- Sriram writes about Charles Lawson, who ran the powerful newspaper The Madras Mail from 1868 CE
- Maddy writes about the voyage of TSS Maharaja which took Moplahs to Kalapani
- Jayarava has a review of Johannes Bronkhorst’s Greater Magadha (Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 2 South Asia). He seems to rely a lot on Prof. Michael Witzel’s world view, but here are some excerpts
- Fëanor writes how the 600 years old Asom dynasty came to an end
The Madras Mail, founded in 1868, was the true representative of commercial interests. Lawson was close to most of the top-ranking business houses of First Line Beach and after a brief stint in rented offices on Second Line Beach, The Madras Mail moved to the first floor of A D’ Rozario, Auctioneers at 6, First Line Beach. This building, no longer in existence was the southern neighbour of the State Bank building. Lawson took an active interest in the affairs of the Madras Chamber of Commerce of which he was elected Secretary on 24th November 1862. The Chamber had till then not been lucky in the matter of Secretaries with the incumbents leaving to take up Government and other assignments. Lawson was to be Secretary for 30 long years.
The story of the movement of people to Andaman is a sad and cruel one; especially the initial century of its existence, as Andaman was to serve as the English Penal colony for Indians who acted against them. The English had chosen isolation to be a part of incarceration and in early days many a white convict was transported to Australia. As far as the Indians were concerned, the Andaman islands and the Hijli camp (near Kharagpur) were particularly infamous and followed the earlier days when they were sent to Singapore and a few other places like Botany bay in Australia, where they were tasked with clean up as well as hard labor (some even say that ‘klings’ is a derogatory usage for Indians that came from that period due to the sound of the chains that Indian convicts wore). Interestingly, the aspect of isolation was arrived at as people abhorred the prospect of back breaking labor in faraway places from which there was no return (for lifers), especially in the case of Hindu middle class caste conscious political prisoners not used to work or doing things like crossing the black waters or Kala Pani, against the tenets of early religious texts (see my article on ocean crossing taboo).
Another plus is that Bronkhorst has made it abundantly clear that Buddhism can no longer be studied in isolation, but is a branch of Indology. Ignorance of archaeology and material culture (the gist of Greg Schopen’s critique of Buddhist studies as a subject) is no longer acceptable. The Late Vedic literature–the Epics, Early Upaniṣads, Brāhmaṇas, Dharmasūtras, Dharmaśastras and even the Gṛhyasūtras–is starting to look more relevant in understanding early Buddhism. Early Buddhism existed in a context and we have been overlooking, or over-simplifying this context for too long. The downside of this is that an already complex subject appears to become an order of magnitude more complex. And this at a time when we are just beginning to make use of the Chinese parallels to the Pāli Nikāyas and discover the influence of Central Asia in transmitting Buddhist to the East. And this also at a time when Buddhist studies is dying out as an academic subject in the UK.
The biggest threat to Asom came from the Mughals who were rampaging across eastern India at the same time. Unlike the Hindu kingdoms of the rest of the subcontinent which were worn out after centuries of warfare against them, the Ahom were fresh and dominant. Given their organisation as a mobilizer of manpower rather than ownership of land, the Ahom could raise armies at moment’s notice, a capability that surprised the Mughals. During the reign of Jahangir, there were almost annual battles between the two throughout the jungles around the Brahmaputra. The Ahom were expert at guerrilla tactics, demoralising the Mughals who called them ‘black and loathsome in appearance’ and Assam as ‘a land of witches and magic’.
Just 4 posts for this month. More on October 15th. If you have any links for the carnival send it to me at varnam.blog @gmail or as a tweet to @varnam_blog