THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Asian and African studies blog

7 posts from August 2017

29 August 2017

A Hindu munshi’s ‘Chain of Yogis’: a Persian manuscript in the Mackenzie Collection

Reading about the recently opened exhibition ‘Collector Extraordinaire, Mackenzie Collection exhibition’ at Lews Castle, Stornoway, in the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides - see our recent post Colin Mackenzie, collector extraordinaire -, I was reminded that there was a small but significant number of Arabic and Persian manuscripts in Colin Mackenzie’s collection which is often overlooked. In this post I will feature one which is especially interesting, the Silsilah-i jogiyān (‘Chain of Yogis’) which played an important role in Western understanding of Indian religious groups.

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Descriptions of the 12th, 13th and 14th groups of Shaiva ascetics: the Rukhara, the Ukhara  and the Aghori (BL IO Islamic 3087, ff. 24-25)
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Colin Mackenzie (1754-1821) was born in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis but spent most of his life from 1783 until his death 38 years later working for the East India Company. His most important work was as a military engineer and surveyor in Mysore (1800-1809), in Java (1811-1812/13) and from 1815 until his death in 1821 as the first Surveyor General of India. During his long career Mackenzie built up a unique collection consisting of 1,568 manuscripts, 2,070 ‘local tracts,’ 8,076 inscriptions, 2,159 translations in addition to 79 plans, 2,630 drawings, 6,218 coins, 106 images and 40 antiquities (Wilson, vol 1, pp. 22-23). This collection today is divided between several different institutions in India and the UK including the British Library.

At the time of his death Mackenzie had been hoping to complete a catalogue of his manuscripts and books but this task was left to Horace Hayman Wilson to complete in 1828. Wilson gives details of 10 Arabic and 87 Persian mss (Wilson, vol. 2, pp. 117-144) which he rather dismissively described as (vol 1 p.lii) “of little consideration, but some of them are of local value”. In fact we have 94 Persian items in our collections at the British Library. These are mostly historical works, biographies, collections of letters in addition to a few volumes of poetry, tales, and philosophical and religious works.

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H.H. Wilson’s 1828 catalogue of Mackenzie’s Persian manuscripts, including no 81, Silseleh Jogiyan
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In 1828, in what was the first major work in English on the religions of India, Wilson published the first of two articles “A sketch of the religious sects of the Hindus”. The second, a continuation with the same title, was printed in 1832. Wilson’s account was based on two Persian works, both written by Hindu authors, one of which was Silsilah-i jogiyān (‘Chain of Yogis’) by Sītal Singh, Munshi to the Raja of Benares (Wilson, 1828, p.6). This was no 81 in Wilson's catalogue, now numbered IO Islamic 3087.

Sītal Singh (see Carl Ernst’s chapter on him, below) had been commissioned to write an account of the different religious groups in Benares in 1800 by a British magistrate John Deane. Also titled Fuqarā-yi Hind, it includes descriptions of 48 different types of ascetic groups divided into 5 chapters on Vaishnavas, Shaivas, Shaktas, Sikhs and Jains. The descriptions are followed by a short philosophical defence of the Vedanta and an early census of the different religious and professional groups to be found in Benares. In addition to this work, Sītal Singh wrote several other philosophical works and poetry under the name Bīkhwud.

IO Islamic 3087 includes 48 miniature portraits painted in the margins next to the relevant descriptions. Unlike the typically more sophisticated company paintings which occur in similar works, these are comparatively simplistic in style. Although the manuscript is not dated, the paper is watermarked J. Whatman 1816 so it must have been copied after that but before Mackenzie's death in 1821. Several of the paintings are dated between 13th and 27th January, but without any year. Perhaps these were the dates when the paintings were added in the margins.

The sects are arranged as below:

The sixteen Vaishnava sects
Gosain of Vindraban (f. 4v); Gosain of Gokul (f. 5v); Sakhibhava (f. 7r); Ramanandi (f. 8r); Vairagi (f. 8v); Virakta (f. 8v); Naga (f. 9r); Ramanuji (f10r); Kabirpanthi (f10v); Dadupanthi (f11r); Ravidaspanthi (f11v); Harichandi (f. 12r); Surnapanthi (f. 12v); Madhavi (f .13v); Sadhavi (f. 13v); Charandasi (f. 15r)

IO Islamic 3087_f5v_1500 IO Islamic 3087_f7r_1500 IO Islamic 3087_f10v_1500
Left: Gosain of Gokul (f. 5v); centre: Sakhibhava (f. 7r); right: Kabirpanthi (f. 10v)

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Left: Madhavi (f. 13v); centre: Sadhavi (f. 13v); right: Charandasi (f. 15r)
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The nineteen Shaiva sects
Dandi (f. 16r); Agnihotri (f. 17v); Yogi (f. 19r); Shankaracharya (f. 20r); Atit (f. 20v); Sanyogi (f. 22r); Naga (f. 22r); Avadhuta (f. 23r); Urdabahu (f. 23v); Akasmukhi (f. 24r); Karalingi (f. 24r); Rukhara (f. 24v); Ukhara (f. 24v); Aghori (f. 25r); Alakhnami (f. 25v); Jangama (f. 26r); Nakhuni (f. 26v); Chokri (f. 27r); Paramahansa (f. 28r)

 IO Islamic 3087_f16r_1500 IO Islamic 3087_f17v_1500 IO Islamic 3087_f20v_1500 
Left: Dandi (f. 16r); centre: Agnihotri (f. 17v); right: Atit (f. 20v)
IO Islamic 3087_f22r_b_1500  IO Islamic 3087_f23v_1500  IO Islamic 3087_f26v_1500
Left: Naga (f. 22r); centre: Urdabahu (f. 23v); right: Nakhuni (f. 26v)
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The four kinds of Shaktas
Bhakta (f .29v); Vami (f. 31v); Kanchuliya (f. 36v); Karari (f. 38r)

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Left: Vami (f. 31v); centre: Kanchuliya (f. 36v); right: Karari (f. 38r)
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The seven kinds of Nanakshahis (Sikhs)
Udasi (f. 40r); Ganjbakhshi (f. 40v); Ramra’i (f. 41r); Suthrashahi (f. 41r); Govindsakhi (f. 42v); Nirmali (f.  46v); Naga (f. 47v)
IO Islamic 3087_f41r_a_1500 IO Islamic 3087_f42v_1500 IO Islamic 3087_f47v_a_1500
Left: Ramra’i (f. 41r); centre: Govindsakhi (f. 42v); right: Naga (f. 47v)
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The two kinds of Sravakas (Jains)

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Left: Sravaka (f. 47v); right: Jati (f. 48v)
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Further reading
Blake, David M., “Colin Mackenzie: Collector Extraordinary”, in The British Library Journal, vol. 17, No. 2 (Autumn 1991): pp. 128-150.
Wilson, Horace Hayman, The Mackenzie Collection. A descriptive catalogue of the oriental manuscripts, and other articles ... collected by Lieut. Col. Colin Mackenzie, etc. 2 vols. Calcutta: Printed at the Asiatic Press, 1828. vol. 1vol. 2
––– “Sketch of the religious sects of the Hindus”, Asiatic Researches, vol. 16 (1828): pp. 1-136  and vol. 17 (1832): pp.169-313.
Ernst, Carl W., “A Persian philosophical defense of Vedanta”, in Refractions of Islam in India: Situating Sufism and Yoga. India: Sage Publications, 2016, pp. 461-476.


Ursula Sims-Williams, Lead Curator Persian

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25 August 2017

New Online Resources on the History of Kuwait

A series of archival documents that contain a wealth of information about Kuwait during the 1930s and 1940s have recently been digitized and uploaded on to the Qatar Digital Library. These documents are preserved in a file from the archive of the British Political Agency in Kuwait (now a part of the India Office Records) and consist of several reports covering a broad range of topics including Kuwait’s geography, history, flora and fauna, climate, leading personalities and political structure. In addition to what the files themselves discuss, as colonial records, they also illustrate the extent of British influence in Kuwait at this time, as well as provide a rich illustration of how Kuwait was conceptualised and recorded by British officials that were based in the country

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'File 4/1 General Information regarding Kuwait and Hinterland'
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The majority of the reports in the file are written by Lieutenant-Colonel Harold Richard Patrick Dickson (1881-1959), who served as Britain’s Political Agent in Kuwait from 1929 until 1936. Dickson continued living in Kuwait after serving as Political Agent (a role he held again temporarily in 1941) and stayed in the country until his death in 1959. During this time, Dickson wrote two books about Kuwait and the surrounding area, the encyclopaedic – if shamelessly Orientalist – work The Arab of the Desert: a Glimpse into Badawin [Bedouin] Life in Kuwait and Sau'di Arabia (George Allen & Unwin, 1949) and the later Kuwait & Her Neighbours (George Allen & Unwin, 1956) that was edited by the writer Clifford Witting. Both books, notably the former, reveal Dickson’s near obsessive interest in the minutiae of the history, culture and everyday life of the people of Kuwait and Gulf region, with a particular interest in the customs and traditions of the Bedouin.

Dickson’s wife, Violet Dickson (1896-1991), commonly known as Umm Saud (Mother of Saud) in Kuwait, shared many of her husband’s interests and also wrote about Kuwait, authoring both The Wild Flowers of Kuwait and Bahrain (George Allen & Unwin, 1955) and Forty Years in Kuwait (George Allen & Unwin, 1971). She stayed in the country after Dickson’s death, living in the couple’s long-term residence (that formerly served as Britain’s Political Agency) for many decades until she was forced to leave due to the Iraqi invasion of 1990. The building is now open to the public as the Dickson House Cultural Centre in Kuwait City. The couple’s daughter, Zahra Freeth (1925-2015), also wrote a number of books on Kuwait including Kuwait Was My Home (George Allen & Unwin, 1956) and A New Look at Kuwait (George Allen & Unwin, 1972).

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Dickson House Cultural Centre, Kuwait City
© Louis Allday, 2015

The reports written by Dickson in 1933 contain a diverse range of detailed information including descriptions of car routes between Kuwait and various other settlements in the region (including Basrah, Riyadh, Hasa and Qatif), insightful and frequently scathing character assessments of prominent figures in the country, as well as sketches of the different types of boat used in the country and lists of the species of fish in its waters. It is likely that the information contained in these notes was used by Dickson at a later date to compile his published works. For instance, The Arab of the Desert contains drawings of the different types of sailing vessel in Kuwait that are very similar to the aforementioned sketches contained in Dickson’s notes from almost two decades before.

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Examples of boats used in Kuwait, 1933
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In addition to Dickson’s reports, the recently digitised file contains a secret report on Kuwait that the Australian explorer, Alan Villiers – author of the well-known study of Arab sailors, Sons of Sinbad – was commissioned by the British authorities to write in 1939 (folios 160-183). The file also contains reports written by two of Dickson’s successors as Political Agent in Kuwait in the 1940s, Major Tom Hickinbotham (folios 187-198) and Major Maurice O’Connor Tandy (folios 226-228) as well as a Who’s Who of the leading personalities in Muscat (Oman) written by Captain J B Howes, the Political Agent in Muscat in 1942 (folios 199-209).

The full contents of this fascinating file – all written by Dickson unless stated otherwise – are as follows:

Louis Allday, Gulf History/Arabic Language Specialist
@Louis_Allday
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22 August 2017

Colin Mackenzie: Collector Extraordinaire

Through the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Purvai Project at An Lanntair cultural centre in Stornoway has curated an exhibition celebrating the life of Colin Mackenzie (1754-1821), one of the Isle of Lewis’ most famous 19th century explorers who travelled to India and Indonesia. Mackenzie was born on the Isle of Lewis but spent most of his life in India working for the East India Company as a military engineer and surveyor. He saw action across South India, including at the Battle of Seringapattam (1799) against Tipu Sultan, and also spent two years in Java (1811-1812/13) as part of the British occupation force during the Napoleonic Wars. After his return from Java (Indonesia), Mackenzie was appointed the first Surveyor General of India in 1815. He held this post until his death in 1821. He is buried in Park Street Cemetary in Kolkata. The exhibition Collector Extraordinaire brings together a selection of drawings, coins and sculpture collected by Mackenzie from the collections of the British Library, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. For the first time ever, these collections have travelled so far north to Stornoway.

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View of Colin Mackenzie's memorial plaque and family mausoleum near Stornoway. Photographs by John Falconer, 2017.  noc

Mackenzie was interested in the rich history and culture of the lands in which he travelled and worked. He surveyed numerous sites of historical interest, including, famously, the stupa at Amaravati. During his long residence in India, Mackenzie, helped by his local assistants, amassed one of the largest and most diverse collections made here. The tens of thousands of objects in his collection ranged from coins to small bronzes and large stone sculptures, as well as natural history specimens, drawings, and both paper and palm-leaf manuscripts. After his death in 1821, his widow, Petronella, sold his collection to the East India Company for Rs100,000 (£10,000). Most of this material is now held at institutions in the UK and India, including: the British Museum, British Library, V&A, Chennai Government Museum, and the Indian Museum in Kolkata.

The British Library's collection includes more than 1,700 drawings collected by Mackenzie during his career in India. A selection of thirty-two drawings on a range of topics, from sculpture and architecture in India to antiquities in Java either drawn by Mackenzie or under his supervision, are currently on display in the exhibition. Additionally, the well known portrait of Colin Mackenzie painted by the British portraitist Thomas Hickey in 1816 is featured. The drawings are complemented by a number of sculptures and coins from the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Highlights include:

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Portrait of Colin Mackenzie painted by Thomas Hickey in 1816. Mackenzie, wearing scarlet uniform, is accompanied by three of his Indian assistants. In the distance is the colossal Jain statue of Gomatesvara at Karkala. British Library, Foster 13  noc

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Selection of drawings and plans relating to the Buddhist stupa at Amaravati as well as a limestone panel with a high necked vase called a Pūrṇaghaṭa (dating to circa 8th-9th centuries) from the British Museum (1880,0709.68) are on display. Photograph by John Falconer, 2017  noc

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Exhibition also features the Jain sculpture of Parvanatha from the Victoria and Albert Museum (931 IS) which dates to the late 12th century - early 14th century and found by Mackenzie in a ruined Jain temple in Karnataka. Photograph by John Falconer, 2017  noc

The exhibition 'Collector Extraordinaire' is on view at the An Lanntair and Museum nan Eilean from 12 August to 18 November 2017. The exhibition is curated by Catherine Maclean and is part of Storoway's Puravi festival. 

 

Further reading:

David M. Blake, ‘Colin Mackenzie: Collector Extraordinary’, The British Library Journalpp.128-150.

Jennifer Howes (2002) ‘Colin Mackenzie and the stupa at Amaravati’, South Asian Studies, vol. 18, pp.53-65.

Jennifer Howes (2010) Illustrating India: The early colonial investigations of Colin Mackenzie (1784-1821), New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Sushma Jansari (2012) ‘Roman Coins from the Mackenzie Collection at the British Museum’, Numismatic Chronicle vol.172 (2012), pp.93-104.

Robert Knox (1992) Amaravati: Buddhist sculpture from the Great Stupa, London: British Museum Press.

Akira Shimada & Michael Willis (eds.) (2017) Amaravati: The Art of an Early Buddhist Monument in Context, London: British Museum Press.

 

Sushma Jansari (British Museum) and Malini Roy (British Library)

17 August 2017

Illumination and decoration in Chinese Qur'ans

A seventeenth-century Qur’an from China in the British Library recently attracted much interest in a belated Eid show-and-tell arranged for the local community. This provides an ideal opportunity to go into more detail about the British Library’s collection of Chinese Qur’ans.

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The opening leaves of a seventeenth-century Qur'an written in sīnī (‘Chinese’) script, part five of a set originally in thirty volumes (BL Or.15604, ff. 1v-2r)
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Visitors are always surprised when we show them a Chinese Qur’an, as they don’t automatically associate Islam with China. But in the eighth century, Muslim merchants were already trading in China and a community is known to have been established in Xi'an, where a mosque was built in 742. The impact of Islam in China was, however, not strongly felt until several centuries later during the Song and Yuan dynasties: the network of routes, known as the Silk Road, became the conduit for the spread of religious and cultural influences as well as for goods and merchandise.

Chinese Qur’ans were often produced in thirty-volume sets rather than in a single-volume codex, and many of our Chinese Qur’ans are sections (juz’) from a number of different thirty-volume sets. The script used was a variation of muḥaqqaq and penned in a way which suggests that the pen strokes were influenced by Chinese calligraphy. This is often referred to as sīnī (‘Chinese’) Arabic. A central panel is a prominent feature of Chinese Qur’ans on their decorated pages, which usually contain as few as three lines of text, with only a few words on each.
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The beginning of a late seventeenth-century Qur'an written in sīnī script. This volume is the third of an original thirty-volume set (BL Or.15571, f. 1v)
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The assimilation of local traditions in Islamic manuscripts produced in areas not normally associated with the art of Islamic calligraphy and illumination is evident in Chinese Qur’ans. While the illumination and decoration have the same function in all Qur’ans, the influence of local style and culture is manifest, without infringing Islamic practice in sacred art. The adaptation of symbols common to Chinese art and culture is therefore felt very strongly. In the final opening of a seventeen-century Qur’an, a lantern motif has become the visual vehicle for the text in the diamond design in the centre of the lantern. The impression of a Chinese lantern is further reinforced by pendulous tassels attached to the hooks on the outer side of the structure.

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The decorated final text opening with lantern motif from a seventeenth-century Qur'an (BL Or.15256/1, ff. 55v-56r)
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In the same Qur’an a decorative leaf, exemplifying the use of local flora, functions as a section marker indicating the halfway point in part six of a thirty-volume set.

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A decorative leaf serving as a section marker (BL Or.15256/1, f. 30v)
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Chinese Qur’ans often incorporate vibrant colours and gold for typical motifs such as crescents and banners. The impression of petals in the shamsah (sunburst) illumination below is produced by the intricate design of overlapping circles.

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A shamsah medallion placed before the beginning of the text (BL Or.15604, f. 1r)
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Chinese influence is also visible in the swirling lettering of the basmalah inscription in this shamsah medallion occurring in an eighteenth-century Qur'an, Or.14758, part ten of a thirty-volume set.

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Left: The shamsah containing the basmalah, and right: the same design used as part of the design of the binding (BL Or.14758, f. 2r and front binding)
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An  unusual Qur’an is a nineteenth-century volume of selections accompanied by a Chinese translation (IO Islamic 3440). The Chinese translations are placed sometimes at the beginning, sometimes at the end, sometimes in the middle of the lines and occasionally between them.

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The beginning of Sūrah 36, Yasin from a nineteenth-century Qur'an with Chinese translation, formerly belonging to the presumably Muslim Admiral at Amoy (BL IO Islamic 3440, f. 13v-14r)
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This Qur’an has an interesting history. It was presented to the India Office Library in 1883 by Hugh W. Gabbett, whose father Lt. (later Major General) William. M. Gabbett of the Madras Horse Artillery was Lord Gough’s aidedecamp when Amoy (Xiamen) was taken in 1841 during the First Opium War. A faded note in pencil on folio 1r by William Gabbett describes it as “A Koran found by me at Amoy found in the Admiral’s House. W. M. Gabbett” and “The most valuable Book yet found in China. W. M. G.”

Further reading
Colin F. Baker, Qur'an manuscripts: calligraphy, illumination, design. London: British Library, 2007.
Annabel Teh Gallop, “Was the mousedeer Peranakan?: In search of Chinese Islamic influences in Malay manuscript art”, in Jan van der Putten and Mary Kilcline Cody, Lost Times and Untold Tales of the Malay World. Singapore: NUS Press, 2009: pp. 319-339.

Colin F. Baker and Ursula Sims-Williams, Asian and African Collections
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14 August 2017

Shubbak Literature Festival 2017: Catch-up Audio

The weekend of July 15-16 saw the return of the Shubbak Literature Festival to the British Library with seven vibrant and engaging panel discussions, interspersed with readings and performances in both Arabic and English. The sessions were recorded and will be preserved for researchers to access through the British Library’s Sound Archive. As with the 2015 Shubbak Literature Festival, we are also making these recordings freely available online through the British Library’s Soundcloud.

Writing Against the Grain
What do we mean by Arabic writing against the grain in 2017? What are the inspirations, and the challenges, for engaged Arab writers today? How do the wider global context, regional events, national regimes, personal stories, and the myriad of other artistic influences shape their work? And what does it mean to be a literary activist? Robin Yassin-Kassab hosts a lively conversation exploring all this and more with three very different writers from across the region: Mona Kareem, Ali Bader and Ghazi Gheblawi.

 

Rasha Abbas: The Seven of Cups
Syrian journalist and author Rasha Abbas has undertaken a month-long creative residency commissioned by Shubbak and the British Library, where she focused on the period of the Arab Union, as part of the research for a planned historical novel. This short-lived union between Syria and Egypt from 1958 to 1961 had a major influence on the subsequent political scene in both countries as well as the wider region. The culmination of her research is presented in a narrative framed by specific tarot cards. The highly delineated lens of each card – Free Will, Forced Fate, Justice, and so on – will provide an idiosyncratic approach to the historical material in question.

Keepers of the Flame: Contemporary Arab Poetry
Celebrated British poet and multi-disciplinary artist Malika Booker returns to Shubbak to welcome four mesmerising poets for bilingual performances of their work: Iraqi-American Dunya Mikhail; Syrian Kurdish poet and translator Golan Haji; New York-based poet-writer-translator Mona Kareem; and Sudanese poet Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi.

The Waking Nightmare: Post-revolutionary Egyptian Dystopias
Six years after the revolution and in the current climate of suppressed dreams, a new wave of Egyptian writers and artists are blending horror, realism and black humour to reflect on this painful phase of their nation’s history. Hosted by celebrated literary translator Elisabeth Jaquette, three Egyptians – Basma Abdel Aziz, Mohammad Rabie and Ganzeer - working in the continuum from nightmare present realism to dystopian futurism read from and discuss their brave work and its troubling context.

Under the Radar: Women writing from outside the Arab literary mainstream
In a global literary market where even the major writers from the best known Arab literary countries – Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon – are not very widely read and translated, how does it feel to be a woman author from Yemen, or Libya? What is it like to write fiction from countries outside of the main literary geographies, whilst also being a woman in a patriarchal world? What are the pressures and the inspirations, the challenges and the opportunities of these multiple levels of marginalisation? Writers Najwa Benshatwan and Nadia Alkokabany were invited to participate in a conversation with Bidisha. However, both authors were denied visas. Instead, they addressed the audience by video and read from their novels. Bidisha was joined in conversation by poet and translator Mona Kareem who spoke about both novelists’ work.

Susan Abulhawa in conversation with Gillian Slovo
Palestinian-American novelist Susan Abulhawa is one of the most commercially successful Arab authors of all time. Her 2010 debut novel Mornings in Jenin, a multigenerational family epic spanning five countries and more than sixty years, looks unflinchingly at the Palestinian question – and became an international bestseller translated into thirty-two languages. In 2015 The Blue Between Sky and Water, a novel of family, love and loss centred on Gaza, also met a vast global readership and huge critical acclaim from across both the mainstream and literary media. Her powerful, political and romantic fiction is written in English, yet it is deeply rooted in the land and language of her ancestors. In this special appearance, Susan Abulhawa is hosted by South Africa born British novelist, playwright and memoirist Gillian Slovo, recipient of the 2013 Golden Pen Award for a lifetime’s distinguished service to literature.

Daniel Lowe, Curator of Arabic Collections
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09 August 2017

The Mutiny Scroll, Add Ms 37153

Professor Swati Chattopadhyay is an architect and architectural historian specializing in modern architecture and urbanism, and the cultural landscape of British colonialism. She teaches at the University of California at Santa Barbara. From March-May 2017, she held a Visiting Research Fellowship at the Institute for the Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London.

As part of my research fellowship, I held a workshop on 'The Garden and Territorial Sovereignty in British Colonial India’ at the British Library in collaboration with Malini Roy (Visual Arts Curator, British Library) and Leslie Topp (Director of the Architectural Space and Society Centre at Birkbeck). The workshop looked specifically at a set of maps, plans, photographs and drawings held in the Library's collection. This blog focuses on the 'Mutiny Scroll', a set of panel paintings featuring buildings and monuments in Delhi, Cawnpore, Lucknow, Benares, Agra, and Amritsar, connected with the Indian Mutiny, in some cases from original drawings or photographs (BL Add Ms 37153).

Twenty-six panels, one scroll: depictions of events from the Sepoy Mutiny arranged to produce a continuous narrative of conflict, victory, and loss. The panels comprising the scroll are made of pieces of calico, approximately 2 ft x 3 ft, painted individually and at a later time machine-stitched to produce a vertical scroll arrangement. The artist is Dorothy Moore, wife of the Reverend Thomas Moore.

The unusual format and style of the scroll, as well as its total length, 53 ft 1 inch--the height of a five-story building--presents a number of questions. What motivated this exceptional investment of labor? How was this mutiny scroll meant to be viewed and seen? The scroll cannot be unrolled to its full length on any reasonably sized table, including any at the British Library reading rooms, and could not have been vertically unfurled in any of the churches in which the Rev. Moore served as chaplain. And finally, what do we make of the sequence of events presented in the scroll?

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Mutiny Scroll unrolled, British Library, Add Ms 37153.  noc

The Sepoy Mutiny or Sepoy Rebellion (1857-59) began as a mutiny of Indian sepoys or soldiers of the British East India Company (EIC) in military cantonments in eastern and northern India. It soon acquired the character of a popular rebellion against British rule, involving not just the soldiers but the peasantry, townspeople, and several princely states that had been annexed by the EIC in the preceding decades. The rebels turned to the Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II, as their leader in a failed bid to reassert the lost sovereignty of the Mughal state. While the principal battles had concluded by 1858, and the major cities—Delhi, Cawnpore (Kanpur), Lucknow—had been recaptured by the British, the suppression of rebellion in the countryside continued until July 1859. The conflict entailed brutal killings on both sides, involving both military personnel and civilian populations, and was accompanied by massive destruction of towns, farmlands and villages.

A large number of mutiny images—sketches, paintings, photographs, engravings—intended for European audiences circulated in popular print media from the beginning of hostilities in 1857. By the 1860s, key mutiny sites, considered important for their commemorative value from the British perspective, had become European tourist destinations. Thus the sites presented in the scroll would have been familiar to a European audience. The painting style and composition of the scroll, however, are exceptional in expressing the artist’s personal stake in this labor of remembering the mutiny.

The watercolor and oil paintings look amateurish and theatrical. At the same time, the images, framed with texts, express a commitment to accuracy that shores up their didactic intent. Most of the panels cite the original source—the sketch or photograph taken “on the spot”--claiming a kind of documentary validity. That many of these original images such as Felice Beato’s photographs were themselves produced after the fact, did not seem to detract from their value from the artist's point of view. On the contrary, the re-citation of older imagery of the mutiny, three decades after the conflict, seems to have been an important element in the commemorative function of the scroll. A new authenticity is garnered by lodging the artist and her husband’s experience of the sites within the established representational order of the mutiny.

Thomas Moore (1826-1903) arrived in India in 1852 as a missionary, and sought employment with the EIC in the hopes of financial stability. He married Dorothy Dealtry (1835-1920) in 1855 and when the mutiny broke out they were living in Calcutta with a small child. Thomas had hoped for an appointment in a relatively quiet corner of the North-Western Provinces, but his first posting as Assistant Chaplain landed him at the center of the conflict: Cawnpore. He arrived in Cawnpore, via Benares, shortly after the British army had retaken the city after General Wheeler’s disastrous defeat at the hands of the rebels and the massacre of European women and children that had followed. Dorothy was permitted to join her husband in Cawnpore in 1858, and during the rest of his career with the EIC until his retirement in 1879, the couple acquired first-hand experience of several mutiny sites besides Cawnpore: in Lucknow, Benares, and Jhansi.

The mutiny scroll is part of a larger production of mutiny documents by the Moores. This includes two commemorative mutiny maps of Cawnpore and Lucknow, a drawing of a model of the Lucknow Residency (Add MS 37152 A-C), and the Rev. Moore’s diary (Add MS 37153). The similarity in representational techniques between the maps and the scroll suggests that these works were a collaborative venture of Dorothy and Thomas. Thomas’s diary as well as the letters to his family lend clues to understand the scroll. During his initial arrival and stay in Cawnpore he wrote about sketching the sites associated with the mutiny, producing architectural plans, and collecting objects and materials from battle sites in anticipation of their future importance as commemorative objects and documents. Some of these sketches were later collated in his diary.

The sequence of the panels is suggestive. The scroll begins with a painting of Delhi, followed by sites at Cawnpore, Lucknow, and Benares, and concludes with locations that had scant connection with the rebellion: Taj Mahal at Agra and Golden Temple at Amritsar. The Cawnpore images are clustered in two places, before and after the thirteen images of Lucknow that constitute half the scroll. It is not easy to ascertain the chronology of when the panels were painted. However, the large number of images, the process by which they have been assembled, and the reworking of initial drawings and addition of elements as afterthoughts, suggest work over a considerable period of time. Remains of brown backing on some of the Lucknow panels and pin-marks on others indicate that the panels were variously used and mounted. But the artists seem to have anticipated the images being arranged as a scroll.

Delhi copy
'Delhi, the Capital City of the Great Mogul', a panel from the Mutiny Scroll, British Library, Add Ms 37153  noc

The first panel depicting Delhi, takes the Jumma Musjid and its surroundings, as the representative of “Delhi: Capital City of the Great Mogul.” The awkwardness of the perspective view and shadows within a flat composition produce the effect of an amateur theater “backdrop,” an aesthetic replicated in the remaining panels. Here the Jumma Musjid or congregational mosque, rather than the Red Fort in Delhi, stands in for the vanquished sovereignty of the Mughal Empire, giving the conflict a primarily religious reading. A paper portrait medallion of Lord Canning, the Governor General of the EIC during the mutiny, has been pasted in the center, above the panel title, representing the victor. The texts on either side of the medallion convey the panel’s message and set the tone for the rest of the scroll. On the left we have a few details of the city and its monuments that would have been of interest to a British audience, and on the right an abridged history of British ascendancy and takeover of Delhi. The narrative thus commences in 1803 (when the Mughal emperor sought the EIC’s military assistance in warding off the Maratha invasion and effectively became a pensioner of the EIC), and concludes with the British storming and capture of Delhi on 20th September 1857. Words inscribed in all capital letters--BRITISH, WALLS, CHRISTIAN, SLAUGHTERED, SIEGE, STORMED, CAPTURED--shout out a self-evident justificatory logic. Such texts with military details appear in the rest of the images as well. Following the practice of military maps of the time, the strength of the army in terms of personnel and armament are detailed, and some of the latter panels contain small plans depicting entrenchments and armed positions of the belligerents. The panels are organized not in a chronological sequence, but according to a personal logic of what was important to the couple. We find Thomas writing to his mother: “I shall tell you . . . what I have seen tho not in the exact order of time, but as I think they deserve in importance” (Mss Eur/F630/2).

Of the images of Cawnpore, two deal with the locations where the European women and children were killed: the “Slaughter House,” and the well into which their bodies were thrown. The “Slaughter House” or Bibighar as it was previously known, was one of the frequently painted subjects intended to convey the depravity of the rebels. The building was demolished soon after the British recapture of Cawnpore but a sketch on site by Lt. C. W. Crump served as a template for dozens of renditions. This scroll image is one of the most conventional of the lot, and attempts to stay true to the original sketch, and as Thomas claimed, also true to the events.

House interior copy
'Slaughter House' or 'Bibighar', a panel from the Mutiny Scroll, British Library, Add Ms 37153  noc

While other popular depictions of the site show a red floor representing spilled blood, bloody handprints, and texts beseeching revenge (see for example British Library, WD132 and WD4320), the scroll image eschews such references. Thomas noted in a letter to his mother that writings on the wall (“countrymen revenge”) were scribbled not by the women, but by British soldiers. The fear and anxiety suffered by the women is represented in the panel by a “COPY of MEMO” by Miss Lindsay, found on the site, in which she recorded the deaths of her family and friends before she too was killed. The panel attempts to portray the site as Thomas saw it on his arrival: scattered remnants of garments, paper, and earthen utensils, the floor dark in places with blood stains. In wishing to memorialize the moment of Thomas’s own encounter with the site as one yet uncontaminated by marks of revenge, the artist erases other representations of force. British soldiers under General Neill’s command forced captured rebels to lick the blood of the victims before they were tortured and put to death, in a manner “altogether not very creditable to the English character” (Mss Eur/F630/2). Similarly, the image of the well shows no evidence of blood or dead bodies; the smallness of the well head even works counter to the affect intended in the title of the image. The utter ordinariness of the well is rendered significant by framing it with the partially demolished Bibighar behind it, and the Assembly Building and Christ Church in the distance. The gallows in the middle ground attests to the punishment meted out to the rebels within sight of the two spaces of slaughter.

In the latter part of the scroll we find a depiction of Christ Church in Cawnpore as it was decked out for Christmas celebrations in 1857. When Thomas arrived in Cawnpore he found the church severely damaged. The roof of the nave as well as the doors and windows had burnt down, though the church walls had held. He procured an order to have the church re-roofed in October of that year, but as the panel notes, it was again burnt down by the “Gwalior Rebels.” So Christmas service was held under a fabric canopy hung from a hastily constructed thatch roof. Thomas wrote to Dorothy: “the natives were astonished to see between 7-800 Europeans assembled in the very church they have burned twice & the moral effect is great—the Bell now rings for service as of old & Xtinity it is felt must and will triumph” (Mss Eur/F630/2). The image of the church interior contains figures of European officers in the foreground, drawn on paper and pasted onto the painting, and one of the figures is of the chaplain himself. The figures look out towards the viewer.
Christ Church Kanpur copy 2
'Christmas Eve, 1857 at Christ Church, Cawnpore', a panel from the Mutiny Scroll, British Library, Add Ms 37153  noc

The mutiny scroll thus escapes the realm of historical narration and enters the domain of the personal and (auto)biographical. By locating themselves in the mutiny landscape, and by recording the landscape as they wished to remember it, edited and framed, Dorothy and Thomas mark their role as witnesses to the mutiny. In an edifying gesture, the scroll as it unfolds asks the viewer to make connections among the scattered sites of the mutiny, and to recognize the labour entailed in assembling from historical fragments a narrative of superior British military force and Christian redemption. It urges the viewer to become witness to the unfolding empire.

 

Professor Swati ChattopadhyayUniversity of California at Santa Barbara  ccownwork 

04 August 2017

Malay manuscripts from Patani

Patani is a culturally Malay-Muslim region located on the northeast coast of the Malay peninsula, in the southern part of Thailand. It has long been renowned as a cradle of Malay art and culture, and especially as a centre for Islamic learning, with close links with the Holy Cities of Arabia. Patani has produced many notable Islamic scholars, the most prominent being Daud bin Abdullah al-Patani (1769-1847), who lived and wrote in Mecca in the first half of the 19th century. scholars, and Wan Ahmad al-Patani (1856-1908), the first Superintendent of the Malay press in Mecca. Patani is one of the great centres of the Malay manuscript tradition, and many manuscripts from Patani are now held in the National Library of Malaysia and the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

004909387[SVC2]
Map of the province of Pattani (Bangkok: Royal Survey Department, 1907). British Library, Maps 60120. (2.)

From the 14th century onwards, throughout Southeast Asia the Malay language was written in an extended version of the Arabic script known as Jawi. However, during the course of the 20th century the use of Jawi declined rapidly, and today in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei the Malay/Indonesian language is normally written in roman script. Perhaps because of Patani’s location within Thailand, and a system of state education not rooted in roman script, competency in Jawi appears to have lasted longer in Patani than perhaps anywhere else in Southeast Asia. This means that uniquely in Patani, Malay manuscripts written in Jawi have been produced until recently, including, for example, some elaborately decorated hand-written copies of the text Sejarah Kerajaan Negeri Patani, ‘History of the Malay Kingdom of Patani’, by Ibrahim Syukri, which was first published in 1958 and contains references to post-war events.

PNM MSS 3632  star-det.
Ingeniously decorated late 20th-century manuscript of Sejarah Kerajaan Negeri Patani, showing the start of the second chapter, Pembanganunan negeri Patani dan raja2, ‘The development of Patani and the descent of its rulers’. PNM MSS 3632, reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Malaysia.

The British Library holds two manuscripts probably from Patani, both of which may have been copied very recently, and which have been fully digitised. One contains a well-known Malay tale, Hikayat Raja Khandak dan Raja Badar (Or.16128), set during the early wars of Islam, in which the eponymous villain, Raja Khandak (known in some versions as Raja Handak or Raja Handik) and his son Raja Badar battle against the forces of the Prophet. It was a very popular story, and is also found in Javanese, Sundanese, Acehnese and Makassar versions. At least 24 Malay manuscripts of this work are known to be held in collections in Indonesia and Europe, copied in locations ranging from Batavia to Singapore, and including another copy in the British Library which was copied in Semarang in Java in 1797 (Or. 14350).

Or.16128  Hk Raja Khandak
Opening pages of Hikayat Raja Khandak dan Raja Badar, in Malay in Jawi script. British Library, Or. 16128, ff. 1v-2r  noc

The colophon of Or. 16128 is dated 9 Rabiulawal 1224 (24 April 1809) in the state of Reman (or Raman), which is one of the principalities of Patani, but it is likely that this date refers to the completion of an earlier source rather than that of the present manuscript. This is by no means an unusual scenario; many manuscripts from the Malay world are encountered with colophons that give a date which for codicological reasons (perhaps the use of dated or dateable watermarked paper) evidently predates the the manuscript in question, and therefore can be assumed to apply to the source text rather than the present copy. For example, the British Library holds two copies of the Malay narrative poem Syair Jaran Tamasa, one with a colophon stating it was copied by Ismail on 29 Muharam 1219 (10 May 1804), and another manuscript evidently copied from the former, reproducing exactly the same colophon and date, but which then continues to state that the present copy had been made for Raffles by Muhammad Bakhar.

Or_16128_f032r
The colophon of Hikayat Raja Khandak dan Raja Badar, which states that the work was translated by Nuruddin ibn Ali in the state of Reman on 9 Rabiulawal 1224 (24 April 1809). British Library, Or. 16128, f. 32r (detail)  noc

Although the study of Malay palaeography or handwriting is not greatly advanced, it can be said that the writing of this manuscript – in a neat but slightly jerky hand – has a rather ‘modern’ feel. The use of the superscript abbreviation r.ḍ.h for the honorific raḍiya Allāh ‘anhu, ‘May God be pleased with him’, following the names of the Prophet’s companions, is not common in Malay manuscripts. The most unusual feature, though, is that rubricated words have been written in red ink above a pencil outline. This probably indicates that Or. 16128 followed the same pattern of rubrication as its source text, and that while writing the scribe used pencil to indicate words to be rubricated, and then later overwrote the pencilled outlines in red ink. Although rubrication is very common in Malay manuscripts, there are almost never signs of pencil outlines; instead, the scribe wrote directly in red ink. These pencil outlines therefore suggest a manuscript copied outside of (or subsequent to) the mainstream manuscript tradition.

Ali
Pencil outline visible beneath the rubricated word ‘Alī with superscript r.ḍ.h (raḍiya Allāh ‘anhu) on the first page of Hikayat Raja Khandak dan Raja Badar. British Library, Or. 16128, f. 1v (detail)  noc

The second manuscript aquired from the same source, Or. 16129, consists of only 11 folios and contains an unidentified religious work (or fragment of a work) by Imām Aḥmad (the Sunni jurist Aḥmad bin Ḥanbal, 780-855) on the shahādah (profession of faith), set within frames with a commentary written in the margins. The main text has a colophon stating that it was written on 24 Muharam 1[2]60 (14 February 1844) in Mecca. This manuscript is also written in a small neat hand with a ‘modern’ feel, but in this case modern influences are clearly manifest in the use of certain punctuation elements such as brackets and numbered points within the text, indicating a date of production in the 20th century and perhaps even suggesting that the manuscript might have been copied from a printed source.

Or_16129_ff001v-002r
Opening pages of the text by Imām Aḥmad on the shahādah, with brackets around the rubricated words on the left-hand page. British Library, Or. 16129, ff. 1v-2r  noc

A general inference can be made on palaeographical grounds that both these manuscripts are modern copies of older sources, and have reproduced verbatim the colophons in the original texts, although this assertion has not been proved scientifically. Both manuscripts are written on cream laid paper with vertical chainlines but with no visible watermark, and so it has not been possible to use features of the paper to date the manuscripts. In 2012, Rajabi (Shasha) Abdul Razak, a doctoral student from the International Islamic University of Malaysia, spent three months in the Conservation section of the British Library to analyse inks in Malay manuscripts using Multi-Spectral Imaging (MuSIS). I asked her to investigate the black and red inks used in Or. 16128, but the results were not conclusive for dating purposes.

Even if Or. 16128 and Or. 16129 were only copied very shortly before they were acquired by the British Library in 2005, they are still of value in testifying to the presence and circulation of their source texts. Despite the wide popularity of the story Hikayat Raja Khandak, no other copies are known from the northern Malay peninsula, and it is thus thanks to Or. 16128 that we know that this story was part of the literary heritage of Patani in the early 19th century.

Shasha Razak-2
Rajabi Abdul Razak, from the International Islamic University of Malaysia, who visited the British Library in 2012 to study the inks used in Malay manuscripts, with ATG. Photograph by Elizabeth Hunter.

Further reading:

Edi Wijaya, Hikayat Raja Handak koleksi Von de Wall: perbandingan alur naskah W 88 dan W 91. [Skripsi [B.A.] thesis]. Jakarta: Fakultas Ilmu Pengetahuan Budaya, Universitas Indonesia, 2008.

Center for Patani Studies - a website for the study of Patani's history, culture and society edited by Francis Bradley

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork