Sepia images from the Raj
The early 1930s - the high noon of the Raj. A powerful set of images from inside the elite. I was given them by a friend, who bought these photos and negatives at auction thinking that they were something else. There about a dozen photos and a few negatives, all relating to Sir Frederick Sykes - as far as I can make out, the balding guy in the centre of the front row above with the light coloured socks - who was Governor of Bombay from 1928 to 1931, but remained in India until 1933. There's a newsreel clip of Sykes, including his remarkably cultured and measured voice, here.
The photograph on the right is, according to a note on the reverse, of a farewell tea party given by Sir Ali Muhammad Khan Dehlavi at Poona in August 1933. It all looks very self-satisfied, and distinctly opulent.
In this photo, Sykes is two from extreme right, looking at the camera and with the faintest glimmer of a smile. Dehlavi was a member of the Legislative Council over 1924-37, for a time its president - and was an important member of the Muslim League, the party which eventually demanded and won the creation of a separate nation for the sub-continent's Muslims.
Among the cache is a mounted photograph (mounted on card, and with the subject mounted on horseback) of Lady Isabel Sykes - it could have been taken in the home counties, but it was almost certainly snapped somewhere in the Bombay presidency. On the back is a small stamp saying: 'BACKHOUSE & CO / PHOTOGRAPHERS / POONA.'
Lady Sykes was the daughter of the Tory Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law, and the auction was of an archive relating to Bonar Law and his family.
Among the images are several taken at the Ajanta caves in Maharashtra, now a UNESCO world heritage site - I've posted a couple below. There are also photos and negatives of a rather elaborate ceremony at Kolhapur railway station. I wonder if these are all mementos of a final tour round Sir Frederick's onetime Bombay presidency domain. I suppose they should be passed on to an archive.
LATER: These photographs are being given to the British Library which already holds records and photos relating to Sir Frederick Sykes.
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