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Posts Tagged ‘Bengal Famine of 1770’

Indian History – Blind At Birth?

January 20, 2012 11 comments

Unchallenged rule by Mughals and the British Raj over India, lasted for about 350 years. Cholas ruled longer than that. Why is Modern Indian history so besotted with Mughals and British Raj.

Tandava Nataraja at Rijksmuseum's Asian Art Collection. The Dancing Shiva - Probably a Chola Bronze.  |  Image source and courtesy - rijksmuseum.nl

Tandava Nataraja at Rijksmuseum’s Asian Art Collection. The Dancing Shiva – Probably a Chola Bronze. | Image source and courtesy – rijksmuseum.nl

Research recently revealed that the Rijksmuseum’s monumental bronze statue of Shiva was cast in solid bronze. The thousand year-old temple statue was X-rayed, along with the lorry transporting it, in the most powerful X-ray tunnel for containers of the Rotterdam customs authority. It is the first research of its kind on a museological masterpiece.

At 153 cm x 114.5 cm, the Rijksmuseum’s Shiva is the largest known bronze statue from the Chola Dynasty (9th to 12th century) kept in a museological collection outside of India. Given its weight (300 kg), the statue has always been suspected of not being hollow, as has been common practice in Europe since the Greek Antiquity. As part of an earlier investigation, an X-ray was taken of the statue in a Rijksmuseum gallery in 1999 while visitors were evacuated as a precaution against radiation. Unfortunately, the equipment used at the time (280 KeV) was not powerful enough to determine anything definitively. The Rotterdam X-ray tunnel of the Rotterdam customs authority offered a solution.

Complete surprise

The Rijksmuseum renovation project has provided conservators and curators the opportunity to carry out in-depth research on special pieces from the Rijksmuseum collection, including this masterpiece from the Asian Art Collection. The statue was created ca. 1100 in South India. Each temple had its own set of bronze statues which were carried through the city during major temple festivals. This gives the statues their name: utsavamurti, which is Sanskrit for ‘festival images’. Chola bronzes were considered masterpieces of Indian bronze casting.

Anna Ślączka, curator of South Asian Art, comments, ‘We had expected that the statue itself would prove to be solid, but it was a complete surprise to discover that the aureole and the demon under Shiva’s feet are also solid.’ (via Dancing Shiva X Rayed – rijksmuseum.nl.).

Curious … & Interesting

The Mughals from Babur (First Battle of Panipat – 1526) to Aurangzeb (died on 3 March 1707), ruled for less than 200 years. Even with the largest State treasury of its time.

With a fugitive Humayun, deposed by Sher Shah Suri (from 1540-1555) in between.

Within 50 years of Aurangzeb’s death, after the Battle of Plassey (1757), the British gained power. With the Battle of Buxar (1764), the British gained the dewani of Bengal.

For the British, the dewani of Bengal gave untold riches and the start of a global monopoly over gunpowder. Bengal which was the largest manufactory of gunpowder elements in the world was the keys to an Empire. For the British, making money in India was as easy as shaking a pagoda tree.

For India it was ‘hello famines’. A 100 years of wars with the British followed. The Bengal Famine of 1770 (1769-1773) is much written and analysed.

Lost – even before they began

Within 200 years, the British lost India.

British rule really started somewhere between the defeat of Tipu Sultan (1800) and the annexation of Punjab after the death of Ranjit Singh (1840). By 1947, the British story was over – and they were out of India. To be charitable, take it that British misrule lasted from Battle of Plassey (1757) to Indian Independence (1947).

Cholas

But the Cholas ruled over an equally large empire.

Even though Cholas rule started somewhere in 2nd century BC, their peak was  from 940 AD to 1279 AD – nearly 350 years. And what does Modern Indian history know or how important are the Cholas to modern Indian history?

This statue is just a pinhole peek into the technological advancements in the Chola period.


India Non-Violent Struggle? The Myth

December 9, 2010 7 comments
Blaming political opponents is easier. Naxalism is one such trick. For 250 years, the Indian State has not solved this problem.

Blaming political opponents is easier. Naxalism is one such trick. For 250 years, the Indian State has not solved this problem.

The Madhya Pradesh Government are in consultation with the Centre on the action to be taken regarding Maharajah Pravinchandra Bhan Dev, Ruler of the erstwhile tribal State of Bastar in southern Madhya Pradesh. Among the charges against the Maharajah are that he has been inciting the Adivasis who number about eight lakhs to violence. The situation there is very delicate and calls for careful handling. The Adivasis still look upon the Ruler of Bastar as a representative of the Goddess Danteswari Mata in whose name the Maharaja ruled just as the Travancore Maharajahs ruled in the name of Lord Padmanabha. (read more via The Hindu : Today’s Paper / MISCELLANEOUS : This day that age).

Sense of priority

Bastar’s tribal peoples were never the quiet type. The British discovered that early in the day. The newly minted Indian State also discovered this – as this 50 year-old news-item shows. And that can be said for most tribals across the plateau. The tribal disaffection with the idea of the ‘modern’ State has been a permanent feature. It is all credit to the Unlettered Indian (aka The Indian Voter) who has been able to distinguish between shades of power grab.

Militant Maoists are seeking to using this disaffection for a power-grab. Just like Kashmiri terrorists. To impose a worse form of the ‘modern’ State – the Islāmic type in Kashmir or the maoist type in various tribal lands.

Increasing power and spending is the way of all 'modern' States! (Cartoonist - Daryl Cagle)

Increasing power and spending is the way of all 'modern' States! (Cartoonist - Daryl Cagle)

Sense of priority

These same tribals, now branded as Maoists, Naxalites, organized themselves into many armies and fought British armies for more than a 100 years. For the same reasons. Land grabbing by the State. The Indian State would do well to learn from the British experience. Probably, the modern Indian State does not know its own history – and believes in its own propaganda.

Official history, strangely, does not tell us that between 1800-1947, apart from the Anglo-Indian War of 1857, there were more than 75 battles, skirmishes, revolts, mutinies, involving thousands, up to lakhs of Indians, across India. And more than double that many conspiracies, hold-ups, explosions, bombings, which were not organized. These more than 200 violent actions have been completely glossed over by post-colonial India’s historians. Obviously, more than 200 incidents of violent opposition to British misrule over 150 years (1800-1947) deserves better treatment by official historians. Especially, the people who fought most of these battles.

The tribals.

Sense of priority

The Anglo-Mysore Wars, Anglo-Maratha Wars, the Sikh Wars, the Afghan Wars plagued British misrule in India.The 1857 Anglo-Indian Wars were a landmark in opposition to colonialism. These were the major conflicts that continued to blaze across India.

Apart from these major conflagrations, significant opposition to the British misrule came from Indian forest-dwellers and migratory peoples. The Chotanagpur area (Surguja, Ranchi and Hazaribagh areas) passed to the British from Mughals in 1765. War and famine followed. The Bengal Famine of 1770 (1769-1773) was much written and analysed. The Jharkhand area remained on the boil for nearly 150 years after Buxar.

On the conflict side, the Paharia Revolt (1766-1778), by the hill-dwellers of Rajmahal Hills, soon followed. Santhals, opened a wide front against the British. One of the first of many such campaigns, started operations from the Tilapore forest against the British from 1781-1785 – led by Tilka Manjhi (also spelt Majhi). The dates of Tilkha Majhi’s revolt, vary widely – some continuing till 1799. The Tamar revolt (1783-1789) was another revolt in the modern Jharkhand area which occupied British attention in India – while they were fighting the American colonies. The Anglo-Santhal battles continued for the next 100 years. The Kol (also Khol, Khole) continued these insurrections in early 19th century.

Immediately after Buxar, in 1764 Major Hector Munro, who took charge of “the Company’s army, found the sepoys in a state of open revolt. There is no instinct of obedience in native armies in India” complains the English ‘historian’. In 1780, the East India Company faced revolt in Benares from Raja ‘Cheyt Sing’ who was appointed to “furnish the company with three regular battalions of Seapoys” who instead ‘massacred , in cold blood, thirteen of Capt.Wade’s men, who fell into his hands in the Hospital at Mirzapoor’.

If this was not enough, there were the Sannyasi rebellions (1763-1800).

Sense of priority

The only system that will meet the aspirations of the tribals, the Kashmiris, is something that will give them access to ज़र, zar (gold), जन jan (people) and ज़मीन jameen (land). A system that will guarantee the four essential freedoms – काम kaam (desire, including sexual) अर्थ arth (wealth), मोक्ष moksh (liberty) and धर्मं dharma (justice)

भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra.

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