The magic of princely India

I like the weeks running up to Christmas because usually work gets a little quieter and I have some time to check out exhibits and shows, and walk around London and enjoy the Christmas lights. Sadly, this year things have been a little different and even on the second week of December I'm working like a Trojan dog, so unlike past years I haven't been able to see as much of pre-Christmas London as I would have liked. (In a way that ended up being a blessing when I saw pictures of the horribly tacky lights on Oxford Street, at least I missed seeing those live!!)

Nevertheless, a few weeks ago I found time to go to see the Maharaja exhibit at the V&A in London, and I loved it so much I'm thinking of going back again before it closes. It was that beautiful and magical...

The show is called Maharaja: The Splendour of the Royal Courts, and it is a beautiful introduction to the wonderful culture of princely India, displaying beautiful jewellery pieces, turbans, saris, ceremonial swords, paintings... My favourite piece was a life-size model elephant adorned with intricately crafted animal jewels. Throughout these pieces, the show explores the culture of princely India, looking at the different aspects of royal life throughout history, from the collapse of the Mughal empire in the early 18th century until the end of the British rule in 1947.

I studied in the French system so I know very little about India and its history, and this was an opportunity for me to learn a lot about this culture, and after my visit I started looking into trips to India. I definitely want to go, maybe for my upcoming 30th? Now that would be a nice treat to myself to make the passage of a new decade go easier!

I loved that the exhibit followed a historical thread, but mostly I was mesmerized by the beauty of the pieces displayed. The show mixes Indian and Western pieces, such as jewellery commissioned from Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels in the 20th century. Amongst the textiles my favourite pieces were the saris designed in the early 20th century, including some by Madeleine Vionnet. These are made of the most beautiful fabrics, such as silk mousseline, and all highlight an eery sense of attention to detail. It reminded me of the caftans that women wear for celebrations in my home country of Morocco.

I cannot recommend seeing this exhibit enough. It runs until January 17 2010, and tickets cost approximately £11 per adult. For more details check out the show's website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/microsites/maharaja/

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