Tasveer Ghar: A Digital Archive of South Asian Popular Visual Culture   

The Constitution of India

A National Gallery of a Few Good Men

Sourav Roy
Constitution of India

A Visual Archive: Hiding in Plain View

As a textual document, the Constitution of India has been studied extensively by political and legal scholars. As a visual document with 22 illustrations, however, it has not received enough academic attention so far. The fact that the illustrated personas are almost always masculine doesn’t make it just a garden-variety example of patriarchy. These illustrations, when viewed closely through the twin lenses of masculinity studies and visual studies, greatly elucidate some complexities and problematize some oversimplifications (Fig. 01).

These images and their political potential however have not escaped the attention of our legal luminaries. ‘In 1993, the Allahabad High Court…delivered a detailed judgement on allowing prayers and darshan at the makeshift temple of Lord Rama in Ayodhya…. The High Court (Lucknow bench) judges, Mr. N. H. Tilhari and Mr. A. N. Gupta, opined that an image or an illustration is as valid a source of meaning and interpretation as a text. They drew strength from the fact that the original constitution also includes the sketches of such Hindu Gods as Rama, Shiva and Krishna drawn by the well-known artist Nandalal Bose. They noted that portraits of Akbar, Shivaji, Gobind Singh and Gandhi are also to be found in the original constitution adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949.1 By virtue of the sketch of Lord Rama (Fig. 02) in the original Constitution, adopted about 43 years previously, the learned judges argued that Rama became a “constitutional entity and admittedly, a reality of our national culture and not a myth....”’2

Rather than dismissing this merely as a partisan argument, we should consider it as an eye-opener for re-considering the importance of the Constitution of India as a visual document. Textual history is often at odds with visual history; the superimposition of visual history on its verbal and textual counterparts doesn’t always reconfirm the official narrative of Indian nationalism. It often unlocks other major narratives which used to be widely but tacitly understood – the ones that were ‘seeable’ but not as much ‘sayable’ in public.3

‘For constitutions are not merely juridical objects of a superior rank that ground rights, institute law-making capacities, and secure state legitimacy. They attest to the self-constituting capacities of society to produce normative structures and shape life in common. This power of a community (or some of its members) to make and re-make its political form of coexistence manifests itself in the sedimentation of social practices, concepts, institutions, and knowledges.’4 If we consider the Constitution as a visual-material object, reflecting the freshly forged norms of the newly independent Indian society in its illustrations, the norms are without doubt overwhelmingly masculine.


Besides the figure of Sita illustrated with Ram (Fig. 02), the portrait of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi (Fig. 03) and a handful of images that include subsidiary female figures (Fig. 04), the Constitution illustrations are peopled with male bodies: super-humans/deities (Ram, Lakshman, Buddha, Mahavir, Shiva, Vikramaditya), supra-humans (yakshas, ascetics) and historical figures (Akbar, Guru Gobind Singh, Shivaji, Tipu Sultan, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose).

How do we parse these depictions of embodied male ideals spread across time, space – and if we disregard the Allahabad High Court ruling above – parallel realities? The strange chronology in the List of Illustrations could be a starting point (Fig. 05).


The chronology goes thus: ‘Mohenjodaro Period–Vedic Period–Epic Period–Mahajanapada and Nanda Period–Mauryan Period–Gupta Period–Medieval Period–Muslim Period–British Period–India’s Freedom Movement–Revolutionary Movement for Freedom–National Freedom’, suggesting that the Muslim Period (featuring Akbar, Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh) is a definitive historical break from the Medieval Period (featuring Orissan Sculpture, Nataraja, Mahabalipuram) and these two are chronologically non-concurrent. The same applies to the timespan of ‘India’s Freedom Movement’ (featuring Mohandas Karamachand Gandhi in two avatars) and ‘Revolutionary Movement for Freedom’ (featuring Subhas Chandra Bose) apropos ‘British Period’ (featuring Rani Laxmibai, Tipu Sultan), denying the chronological overlap of the former two time periods with the latter, as if they were realities completely independent of each other. This kind of surgical separation of simultaneous temporal realities doesn’t seem strange to us anymore. Through school textbooks guided by nationalist historiography, this process has been naturalized already. Structured as the long antagonism of ‘sons of the soil’ Indians vs. ‘outsiders’, in our textbooks Indian history is celebrated as a saga of the vanquished against the vanquishers (with periods of pure oppression and periods of pure resistance, neatly separated), where the spiritually and morally superior side finally wins. What remains only tacitly told is that it was a battle which was equally fought between the opposing archetypes of masculinities. Thus it is useful to see this collective of illustrations as a gallery of triumphant Indian masculinities in all their acceptable diversity.

Commissioned by Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of independent India, the planning and execution of these illustrations were carried out under the active supervision of Nandalal Bose, then in his mid-60s. Among the students he selected for this purpose from Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan, Beohar Rammanohar Sinha took the lead. At Bose’s insistence, Sinha inserted his own diminutive signature (‘Ram’) in the bottom right corner of the title page, and at a few other places. From a recorded conversation with Bose,5 this comes across as one more routine job undertaken by Kala Bhavana for the newborn nation-state. From ideation to execution, even if there were complications, the evidence of these is not forthcoming. Keeping in mind the tearing hurry in which the Constitution was formulated,6 and the ability of Nandalal Bose to gauge the Indian National Congress’s pictorial expectations (he had been associated with the INC since the 1930s), it’s also safe to assume that, by then, the icons of nation were already cast in stone by common consensus. In acknowledgement of his services, Dr Rajendra Prasad feted Bose with the title ‘Desikottam’ (Best of the Country) on 26 December 1952 at the artist’s Santiniketan residence.

But instead of reading the images as just illustrations of the textual canon of nationalist historiography, we should look closer at their formal qualities.

Niharika Dinkar argues that Nandalal Bose’s works between 1905 and 1915 (the aftermath of the Bengal partition declaration and Abanindranath Tagore’s ‘Bangamata/Bharatmata’ painting) depict the male body in a way that is androgynously supple yet ascetically wiry, i.e. exploring the theme of brahmacharya (celibacy) in its leanness – thus neither following the Western exemplar of anatomical correctness nor representing the classical Indic voluptuousness.7 This symbolized a discredited indigenous masculinity, now resurgent via the penance of nationalism. After Gandhi’s first visit to Santiniketan in 1922, Bose got increasingly involved with the Mahatma and zealously took upon himself the custodianship of visually expressing the INC’s ideals. This very relationship culminated in his being given the responsibility of illustrating and calligraphing the Constitution of India. Even though it is not certain exactly how many of the 22 illustrations were executed by Nandalal himself, the reproduction of the famed ‘Bapuji’s Dandi March’ linocut (p. 149) and ‘Bapuji the Peace-maker: His tour in the riot-affected areas of Noakhali’ (p. 154) are unmistakably his (initialled at bottom right corner). In contrast to Gandhi here, in the representations of the ever-youthful, super-human bodies (Ram, Lakshman, Buddha, Mahavir, Shiva, Vikramaditya) as per the Indian conventions,8 ascetic wiriness is underplayed and androgynous suppleness is highlighted.

I would like to argue here that Bose’s ascetic-androgyne pictorial body ideal found its prime outlet in depictions of Gandhi (Figs. 0609). To formulate that argument, I consider visual representations of ascetic wiriness and androgynous suppleness as two ends of a single formalist spectrum.




Competing Indian Masculinities: The Quick and The Dead
This androgyne-ascetic theme reverberates through the depictions of all the non-Islamic figures in the Constitution – stupefied Arjuna; meditative Buddha and Mahavir; aggregated Buddhist monks; dancing Nataraja; and penance-thinned Bhagirath (in the Mahabalipuram ‘Descent of Ganga’ panel – p. 267). Traces of asceticism – a line to represent a muscle here, another to highlight a sinew there – are not hard to find; nor are the traces of the androgyne – in the shaded roundness and slenderness of limbs (Fig. 10). Some of them (Orissan sculpture, Nataraja, Mahabalipuram) are chronologically situated firmly within the Islamic era, yet hermetically sealed from Islamic influences by the logic of nationalist historiography.

How this ascetic-androgynous ideal of masculinity emerges triumphant eventually can be understood by examining how the other ideals of masculinity were abandoned one after another by the wayside of history.


In the designated ‘Muslim Period’ section, the only Muslim depicted is Akbar (in Mughal miniature style). The other two portraits are of Hindu Shivaji and Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. From the caption of the illustration of Akbar (‘Portrait of Akbar with Mughal Architecture’, Fig. 11) it is clear that, according to nationalist historiography, the legacy of Islamic rule in India is strictly limited to and equally distributed between Akbar and architecture (the only other Muslim figure depicted in the Constitution is Tipu Sultan, the late 18th-century ruler of Mysore). The choice of Akbar as the ideal Muslim ruler, on a par in status with Ashoka not only in the expanse of his empire but also in being a proto-secular-par-excellence, is a carefully constructed arc in the nationalist knowledge system.9

The other images pertaining to the ‘Muslim Period’ show a corpulent Shivaji alongside a slender Guru Gobind Singh (Fig. 12), despite most of the historical visual references for the Guru showing him as a burly man. To understand the corpulence in the depiction of Shivaji as the Hindu answer to beefy Islamic masculinity (even though his navy had at least three Muslim admirals)10 and to locate the leanness of Guru Gobind Singh in religious asceticism, a brief summary of the fate of Islamic masculinity under colonial rule is relevant.


The elite Muslim masculinity which preceded the British Raj was thoroughly discredited by the post-1857 British knowledge system as decadent, effeminate and weak, thus legitimizing the fall of Muslim monarchy.11 The demotic Muslim masculinity – that of the poorer, working-class, converted lower-caste Hindus – was seen as raw and dangerous unless tamed appropriately. Swami Vivekananda’s concept of an ideal future India with ‘Vedanta brain and Islam body’ perfectly summarized the acceptable scheme of things. The political consciousness of the elite Islamic masculinity which was later spearheaded by the Muslim League and finally embodied in and by the atheist Muhammad Ali Jinnah, understandably had no place in the Constitution of newly-independent India after the trauma and horror of Partition.

The demotic Islamic masculinity archetype, that of the hardworking and headstrong peasant, survives and is tellingly represented in the illustration captioned: ‘Bapuji the Peace Maker – His tour in the riot-affected areas of Noakhali’ (Fig. 09). All the standing masculine figures who await him are Muslim peasants, placed behind bamboo fencing (as if restrained by a crowd-control device), their body language poised between curiosity and incomprehension. In comparison, the women in the foreground, the foremost probably Hindu with a vermilion mark on her forehead, know their roles perfectly well. Without hesitation, they pay obeisance to Gandhi’s presence. This juxtaposition of the peasant and the woman is not a coincidence if we follow Tanika Sarkar’s argument that puts them on the same rung as far as their assigned roles in the anti-British struggle are concerned. Apparently untouched by alienating Western education, they were supposed to best contribute to the nationalist struggle by carrying out their normative duties (almost like caste duties) with renewed fervour.12 Here, in the composition of the illustration, that message is reiterated with a reprimand, that the ‘rioter’ Muslim peasant would do better to follow the example of his obeisant female Hindu counterpart by following the Gandhian ideals of peace.

A Masculinity Lost, A Masculinity Gained: The Little Big Man
A patient study of the evolution of anti-imperial Indian masculinity into nationalist masculinity is required to contextualize the triumphant emergence of the ascetic-androgyne masculinity ideal, embodied in Gandhi.

Making the colonized ‘common men’ convinced in their lack of masculinity and thus urging them to overcompensate by ‘rising up in rage’ against the British rule, risking their own bodies, is a narrative that has received plenty of scholarly attention.13 But this remains not only one-dimensional but also conveniently parallel to the history textbook narrative of revolutionary anti-imperialist terrorism: how the more manly among the Indian men took to arms to fight the British but were eventually found out to be ‘misguided’. Other scholarly works render the narrative less dramatic yet more engaging.


The ambivalent response – always in favour of the landowner but seemingly sympathetic to the landless – of the early Indian National Congress towards the aggressive colonial agricultural and land policies was due to the party’s majority constitution: the educated middle class, male children of the landed gentry, still holding land through inheritance.14 Possession and control – of tangible and intangible assets – as permanent markers of masculinity have proved to be remarkably enduring across societies, histories and classes. Depending on the specific context, the possession can be of women or of men in lower rungs; within or outside the family; of personal and private properties – land, animals, money, valuables; of knowledge; of health, physical beauty, bodily power. The control can be over the same; and over one’s own body, tools of trade, speech, emotions and bodily secretions. The strongman in the following image (Fig. 13) taken from a textile label seems to have plenty in his possession and control – someones vivid imagination of an Indian पहलवान (pehelvan) – an archetypical acme of masculinity.

The many dispossessions and losses of control for colonized men were hardly uniform across the society. More often, the loss of one class spelled the gain of another. A few examples should illustrate this dynamic.

When it came to the restructuring of the military after the 1857 Uprising, the Orientalist logic of ‘martial races’ of India went through a restructuring, too. Of the four key traits defining the ideal sepoy-worthy Indian race –‘brave and chivalrous’, ‘jealous of their honour’, ‘free and member of a ruling race’ and ‘devotion to their chiefs’– the fourth graduated to become the first in importance. Thus, classes and castes, mostly of the upper rungs, already loyal to the Raj, were increasingly preferred. Many indigenous martial communities of lower castes were struck off from the roster, as argued by military historian Philip Constable who focuses on the exclusion of Mahar sepoys from the Bombay Army after 1892, as a case study.15

The rising English-educated, salaried middle class, often the next generation of the landed gentry, became the representative face of nationalism, their sense of alienated emasculation deepening. The purge of indigenous masculinist cultures happened in the name of cultural reform (all kinds of indigenous physical labour practices were looked down upon as being within the purview of ‘lower classes’).16 It was barely compensable by the rise of British-styled Physical Culture17 – in itself a tepid revival of ‘pure’ Greek physical culture.18

Among the many attributes of this new nationalist masculinity was a deep sense of betrayal and transference of self-image to the ‘higher’ registers or rather the last bastions of masculinity, i.e. the possession of complete control over one’s body and kindling an anti-British spirit rather than the possession of tangible, material attributes like funds, materials and skills to fight the British.19 The injustice of being subordinate to the British was understood theoretically via the discourse of colonial economic plunder and practically via being the victims of everyday racism in the public sphere of courts, colleges, railways and workplaces.20


The sense of betrayal felt by the new middle class was a result of the wonderfully liberating humanist ideals encountered by them through English education and the stark lack of the same in the repressive British statecraft. The ‘lower’ classes, however, were more seasoned in the ways of the powerful and had lesser access to English education. The ‘Hindu Renaissance and its apologetic patterns’ of the reform-prone middle-class Indian masculinity were shaped first by a devotion to the perceived British masculine ideals and then by being bitterly delegitimized by that very object of devotion. This bears an uncanny resemblance to Judith Butler’s formulation about heterosexual maleness getting forged by the double disavowal – ‘never-having-loved-thus-never-having-lost’ – of any loving feelings towards other men in the society.21 The visage of the British monarch continued to shine like a benevolent beacon in the English-language press (Fig. 14) but the veneration for the masculinity ideals he represented had worn thin in his empire.

Falling back on Rabindranath Tagore’s oft-repeated three-stage nationalism formula, a parallel development of Indian nationalist masculinities can be proposed here. In the first stage, a wholehearted acceptance of British cultural ideals with deep rejection of everything indigenous takes place; a representative archetype of this phase would be Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (1809–31) and his acolytes. This is also the first phase of English education. In the second stage, an apologetic mindset develops, that attempts to legitimize indigenous culture with European cultural norms. This is the age of legitimizing yoga with the theory of animal magnetism and creating a pan-Aryan imaginary community whose cultural expression was the Arya Samaj and its like. This stage also sees the origin of the ascetic half of the dyad which we shall look closer into, shortly. In the third stage, when the Macaulay-ite education in India had sufficiently progressed, the oppressed masculinity borrowed its tools of retaliation from the oppressor’s arsenal. This is what Gyanendra Pandey diagnoses as the mainstay of colonial experience – ‘tremendous disorganisation of old forms without real transformation’22 – which mirrors itself in the pattern of re-masculinization by the Hindu Renaissance: ‘...an enthusiastic redefinition of religious methods, but not a challenge to basic religious values.’23

If Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is the apotheosis of the ascetic-androgyne dyad of discredited-yet-resurgent Indian masculinity, it is worth discussing the two halves of this dyad in more detail.

‘Political sannyasi’-hood, the ascetic half of the dyad, of nationalist masculinity – was an Indian political utterance simultaneously ‘modern, traditional and saintly.’24 It is summarized by Gayatri Reddy is as follows:25 at the core of it lies the immense cultural value ascribed to renunciation, especially of the sexual kind, that amounts to great spiritual advancements due to semen-retention, considered the most vital fluid of the male body. The requirement for this sacrifice by the male Indian population was to defeat the reigning ‘materialist’ British masculinity with re-emergent ‘spiritual’ Indian masculinity – ‘a technology for reclaiming lost manhood’, a philosophy vigorously supported by Swami Vivekananda. It had its progenitor in Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s Anandamath – in suggesting sannyasi-hood would ‘build a nation of heroes’. The way Gandhi’s philosophy branched out from this was in a call for accommodating the best of ‘feminine’ qualities in the body of the celibate male: humility, endurance, patience, quiet fortitude and dedication – thus simultaneously creating a supreme androgyne male ideal and opening up a space for femininity in the mainstream nationalist politics. Pre-Gandhi nationalist politics was more masculinist, where women were considered as dangerous distractions – except in the virtual form of Mother India. Rabindranath Tagore’s male protagonists in his political novels, trapped between love and duty, bear ample testimony to this archetype.26

The androgynous aspects of Gandhi’s body are not a scholarly figment of imagination, but remain rather well-documented. His smooth, unwrinkled skin, ‘not-unpleasant leanness’, ‘gentleness like Mother (India) and fortitude like Father (of the Nation)’27 attracted equal amounts of admiration (e.g. a perfectly gender-transcendent Yogic body as per Paramhansa Yogananda) and ire (from the Hindu Mahasabha, for not being masculine enough to be adequately severe on errant non-Hindus). His ‘much discussed embrace of celibacy or Brahmacharya and his role as a “eunuch for the nation”’28 added to this construct.


The Absence of Mother India: No Country for Women
Just as the androgynous aspect of Gandhi remains subterranean until it is teased out, the androgynous aspect of Laxmibai (Fig. 15), the sole female (historical) portrayed in the Constitution becomes visible only when juxtaposed with Shivaji and Tipu Sultan.

In the bare palette of single-line drawing, masculine strength could only be shown by the girth of limbs and the suggestion of muscles. The accompaniment of weapons, despite the relaxed pose of Tipu Sultan and Shivaji, is enough to display their masculine valour. But Laxmibai has to strike an aggressive pose with raised sword, so that the flexed muscle in her forearm is highlighted. If the militant masculinity of Laxmibai remains the only acknowledgement of female contribution to the independent nation state, the significance of the astonishing erasure of another feminine entity – Mother India – must be considered at length here. The transfer of the previously discussed ascetic-yogic-nationalist male’s spiritual parentage from a Father God to Mother India had already happened (Fig. 16).

The ‘Mother India’ culture that emerges to make the endangered Indian masculinity feel safe and purposive is riddled with contradictions: she comes across ‘as invincible, but also vulnerable; as benevolent, but also bloodthirsty; as comely maiden, but also as ageless matron; and as guardian goddess of the nation, but at the same time in the need of her sons care and protection’29 and last but not the least, devoid of any father figure to protect her and with a brood of curiously ‘invisibilized daughters’.30 These contradictions of conjuring up a virtual ‘female body as the venue where male crises are worked out’31 doesn’t seem incongruous at all, until pointed out thus. Because Mother India, in yet another instance of ‘codes which both the ruler and ruled can share’32 is as much a sari-clad Britannia, as she is Durga, the amalgamated power of agency – Shakti – of super-male deities, brought into materialization to handle a grave crisis – British rule. Thus, all her shapeshifting and seeming contradictions had prior cultural legitimization (Figs. 17, 18).33


The many renditions of Mother India exhorted her sons into anti-colonial struggle,34 through visual, verbal and aural means throughout the last five decades of British rule in India. Thus her absence from the 22 illustrations of the Constitution of India (in action since 26 January 1950) is indeed startling. Her only constitutional presence is in the caption of the illustration of Subhas Chandra Bose (p. 160) ‘trying to liberate Mother India’. It is tempting to interpret this absence as a gesture to keep the Muslim disaffection at bay – a secularized Hindu goddess apparently being deemed offensive by the community. But the preponderance of Hindu deities among the illustrations and the ongoing potency of the Mother India icon in contemporary visual culture make this explanation seem naive. Just like Durga was made to disappear after the Buffalo Demon was successfully slain, and the accumulated ‘Shakti’ went back to its ‘rightful’ super-male owners, Mother India, after the British were made to leave, disappeared from the imagery in the Constitution of India. If we consider the visual evidence (Fig. 19), the nation-rearing duties were merely transferred from Mother India to Father Gandhi’s single parentage.

Demise of Militant Masculinity: Bang! You’re Dead

Ironically, this vanishing trail of ‘Mother India’ parallels another vanishing trail – that of militant Indian masculinity (as expressed through anti-imperialist revolutionary terrorism) – one absence layered on another. Subhas Chandra Bose is selected as the lone representative of the same, his Indian National Congress ancestry working crucially in his favour. By the nationalist historical thinking, the first crisis of Hindu masculinity came with Islamic invasion – and the need for a Hindu Indian militant masculinity ideal arose. The fear and envy of a more virile and masculine Muslim who had destroyed the golden age of Hindu spiritual and material masculinity was a rhetoric that gained prominence all across the public sphere during the final decades of anti-British nationalist struggle. There is an oedipal element in this narrative: in order to save Mother India from the militant patriarchal figure of the Muslim, the Hindu sons must rise in arms and with militant matriotism commit a rightful patricide.35


This floating signifier of a militant patriarchal figure is easily interchangeable between the Muslim and the British, as any close reading of popular nationalist texts would confirm. They are conflated under the historical rubric of ‘outsider oppressors’. While the corpulent Shivaji could give the burly Mughal a good fight, the robust Tipu Sultan (unfortunately, not a Hindu king) could fend off the equally robust British. The forking of paths between the non-violent ‘Indian national movement’ and the violent ‘revolutionary’ movement for freedom as proposed by school books (the non-violent path being extolled as the saner, more ‘civilized’, more ‘Indian’ choice ) is quickly muddled if we examine how intertwined their masculinity ideals were (Fig. 20, exhorting violence towards self for the icon of non-violence). The heroes – especially Shivaji – of the ‘Muslim Period’ illustrated in the Constitution were crucial icons in the spiritual re-masculinization that worked equally well in case of both anti-Muslim and anti-British sentiments, providing past evidence of successful resistance against the Muslims and strengthening the case for an inevitable future – freedom from the British.

Yet the ascetic masculine ideal had to emerge triumphant in the nationalist normative. The masculine ideal of the ‘revolutionary movement for freedom’, although hinged on the ascetic, was more homoeopathic in its spirit rather than allopathic. While the ‘spiritual’ Indian masculinity, in denial of its Orientalist origins, considered itself completely contrary in essence to the subjugating ‘materialist’ European masculinity and thus its worthy competitor (in that sense ‘allopathic’: treating a virulence with its opposite), the revolutionary nationalism widely borrowed its spirit from other European revolutionary masculinities like the Irish, Russian or the Italian (in that sense ‘homoeopathic’: treating a virulence with its homologue) during the First World War. With Subhas Chandra Bose, this ideal was epitomized during the Second World War.36


Although the official textual history of Indian nationalism has been successful in abbreviating the revolutionary side of nationalism to merely an eventful subchapter, the popular visual culture has been celebrating it unequivocally (Figs. 2122).37 A fascinating case study in this context is Bhagat Singh’s now-iconic Trilby-hatted photograph and its successful dissemination in the popular visual culture.38

In the posters (Figs. 2122), made by two different artists, the countenances of the valiant, militant heroes depicted look almost identical, down to the moustache (which Chandra Shekhar Azad doesn’t stop twirling as he shoots three police men in Fig. 21). Both artists seem to have adapted the following visual ideal of Indian male beauty to its last detail: ‘मोटे नैन चौड़ा माथा, लंबी गर्दन गोल तेरी/ तीरैं के निशान मारे, भुजा हैं सुडौल तेरी/ चेहरे की गोलाई जैसे चंद्रमा सी खिली हुई/ दाँतों की बत्तीसी जैसे संधि करके मिली हुई/ शेरों जैसी चाल जैसे मंद मंद ढली हुई/ मैं कई बार बोलूँ एक बार बोले तू, मन्ने दुःख सै बड़ी भारी’Motey nain chowda maatha, lambi gathan gol teri / teeron ke nishaan bhare, bhuja hai sudoul teri / chehre ki golai jaise chandrama si khili hui / daanton ki battisi jaise sandhi karke mili hui / sheron jaisi chaal jaise mand mand dhali hui / main kayin bar bolun ek baar bole tu, manney dukhh se badi bhari’ (Large eyes, broad forehead, elongated round neck, Strong, shapely arms bear the scars of wars. Moon-like face, Pearl-like, close-set teeth, Like a lion he walks with powerful strides, But is frugal with his speech).39 If these individuals seem to us like they are the same person playing different roles, the reading wouldn’t be an errant one as they are all idealized emanations of the same militant masculinity deployed against the non-Hindu oppressor. This lack of ‘realism’ in individual facial details is an artistic choice by H.R. Raja (Fig. 21, signature at bottom centre) and not a reflection of his possible ineptitude in portraiture. In fact, if one looks at Raja’s oeuvre closely his adequate expertise in portraiture is evident.40


In the case of the Constitution of India, the ‘last man standing’ as far as militant masculinity is concerned, is of course, Subhas Chandra Bose (the subsequent illustrations in the text depict natural scenes, not individuals). Bose’s existing wide acceptance in the pan-Indian patriotic popular culture (Figs. 23, 24) made him a safe choice, as the sole embodiment of the spirit of revolutionary Indian masculinity discussed above.

Here, in the image caption, noticeably, his struggle is anointed with a suitable plea for ‘Mahatmajis blessings’, signifying whose spirit would be officially venerated in post-Independence India. In posters of Netaji with Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru (Figs. 2527), this spirit of militant masculinity, embodied in Netaji is shown receding in importance, almost like successive frames of an animation film, yet remaining useful as an icon. The chronology is evident from Nehru first being depicted as a dhoti-clad Congress leader and then as the signature achkan-attired first Prime Minister of India and Netaji’s transition from a dhoti-clad leader to his military-uniformed ‘deceased’ self.



Bureaucratic-Secular Masculinity: Lonely are the New Braves
Through the immense violence of Partition, a new nation-state was birthed and the demands made of masculine icons changed substantively.

‘Independence can be seen to mark a crucial slippage in terminology: in short, nationalism before 1947 became secularism after. ... For the leaders of newly independent India, still reeling from the shock of Partition, Pakistan represented the most extreme manifestation of the politics of communalism. It was in this context that secularism was posed as a truer form of nationalism, the answer to the problem of national integration…secularism became one of the pillars of Indian nationalist thought because the architects of the new nation-state – overwhelmingly middle-class, upper-caste Hindu men – saw it as providing a counterpoint to challenges posed from the margins by Muslim and Dalit communities…. Rather than being distinct from community and caste, nationalism and communalism, liberalism and democracy, Indian secularism was a relational category that emerged at the nexus of all of these.’41

The idealized dramatis personae of the illustrations in the Constitution of India conveniently excluded contemporary living Indians. However, the almost-impossible task of formulating this tangled and massive document had been accomplished by a 106-member Constituent Assembly (with 15 women members) between 1946 and 1950.42 The members of the Constituent Assembly (Gandhi was never a part of it) were all alive and their idolized representations in popular visual culture could serve as a window to this transition from nationalism to secularism.

While discussing the gendered-ness of the first phase of Indian nationalist consciousness in the site of Calcutta’s proscenium theatre,43 Sudipto Chatterjee uses the trope of first ‘de-peopling’ the popular visual imaginary from the widely varied constructs of ‘nation’, ‘patriot’, ‘nationalist service’ etc. and then ‘re-peopling’ it with the rhetorical archetypes fashioned by the middle-class intelligentsia’s imagination.


Similarly, we can regard the reshuffling of staged role models of Indian masculinity between the two post-Independence visual archives: the illustrations of members of the Constitution of India and the popular representations of Indian Constituent Assembly. The expectedly INC-dominated committee had only a handful of members who commanded enough of a public presence to have a place in popular visual culture (Fig. 28), which was evidently biased towards revolutionaries for their narrative appeal. Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhimrao Ambedkar, Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad and Abul Kalam Azad can be counted among those who did.


In popular prints, these leaders are dressed in their public attires, having made their reputations based on varying combinations of their erudition (reading, writing and often legal education abroad), oration (in august company and among the ‘masses’) and administrative acumen, they exude a masculine ideal very different from their pre-Independence counterparts. Their persona is neither that of the romantic rebel, nor of the valiant warrior, nor of a spiritual sustenance-giving saint. Their masculine archetype intersects more with that of the builder and head of a joint family, intent on getting down to brass tacks and doing the hard work – a bureaucratic-secular masculinity. This masculinity is perpetually dressed for work (Fig. 29), because the nation-builder’s work is never done. ‘What is common to all these political personalities is that their choice of clothes was consistent. ...Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajaji (C. Rajagopalachari), Maulana Azad…they did not change their look depending on the circumstances. There was no difference between their private and public looks.’44 They represent a collective holding of breath in the whirlpool of bureaucratic nation-building duties. Here the ‘ascetic’ of the ascetic-androgyne dyad is reflected in their making an unending litany of sacrifices – mostly of the personal for the national – and like ‘real men’, not complaining about it. How the pre-Independence Gandhian ‘androgyne’ side of the dyad reformulates itself will be discussed in the next section.


Centralization (by bringing in the princely states under the Indian Union), uniformity (the Hindi-ization and other central culture impositions) and cohesion (by making the national borders seem impenetrable) were the reigning themes in a Partition-weary national consciousness, which unsurprisingly led to Vallabhbhai Patel (Fig. 30) being celebrated as the man of the hour. This glory is the same one historically deferred to an empire-building warlord, the same kind previously offered to the globally trailblazing Subhas Chandra Bose. But this time, it is done bureaucratically, ‘democratically,’ and hence deemed anything but feudal in the imagination of citizens.

To greatly condense an elaborate and complex wrangling of gender, class, caste, religion and imperial interests in the decades around Independence, I will attempt to summarize the two great discourse upheavals of this time:45 from nationalism to secularism and its counterparts in masculinity. Both were catalysed by the final bout of masculine inadequacy administered on the Indian population. Unlike the previous bout which was patricratic, this time it was paternalistic. In the patricratic mode, Indians (the males representing the entire lot) were looked down upon by the British as alien children with strange customs, forcibly adopted against their will for their own welfare. These children were inadequate but useful, hopefully perfectible with the required amount of violence, the right kind of education in European values, social reform and selective integration into statecraft. In the latter paternalistic mode, Indians were seen as adolescents who had failed their father, children who even after the required administration of violence, education and reform had remained intransigent and even worse, demanding sovereignty, despite being undeserving. They were forcefully reminded, still judged by colonial standards, how completely unworthy they were of upholding an Indian version of democracy. According to the colonial masters, Indian society was iniquitous in its essence, glaringly obvious in their abysmal treatment of the underprivileged, especially of women (which was shouted from the rooftops by Katherine Mayo’s 1927 book Mother India); and of minority religions and lower castes (Gandhi’s realization of the failure in the ideal of all-accommodating Hinduism, the Partition and the hardening of lower-caste non-solidarity with the overarching caste-Hindu agenda of Nationalism were all out in the open) despite all the ingestion of English education and English statecraft.

To visually illustrate this patricratic vs. paternalistic binary, I take recourse to the sartorial route via Emma Tarlo’s scholarship on Indian clothing. (Figs. 31, 32)46


This ascetic-turned-bureaucratic masculine ideal had an ‘impersonal’ core based on the modernist faith in technological progress as against the earlier faith on the embodied spirit of the nation (Figs. 33, 34). Two nationalist characters written by Rabindranath Tagore, thirty years apart demonstrate this telling contrast. The first is the eponymous hero of Gora (published in 1909) and the second is Nabinmadhab in the short story Shesh Katha (published in 1939).47 Gora’s embodied masculinity – visibly (a complexion and build that evince his Anglo-Saxon genes), aurally (a baritone voice) and verbally (forceful and persuasive oratory) – is supposed to be overwhelming. So is his brand of nationalism (arguably based on Swami Vivekananda and Sister Nivedita)48 which includes a forceful acceptance of all his countrymen, warts and all, thus pushing away the questions of self-critique and religious reforms. Yet this unconditional surge of love for all the underprivileged, irrespective of their caste/class/gender/religion – be it for a Brahmo girl Sucharita, his ideologically divergent friend Binay, doctrinally different Pareshbabu, his (adoptive) mother Anandomoyi who is ritually divergent, or a lower-caste boy Nando – is deflected repeatedly against pre-existing socio-cultural barriers. Gora’s asceticism in the service of nation is his inability to find human objects of love under feasible social terms, due to his transcendent and arguably utopian ideal. It is deeply personal in service of an impersonal entity, the spirit of India, in its Bhakti-like fervour.


For the latter Tagorean character, asceticism is calculatedly ‘impersonal’, in choice of vocation and of love. It’s a word that’s strewn across the short story, where the protagonist (writing under a pseudonym ‘Nabinmadhab’ as he is sufficiently famous) has been a revolutionary nationalist, who after incarceration, realizes the value of a higher form of homoeopathic anti-colonialism, i.e. becoming a Europe-trained technocrat to battle the British technocracy (commonly understood as the core reason for their supremacy). While serving, understandably, the geological survey of a princely state, Nabin, for the first time in his adult life, gives vent to his thus far pent-up romantic feelings for the opposite sex. His object of tenderness is Achira, highly educated, articulate and independent-minded, who, despite her reciprocity of feelings, advises herself and him to obliterate this romance as nothing noble enough can ensue from it. Because, she says, womankind with their selfish love can only obstruct higher objectives of great men. Like the subalterns in Gandhi’s Noakhali illustration in the Constitution of India, the ‘bhawdroloks’ including Nabinmadhab are also called upon to persevere in their ‘caste duty’ of nation-building with their world-class technological skill.

The feminized ancient past of India – which Indians had grown to consider shameful as a result of their exposure to the colonial knowledge system – had to be masculinized and modernized with science and technology, the feminine interior merely working as the moral compass for the masculine exterior. ‘The past was not dead but alive, open to the modern age and ready to give moral direction to science and technology. The beauty of this formulation was that it located the nation as a space for the critique of Western modernity while internalizing the program of modernization. The profound ideological significance of this vision is undeniable. It gave Indian nationalism an irresistible elan; it cast the struggle for the modern nation not as a narrowly conceived nativist affair but as an expansive moral campaign to unlock the nation’s creative energy to live according to the ideals of a scientific temper.’49

Androgynous Masculinity Redux: Godfather-mother II
We have to read the Buddha’s iconic presence with members of the Constituent Assembly – and the ubiquitous Gandhi (now no more) – in the following images (Figs. 3540) in the light of the above summary. The repressed androgyne of the masculinity ideals dyad eventually re-emerges in this familiar iconic form.

It can be strongly argued that each of these national leaders understood and deployed Buddhist ideals in their political praxis inside and outside of statecraft very differently, but I would align the affinity of this Buddhist icon with the state’s interpretation of the same. Bhimrao Ambedkar’s radical interpretation of Buddhism to reconfigure Dalit consciousness it was not. The widely adopted Buddhist symbols as state emblems (e.g. the lion capital of Ashoka, the Ashoka Chakra) have been interpreted as strategically neutral – since India had a negligible Buddhist population at the time of Independence (Ambedkar’s mass neo-Buddhist conversion of 1956 was yet to happen) – thus rendering these choices as safely non-partisan. A convenient conflation of Gandhi’s non-violent ideology with the Buddha’s (‘India is the land of tolerance – the land of Gandhi and Buddha’ was as useful rhetoric then as it is now) made the Buddha closely woven into what Sudipta Kaviraj calls the ‘moral enchantment of the state’.50 Along with Ashoka and Akbar (both depicted in the Constitution, and celebrated in Nehru’s writings), the Buddha was a key piece of the nationalist historiography which showed the ethos of India as ‘always-already-secular’ and thus a worthy challenge to European-styled secularism at its own game.51

The seamless appropriation of the heterodox Buddha into orthodox Hindu pantheon had happened centuries earlier and early nationalists like Sister Nivedita among others (e.g. in her 1911 publication on Ajanta) strengthened this narrative, thus making the Buddha compatible with the caste-Hindu core of secular nationalism. The prominent sacred thread on Buddha in Fig. 38 is a telling signifier of this appropriation. It has iconographic precedents as the Buddha (Prince Siddhartha Gautama) was Kshatriya – a sacred thread-bearing varna (class) in Buddha’s own time. The impossible and impracticable equidistance from each religion which Indian secularism claimed to practice, was symbolically realized in the equanimity of the Buddha image with downcast eyes.

The androgyne part of this nationally upheld Buddha icon can be excavated via Sugata Rays argument.52 He emphasizes that this is another version of the colonial Buddha, orientalized for anti-colonial purposes. It gained its legacy from its high circulation in colonial visual culture. The ‘effeminate’ (androgyne) Buddha of Sarnath (5th century CE) was argued by Ananda Coomaraswamy et al. to be the asceticized, internally spiritualized, superior ‘other’ to the muscle-bound, materialistic Gandharan Buddha. It was an intellectual strategy to emphasize the extra-European indigenous origin theory of Indian art, which was severely under threat from the colonial art historians who were interpreting all Indian art as an aftermath of the Alexandrian invasion of India.

Besides the comparability between the post-Independence Buddha and the pre-Independence Gandhi icon in the androgyny register, the ascetic registers of both had self-abnegation in common. Under British rule, the self-abnegation was mandated by the nationalist standard-bearers to gain independence from the foreign ruler and post-Independence it was necessitated as an unending interim period, legitimized and accepted by the concept of sacrifice to rebuild a nation that had been left in grave emotional, economic and social shambles.53

Thus we come full circle to Nihraika Dinkar’s argument regarding Nandalal Bose’s depictions of the ascetic-androgyne masculine body-ideal which keeps coming to the rescue of pre-nationalist, nationalist and post-nationalist causes while signifiers of the ‘spiritual’ shift kaleidoscopically.

Fading Ideals of Masculinity: The Perks of ‘Prajatantra’
The absurdity of this symbolic equanimous masculinity with less-than-sufficient support from the state is pictured sharply in the poster titled ‘Prajatantra’ (Democracy) where, under the benevolent smile of Gandhi – his martyrdom embodied by Jesus and his equanimity embodied by Buddha – a procession walks towards a pleasant twilight where boundaries of class/caste/gender/religion are ostensibly erased (Figs. 4143). The king walks with the shoemaker, the moneylender with the farmer, the pandit with the untouchable, the Muslim with the Hindu. Women (both Muslim and Hindu) are just about visible, but their natural-enemies-turned-to-allies are blocked from view.

But the choice of pictorial perspective makes it plenty clear to whose advantage the field is tilted.

The last three illustrations (Figs. 4446) in the Constitution of India feature not men, not even humans, but a mountainscape, a desertscape and a seascape. Mother India was previously coterminus with the body of the nation, and the nationalist masculine ethos follows her, armed with the logic of patriarchy and sovereignty. Masculine citizenship here is defined by the symbolic possession of land and water.


Thereby hangs the narrative of the many incarnations of the ascetic-androgynous masculinity ideal. But does the dormant militant revolutionary masculinity ever get reincarnated as the carefree, bidi-smoking, hardworking mazdoor (hired labourer/factory worker) (Fig. 47)? Only another journey through another set of visual culture archives can tell.



This essay is part of the 'Manly Matters: Representations of Maleness in South Asian Popular Visual Practice'


1 See Bhatnagar, Rakesh, ‘HC’s Unique Interpretation of Secularism’, Times of India, 11 January 1993; Irani, C.R., 'A Matter of Faith and Fortune', The Statesman Weekly, 16 January 1993.
2 Sharma, Arvind (ed.), Hinduism and Secularism: After Ayodhya, Hampshire, NY: Palgrave, 2001, pp. 129–30.
Also see: https://youtu.be/jZfZ158Bccw?t=5m3s, accessed 23 March 2018.
3 See Mitchell, W.J.T., ‘What Is Visual Culture? Its Meaning in the Visual Arts: Views from the Outside’, in Meaning in the Visual Arts: Views from the Outside: A Centennial Commemoration of Erwin Panofsky (1892–1968), edited by Irving Lavin, Princeton, NJ: Institute for Advanced Study, 1995, pp. 207–17; Pinney, Christopher, ‘Photos of the Gods’: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India, New Delhi, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 7–14, and Ramaswamy, Sumathi, ‘Maps, Mother/Goddesses, and Martyrdom in Modern India’, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 67, No. 3, August 2008, pp. 819–53.
4 Call for Papers Statement, 4th International Colloquium in Social and Political Thought: ‘Constitution: The Power of Shaping Forms of Life’, 2–3 November 2017, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago de Chile, http://sociologicalimagination.org/archives/19393, accessed 26 June 2017.
5 Mondal, Panchanan, Bharatshilpi Nandalal (Nandalal: The Artist of India), Vol. 4, Bolpur: Rarh Gawbeshana Pawrshad, Sri Durga Press, 1993, pp. 624–25.
6 Shekhawat, Vineeta & Shekhawat, Vibhuti, ‘Indian Constitution: Model Designing and Summation’, The Indian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 51, No. 1, January–March 1990, pp. 54–74.
7 Dinkar, Niharika, ‘Masculine Regeneration and the Attenuated Body in the Early Works of Nandalal Bose’, Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2010, pp. 169–88.
8 Ganapati Stapati, a contemporary temple sculptor from South India gives the most vivid verbal description of this body ideal: ‘smooth, tactile, like the skin of a mango. It should look as if it could have grown into its present shape from the inside out.’ Parker, Samuel K., ‘Unfinished Work at Mamallapuram or, What Is an Indian Art Object?’,Artibus Asiae, Vol. 61, No. 1, 2001, pp. 53–75; see p. 66.

9 A nationalist cultural trail was suggested by Dr Kavita Singh in a classroom lecture on 10 August 2015 at Jawaharlal Nehru University, to show the transformation of Akbar to ‘Akbar the Great’, which besides books included cinema as well. It started with tomes as early as Mohammed Hussain Azad’s Darbar-e-Akbari (1910), continued with Vincent Smith’s Akbar the Great Mughal (1917) and culminated in Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India (1946). 
10 Prasad, Rajendra, India Divided, Bombay: Hind Kitabs, 1946.
11 See O’Hanlon, Rosalind, ‘Manliness and Imperial Service in Mughal North India’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 42, No. 1, 1999, pp. 47–93; O’Hanlon, Rosalind, ‘Military Sports and the History of the Martial Body in India’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 50, No. 4, 2007, pp. 490–523, and Butler Brown, Katherine, ‘If music be the food of love: Masculinity and Eroticism in the Mughal “mehfil”’, Love in South Asia: A Cultural History, edited by Francesca Orsini, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. 61–86. 
12 Sarkar, Tanika, ‘Nationalist Iconography: Image of Women in 19th Century Bengali Literature’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 22, No. 47, 21 November 1987, pp. 2011–15; see p. 2014.

13 Among many other texts, Mrinalini Sinha’s Colonial Masculinity: The ‘Manly Englishman’ and the ‘Effeminate Bengali’ in the Late Nineteenth Century (Mancehster: Manchester University Press, 1995) and Tanika Sarkar’s Hindu Wife, Hindu Nation: Community, Religion and Cultural Nationalism (New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001) remain two relevant and accessible ones. Homi Bhabha’s ‘Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse’ (October, Vol. 28, Spring 1984, pp. 125–33) is considered a key theoretical work. 
14 Rag, Pankaj, ‘Indian Nationalism 1885–1905: An Overview’, Social Scientist, Vol. 23, No. 4/6, April–June 1995, pp. 69–97; see pp. 75–78.
15 Constable, Philip, ‘The Marginalization of a Dalit Martial Race in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Western India’, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 60, No. 2, May, 2001, pp. 439–78.
16 For Powada in Maharashtra, see http://epw.in/journal/2002/11/special-articles/conceptualising-popular-culture.html, accessed 23 March 2018.
For Charak in Bengal, see Banerjee, Sumanta, The Parlour and the Streets: Elite and Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Calcutta, Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1989, pp. 78–146.
17 Rosselli, John, ‘The Self-Image of Effeteness: Physical Education and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Bengal’, Past & Present, No. 86 (February 1980), pp. 121–48.
18 Leoussi, A.S., ‘Making Nations in the Image of Greece: Classical Greek Conceptions of the Body in the Construction of National Identity in 19th-century England, France and Germany’, in Graeco-Roman Antiquity and the Idea of Nationalism in the 19th Century, edited by T. Fogen and R. Warren, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016, pp. 45–70. 
19 This changing of the guard in Indian nationalism was expressed aptly by Akbar Allahabadi (1846–1921) (from Rag, ‘Indian Nationalism’, p. 80, footnote 9):
 ‘मुवक्किल छूटे उनके पंजे से जब / तो बस क़ौम-ए-मरहूम के सर हुए / पपीहे पुकारा किए “पी कहां” / मगर वो प्लीडर से लीडर हुए’ (‘Muwakkil chhoote unke panje se jab / to bas qaum-e-marhoom ke sar hue / Papihe pukara kiye “pee kahan” / Magar woh “Pleader” se leader hue’), translated synoptically as: when their clients left, they were as good as dead (alluding to depleting revenues of the propertied, part-time politics-wallas) and they let go the ‘p’ in pleader (alluding to the illusion in the efficacy of dealing with the British via verbal and written deliberations) and turned into leaders instead.
20 Rag, ‘Indian Nationalism’, p. 71.
21 Butler, Judith, ‘Melancholy Gender/Refused Identification’, in Constructing Masculinity, edited by Maurice Berger, Brian Wallis and Simon Watson, New York: Routledge, 1995, pp. 21–36.
22 Pandey, Gyanendra, ‘Economic Dislocation in 19th Century U.P.: Some Implications of the Decline of Artisanal Industry in Colonial India’, inRural South Asia: Linkages, Development, and Change, edited by P. Robb, London and Dublin: Curzon Press, 1983.
23 Bharati, Agehananda ‘The Hindu Renaissance and its Apologetic Patterns’, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 29, No. 2, February 1970, pp. 267–87; see p. 268.
24 W.H. Morris quoted in ibid., p. 268. 
25 Reddy, Gayatri, ‘“Men” Who Would Be Kings: Celibacy, Emasculation, and the Re-Production of “Hijras” in Contemporary Indian Politics’, Social Research, Vol. 70, No. 1 (Pariah Minorities), Spring 2003, pp. 163–200; see pp. 175–79.
26 Ibid., see p. 178.
27 This deeply conflicted masculinity is gloriously summed up in that famous dialogue of the comedy cult hit film Andaaz Apna Apna (1994) which is as complimentary as it is derogatory:
 ‘आप पुरुष ही नहीं... महापुरुष है...’ –‘Aap purush hi nahi, mahapurush hai'’ (You are hardly a male...rather a super-male).
28 Becker, Carol, ‘Gandhi’s Body and Further Representations of War and Peace’, Art Journal, Vol. 65, No. 4, Winter 2006, pp. 78–95; see p. 94. Also see: Kakar: 1989; Parekh: 1989.

29 Ramaswamy, ‘Maps, Mother/Goddesses, and Martyrdom’, p. 827.
30 Ramaswamy, Sumathi, The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010, p. 237.
31 Graybill, Rhiannon, ‘Are We Not Men? Unstable Masculinity in the Hebrew Prophets’, Podcast about her newly published book (Oxford University Press, 2016) with Phillip Sherman, http://newbooksnetwork.com/rhiannon-graybill-are-we-not-men-unstable-masculinity-in-the-hebrew-prophets-oxford-up-2016/ Here she summarizes Carol J. Clover’s central argument in the book Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.
32 Nandy, Ashis, Intimate Enemy: The Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983, p. 2. 
33 The particularly unheroic side of this endangered masculinity, nourished by feminine co-dependence, is captured by an early satirical skit 
‘ধর্মপ্রচার’ –Dhawrmoprochar’ (Evangelism) by Rabindranath Tagore, based on a real event, where a young Bengali man beats up a Padre and then runs away when the police shows up. In the satire, he returns home and demands to be fed immediately by the lady of the house, because now that his valour is rekindled by hitting a white man, it might not end well for her if she is not quick with the meal.
‘সাহেব মেরেছি| বঙ্গবাসীর / কলঙ্ক গেছে ঘুচি| / মেজবউ কোথা, ডেকে দাও তারে – / কোথা ছোকা কোথা লুচি /এখনো আমার তপ্ত রক্ত উঠিতেছে উচ্ছ্বসি – / তাড়াতাড়ি আজ লুচি না পাইলে / কী জানি কী ক'রে বসি|’–Shaheb merechhi. Bawngobashir / kawlonko gaychhey ghuchi. / Mejobou kotha, deke dao tarey – / Kotha chhoka kotha luchi / Ekhono aamar tawpto rawkto uthitechhey uchchhoshi – / Taratari aaj luchi na pailey / Ki jani ki korey boshi.’
(Goswami, Parimal, Adhunik Byango Porichawy [An Introduction to Modern Bengali Satire], Kolkata: Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi, 2010, p. 39.)
34 For changing avatars of Mother India, see Bagchi, Jasodhara,“Representing Nationalism: Ideology of Motherhood in Colonial Bengal’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 25, No. 42/43, 20–27 October 1990, pp. WS65–WS71; Gupta, Charu, ‘The Icon of Mother in Late Colonial North India’, Economic and Political Weekly, 10 November 2001, pp. 4291–99, http://www.epw.in/journal/2001/45/special-articles/icon-mother-late-colonial-north-india.html, accessed 23 March 2018, and Ramaswamy, Sumathi, ‘Maps, Mother/Goddesses, and Martyrdom’, The Goodess and the Nation.

35 Belli, Melia, ‘Performing Paradigms of Modern Rajput Masculinities: Men’s Songs to Rao Gopal Singh of Kharwa’, Asian Ethnology, Vol. 69, No. 1, 2010, pp. 69–93; see p. 86.
36 Silvestri, Michael, ‘“The Sinn Fein of India”: Irish Nationalism and the Policing of Revolutionary Terrorism in Bengal’, Journal of British Studies, Vol. 39, No. 4, October 2000, pp. 454–86
37 See Pinney, ‘Photos of the Gods’; Ramaswamy, ‘Maps, Mother/Goddesses, and Martyrdom’, The Goodess and The Nation.
38 Maclean, Kama, ‘The Portrait’s Journey: The Image, Social Communication and Martyr-Making in Colonial India’, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 70, No. 4, November 2011, pp. 1051–82.
39 Chowdhry, Prem, ‘Popular Perceptions of Masculinity in Rural North Indian Oral Traditions’, Asian Ethnology, Vol. 74, No. 1, 2015, pp. 5–36; see p. 11.
40 Pinney, ‘Photos of the Gods’, pp. 174–80.

41 Tejani, Shabnum, Indian Secularism: A Social and Intellectual History (1890–1950), Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2007, pp. 13–15.
42 Shekhawat & Shekhawat, ‘Indian Constitution’.
43 Sudipto Chatterjee, The Colonial Staged: Theatre in Colonial Calcutta, Kolkata: Seagull Books, 2007, p. 239.
44 http://livemint.com/Leisure/hruueh2knueI3qMIhE0hUN/A-sartorial-theory-of-politics.html, accessed 25 December, 2017.
45 With the help of: Nandy, Ashis, The Illegitimacy of Nationalism: Rabindranath Tagore and the Politics of Self, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994; Nandy, Ashis, The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994; Sinha, Mrinalini, ‘Refashioning Mother India: Feminism and Nationalism in Late Colonial India’, Feminist Studies, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Points of Departure: India and the South Asian Diaspora), Autumn 2000, pp. 623–44; Som, Reba, ‘Jawaharlal Nehru and the Hindu Code: A Victory of Symbol over Substance?’,Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1, February 1994), pp. 165–94; Nigam, Aditya, The Insurrection of Little Selves: The Crisis of Secular-Nationalism in India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006.
46 Tarlo, Emma, Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996, pp. 43, 140. 
47 Tagore, Rabindranath, ‘Last Word’ (শেষ কথা – Shesh Katha), re-published in Desh: Golden Jubilee Short Story Collection: 1933–1983 (দেশ সুবর্ণজয়ন্তী গল্পসংকলন ১৯৩৩- ১৯৮৩), Kolkata: Ananda Publishers, 1997, pp. 38–51.
48 See Sarkar, Sumit, The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal, 1903-1908, New Delhi: People
s Publishing House, 1994, p. 85; Guha, Ayan, ‘Tagore: Nivedita : Relations’, Folklore and Folkloristics, Vol. 4, No. 2, December 2011. 
49 Prakash, Gyan, Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999, pp. 207–08, 213.
50 Kaviraj, Sudipta, ‘On the Enchantment of the State: Indian Thought on the Role of the State in the Narrative of Modernity’, European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes de Sociologie / Europäisches Archiv für Soziologie, Vol. 46, No. 2, 2005, pp. 263–96.
51 Ibid.
52 Ray, Sugata, ‘The Buddha in the Colonial Archive’, Institute for South Asia Studies UC Berkeley, published 10 December 2015, https://youtube.com/watch?v=sA4el-_0xN4, accessed 27 August 2017.
53 Zachariah, Benjamin, ‘Jawaharlal Nehru o tanr Bharotrashtro’, in Amader adhunikatar koyekti dik, edited by Parimal Ghosh (Calcutta: Setu, 2012), pp. 121–54 [in Bengali].

Personal Acknowledgements: Satyasri Ukil Barishkar, Reyazul Haque, Yashdatta Alone, Sanjeet Chowdhury, Samit Das, Girish Shahane, Yousuf Saeed.

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