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Exhibition on Historic Indian Maps begins

New Delhi, Aug 11: ‘Cosmography to Cartography’, an exhibition on historic Indian maps was inaugurated by the Minister of State for Culture (Independent Charge), Tourism (Independent Charge) and Civil Aviation, Dr Mahesh Sharma at National Museum in New Delhi today.

The exhibition was inaugurated in the presence of US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma. Secretary, Ministry of Culture, and Tourism (Additional Charge), N K Sinha, DG, National Museum, Sanjiv Mittal and Prshant K Lahoti (Kalakriti Archives, Hyderabad) were present on the occasion.

Inaugurating the exhibition, Dr Mahesh Sharma said that India has a rich cultural heritage, and that “Cosmology to Cartography” is a way to know the real history of India. The exhibition is a classical way to know more about our culture and history, he added. Highlighting the importance of Indian culture, Dr Mahesh Sharma said that Indian culture is appreciated all over the world. Mr Richard Verma said that the maps created in the 15th and 16th century were remarkable in quality and are comparable in accuracy to the modern day maps prepared with the help of satellites.

Dr Mahesh Sharma released two books, ‘Purapashaan kaal me Manav’ and ‘Raghogarh Paintings’ from National Museum Collection on the occasion. He also released a catalogue on the exhibition ‘Cosmography to Cartography’

Cosmography to Cartography will draw on the Kalakriti Archive, collected by Shri Prshant Lahoti. The Archive is believed to house India’s most comprehensive private collection of historic maps. Two objects in the exhibition will also be drawn from the collections of the National Museum. The exhibition has been curated by Dr Vivek Nanda and Dr Alex Johnson.

Through a selection of over 72 maps, the exhibition showcases the evolution and growth of modern cartography from early cosmological representations of the ‘World of Mortals’. In doing so it also testifies to the competing global interests and influences – religious, economic and political – which have contributed to the perception of ‘India’ as we understand it today.

The exhibition features an extraordinary variety of painted and printed Indian maps produced in the sub-continent and outside, including original manuscript representations. It also captures the development of Indian printing industry, which although established by the Europeans, came to be heavily influenced by Indian artistic styles and technology.

Monumental original paintings of profound religious symbolism from the 15th to 19th Centuries will be juxtaposed with historical maps of India, many of which are unique and have never before been placed on public view.

Covering themes from pilgrimage to clashing empires, the exhibition begins with Jain and Hindu cosmological representations, including the depiction of the universe as a vast ‘Cosmic Man’. This progresses to magnificent painted hangings on a monumental scale depicting sacred rivers and pilgrimage sites, and also to representations of the pilgrim’s destination, the temple.

The exhibition also includes cartographic depictions of the ancient European conception of the subcontinent, and the first vaguely accurate maps of India made in the wake of Vasco Da Gama’s arrival in 1498. This documents the evolution of map-making as part of the military contest for supremacy by various European powers and ultimately the cartographic consolidation of India through the map makers of the British Raj.

During the 16th Century, Portugal had a virtual monopoly on the European interaction with India. However, from the early 1600s, new powers arrived in India, and the maps of the British, Dutch, French, Danish and Flemish speak about their endeavours and their complex interactions with various Indian players. (INN)

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