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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

Painted in watercolour and tin alloy on paper, episode of the Tarakeshwar affair. Image of the Mahant or Brahmin priest of Tarakeshwar riding in a howdah, a platform with a canopy on the back of an elephant.

Place of Origin

Kolkata (made)


ca. 1880 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Painted in watercolour and tin alloy on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Mohonto, Commencement of the tale'


Height: 457 mm, Width: 276 mm

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.

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

In total 15 episodes of the Tarakeshwar are depicted. This image may be the first in the series as it highlights the Mahants power and influence as a priest.

Descriptive line

Painting, Tarakeshwar murder case, Mahant riding on an elephant, watercolour and tin alloy on paper, Kalighat, Kolkata, ca. 1880

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

Jain, J (1999) 'Kalighat Painting: Images from a Changing World', Ahmedabad, Mapin.
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.
pl. 26, cat. no. 17, ix: p.61.
Kalighat paintings : a catalogue and introduction / by W.G. Archer. London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1971 Number: 0112900291 :


Watercolour; Paint; Tin alloy; Paper



Subjects depicted

Elephant; Priest


Paintings; Folk Art; Bonita Trust Indian Paintings Cataloguing Project


South & South East Asia Collection

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