Diamonds for dictionaries
Recently, we went to see the fantastic exhibition on “Maharajas” at the Victoria and Albert museum. The exhibition is split in to three sections. First section has paintings, jewelry, jeweled armor, rich trappings for horse and elephant on a regal parade. Things were made of precious stones, gold and silver. Even the royal wine flask was made of pure jade, inlaid with precious stones. There were fantastic paintings showing how Rajput ladies hunted with rifles and played energetic polo games with their men-folk !
Yet, for all
this extravagance, it was all held in abeyance to the whim and pleasure of the
Great Mogul ! The emperor in
The next room
dealt with the rising power of the East India Company and culmination of this in
the Imperial Darbars of the British Raj. As the time of the Moguls came to
an end, the Indian princes and kings shifted their dependence and loyalties to
the "Company". Having won the war with Napoleon in
Indian kings could have declared their "independence" at this point, but instead, they preferred to have someone lord it over them ! They asked the British to keep peace between each other, guarantee their borders and provide security to their ancestral states !! They invited a third party to mediate in their internal quarrels and gave up their own independence to hear someone else pronounce “justice” for them.
British used this opportunity to expand their influence and later their territories. Any prince or king who did not follow their “treaty” to the letter was heavily punished with fines and even confiscation of their lands. Kings could no longer marry or adopt sons without British consent ! Traders became the political agents mediating between princes and later became the de facto rulers of the land !
In 1857, there was an opportunity to get rid of both the Moguls and the British, but, the sepoys went to the Mogul emperor and most of the royal princes helped the British. Result was the abolishment of the house of Timur and ending of the Company rule. An aging emperor was dethroned and a new Empress was created ! Indian princes were now to be ruled by the British Raj ! In 1877, at a glittering assembly of Indian royals, a foreign queen became the “Empress of India”. Celebrated in a room size painting, the scene was poignant with irony as proud men sat on gilded thrones, accepting a woman as their liege-lord when their own women still lived in strict purdah ! Subsequent Durbars were even more impressive. In 1911, the reigning Emperor came in person to accept the pledges of his loyal royals. Proud princes bore the train of the royal mantel as their fathers bowed and walked backwards to honour the King Emperor !!
were fantastic costumes, jewels, letter written in gold ink by the Rani of
Jhasi, video footage of the great Darbar of 1911 and more paintings. This
room houses some fantastic gifts send to the British royalty as tribute by
“native prices and chieftains of
to the taxes and fines paid to the British government, silver thrones, palanquin
encased in carved ivory, jeweled sword with a scabbard covered with 719 large
diamonds were gifted to the British Kings by the kings of
style of the royals was evident from the objects on display in this room.
Kings no longer dined in gold and silver. They no longer drank from jade
cups. Instead, they used expensive glass marketed as “Belgian crystal” !
Palaces were now of the new Western styles. A 15 foot photo showed the
different styles of palaces in
The last room
showcased the elegant
It all came to a naught though.
not learned from their history. Their bards recited the long list of royal
heritage going back for 100 generations, but no one was listening to the lessons
of this millennium long history. Princes forgot that you have to "rule" to
be "royal". Gallivanting in
At independence of
To declare independence of their own or to give up everything they stood for, so that
In less than
24 years after having voluntarily signed over their lands to the new Republic,
princes and kings of
Yet, no one
No one rose up to challenge the breach of faith.
There were no more loyal subjects to fight for the royals !!
poverty in the face,
Palaces, once the preserve of the privileged few, can now be rented by the day ! Indeed, how the mighty have fallen !!
http://www.youtube.com/user/bhagwatshah?feature=mhum - video of the exhibition and some of its best objects.
Maps of India and its empires through the ages
Maps of India and its empires through the ages
forget their history, are doomed to repeat it.”
Various versions of this saying come from George Santayana and Edmund Burke
© Bhagwat Bhagwat_s@Yahoo.com
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