One of the most intriguing eras of world history will take center stage in Richmond this May when “Maharaja: The Splendors of India’s Great Kings” opens at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). The exotic richness of India’s native beauty and kingdoms is set against the juxtaposition of the British Colonial period in over 200 artifacts that have traveled the world with the exhibition.
Visitors will see jewelry, weaponry, artwork, costumes, photographs and more covering the period from the early 18th century through the 1940s. This period of tumultuous change saw the last days of the Indian Kings, the rise of British rule and finally the independence of India and Pakistan. Some of the key artifacts include:
Two-Piece Turban Ornament: the Indian “sarpech” was traditionally worn only by the ruler and consisted of a vertical feather piece and a horizontal band that supported it. Upon the entrance of British colonials, the ornaments became a traditional gift given to select noblemen to demonstrate reverence. The sarpech in the exhibition is bejeweled and was given as a gift to Admiral Charles Watson by Nawab Mir Jafar who was installed as ruler by the British of the Eastern state of Murshidabad.
Throne of Ranjit Singh: the Mughal-style throne decorated with sheets of gold and symbols of purity and creation, belonged to the most powerful of the Sikh kings. Upon defeat of the Sikh kingdoms by the British, the throne was taken to London to symbolize British supremacy.
Also highlighted are objects depicting royal processions, the animated courts of the kings, and the concessions made to modernity by the maharajas and colonials alike as time progressed.
Don’t miss the grand scale of “Maharajas” beginning May 21, 2012 at VMFA. Admission is $15 or $12 per senior, student with valid ID and groups of 10 or more. Members of VMFA may view the exhibition for free.