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India's oldest art magazine, Marg, is celebrating its 71st anniversary by making digitally available all of its 270 editions. The collection, a total of 30,000 pages (and counting), is invaluable for the insight it provides into India's and South Asia's arts, culture and history. Consider this: now a global authority on Hampi, George Mitchell's first essay on the ruins published in Marg brought the city to national and international attention. The 1981 edition 'Homage to Hampi' featured 113 photographs and 17 maps as well as articles on the archaeological findings and the site's history. It inspired the long-term Vijayanagara Research Project at the site.
The history and significance of the quarterly magazine is inextricably linked to the passion and personality of author, thinker, activist Mulk Raj Anand. By 1946, when Anand returned to Bombay from the UK, he was already among the few Indian writers in English who had managed to gain international readership. India was on the brink of becoming an independent nation and Anand began dwelling on ways in which he could contribute to the country. Along with a group of intellectuals, including art critic Anil de Silva and architect Minette de Silva from Sri Lanka and Bombay-based lawyer and art connoisseur Karl Khandalavala, Anand decided the best way to do it was to publish a magazine of the arts. In October that year, Marg (which stands for Modern Architectural Research Group, but also means pathway in Hindi) was launched with the aim of setting the standard for Indian architecture, as well as the other dimensions of art including sculpture, the performing arts, design and so on. It was important to Anand that the magazine help define for readers what it meant to be Indian; to offer the nation a sense of who they are. "He never divorced art and Marg from life, to him it was all connected," says Radhika Sabavala, General Manager, Marg Publications. By shining a light on the Islamic, Buddhist, Jain and Christian architecture and art, the magazine laid emphasis on the shared history of these religions. "The ideas are as relevant today as they were then," adds Sabavala.
Although Anand took great delight in uncovering some of India's hidden treasures-including Bhimbekta in Madhya Pradesh, now a UNESCO world heritage site-he also keenly encouraged an "internationalism of thought" and a deliberation on the future. "He identified at a time when they were total unknowns architects Charles Correa, Shirish B Patel and Pravina Mehta, and encouraged them to dream up a plan for what became the stepping stone for a satellite city for Bombay, what is now Navi Mumbai," says Sabavala. Anand published the plans in 1965 in the edition titled 'Bombay: Planning and Dreaming' but because they weren't followed through, and Navi Mumbai today isn't what the architects had envisioned.