We bet you have asked yourselves this question in the past. A few may point out to Homai Vyarawalla, who was a great photographer herself, albeit she was not the first. The first known Indian woman to have expertise in photography was Maharani Khuman Chanu Manmohini, the third wife of Tripura’s Maharaja Birchandra Manikya. The Queen was only 13 then and was the niece of his first wife, Queen Ningthem Chanu Bhanumati.
The Maharaja himself was an expert photographer and was an enthusiastic disseminator of the knowledge of the art. Under his tutelage, Manmohini quickly learned the tricks of the trade and became an expert photographer herself. She not only knew how to get a good photograph, but also learnt how to develop and print them. Meanwhile the Maharaja used to organize an annual photography exhibition in his palace, wherein their collections were unveiled.
Not only that, the royal palace also housed a Camera Club. A letter published in the Photographic Society of India’s journal – May 1890 (sent under the direction of the Maharaja) emphasises on “The Camera Club of the Palace of Agartala.” The letter was sent along with pictures by both the Maharaja and the Maharani. Printed mostly by the Maharani, each image carried a mark of credit on their respective photographs.
Maharaja Birchandra Manikya in addition to being an avid photographer, is regarded as the architect of modern Agartala. It was the King who started the urbanization of the city back in 1862. In 1871 he established the Agartala Municipality. The King also established the first western school in Tripura which he named Umakanta Academy.
Note: The image you are looking at could very well be the the first selves-portrait by a couple in India.
Source: Indian Memory Project (Facebook)