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© Raja Deen Dayal 18th Century | Image source internet

Raja Deen Dayal

Lala Deen Dayal (1844 – 1905) famously known as Raja Deen Dayal was an Indian photographer. His career began in the mid-1870s as a commissioned photographer; eventually, he set up studios in Indore, Mumbai, and Hyderabad. He became the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan, Asif Jah VI, who awarded him the title Raja Bahadur Musavvir Jung Bahadur, and he was appointed as the photographer to the Viceroy of India in 1885.

Deen Dayal studied at the reputed Thomson College of Civil Engineering at Roorkee (now IIT, Roorkee) and graduated at the top of his class scoring 258 out of a maximum of 260 marks. In 1866 he became an estimator and draughtsman in the Department of Public Works Secretariat office in Indore. During the course of his job, he developed a keen interest in photography and was encouraged by Sir Henry Daly, the Agent to the Governor-General for Central India. In 1874 he photographed the Viceroy Lord Northbrook, and in the following year 1875-76, he photographed the royal visit of the Prince of Wales. Impressed by his talent, Sir Henry took Deen Dayal along with him on his tour of Bundelkhand. In 1882-83 Deen Dayal again toured Bundelkhand with Sir Lepel Griffin who was then the Agent. His photographs of palaces, forts, and temples in Gwalior, Khajuraho, Rewa, and Sanchi were splendidly reproduced by the Autotype carbon process in Sir Lepel Griffin’s book Famous Monuments of Central India (London 1886). He subsequently took a two-year furlough from his official duties in order to concentrate on completing a series of views. Meanwhile, he had opened studios in Indore ( around 1874), Secunderabad (around 1886-87), and Bombay in 1896. He sought retirement from the PWD in March 1887 and by then had been the Head Draftsman and Estimator for many years. By far his most wealthy and flamboyant patron was Mahbub Ali Khan the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, who appointed him the court photographer in 1894 and anointed him with the title of Raja Bahadur Musavir Jung. Similar appointments by a number of Viceroys followed culminating with the royal appointment to Queen Victoria in 1897.

The Lala Deen Dayal studios’ collection of 2,857 glass plate negatives was bought by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi in 1989. Today it is the largest repository of his work. A large collection including celebrated images of the 1870s’ famine is with the Peabody Essex Museum, US, and the Alkazi collection in Delhi. In 2010, a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at IGNCA, curated by Jyotindra Jain. In 2006, a curated collection of Raja Deen Dayal’s photographs was exhibited at the Salar Jung Museum during the Times Hyderabad Festival; subsequently, in November, the Ministry of Communications, Department of Posts released a commemorative stamp honoring him; the ceremony was held at Jubilee Hall, Hyderabad.

Published on February 12, 2021
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