India Unfolds Through Maps

A compelling narrative of ‘Hindustan’ through maps, followed by enticing tales from the days of Nizami rule in Hyderabad is what sums up the ‘flavour’ of the session, ‘Charting History: with ManosiLahiri and Narendra Luther,’ that unfolded on Day 2 of the Hyderabad Literary Festival at Manuu on Saturday. Lahiri who has recently authored ‘Mapping India’ took the audience through her compilation, which is a collection of maps created by the many foreign ‘forces’ that ruled India at one point in time. From the Portuguese to the Dutch to the French and later to the British, everybody ‘mapped’ India according to their trading interests in the country, the book documents. Predictably, these maps, noticeably different from the once drawn in modern times show pockets rich in spices, indigo, opium and also textiles.

mapping india“These were made by traders,” Lahiri explained while moving from one period in history to the other. What seemed to catch the fancy of many was a 1773 map that showed all the factories established along India’s coast by the foreign invaders. Also interesting was a map dating back to the Mughal period that depicted Aurangabad complete with its famous Ajanta Caves and the sculptures it houses. “This shows that these maps, when drawn, were not just about places but also depicted what life in India was all about,” the author said. Noted city historian, Luther, known for his unmatched knowledge of Hyderabad gave the gathering a quick sneak peak into his forthcoming work ‘Legendotes’ that he said were legendary anecdotes (pertaining to the city and its rulers) that were factually correct. His many tales about Hyderabad’s Nizams, especially the sixth Nizam, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, made the session not just informative but also very gripping. Be it the story about the Nizam’s ‘style quotient’ and his 224-feet-long wardrobe, or the revelation about Hyderabad being built in the design of the ‘Islamic heaven’, Luther’s narratives ensured that the gathering remained glued to their seats.

“I first went to see the wardrobe (in Purani Haveli) in 1991. There was just a pair of shoes and some other accessories. Interestingly, the manufacturer’s label on the shoes was still clearly visible,” Luther said while talking about the Nizam who never wore a piece of clothing twice. His half-hour-long talk also upheld the blend of cultures that existed in Hyderabad until the ‘new age’ set in.



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