The Field Museum's seasonal exhibition Maharaja: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts is leaving Chicago in less than two months. If you haven't yet visited their dramatically lit hall of gold plated thrones and garish 18th century jewelry, ride your most decorated elephant to museum campus before it's too late.
The Field Museum exhibit features hundreds of artifacts that provide a quantifiable history as to the wealth and power of the maharajas. You'll find large-scale paintings, rare relics and more gold plated decorations that you can shake a ruby encrusted stick at. Bottom line, Maharaja: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts provides a detailed, in-depth cultural exploration of an all too often discounted era.
A Culture of Excess
According to the Field Museum this exhibition, "re-examines the world of the maharajas and their extraordinarily rich culture." On display you'll find everything from regalia worn by India's ruling class to swords and matchlock guns. Fellas, if you're looking for the kind of anniversary gift inspiration that a Pinterest board can't provide, the Patiala necklace by Cartier (which originally contained 2,930 diamonds, including the yellow 234.69-carat DeBeers diamond) is on display. Take notes.
The Power of the British East India Company
Originally a private trading company, the British East India Company, became a major political and military power. By the late 1700's the megacorporation was operating like an independent nation and aligned itself with many maharajas. After a nationwide rebellion in 1857, the British East India Company lost most of its power and the maharajas were allowed to keep their kingdoms on the condition that they become "princes" of the British Empire.
Where Are They Now?
India achieved independence in 1947 but the maharajas are still a presence in the culture. Their influence has been profoundly reduced but they still assume some royal duties and are important regional symbols.
Ruling the World from Atop an Elephant
During grand processions, maharaja would ride on the tops of elephants. The exhibition features an original carriage (known as a "howdah") along with a gold and sapphire decorated tool used to control the elephant.
Tickets to Maharaja are included in both Discovery and All-Access passes to the Museum and are priced at $22-$29 for adults, $18-24 for seniors and students with ID, and $15-$20 for children 4-11. Tickets can be purchased at fieldmuseum.org. Special rates are available for tour operators and groups of 15 or more. Call our Group Sales office at 888.FIELD.85 for details.