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Lightbown_pg23to27 - Fronfiapioce to .13. Fraser's News in...

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Unformatted text preview: Fronfiapioce to .13. Fraser's News in the Hit-note Mountains. 1820. JULY. £912 BRITISH VIEWS OF INDIA The British had been trading in India since 1600. It was n0t, however, until the late eighteenth century that British interest in Indian culture burgeoned and was carried home by the traveller. KW. Lightbown THE EAST INDIES HUNG BEFORE THE - eyes of sixteenth-century merchants, soldiers and adventurers as lands of riches and rarities, the home of pearls and spices, porcelain and silks. of pow- ;rful Oriental princes, of strange idolatrous religions and rites, of elephants and monkeys, of palms and banyan-trees. The first Renaissance dficriptions of India proper, written by Italians, Portuguese, Dutchmen and Englishmen who found their way there in Quest of fortune are concerned with the coasts and the busy ports into which the trade of China, Japan and South-East Asia flowed to mingle with the trade of Lndia itself. As the Mughals rose under the great Emperor Akbar in the later Sixteenth century to be the dominant power in India, embassies were despatched seeking privileges for trade from the court. At the same time the Jesuits made their wayr to Delhi and Agra. pursuing their steady missionary policy of seeking to convert the rulers of the non-Christian empires and king- doms of the East in the hope that their subiects would follow their example. From the reports of ambassadors and of jesuit missionaries the west received its iii-St accounts of the splendid court life of the Mughals, and shrewd descriptions of their government, their policy and of die natural products and manufactures of the provinces over which they ruled. Naturally what was seen by ambas- sadors and missionaries, by itinerant merchants and by soldiers was limited to the roads on which they iourneyed through India. Their routes were the routes of trade and administration, for travelling for the mere purpose of pleas- ure or exploration or to add to learning was unknown to-the sixteenth century. The curious traveller was a phenomev non of the seventeenth century; indeed he was to puzzle—the East until modern times, for no oriental could believe that anyone would be so foolhardy as to undertake the toils and dangers of a journey without some powerful motive or" profit or espionage. And indeed of European travellers to India in the seventeenth century only three, the Italians, Pietro Della Valle (1586-1652) who visited India in 1623-4, and Giovanni Francesco Gemelli-Carreri (1651-1725) who passed through South India in 1695 on a iourney round the world, and the Frenchman Jean de Thevcnot (163366) who visited western and Northern India in 1666, were travel- lers pure and simple. They had no aspiration to explore India in any geog» raphical sense: their motive was to make 23 _ \— l— l- l— l— l— l— l- l- l— l- l— l_ \— l— I— l_ i— HISTORY TODA T Front view at the cave o! Kennert‘. An engraving after Henry Salt in Lord Valenela's Travels. 1309. themselves acquainted with men and manners. rites and customs. govern- ments and princes. fashions of dress and buildings, arts and manufactures. Aware that much of what they saw was unt'amiliar or unknown to Europeans. they recorded their observations of the countries they passed through. and whatever they could glean about their history and productions. So great was western interest in India that other travellers who went there with some practical end in view. either to sell tewels. like the Frenchman Jean- Baptiste Taverntcr (1605-89: or to prac- tise as physicians. like another French- man Francois Bernier 1620-8815 com- piled great descriptive works of travel from the lournals they kept of their experiences. The books or“ these travel- lers were all rendered into English in the seventeenth or early eighteenth century. The deliberate policy of patronising learning followed by Louis XIV under the inspiration of his great minister Colbert. gave a great :mpulse to oriental studies In seventeenthvcentury France and this continued under official patron- age well into the next century. It was in France that the miscellaneous observa- tions of India by single travellers began to be shaped into a truly scientific corpus of knowledge. The principal interests of French second, as indeed of all learned Europeans. were in natural history, and in history, antiquities, religion and soci- ety. In history much research and learn- ing were expended on chronology. It was in the seventeenth century that Arch- bishop Ussher calculated from :31:- ‘J. .3- Bible the famous date of 4004 BC as the date of Creation, and chronological studies absorbed many of the beSt minds of the century, including that of Isaac Newton. Underlying them was an uneasy wish to reconcile the chronology of pagan hisrory with the testimony of the Bible and so defend Christianity from the assaults of infidelity by proofs drawn from history. The discovery first of a Chinese chronology and later of an Indian chronology that went back much further into time than the accepted Biblical chronology was deeply perturb- ing to pious men of learning. At the end of the eighteenth century the researches of that great British Orientalist Sir Wil- liam Jones were still shaped by his anxiety to fit the endless aeons of Hindu time into the limited centuries ot'Bi‘olical time. In part the same motives of apol- ogy for Christianity also underlay the interest. half uneasy, half patronising. taken in oriental religions. Thus when resemblances were perceived between _oriental images and Chrisuan images. they were interpreted as the work of the devil. deluding the ignorant with imita- tions of the truth so as to keep them in the darkness of idolatry. If the Christian inheritance of the west accounted for some aspects of its interest in the East. the traditions of its secular learning accounted t'or others. The Renaissance had made the study oi clas- sical literature. history and antiquities the one engrossing theme oi" a polite education. In classical studies India and Indian religion made more than a tabled appearance. unlike China. which was hardly known either to the Greeks or the Romans. Classical tradition linked the doctrines of Pythagoras. who had taught the transmigration of souls. with the Bral'tmimcal doctrine of meten'tpyschosis which the Greek philosopher was believed to have learned on a iourney to India. The Brahmins also figured in Philostratus‘s life of Apollonius ol' Tyana. the mystic sage of the first cen- tury AD with was said to have travelled in India. and in Lucian‘s Dialogues. Classi- cal mythology rnade Bacchus the con- queror of India. and this tradition was reported by classical hismrians like Diodorus Siculus. and was later rational- ised into a historical expedition of con- quest. Then Alexander's expedition into India. after his conquest of Persia. had been described by ancient historians, notably in Greek by Arrian and in Latin by the much~read Quintus Curtius Rufus. Unhistorical. by contrast. was the account in Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus of a great expedition to the East by an Egyptian Pharoah named Sesos- tris, who was supposed to have con- quered India as well as the rest of the East. To many of the European learned. accustomed to a comfortable view of the Middle East and the Mediterranean as the cradle of religion, hisrory, and civil- isation, this expedition of Sesostris was a welcome explanation of the great civil- isations of India and the East, which had so disconcertinegr arisen outside the pale of Chrisdanity and the Mediterranean. Accordingly we find European scholars and travellers, and not least the British, advancing well into Victorian times the theory of an Egyptian origin for Hindu architecture. Such was the intellectual background of the British discovery and exploration of India. The firSt British settlements in india were purely for trade. They were made by servants of the East India Company, which was to rule over British possessions in India until after the Mutiny of 135?. when the great apparatus of civil and military administ- ration that had so surprisingly emerged from the chrysalis of a commercial enterprise was formally taken over by the British government. The early ser- vants ot' the Company were solely interested in trade. and indeed the spirit in which it governed its affairs was for long years uncompromisingly mercan~ tile. But like all western mercantile powers the Company was anxious to acquire its own ports in order to carry on its trade sate truth the threats of Euro» pean rivals and of native princes. It was this which led it to obtain its first real t‘ootholds in India; .Rladras {1640), Bombay t1668) and Calcutta (1690l. Only when the European wars of the mid-eighteenth century spread to India did rivalry between the French and English kindle into war. It was these commotioos, together with the decay of the Mughal Empire and the rise of hostile indian rulers on its ruins that led to the establishment ot'thc Company as a territorial power 1n India. War. trade, and the administrative settlement of the Company's new pos- sessions in Bengal and the Camatic le't't its servants little time for the pursuit of Indian studies. Yet the great rock-cut temples of the island of Elephanta. and of Kanheri on the island t'now pertinsulalI of Salsette near Bombay had attracted British curiosity by the later seventeenth century. In Nil 3 Captain Pykc and a Captain Ball made a description and drawings of Elephanta, while Charles Boone, governor of Bombay from 1716 to ITEO, had the temples of Kanheri measured and drawn and a detailed description of them. compiled to accom- pany the drawings. The great rock-col temples of India captured the imagina- tion of the British like no other Indian monuments. Indeed, as late as 1845 James Fergusson, in publishing his Illustrations of rite Rock-Cut Temples of Shiva from Edward W: The Hindu Pantheon, published in London in 1310. An engraving of Muhammad Akbar. Emperor of Hindustan. From Alexander Dow's translation of History of Hindostan. 1m. India, the first ofhls important essays on the binary of Indian architecture, could declare that although ‘neither to die artist nor to the antiquary are they so interesting or so beautiful. . . "the Caves" are almost the only object of mdquity in India, to which the learned in Europe have tumed their attention, or of which travellers have thought it worth “(Me to furnish descriptions. or whose history they have attempted to elucidate.‘ Part of the appeal of the rock-cut temples to an antiquarian age like the eighteenth century was their mysterious antiquity. Nothing was known of their origins, of their connection with the great religions of India, especially Buddhism, whose great contribution to the Indian pasr was then unrealimd, all the more because d'te Buddhist countries of the East were comparatively little known to the West. Some late eighteenth-century antiquaries and vis- itors to the rock-cut temples could even speculate that these great works must be of Egyptian origin or the work of an unknown race, so little did they resem- ble the temples of modern India- The first book published in Britain on Indian antiquities, Richard Googh's Compara- tioe view of the Ancient Monuments of India (London, 1785), was entirely devoted to the rockvcut temples, princi- pally thoSe of Salsette and Elephants. b ut also including an account of the great temples of Ellora, which had first been described by Thevenot. In the 17'905 the Scottish artiSt James Wales (1747-95) planned to make drawings of all the cave temples of western India, but his death in November 1795 cut short this ambiti- ous scheme. Nevertheless British sol- diers. officials. artists and traVellers with antiquarian tastes were always eager to examine the caves. So Henry Salt (USU-1827), an artist who accompanied Lord Valentia (17704844), the first and [at British visitor to India who can fairly be described as a Grand Tourist, has left us a view of Karli fully evocative of its grandeur and mystery. The great ‘pagoda’ temples of South India with their huge towers and gopuroms or gateways also excited some interest. Many of them were to be found near Madras itself, like the famous tem- ples of Mahabalipuram, or in towns like Taniote, Conieeveram and Madurai which were part of the territory sur- rounding the Madras Presidency and under British protection. One of the earliest British paintings of Strictly Indian views is Francis Swain Ward’s painting of the tank, which he called ‘the Brahmin‘s bath' of the temple of Chidambaram, south of Pondichert'y. And in 1785 another painting by Swain Ward of the ‘pagoda’ of Srirangam deco- rated the committee-room of East India House. Hindu sculpture also intrigued the learned late eighteenth—century anti- quaries of England, influenced as they were by Winckelmann and the French- man D’ Hancarville, who were respons- ible for a quasi-mystical interest in the relationship between classical religion and the symbolic attributes of the classi- cal gods. Since the forms of Indian religious images were so clearly Hindu women booting rlco. From Oriental Drawings. 1306. by Charles Gold. designed, as Gough nicely put it, to express ‘ideas impossible to be com- prised by fOn-ns borrowed from nature', Indian sculpture, they. thought, had some relationship with classical sculp- titre. The iconography of Indian deities was to occupy Sir William Jones and other oriental antiquarics until the early nineteenth century, culminating in The Hindu Pantheon (London. 1310}, by Edward Moor (1771-1848). Moor, realising the all-pervasiveness of religion in Indian life, formed a large collection of pictures and images of Hindu and Buddhist deities, some of which were specially made for him. In his important book he reproduced them from draw- ings and gave scholarly accounts of each god and goddess. The later eighteenth century was the first age to develop a feeling for the primitive and primaeval, and part of the appeal of India To the cultivated British public was inspired by a sense of awe at the survival into modern times, appar- ently unchanged, ofa civilisation of high antiquity. The painter William Hodges (1744-97), whose Travels in India (Lon- don, 1793) are the most sensitive of all eighteenth—century descriptions of India, was moved on visiting Benares, the classic holy city of Hinduism. to declare that ‘it certainly is curious and highly entertaining . . . to associate with a people whose manners are more than three thousand years old’. Serious Brit- ish study of Indian religion began with fohn Zephaniah Holwell (171198), a Dublin-born physician new best known for his association with the Black Hole of Calcutta. In the 17605 Holwell pub- 25 lished essays on the doctrines, creation myths, festivals, calendar and chronol- ogy of the Hindus illustrated with engravings after drawings by Indian artisrs, probably made in Calcutta. At this period knowledge of Sanskrit language and literature was still jealously kept to themselves by the Brahmins. Those, like Holwell, who wished to study ancient Indian books had to make do with translations into Hindi, or into Persian, the court language of Mughal India. Itwasalso from Perisan thatAlexan- der Dow made his translation of the history of medieval India written in the early seventeenth century by Muham- mad Kasim, better known as Ferishta. This was the first true history of pre- European India to appear in a Western language. The first Englishman to mas- ter Sanskrit was Charles Wilkins (I749?-1836) whose famous translation of the Bhagnoot-Gt'tn was published at the expense of the East India Company in 1785, under the patronage of Warren Hastings. Whatever else he may have been, Hastings was an acute and enthusiastic student of Oriental learn- ing, and it was with his encouragement that Sir William fones founded, in Janu- ary 1784, the Asiatick Society of Bengal to Study 'the history and antiquities, the natural productions, arts, sciences and literature of fisia'. In [789 there appeared under Jones’ editorship the first volume of the Society’s famous journal Asiatic]: Researches, for decades the most important learned periodical devoted to the Study of India. Iones's own contributions to Indian studies are of course celebrated: his discovery of the relationship between Greek, Latin and Sanskrit and of the ancient Indian drama, to name only two of the most famous. Books of views, sometimes accom- panied simply by descriptions of the plates, were already an established genre of European art. With the new cult of the picturesque in landscape and monu- ments whose dieoretician was William Gilpin, and the attendant cult of the sublime, inspired by Edmund Burke’s famous treatise, British sensibilities become kindlingly alive to the beauties of new scenery and architecture. The great rivers and mountains of India, its Hindu temples and Muslim mosques and tombs, its people in all their variety of costume and occupation appealed to tastes highly trained to appreciate their attractions, enhanced as they were by the traditional exotic appeal of the Orient. From 1780 to 1783 William Hodges travelled in Madras, Bengal, Bihar and Central India, making draw- ings some of which he later engraved and published in England with descriptive notes asSelect View: in India (1785-88). In diese prints, with their rough jagged outlines and strong contrasts of tone, Hodges is an exponent of the pictures- que taste. A smoother impression of India appears in the work of Thomas Daniel] (1749-1840) and his nephew William Daniell (1769—1837), two pro« Iessional artists who travelled far more extensively in India than Hodges, inde- fatigany drawing views and monuments from 1736 to 1793. After their return to England, the Daniells busied themselves with engraving many of these in aQuatint for their great work One'l‘tmi .5th (1795-1808), the fullest and most faith- ful record of the landscape, buildings and antiquities of India that was to be published for manyr years. In their col- oured form, a classic beauty informs the Daniells' aquatints, giving them a time- less serenity even when they are most Line engravings at a faklr at Banana item Asiatiek Researches, Volume v: 1798. boldly picturesque. It was at this time, too, that the people of India began to be meticulously observed and portrayed in the coloured etchings made in Calcutta during the 17905 by the Antwerp artist, Francois Balthazar Solvyns, it is said, with the encouragement of William Jones. Simultaneously the people of South India were being depicted by an amateur, Charles Gold, who went out to India during the wars with Tipu Sultan as an officerin the Royal Artillery. Many army officers were taught drawing as part of their profession, and became keen amateur sketchers. Moreover a good number of them shared the thirst for the discovery of new knowledge so characterisdc of these years of die Enlightenment. The great Indian wars and political upheavals of the 17903 and 18005 took many of them into new parts of India, little known to Europeans, above all to Mysore, where they fought hard campaigns against Tipu. Public interest in these campaigns led a number of them to publish views of Mysore on their return home; in 1794 alone three books of views of Mysore were issued, one by the artist Robert Home, the other two by the soldier amateurs, A. Allan and Robert Colebrooke. So came into a being a genre whose popularity lasted well into Victorian times, the book of views illus- trating a theatre of war. The sympathetic study of Indian soci- ety and religion begun by Englishmen who went out to India from 1760 to 1300 was halted by two new trends in English thought and religious life which had a great influence over the rising genera- tions of the early nineteenth century, Evangelicalism and Utilitatianisrn. Only the book of views continued to enioy - unabated popularity, either in the form .' ofline-engravings or of lithographs, into _ the 13305 and 18405, being used to E illustrate new regions of India, such as , the Himalaya mountains, or -the Sikh -" kingdom of Raniit Singh, which had 5 just become known to the British. Then ; it too fell victim to the uncomprising _’ Victorian insisrence on stern truth, and I‘ to Victorian suspicion of the poetic and l visionary charm of the picturesq ue. New 1% ground was broken by the British in " Indian archaeology and the study of Buddhism in the 18205 and 18303: great-i histories and descriptions of India or 2 regions of India were written, especially 4 those of James Grant Duff, Sir John :7 Malcolm and Colonel James Tod, all published in the 18205. But with this last.’ generation disappeared the lively cutios- g ity, the speculative brilliance, 1hr. broad-minded warmth and sympathii which had marked these earlier years of - the British presence, to be replaced bl , the gloomin disapproving view of Indfl - l ....__.__.__,____ ._..._._._. - The Mausoleum of the Emperor Shir Shah in a targe tank near Saearsm in Bihar. Painting by Francis Swain Ward. as a land of idolatry and sin and of slavery to rigid. superstitious and often cruel social custom that prevailed for the rest of the nineteenth century. It is essentiailj»r the achievement of these first eager recorders of the indian scene The entrance to a. Hlnclu temple near Bangalore. Mysore A coloured aquatint by Thomas and Wllliam Danietl from Oriental Scenery published in 1808. that the CIl‘ljbldOfl India Observed, which will be held at Londons Victoria and Albert Museum from April 26th to July 4:21, seeks for the first time to illustrate in paintings, drawings. books and engravings. FOR FURTHER READING: 51. Archer. Bum?! Jmt'll'lfi in the (rum Off—x: Librari- .HMSO. 3969‘. Eurlv Hem crimin- the picturesque ,-oumnrs a! Tho-mm and [William Dunner! Thames .5: Hudson. E9301; 5’. Hitter. Much mnth mm Ou'ord: ClJI‘CfldDI‘I Preys. :9TT‘.; 5_.\". _‘.1ukhenee.5ir mama»: James tan-tonne Urutremtv Press. i963). ...
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Lightbown_pg23to27 - Fronfiapioce to .13. Fraser's News in...

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