Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Madhavchandra Giri

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Kolkata (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1880 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in watercolour and tin alloy on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Physical description

Painting, in watercolour and tin alloy on paper, episode of the Tarakeshwar affair, the Mahant working as a prison gardener, wearing a red and silver striped dhoti and holding a black watering can to water a large red flower. Above the Mahant the prison warder, nearly twice his height, is wearing a black striped top hat, black coat with cut-aways, grey trousers and black shoes. In his hand he holds a striped black staff. The fair complexion of the warder and the hairstyle suggest a British or Anglo-Indian origin.

Place of Origin

Kolkata (made)


ca. 1880 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Painted in watercolour and tin alloy on paper


Height: 17.75 in, Width: 10.75 in

Object history note

The Tarakeshwar murder case of 1873 was a public scandal in Calcutta based on an affair between Elokeshi the young attractive wife of Nabinchandra Banerji and the mahant or chief priest of the Shiva temple at Tarakeshwar. Upon discovery of the affair, on 27 May 1873 her jealous husband Nabinchandra Banerji cut Elokeshi's throat with a fish knife. In the trial that followed Nabin was sentenced to life imprisonment and the Mahant was fined and imprisoned for 3 years. Different variations of this affair favouring the various characters occur in several Bengali plays and Kalighat images between 1875-80. See Archer p12.

Purchased from Mrs K. Gregory.

Historical significance: Calcutta was the capital of British India from 1833-1912. By the 1830s, artists had arrived from rural villages in Bengal and began to produce paintings that reflected local history, mythology, customs and conflicts of a colonised society. As a popular art form, these artists are recognised for their use of brilliant colour, simplified images and swift brushstrokes that became the hallmark of Kalighat painting in the 19th and early 20th century.

Historical context note

Following his imprisonment the Mahant was given various menial tasks including that of prison gardener. In this context the artist may also have a given the red flower a symbolic significance as red is the colour of courtesans and by implication illicit passion.
(Archer p 61)

Descriptive line

Painting, the Mahant working as a prison gardener, watercolour and tin alloy on paper, Kalighat, Kolkata, ca. 1880

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Archer, WG (1971) 'Kalighat Painting', London, HMSO.
Jain, J (1999) 'Kalighat Painting: Images from a Changing World', Ahmedabad, Mapin, p1056, fig 142.
Knizkova, Hana, The Drawings of the Kalighat Style Secular Themes, Published by the National Museum Prague 1975.
Sinha, Suhashini, and Panda, C, eds. Kalighat Paintings from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2012. ISBN 1851776656.


Watercolour; Paint; Tin alloy; Paper



Subjects depicted

Priest; Watering can; Gardener; Officer


Paintings; Folk Art; Bonita Trust Indian Paintings Cataloguing Project


South & South East Asia Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.