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A Place I Never Knew

Tira Khan | India


For this series, I traveled to one of the last Muslim-ruled princely states in India, also my family’s ancestral home.

Rampur is a small city that has the highest Muslim population in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and poorest state. Rampur’s former rulers, called Nawabs, constructed palaces, mosques, and a fort. The Nawabs valued culture: They hired chefs who created a courtly cuisine. They cultivated music, collected books, and listened to poetry. They also ruled with clenched fists, ready to punish those who dared defy them.

For this project, I returned to India to discover a city, culture, and country that I never knew. I visited my uncle, who still lives in the family home. I read early 20th century texts and learned that Pathans, my family’s ethnic lineage, were considered a warrior race.

This series explores the history of the city, and also its present state, existing under the shadow of Hindu nationalism. My photographs explore the city’s architecture, people, and play with the formality of Indian-style portraiture popular during the pre-world war era.

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