Going Back in TIME: Narrating the Indian Saga Through the Covers

The Quint takes a look at how India’s contemporary history has been depicted on the covers of TIME magazine.

3 min read

TIME, one of the most well known names in the world of print journalism was started on 3 March 1923 by two young journalists – Henry Luce and Briton Hadden.

However, for much of its over 90 years of existence, it remained dominated by Luce, who had a vision of putting together a magazine that would keep busy readers informed about the current events in the US and the rest of the world.

By 1927, the magazine, whose format was to publish short articles summarising important news stories from across different beats, had attained a circulation of more than 1,75,000 copies and within years, TIME’s popularity soared and it became the most influential newsmagazine in the US.

Much has been written about the reasons behind TIME’s phenomenal success, and it’s strong editorial content being pointed out as a major draw for its readers. However, one factor which has helped it remain a readers’ favourite are its catchy covers which over the years have featured many familiar Indian faces.

For majority of the 20th century, it was not just through the words inside the news capsule, but increasingly through the artwork outside that much of the western world tried to understand India.

The Quint  takes a look at how India’s contemporary history has been depicted on the covers of TIME magazine.
Indira Gandhi with Pakistan’s Yayha Khan in TIME’s cover from 6 December 1971.(Photo Courtesy: TIME)

On the 94th anniversary of the publication of its first edition, The Quint goes back in time and takes a look at how major events that helped shape our country were depicted on the cover of the influential magazine.


India’s Struggle for Independence (1923-1946)

The first Indian to make it to the cover of the TIME was Mahatama Gandhi. It was in 1931 when the magazine named him its “Man of the Year”and he subsequently made his first appearance on its cover.

Apart from him, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose also featured on the magazine’s cover in 1938 for his part in India’s freedom struggle.


Hindi Chini Bhai-Bhai

One of the important Asian Geo-Political issues to find mention on the cover of TIME during the 50s-60s was India’s rivalry with China. With its artwork, the magazine managed to capture the tension between the Elephant and The Red Dragon, which had given Pandit Nehru many sleepless nights.


The Madness That the Partition Was

Through its bold artwork, the magazine’s edition published on 27 October 1947 narrated the tale of the partition of the subcontinent. Earlier in the year, it also featured on its cover Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel – an architect of the partition – with the caption A Bald Dillema and a Sharp Right Horn.


The Warring Siblings

Tensions remained high between India and Pakistan post the partition in 1947, but tempers soared high between 1965-71 when India fought two wars with Pakistan along its Western and Eastern borders.

The latter in 1971 resulted in the dismembering of East Pakistan, and the creation of a new Bengali speaking nation.


From Nehru Topi to the Modi Kurta

Over the years, the magazine has featured many important leaders from India. From former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, and BJP’s Narendra Modi all have found space on the covers of the prestigious magazine.


India Beyond War and Politics

Not just politics and war, but Cricket, Bollywood and even India Inc has been seen by the western world through TIME’s covers.

(This story has been republished from The Quint’s archives to mark the day in 1923 when the first issue of TIME was created. It was originally published on 3 March 2017.)

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