British Museum Presents 'India And The World: A History In Nine Stories' Exhibit
On November 10th, the British Museum with Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) Mumbai and the National Museum, Delhi will open a landmark exhibition to showcase some of the most important objects and works of art from India. These objects will be displayed in dialogue with iconic objects on loan from the British Museum's world collection.
Supported by Tata Trusts and the Getty Foundation, the exhibition is planned to coincide with the celebration of 70 years of Indian Independence and a year of major cultural exchange between India and the UK (UK/India 2017). Additional support is provided by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India and the Newton Bhabha Fund.
Planned in celebration of 70 years of Indian Independence, this unique collaboration, the first of its kind, will bring together around 150 objects not only from the collections of these three Museums but from museums and private collections across India. Selected groups of objects will reflect a theme or 'story' which represents an important moment in India's history which is then set in a wider context. The Indian objects within each section are thereby positioned within a global context and serve to explore connections and comparisons between India and the rest of the world covering a period of over a million years ago to the present day.
Visitors will be welcomed into the exhibition by the Discobolus from the British Museum's collection and a selection of objects from Indian collections. This group of objects will set up the theme of the overall exhibition and highlight the collaborative nature of the project. 'Shared beginnings' explores our shared humanity through a comparison of ancient stone tools from across the world. Handaxes from India, Jordan, Tanzania and Europe show how the same technology was used by ancestral humans across the globe from 1.5million years ago to 10,000 BCE. 'First cities' then traces the development of early settlements in Assyria and in the Indus Valley from around 3500 BC onwards.
Cities and states swelled to become empires, growing more formidable depending on the strength of their leaders and the might of their armies. The third story looks at 'Early Empires' from 600BC - 200AD. Religion was a defining aspect of empires and states at this time. 'States and Faiths' shows how some rulers attempted to impose religious conformity while others practised tolerance towards their multi-faith populations. Coinage, circulated widely across empires, was an ideal medium on which to advertise the bond between the ruler and their faith. A Gold Dinar of Chandragupta II shows the Gupta king standing on the obverse and the Hindu goddess Lakshmi on the reverse. The Sasanian coin of Shapur II has the bust of the King on the obverse, and the Zoroastrian atar or fire on the reverse.
'Picturing the divine' examines how different religions have used objects to bring people closer to the divine. Indian religions have created some of the world's greatest examples of religious art. The sixth story, 'Indian Ocean Traders' looks at the trade and travel across the Indian Ocean from 200AD to 1650AD. This made India a powerhouse of production and economic exchange. The spice trade from Asia embraced the Roman Empire, and Indian pepper travelled as far as Britain, as witnessed by a pepper pot from the Hoxne Hoard found in Norfolk.
'Courtly Cultures' looks at objects from, and depicting, court life from the time of the Mughal empire. The 8th story entitled 'quest for freedom', and focuses on the last century during which people across the world have fought for and won their freedom from Imperial rulers and oppression. The British presence in India started with the East India Company in the 17th century and ended in 1947, when India gained independence from the British Crown. Made effective in 1950, a first edition copy of the Constitution of the Republic of India will appear in the exhibition.
The exhibition will conclude with a short section called 'Time Unbound. Our relationship with time, the living world and that which lies beyond, can be viewed from many different perspectives. The exhibition has presented a history of India and the World in a linear fashion. But different cultures have conceived different notions of time and history, not always in a linear way. The last two contemporary objects, one from India and one from Australia offer different perspectives on time and our relationships with the past
Dr. Hartwig Fischer, Director, British Museum said "The first of its kind, this project establishes a dialogue between objects, cultures, institutions and the public to provide a new and rich perspective on moments in Indian history. The wider, global context of these moments will be suggested by objects from the British Museum including a head of the Emperor Hadrian, one of the most famous Roman emperors and the contemporary Throne of Weapons from Mozambique which comments on globalisation and empire but is ultimately a symbol of reconciliation and peace. The British Museum is committed to sharing its collections as widely as possible and to working in partnerships which help audiences across the globe understand the world and their place within it."
Sabyasachi Mukherjee Director General, CSMVS, Mumbai said "The exhibition India and the World: A History in Nine Stories is inspired by A History of the World in 100 objects, curated by Neil MacGregor, and will select nine important moments in India's history to explore what was happening across the globe. This unique project uses India as the doorway to explore a wider global context within a particular time frame. In short, India will be the portal through which the visitor will travel outward to the rest of the world."
Dr. B.R. Mani Director General, National Museum "The National Museum is happy to partner in the India and the World Exhibition as it is a rare opportunity for audiences and the organizers to see some of the best masterpieces from India and other countries under one roof. The exhibition will show glimpses of India's 5000 years' of history alongside world trends through real objects, which is a unique way of understanding our complex past"
Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:
"Culture is a key part of the UK-India relationship and this landmark exhibition is a great example of how our leading institutions can work together to reach new audiences and explore our shared past. It is one of the highlights of the UK-India Year of Culture, which is helping to cement our cultural links and celebrate the strong bond between our two countries."