Prints for my prophet, pictures for my yogi

4 October, 2016
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BW (6 of 29)

Furnishings: Meher Cold Drink House (1939)
Mackawee Mansion, junction of Gunbow Street and Parsi Bazaar Street, Fort (presently Rustom Sidhwa Marg).

In the religious economy of Bombay, picture production got off to a shaky start in the 1850s with prophets appearing one-eyed and blurry in the papers.

Rudimentary lithographic printing equipment was no doubt to blame but other factors, like the strong hold missionaries had on the print economy, their distaste of local idol worship, and the valuing of the educative potential of the printed word, all played a part in devaluing the pictorial.

In the 1870s presses specialising in picture production had begun and did a brisk trade in selling mythological images, particularly of Hindu gods and goddesses. These images were inspired by various mythological dramas that played to packed audiences in Bombay. Dramas portrayed gods with a penchant for the miraculous- sparkling swords, disappearing acts, severed heads. Audiences stood up from their seats in reverence to these holy offerings.

Coloured lithographic prints of gods and goddesses were eagerly purchased by city goers. As for picture production’s shaky start, images outnumbered books by the thousands in volume and circulation.

Photo by Baba Badani of Byculla.

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