This series features pictures shot by Shantilal Nanalal Bhatt of the Bhatt Art Studio in Junagadh, Gujrat between 1910 and 1950, as stated in the provenance provided by the collector. Bhatt was the personal photographer of Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III Rasul Khanji— the last Nawab of Junagadh. Known for his extravagant lifestyle and his love of dogs, his decision to accede Junagadh to the Dominion of Pakistan following India’s Independence led to the Indian Army taking military action and seizing control; following which he absconded to Pakistan, his family in tow, never to return again. He is also credited with pioneering a conservation effort in what is now the Gir National Park that saved India’s last few lions from almost certain extinction.
Rasul Khanji’s decision of acceding the princely state to Pakistan was condemned by the likes of Sardar Patel, the first Deputy Prime Minister of independent India; Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India and Jawahar Lal Nehru, the architect of free India and its first Prime Minister — all of whom are photographed on various excursions to Junagadh in this series. It also contains a photograph of the historic day when a plebiscite was conducted to decide whether Junagadh would reunite with India or not and the populace voted to rejoin free India.
Photographs of Nawabs of Junagadh— Muhamad Bahadur Khanji, Dilawar Khanji, Himmat Khanji, and other members of the royal family of Junagadh, taken over the nineteenth century, in Gujrat. Other pictures included in the collection are of state visits from viceroys such as Lord Wellingdon, who was responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s arrest in 1932 ahead of the Civil Disobedience Movement and also for the establishment of the Wellingdon Airfield in Delhi, now known as Safdarjung Airport; and Linlithgow, Wellingdon’s successor, who was viceroy during the Quit India Movement. The collection also carries poignant but momentous pictures of the final rites of Mahatma Gandhi at Damodar Kund, Gujrat; and the demolition of the old Somnath temple in the year 1947. Among portraits of the Nawab’s sons dressed in regal as well as military attires, there are family pictures of them with their mother Begum Munawar Jahan of Bhopal.