Catherine’s Grand Tour of India – The Asiatic Society of Bengal and a Chennai Drive by……

  • Published on: 1st March 2016
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So now I make my way to The Asiatic Society of Bengal on Park Street Kolkata just down the road from Mackenzie’s final resting place.  Here I am very excited to see the drawings they hold and hope to find some that relate to the drawings I have been looking at in London.

All this Mackenzie research and the reason for me being in India if you are not already aware is part of Purvai; warm wind from the east, An Lanntair Asian arts exchange Project. The project is inspired by and centred around Mackenzie his collection and his life and work in India.

This current research into the collection is leading towards and informing a Mackenzie Collection Exhibition. Scheduled to open in Stornoway at the fantastic new Lews Castle Museum and Archive autumn 2017.

This will be the first ever exclusively Mackenzie collection exhibition to be mounted and we are so excited for the exhibition to open first in  Stornoway the town of his birth.

This leg of the research in India has been made possible by a scholarship provided by INTACH – Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage. So here I am retracing some ofMackenzie’s steps, looking at the material held in the Indian Institutions and soaking up some of the warm winds of the east, the atmosphere, and the art and culture which inspired Mackenzie to create and amass his great Collection.

As part of the project we are also working on a collaboration with Tara Books in Chennai to create some beautiful publications using images and drawings from the collection – so here in Kolkata I am very excited to see what drawings and prints they have as we hope to potentially use some of the material held in the Indian Institutions in the collaboration with Tara books.

But oh no no no, more gargoyles at the gates of archives and these ones were particularly fierce.

More permissions, every office in the building must be visited to gain the correct permissions a good portion of the day is filled with this circumnavigation of the building and then when finally these permissions have been obtained somehow there are more problems and hurdles and again great rows broke out around me and about me.

At the end of each day fresh from the battle it’s hard to fathom what has actually been achieved.



This is the only image I have to show of inside the Royal Asiatic Society.

But I did however between the great rows manage to appease the situation enough to be able to see the manuscripts they hold and ferociously guard in their collection.

This was a great joy amongst all the tension so I focussed on this and on all on the wonderful beautiful drawings and prints.

The manuscripts there encompass a wide range of topics from natural history, mythology, temple architecture to customs and dress of the Carnatic region.
I wasn’t able to take any pictures of the works so I can’t share that with you here.
But what I did achieve in doing was ordering a selection of digital images to be taken and sent to me so I’m hoping they might be winging their way to Stornoway now……

And with that I headed back to Chennai for round two at the Oriental Manuscripts Library and to check back in with Tara books………

Back in Chennai and I thought I’d share another journey with you. This is a car ride through a fishing community on the beach front in Chennai.

The pictures are quite blurry but I think this actually makes it more authentic, so you can almost actually experience and feel that you are on the bone-rattling ride hurtling through the streets with me…….

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