The Mughal Era is my favourite period of Indian history and thus I was rather excited to go to the exhibit at the British Library. I had previously planned to go see the exhibition in my own free time and was delighted to see it as a field trip on the class syllabus. I found the entire exhibition fascinating because of the showcase of various objects around the country I live in. I found it hard to decide on one singular object but I decided on this painting titled “Six recruits to the second regiment of Skinner’s Horse.” The name of the regiment immediately sparked my interest as there still exists a division of the Indian Army called Skinner’s Horse.
The picture depicts six men who have just been recruited to John Skinner’s regiment that he created independent of the British Army due to his half-Indian heritage. I find that the deeper issue that this painting addresses is the treatment of the Anglo-Indians upon the arrival of the East India country and the “mingling” of the two races upon the settlement of the British in India. By the 18th Century, the British had almost established themselves in the subcontinent. The “Yellow Boys” as Skinner’s Horse began to be known, due to their uniforms, were a collection of various castes, which was not very common in India at the time because the army was usually reserved for the so-called warrior castes. Skinner had been discriminated due to his heritage and due to this, he allowed even the lower caste “Jats” and “Gujjars” to join his ranks and this shows some of the change brought forth by Anglo-Indians. However, in keeping with their policy of divide and rule, the East India Company encouraged caste differences but this picture depicts a time that was before the establishment of the British Raj but at the decline of the Mughal Empire. The painting shows the caste differences and the blending of two cultures in the form of Skinner who was an Anglo-Indian, as they became known. Skinner was later adopted into the British Royal Army, after proving his loyalty to his paternal half.