Measuring nearly two metres long, richly detailed and featuring 100 clay figures of people and animals, the model is a common memory of past childhood visits to Kew. Long in storage, in January 2008 it was again placed on display in the Plants+People exhibition at Kew Gardens.
The model was made for the Colonial and Indian exhibition of 1886. The model has 96 wonderfully detailed and individual human figures and four oxen, all made from clay by by Rakkal Chunder Pal of Krishnanagar, near Calcutta.
Production of indigo dye was a major industry in 19th century Bengal, India. Indigo factories were sited on river valleys for the water supply, and because indigo plants (several species of Indigofera) grow best in rich soils.
Harsh working conditions in indigo fields and factories led to the Indigo Revolt of 1859, a key step in India's independence movement. The British owner of this factory can be seen standing between two tanks, wearing a white pith helmet.
After 1900 synthetic indigo took the place of the natural dye. In the last decade a renewed interest in natural dyes has led to a resurgence in traditional manufacture of indigo.
Catalogue Number 61019