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Empires of LightVision, Visibility and Power in Colonial India$
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Niharika Dinkar

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781526139634

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7765/9781526139641

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Through the glass darkly: the phantasmagoria of Elephanta

Through the glass darkly: the phantasmagoria of Elephanta

(p.41) 1 Through the glass darkly: the phantasmagoria of Elephanta
Empires of Light

Niharika Dinkar

Manchester University Press

As a symbol of opaque darkness, the mysterious subterranean caves of Elephanta haunted the imagination of writers and painters ranging from John Ruskin to Flaubert and were notably memorialised in E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India. This chapter examines the recruitment of optical devices like the camera obscura and the magic lantern, aimed at solving the caves’ mysteries, suggesting that these instead exaggerated the ghostly character of the caves, undermining the claims of a rational vision in apprehending their complex iconography and architecture, going on to feed a fantastical visual archive of the caves (and, by extension, the Indian landscape) in German cinema of the early twentieth century.

Keywords:   Phantasmagoria, Darkness, Caves, Elephanta, Optical devices, Magic lantern

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