Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Delhi Durbar, 1911 - without mincing words

They say a picture speaks more than a thousand words. This one sure does!

This illustration is from the famous Punch Magazine, and it was published during the Delhi Coronation Durbar of 1911. 

It shows a beautiful woman - representing India - saluting the British king George V, who came to India with Queen Mary for a grand coronation as Emperor of India. 

All the so called "princely states" came to pay their respects at the Durbar, and Punch gave us a visceral look at it.

The inherent contempt of the British for the Indian "native" is visible in the depiction of the salute: it is uncultured, the fingers are splayed in a laughable bungling rustic way that invites the viewer's scorn. 

The woman is dripping with jewels, but her feet are unshod, she as submissive and inferior as can be. Contrast this with the king's polished knee-length leather boots. You can also see how George V has been represented with the usual crown jewels - the Sovereign's Orb, which shows him as the Defender of the Faith and the Sceptre with the Cross. No doubt he was doing God's will, eh.

A fine depiction indeed, of the times. A nation brought to heel.

Photo credit: Punch


Aadil Desai said...

Nicely written and fine perspective.

johnpreece said...

It is sad that Lord Curzon, the viceroy who oversaw the Delhi Durbar was one of the few Englishmen of that period who valued Indian culture as equal to British. I am sure that almost all Englishmen at that time saw things exactly as you have described.

It is hard to look at that image now as a British adult and not feel shame. I can only hope that we have moved forward enough to value the richness of each others heritage.


Anonymous said...

This is a magnificent blog and perhaps the only one of its kind. I searched for blogs on Delhi to see if any one has captured a photograph of the Bankura Restaurant by the side of the Cottage Emporium in Janpath before it was demolished. The Delhi Diary page still lists the restaurant as existing and has given two 7 digit phone numbers. In the process of search I could discover the blog.

All the themes and pictures are exquisite and appropriate. I went back up to 4 th July 2010. Thanks a lot for such creative work.

sinjini sengupta said...

Hi, I just came through your blog while looking up for Delhi blogs. I was looking for blogs to cross post my Durga Puja article ahead of the puja days. Do let me know if you'd like to have me as a guest blogger. I blog at

sinjini sengupta said...

Sorry, left my contact unmentioned. you can drop me a mail at sinjini dot sengupta at gmail dot com

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Bharat Patel said...

The attitude remain the same to this day. Just have to see any documentary on India by the BBC. Attitude of journalists and BBC's editing convey similar message to that in the image.