Along the Grand Trunk Road: The Photography of Raghubir Singh


For more than two millennia, the historic Grand Trunk Road, the busy thoroughfare that extends some 1500 miles through north India and Pakistan served as the main artery of South Asia. It was also the gateway through which waves of immigrants, travelers, and invaders entered the subcontinent. As a result, a great deal of diversity and tolerance marks the road. Between 1988 and 1991, Raghubir Singh (1942-1999), one of India’s renowned documentary photographers, traveled and photographed the Indian stretch of the Road. Ninety-six photographs from his journeys appear in the publication, The Grand Trunk Road: A Passage Through India (1995). Singh used the pictorial style of street photography that he is known for to capture everyday life along the path. Further, he emphasized the tremendous diversity he witnessed along the road through the selections he made for inclusion in the book and the specific manner in which he arranged many of them. By underscoring the heterogeneity, Singh provided a critical visual commentary of the political climate in India during the 1980s and early nineties. This period coincided with the rise of Hindu nationalism, which aimed to erase the subcontinent’s diverse past and promote instead the idea of a homogenous/Hindu India. By documenting the road in his uniquely pictorial style and arranging the photographs in his book to draw attention to the differences and tolerance witnessed along the path, Singh demonstrated that India was not a monolithic culture as the politics of the time claimed, but a rich interwoven fabric of many varied strands.


South Asia, India, Raghubir Singh, Grand Trunk

How to Cite

Chandrasekhar, C., 2013. Along the Grand Trunk Road: The Photography of Raghubir Singh. ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts, 20(2). DOI:


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Chaya Chandrasekhar (Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio)





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