Wood Block Printing, Maps, and Partition: A Visualization of Modern India

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I spent a fascinating afternoon with two of my dad’s friends and learnt a lot about their 400 year old family history styling clothes, first for the Mughals; then for the British Raj, and finally for present day Indians. Then they were nice enough to show me some awesome antique “block” panels, such as this one, and I am confused now, about when this dates from.

You see, the Indian flag was formally adopted in its present form upon independence in 1947… And yet, this flag shows undivided India, all the three nations which were derived are represented as one whole, over here. Gandhi added the third stripe to the flag in 1921; there was an entire hand loom in the 1931 version adopted by Congress– and this was later simplified in 1947 to the Ashoka chakra/wheel, which is what we see today. But the modern flag depicted here doesn’t correlate with the territorial boundaries of present day India at all!

Do you folks reckon the block is embelmatic a utopian vision that is being manifest here? Or something deeper? I’m curious to know when this awesome wooden block dates from, and just as curious as to why the map is what it is… Amazing, how cloth styling accessories can give such pause for thought.

-written in December 2012 whilst on a visit to Calcutta, India.

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