Interior Worlds: Rooms, pleasure and sociability in Indian palaces from the 17th to the early 20th century
Visits to Indian palaces and forts offer extraordinary aesthetic experiences. Yet the meaning, use and function of their interiors is largely unexplored. Floods of empty rooms demonstrate that Indian palaces relied primarily on surface decoration – their void remains an enigma to visitors. This seminar addresses the understudied topic of the historic interior in India and seeks to unlock the hidden histories of rooms in Indian palaces from the time of the Mughals to the early 20thcentury. The secret lives of walls, art, objects and room typologies as well as the relationship with those who commissioned them, created them and lived in them will be explored through various case studies. Which interior strategies were employed and what does the planning and design of rooms tell us about the interior worlds of their inhabitants? The often poetic names given to specific rooms or segments of the palace offer fascinating clues to their use and meaning: Phool mahal, Sheesh mahal, chini khana, chitra shala or Badal Mahal – these are some of the designations that tell us of the interior world of love, imaginary worlds, appreciation of art, cosmopolitanism, pleasure and the garden. They highlight the fluidity between the exterior and the interior – the inner world of buildings and the people and their relationship with the world close by and at large. The Centre for Historic Houses invites scholars to share research on the historic interior in India with a particular focus on room typologies.