Nanditha Krishna and the C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation that she runs has always been a part of Madras Week celebrations. Nanditha herself has marked Madras Day on her calendar and makes it a point to do something each year. This year, on August 19, we saw the inauguration of an exhibition titled, Madras – from the city to the Presidency: etchings, engravings and aquatints’, from the collection of V. Narayan Swami.
Last year, during Madras Week, there was a Narayan Swami exhibition, but that was concerned exclusively with prints and drawings relating to Madras city. This year, there were a number of engravings relating to the old Madras Presidency, comprising the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The display includes a panoramic view from the lighthouse in 1829, a few visuals of Georgian buildings inside 18th century Fort St George, a hunt map of Madras, the city’s architecture as well as its people. There are about 100 engravings and maps included in this year’s display (there were only 40 last year), and more than 80 relate to the Madras Presidency.
Nanditha says she wishes to convey two points – that although the coming of the British in the Madras region and in the Carnatic was responsible for the rise of the Madras Presidency, the Presidency itself (comprising of various states) contributed to a unique geographical entity; also, that the Presidency grew gradually, through hard-fought campaigns, negotiations, double-dealing and intrigue, and was not an overnight entity. And it was not until the early 1800s that the outlines of the erstwhile Presidency were drawn.