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Kolkata: It might not be as grand as the Victoria Memorial, perhaps the best known symbol of this eastern metropolis, but the Marble Palace is one of the finest examples of European a
Approachable, through situated in a dingy north Kolkata lane and perhaps not too well known because entry is restricted, the mansion, known for its marble flooring and marble decor wall panels, houses 76 rare artworks brought in 1830 all the way from Italy and Belgium.
The palace is a treasure trove of valuable art objects collected over the past 180 years.
It seldom gets visitors as entry is possible only after the West Bengal State Tourism Department issues a permit after asking searching questions on one’s knowledge of art. (I got in on the basis of my press card). This is just fine for the 15 people – the descendants of Raja Rajendra Mullick (1819-1887), an affluent businessman who had the palace built between 1830 and 1835 – who maintain the building. Fewer visitors mean less maintenance.
“Moreover, people are less concerned about art nowadays. Definition of art and culture has also changed,” Hirendra added, citing the reason behind the restricted entry to the palace.
The palace is divided into five halls – Reception Hall, Painting Room, Sculpture room, Billiards Room and Thakur Dalan (place of worship).
The palace takes one to the Victorian era with its beautiful décor and eye-catching collection. The museum has sculptures from Praxiteles to Phidias, Venus to Apollo, Homer to Diana and Mosses.
There is also an enormous Japanese bronze vase in the doorway that immediately catches one’s attention. The walls are adorned with full-length Belgian glass mirrors, enhancing the beauty of the palace.
Also on view is a two-cornered bicorne (a cocked hat worn esp. in the 18th and 19th centuries) of the kind Napoleon Bonaparte wore during his military campaigns. It is said to be an original but no one is too sure about this – or how it got here.
“Research scholars who are interested to know about art are always welcome here. Marble Palace is for those who are interested to know about the evolution of art,” Hirendra noted.
The Reception Hall has sculptures depicting Autumn and Spring; Agriculture and Commerce; Summer and Winter; and Dawn and Night. Some of these are originals, brought from the Italian and British schools, while some are replicas.
“The collection is an effort of the past 180 years. With time, the descendants have added many sculptures and paintings, both original and replicas depending upon the budget,” Hirendra said.
Then, there is a dimly-lit room dedicated to paintings belonging to the Victorian age like the “Marine View” by Dutch painter Jan Van Goyen, “Madonna with Child” by Italian painter Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, “The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine” by Rubens, and “The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian” by Piero del Pollaiolo, as also some paintings by famous Indian artist Raja Ravi Varma.
The Marble Palace also has what is perhaps the first Indian private zoo which is now open to visitors. The animals are carnivores as non-vegetarian food is not allowed within the premises.
Has Marble Palace missed out on the fame achieved by palaces like that in Mysuru (Mysore)? According to Hirendra, Marble Palace cannot be compared with other royal palaces.
“The purpose of Marble Palace was to create a place for those who have a keen interest in art. Other palaces were built for status-flaunting. Raja Rajendra Mullick wanted art lovers to get acquainted with European art forms, particularly post-renaissance art,” Hirendra stated.
Revenue for maintenance is not an issue for its keepers as they collect funds from their other landed properties.
“The major problem is regular cleaning of the artworks which is not possible as we have less staff. Cleaning also requires experts so that these precious objects are not ruined,” Hirendra explained.
Photography inside the museum is strictly prohibited. To ensure that one doesn’t click any pictures, palace staff always accompanies visitors.
“It is to avoid those who want to purchase our valuable collection. If selling would have been in our mind, we would not have spent so much effort to maintain the museum,” he said.
Still, the palace could do with some renovation.
Many art objects have been added in recent years to the collection and the descendants plan to buy more after careful thought.
The Marble Palace may not enjoy the attention as other palaces or museums do, but a visit will be well worth for those who truly love European art.
Location: Mukhtaram Babu Street, M.G. Road, Kolkata.
Timings: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (Monday and Thursday closed).
Entry: Free but special permit from the West Bengal State Tourism Department is required.
Great historic events that have shaped the world and changed the outlines of countries are often not recorded in memory, or so we think. Wars made sure to destroy evidence and heritage, and the ones who survived told the tale of what really happened. Folklore, albeit through oral tradition kept alive many such stories, hidden in verse, limericks, and rhymes.
Ringa-ringa-roses, a common playtime rhyme among children across the world, is an example of folklore that has survived for many centuries. It tells the story of the The Great Plague of London which ravaged the city between 1665-1666.
The Plague broke out from improper disposal of garbage and poor sewage conditions. Fleas from the rats that lived in the sewers spread the disease that killed more than half of London's population. Many people fled from their homes as there was no medicine available for those who were infected.
Beak-shaped masks worn during the Great Plague of London Image source: wikimedia commons
It was around this time that masks began to be invented. The first masks were shaped like beaks, and were worn not to protect the wearer from the disease, but to the prevent them from being able to smell the decay and death around them, which they called 'miasma'. The beaks were filled with floral herbs that allowed doctors and nurses to tend to the sick without being reviled from the smell.
Children are often seen forming circles by holding hands and reciting loudly,
Pockets full of posies
We all fall down"
An illustration of the Great Plague of London, 1665 Image source: wikimedia commons
When the last line is sung, they break the circle and fall down. The roses and posies are believed to be the preferred fragrances inside the masks, and a single sneeze (a-tishoo) was enough to infect the one who was exposed to the disease. Consequently, they fell down, ill, and later died.
An alternative version of this rhyme is sung about the fall of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath of World War II. The roses and posies are interchanged with geranium and uranium, to symbolise what was used in the atomic bomb. But this version is not as famous the original.
Keywords: Rhymes, Ringa-ringa-roses, Great Plague of London, WWII, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Folklore
In modern times, many social movements aim to bring reform to the society we live in, on the basis of certain existing patterns. Patriarchy is something that many aim to cleanse our cultures of, to usher in the era of social and gender equality. Despite all these so-called movements, in southern India, certain societies that patronise matriarchy have existed since before India's independence. The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country.
Kerala remains separate from the rest of India in many ways. Be it literacy policy, form of government, or cultural practices, this state does not always conform to the ideal that India is known for. Even so with their social structure. Certain tribes have remained matrilineal, where the decision-making power rests with the eldest female of the family.
The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country. Image source: wikimedia commons
A male member, who is the close confidante of the matriarch is chosen. He plays a crucial role in representing the male members of his family, and his opinion is highly valued. He is called karavanan. The men reside in separate rooms or in separate houses, and do not interfere in the upbringing of children. Property is also passed down along the lineage of the eldest female. Among the Nairs, matriarchy is more prominently adhered to than the Ezhavas, who have some patrilocal connections.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Their matrilineal descent is known as Aliyasantana.
The story is told of a demon who threatened to destroy a kingdom if the king did not sacrifice his sons, but the king's sister comes forward to offer her children in sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom. The demon is touched and does not destroy the city. Since then, the kingdom, or the property is inherited through female lineage.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Image source: wikimedia commons
In the recent past, many of these matriarchal societies have been reduced to matrilineal societies by certain governmental laws. They fall under the patriarchal scheme of the rest of the state but have reserved the right to pass on property and heritage through the female line. In the North east of India, matriarchal dominance is far more resilient than the south.
Keywords: Bunts, Billava, Nair, Ezhava, Aliyasantana, Matrilineal, South India, Karnataka, Kerala
Apple inc. Is an American multinational tech firm specialized in consumer electronics, computer programs, and internet services founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in 1976 to manufacture Wozniak's Apple iComputer. It is the world's top tech company in turnover (totaling $274.5 billion in 2020) and its most valuable corporation. Apple is the fourth-largest PC seller by unit sales and the fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. On the day of the live event, Apple announced the iPad mini, Apple Watch Series 7, iPhone 13 mini, and iPhone 13, as well as the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. | Photo by Daniel Romero on Unsplash
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini.
iPad: The 10.2-inch iPad is equipped with a solid A13 processor that delivers 20 percent quicker performance than the preceding version. According to Apple, it is now three times faster than a Chromebook. A new 12MP ultra-wide camera with Center Stage, which utilizes machine learning to optimize the front-facing camera during FaceTime video chats, as well as more incredible accessory support, including compatibility with the first-generation Apple Pencil, are among the new features. For 64GB of storage, the iPad costs $329.
iPad Mini: In addition to reduced borders and more rounded edges, the 8.3-inch iPad mini also has improved front and back cameras. A liquid retina display, USB-C compatibility, magnetic support for the Apple Pencil, an enhanced speaker system, and new hues such as pink and purple are all features of the new Apple iPad Mini. The starting price is $499.
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini. | Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash
The other major unveiled products include:
iPhone 13 and other variants: The iPhone 13 range is almost identical to the iPhone 12 lineup, with a 5.4-inch iPhone 13 Mini, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro, and a 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max. It was also revealed that the Watch Series 7 has a smaller "S7" processor, which may allow for a bigger battery or other components to be housed in a smaller footprint. The gadgets have a revolutionary design that includes a dual-camera system, placed diagonally. Apple's iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have longer-lasting batteries than the previous generation of devices. In addition, Apple claims that the iPhone 13 will have a battery life that is 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12, and the iPhone 13 mini will have a battery life that is 1.5 hours longer. A more energy-efficient display, an upgraded 5G chip, and functionality called "Cinematic Mode," similar to the famous Portrait mode function but is only available for movies, are among the other enhancements. The A15 Bionic chip present in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini is also used in the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro and 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max, also 6.1-inch devices. However, it also has a five-core CPU, which promises graphics that are 50% quicker than previous models. Other notable features of the Pro devices include a brilliant Super Retna XDR display with a higher refresh rate and long-lasting battery life. Now, for the price, it will start at $699 for the iPhone 13 mini with 128 GB of storage, $799 for the iPhone 13 with 128 GB of storage, and the Pro and Pro Max have starting prices of $999 $1,099, respectively.
Apple Watch Series 7: The new Apple Watch Series 7, which is smaller and has a larger screen than its previous model, was introduced by Apple on Wednesday. There is a 20% increase in screen size over Series 6 on the new watch. A complete keyboard that you can touch or slide to write out text messages can show 50% more text. It starts at $399.
Keywords: Apple, iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone Mini, Apple event 2021