and shape her des­tiny. Indis­putably the most revered and fa­mous of her sons was Ma­hatma Gandhi, ac­knowl­edged as ‘Fa­ther of the Na­tion.’

Gandhi, im­ple­mented through the party struc­ture a unique form of ag­i­ta­tion known as ‘Satya­graha’ (satya = truth and agraha = con­vince with­out be­ing ob­sti­nate or un­com­pro­mis­ing) which he coined in 1906 while ag­i­tat­ing against apartheid in South Africa. Gandhi’s phi­los­o­phy of Satya­graha was born of his firm be­lief in Truth, Ahimsa (non – vi­o­lence), Sar­vo­daya (com­mon good), Self Dis­ci­pline and Self Suf­fer­ing, in­flu­enced pri­mar­ily by Hin­duism, Bud­dhism and Chris­tian­ity. Each Satya­grahi (party worker who par­tic­i­pated in the mass move­ments) was ex­pected to fol­low these codes of con­duct.

Be­cause of this unique phi­los­o­phy, Gandhi came in con­flict with Subas Chan­dra Bose, Bha­gat Singh (1907 – 1931), and other hard­lin­ers who were part of the free­dom move­ment and some of them even mem­bers of the Congress Party. In fact, Bose re­signed as Pres­i­dent of the Congress, to which he had been elected in 1939, af­ter the Tripuri congress of the AICC (All In­dia Congress Com­mit­tee). This marked the be­gin­ning of the di­verg­ing paths the two lead­ers were to take in the ser­vice of Bharat Mata.

Be­ing an as­tute thinker and philoso­pher, gain­ing much of his in­spi­ra­tion from The Gita, Gandhi chose his bat­tles well. Through the ‘Con­struc­tive Pro­gram,’ which tar­geted so­cial re­li­gious re­form; self-re­liance on in­dige­nous in­dus­try; health and san­i­ta­tion; adop­tion of a na­tional lan­guage; and in­ter com­mu­nal har­mony, Gandhi reached the

masses, con­vert­ing the ide­ol­ogy of free­dom into a mass move­ment, mo­bi­liz­ing the en­tire coun­try into wor­ship­pers of Bharat Mata. The Charkha (spin­ning wheel) be­came a sym­bol of the move­ment and was even adopted as a sym­bol on the flag of the Congress party in 1931.

The Tripuri meet­ing of the AICC marked the part­ing of ways be­tween the two wings of the Congress with the res­ig­na­tion of Ne­taji. (Subas Chan­dra Bose) who had joined the congress in 1922 and had been an ac­tive worker since. He had re­turned to In­dia in 1921 af­ter study­ing for the ICS (In­dian Civil Ser­vice), with a view to ded­i­cat­ing him­self in the ser­vice of Bharat­mata. By the late 1920’s both Nehru and Bose were con­sid­ered fu­ture lead­ers of the Congress. How­ever, due to ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences, Gandhi had ac­tively cam­paigned against Bose as pres­i­dent af­ter he was elected pres­i­dent at the Tripuri Congress meet in 1939, and the en­tire CWC (congress work­ing Com­mit­tee) re­signed.

Through these col­lages, the artists visu­ally com­mu­ni­cate anx­i­eties in the mak­ing of a na­tion and doc­u­ment cru­cial mo­ments in his­tory. They in­formed con­tem­po­rary nar­ra­tives and have be­come doc­u­ments for suc­ceed­ing gen­er­a­tions il­lus­trat­ing the mo­men­tous changes tak­ing place in the sub con­ti­nent.

This page, top: Ram­ra­jya: the ideal king­ship of Rama; Nathd­wara col­lages; 15 x 23.5 inches; circa 1948-50 This col­lage in­di­cates a metaphor of the new or­der that promised to pro­vide the ideal al­ter­na­tive to colo­nial dom­i­na­tion. The back­ground al­ludes to the pres­i­den­tial palace on Raisina Hill, the con­sti­tu­tional cen­tre of power, now to be oc­cu­pied by a ruler such as Rama, the Maryada­pur­shot­tam (the ideal king). The sym­met­ri­cal han­dling of space, rep­re­sents the hope of per­fect gover­nance, promised by ‘self-rule.’ Elec­tric light fit­tings aspire for an in­dus­trial fu­ture and the pros­per­ity it prom­ises. The cin­e­matic back­ground is homage to mo­tion pic­ture tech­nol­ogy, pop­u­lar since the late 1930s. The full moon is a metaphor for aus­pi­cious­ness and happy tid­ings. Gandhi sang hymns to Rama at his prayer meet­ings, pop­u­larly known as the Ramd­hun. Its re­frain: Raghu­pati Raghav Raja Ram, Patita pa­van Sita- Ram. (O Lord Rama, de­scen­dant of Raghu, Uplifter of the fallen. You and your beloved con­sort Sita are to be wor­shipped.) Above: Dr. Rad­hakr­ish­nan, Pan­dit Nehru and Dr. Ra­jen­dra Prasad; painted col­lage; 11.5 x 18 inches; circa 1950 Bharat (In­dia) was pro­claimed a repub­lic with a con­sti­tu­tion on 26th Jan­uary 1950. Dr. Ra­jen­dra Prasad was elected its first Pres­i­dent in 1950 and served in the of­fice till 1962. Dr. Rad­hakr­ish­nan served as Vice-Pres­i­dent from 1952 un­til 1962 and took over the of­fice of the Pres­i­dent there­after. Here the three lead­ers are seen shar­ing a light mo­ment. An im­age such as this dis­sem­i­nated in­for­ma­tion about the men at the helm and the spirit of ca­ma­raderie be­tween them. In an era where mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion was un­known and ra­dios were a lux­ury, broad­sides such as these be­came im­por­tant tools of com­mu­ni­ca­tion

This page, top: Ma­hatma Gandhi; painted col­lage; 19.5 x 26.5 inches; circa 1960 Clad in khadi, Gandhi stands against a back­ground of pala­tial build­ings that are well-elec­tri­fied, as sug­gested by the garden and path light­ing. It ap­pears that the artist wants to de­pict Gandhi as a spec­ta­tor of the early achieve­ments of the Nehru­vian era This page, right: Ma­hatma Gandhi de­i­fied; painted col­lage; 18 x 12 inches; circa 1950 On 30th Jan­uary 1948, Gandhi was as­sas­si­nated by Nathu­ram Godse, a mem­ber of the Hindu Ma­hasabha, a Right-wing or­gan­i­sa­tion op­posed to Par­ti­tion. At Birla House, New Delhi, Gandhi was pro­ceed­ing to­wards the dais where he was to pre­side over his daily multi-re­li­gious prayer meet­ing. Godse emerged from the crowd and made out as if he was about to touch Gandhi’s feet, but in­stead whipped out a Beretta and shot Gandhi three times in the chest. In an act of de­ifi­ca­tion, the artist shows a blood­ied Gandhi stand­ing up­right in a Christ-like man­ner. Al­though hurt, he wields in one hand his fa­mil­iar staff-like scep­tre of ahimsa (non vi­o­lence), and a copy of the Gita in the other. Flow­ers strewn at feet and the dis­af­fected stance lend an air of de­ifi­ca­tion. The Gita ex­pounds the virtues per­form­ing karma dis­pas­sion­ately, virtues that Gandhi tried to prac­tise all his life

This page, top: Ma­hatma Gandhi, painted col­lage, 20 x 27.5 inches; circa 1948-50 Gandhi, the ‘Fa­ther of the Na­tion’, walks, larger than life. This is an ex­am­ple of de­ifi­ca­tion. The artist forces us to equate Gandhi with the na­tion as if the two were in­ter­change­able. His spec­tre looms as large as the sun in the hori­zon, promis­ing new be­gin­nings. Gandhi’s ‘Con­struc­tive Pro­gramme’ con­cen­trated a great deal on ru­ral In­dia and the idea of a self-suf­fi­cient and eman­ci­pated so­ci­ety that would build on tra­di­tional wis­dom in mod­ern ways. In his life­style, Gandhi was ex­tremely fru­gal, prac­tis­ing natur­opa­thy, fol­low­ing an as­cetic dis­ci­pline. Satya­grahis were ex­pected to fol­low his ex­am­ple and many gave up wear­ing mill-made clothes in favour of khadi (hand-spun cloth). Pop­u­lar Hindu cul­ture has por­trayed him as as­cend­ing to heaven where Gods and God­desses wel­come him in a ce­les­tial ve­hi­cle drawn by swans, as in the cal­en­dar of 1949 This page, left: Pan­dit Nehru, Sub­has Chan­dra Bose and Ma­hatma Gandhi; painted col­lage; 11 x 17.5 inches; circa 1950 In a post-In­de­pen­dence Vaish­nava telling of the story, the artist uses river Vaitarani, the ce­les­tial bound­ary sep­a­rat­ing those that have be­come shahid (mar­tyrs). This di­vides the space be­tween those who have at­tained the distinction of mar­tyr­dom and Nehru, who cur­rently holds the re­spon­si­bil­ity of gover­nance. The im­age of Bose with the Red Fort in the back­ground is from a print ti­tled Subas Bal­i­dan (the mar­tyr­dom of Subas), which shows him pre­sent­ing his head to Bharat­mata and re­call­ing his slo­gan Dilli Chalo (let’s go to Delhi) in a speech that he gave in 1943 in Sin­ga­pore to the INA. For the artist, Nehru is a lega­tee of Subas’s bal­i­dan and Gandhi’s guid­ance. Gandhi, too, has been iconised as the Fa­ther of the Na­tion and, even in his ab­sence, looms larger than life

This page, left: Al­le­gor­i­cal print; 14.5 x 10 inches; cal­en­dar for 1949 In­de­pen­dence, Par­ti­tion, the as­sas­si­na­tion of Gandhi and its fall­out, all had a tremen­dous im­pact on the young na­tion. At this time, pa­tri­otic fer­vour reached its zenith and pop­u­lar me­dia ex­pressed it in mul­ti­ple ways. This cal­en­dar, from 1949, shows Gandhi as­cend­ing into the abode of prophets, much like Rama re­turn­ing to Ay­o­d­hya in a char­iot drawn by fly­ing pea­cocks. Pa­tel and Nehru face the coun­try and the chal­lenge of re­build­ing the Na­tion

This page, cen­tre: Al­le­gor­i­cal print; 14.5 x 10 inches; il­lus­tra­tion by Sud­hir Chowd­hury; cal­en­dar for 1949 Dur­ing the later years of the Sec­ond World War, Bose had risen to the po­si­tion of a na­tional hero, of­ten com­pared to Rana Pratap and Shivaji. Here, Bose takes cen­trestage, dressed in the uni­form of the Field Mar­shall of the In­dian Na­tional Army (INA), while in the vi­gnette above him is Mother In­dia with a map of the un­di­vided coun­try. Flank­ing Bose are the flags of the In­dian Na­tional Congress and the INA, as well as the three com­man­ders of the INA who were tried at the Red Fort. Laxmi Swami­nathan, leader of the Rani Jhansi Brigade, is to his right, and below him, in white, is Rash Be­hari Bose founder of the INA. Bose died in 1945 and his post­hu­mous sta­tus is

What Free­dom Looks Like, re­searched and cu­rated by Aditya Ruia, was on dis­play at Chat­ter­jee & Lal, Mum­bai from 26 July to 18 Au­gust 2018. The text and pho­to­graphs in this fea­ture have been pub­lished with the per­mis­sion of the gallery.

All im­ages courtesy of Aditya Ruia and Chat­ter­jee & Lal.

sug­gested by the clouds that en­gulf him. In the three cal­en­dars meant for mass cir­cu­la­tion, the own­ers of Dharam­pal Prem­c­hand have branded their per­fumes as pa­tri­otic prod­ucts of­fered to like-minded people. The fer­vour of na­tion-build­ing was pal­pa­ble in pop­u­lar con­scious­ness and traders were quick to cap­i­talise

This page, right: Al­le­gor­i­cal print; 14.5 x 10 inches; il­lus­tra­tion by Sud­hir Chowd­hury; cal­en­dar for 1949 Multi-armed and bear­ing the nu­mer­ous flags that rep­re­sent the free­dom move­ment, Mother In­dia hands over the 1947 ver­sion of the In­dian na­tional flag, le­git­imis­ing the Congress Party’s claim to form the gov­ern­ment. Nehru, as its rep­re­sen­ta­tive, takes on re­spon­si­bil­ity of gov­ern­ing the new na­tion. On Lord Mount­bat­ten’s in­vi­ta­tion, the Congress was asked to form the gov­ern­ment and sub­se­quently C. Ra­jagopalachari was des­ig­nated Gover­nor Gen­eral. In­dia still en­joyed Dominion sta­tus un­til it was de­clared a Repub­lic in 1950. Pa­tri­ots who of­fered them­selves for the cause of free­dom are also re­mem­bered by the act of pre­sent­ing their heads to Mother In­dia. It is im­plied that Nehru in­her­its the self­less ser­vice and de­vo­tion of the mar­tyrs Notes: 1 Mar­wari was a generic term ap­plied to any im­mi­grant get­ting of a train orig­i­nat­ing at Mar­war Junc­tion (now Jodh­pur) and dis­em­bark­ing at Cal­cutta, Delhi or Bom­bay. It has now come to des­ig­nate a com­mu­nity be­long­ing to Agar­wal, Ma­hesh­wari and Oswal com­mu­nites. Jam­nalal Ba­jaj was the trea­surer of the Congress and G.D.Birla was a close con­fi­dante of Gandhi. They were both mar­waris. 2 Wor­ship of the God Vishnu pri­mar­ily through the path of de­vo­tion (bhakti). 3Both these were bhakti cults es­tab­lished in the late 14th cen­tury by Chai­tanya and Val­lab­hacharya and et­y­mo­log­i­cally in­formed by the tenth chap­ter of the Bhag­wad Pu­rana. 4Mer­riam-Web­ster def­i­ni­tion. 5Pho­tos of the Gods: The Printed Im­age and Po­lit­i­cal Strug­gle in In­dia. Christo­pher Pin­ney, Ox­ford Univer­sity Press, New Delhi, 2004. p 109 6In­dian Pop­u­lar Cul­ture: The Con­quest of the World as Pic­ture, Apee­jay Press, Kolkata, 2004, p.101 7The Artists of Nathd­wara: The Prac­tice of Paint­ing in Ra­jasthan, Tryna Lyons, Mapin Pub­lish­ing Pvt Ltd, 2004, pp 226-246 8Per­sonal in­ter­view July 2014 9 Is a San­skrit term to de­scribe an ideal univer­sal ruler. 10The God­dess and the Na­tion: Map­ping Mother In­dia, Su­mathi Ra­maswamy, Zubaan, New Delhi, 2011. No 1 of notes p.300 11 I bor­row this term from The God­dess and the Na­tion: Map­ping Mother In­dia, Su­mathi Ra­maswamy, Zubaan, New Delhi, 2011. 12 Bharat Mata: In­dia’s Free­dom Move­ment in Pop­u­lar Art, Er­win Neu­mayer and Chris­tine Schel­berger, Ox­ford Univer­sity Press, New Delhi, 2008, p 38 13 The God­dess and the Na­tion: Map­ping Mother In­dia, Su­mathi Ra­maswamy, Zubaan, New Delhi, 2011.p15 14 In­di­ans, in­clud­ing Mus­lims, Chris­tians and Par­sis and Jews, were fa­mil­iar with the idea of mul­ti­ple god­desses in Hin­duism. 15 In­dian Pop­u­lar Cul­ture: The Con­quest of the World as Pic­ture, Apee­jay Press, Kolkata, 2004 p 94 16 The God­dess and the Na­tion: Map­ping Mother In­dia, Su­mathi Ra­maswamy, Zubaan, New Delhi, 2011, p67 17 ibid 18 ibid.p 118 19 ibid. p120 20 Gandhi’s Po­lit­i­cal Phi­los­o­phy: A crit­i­cal Ex­am­i­na­tion, South Bend, Univer­sity of Notre Dame Press,1989, p 143 21 Subas Chan­dra Bose and The Tripuri Congress cri­sis – 1939, Arvind Sharma, J – Stor, pp 498 -506 22 By 1939, the In­dian Na­tional Congress was clearly di­vided be­tween a Right-wing headed by Gandhi that ad­vo­cated a mod­er­ate line and the Left-wing with fol­low­ers of Bose that ad­vo­cated hard­line meth­ods to achieve free­dom. 23 Gandhi de­scribed the Gita as his mother. 24 Mod­ern In­dia, Tripuri Cri­sis, Su­mit Sarkar, pp 372 -373; on­line ver­sion 25 He earned this ep­i­thet when was cho­sen as the com­man­der of the In­dian Na­tional Army .

Above: Bapu ke charno mein (At the feet of Gandhi); chro­molitho­graph pub­lished by Ramo Lal Gupta, Chandni Chowk, Delhi; 19.25 x 13.5 inches; circa 1950 Par­lia­ment House dis­played in the back­ground of this work sig­ni­fies the cre­ation of the sec­u­lar repub­lic of In­dia, while the de­i­fied pres­ence of the Fa­ther of the Na­tion is felt through his statue and flo­ral of­fer­ings. By draw­ing the map of In­dia on the pedestal of the statue, the artist at­tempts to sug­gest that ‘Bapu’ and ‘In­dia’ are syn­ony­mous

Above: Swa­roop Rani, Pan­dit Nehru and Ka­mala Nehru; painted col­lage; 20 x 26.5 inches; circa 1940 The ideal fam­ily val­ues are sig­ni­fied in this ‘re­turn to home’ im­age. Nehru was in and out of prison and this took a toll on the health of Ka­mala Nehru, who died in Switzer­land in 1936. His mother, Swa­roop Rani, passed away in 1938. Here, Nehru, dressed in a sim­ple dhoti (lower gar­ment), kurta (up­per gar­ment) and khadi jacket epit­o­mises the Gand­hian phi­los­o­phy of sim­plic­ity, while the op­u­lent back­ground into which Nehru was born, sig­ni­fies all that he gave up for the sake of his ide­ol­ogy: free­dom. At an­other level, the artist calls to at­ten­tion fam­ily val­ues that were so im­por­tant in the cul­tural ethos of the coun­try

Op­po­site page: Patit Pawan (Gandhi); chro­molitho­graph pub­lished by Chonker Art Stu­dio, Sand­hurst Road, Bom­bay; 19.25 x 13.5 inches; circa 1948-49 In this highly com­plex work, the artist Chonker imag­ines In­dia be­ing blessed by Gandhi along with Rama and Sita, while Mother In­dia pays homage. Here, em­ploy­ing Right-wing Hindu ide­ol­ogy, In­dia is imag­ined as a Hindu na­tion with Hindu sym­bols like the pur­naghata (wa­ter ves­sel with co­conut on it) whilst the sun rises on the hori­zon. The prac­tice of dec­o­rat­ing the pic­ture with glit­ter draws at­ten­tion to it, en­hanc­ing its in­dex­i­cal lo­cus Above: Af­ter the Tripuri AICC ses­sion; painted col­lage; 20 x 26.5 inches; circa 1939-40 The 1939 Tripuri Congress ses­sion of the AICC (All In­dia Congress Com­mit­tee) was the point where the Left-wing and the Right-wing parted ways. Bose be­came frus­trated by Gandhi’s pas­sive ac­tivism and left for Ger­many via Afghanistan while the rest of the Congress con­tin­ued in Gandhi’s path. On the far left is Pat­tabhi Si­tara­mayya, Gandhi’s can­di­date for Pres­i­dent of the Congress Party, while in the mid­dle stands Bose, the vic­tor of the elec­tion, with a Congress flag. Gandhi and Nehru are seated whilst Kr­ishna is hand­ing over an­other ver­sion of the party’s flag. The artist has used the flags and spa­ces to show di­ver­gent ide­ol­ogy and paths. The goal of free­dom has been promi­nently dis­played against a dark sky of un­cer­tainty. The words ‘Vande Mataram’ are dis­played on the build­ing car­ry­ing yet an­other ver­sion of the In­dian Congress flag, this time from 1931. Sub­tly in­tro­duc­ing hi­er­ar­chies, the im­age por­trays the ul­ti­mate vic­tor in the fore­ground. Bose ex­plores new routes, tak­ing the mid­dle ground with two paths (two choices). Pat­tabhi Si­tara­mayya, the per­son who lost the elec­tions, is rel­e­gated into the dis­tance

This page, above: Bharat Mata hands the Tri­colour to Nehru; painted col­lage; 14 x 22.5 inches; circa 1947-50 This pas­toral, in­clu­sive of bridge and newly paved road, is an ac­knowl­edge­ment of Nehru’s idea of In­dia: in­dus­tri­alised with in­fra­struc­ture and lo­cal in­dus­try. He felt that In­dia should achieve eco­nomic self-re­liance. The In­dian Na­tional flag was hur­riedly de­cided upon in July 1947. It went through many vari­a­tions, one of them be­ing the Tri­colour(tiranga) with the Charkha (spin­ning wheel) at its cen­tre. This de­sign was adopted by the Congress Party in 1931 and came to be known as the Swaraj flag. The flag adopted in 1947 has the Dhamma Chakra of Ashoka, the Mau­ryan Em­peror at its cen­tre, with twenty-four spokes rep­re­sent­ing the eter­nal wheel of law. Post-In­de­pen­dence, Gandhi was of the opin­ion that the Congress Party had achieved its goals and should be dis­banded. In a vis­ual telling of the shift­ing power and re­spon­si­bil­ity of state af­fairs, the artist suc­cinctly de­picts the exit of Gandhi from ac­tive pol­i­tics to a role of Ma­hatma (saint, as­cetic) who, un­til his as­sas­si­na­tion in 1948, con­tin­ued to play the role of an el­der states­man and peace maker be­tween frac­tious com­mu­ni­ties in the coun­try Op­po­site page, top: Ma­hatma Gandhi and Sub­has Chan­dra Bose by Sud­hir Chowd­hury; print; 9.5 x 7.25 inches; pub­lished at Art Te­kno, Cal­cutta; circa 1948-50 Through the act of re­com­pos­ing the print on a mount board, the framer has in­creased the im­pact of an al­ready emo­tion­ally charged and lay­ered print by artist Sud­hir Chowd­hury (pub­lished by Art Te­kno, Cal­cutta). Sym­bol­is­ing free­dom, the sun shines on the hori­zon, while Khudi­ram Bose is shown at the gal­lows. The Ashokan Cap­i­tal is gar­landed and revered over which the na­tional flag flies high. The ‘geo–sacral body’ of the na­tion ac­cepts the of­fer­ings of the heads of mar­tyrs Bha­gat Singh, Surya Sen, Kanailal Dutt Devrata and Ramesh­war Op­po­site page, bot­tom: Gandhi in a pen­sive mood; painted col­lage; 11.75 x 18.75 inches; circa 1946-47 Gandhi on an is­land con­tem­pla­tive, pen­sive and iso­lated. A pos­si­ble read­ing of this col­lage could sig­nify the call for Par­ti­tion which left Gandhi dis­traught. He tempted Jin­nah with the pos­si­bil­ity of be­com­ing Prime Min­is­ter, if he agreed not to side with those push­ing for Par­ti­tion. The artist seems to un­der­stand Gandhi’s mind­set at this dif­fi­cult mo­ment

Op­po­site page, top: Ma­hatma Gandhi and Madan Mo­han Malaviya re­ceiv­ing the Congress flag from Mother In­dia; painted col­lage; 10.5 x 15 inches; circa 1930 Madan Mo­han Malaviya was one of the ear­li­est free­dom fighters. He was elected Pres­i­dent of the Congress four times, in 1909, 1918, 1932, and then in 1933. The artist de­picts a mo­ment where he re­ceives the re­spon­si­bil­ity of run­ning the Congress along with Gandhi. Mother In­dia is de­picted in an early style tak­ing a cue from the paint­ings of Banga Mata by Nand­lal Bose. The back­ground is of an ear­lier time, de­riv­ing from the styles of Master Kun­dan­lal and Ghasiram, both in­no­va­tors in the Nathd­wara tra­di­tion This page, above: Ma­hatma Gandhi and Kr­ishna; circa 1940 Much as Kr­ishna coun­selled Ar­juna be­fore the bat­tle of the Ma­hab­harata, the artist here poignantly de­picts Kr­ishna as Gandhi’s coun­sel­lor in a clear vaish­nava ren­der­ing. Gandhi sits like an as­cetic. Gandhi of­ten re­turned to the Gita in mo­ments of in­tense duress, seek­ing guid­ance and so­lace dur­ing dif­fi­cult mo­ments. The ris­ing sun is a metaphor of im­mi­nent In­de­pen­dence

Left: Ma­ha­rana Pratap; painted col­lage; 12 x 18 inches; circa 1950 A pop­u­lar hero in Ra­jasthan, Pratap re­sisted the advances of the armies of Ak­bar in the 16th cen­tury. Bards all over Ra­jputana, sang of his hero­ism. Na­tion­al­ists used these im­ages to in­flu­ence pub­lic opin­ion and cir­cum­vent cen­sor­ship against the colo­nial regime, gal­vanis­ing pub­lic sen­ti­ment. In the pe­riod postIn­de­pen­dence, im­ages of his­tor­i­cal heroes were used to cre­ate a na­tional con­scious­ness, float­ing ideas of na­tion-build­ing. [Christo­pher] Pin­ney speaks of a “re­gion­ally spe­cific con­cern” that ex­isted in the Ra­jasthani mind with re­gard to their heroes. In­dia emerged with an eco­nomic deficit af­ter the Bri­tish left and pub­lic fig­ures from all walks of life worked to­wards self-suf­fi­ciency in food and tech­nol­ogy. The idea of serv­ing the fer­tile ‘geo–body’ of Mother In­dia was the mantra of the newly in­de­pen­dent coun­try

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