Tag Archives: black and white photos

Colorizing History: Chapter 2

The reactions to the last post left me heady :’), so thanks a lot, especially the folks from r/india.

Here is the second chapter.


1. Soldiers from Presidency Army [1850s]

After the 1857 mutiny, these armies were brought under the crown.

During the earliest days of the British Indian history in the 1600s, the military element of the company  only comprised of the officers and crews that were dispatched from England. However as they started settling along the coastline, they hired locales to guard their settlements. But for want of authority in the far flung areas, their armies were upgraded and armed more elaborately.


2. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi [1908]

Mahatma Gandhi with a Friend in South Africa as part of a delegation of British Indians

Hired by Dada Abdulla and Sons in South Africa as they needed a lawyer who could speak Gujarati to settle a dispute with a cousin over non payment, this young lawyer, upon his return, would go on to play a pivotal role in India ultimate struggle for independence.


3. Bhagat Singh [1927]

twenty when photographed here.

The earliest method of spreading information was by publishing pamphlets that were ideological, polemical and/or rhetorical. Since these would have only a limited audience, a better way of garnering popular support was by courting arrest and then carrying on propaganda daring the trial. Once inside there was also the possibility of fomenting an agitation amongst the native policemen. When Bhagat Singh was first arrested in the Dussehra bomb case, a photograph of him was taken. This photograph immortalised the image of Bhagat Singh in jail sitting on a cot, his feet crossed, handcuffed, head tilted, a smile on his face.

4. Rabindra Nath Tagore and Helen Keller [1930]

Caption below photograph read, “A sage from the Orient meets a famous woman of the Occident. 🙂

At  the meeting of the New History Society in New York in 1930, at which  Tagore gave his farewell message to American people, Miss  Keller spoke in the interests of India. Later Helen Keller wrote of this encounter in a letter to Parmenia Migel, [sic] sitting beside Rabindra Nath Tagore and sharing his thoughts is like spending one’s days beside the sacred river, drinking deep of honeyed wisdom…

She also spoke of this encounter in her book Midstream My later life


5. Subhash Chandra Bose meeting Adolf Hitler [1942]

In May,1942 Bose under the disguise of an Italian diplomat (Orlando Mazzotta) made his way to Germany and met Adolf Hitler

His plan was to establish a government-in-exile and launch a new military offensive against British forces along with the Germans and Japanese.  Meanwhile in the wake of British rejections of Nazi peace offers,Indian nationalism was perceived suddenly as a useful means of applying pressure on the British Empire.

source: Subhas Chandra Bose in Nazi Germany by Romain Hayes

6. Indians in the Second World War [1945]

Chief Officer Margaret L Cooper, Deputy Director of the Women’s Royal Indian Naval Service (WRINS), with Second Officer Kalyani Sen, WRINS at Rosyth during their two month study visit to Britain, 3rd June 1945.

The Women’s Royal Indian Naval Service was established as part of the The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) during World War II. Although the women did not serve on board the ships, this did give them a role in the navy. The first Indian service woman who visited the UK was second officer Kalyani Sen. Sen went there to make a comparative study of training and administration in the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

“In India there is still a big prejudice against girls and women working with men…but the women are so keen to get into the Services that they are breaking it down,” she said.

7. Dr. B.R Ambedkar [1946]

He was independent India’s first law minister, and principal architect of Constitution of India.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, popularly known as Babasaheb, was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination against Untouchables (Dalits), while also supporting the rights of women and labour.

This photo was taken by Margaret Bourke-White at his home is Delhi.

8. Jayaprakash Narayan [1946]

three decades later he’d lead the opposition against the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

Jayaprakash Narayan was a freedom fighter and political leader of India.

Narayan returned from the US to India in late 1929 as a Marxist. He joined the Indian National Congress on the invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1929; Mahatma Gandhi became his mentor in the Congress. He shared a house at Kadam Kuan in Patna with his close friend and nationalist Ganga Sharan Sinha. with whom he shared the most cordial and lasting friendship. During the Indian independence movement he was arrested, jailed, and tortured several times by the British. He won particular fame during the Quit India movement

photo by Margaret Bourke-White

9. Muhammad Ali Jinnah [1947]

revered in Pakistan as  Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader) and Baba-i-Qaum (father of the nation),


After provincial elections in 1937, the congress refused to form coalition administrations with the Muslim League in mixed areas. Relations between Hindus and Muslims began to deteriorate. In 1940, at a Muslim League session in Lahore, the first official demand was made for the partition of India and the creation of a Muslim state of Pakistan. Jinnah had always believed that Hindu-Muslim unity was possible, but reluctantly came to the view that partition was necessary to safeguard the rights of Indian Muslims.

His insistence on this issue through negotiations with the British government resulted in the partition of India and the formation of the state of Pakistan on 14 August 1947.

photo  by Margaret Bourke-White

10. Independence of India [1947]

Lord Mountbatten addressing the Indian Parliament.

Jawaharlal Nehru being sworn in as First Prime Minister of Independent India , 15 August 1947

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity. – from Nehru’s famous speech Tryst with Destiny

AIR archive of the event

11. Partition of India [1947]

With the tragic legacy of an uncertain future, a young refugee sits on the walls of Purana Qila, transformed into a vast refugee camp in Delhi.

This stain-covered daybreak, this night-bitten dawn,
This is not that dawn of which there was expectation;
This is not that dawn with longing for which
The friends set out, (convinced) that somewhere there we met with,

In the desert of the sky, the final destination of the stars!
Somewhere there would be the shore of the sluggish wave of night,
Somewhere would go and halt the boat of the grief of pain.
~Faiz Ahmed Faiz