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IGNCA's latest show paints a picture of India's role in World War I

IN 1914, when the Great War broke out, the Indian Army was pushed into battlefield. Over a million Indian soldiers were deployed to the European, Mediterranean and the Middle East nations and yet, a hundred years later, the contribution of the world's largest volunteer army -- at that time -- largely goes unnoticed.

What makes ' India and the First World War' extraordinary is the exhibition's emphasis on both the magnitude of the Indian soldiers' contribution and the lives Indian soldiers led fighting a war in a faraway land. More than 100 photographs and 60 objects provide an insight into what they went through a century ago. The information cards beside the pictures/ objects add another dimension to the exhibition, which has been organised by Roli Books, IGNCA and the Embassy of France in India.

In the section devoted to the soldiers' time in Germany, a card explains how the Germans, fascinated by the linguistic styles of the soldiers in the German POW camps, recorded the soldiers' voices for research.

Those recordings remain till date.

Another card, next to posters urging Indians to join the war efforts, points at how the British encouraged them to enrol in the army to get a reward of ` 50.

The exhibition area is divided into the different regions where the soldiers fought and travelled -- the Western Front, Mesopotamia and the Middle East, England and Germany. An entire section is dedicated to artefacts and objects ranging from a biscuit box, badges, kukri s, a card holder and medical kits. There are also several books ranging from those on the ethnic groups of soldiers to a Hindustani- English dictionary.

Incidentally, the origin of the exhibition goes back to books and Indian troops at Dar- es- Salam embark for Kilwa in October, 1917; (above- right) a biscuit tin and medical kit used by Indian soldiers during the war.

Over 100 photographs and 60 objects provide an insight into the subject

an inquisitive publisher who wanted to know the plight of the Indian soldiers in the War.

Pramod Kapoor, founder of Roli Books and the curator of the exhibition, says: " In my attempt to better understand some of the challenges faced by the Indian troops, I took a trip to the Western Front, travelling between Ypres and Lille in France. I visited the villages that dot the countryside and learned that Indian war heroes such as Khudadad Khan are household names there, and that each family has story to share about the warmth and bravery of the Indian troops stationed in this region." H E ALSO came across Dominique Faivre, who collects items used by the Indian soldiers who fought on the Western Front. Many of the objects on display today are sourced from Dominique's private collection. The images, on the other hand, have been sourced from Imperial War Museum, British Library London, French Military Archives, and Flanders Museum, Belgium.

The exhibition is on display at Twin Art Gallery, IGNCA, Janpath till February 10; 10: 30 a. m. to 6 p. m.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 16, 2015
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