Pillars in the Recessed Portico in the Roya Gopuram with the Base of One of the Four Sculptured Monoliths, Madura
Tripe was a career military officer in India and Government Photographer to the Madras Presidency in the late 1850s. In early 1858 he made an ambitious and difficult tour of India's southern districts in order to create for the government a record of the region's antiquities, scenes of historic importance, and natural phenomena. The subject of this remarkably well-preserved print from a large paper negative is the figurative details carved into the pillars on the gateway of the Meenakshi Sundareshvara temple in Madurai, a city in southern India and an important Hindu pilgrimage site. Tripe noted in his published caption that although the gopuram, or tower, dedicated to Shiva and his consort Meenakshi was unfinished, it was "in no way surpassed in elegance of design and proportion and delicacy of carving." The photograph is from Part I of Photographic Views in Madura (1858).
Linnaeus Tripe (British, Devonport (Plymouth Dock) 1822–1902 Devonport)
With the invention of photography, the eighteenth-century British passion for recording exotic lands and studies of the peoples in India was given new impetus. The earliest photography on the continent dates from 1840 in Calcutta, the political center of British India. The technology for photography arrived in India quickly became popular among the local rulers-many of whom employed photographers at their courts-as well as the British who had come to make their fortunes in the colony. For both populations, the new medium replaced painting as the method for recording the local landscape, architecture, people, and important events.