Gangotri, C. 1800

J.B. Fraser captures the picturesque scenery in the Himalaya mountains in his painting of the Gangotri temple
A coloured aquatint titled 'Gungotree, The Holy Shrine of Mahadeo'
A coloured aquatint titled 'Gungotree, The Holy Shrine of Mahadeo'

"A Series of Twenty Splendid Views of the most Picturesque Scenery in the Himalaya Mountains. By J.B. Fraser, &ampc. Beautifully engraved on large Colombier, by R. Havell and Son, and coloured to represent drawings. Price 15l. 15s, mounted on Bristol boards and neatly half-bound.&rdquo

Thus ran the advertisement for a famous book of aquatints (first published in 1820) at the end of Edward Moor&rsquos Oriental Fragments in 1834 (along with Bengal Renaissance man Raja Rammohun Roy&rsquos Exposition of the Judicial and Revenue Systems of India).

The Scottish Fraser was a businessman based in Calcutta, who, in keeping with the zeitgeist, also travelled and painted what he saw. In the early years of the nineteenth century he travelled to the western Himalaya, trudging up and down pilgrim trails in modern-day Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. As a European in awe of mountains in general, the Himalaya left him spell-bound. His paintings eloquently give voice to the awe he felt.

Travelling up the Yamuna and Bhagirathi valleys, he visited both Yamunotri and Gangotri, and allegedly became the first European to do so. This painting of the Gangotri temple is remarkable not only for its fidelity to the landscape, but also for capturing the spiritual awe that often descends on visitors to the Himalaya, even now.

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