Rajas, Nawabs and Firangees [fr]

H.E. Mr Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India hosts a reception to celebrate the inauguration of Rajas, Nawabs and Firangees, an exhibition on 12 Indian rulers and their French-speaking officers on view at the National Museum of New Delhi.

New Delhi, 15 November 2019

The Ambassador of France to India, H.E. Mr Emmanuel Lenain, was pleased to celebrate the inauguration of Rajas, Nawabs and Firangees, featuring priceless artworks and manuscripts, curated by Dr Samuel Berthet, that provide glimpses on twelve Indian rulers and their French-speaking officers.

Presented by Alliance Française de Delhi and the United Service Institution of India with the support of National Museum in New Delhi, the exhibition was unveiled by Mr Amitabh Kant, CEO - Niti Aayog, in the presence of Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain, at the National Museum on 15th November 2019.

Following the inauguration, Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain hosted a reception on Friday, 15th November 2019, at the Residence of France.

On this occasion, Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain said, “This exhibition brings a new perspective to Indo-French ties as it highlights hitherto unseen archives and documents on Indo-French encounters in the 18th and 19th centuries. This exhibition also shows that the roots of the strategic partnership between our two countries can be traced back to this rich past and that, just like today, strategic relations in earlier days were also cultural relations.”

About Rajas, Nawabs and and Firangees

The exhibition centres on a series of stories: a journey through the lives of 12 Indian rulers and French-speaking officers serving under them during the 18th and the first decades of the 19th century. Sharing court life, some even ruling over vast jagirs, these officers commissioned, or sometimes themselves put together, collections of manuscripts and paintings. Today, many of these priceless treasures are to be found in Paris, in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF-French National Library), and are being displayed for the first time in India, painstakingly curated by Dr Samuel Berthet. The high-resolution pictures give the general public rare access to a selection from these unique albums, usually restricted to a handful of accredited researchers.

This event has been generously supported by Godrej, Thales, the Embassy of France, the French Institute in India, L’Opéra India, Goyal Publishers, and the Alliances Françaises of Chandigarh, Pune and Bangalore.

Highlights of Ambassador’s speech at National Museum

  • I thank the Ministry of Culture of India and the National Museum in New Delhi for allowing the exhibition to be organized at such a prestigious location.
  • I would like to highlight the importance of the National Museum which has collections of significant historical importance (the historical memory of the country) and sees an impressive number of visitors on a regular basis.
  • I also like to thank the teams of the museum and its director for the help and support extended by them to the organizers.
  • The interest of the exhibition lies:
    • In the presentation of archives and documents on Indo-French encounters in the 18th and 19th centuries hitherto inaccessible to the general public.
    • In the presentation of portraits of French officers and Indian princes, for the first time, in a panoramic fashion (earlier there were only individual biographies)
    • In unveiling a period of Indian history during which relations between Indian princes and French officers were often ingrained in common interests and even a mutual attraction for the other’s culture (Pre-colonial period).
    • In the imaginary nature of the lives of these French officers who were fascinated by the cultures of India (beyond the scope of their military duties to which they were devoted).
    • In this unique and rare partnership between a cultural institution (the Alliance française de Delhi) and a military institution (the United Service Institution of India).
    • In the large number of partners who have contributed to the content of the exhibition, with a special acknowledgement of la Bibliothèque Nationale de France (the National Library of France), which entrusted the organizers with a considerable number of high-definition reproductions of rare documents.
  • There is a link between the relation of closeness and trust that France and India share – our strategic partnership – and the content of the exhibition. The exhibition shows that this privileged relationship is not new and that its roots can be traced back to a prosperous past.
  • I would like to thank Dr Samuel Berthet, the curator of the exhibition, for undertaking the project, and the teams of the Alliance française de Delhi and the United Services Institution of India for organizing this beautiful exhibition in collaboration with the French Institute in India.
  • After New Delhi, the exhibition will travel within the Alliance française network in India to the cities of Chandigarh, Bengaluru and Pune.

Highlights of Ambassador’s speech at reception following the exhibition’s inauguration at the National Museum

Good evening and welcome

  • Mr Raghvendra Singh, CEO of Museum Development and Cultural Spaces at the Indian Ministry of Culture
  • Mr Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India).
  • Squadron Leader (Retired) Rana Chhina, Director of United Service Institution of India (USI)
  • Mr Jérôme Petit representing the French National Library (Bibliothèque nationale)
  • Mr Sandeep Sapra, President, and members of the of the Governing Body of the AF de Delhi

I would like to recall the continuing relevance of this exhibition:

  • It highlights a barely-known period of Indian history and Indo-French relations (and therefore its scientific relevance). This exhibition brings a new perspective to Indo-French ties as it highlights both the military relations between the two countries in the 18th and 19th centuries and the relations between their peoples (first "people-to-people ties") with French officers.
  • Due to the romantic aspect of the subjects featured in the exhibition, considering that most of the officers were also "adventurers", its holds relevance for the general public.
  • The example of General Jean-François Allard can be cited, who, after distinguished service for many years in the Indian army of Punjab, returned to France with his new Indian family. It is fascinating to note that his descendants are now reconstructing the traces of their illustrious ancestor in both the countries.
  • The unique nature of an unusual partnership behind the exhibition (a cultural institution, the Alliance Française, and a military institution, the United Service Institution of India).
  • It involves a large number of partners, especially the National Museum of New Delhi and the French National Library.
  • This exhibition also quite obviously highlights the Indo-French strategic partnership, whose roots can be traced back to this rich past and demonstrates that military relations in earlier days were also cultural relations.
  • This exhibition shows that our action today is built on an older, remarkable foundation. In keeping with the scale and depth of our current relations, the old strategic partnerships and people-to-people ties have expanded to Indian students, artists, intellectuals and researchers who go to France, and vice versa, sometimes for several years.
  • I encourage all guests at this reception to tell their friends to go to the National Museum for the exhibition, which ends on 7th December.
  • I would like to thank the main partners for the : the National Museum, the USII, the BNF.
  • I thank the Alliance française de Delhi and its director for organizing this exhibition with the support of sponsors, several Alliances Françaises, and the IFI.
  • I thank the curator, Dr Samuel Berthet
  • I now invite the director of AF Delhi to say a few words to introduce the musicians.

Last modified on 29/11/2019

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