The ruins of Bengaluru

Before there were camera-phones, one made do with easels and paint brushes.

By Andrew Leonard
Published January 12, 2007 7:14PM (EST)

In Silicon Valley, the name "Bangalore" conjures up visions of outsourced jobs or globally distributed start-ups. Change the name to "Bengaluru" and you enter the realm of Hindu nationalism reacting against British and Muslim imperialism.

Visit Bangalore/Bengaluru today, and you will see the architecture underpinning our technological future. But that same future can also summon up the Bangalore of centuries past. On Tuesday, Desipundit linked to a set of portraits of Bangalore by 18th century painter James Hunter, a soldier who fought in the British wars against Tipu Sultan.

Hunter's sketches have an almost cartoon Orientalist feel to them -- they could be frames from an animated Disney film about Gunga Din. It's a shock to realize that they are actually eyewitness renderings of elephants and temples and townspeople and ruins that looked ancient hundreds of years ago.

Before there were camera-phones, there were itinerant soldier/painters. Flickr bestows upon us the gift of both.


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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