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Painting - Elokeshi and Madhavchandra Giri (the Mahant)

Elokeshi and Madhavchandra Giri (the Mahant)

  • 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. Image of the Mahant fanning Elokeshi who is seated in a chair, whilst the priest dressed in a dhoti and shawl stands behind her cooling her with a fan.

Place of Origin

Kolkata (made)


ca. 1880 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Painted in watercolour and tin alloy on paper


Height: 458 mm, Width: 278 mm maximum

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

Archer suggests that the artist's depiction of heat maybe suggestive of the mounting tension between the priest and the clerk's wife. Following her first visit to the Tarakeshwar shrine, Elokshi became the mistress of the priest and this image depicts the 'slavish subservience' to which she appears to have reduced him. (Archer, p 61).

Descriptive line

Painting, Tarakeshwar murder case, Mahant fanning Elokeshi, 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.
pl. 29, cat. no. 17,x: 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

Lovers; Priest; Fan; Woman


Paintings; Folk Art; Bonita Trust Indian Paintings Cataloguing Project


South & South East Asia Collection

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