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Maps of India

Antique maps of India are of interest for their historical significance and rich decorations. For several centuries, India was a pawn in the rise and fall of empires, and antique maps of India reflect this landscape of political change. Even as recent as 70 years ago, Indian maps were different than they are today.

Like other antique maps, early maps of India are part fantasy, part reality. Most antique maps of India were made by European artists, with some renderings relying solely on the stories of sailors and explorers. The Dutch explorers traveled to many foreign places seeking lands to conquer and trade with, bringing artists who drew these places with them. The drawings were later engraved and printed, resulting in a map. More than 70 of these richly-decorated antique maps of India are part of the collection of the National Museum in New Delhi.

Pilgrimage maps made by Indian artists trace the pathways of a route that encounters sacred landmarks. Certain places are highlighted on these trails according to sacred prominence or personal importance to the artist. As with other vintage Indian maps, pilgrimage maps are more of a skilled painting than a cartographic tool.

Quick Facts

  • Dutch merchant trader and historian Jan Huyghen van Linschoten served as the Portuguese Viceroy’s secretary in Goa in 1583. Later, he secretly copied the maps available to him, resulting in an opening of trade routes to The East India Company, which ended the Portuguese monopoly of India
  • An 1816 engraved hand-colored wall map of India by Aaron Arrowsmith sold for $2,720 at Bloomsbury auctions in 2012
  • A map of pilgrim sites along the Ganges River from 18th century North India brought $245,974 at a Christie’s auction in 2014

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