Delly in Guzzerat: Old maps retrace India through the centuries | Bombay News

Two centuries before the partition, it seems, the river Ganges was the line of control of this country. At least that’s what the German engraver Christopher Weigel would have you believe in 1720 when his canvas divided this nation into two neat pieces – a yellow half “inside the Ganges” and a pink half “outside of the Ganges”.
To find the real India at the Asiatic Society of Mumbai’s Durbar Hall, lift your magnifying glass from this “imaginative map” full of unrecognizable place names such as “Sandrabitis” and “Tamerae”, ignore another 1652 map of the Empire Mughal made by a Frenchman who spelled Delhi as Delly and Gujarat as Guzzerat and asked exhibitors for “19th century Google maps of India”.
Drawn more than 100 years after India looked like a brain on maps and more than 200 years before the age of AI and pedometers, these two detailed maps of Kanyakumari in Kashmir belong to the Great Trigonometrical Survey, the 70-year-old colonial project that began in 1802 and not only saw surveyors lugging optical instruments around the country’s forbidden jungles, shores and mountain peaks, but also saw a man from Uttarakhand named Nain Singh Rawat cross the closed borders of Tibet in the guise of a monk and count your steps using prayer beads to measure distance.
“Who do you think did the mapping calculations for the British?” asks book curator Amalina Dave, whose tweezers and adhesives assembled the fragments of the 30 or so puzzle-like maps from the basement of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai that are on display during the month-long exhibition entitled “Meandering through a Mapped Canvas”.
The most damaged of the maps restored by Dave now hang non-chronologically in the Society’s Durbar Hall to tell two stories at once: first, about the evolution of India from the time when European minds first embellished the geography of Goa with coconut trees, elephants and other pictorial stereotypes. . Second, about the importance of keeping the maps that were engraved on fabric before moving to industrial paper.
Next to an illustrated map from 1756 which depicts the city in three pieces separated by the Mithi River and the Vasai Stream, for example, you will find under the fact that the city’s islands were hotly contested during the transfer from Bombay to the 1660s, another information panel that asks” and answers the question: “What do you think is missing from the conservation practices followed in India?
“From imaginative objects intended for the viewer to experience the world vicariously in the 17th century, maps later became navigational, administrative and political tools in the 19th century and their processing and raw materials also changed,” explains the curator. of the Deepti Anand project whose heritage management company organized the month-long exhibition funded by the Rotary Club of Bombay for the Asian Society of Mumbai which had had the idea of ​​presenting its restored maps since 2019.
“Covid has caused many interruptions,” says Society president Vispi Balaporia, referring to the pandemic that raised the resonance of an exhibit: an 1897 Bombay plague map filled with signs listing private hospitals plague in the city. “What do you need to study to do this?”, “Why is this incorrect?”, “Why isn’t the paper white?” are among the questions that bind both children and adults in school uniform sailing through the exhibition which will be held until April 30.
Meanwhile, aside from the map puzzles available in the room, an unrestored map of Calcutta on display has garnered respect for Dave’s delicate work. Well archived in the head of the book restorer are the recent, cautious words of an eight-year-old visitor who sounded ancient when he said, “I can’t even imagine the kind of difficulty you must have had putting together the cards.”

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