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Notes on the Geography of India Themes: Plaques and Statues

Unlike some other countries that have systematically scratched away the ceremonial relics of empire, India tolerates them in superabundance.

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India Themes: Plaques and Statues picture 1

This copy of the Allahabad Proclamation, which marked the end of rule by the East India Company, is fixed along the Kingsway (now Rajpath), the processional avenue to the Viceroy's Palace in Delhi. Queen Victoria instructed the author to adopt a magnanimous tone despite the bitter memory of the just-quelled Mutiny. The text formerly appeared on a monument at Allahabad, but it has been removed from its column there, which now stands blank and cryptic.

India Themes: Plaques and Statues picture 2

Thanks to Disraeli, Victoria became Empress of India in 1877. Hence the letters VRI (Victoria Regina Imperatrix), which appear on many public works constructed across the British Empire late in the 19th century.

India Themes: Plaques and Statues picture 3

Along the approach to the viceroy's palace in Delhi. Baker had designed the grand buildings of Pretoria, but his partnership with Lutyens became a disaster when Lutyens realized that a gentle but steady grade blocks the view of the viceroy's palace for anyone approaching along the processional way.

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More practical work: a plaque at the Agra Canal headworks at Okhla, south of Delhi. The water flows a hundred miles to the south. The initials K.C.S.I stand for Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India, a heavyweight honor, close to the top of the chart.

India Themes: Plaques and Statues picture 5

Dedicatory inscription at the Imperial Agricultural Research Institute (now the Indian A.R.I) on the west side of Delhi. The institution was founded north of Patna at a place so difficult to get to that an earthquake that damaged the building in the 1920s was welcomed as an opportunity to move the institution to Delhi. The original institute was called the Pusa Institute in honor of Henry Phipps of Pittsburgh, U.S.A., whose gift paid for it.

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Farther afield: Machilipatnam, as it is usually transcribed now, has been the scene of many terrific storms driving huge waves onto the coast. Here, near the town, a ruined monument to one British officer who dealt with the consequences of such a storm of the 1860s.

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From the wall of the immense Coles Memorial Baptist church, built by American missionaries at Kurnool, between Hyderabad and Bangalore.

India Themes: Plaques and Statues picture 8

From Secunderabad, adjacent to Hyderabad. Ross won the Nobel Prize for this discovery. Mosquitoes themselves are still superabundant in the neighborhood and alight by the hundred on interior walls.

India Themes: Plaques and Statues picture 9

What to do with all those statues? At Lucknow they've been gathered up and stashed behind the museum, where they are caught for all time in an interminable tea party. On horseback, Governor Hailey waves to Victoria and several versions of her son Edward.

India Themes: Plaques and Statues picture 10

A cathedral tower rises from a ridge in North Delhi. Odd place for a cathedral, but it's a tip-off. No cathedral this.

India Themes: Plaques and Statues picture 11

We've walked up Rani Jhansi Road from the Delhi Metro station where the last picture was taken.

India Themes: Plaques and Statues picture 12

The sign explains that this is the Mutiny Memorial, renamed Ajitgarh, "invincible fort" in 1972.

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A plaque rewrites the history inscribed in 1863 by the British.

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One of those plaques.

India Themes: Plaques and Statues picture 15

Body count.

India Themes: Plaques and Statues picture 16

Close-up. The interior staircase is no longer open to visitors.


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