Pran Nevile THE Mughal India presented an exotic view of the Orient. Royal harems were famous the world over for their hordes of ravishing beauties, dripping with pearls and diamonds. Great patrons of dance and music, the Mughal rulers also adorned their courts with beautiful and highly accomplished singing and […]

Stories of royal romance from Mughal India

Pran Nevile One fails to understand the noise about the introduction of astrology teaching in the Indian educational institutions. From time immemorial, astrology has wielded pervasive or peripheral influence in many civilisations, both ancient and modern. The scientists and intellectuals who dismiss astrology as a myth or superstition have not […]

Defending astrology teaching in educational institutions

Pran Nevile REMEMBERED as one of the greatest singers of the 20th century, K.L. Saigal was an outstanding artiste who brought music to the masses. Earlier, enjoyment of music was a privilege of a few who had access to baithaks or courts of the aristocracy and the native princes. Without […]

There was divine magic in his voice

Pran Nevile THE most amazing and mind-boggling tricks and feats are said to have been performed by Indian jugglers. European accounts refer at length to their performances, including the famous rope trick, and other feats of legerdemain unknown in the West. Foreigners were so completely wonder-struck after seeing these that […]

Forgotten feats of Indian jugglers

Pran Nevile THE British were greatly impressed by the hectic gaiety of the Indians at their fairs and festivals. We come across fascinating accounts of these joyous events by men and women authors. There is also colourful visual record of the events left by the British artists. The festivals imparted […]

Sahib’s impressions of Divali

Pran Nevile A Hindu woman performing a religious ceremony around the tulsi plant by D.V. Dhurandhar, Bombay, C.1890 (courtesy V&A Museum, London). FROM time immemorial, certain trees and plants in India have been invested with divine attributes. Hindus were taught to worship and revere trees and plants in the belief […]

Trees with spiritual attributes

Pran Nevile The Egg-Dance LOUIS Rousselet was an extraordinary French traveller who visited India in the second half of the 19th century. He has left behind one of the most detailed accounts of his six years’ (1864-70) study of India, its historic monuments, religious beliefs, old civilisation and customs and […]

Tales of nautch entertainment

By Pran Nevile K.L. Saigal passed away on January 18, 1947, even before completing 43 years of life. Fiftyfour years have gone by and it is pity that we have, so far, not set up any fitting memorial to pay homage to the most eminent artiste and greatest singer of […]

The Ghazal King and Mirza Ghalib

European artists devoted their talents to depicting imperial Indian beauties in their own inimitable style. Among the earliest European observers, who claim to have gazed at the royal ladies of the Mughal Court, are Sir Thomas Roe, Bernier and Manucci. Sir Thomas Roe, the English ambassador at Jahangir’s court, recorded […]

Imperial Indian Beauties

The age -old Japanese institution of the geisha has once again come into limelight with the reported tirade by Mineko Iwasaki, the world’s most famous geisha, against Arthur Golden, author of the bestseller Memoirs of a Geisha, which was inspired by her life. Iwasaki, now retired, is so furious over […]

The World of a Geisha

British professional artists, lured by the prospect of fame and fortune, began arriving in India from 1760s onwards. While most of them applied their talents to landscape painting, the portraits of the ruling elite or pictures of historical events of imperial interest, there were some with a different bent of […]

What a heaven she must make of CASHMERE

From Anarkali to present-day beauty queens, Punjabi women have reigned supreme in terms of their grace, charm and beauty. Portraits done by artists during the 18th century capture their handsomeness and their unrivalled spirit, says Pran Nevile Punjab’s women have always been considered among the most beautiful in the land. […]

Stunning Portrayals

When everybody is a “mass of red and yellow” Holi, the festival of spring, has always been popular in India for its colourful hilarity, fun and laughter. It had special attraction for the British sahibs who described it as a carnival of the Hindus, a time of universal merriment and […]

Mass of red and yellow

By Pran Nevile HE British who came to India as traders, eventually emerged as a dominant political power by the end of 18th century. The prospect  of fame and fortune also lured the British artists who began arriving here from the 1760s onwards. Until then, there was no visual record […]

Enchanting women of Himachal

Devadasis from Andhra dominated the cultural scene in South India. The classic example was the celebrated devadasi Muddupalani who adorned the royal court of the Nayaka King of Tanjore, Partapsimha (1739-1763), a great patron and lover of music, literature and the arts. He honoured and rewarded Muddupalani not only for […]

The courtesan was also a scholar

By Pran Nevile SRI HARMANDAR SAHIB or the Golden Temple dominates the holy city of Amritsar, which commands the same adoration and reverence of the Sikhs as does Varanasi of the Hindus. Founded by the Gurus, from its inception, Amritsar meaning ‘Fountain of Immortality’, has been a place of pilgrimage […]

Early images of the Golden Temple

By Pran Nevile REMEMBERED as the greatest singer of the century, K.L. Saigal with his god-gifted voice became a legend in his own lifetime. This singing superstar of the 30s and the 40s still comes back to haunt us frequently with his unforgettable melodies on the radio even in the […]

He poured his soul into songs

Meeting Tamancha Jan after nearly 52 years was a moving and memorable experience during my recent visit to Lahore. Who is Tamancha Jan? A singer nonpareil, now forgotten, she was the reigning queen of song during the 40s in Hira Mandi, the entertainment quarter of Lahore. Named after a nobleman […]

Tamancha Jan- by Pran Nevile, The Friday Times

By Pran Nevile FROM time immemorial, poets and bards have sung in praise of the dancing damsels who appear as Apsaras in mythology, and as ganikas, nartakis, devadasis, kanchanis, tawaifs and nautch girls at different periods of history. They belonged to a class of professional entertainers who were accomplished dancers […]

The nautch girls of colonial Punjab

By Pran Nevile LAHORE has a long and ancient past. The gateway to the subcontinent, it had through the centuries attracted trade caravans, plundering hordes and conquerors in search of wealth and power. No other city can perhaps be said to have more chequered history than Lahore, a city ruled […]

Lahore revisited