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Raja Deen Dayal

RAJA DEEN DAYAL (c.1844 – 1905)

Raja Deen Dayal was the first Indian photographer to earn international renown for his pioneering work in the field of photography in the Subcontinent. Technically accomplished and aesthetically nuanced, Deen Dayal’s extensive oeuvre reflects a profound understanding of the medium, allowing him to effortlessly move between topographical, architectural, picturesque as well as documentary photographs, apart from his exquisite productions as a portraitist.

The ACP has an extensive collection photographs taken by Raja Deen Dayal. These include albums he was commissioned to produce for the Nizam of Hyderabad, his travels with British dignitaries visiting the state as well as his extensive travels across the country during which he amassed a colossal archive of architectural as well as topographical documentation of India.

Deen Dayal was born in 1844 at Sardhana, near Meerut, into a family of Jain jewellers. He was trained as a draftsman at the Thomason Engineering College at Roorkee and worked as an estimator at the Public Works Department at Indore, which he joined in 1866. It was in 1875, barely a year after he had taken up photography as a serious endeavour, that he got his first important assignment, photographing the Prince of Wales and the Royal Party on their tour of India in 1875-76.

The 80s was an extremely productive period for Dayal and in 1882, he accompanied Sir Lepel Griffin as a photographer on an architectural tour of Central India, the results of which were published in Griffin’s Famous Monuments of Central India in 1886. The 80s was also the decade in which he was appointed the official photographer to Lord Dufferin, the Viceroy in 1888.

Deen Dayal is also known for having been a premier court photographer for some of the leading Princely states in the country at the time. Among his known patrons was Maharaja Tukoji Rao it of Indore . But his better-known appointment was as the official court photographer for the Nizam of Hyderabad.

In 1894, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the sixth ruler of a powerful Islamic dynasty in central India, conferred upon the photographer Deal Dayal the title of Raja Bahadur Mussavir Jung (“Bold Warrior of Photography”). Since then, the prolific nineteenth-century Indian photographer has been known as Raja Deen Dayal, Recognition gained, Dayal was regularly called to photograph numerous international exhibitions taking place around South Asia, and he continual to photograph official visits of British royalty and dignitaries, many of which were sold later as albums.

Deen Dayal had studios in Indore (1875), Secunderabad (1889) and Bombay (1897). He even reputedly had a “zenana” studio run by a British woman, Mrs. Kenny-Levick, he had trained. 1899 saw him come out with ‘A Short Account of my Photographic Career’ as well. In 1897, Raja Deen Dayal was granted the Royal Warrant appointing him Photographer to Fier Imperial Majesty Queen Victoria.

Raja Deen Dayal passed away in Bombay on 5th July 1905, leaving his studio enterprise in the hands of his son, Raja Gyan Chand, under the aegis of Lala Deen Dayal & Sons.

  • Indore State Railway, Indore, Albumen Print, 1880s, 263 x 210 mm, ACP: D2004.89.0037
  • Johri Bazaar Street, Jaipur, Albumen Print, c. 1880, 211 x 286 mm, ACP: D2003.31.0011
  • The Duke and Duchess of Connaught being received at the Railway station on their Visit to Hyderabad, January 1889, Albumen Print, 1889, 195 x 244 mm, ACP: 98.60.0013(08)
  • View of Ghats in Benares, Albumen Print, Photographer’s Ref. 4624, 1888-96, ACP: 99.23.0003(54)
  • His Highness Maharaja Anund Ron Powar, K.C.S.I. C.I.E., Albumen Print, 1880s, 284 x 193 mm, ACP: 2001.14.0247(01)
  • Top Ascent to Entrance of Gwalior Fort, Albumen Print, Photographer’s Ref. 9, late 1878, 131 x 198 mm, ACP: 98.60.0296(09)
  • Portrait of Nizam Mir Mahbub Ali Khan of Hyderabad, Albumen Print, late 1887-1888, 244 x 187 mm, ACP: 95.0085(01)