Exhibition Pictures for a future
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