SUBHASH CHANDRA BOSE Park, formerly named Irwin Park, runs parallel to the seashore at Ernakulam in Kerala. At the south end of this pleasant open space, there is a tall statue depicting Sri Sir Rama Varma GCIE, LLD, Maharaja of Cochin (c1861-1941). He reigned between 1932 and 1941. The statue was unveiled in January 1939 by the then Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow during a visit to the city. He was Viceroy from 1936 to 1943.
While visiting Ernakulam that day, the Maharajah arranged for him to watch a display of Bharatnathyam dancing (https://www.cochinroyalhistory.org/). This was held before tea in the grounds of the Maharaja‘s nearby Durbar Hall. The statue was unveiled after tea.
The Durbar Hall was constructed over 100 years ago in extensive grounds owned by the Maharajahs of Cochin. For many years, it has been used as an art gallery. Beautifully restored by the organisation that runs the Kochi Muziris art biennale, it serves as one of the art festival’s venues during the 4 months that the Biennale runs. The current 2022/23 event in the Durbar Hall is a show called “Idam” which contains a variety of visual art exhibits, all of which have been created by 34 Malayali artists. Overall, it is an enjoyable exhibition by artists displaying an exciting variety of interesting imaginative ideas, all expressed in well executed artworks.
The works in the Durbar Hall are in stark contrast to the Maharaja‘s statue that stands in the hot sun not too far away. Unlike the Maharajah, who was probably unwilling to break out of his comfortable colonial mould, the artists are showing that they are willing to attempt to escape from prevailing convention