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Essay On Indian Bazaars


What are the ties that bind the Patna historian Ghulam Husain writing of the waning years of the Mughal Empire and the beginnings of colonial rule in northeastern India, the early-nineteenth-century traveler Veeraswamy circumambulating the subcontinent in the time-honored manner of a Hindu pilgrim, and peasants and traders protesting and acting collectively in the marketplaces during Gandhi's Noncooperation Movement of 1921 -22?

These historical actors shared common ground at the most fundamental level: they all performed on the stage of Gangetic Bihar, the setting of this study. And although they lived at different historical moments, their lives and activities were played out against the backdrop of the colonial era. As conventionally marked off by historians, this discrete period ranged from the end of the Indo-Islamic order, whose "ruin" was chronicled by the Patna historian, to the beginning of the postcolonial states of India and Pakistan (and later, Bangladesh), whose identities are typically defined by another kind of chronological and political partition.

Each of these actors, furthermore, belongs to a "usable past," a recoverable past. They live on, that is, in textual materials that can be (re)read, (re)constructed, and (re)constituted into a present-day historical narrative. By disciplinary socialization I am naturally drawn to them because they have a textual currency that I find invaluable: the


first two authored informative texts and the third set are actors in a significant political drama whose words and actions were extensively documented in a variety of colonial and nationalist records and local newspapers. Not the usual folks who write histories and pilgrimage accounts, these last protagonists from the early 1920s have to be deciphered from their deeds and brief utterances. Their actions must be textualized as documentary grist for the historical mill.

Ghulam Husain evokes the milieu of the late eighteenth century, considered an age of revolution by his generation of aristocrats living in the transitional years between the demise of the Mughal Empire and the successor state of the Bengal nawabs and the rise of the Company Raj. In this aristocratic representation, articulated by many voices and texts of the era, the tumultuous events leading up to the emergence of the colonial state were said to have ushered in "ruin" and "discontent." This image of a "ruined city" was echoed by an insistent refrain lamenting the revolution for having caused upheaval in the lives of the aristocracy, those local bureaucrats, landholders, merchants, and bankers who had commanded positions of power, prestige, and wealth in local society. Insights and obvious blinders notwithstanding, Ghulam Husain's account of his "modern times" is compelling, and it has long been a valuable primer for historians of the eighteenth-century because it is a detailed portrait of an era sketched by a contemporary, eyewitness to and participant in the events recounted. Enugula Veeraswamy's "Kasiyatra Charitra" has similar cachet as a historical document because it offers an emic perspective of the momentous phenomenon of pilgrimage and recounts firsthand experience of the regnant political, economic, and social conditions of the early nineteenth century.

Each of these accounts is rich-and each can stand on its own as a story of these or those people, places, and things. Whether the focus is on the age of revolution or on the experiences of a committed pilgrim from south India or on peasants and local elites marching on marketplaces in the name of different causes, each can be reconstituted into a single narrative about a particular slice of history.

Space and time provide the parameters for textualizing these lived experiences (and the stories relating to them) into a narrative history that addresses a variety of historiographical issues and concerns. There are also elements that bear no obvious correspondence to one another; without some ingenious stretching and pulling, these experiences-or, more accurately, these accounts of activities, and other people's accounts of their doings-cannot be made to fit commodiously with one another.


And why single out these particular people and their stories and not other folks and other narratives? That is where the historian adds the guild's trademark: fabricating (and, yes, to a large extent also imposing on) these accounts a particular story, in my case one about BazaarIndia . In privileging these texts, I sought to stitch together a historical fabric displaying multiple motifs, a fabric of intertextuality that is the end product of a historian's spinning and weaving of different narrative strands into a particular kind of historical cloth.

The overarching motif of the narrative presented here is the bazaar itself. The story of Ghulam Husain and his generation of late-eighteenth-century city elites ties in with this theme because experiences and words of those individuals address the central place of the region, the city of Patna, which this historian views as one in decline. This subjective impression can be corroborated by other personal observations, notably by the poetic outbursts fixated on "a ruined city" or the "city of discontent" penned by his contemporaries. These anxieties emanated from the sense of personal loss experienced by an aristocratic generation, members of the city's Indo-Islamic elite, or by the clients of this aristocracy.

Not all the families that constituted this elite shared in this fate, however. Nor did the city fade from the regional limelight. Indeed, to read the history of Azimabad as a lived text and from a longueduree perspective, that is, as a history without "chasms," is to discover that the city experienced many ups and downs over its long past, beginning with its origins as Pataliputra and continuing with its subsequent rebirths as Patna and Azimabad. Moreover, although the upheaval in its "modern times" altered the lives of a generation of aristocrats, the effect was not so dramatic on the career of the city as the central place of the region. On the contrary, a much more seismic upheaval in the life of the city as a whole occurred later in the late nineteenth century, when railways increasingly enabled traders to bypass Patna. The rise of Calcutta, too, eventually peripheralized the entire region. Until then, however, it remained a vibrant trade emporium, handling much of the "through" traffic of goods between Bengal and the North-Western Provinces. As long as the waterways were the most efficient means of transportation, Patna, by virtue of its strategic location on the Ganges, remained a collection and distribution point for its hinterland rich in such commodities as opium and saltpeter and in a variety of handicraft industries. Another reason for the region's slump was deindustrialization, which led to the decline of local artisanal industries as foreign


machine-made goods increasingly captured the market in the late nineteenth century. Data drawn from the colonial documentation project on economic and demographic conditions confirm this account of decline. But then this downward spiral was arrested by the city's designation as the provincial capital of Bihar and Orissa in 1912 (and later of the separate province of Bihar in 1937). Thus was Patna saved from its certain future as just another town.

The story of the "city of discontent" can also be read from its built environment. To the late-eighteenth-century generation living amid a remembered and quotidian landscape largely shaped by the prerevolution "reigns," the signs of "ruin" were everywhere as Azimabad became "a garden of thorns." The sense of "ruin" and "discontent" must have been further heightened by the "different color" it assumed-with age, with the diminishing position and therefore patronage of "opulent" men in the locality, and with its general neglect by the new rulers. This scene was particularly striking in contrast to the rise of the new Patna in the Bankipur of British creation and in its subsequent spread to the west to accommodate its designation as the provincial capital. Although an outgrowth of the "aversion" between colonial rulers and Indian subjects, the British Bankipur and the westernmost zone that became the seat of the provincial capital-as well as the persistence of the old "city"-again registers a different history than that recounted by the "city of discontent" version.

Veeraswamy's experiences of half a century later verify the fact that Ghulam Husain painted an unduly bleak economic and political picture for Patna. The observations of this pilgrim from the south as he journeyed in and around the city in 1830 -31 convey abundant signs of economic and political life. For interspersed among his many remarks regarding pilgrim sites and the different kinds of people associated with pilgrimage (e.g., touts promoting Gaya, who dogged his steps long before he reached north India) are revealing statements about agricultural conditions that stem from the traveler's concern with provisioning his substantial entourage. His route traversed the country and routinely brought him to markets where daily needs were readily met. He invariably encountered traders and shopkeepers well equipped to service pilgrims, a reflection of both the institutionalized nature of pilgrimage and the networks of trade developed to cater to the growing numbers of people "on the road" in the nineteenth century. Along the Ganges near Patna, for instance, Veeraswamy found supplies plentiful. His comments on the abundance of grain and oilseed cultivation in the area


highlight precisely the two leading items of trade in the region.[1] And the easy access to goods of all kinds (which, although, often wanting in comparison with the quality familiar at home) anticipated the developments of the later nineteenth century-extensive trade and marketing systems across regions and the widespread dissemination of goods across the country.

The bazaar motif is also visible in the actions of Muzaffarpur, Champaran, and Saran villagers who, some ninety years after Veeraswamy's journey, erupted on to the scene of rural markets in the name of Gandhi. No doubt, they were part of the crowds mobilized by the cause of the Noncooperation Movement. But their targeting of markets is also indicative of the degree to which twentieth-century lives everywhere were increasingly intertwined with the marketing system (as they had increasingly become over the colonial period). Markets defined the spatial and social organization of rural society and shaped the very conditions of economic livelihood and existence. The occurrence of these events in outlying markets is significant as well: it highlights the changing balance between center and periphery. Whereas Patna had once commanded the entire region as its central place, it had by the twentieth century lost some of its sway over the hinterland.

The juxtaposition of the three episodes illustrates another marketing principle as well. Ghulam Husain's Patna was the central place of the region. The towns and marketing settlements Veeraswamy visited (which also directed him to the premier cities of Patna and Gaya) were the second-order intermediate (qasbas) and third-order standard markets. Haats , or periodic markets, the lowest level of the marketing hierarchy, and to a lesser extent the standard and intermediate markets, were the primary settings for the dramatic events of Noncooperation in north Bihar in 1921-22. To travel this circuit, from the city of Patna in the late eighteenth century to the haats of the early twentieth century, further emphasizes the shift in marketing's center of gravity, as well as in political dynamics: from the city that Ghulam Husain and his elite generation presided over to the rural marketplaces (and melas) that landholders controlled after the revolution and that Noncooperation turned into hotbeds of political action.

The stories featured here also speak to the rising marketization of local society. Melas, many of which served as the principal cattle fairs for


the region, multiplied dramatically over the course of the colonial period, as did the numbers of people attending them. So did markets. As the statistical data for the districts of Patna and Saran clearly indicate, the overall number of markets shot up considerably, doubling and tripling over the colonial period. The Patna figures record a leap from 66 to 209 between 1811 and 1911, a tripling over a hundred-year period. That was followed in turn by another surge in the early twentieth century, when the total grew to 393 by 1951. The numbers for Saran begin with 138 in 1793 and increased to 323 in 1921. By the early 1940s the province of Bihar tallied 2,535 periodic markets, or 11 percent of the total number for all of India.[2] This proliferation of periodic markets had the effect of generating a better distribution of markets across the countryside.

Numbers do not relate the full story, though. For the growing marketization of local society is not just a tale of increasing accessibility and opportunities: it is also one of deepening imbrication of the lives of people in a world capitalist system. Related in this fashion, the story of BazaarIndia is about people from all walks of life in Gangetic Bihar making decisions, tilling their fields, consuming foodstuffs and other goods, playing different roles in the agricultural system, and acting as players in the local and regional system of exchange in a setting increasingly defined by economic forces activated by both local and extralocal dynamics.

For traders and merchants, as well as for peasants and the landed elite, this meant that the arena of the market set the stage for both winning and losing: gains for those who could stake out strategic roles in the marketing and trade systems and losses for those who did not have the means to capitalize. Landholders, who weathered the storms of the age of revolution and were recognized as the zamindars and local allies of colonial preference, acquired the "overgrowing power" that Ghulam Husain had ascribed to them well before they became the "great" zamindars of the nineteenth century. This development occurred initially through legal and administrative support and subsequently-if they were fortunate enough to stay afloat in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries-through the favorable conditions created by the rising market in land and agricultural commodities. Among peasants, many upper and middle agricultural castes were able to capitalize on the pos-


sibilities opened up by new avenues for moneylending and trading. They were the "amateurs" who gained the upper hand in village society.

Far greater beneficiaries were the so-called professionals: the Marwaris and Aggarwals, who had already established themselves along pilgrimage and trade circuits in Veeraswamy's time and then further extended their networks by the end of the nineteenth century. Organized into trading networks reinforced by caste, kinship, and territorial ties, this group of traders and merchants positioned itself in major hubs and towns as well as in lower-order marketing settlements in the countryside. From their ranks would rise many of the people in eastern India who constituted the "modern Indian business class."

As recently recounted by one historian, "bazaar firms," building on the foundations they had already established in the indigenous arena of trade and credit, emerged in the wake of World War I and the Great Depression to take over the space formerly monopolized by expatriate firms. This was also the time when multinational corporations entered the Indian business scene. Characterized by a shift in interest in production for the domestic market, this period (the indigenous cotton textile industry had developed earlier, in the late nineteenth century) witnessed the rise of light manufacturing "protected by war, tariff and depression. The production of cotton textiles, sugar, paper, etc., surged ahead within the sheltered domestic market, helped by the relatively simple technology. By the end of the period [up to 1939], Manchester cotton textiles, Java sugar, and foreign paper of all sorts except newsprint, were more or less eliminated by burgeoning manufacturing units owned by Indian businessmen and industrialists."[3]

One notable example of a firm that emerged from the bazaar of Gangetic Bihar to cater to new demands was Messrs. Kallu Babu Lallu Babu. A kothi dating back to the eighteenth century, this banking house established the Indian Electric Works in 1924, which became one of the first Indian firms to produce electric fans. Another firm that made the transition into the interwar years was Messrs. Gurmukh Rai Radhakrishna Jalan. Great patrons of art, this house, while continuing its banking business in the city of Patna and its role as arathiya in Bankipur and Calcutta, branched out into a number of other enterprises: in the city of Patna, the Law Press and a business in paper,


which was also an agency of the Bengal Paper Mill; and in Darbhanga, its interests centered on the Darbhanga Sugar Company. But the biggest success story in the region featured Ramkrishna Dalmia, an "outsider" (he was from the Punjab-Rajasthan area) and a speculator on the Calcutta Stock Exchange, who made his mark in the 1930s by collaborating with a relative who owned land in the Shahabad area of Rohtas. From this emerged Rohtas Sugar Limited and, later on in that decade, Rohtas Industries Limited, which expanded into cement and other enterprises. By 1939 the Dalmia portfolio of interests made it "one of the largest Indian industrial groups."[4]

Read alongside one another in a different framework, the three episodes of this book featuring three sets of actors occupying three distinct time periods interrupted by sizable historical "chasms"-as well as the silences that have been filled in-make up a whole cloth that bears the conspicuous markings of nationalism. To reach the "nation through its narrative address" entails privileging those strands of the three episodes that highlight this theme.[5] Reread in this fashion, Ghulam Husain's ViewofModernTimes serves as a striking illustration of an amateur historian who perceptively recognized that new rulers had assumed the mantle of power and authority. Remarkable also is the tenor of his voice, which bespeaks an uncannily "modern" understanding of the difference between the disciplinary power of the emerging colonial system and the prior indigenous regime. The "English," as he observed, followed different "practices."

Was this a notion of difference that incorporated, however consciously or unconsciously, a sense of larger identity, one that differentiated the "English" from the Patna historian's own people? And was this category of people one that included both his coreligionists and those of the majority Hindu religion? Certainly he was well aware of the ties that bound him to his fellow elite, a sense of kinship defined by class and seemingly of culture and religious community, in that order. Or perhaps the most notable aspect of his account in this regard is its total absence-"reading Indian history in terms of a lack, an absence,


or an incompleteness," Dipesh Chakrabarty might say[6] -of nationalism, whose birth in the subcontinent most historians date to later in the nineteenth century.

The search for the nationalism motif in Veeraswamy's "Kasiyatra Charitra" turns up comparable findings: the presence of a community identity but as yet little that can be construed as the stirrings of nationalism. His ruminations, although not concerned with directly addressing the nation (political historians might add that even the "address" of nationalism was not known at this time), evince a keen and alert sense of larger identity, of a consciousness that encouraged him to reflect on what a Brahmin from the south shared in common with Brahmins from the north specifically and with all Hindus generally. At least on one notable occasion, his notion of "us" was inclusive enough to embrace Muslims, a group he differentiated from Hindus on the grounds of religion but lumped together with Hindus for their shared difference as a community from that of his "English" masters. The very act of crossing regional, linguistic, and cultural boundaries within the rising colonial state apparently alerted him to local difference as well as to extralocal similarities.

Nationalism, according to the standard historiography, emerged in the nineteenth century, with the establishment of the Indian National Congress in 1885 a founding moment. It then matured into a mass movement in the early twentieth century with the rise of the Gandhi. It follows from this account, then, that the call for Hindu-Muslim unity against the "Demoniac and Satanic Government" and the Noncooperation campaign constitute a chapter in the late and mature stage of nationalism, reached after decades of development in the early and intermediate stages. That at least is the way versions celebrating the freedom struggle tell it.

Ironically, to construct a narrative centered on the axes of nation and nationalism as the referents to this or any other historical narrative raises (invariably so in the context of Indian history and historiography) the specter of what is termed communalism . "Communalism and nationalism, as we understand them today," Gyan Pandey writes, "arose together; the age of communalism was concurrent with the age of nationalism; they were part of the same discourse."[7]


To repackage my narrative bundle in this manner requires making much of Ghulam Husain's emphasis on his Muslim identity or of Veeraswamy's underlining of his Hindu-ness in opposition to those he sets up as the Other-the "phirangis" or Europeans-a designation with obvious disparaging and hostile overtones. Yet one must surely keep in perspective that the categories of "Hindu" and "Muslim" had different connotations in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries than they had later on. Two excellent recent studies argue persuasively that religious identities did not emerge in any salient way until the late nineteenth century, which was then followed by a critical phase in the 1920s, when communalism emerged in full flower. Although ostensibly campaigning to popularize nationalism, as the experiences of the people who took up the cause of Noncooperation reveal, the growing mass movement led by Congress increasingly took on communal coloration as well-for words and symbols employed to exert widespread appeal and mobilize the people drew on a popular vocabulary, on the familiar storehouse of popular religion.[8]

Any account of what we historians term "modern" Indian history ultimately revolves around the theme of colonialism. From the late eighteenth century onward, the rising colonial state was very much a presence on the Indian scene. Ghulam Husain insightfully gauged its growing power as early as the 1770s. Indeed, historians typically consider 1818 as the consolidating moment of colonial rule. As Veeraswamy, the "Gentoo and Malabar" interpreter for the Madras Supreme Court of Judicature, wrote in the 1830s, the "good offices" of the "English" were critical not only in securing position and place in society but also in traveling the subcontinent. Veeraswamy's long pilgrimage demarcates the considerable territory in which the new regime had firmly entrenched itself and the extent to which it had consolidated its power and authority.

So multifaceted were the operations of colonial rule and so extensive were its instruments of control that its twentieth-century opponents had to wage Noncooperation on many fronts. People challenged the state politically by relying on the official techniques of public opposition to government: by making use of debate, demonstration, petitioning, print media, and so forth. They also attempted to sever the extensions of government by rupturing and incapacitating its connections


with indigenous society. A favorite tactic was to have government employees (e.g., the police) refuse to work for the state. Lawyers and students, for their part, and people from other walks of life, were encouraged to dissolve their links by refusing to meet their customary assignments and obligations.

Yet another method-and one naturally privileged here-was to seek out the vernacular space of the bazaar, where the state was present in its most tangible form as well as in its most subtle essence, and where its subjects gathered in significant numbers and communicated with one another and with outsiders through the currency of commerce and culture. Thus, in the Noncooperation encounter between indigenous society and state, the local population found its targets within easy reach: police stations and other emblems of a government presence that were lodged in the lower-order markets. These constituted the deepest penetration of the Raj into the countryside. Equally revealing are the attempts to disrupt exchanges with the state by targeting alcohol and imported cloth: the first item had significance both as a social reform and tax issue (government earned tax revenues from it), whereas the second commodity emblematized the economic and political ascendancy of the colonial system. Machine-made cloth from the mills of England had increasingly supplanted indigenous cloth. It symbolized the economic dominion of colonialism and was also a vivid reminder of the encapsulation of the Indian countryside in a world system mediated on the subcontinent through the interrelated forces of colonialism and capitalism. Long, long before deindustrialization became a subject of heated academic debate among South Asian scholars, people (e.g., Bholanauth Chunder around the middle of the nineteenth century) were aware that foreign competition was undermining their artisanal industries, particularly indigenous cloth production.

Noncooperation in the marketplaces of Bihar dramatized another dynamic of colonial rule, namely, its structural and ideological concreteness. Built of brick and mortar, it was reinforced by ideological cement, by a rhetoric of power that generated a hegemonic discourse. In Foucault's words, it constituted a "power relation" possessing the "correlative constitution of a field of knowledge." Ghulam Husain displayed some inkling of its reinforced composition in his seeming recognition of the novel disciplinary gaze that it directed at subjecting subjects. Previous rulers, he noted, had not possessed a "counting. . . and examining"; this was a new kind of "governing project." Torn by his loyalties to the Mughal Empire and the successor state of Bengal on the


one hand and his ties to his new employers, the East India Company, on the other hand, he nevertheless considered his colonial masters "alien to this country." A similar tone can be detected in Veeraswamy, who was even more of a Company man but whose historical milieu more than fifty years later meant that he encountered a colonial system far more deeply entrenched. Nor can one ignore the voices of the people of Patna, who periodically participated in rumors rife with anti-British sentiments and who earned for the city its reputation as "a very sink of disaffection and intrigue." They posed a direct challenge to the hegemonic colonial discourse.

Equally strident and insistent were the voices issuing from the countryside in the early twentieth century. What better place to tune into these voices than the bazaar, that "hybrid place" where there exists a "commingling of categories usually kept separate and opposed: centre and periphery, inside and outside, stranger and local, commerce and festivity, high and low." But as the rhetoric and events of 1921 -22 reveal, in the course of contestation, in the course of furthering the nationalist project and toppling the colonial enterprise, communal identities began to form as well.

So did other contradictions. The past, when viewed in the nationalist, colonial, or communal framework or against the giant backdrop of capitalism, ultimately denies historical subjects their subjecthood.[9] It glosses over-as I have done so far by reconstructing history to serve as thematic variants and examples of specific standard master narratives-the degree to which lived experiences are often replete with contradictions and are fragmentary in nature. Let me reiterate that the plotlines connecting the three principal sets of historical actors fitted into this narrative were drawn by me, however solid they may seem and however much they may appear in conformity with the established patterns of South Asian historiography. Connections serve to smooth out the story; ruptures would have made the historical narrative difficult to patch together.

But obviously historical actors eke out their existence with varying degrees of success and failure. The Ghulam Husain story in a history not centered on a master narrative stands out as an account of an intrepid historian directing his penetrating vision at the tumultuous events of his day to see how these would impinge on his society and his family.


Within a generation, as his family history indicates, his descendants had fallen from their aristocratic status, as did many families who once occupied center stage in the city of Patna. And without having to conform to other people's story lines, Veeraswamy's journal is remarkable as a detailed description of the physical and mental landscape that a pilgrim had to traverse.

The actions of those assembled in the marketplaces of north Bihar in 1921 -22 provide an even clearer picture of the contradictions that can be ironed out of any historical retelling where the plots are set pieces dedicated to nationalism or colonialism or communalism. Indeed, as the official and nonofficial records reveal their activities-activities that were viewed as criminal and antigovernment on the one hand (the administrative perspective) and patriotic and nationalistic on the other hand (the nationalist perspective)-peasants waged Noncooperation in the name of Gandhi as well as to further their own agenda. And what better locale for these contradictions to surface than the "hybrid place" that was the market, this most appropriate setting for mounting the drama of Noncooperation. It was a site at which popular expressions against the colonial state found responsive echoes, a positive response shaped by the fit of the place itself in local society. People of a locality shared a sense of familiarity, they routinely assembled in sizable numbers, and their language of communication was its popular culture. But the same factors that facilitated common cause and community could also engender divisions. Economic and social issues that divided the local population into contending groups therefore came to the fore, as the incidents of 1921 -22 illustrate. Indeed, the bazaar became the site of peasant agitation against their landholders. Whether tied to the nationalist movement or to tenant grievances, these events point to the local marketing system as the fundamental arena of rural society. It was a system that tied together rural society and manifested both its unifying and its divisive threads.

The "hybrid place" that was the bazaar in colonial India was the scene and stage of many different kinds of exchanges that a historian can negotiate into a multiplicity of stories. Some of these other stories, of course, I have not translated here, but that's another history.

During the 1930s and ’40s, India was on the brink of independence from British rule. All Indians prepared to become citizens of a free country; however, as the years progressed toward the 1947 handover of power from the colonial British government, it became clear that India would become two nations, not one. Pakistan was increasingly discussed as a homeland for Muslims in South Asia. Some believed that Muslims had always been a distinct community in India, while others felt that the British had exploited a system of “divide and rule” to cause strife between Hindus and Muslims. More recently, scholars suggest that the communal tension resulted from contemporary politics rather than any longstanding divisions between religious communities. Whatever the cause, the formation of Pakistan appeared as the only option to address the demands of the political groups, the All-India Muslim League and the Indian National Congress.

Against the backdrop of this political struggle, early modernist artists used a variety of approaches to negotiate between the need to create a national style and a desire to develop personal modes of expression.

Mixed Traditions
Although most of the artists working in the Indian subcontinent at this time mixed several artistic traditions, some consciously brought together what might be considered antithetical practices. One such artist is Amrita Sher-Gil (1913–1941), who combined a Post-Impressionist style of painting that she learned at the art academy in France with approaches used in Indian miniatures. Within this format, she depicted ordinary Indians and village life. Another artist melding diverse artistic practices was Jamini Roy (1887–1972), who made images based on traditional Indian pat paintings and European modern art. In Calcutta, where artists revived handicrafts yet shunned commercial art, Roy was a pioneer in using styles of painting developed by artisans in bazaars.

The Western Style
Like Ravi Varma (1848–1906), who preceded them, several artists chose a painting style developed in the West. They made works with oil paints and used a naturalistic approach to the human form and landscape. Allah Buksh (1895–1978), for example, painted indigenous subjects in this mode with a romantic and often dramatic flair; even though he adapted an academic style, Buksh never attended art school. Fyzee Rahamin (1886–1964), later in life, took on a traditional Indian miniature style, yet his earlier work is marked by the European academic approach to painting. Many others throughout the twentieth century followed in the use of Western-style painting. However, as was the case with Varma, they often depicted Indian subjects.

Indigenous Indian Painting
Over the centuries, painting in South Asia developed through a process of copying. A new generation of painters paid respect to the ones who came before them by making copies of older works. Yet they frequently updated the previous style with contemporary trends reflected in fashion and jewelry. Or they used newer art materials. These changes affected the appearance of the paintings, even if slightly. Some artists in the twentieth century continued in this tradition of copying older works. In this way, Hajji Muhammad Sharif (1889–1978) kept the craft of miniature painting alive at the Mayo School of Arts in Lahore, where it continues to be practiced today.

Atteqa Ali
Independent Curator

October 2004

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