Upon its completion, the physical copies will be made available in hardcover, and a leather-bound collector's edition.

This Chennai man is creating replicas of the first edition of the Indian Constitution
Features Constitution Replica Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 13:47

The first edition of the Constitution of India is a work of art. Each one of the 230-odd pages was hand-written, and artists from Shantiniketan created the artwork on the edges. Around 1000 copies were made – litho printed, on handmade paper. But today, 68 years since the Constitution came into force, very few of the original copies remain, and even those are in a poor condition.

For Vijay Anand from Chennai, this is a dire reality that he confronted when he wanted to gift a copy of the original to his niece and nephew. So he did the next best thing – and embarked on a journey to create a replica.

“The original Constitution in Delhi is frozen in its first page, locked inside a helium capsule. Moreover, of the 1000 photo lithographed copies, less than 250 remain today and we cannot vouch for the state in which they might be maintained. I wanted to replicate the Constitution so I can gift something of value for my niece and nephew in Germany,” Vijay, an entrepreneur and a member of the Chennai Tricolour Initiative Trust, tells TNM.

The process of creating the replica is tedious. Using a low-resolution digital copy that is available online, and using photographs of the original copies that he has come across in his research, Vijay has been meticulously tracing and enhancing the 230 pages. The work began in June 2016, and Vijay has been putting in the hours after 10 pm each night – after he finishes his day job – on this ambitious project.

“Replicating the copy is a step by step procedure – tracing, blending, trimming, touch-ups, vibrancy adjustments, recolouring, etc. The designs are so elaborate that one page can take up to a week,” says Vijay.

But this, Vijay says, is not even close to the effort that took to make the original and litho print the copies.

The Indian Constitution was single-handedly calligraphed by Prem Behari Narain Raizada over a period of six months. The illustrations on the borders represent styles from the different civilizations of the subcontinent. These illustrations were done by Shantiniketan artists, including Beohar Rammanohar Sinha and Nandalal Bose.

The process of litho printing, too, was time-consuming. “No one does it anymore. It is a very elaborate process where ink and oil is used on the page to print letters from the original onto the copy. I also read that they used several nibs to make the original,” says Vijay.

Another interesting fact about the Constitution is that Prem Behari Narain Raizada used 432 Pen holder nibs for the calligraphy of the two original copies. According to Prem Foundation, a Google community in memory of the artist, these nibs are in possession of Prem’s nephew Yoginder Saxena.

Furthermore, the Constitution has eleven pages of just signatures! 284 members signed to make the Constitution complete. The first to sign appears to have been Jawaharlal Nehru.

Vijay says, he expects to complete the work by October or November this year, and print a small number of copies. “Many people have been asking for copies – we hope to run a small print batch. But we also intend to make copies for school libraries – the artwork is something that the future generations should see, I believe. The sheer ability to produce something like this in 1950 sounds like an achievement. It is also for all measures, a national treasure – and it doesn’t look like the government is going to do this task, so here we are,” Vijay says.

Upon its completion, the physical copies will be made available in hardcover version and a leather-bound collector’s edition. A pdf version will also be made available for free download. A remastered version of the Preamble (page 2 in the Constitution) has been made available for download and in just a few days, they've crossed 2500 downloads shares Vijay.

So has the law set any restrictions on replications? “I did check with a couple of my lawyer friends. The content, in fact, is open and is published by a few. And since it’s an only replica, the artwork is not sabotaged in any way,” explains Vijay.

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