Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, is the capital city of the Indian state of West Bengal, situated along the bank of the Hooghly river. Once, it was the most important port for the east Indian company and the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India.
However, not all was hunky-dory for the native Bengali populace. Albeit being called the city of Joy, Kolkata wasn’t always the relatively calm and tranquil metropolis it is today. There were two faces of the city, one of artistic splendour, another of oppression.
Throughout the centuries since its birth, this city has witnessed the rise of true stalwarts of the Indian freedom struggle. It has kept silent vigil over the wanton barbarity meted out by the British. If you were to look for vintage photographs for sale, you would stumble upon black and white scenes of overstuffed trams or trains.
That being said, one cannot choose to look upon life in binaries as all dualities and boundaries are, to some extent, negotiable. Old photographs for sale also portray a much cleaner, livelier megacity sans pollution or any form of filth. Read on to know how exactly the past is brought to life by the magic of a camera, as both faces of Kolkata will be discussed.
The glamour of the past: the dignified
When considering the glorious pictures of the past Kolkata, only one look at the photographs can point out the stark differences the places depicted have with today’s world.
One such old photograph circulating is a photo of the Victoria Memorial in all its newborn glory. The photo is an ancient reproduction of the fields of the Victoria Memorial depicting the monument, which is a monolith of colonialism.
Albeit made in celebration of Queen Victoria’s 25th year ruling Calcutta, the monument has now long since been relieved of its colonial association and has been seamlessly adopted into the pride of ‘Bangaliyana’ (Bengali in spirit).
The photograph also depicts the cleanliness of a newly constructed site which is a far cry from today’s crowded Victoria Memorial, which is sadly littered with various things after a busy day’s crowd.
Among many other old photographs for sale, another intriguing photograph had emerged, highlighting the busy roads of Chandni Chowk, Calcutta. This photograph has also become very popular over the years as it is a window into the ordinary lives of ordinary men who have over the years devolved into anonymity.
While looking at the bustling greenery overlooking the roads, one is moved as anyone familiar with Chandni Chowk today will know that this photo was of a much cleaner Chandni Chowk.
The shame of the past: the disgrace
Countless shocking photographs have emerged, some accidentally while the owner was searching for more vintage photographs for sale, which seem to depict the barbarity of the Bengal famine in which millions of Bengalis died an unfortunate, ignoble death.
Most of these photos contain extremely emaciated people begging for food, dotting the streets of Kolkata. Although not as severe here, the Bengal famine also affected millions of lives in Kolkata, as many were left to starve to death on roadsides. Many even proceeded to sell their daughters or babies to gain an extra morsel of food.
One such heart-wrenching vintage photograph titled ‘Peace at last’ depicts a withered old man lying dead on the streets of Calcutta having succumbed to the worst side effects of war: famine.
Another similar photograph, depicting a malnourished woman sitting on the curb with glazed-over eyes, has resurfaced after being lost for a long time. In this photograph, one can palpably witness the harrows braved by that woman whose body has been reduced to little more than rags and bones. It is clear that death is a much more welcomed option for that woman than such continued suffering.
Since then, such photographs have jolted Indians to the core who have only blamed the greed of the British for this famine. To some extent, these photographs have served to fan the flames of the Indian freedom struggle. With the British weakened by World War II, India swiftly gained its independence some years later, in 1947.
Final thoughts: Not everyone is the same
After looking at these photographs, any reasonable and rational human being could have felt their blood boiling against the British oppressors. However, not everyone is the same. Some photographs have emerged depicting the British Royal Air Force feeding the local children out of their share of ration, moving the hearts of millions. It would be wrong to generalise the whole British population as homogeneously evil or cruel, as evil and benevolence always exist simultaneously in this world.
After knowing the not-so-glorious yet not-as-dark history of Kolkata, it is undeniable that it does seep heritage through and through. Every stone of the city bears a reminder of the past for better or worse. If you also want to first-hand experience the medley that is yesteryear Calcutta, you can choose to buy photographs online or offline from various art galleries and online art galleries.
If you aim to buy online photographs of Kolkata and Bengal while not leaving the comfort of your homes, Artshoppy becomes an automatic choice in India, as Artshoppy has an elaborate stock of photos clicked in Bengal to choose from.You can choose to sort the photographs available according to your requirements and enjoy the rural Bengal depicted in the photographs. Another reason to select artshoppy is that it has a plethora of Bengali photographers who put up their vintage style photographs depicting Bengal and Kolkata or bona-fide vintage photographs for sale.