Let’s face it, when it comes to picking a few of our favourite things, most people cannot agree. So, when I asked my family what caught their eye after a weekend visit to the AGO, of course, everyone had a different answer.
My mother loved the antique saris and the paintings but, what was particularly memorable were the performances by Kathak dancer Bageshree Vaze and her husband, tabla player Vineet Vyas, (I had timed our visit so we could catch them). Bageshree did a great job telling the story of her dance form and its role in courtly culture. In fact, we spent enough time at the exhibition that we saw quite a few performances – all different.
The kid and I chatted mostly about the game case. If you know the board game Pop-a-matic Trouble or play Parcheesi, you’ll recognize Chaupar. We noticed that instead of two dice there were three. And they weren’t cubes, but looked like mini gold bars. The dots were also different – they were rubies.
My husband spent a lot of time looking at the same case. He seemed enchanted by the eleven-in-one game box, made for Krishnaraja Wodeyar III of Mysore. My sister-in-law, on the other hand, fell for the black and white photos of the fashionable set in what could be called the Art Deco room.
Of course, one person did have a complaint. My brother was intrigued by the gaddi, and was thrilled to see a letter by the Rani of Jhansi (we grew up reading Indian history comic books). She was a favourite because she would later lead troops into battle during the 1857 Mutiny against British rule). He just wished there was more of a discussion of imperial policies as a counterpoint to all the opulence in the rooms.
Fair point. Yet, isn’t that what a good exhibit should do, leave you wanting to learn more?
- Tell us what are your favourite parts of the Maharaja Exhibition?
Piali Roy is a Toronto writer with a long-held interest in South Asian culture and history. You can contact her at email@example.com.