Sankhari, shell-cutters, Eastern Bengal.
Medium: Photographic print
Portrait of five Sankhari, members of the Hindu Sudra caste of shell-cutters, taken by an unknown photographer during the early 1860s. Contemporary accounts relate that such Sankharis were generally followers of the Hindu gods Vishnu or Krishna and usually vegetarian. The shells used for manufacturing bracelets were imported from the Gulf of Manaar, a trade which is recorded in written records at least as far back as the tenth century. This print is one of a series of portrait studies of individuals and groups from Eastern Bengal (modern Bangladesh and Assam). It is possible that they were taken in response to the Government of India's call for photographs representing various ethnic types from across the sub-continent.