Print this Page. Send this Page.

The Priya Paul Collection of Popular Art

Info folder
Info folder

Priya Paul, the current Chairperson of Appejay Park Hotels, has been an ardent collector of Indian contemporary as well as popular art. Her collection of old posters, calendars, postcards, commercial advertisements, textile labels and cinema posters is one of the finest archives of such ephemera in India. In cooperation between Tasveer Ghar: A Digital Network of South Asian Popular Visual Culture, and the Cluster „Asia and Europe“ the material was digitized. Over 4.200 images together with their metadata were uploaded to the HeidICON image database, where they were further annotated by local and international experts. The whole collection is available online to all members of Heidelberg University in HeidICON, where each image can be searched by keywords, and regrouped according to various themes and categories. Between 2012 and 2014 the collection metadata was migrated to VRA core 4 XML. The whole collection can now also be accessed within Tamboti.

The Priya Paul Collection of Popular Art contains illustrations from the late 19th and early 20th century. A large part of the collection are commercial labels that were glued onto parcels of textiles imported from Britain or made in India. Sometimes they reflect an interesting blend of east and west: Asian subjects illustrated in western styles and vice versa for Indian or European markets. 

Work in progress

The Cluster „Asia and Europe“ has co-funded the digitisation (carried out in India) and storage of this collection mainly in the context of its classification and detailed annotation. The process of systematically enriching the pictures with metadata is an essential work for further studies and not yet concluded. The metadata will facilitate search and evaluation of the images for scholars of various disciplines.

The HeidICON Image Database offers basic and advanced search functionalities, as well as basic tools for grouping and presenting images (i.e. for use in class). The system is unicode-based, so that metadata in non-western script (i.e. Devanagari) may be included and is retrieved by the search function.

The whole set of metadata is published as open access research data in 2016, providing data in the VRA Core 4 XML format. It can be accessed on the heiDATA platform.

Scientific use

In order to make the images of this collection available to an interested public, especially researchers and students of Social Sciences, the Humanities and Art History, Heidelberg University's HeidICON image database, hosting the entire collection, has granted access to selected international researchers. If issued a valid user account, users are able to access and edit images and their metadata through any webbrowser worldwide.

Besides the challenges of archiving the Priya Paul collection an innovative "use" of these images was the commissioning of a dozen essays by international scholars of disciplines such as religious studies, film studies, history or anthropology by the Trehan India Initiative, University of Michigan. Authors are Philip Lutgendorf, Arvind Rajagopal, Ranjani Mazumdar, Sabeena Gadihoke, Abigail McGowan, Sandria B. Freitag or Rosie Thomas. These essays were published by Tasveer Ghar.


Philip Lutgendorf

Chai Why? The Triumph of Tea in India

Abigail McGowan

Modernity at Home: Leisure, Autonomy and the New Woman in India

Sandria B. Freitag

Consumption and identity: Imagining 'Everyday Life' Through Popular Visual Culture

Arvind Rajagopal

The Commodity Image in the (Post) Colony

Richard H. Davis

Temple in a Frame

Shashwati Talukdar

Picturing Mountains As Hills

Sabeena Gadihoke

Selling Soap and Stardom: The Story of Lux

Rosie Thomas

Still Magic

Catherine B. Asher

Fantasizing the Mughals and Popular Perceptions of the Taj Mahal

Sumathi Ramaswamy

Artful Mapping in Bazaar India

Yousuf Saeed

Eid Mubarak: Cross-cultural Image Exchange in Muslim South Asia

Sumathi Ramaswamy

When a Language Becomes a Mother/Goddess: An Image Essay on Tamil

Roos Gerritsen

Cine-Addictions: Image Trails Running from the Intimate Sphere to the Public Eye

Kajri Jain

Archive, Repertoire or Warehouse? Producers of Indian Popular Images as Stakeholders in a Virtual Database

Tasveer Ghar: A Digital Network of South Asian Popular Visual Culture

Essay "The Priya Paul Collection of Popular Art at Tasveer Ghar - An Introduction", by Yousuf Saeed
Introductory essay by Yousuf Saeed

Tasveer Ghar is a digital Network of South Asian Popular Visual Culture. As a transnational virtual “home” for collecting, digitizing, and documenting various materials produced by South Asia’s exciting popular visual sphere (including posters, calendar art, pilgrimage maps and paraphernalia, cinema hoardings, advertisements, and other forms of street and bazaar art) it seeks to connect with other database initiatives related to Asia and Europe. One such initiative focuses on the flow of images in Muslim popular culture beyond South Asia.
Coordinators: Christiane Brosius, Manishita Dass, Sumathi Ramaswamy, Yousuf Saeed, Suboor Bakht

In the media:
Manjusha Madhu: "Mass and class unite in this digital house of pictures". In: The Sunday Guardian, June 3, 2012. (online)

For further information about Tasveer Ghar and the Cluster‘s cooperation see   

Priya Paul at the Cluster

The Priya Paul collection is an initiative through which the Cluster „Asia and Europe in a Global Context“ tests the ground of the visual and multi-media agenda of the Heidelberg Research Architecture (HRA). Located in the Cluster‘s Research Area B „Public Spheres“, its aim is to better understand how images help us to grasp the impact of transcultural flows between Asia and Europe, how they circulate through and constitue different public spheres and how the asymmetric relations that characterize these flows are evolving over time and across space.

Research Area B counts among its members scholars from a wide array of disciplines and areas of study. The Priya Paul Collection offers a great variety of sources which will provide a unique insight into new spheres on these transcultural flows between Asia and Europe.   


Details: Priya Paul collection

Access the collection
Access the collection

Name of pool

"EXC Priya Paul"


Cluster "Asia and Europe"
Karl Jaspers Centre
Voßstraße 2, Building 4400
69115 Heidelberg


Direct access to the collection.


The Priya Paul Collection of Popular Arts contains over 4.200 images of Indian popular culture from the late 19th and early 20th century. A large part of the collection consists of old posters, calendars, postcards, commercial advertisements, textile labels and cinema posters. This is one of the finest archives of such ephemera in India. Priya Paul has opened her collection for digitization to the Cluster "Asia and Europe in a Global Context". In cooperation with the digital network "Tasveer Ghar – A House of Pictures" and the Heidelberg Research Architecture (HRA) the digitized material was uploaded into the image database and enhanced with metadata.

More information.

Special features/Characteristics

This private collection was made available to all members of Heidelberg University. The images are being further annotated by local and international experts. In addition, the material is intensively used for research, among the first results is a series of visual essays published on "Tasveerghar - House of Pictures". They will also be included in a printed volume published by Yoda Press, New Delhi.

Search tips

Metadata includes subjects from controlled vocabularies and descriptions in English. Furthermore, the images will be combined by various aspects into image itineraries ("associated images"). Use the pool "EXC Priya Paul" to search the whole collection. In addition it is possible to search for both, details and full views of the images which are divided into separate sub-pools: "EXC Priya Paul Details" and "EXC Priya Paul Whole Images".


4.237 image records.


Members of Heidelberg University.


Project coordinators

Christiane Brosius, Sumathi Ramaswamy (Duke University), Yousuf Saeed (Tasveer Ghar, New Delhi)


Matthias Arnold

A Project of the Heidelberg Research Architecture (HRA) at the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context".



Access the Priya Paul Collection
Access the Priya Paul Collection

Information material

Introductory essay
Interview with Priya Paul (by Y. Saeed)
Project Folder
Project Folder


Christiane Brosius, Heidelberg University
Sumathi Ramaswamy, Duke University
Yousuf Saeed, New Delhi

Matthias Arnold , Heidelberg University