Who do you think are the most important characters in this scene? What makes them look important?
Look carefully at the people depicted – look at their clothes, postures, gestures. Many different groups of people are represented. What does that tell you about the significance of this procession?
If you were a spectator to this procession, where would you place yourself? Imagine the sounds, smells, and sights as the procession goes by. How does it differ from parades you have attended? How is it similar?
Hover over the image to enlarge. Explore the details of the artwork to answer the questions above.
Procession of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III through Mysore
opaque watercolour on paper backed with cloth
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
© V&A Images / Victoria and Albert Museum, London
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The Procession of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III through Mysore
This scroll painting features a south Indian ruler – the long-ruling and highly cultured Krishnaraja Wodeyar III - on an elaborately decorated elephant leading a grand procession. The king is preceded by dancers, musicians and attendants while elaborate chariots trail behind him bearing Hindu deities. Such processions convey royal authority. However, the prominent size and position of the British representative – probably Lieutenant-General Sir Mark Cubbon - indicate that in the early 1800s, Mysore was actually under the control of the English East India Company, a trading company which was securing control of territories across the Indian subcontinent.
Historians use the terms “Company painting” or “Company style” to describe paintings such as this scroll. They were produced by Indian artists for European patrons in the late 1700s and 1800s. Paintings of Indian occupations or castes, rituals, festivals and everyday life in India were of particular interest to the British as illustrations for publications or as souvenirs.
This painting depicts a vast array of people from all walks of Indian life and from many places in India. Many can be identified by their clothing. Most of the women in this procession wear their saris in the modern nivi style with pleats in front and worn with a petticoat and blouse. Other women in the procession have their saris tied in different ways to indicate their caste, profession or cultural background. For example, look for dancers in front of the carriages, some of whom have their saris wrapped between their legs, to make it easier for dancing. Two Muslim women wear white chadars (chadors) over their heads. Women in short plain white saris are widows. Some women seem to be wearing ghagra or long skirts and dupatta, scarves wrapped around their head and shoulders, which may indicate they are from the North of India.