Travels Across India: In the Footsteps of the Raj
From 1858 to 1947 the great subcontinent of India was part of the British Empire, and India’s people were ruled by regional princes and the British Viceroy. This selection of 19th-century albumen photographs from the National Gallery of Art Library’s department of image collections shows the India of this period, known as the British Raj, with views of the great forts, palaces, temples, mosques, and tombs of the Indian princes, as well as British Colonial architecture.
Many of these photographs are from an album by
Note that building and place names reflect their 19th-century British usage, with current use shown parenthetically: for example, Bombay (Mumbai). For more information about the buildings shown, follow the links to the image collections database.
Dakshineswar Kali Temple is situated on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River in Calcutta. The Hindu temple was built in 1855 in the traditional navaratna or nine-spires style of Bengal architecture, and is famous for its association with Ramakrishna, a 19th-century Bengali mystic.
The city of Fatehpur Sikri was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar between 1571 and 1585. The Hiran Minar or Elephant Tower (shown at center) is a circular tower covered with projecting elephant tusks (originally actual tusks, now replaced with stone replicas). The tower is thought to have been erected as a memorial to Emperor Akbar's favorite elephant.
The Chattar Manzil or Umbrella Palace on the banks of the Gomti River was a royal palace of the Mughal rulers of Awadh. During the Rebellion of 1857–1858 the building was a stronghold for the Indian rebels.
The 42-acre Taj Mahal complex is situated on the south bank of the Yamuna River. This is the main gate, constructed 1648–1653 for Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.
Constructed for the Emperor Shah Jahan as the tomb for his favorite wife, Arjumand Banu Begum, the Taj Mahal was built 1631–1648 by Mughal court architect Ustad Ahmad Ma'mar Lahauri.
Seringapatam is an island fortress surrounded by the Kaveri River and site of a Palace of the Hindu Rajas of Mysore. Shown is a 17th-century royal bathing ghat. (The term ghat refers to a series of steps leading down to a body of water.)
Victoria Terminus Railway Station was designed by Frederick William Stevens and built 1878–1888 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. It is one of the first and finest examples of the Gothic Revival style in India.
The Durga Mandir, located in Ramnagar near Benares (now Varanasi), was constructed c. 1500 and dedicated to the Hindu deity Durga, goddess of protection, vengeance, and victory. Note the elephant, lower left.
The Pearl Mosque (Moti Masjid) at the Red Fort was built by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, 1659–1660.
The Qutb Minar was built beginning in 1192 by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate. Its construction marked the beginning of Muslim rule in India.
The Quwwat-ul-Islam or Might of Islam Mosque was the first mosque built in Delhi after the Islamic conquest of India. The mosque’s construction, 1193–1197, used spolia from the remains of 27 Hindu and Jain temples originally on the site, according to a Persian inscription on the eastern gateway. The pillars shown here were plastered over to conceal their elaborate carvings, but the plaster has since fallen away, revealing the earlier temple motifs beneath.
The Jalsain Ghat, also called the Burning Ghat or the Manikarnika Ghat, is one of the oldest Hindu cremation ghats in Varanasi.
The Calcutta High Court (left) was built in 1872 in a neo-Gothic design. The neoclassical Government House (right), the residence of the Governor-General (Viceroy), was constructed 1799–1803 by architect Charles Wyatt.
The Red Fort was built 1638–1648 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as the citadel of his new capital city. The Diwan-i-Khas was reserved for private audiences with the Emperor.
After the demolition of the East India Company’s fort in 1860, this area was rebuilt with Victorian neoclassical and Gothic-Revival-style commercial buildings. The Flora Fountain was erected in 1864 from designs by Richard Norman Shaw, with sculpture by James Forsyth. A statue of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers and spring, tops the fountain.
This dargah or shrine to Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya (died 1325) was built in 1562–1563.
During the Indian Rebellion of 1857–1858, Indian army troops (sepoys) rose up against the British East India Company. Cawnpore was the site of a horrifying massacre of British soldiers, their families, and loyal sepoys, and later was the scene of brutal British retaliation. This memorial to the British dead was designed by Henry Yule and built by Baron Carlo Marochetti in 1860.
The Kaiserbagh (king’s garden) Palace Complex, built 1848–1850 for Mughal Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, was an immense courtyard surrounded by living quarters, royal mansions, and baradaris (pavilions with 12 portals). It was largely destroyed by the British during the Indian Rebellion of 1857–1858.
The Mermaid Gate, at one end of the China Bazaar in the Kaiserbagh Palace Complex, was built 1848–1850 for Nawab Wajid Ali Shah.
The Jama Masjid was built 1544–1556 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. At the time of construction it was the largest mosque in India and was the city’s principal congregational mosque for Friday prayers.
View of the Jama Masjid from the Chawri Bazar Road.
This mausoleum was built c. 1626 by Nur Jahan, the favorite wife of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, in memory of her father Ghayas-ud-din (known as Itimad-ud-Daulah).
Lucknow flourished 1775–1856 as the capital of the Nawabs of Avadh (Oudh). The nawabs were great builders and patrons of the arts and commissioned numerous imposing darwazas or gateways. The Husainabad Imambara has many gateways dating from the reign of Nawab Muhammad Ali Shah (c. 1837–1842), including this one with its three ornate arches.
The Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh and designed by Lal Chand Ustad. Constructed of red and pink sandstone, its façade was essentially a screen wall built so the women of the royal household could observe the outside world without being seen.
Calcutta High Court is the oldest High Court in India. The neo-Gothic building was designed in 1872 by architect Walter Granville and inspired by the 13th-century Cloth Hall at Ypres, Belgium.
View from the Manak Chowk (market) looking down Tripoliya Bazaar Road with the Ishwar Lath tower (1749) in the distance.
Elephanta is an island in Bombay Harbor with two Buddhist and five Hindu rock-cut caves dating between the 5th and 8th centuries.
The Golden Temple or Vishvanath Temple was built as a Shiva temple in 1780 by Ahilya Bai of Indore along the banks of the Ganges River.
Although Bourne identifies this building as a palace, it was actually the chhatri or memorial cenotaph of the Maharajas of Bharatpur, built c. 1825.
This view shows a procession of 550 elephants at the Lucknow Durbar of 1867 in honor of Sir John Lawrence, Governor-General of India.
The Bara Imambara Gate (left) and the Rumi Darwaza gate (center distance) were built during the reign of Nawab Asaf-Ud-Dowlah in 1784.
Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned construction of the Red Fort in 1638, when he decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi. Its design is credited to architect Ustad Ahmad Ma'mar Lahauri, who also constructed the Taj Mahal. It was completed by 1648.
The Jahangiri Mahal, inside the Agra Fort, was the principal zenana (palace for women of the royal household), and one of the earliest surviving buildings of Akbar's reign, dating to 1565–1569.
The Pearl Mosque (Moti Masjid) was built at the Agra Fort in c. 1646–1653 by Shah Jahan.
Interior of the Moti Masjid.
The Husainabad Imambara was built by Muhammad Ali Shah, the third Nawab of Awadh, in 1838, and eventually served as his mausoleum. Imambaras are Shia congregation halls. The Naubat Khana, or drum house, is shown at left. The structure at center right is a jawab, a building constructed to balance or match another more important edifice, in this case a mosque opposite it (not shown).
The palace city of Fatehpur Sikri was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar from 1571 to 1585. This is a view from the Diwan-i-Khas (Private Audience Hall) looking across the courtyard to the Panch Mahal (Tower of Winds).
The Diwan-i-Am (Public Audience Hall) in Agra Fort was added to Akbar’s Palace between 1631–1640, in the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan.
Located high on a hill, Amber Palace and Fort are located near Jeypore (Jaipur), and were built c. 1600.
This sandstone and marble mausoleum was built in 1754 for Safdarjung, the Chief Minister (Vizier) of Oudh.
Gwalior has two Sas-Bahu temples (from the Hindi sas, which means mother-in-law, and bahu, meaning daughter-in-law) that were originally dedicated to Vishnu. The large Sas-Bahu temple carries an inscription recording its construction c. 1093.
The great gopuram or tower (right) at the east end of this Hindu temple complex, and the gateway (left) leading to the Porch of the Eight Goddesses, the main entrance to the temple, date to c. 1640. Street traders are gathered near the entrance.
The Sri Harmandir Sahib (the Abode of God) is the holiest gurdwara (temple) of Sikhism. It was built 1588–1601, and restored in 1764. In the early 19th century the upper floors were covered with gold, hence its popular name, the "Golden Temple."