Rajman Singh was part of the extensive Chitrakar clan (meaning ‘painter’ in Nepali) whose successive generations since the Malla reign had recorded royal and Rana court activities, firstly in the form of paintings and drawings, and then in a vast collection of photographs, many engraved onto delicate glass plates.
This wide array of images includes diplomatic missions, cultural events, portraiture of the elite and everyday ordinary life, capturing an era of extravagant autocratic Rana rule whose state policy of ‘implacable xenophobia’ prevented foreign penetration and influence. As a direct descendent, Cristeena Chitrakar explains: “My ancestors’ images explore visual narratives and historical accounts. The photographs create memories and preserve the past.”
Kanak Dixit writes: ‘It was Hodgson who provided Rajman with the graphite pencil, probably also coaching him on the novel techniques required to realistically illustrate landscapes, architecture and objects of natural history… If it were not for Rajman, we would have had to rely only on the arriving Westerners who happened to paint, including the doctor in the British Residency, Henry Ambrose Oldfield, whose watercolours have been useful in reconstructing several lost structures.’
Referring to him as ‘my Bauddha citrakar’, British Resident Brian Hodgson drafted Rajman Singh and his kinsmen to illustrate the broad range of disciplines which absorbed him. On departure he bequeathed Rajman and his team to work on drawings for his successor Henry Lawrence, then to Dr H A Oldfield, the Residency surgeon who lived in Kathmandu from 1850 until 1863.