The Shekhawati region in Rajasthan is famous for its painted buildings. Linked to the settlement patterns of the Marwari merchant community, the trend of painted buildings in the area began in the 1750s and ended by the 1950s. Intercultural contacts, through images and commodities, and their translation into the wall paintings, are the hallmark of these painted structures. Some iconic examples of these paintings include: Christ smoking a cigar, gods listening to the gramophone and flying in automobiles, and Queen Victoria glancing askance at a copulating couple.
In this paper, I will discuss the paintings that capture the intermingling of the sacred and the technological, with a particular focus on technologies of transportation. Informing my approach with the works of Ranajit Guha and Dipesh Chakrabarty, I will attempt to show this intermingling, not as an interstitial stage of development in the acculturation of technologies, but as a symbolic translation based on the hierarchies that define Shekhawati society. Technologies of conspicuous consumptions, like cars, were readily inserted into scenes of the sacred. On the other hand, the train, which catered to a larger population, was not. Yet, it was the representations of the latter that had a decisive influence on changing the perspectival aesthetics and representational practices of several deities. Linking this discussion to the notions of acceleration and deceleration, I will explore the links between new technologies and notions of the sacred as captured in the wall paintings of Shekhawati.