Greetings from India: Feast on vintage postcards exhibition in Delhi

New Delhi: Rare vintage postcards of the Indian subcontinent, some of them dating back to the 1890s and capturing an era gone by, are on display here as part of an ongoing month-long exhibition.

Titled "Globetrotters: Early Postcards from the Indian Subcontinent", the exhibition, that kicked off Wednesday, charts the evolution of postcards in the country, with a dazzling display of about 200 original postcards, bearing some of the rarest images of major cities in India and neighbouring countries.

"The period spans from 1890s to 1950, and the theme ranges from exotic, touristy material to plain documentation of events as they happened. In post-colonial era, some of the postcards depict the celebration of Independence or material produced by political parties," Curator at the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, Rahaab Allana, told PTI.

The exhibition, organised by the Foundation has been hosted at Art Heritage Gallery in Triveni Kala Sangam, and curated by US-based collector and author Omar Khan in consultation with Allana.

The exhibition also has a companion publication called "Paper jewels: Postcards from the Raj", authored by Khan.

"It was first hosted in Mumbai, and now we invite people in Delhi to take a peek into the romantic feel of the postcards. The oldest postcards date to 1890s, like those produced by sewing machine firm, Singer Manufacturing Company," he said.

The exhibits are drawn from collections of Khan and Alkazi Foundation for the Arts.

Allana said original technique used for making postcards was press lithography, and later half-tone and collotypes image-making techniques were used.

A member of the Foundation said the collections can be broadly classified into categories, viz., city scape and architectural views; Indian community documentation; and material produced for purveying political thoughts.

Rare image of Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata), Madras (now Chennai), Kandy, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Karachi (in Pakistan) are sure to trigger a sense of wonder in them.

Iconic Delhi Durbar image of 1903, Old Delhi's Town Hall; Lord Curzon and Lady Curzon on a postcard bearing image of Kashmere Gate, Calcutta's Chowringhee Street, Nobel Laureate Rabindranth Tagore, freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu, daily lives of a washerman ('dhobi'), cotton cleaners, domestic help attending to his master, are some of the rarest images on postcards on display.

"All the postcards are so beautiful, a part of our heritage. I think the most interesting image on a postcard, was a domestic help giving bath to his master, and one can see the details of the bathtub used in that era and other paraphernalia, truly rare," said Sho Kan, a visitor.

According to organisers, While printing technologies like rapid press lithography were being exploited by small workshops and artisans in European and Indian cities, the very first advertising postcards of the subcontinent were apparently published by the Singer Manufacturing Co. in 1892 for the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Probably the earliest from an Indian-based publisher is the postcard 'Greetings from India', seen in the exhibition by W Rossler in Kolkata from around 1897.

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