Interior View of Temple Colonnade behind Kutub Minar.
Delhi, India TA2016HR, 24 x 19 inch
Photographer: Samuel Bourne (#1374), Circa 1865
The idea of perambulating a place of worship is a feature of many religious traditions. These pillars are part of the cloisters around a courtyard where many worshippers must have walked around and around in contemplation or in anticipation. The centrepiece of the paved courtyard attributed from the temple of Prithwiraj Chauhan, the famous king of Delhi. The photograph shows a colonnade of pillars that form the north side of the cloisters. The actual stonework for the pillars dates from an earlier period because the colonnades making up three sides of the cloisters are said to be the remains of pillars from 27 temples that were demolished later by invading rulers. If you look closely, you can see how the columns do not have uniform proportions. What they do share in common is the Vedic iconography showing lotus flowers, blooming foliage and kalasha (sacred vessels) overflowing with flowering vines signifying abundance and prosperity.
About the photographer: Born in 1834 in England, Borne is widely regarded as the most influential topographical and architectural photographer to portray India in the 19th century, when photography was still in its infancy. There was a public mania at the time about this new exciting way of portraying reality and Bourne was a prime exponent of the new art with an eye for the picturesque and grand. He spent seven years photographing in India from 1863 to 1870. Part explorer, part photographer, Bourne journeyed into the Himalayan Mountains three times from 1863-1866 becoming the first person to photograph at such high altitudes. He worked with albumen prints made from wet plate collodion negatives and his negatives were carefully numbered. Samuel Bourne, who left India in 1870 and died in England in 1912, has only been recognized as a great photographer of India in the last few decades. Certain images from his travels in India have become iconic and collector’s items. Self Enquiry Life Fellowship has an extensive collection of Bourne’s images of India in its archives.
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